Is Iran next?

My following article appears in today’s ABC Unleashed:

The fifth anniversary in March of the Iraq war should have given the political and media elite time to reflect on their actions since 2003. Virtually ignored by the mainstream media were stories such as life in Fallujah, where citizens remain mired in poverty and resentment.

Despite the failings of the conflict, increasingly aggressive rhetoric against Iran suggests that a military strike against the Islamic Republic is being considered at the highest levels of the American and Israeli governments.

During the recent testimony of American General David Petraeus, he consistently blamed Iran, and not al-Qaeda, for Washington’s problems in the occupied nation. Tehran now complains that US-backed rebels are provoking its borders. New evidence proves that the Bush administration wanted to target Iran soon after 9/11.

Fox News‘ Bill Reilly blindly accepted the argument that, “Iran is directly responsible for killing and maiming thousands of American troops, and it is the primary reason Iraq remains so chaotic”. Bombing should clearly commence in five minutes.

The reality of Iran’s involvement in Iraq remains confusing, however, something confirmed by Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn. Tehran’s influence is complex, though undeniable.

Cockburn fears that an American attack on Iran is not unlikely, but for reasons other than currently stated. A regional challenge to America’s hegemony is not accepted lightly. Moreover, Washington will simply not tolerate a well-armed and relatively wealthy nation, Iran, challenging its unimpeded flow of oil from various, authoritarian client states.

The fact that America now has less control over the world’s global resources is something ignored by most commentators. The great, ironic legacy of the Bush administration will be its success in increasing the decline of America’s diplomatic influence. Large swathes of the world now largely ignore State Department dictates.

Israel also finds itself in a situation largely of its own making (not unlike its colonial addiction to the settlement project). Yossi Alpher, former adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, has articulated the thinking in Tel Aviv:

“…In order to understand Israel’s response to both the current tension with Syria and Hizballah and the link between that tension and the status of Israeli-Palestinian relations, it is vital to recognize the major evolution that has taken place in recent years in Israel’s grand strategic thinking regarding the Iranian threat. Iran – not Syria and not Palestine – is today the prism through which Israeli security planners look at the region, its permutations and the threats it presents. Any effort at either war or peace with Syria is directed against Iran. The non-state Islamist actors Hizballah and Hamas represent Iranian footholds on Israel’s borders and on the shores of the Mediterranean. Israeli-Egyptian cooperation regarding Hamas relates to Iran.

“Of course, Israel still has a host of strategic threats and issues to deal with. But the prism is Iran.”

The last weeks have seen bellicose statements by various Israeli ministers, not least Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer who warned Iran that any attack on Israel would result in the “destruction of the Iranian nation”. The Iranian response was predictable. Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani said that Iran would destroy the Jewish state if attacked.

The Bush administration provide valuable insights into the mindset that led Tony Blair, John Howard and a host of other leaders into the “war on terror’s” orbit. Time.com‘s senior editor Tony Karon explains:

The U.S. or an ally or proxy launches a military offensive against a politically popular “enemy” group; Bush and his minions welcome the violence as “clarifying” matters, demonstrating “resolve”, or, in the most grotesque rhetorical flourish of all, the “birth pangs” of a brave new world. Each time, the “enemy” proves far more resilient than expected, largely because Bush and his allies have failed to recognize that each adversary’s power should be measured in political support rather than firepower; and the net effect of the offensive invariably leaves the enemy strengthened and the U.S. and its allies even weaker than before they launched the offensive.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may be faced with a request from the White House – including from the next President, either Democrat or Republican – to support military action against Iran.

The Labor party has already stated that it intends to bring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the International Court of Justice (something praised by the local Zionist lobby). It will inevitably fail but worryingly associates Australia with a neo-conservative foreign policy agenda, something supposedly jettisoned last year. It’s a shame our media doesn’t investigate recent claims that Israel is purchasing oil from the Islamic Republic, fundamentally undermining its claims of victimhood.

Rudd’s recent world tour was praised by the Wall Street Journal, though journalists missed a far more important gauge of public opinion. Iranians, in a recent poll, expressed scepticism towards America but a willingness to have “direct talks on issues of mutual concern” and “more access for each other’s journalists” Iranian bloggers continue to be active, despite the onerous restrictions.

Our media has a responsibility to fully investigate the claims and counter-claims surrounding Iran’s alleged nuclear program (though Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric rarely helps matters). As former US President Jimmy Carter said this week about the necessity of including Hamas in any Israel/Palestine peace deal, Tehran will inevitably need to be engaged if Middle East peace is to be achieved.

That is, of course, if what America and Israel truly desires.