White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday warned the US Congress that imposing further sanctions on Iran at this juncture, just when negotiations have begun with Tehran, would be tantamount to a “march to war.”
Carney’s reasoning is that further sanctions now would strengthen the hard liners in the Revolutionary Guards and around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who are opposed to negotiating at all. If the current round of talks fails, in turn, Carney suggested, President Obama would have no tool to stop Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities save military intervention, i.e. the US would be forced to go to war with Iran.
It is an outrageous and bizarre argument, which could only make sense through the looking glass inside the Beltway.
Even Israeli cabinet members have admitted that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program. There is no casus belli or legitimate cause for war between the United States and Iran. Not to mention how invidious the Washington rhetoric is. Israel, Pakistan and India all refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and went for broke to construct nuclear warheads. The US backs Israel’s bomb-making to the hilt. It never sanctioned India. And it has long since made peace with Pakistan’s, recently renewing billions in foreign aid to that country. So why is Iran different? Because it talks dirty about the US?
Carney may be right, but the logic is the logic of military aggression.
Carney’s warning that derailing the negotiations might lead to war is, however, true in another sense. The US has gone beyond mere sanctions on Iran to waging financial war on that country, interfering in Iran’s export of petroleum by making it dangerous and difficult or impossible for other countries to pay Iran for the oil they purchase from it. The effect is a virtual blockade, not different in effect from drawing up warships and preventing tankers from leaving the harbor (the latter is recognized in international law as an act of war).
Even just the techniques being used by the US against Iran now, much less more severe ones, have created a powder keg that could easily blow up into war. All you’d need to spark a war is a rogue attack on a US facility by a hothead Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander whose child died from lack of medicine as a result of US sanctions. Iran proxies operate in Afghanistan, where there are still thousands of US troops, in Iraq, where there are thousands of personnel at the gargantuan US embassy in Baghdad, and in Kuwait and Qatar and Bahrain where there are US bases.
There is another path to war, which is the Iraq path. US sanctions on Iraq destroyed its middle class and strengthened the Baath government. In the end, international consensus on Iraq began collapsing and hawks like Paul Wolfowitz were afraid the international sanctions would fall. He also argued that it was expensive to keep a no-fly zone over Iraqi Kurdistan. So the very fact of the sanctions and the difficulty of maintaining them were deployed by hawks as a reason for which a war would be better.
There should be no mistake. There are hawks in the US Congress like John McCain and Lindsay Graham (Linjohn) who would gladly just fall on Iran with US military might the way they fell on Iraq. But the sanctions hard liners, such as Bob Menendez (D-NJ), backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its hundreds of Israel lobbies, are no less de facto set on a course toward war with Iran.
Since Iran is three times as populous as Iraq and several times larger geographically, occupying it would certainly be in the nail in the coffin for the US. The national debt, now equal to the GDP at $16 trillion, would balloon on up from there. And Iranians would deal the US an even more deadly blow through national liberation guerrilla movements (there are hundreds of thousands of Basiji militiamen) than did the Iraqis, since they will be more united.
Congressmen are all kinds of people, but many of them have led relatively sheltered lives in small constituencies and are fairly ignorant of the realities of the world. It is easy for them to parrot jingoistic slogans against the serial demonized villains thought up on K Street, and to take money for their small town campaigns from rich and powerful lobbies like AIPAC. They mostly don’t have the slightest idea what they are getting us all into.