Mohammad of Vancouver writes:
I have no illusions about Obama. I began having doubts when the Lieberman mentorship issue surfaced, and these doubts solidified into actual fears when I saw his speech at the annual AIPAC conference in June 2008. It seems highly possible to me that he approved Israel’s high-tech pogrom in Gaza, setting up the condition that the conflict needed to be over before his January 20th inauguration. Obama’s cowardly silence on Gaza itself should be read as an implicit support not only for Israel but the whole idea of pre-emptive attacks on civilian populations as a method in fighting terror.
Having said all of this, I find it troubling that a scholar like James Petras easily jumps to the conclusion that the Gaza war was a dress rehearsal for a wider war with Iran and that Obama is secretly preparing for a war with Iran.
Petras is not alone. A number of the alternative media’s known voices have consistently alarmed
their readers about the possibility of a USA/Israel attack on Iran since the USA invaded Iraq in 2003.
I used to share the belief that Iran would be attacked in Bush’s second term, but after Israel’s miserable failure in the Lebanon war, I slowly modified my thoughts. Today, I believe that tough sanctions are the worst measures of war USA and its European allies can wage against the Islamic Republic of Iran and that these world powers in no way shape or form are prepared for an actual military engagement with Iran.
Before explaining that opinion, I'm going to focus on James Petras’s latest piece. His methodology is not only problematic, but symptomatic of ideologically-tainted analysis that sidesteps contradicting evidence, ignores influential factors on the other side and builds a narrative that smacks of third world Marxist Leninist propaganda.
In Petras’s model, USA and Israel are repeating the German/Italian strategy of identifying an ideological enemy to all of the West (in the Nazis' case it was Communism, in USA and Israel’s case, it is Islamism or Islamic terrorism) and building a propaganda campaign around some smaller invasions and wars to prepare the world for the final big battle with Iran.
Petras meticulously lists the personnel around Obama who are collaborators with Israel on the plan to attack Iran, or have been placed in their position to secure Israel’s wishes in regards to Iran. This is actually the most scientific part of his essay. Yet one has to be dubious when reading claims such as:
How can this be true? We all remember the overwhelming number of neocon crazy Zionists that were crawling all over the White House and the media during the last 8 years. How can people around Obama be any more scary than Wolfowitz, Perle, Pipes, Libby, Ashcroft, Cheney, and many other such people? How can someone who used to say Bush would do anything for Israel now claim that Obama is more subservient to Israel than Bush?
Petras’s theory doesn’t only suffer from what’s in it, but from what’s missing from it. Here are a few missing points:
1. Iran is not a passive player here. Note my essay published yesterday on this site. The Iranian army has had the ten-year war with Iraq on its C.V. and has been fed with a lot of oil money for the last 20 years–resulting in advanced military purchases and training. In fact, as other more serious critics have claimed, the only thing preventing a military strike against Iran by USA and Israel is Iran’s military capability. Here is the most comprehensive piece written on the topic of the Iranian military (an excellent report from 2004)
2- The quiet struggle between different branches of the ruling elite in USA.
Since the failure of Bush/Olmert in the Lebanon, there has been a revolt within the American ruling elite regarding the future of the American empire. The Iraq study group’s report, the intelligence community’s report on the Iranian atomic projects, the appointment of Robert Gates to the Pentagon and the moderating influence of Condoleezza Rice on foreign policy towards Iran are all signs that even though the neocons and warmongers still have power within the media and thinktanks, their influence in other sectors like the Pentagon and the State Department has been largely reduced. Obama’s presidency itself is a great sign that not only the realists have won the battle, but that they will be on guard to make sure that the crazies cannot enter the decision making rooms from the window. The struggle between the realists and the crazies is not a public one, even though the presidential campaign allowed a big chunk of the fight to get out in the public. Just because we don’t see powerful people scream at each other in public, doesn’t mean they are all getting along and planning the next war.
3- The Nation of Islam.
Americans are great in naming things. Many decades ago when the Nation of Islam was created by Wallace Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad, no one really thought about the potential of all Muslims coming together one day and claiming a national identity. Thanks to the USA’s stupid response to 911 and Israel’s ongoing intensification of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, today most Muslims in the world feel more Muslim than they do members of their actual nation states. This newly born billion-person-plus nation stands with Iran, because the Iranian leaders have been quick to acknowledge and respect their force.
Israel can have all the Western governments and the media in its back pocket, but Iran is not alone either. Iran understands the pulse of the Muslim nation and has tried very hard to build its credibility among millions of Muslims. Every time I ride a cab with a Muslim cab driver, I am reminded of the respect these average western Muslims have for Iran, its foreign policy and its central role in resisting both Globalization and the USA/Israel war on terror. Iran of course functions as mostly a symbolic force, but in our postmodern symbolic universe Iran possesses more than what warmongers like John Bolton and Richard Perle can fathom, when they count missiles and New York Times editorials.
4- The Iran Lobby.
We all know about the Israeli lobby. But Iran also has a powerful lobby in USA that works its way through the corridors of power. From Trita Parsi to Hooshang Amir Ahmadi, from Christiane Amanpour to Hillary Clinton’s assistant Homa Abedin, the wealthy and influential Iranian elite has been able to play a major moderating role on the American administration of George Bush, an influence that only is going to get more intense under the Obama administration. Having learned a lot from the mistakes and the excesses of the Israeli lobby, the Iranian lobby knows how to quietly and successfully pursue small objectives one step at a time.
I disagree with the goals of this web site, I think one can find some valuable tidbits about the powers of the Iranian Lobby in USA in its numerous pages.
I could list a few other factors in the debate about war with Iran, but a quick comparison to America’s wars with Muslims (Afghanistan and Iraq) shows that Iran possesses much larger options when it comes to confrontation.
What is the point of painting a bleak and dark picture of the situation when the reality on the ground is much more complex and multifaced? What is Petras trying to achieve? I understand he is limited by his brand of Marxism in writing anything positive about the Iranian Goevrnment, but what about a class-based analysis of the American ruling elite? What stops him from seeing the material conflict between the realists and the crazies? What makes him assume that American cannot learn from the very recent past? What have 8 years of aggressive warmongering brought to the USA and Israel, and why would they continue on the same course?
I am not questioning Petras's sincerity, or his research. But why allow the spectacular nature of one side of the argument to blind you to the realities of the other side? James predicted in 2005 that Israel had set a deadline (March 2006) for attacking Iran. When that prediction did not come true and Israel’s stated plans morphed into the actual Israeli attack on Lebanon, he modified his ideas and claimed that the Lebanon war was a preparation for an upcoming war with Syria and Iran. Later on in 2007, Petras began predicting again that Israel was planning a war on Iran. Beginning with the capture of British Navy seals by the Iranian forces in the waters of Persian Gulf (March 2007) and throughout the 2008, Petras, along with other alternative thinkers and commentators, kept predicting an attack by Bush and or Israel against Iran, and even though they were right to predict a major military action by Israel, they were wrong again about the target. Again, instead of Tehran, another Arab city was ransacked from above.
I don’t think that this means there will never be an attack on Iran by USA and Israel. Instead, the complexity of the USA/Israel confrontation with Iraq requires us to approach this question with much more consideration and thought, something that James Petras seems to be lacking in his judgments.