A STEP CLOSER TO WAR WITH IRAN
By Jack A. Smith

Will the history of Washington-sponsored “regime change” repeat itself in Iran as in Iraq? We have doubted so for the last two years because of the severe setbacks and stalemate suffered by the U.S. Army of Occupation at the hands of the Iraqi resistance. Any invasion of Iran would generate an even tougher fightback because the nation is more unified and prepared.

Still, every day brings evidence that influential neoconservative political forces in the U.S. and rightists in allied Israel are spoiling for a fight, and the Pentagon is said to have its war plans of attack at the ready.

Perhaps the U.S. is contemplating a way to install a government to its liking in Tehran without committing a large American expeditionary force. Possibly the White House is thinking of a massive bombing campaign without ground troops, as in the Yugoslav war. More likely, if an attack is planned, it might be a combination of bombing and missile attacks (with tactical nuclear weapons as an option) plus the intrusion of Special Forces with support from “dissident” factions combined with massive subversion and draconian sanctions.

We don’t know. But it does seem clear that the U.S. is edging closer to a second “preemptive” war, this time in Iran — another oil-rich country in the strategic Middle East-Central Asia theater where Washington endeavors to project its hegemony. We will discuss this more in coming issues, but it would be remiss to ignore a recent move taken by the House of Representatives that conveys the distinct impression history is repeating itself.

In 1998, for instance, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton okayed the “Iraq Liberation Act.” In a statement accompanying the signing, Clinton said: "This Act makes clear that it is the sense of the Congress that the United States should support those elements of the Iraqi opposition that advocate a very different future for Iraq than the bitter reality of internal repression and external aggression that the current regime in Baghdad now offers. . . .”

The act created funding for “pro-democracy” elements and other measures intended to replace the Ba’athist government of President Saddam Hussein with a government essentially subordinate to the U.S. superpower.

The Iraq Liberation Act did not specifically call for an invasion. In preparing for invading Iraq in 2003, however, President George W. Bush relied on the inflammatory logic and intentions of the 1998 legislation, coupled with fevered declarations about Baghdad’s alleged supplies of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and intentions to use them, on its neighbors and even on the United States itself. At the time Iraq was hobbled due to the 1991 Gulf War, crippled by tight sanctions, and of course without WMD.

Congress ultimately gave Bush a green light for war, ignoring the absence of a call for invasion in the Liberation Act by the need to “preempt” a WMD attack from Iraq.

Now fast forward to April 26, 2006, when the House voted 397-21 in favor of the “Iran Freedom Support Act,” a bill that “hold[s] the current regime in Iran accountable for its threatening behavior and to support a transition to democracy in Iran.” This bill, too, does not call for an invasion. It tightens existing sanctions, and “declares that it should be the policy of the United States to support independent human rights and peaceful pro-democracy forces in Iran.”

The act also states that “contacts should be expanded with opposition groups in Iran that meet the [U.S.] criteria,” which Washington will fund under a number of circumstances.

In an example of extreme distortion of Iran‘s actions and intentions, the bill also states: “The United States and the international community face no greater threat to their security than the prospect of rogue regimes who support international terrorism obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and particularly nuclear weapons. Iran is the leading state sponsor of international terrorism and is close to achieving nuclear weapons capability but has paid no price for nearly 20 years of deception over its nuclear program. Foreign entities that have invested in Iran’s energy sector, despite Iran’s support of international terrorism and its nuclear program, have afforded Iran a free pass while many United States entities have unknowingly invested in those same foreign entities.”

According to the Voice of America, the Iran Freedom Support Act also “contains provisions to punish foreign companies or individuals investing more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector.” It raises the prospect of cutting off U.S. aid to countries helping Iran acquire or develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, or what it calls destabilizing numbers of advanced convention weapons. It is also aimed at encouraging American investors and pension plans to divest from companies that invest in Iran's energy sector.

A strong supporter of the bill, Rep. Tom Lantos, top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, declared: "If we fail to use both our economic and our diplomatic tools, the world will face a nightmare that knows no end. A despotic, fundamentalist regime that avidly supports terrorism, exploiting and threatening to use the ultimate weapon of terror.” House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said passage of the bill sends "a strong message that the United States expects Iran to be a responsible member of the international community" — it being understood that a “responsible member” turned West when bowing to the geopolitical Mecca-on-Potomac.

The Iran Freedom bill was supported by 92% of the House, including all the “liberals” among New York State’s 20 Democratic representatives. A leading dissenter, Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, said the following of the legislation: “While this bill makes a point of so-called not using force against Iran, be assured this is a stepping stone to the use of force, the same way that the Iraq Liberation Act was used as a stepping stone. . . . Don’t we have enough problems in Iraq to clean up before setting the stage for another conflict with Iran?”

Others among the 21 opponents of the bill include consistent antiwar representatives Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas). Many key liberals, such as Democrats John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Bernie Sanders, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey and Maurice Hinchey signed on to the “freedom” declaration.

Most U.S. allies have remained mum about the Iran Freedom Support Act, but on his visit to the United States May 24, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lauded the House action. His praise capped years of intense lobbying in support of the bill by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Following passage of the measure, AIPAC urged its supporters to “Please thank your Representative for voting for the bill and urge your Senators to co-sponsor S.333,” a version of the same bill wending its way through the Senate.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn), who is guiding the S.333 to eventual passage, says he has already garnered the votes of 58 Senators, including 21 Democrats, which should assure success. He recently declared: "By supporting the people of Iran, and through greater outreach to pro-democracy groups, we will hopefully foster a peaceful transition to democracy in Iran. . . . The bill also notes the futility of working with the Iranian government."

As far as Congress is concerned, it doesn’t seem to matter that the Iranian government denies an intention to produce nuclear weapons, has not violated the NonProliferation Treaty, and that even if Teheran ever decided to go nuclear, it would take five to 10 years to produce a small, primitive weapon.

It seems history is repeating itself, with the legislation about “Iran Freedom 2006” substituting for “Iraq Liberation 1998.” All that’s missing is the weapons of mass destruction — and most members of Congress are convinced, without any evidence, they are just around the corner.

We still cling to the doubt that there will be a war with Iran because of the debacle in Iraq and popular opposition to Bush’s inept presidency, but a foolish and jingoist bipartisan House of Representatives has just moved us a step closer, and the Senate is not far behind.

--This article appeared in the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, May 31, 2006. Free sub at  jacdon@earthlink.net,