Will Israel attack Iran?

As the world’s third largest oil producer, but the largest which today still has the temerity to pursue a policy of independence and national sovereignty refusing to bow the knee to the might of US imperialism, Iran has been a thorn in the side of western imperialism ever since it overthrew the puppet regime of the Shah in 1979.  If it hasn’t come under military attack from US imperialism since that time it is partly because it is a rather formidable force and partly because imperialism has had other fish to fry, be it in Yugoslavia, in Iraq or in Afghanistan.  With the drawing down of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan which is now taking place, everybody is now asking the question: is Iran’s head the next on the block?

Certainly the propaganda war against Iran has been pursued at fever pitch for several years now under the guise of opposing Iran’s perfectly legitimate nuclear programme.  In addition there has been a failed attempt at mustering a ‘green’ revolution to overthrow the Iranian government, and its leader, Ahmadinejad, is portrayed everywhere in the bourgeois media as the devil incarnate.  As in the case of Iraq, there have been years of ever increasing sanctions designed to soften up their target.

The excuse for the sanctions, which will also be the excuse for the war of aggression if it is indeed launched against Iran, is eerily reminiscent of the hysteria over Iraq’s non-existent ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that preceded the invasion of that country.  Anybody who points to the lack of evidence of the development of nuclear weaponry in Iran is accused of ‘overcompensating’ for the ‘error’ made in assessing the situation in Iraq!

Yet for the record, it is well known on the highest authorities that there is no nuclear weapons programme in Iran.  James Risen and Mark Mazzetti report in the New York Times of 24 February 2012 (‘US agencies see no move by Iran to build a bomb’) that all sixteen of the US’s intelligence agencies are in broad consensus on this point.  This view has been publicly endorsed by no less a person than David H Petraeus, director of the CIA, as well as by Leon E Panetta, the US Defence Secretary, and Martin E Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Yet Israel is still champing at the bit in its desire to start bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities which it claims are a threat to Israel’s very existence.  Apparently Iran will soon be in a position to protect its nuclear installations from all or any military assault as it is in the process of burying the deep underground where they will be inaccessible even to the most advanced bunker busters.  According to Israel, if the facilities are not destroyed within the next few months, it will be too late.

Bearing in mind that Israel is armed to the teeth with nuclear weaponry, it is hard to see why the ability of Iran to produce nuclear weapons should bother it, since neither country would be in a position to deploy those weapons otherwise than defensively.  One can only conclude that Israel is concerned to maintain its power to deploy its nuclear weapons offensively against all or any Islamic governments, which naturally it would want to maintain in order the better to serve its US imperialist overlord.

Be that as it may, the scenario that is currently playing out in the bourgeois media is one of Israel wanting to attack Iran but being somewhat restrained by US and EU imperialism who appear to be content to give the recently enhanced sanctions a chance to get results.

There is every chance, however, that this scenario is quite fictitious.

To start with, it is generally considered that, however much sanctions are ratcheted up, they stand no chance of success.  Quite rightly, David Gardner of the Financial Times, who can certainly never be accused of holding liberal or pro-Iranian views, pointed out that there is no way that sanctions could force the Iranian government to give up its nuclear ambitions.  In the internal power struggle that is going on in Iranian circles, nobody can be seen to be weakening over the question of Iran’s right to nuclear development.  Even Moussavi, the most virulent pro-western opponent of the regime, has to accuse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of selling out on this question to US imperialism in order to try to popularize his cause!  Secondly, most Iranians consider that there is no way the Islamic Republic can survive without a nuclear deterrent to protect it.  And thirdly, the attempts by western imperialism to bully Iran into abandoning its rights simply have the effect of uniting all elements of Iranian society against imperialism.  “An unfortunate side effect of sanctions”, says Mr Gardner, “is that they help Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s government sidestep the blame for populist economic measures that have led to a surge of inflation – a tax on the poor who are his main constituents” (´West needs sharper strategy to exploit Iran´, Financial Times, 7 February 2012).

If one adds to this the fact that neither Russia nor China can be expected to enforce the sanctions, it is quite clear that they cannot be of any decisive effect, whatever the inconvenience they may cause in the short term.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has added that, painful though they undoubtedly are, sanctions will ultimately benefit the country by making it more self-reliant – and he is right.

So, if the Israeli tail is appearing to wag the western imperialist dog, it is suggested that this must surely be nothing but an optical illusion.  Israel is simply an integral part of western imperialism’s aggressive designs on Iran.  To start with, US imperialism has just provided Israel with an elaborate and very expensive missile defence shield, the sole purpose of which can only be to protect Israel from Iran’s inevitable counterattack when the latter’s nuclear installations are bombed.

Secondly, it is clear to military strategists that Israel on its own does not have the firepower to finish off Iran’s nuclear capabilities.  This issue was examined in detail in an article by Elisabeth Bumiller in the New York Times of 19 February:

Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly air space, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran’s air defences, [and] attack multiple underground sites simultaneously …

“The possible outlines of an Israeli attack have become a source of debate in Wahington where some analysts question whether Israel even has the military capacity to carry it off.  One fear [!] is that the United States would be sucked into finishing the job – a task that even America’s far larger arsenal of aircraft and munitions could still take many weeks… Another fear is of Iranian retaliation …

“Michael V Hayden … director of the CIA from 2006 to 2009, said flatly last month that airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Iran’s nuclear program were ‘beyond the capacity’ of Israel …” (´Iran raid seen as huge task for Israeli jets´).

It is probable that Israel has insufficient ‘tanker’ planes to provide the midair refuelling facilities that would be necessary in the event of such an Israeli attack.  And even if it had, there would be a shortage of the extremely large number of fighter planes that would be needed to safeguard both bombers and tankers – and all would somehow need to be able to bypass Iranian anti-aircraft defences which are reasonably sophisticated.  Furthermore, it is far from clear that Israel’s bunker buster bombs are strong enough for the task.

Therefore, if Israel were to attack Iran, it could only be in the expectation on the part of both Israel and the US that the US will be “sucked into finishing the job”.  Israel can only attack Iran on the basis that it can be confident that the US is ready, able and willing to follow on behind.  In fact, Israel cannot even begin the job without US backing since it would be necessary to clear a route for the Israeli bombers to take even to reach Iran.  There are three possible routes: across Saudi Arabia, across Turkey, or across Jordan and Iraq.  The first two of these are out of the question as neither the Saudi nor the Turkish regime could survive being seen to actively cooperate with Israel to wage war on an Islamic country.  The third option is possible because Iraq has been left with no air defences and is therefore in no position to prevent Israeli bombers going wherever they please, but presumably it would take heavy US pressure on Jordan to get it to turn the necessary blind eye.

It remains then to ask what are the immediate intentions of the US as far as Iran is concerned, since those are the intentions that will be implemented.

The bloodthirsty US imperialist parasites have to weigh up the pros and cons.

On the one hand, as Scott Shane asks in the New York Times of 21 February 2012 (‘In din over Iran, rattling sabers echo’):

“The United States has now endured what by some measures is the longest period of war in its history, with more than 6,300 American troops killed and 46,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ultimate costs estimated at $3 trillion. Both wars lasted far longer than predicted. The outcomes seem disappointing and uncertain.

“So why is there already a new whiff of gunpowder in the air?”

There is a severe economic crisis in the world in which the US finds itself severely weakened vis-à-vis its competitors precisely because of the heavy military expenditure incurred in waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Secondly, it is well known that Iran is in a strong position to retaliate and cause serious damage to its enemies’ interests.  Even supposing it is unable to break through Israel’s new missile defence system, Iran could still, for example, target Nato troops in Afghanistan, and desalination and oil production facilities in the various Gulf puppet states. Furthermore, any attack on Iran, particularly if overtly spearheaded by Israel, would do wonders for uniting the Muslim world against US imperialism.  Even Saudi Arabia, the US’s most slavish ally, and Turkey, the keenest aspirant to that position, would be forced to remain – at best – aloof.  In addition of course, Iran’s probably blockade of the Straits of Hormuz is bound to cause considerable chaos in the world system of oil distribution, adding considerably to the cost of energy everywhere.

On the other hand, however, reports are coming in that the US public is very much in favour of war against Iran (notwithstanding their anxiety to see US troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan). “Despite a decade of war, most Americans seem to endorse the politicians’ martial spirit. In a Pew Research Center poll this month, 58 percent of those surveyed said the United States should use military force, if necessary, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Only 30 percent said no.” (Scott Shane, ibid.)

Furthermore, there are reports that US troops have been prepared for deployment in Iran. Certainly 9,000 have been sent to Israel and 15,000 to Kuwait, to remain there for the foreseeable future …

And finally the necessities of war do have the merit from the point of view of imperialism of keeping the orders piling up for weaponry, with the US being the world’s foremost manufacturer of the same, which would of course create a much-needed stimulus for the beleaguered US economy.