In 2001, 83% of the Pakistanis supported the Taliban[i]. Six years later, in a 2007 World Public Opinion poll[ii], 84% of the Pakistanis thought attacks on civilians for the purpose of reaching a political goal was justified. Given that there are radicals who support terrorism with the possibility of gaining access to nuclear bombs in a country that is currently under emergency rule, common sense demands that world leaders turn their attention to Pakistan. Yet, inexplicably, the United States continues to hand out aid to its ‘ally’ Pakistan while quietly upgrading special stealth bomber hangars on the British island of Diego Garcia in preparation for a military assault against Iran[iii]. What motivates the United States to take such paradoxical action?
America and Israel have accused Iran of intending to diversify its program – they allege that Iran is using its civilian program as a cover to build nuclear bombs. This supposition begs the question why Iran would place itself in the spotlight instead of renouncing the energy program for history has shown that having an operating nuclear power reactor is no longer a prerequisite or even a necessary condition of obtaining fissile material which can be used for the development of nuclear materials. South Africa was able to develop five nuclear bombs without having a nuclear energy program. North Korea was able to acquire enriched uranium with mundane centrifuges and other technologies to constitute the critical mass needed for a low-yield “dirty” bomb (Meshkati[iv]).
Iran has also been accused of pursuing its nuclear program in ‘secret’, further ‘proof’ of its alleged intentions to divert its nuclear program into a bomb making one. Contrary to these allegations, the new Iranian government decided to continue its nuclear energy projects to meet the surging needs of the growing population and to compensate for the immense damage caused to the infrastructure of the country during the war with Iraq. In 1982 Iranian officials announced that they planned to build a reactor powered by their own uranium at the Isfahan nuclear technology centre. In 1983, the IAEA reported that they were ready to “contribute to the formation of local expertise and manpower needed to sustain an ambitious program in the field of nuclear power reactor technology and fuel cycle technology”. Under pressure from the United States, their cooperation was terminated[v].
Tehran openly negotiated with several nations (unsuccessfully under pressure from Washington) until finally it struck a deal with Moscow. This met with former President Clinton’s ‘duel-containment’ policy. Executive Order 12957 given by Clinton specifically banned any “contract for the financing of the development of petroleum resources located in Iran.”
In addition, President Yeltsin had assured Washington that Iran would not be able to make weapons-grade plutonium and that he had canceled the “military components” of two nuclear reactors bound for Iran. Under U.S. pressure, both Ukraine and China had made some adjustments. Ukraine, announced that it would not supply turbines for a Russian reactor project at Bushehr. China suspended the sale of a plant for the conversion of uranium hexafluoride, which is required for making fuel rods[vi]. In 1997, Russian officials expelled Iranians studying nuclear physics and missile science from Russian schools in late 1997[vii]. They have also halted all vocational training of Iranian students in fields that may have applications for nuclear weapons and missiles.
America had long said –and it continues to say today, that its single biggest concern is for Iran to have the knowledge which could lead to making the bomb. So why did it not stop its confrontational path?
Ideology – Regrettably, the history of the Middle East shows that secular resistance to foreign exploitation has been crushed by imperial powers. Mossadeq, a fierce nationalist, who was democratically elected to be prime minister of Iran, was removed by a CIA-backed coup when he nationalized Iran’s oil. Likewise, Egypt’s leader, Nasser, a secular and fiercely nationalist leader, was called ‘Hitler on the Nile’ for wishing to control the Suez canal. Six months before the French and the British invaded Egypt in 1956, Britain had drawn up secret plans to cut off the flow of the River Nile to try to force Nasser to give up the Suez Canal[viii].
Islam, it would seem, has proven itself capable of challenging the world’s superpower. And it was not with its effects on the region. Saudi Arabia felt unsettled with events in Iran and the lack of support the Shah seemed to have received from the U.S. “The Saudis undoubtedly felt considerable annoyance at the United States for doing too little to prevent the Shah’s fall and too much to promote Sadat’s peace initiative”. For this reason, at the onset of the Iranian revolution, the Saudis dropped their production by 1 million barrels per day, playing havoc on oil markets at a most crucial time (Deese and Nye 68)[ix]. Although Saudi Arabia later picked up Iran’s slack, Washington was not prepared to have Saudi Arabia follow Iran’s suite. Nor was Washington accustomed to having an Arab nation ‘threaten’ its oil supply.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the pretext Washington needed to make its move. The ‘Carter Doctrine’ was nothing short of putting American soldiers in harms way to protect the free flow of oil. In subsequent years this doctrine took on other forms such as the Gulf War, and War on Terror and democratization. But putting the life of American soldiers in harms way for the sake of oil required a noble cause – the public have always been led to believe that wars have been necessary to defeat ‘evil’.
Money: The root of all Evil – In 1960s, an agreement was struck with OPEC to price oil in U.S. dollars exclusively for all worldwide transactions. In essence, the dollar was now backed with oil instead of gold. In return, the U.S. promised to protect the various oil-rich kingdoms in the Persian Gulf against threat of invasion or domestic coup. The arrangement gave the dollar artificial strength. Deviation from this by any OPEC member would impact the dollar. Iran announced its intentions to convert to Euros in 1999.
Other economic factors include a renewable 15-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Israel signed in September 1975, in which the United States Government has undertaken to promptly make oil available for purchase by Israel. If Israel is unable to secure the necessary means to transport such oil to Israel, the United States Government will make every effort to help Israel secure the necessary means of transport[x].
The 1979 overthrow of the Shah created added expense and inconvenience for Israel and America. The Shah supplied all Israel’s oil needs via a pipeline from Eilat. After the revolution, the clergy put a stop to this and Israel was forced to buy more expensive oil – footed by the U.S. In the 1980’s, Israel’s National Infrastructure Minister Joseph Paritzky was considering the possibility of reopening the long-defunct oil pipeline from Mosul to the Mediterranean port of Haifa in northern Israel. Syria, acceded to a request from Iran to block the flow of Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean (The flow of oil from Mosul was redirected from Haifa to Syria after the British Mandate for Palestine expired in 1948).[xi] The plan was postponed.
The ‘war on terror’ presented yet another opportunity, but Washington’s game plan seems to have been stymied by Iraq’s Shiite majority which is a close ally of Iran’s. This explains why Iran is cast as a threat and the endless efforts of the mainstream media delivering news to every living room of deaths caused by ‘Iranian-backed Shiite militias’. This is the evil that must be overcome in order for democracy to prevail, and this is why American soldiers are dying.
Where there is oil, there is Plan ‘B’ – Upon taking office, George W. Bush. commissioned the Bakers Institute (Rice University) and the Council on Foreign Relations to study the energy trends and requirements of the 21st century. The comprehensive 99-page report favored the Iranian route for the Caspian oil exports which would serve several purposes. In itself, it would translate into a policy shift towards Tehran, and throw Iran as a counter weight to Iraq. The transport of oil through Iran versus the prohibitively expensive longer and costly Baku-Ceyhan pipeline would be of great benefit to the West, and the world, and help build up the drastically low global spare capacity, according to the report. Another strong contention of the report was that the U.S. ought to move the Caspian region into a zone of cooperation with Russia instead of a zone of competition and confrontation, enabling future cooperation such as jointly countering Islamic militants in the region (Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century, 2001, pp. 38-40,45,)[ii]. Of note, the Kazakh officials had been in favor of the Iran route, as well as the U.S. oil companies such as Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and Conoco[iii].
In September 2001, A.Nesdat Pamir of the Jerusalem based think-tank IASPS, challenged the commission report with a strategy paper called “Turkey: The Key to Caspian Oil and Gas”. He argued that “ given that the price of oil have allowed states to invest heavily in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the primary external of this development, both economically and diplomatically, has been Russia”[iv]. Russia, therefore, is arming the Middle East with WMD and the 80% oil potential should be rescued. According to him, the lifeline of America would be for it to use the prohibitively expensive Ceyhan –Baku Pipeline [through Turkey and Israel] in order to avoid the anti-American Middle East .
Given that the mainstream media does not serve the public, it comes at no surprise that a day after the Israeli assault on Lebanon last summer the inauguration of the Ceyhan-Tblisi-Baku (BTC) oil pipeline took place[xii]. Noted among the guests at the inauguration reception in Istanbul, hosted which was by Turkey’s President Ahmet Necdet Sezer at Çýraðan Palace was Israel’s Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer together with a delegation of top Israeli oil officials.
America and Israel insist on reject the report card from the IAEA the UN watchdog chief has been told that he must be ‘sacked’ for not understanding Iran’s ‘intentions’. One must have a clear understanding that Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not pose a threat, however, due to isolation, Iran has become a self-reliant nation and has escaped self-colonization. Iran is politically aware, and technologically advanced. She is keen to pursue her civilian nuclear technology, not as a violation or as a threat to world order, but as her inalienable right under international law and in response to the current and future needs of the Iranian people.
No doubt the perceived threat from Iran will diminish should Tehran yield to Washington, generously delivers its oil to Israel to better enable it to continue its expansionist policies, and participate in human rights abuses in the name of freedom and democracy vs. state sovereignty. But even if the regime in Tehran succumbs, will the people who have accomplished so much under such extraordinary circumstances, surrender?
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has lived and studied in Iran, the UK, France, Australia and the US. She obtained her Bachelors Degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and she is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Middle East Studies concentrating in Political Science. She has done extensive research on US foreign policy towards Iran and Iran’s nuclear program.