The War on Iran Is already Underway

Monday, July 16, 2012

Interview with Afshin Rattansi
By: Kourosh Ziabari

Afshin Rattansi is an award-winning journalist who has worked at the BBC Today program in the run up to the war on Iraq in 2003, CNN International, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera Arabic, Press TV and a number of Channel 4 (UK) commissioned production companies.

Afshin has been a columnist for Guardian between 1986 and 1992. He has written articles for the New Statesman, Attitude, Flaunt and The Oldie.

He has anchored news for Press TV from Tehran and was one of the first English-language employees of Al Jazeera and worked at the Arab satellite station's flagship programme, 'Top Secret' which uncovered the Al Qaeda plot to attack Washington and New York in 2001.

Rattansi is currently hosting the Double Standards show for the Press TV. "Double Standards" is a political satire and interview program broadcast from London. He has interviewed several high-ranking politicians and academicians such as the former United States Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Founder of Pakistan’s Movement & Justice Party Imran Khan, Chairman of RUSI and former head of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, overseeing MI5 and MI6 Colonel Stuart Tootal and the ambassadors of Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Malaysia and Sudan.

What follows is the full text of Iran Review's exclusive interview with Afshin Rattansi to whom I've talked about the recent European Union's oil embargo against Iran, controversy over Iran's nuclear program, Israel's war threats against Iran and the future of Iran-West relations.

Kourosh Ziabari: Although the representatives of Iran and P5+1 were hopeful by the end of the Istanbul 2 talks on April 15 that there is room for diplomacy over Iran's nuclear standoff, the Moscow talks yielded no significant result and the EU implemented its oil embargo against Iran. What's your analysis of the three rounds of talks between Iran and P5+1 in 2012 and also the expert-level talks in Istanbul held a few days ago?

Afshin Rattansi: The whole process has been a farce. Wikileaks revealed back in 2010 that the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, was basically a U.S. stooge. The U.S.'s own people said that he "was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program." What is the point of the talks and why do mainstream media even bother to report on the IAEA as if it is an authentic, impartial organization.

KZ: Iran has long invested a lot of money and energy on its civilian nuclear program. Now the West demands that Iran should halt enrichment program, close the Fordow facility and ship all of its enriched uranium to another country. Are these demands rightful and logical? Should Iran accede to these calls?

AR: Obviously not. It sometimes surprises me that Iran hasn't pulled out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in disgust at the way the IAEA is used as a conduit for U.S. neo-liberal foreign policy. We also know from Wikileaks that the former IAEA chief and, more recently, Egyptian Presidential candidate, Mohamed El Baradei came under considerable pressure from the U.S. The cable they published said that the U.S. position was that "Unfortunately, ElBaradei is likely to remain part of the problem, rather than solution, if he becomes increasingly unwilling toward the end of his term to hold in check his proclivity to take a Non-Aligned Movement-like view on key issues like the Middle East and fuel assurances."

Well, what exactly is wrong with a Non-Aligned Movement-like view? I remember being in Tehran for a NAM meeting and when I watched mainstream international media reporting of the situation of Iran, it was like they were on another planet. Just as TV "analysts" and "reporters" were announcing how isolated Iran was from the rest of the world, I could see representatives of most of the world's governments coming together in a big conference centre in North Tehran to lambaste imperialist policies carried out by the U.S. government. Tehran didn't feel isolated from the international community at all!

KZ: Iranian officials have always contested the Western double standards on its nuclear program. They say that Israel is allowed to possess hundreds of atomic warheads, while Tehran is excessively pressured over its nuclear program which is aimed at civilian purposes. What's your take on that?

AR: The bizarre thing is that also from Wikileaks, we know that that U.S. officials were cabling the State Department what the Israelis were thinking about El Baradei when he was at the IAEA. The very idea that American officials depended on an imperially-invented "nation" like Israel to give advice about what to do as regards Iran's nuclear program, beggars belief. They aren't even part of the NPT and we all know what Israel did to the nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu who exposed the Zionist nuclear weapons program, aided by the USA and apartheid South Africa.

In any other context, the war-gamers of the CIA would be advising Iran to get their hands on nuclear weapons to ensure a Mutually Assured Destruction context to the burgeoning nuclear arsenal of Israel.

KZ: Israel and the United States have repeatedly threatened Iran against a military strike on its nuclear facilities. These war threats are contrary to the spirit of UN Charter and Geneva Convention, but no international organization has taken any steps to penalize Israel and the U.S. What should be done with regards to their war rhetoric on Iran?

AR: Both Israel and the U.S. have repeatedly been in violation of most if not all post-1945 treaties. Luckily, the seeds of their own transformations into something that will be good for the world are within them. The economic crisis and the shifting sands of economic power from the North to the South amidst the current financial catastrophe will deal with the war rhetoric. At least, that is what is to be hoped. Whether the sound of the end of the U.S. Empire will be a whimper or a cataclysmic thunder strike, we shall have to wait and see. Until then, the war rhetoric should be treated like the remarks of U.S. politicians about how another round of quantitative easing will solve the financial crisis.

KZ: Iran believes that Israel is an impediment to a nuclear-free Middle East. The UN nuclear watchdog has so far failed to investigate and inspect Israel's nuclear arsenal as a result of Washington's interventions in the operations of the IAEA. Israel defiantly opposes any investigation of its nuclear arsenal. Is it practically possible to domesticate Israel and curb its dangerous nuclear activities?

AR: Israel is of course the problem and I can't believe that Israel can exist in its present form for much longer. As for the so-called "two-state solution", it would create two nations, right next to each other, harboring massive mistrust and resentment for the other, i.e. a tinderbox. Only a one-state solution incorporating all the communities of the area will solve this situation. And when that happens the Israeli WMD program can be dismantled like it was in South Africa.

Alas, it does not yet look likely that U.S. politicians will unlock themselves from their deadly embrace with AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) – and so the U.S. continues to undermine the values, power and reputation of a nation with one of the greatest Constitutions on the planet. Until a one-state solution is found, there seems very little prospect of domesticating or curbing Zionist violations of all international norms let alone Israeli WMD programs.

KZ: What do you think about the recent biting economic sanctions against Iran, including the EU's comprehensive oil embargo and the United States' sanctions against Iranian banks? Some lawyers believe that Iran can lodge a complaint against these countries to the ICC, and the Court will certainly issue a verdict in favor of Iran, because the sanctions contravene the laws of free trade. Do you consider these sanctions as a violation of human rights, especially when it comes to embargo against Iran's aviation industry and medical sector?

AR: It doesn't even occur to EU politicians that they are endangering the world by these sanctions. They are too ignorant, incompetent or slavish to Israeli interests to even remember the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children killed by UN Sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s. Luckily for Iran, sanctions have a much more minimal impact. Of course, if there is a plane crash in Iran that kills civilians, a case could be made against EU lawmakers.

As for the ICC, it is a court that is deeply flawed and time and time again, we see that "international law" as a discipline is a tragic exercise in academic myth-making. Until George W Bush and Tony Blair are brought to trial for the biggest war crimes of recent times, there is little to expect from any entity like the ICC. Even on crimes such as those committed at Srebrenica during the NATO war on Yugoslavia, we see how the court is hoodwinked into believing history written by victors.

The current financial catastrophe in Western capitalist nations, mean that demand for Iranian oil will come from other sources. China will soon be struggling to supply demand within China, let alone export markets.

Iran, of course, needs to restructure its own economy in any event and will need to find other means of technology transfer to exploit its rich national resources. But with demand coming from the emerging superpowers of the region, one can imagine a scenario when Iran blocks oil exports to EU countries when EU sanctions are relaxed. This will have a devastating impact on those nations of the EU most hit by the economic crisis. And with Saudi Arabia increasingly unstable because of mass movements in its oil-rich Eastern provinces, the Wahhabi Kingdom may well not be as able to make up for the shortfall in the international supply of crude.

KZ: How should Iran react to the international pressures over its nuclear program? Will the tensions be eased if Iran relinquishes its nuclear activities or is the nuclear program simply a pretext for prolonged animosity and hostility?

AR: Since the end of the USSR, we have seen what happens to nations without WMD that propose different modes of existence to those of neo-liberal capitalism. Just the perceived possibility of developing a home-grown nuclear weapons program may well have prevented an attack from the U.S. or Israel. However, I am sure that some optimistic Iranians believe that had the Republic not been pursuing its peaceful civilian program, all would be fine. I wouldn't be so sure.

None of this is actually about nuclear program – it is about neo-liberal hegemonic power pretensions from Washington. Given Japan’s experience of nuclear electricity generation in areas prone to earthquakes, solar power would, in any case, be the best practical energy policy for Iran. If Iran gave up its nuclear electricity program, there would be something else that the U.S. would come up with to try and destroy Iran – presumably Iran's support for democratic liberation struggles in the Middle East.

KZ: What's your prediction for the future of Iran-West relations? Are Iran and the United States fated to remain enemies forever, or do you see chances of reconciliation and rapprochement?

AR: I think it would be very difficult in present circumstances for Tehran to trust any rapprochement overtures from Washington. President Obama has repeatedly been proven to act completely at odds with most of his eloquent rhetoric. Whether it be his drone assassination programs, his armed destabilization campaigns in Africa, his coups in Paraguay or Honduras, his violations of all basic norms of the U.S. Constitution in Guantanamo, there is nothing dovish about U.S. foreign policy during his tenure.

There is a faint possibility that American politicians will come to their senses – in the context of American-backed Arab dictators falling like dominoes – and that the U.S. will realize that Iran should be its ally against extremism of the kind perpetrated on 9/11 but as long as America pour its taxpayers' money into "Al Qaeda"-style movements in Africa, Central Asia and the Greater Middle East, it is difficult to see a time when Tehran can speak to Washington.

If relatively harmful organizations such as the United Nations or one of its agencies could host a new round of talks in which all substantive issues could be discussed openly and in a spirit of peace proliferation, I would be the first to welcome it though.

KZ: And my final question: will the United States or Israel attack Iran? What will be the consequences of such an attack against Iran? Some political commentators believe that any such attack means the breakout of the World War III. Do you agree?

AR: They're already attacking Iran! We are living in incredibly dangerous times and an attack, by mistake or by design, could come at any moment. Just U.S./EU destabilization of Syria is heralding new problems of extremism in the Middle East and giving succor to the brutal authorities in Tel Aviv. Already their assassination programs are in train in Tehran, where scientists are being killed.

EU and U.S. governments are in the eye of a financial hurricane swirling with millions thrown into unemployment, poverty and chaos. And countries that are in a corner make irrational decisions. The result of millions bereaved, orphaned, injured and murdered by U.S. and EU military campaigns in recent years will be as nothing compared to a wider conflict with Iran. From the closure of the Straits of Hormuz to attacks within the U.S. and to its outside interests, from movements sympathetic to and not necessarily allied to Iran, the impact of such a war would be cataclysmic. Unfortunately, that would be something that neatly fits in with some quasi-Messianic elements of the U.S. body politic.

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