The recent announcement that an EU embargo on Iranian oil imports is to be put in place serves to up the ante in the ongoing tension between the West and the Islamic Republic over Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran’s pledge to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil supplies are transported on a daily basis, if new measures are taken against it will now be tested, bringing closer the prospect of military confrontation. Moreover, the EU announcement comes on the back of a series of Iranian military exercises involving missile tests close to the strait, and in the wake of the successful downing, intact, of a US spy drone by the Iranian military.
What shouldn’t be lost amid the welter of anti-Iranian propaganda presented as serious analysis of this escalating stand-off in the West, is that the current obsession with Iran as the embodiment of evil is the product of a colonial mindset that remains every bit as entrenched in the collective psyche of western elites today as it was back when Iran was viewed by those same elites as the metaphorical equivalent of an ATM machine – available for their sole and unimpeded use as a source of cheap natural resources.
Over the past year the momentum towards war has been building at an alarming pace. Hawks in Israel and the US have been exerting increasing influence over the issue, and most recently we have witnessed a more bellicose position being adopted the British government. In this those friends of liberty and human rights, the Saudis, have exerted themselves in the role of cheerleader in chief.
In that time we have witnessed the expulsion of the Iranian Ambassador and his staff from Britain in response to an attack on the British Embassy in Tehran, the uncovering by US intelligence of an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the US Saudi ambassador, and from inside Iran there have been reports of explosions at various nuclear sites, along with the assassination of key personnel within the country’s nuclear programme.
The logical conclusion to be drawn from the aforementioned, not to mention the devastation suffered by Iraq and NATO’s intervention in Libya, has to be that if Iran was not engaged in the development of a nuclear weapon before, it would be foolish not to be developing one now.
Ever since the fall of the Shah in 1979 and the emergence of the Islamic Republic in the place of his pro-western regime, Iran has been the object of deep hostility. A history of colonial exploitation dating back to the early 20th century, throughout which the nation’s oil resources were plundered mainly by British oil companies, was compounded by the western orchestrated coup to bring down the then Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, in 1953 for the crime of nationalising those same resources.
In this part of the world history is no mere academic pastime but a living, breathing entity. And the history of western colonialism in Iran is one that the vast majority of Iranians are extremely familiar with. Indeed, the rise of political Islam in the 1970s in Iran should be understood as a reflex against the ideas and cultural values associated with the West and its puppet dictator, the Shah, whose secret police, the SAVAK, were acknowledged as the most brutal in the region.
When the Shah was still in power the United States utilised a twin pillar approach to asserting its military and strategic dominance of the Persian Gulf, via Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both nations were the recipients of massive amounts of military aid to shore up their role in this regard. This was during the Cold War, when the emphasis of western planners was on countering Soviet influence in the region.
Ever since the Shah was deposed during a popular revolution led by Islamists, Iran has been in the crosshairs of western intervention. A year after the revolution, Saddam was encouraged to invade Iran, citing fears of a region-wide Shia uprising. The US and its allies funded and armed the Iraqi dictator throughout the resulting eight years of the Iran-Iraq war, which ended in stalemate and a catastrophic loss of life on both sides.
In the three decades since, the preferred method of confrontation with Iran has been in the form of economic sanctions. However, with the advent and spread of the Arab Spring in 2011 providing the West with an opportunity to mount a renewed offensive against any regime that opposes its influence in the region, conditions have clearly been judged favourable when it comes to the deployment of hard power.
Currently, Israel is thought to possess anywhere between 200 and 400 nuclear missiles, developed and amassed covertly outside the strictures of the IAEA. This is a regional power imbalance that Israel is determined to maintain at all costs, up to and including war. Here, it shouldn’t be forgotten that oil makes up 80 percent of Iranian exports, making the development of nuclear energy as an alternative source of fuel for domestic use entirely logical.
Contrary to western propaganda, the Islamic Republic is not governed by a clutch of mad mullahs intent on nuclear armageddon. It is instead a regime having to deal with the very real threat posed to its survival by Israeli hawks and a massive US and western military presence in the region.
The refrain from both Washington and London is that where Iran is concerned, no option is off the table. This suggests that 2012 could well be a year of military conflict. If so, it will eclipse both Afghanistan and Iraq combined in terms of the devastation wrought and its global impact. Iran is not Iraq. Nor is it Libya. It is a nation of 70 million people with a huge military and an arsenal of conventional missiles that could destroy every Israeli town and city, not to mention wreak carnage on US and western forces in the region. Moreover, the one thing guaranteed to unite Iranians would be a military attack on their country launched by Israel and the West.
War with Iran would be a disaster for all involved.