From Pakistan to Iran: Bush policy spreads war danger

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The new crisis in Pakistan demonstrates the hypocrisy of Bush administration saber-rattling against Iran, foreign policy analysts say.

Pakistan’s president and top Bush “war on terror” ally Gen. Pervez Musharraf staged what many call a military coup Nov. 3, declaring a state of emergency, suspending the constitution, firing the entire Supreme Court and jailing hundreds of lawyers and other protesters including trade unionists.

The United States has given Musharraf’s government $10.59 billion in military, economic and development aid since Sept. 11, 2001, according to The Associated Press. About 75 percent is military funding. The Musharraf government has spent much of this on purchasing major weapons systems. Pakistan, unlike Iran, has nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have ratcheted up apocalyptic warnings about an Iranian threat that remind many of their pre-invasion talk about Iraq.

“The Pakistan crisis should offer an opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of U.S. policy towards Iran,” William Hartung, director of the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative, told the World. “On the one hand, the administration is coddling a repressive, nuclear-armed state, giving it billions in military and economic aid. On the other, it repeatedly states that it will keep the military option ‘on the table’ against Iran, for a shifting series of reasons ranging from its nuclear program to its role in Iraq. In both cases, claims about Iranian capabilities and intentions are being exaggerated. In Pakistan, by contrast, its repression is there for all to see, in the streets of its cities; and no one doubts that it already has a considerable nuclear arsenal.”

Conn Hallinan, an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, calls the Bush administration policy part of a global chess game, with the U.S. strategy aiming to “lock down, dominate, strategic oil resources.”

White House policy in the oil-rich region stretching from the Middle East through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hallinan said, is focused on encircling China. They want to “put their hand on China’s energy jugular vein,” he said.

The problem is “these are really bad chess players,” he said.

“It’s quite clear there are major divisions in the ruling class on Iran,” Hallinan noted.

On Oct. 29, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, a prominent backer of the invasion of Iraq, published a scathing denunciation of the White House drive to war with Iran. “Here is the reality,” he wrote. “Iran has an economy the size of Finland’s and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?”

“One element of the Bush administration’s heated rhetoric on Iran is to once again put the Democrats on the spot as to whether they are ‘tough enough’ to run the country,” Hartung said. But, he added, “given the fiasco of the Iraq invasion, the key Democratic presidential candidates should be able to speak out clearly against using force against Iran.”

Democrats’ positions on the issue appear to be in flux.

Thirty senators — 29 Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders — signed a Nov. 1 letter to President Bush drafted by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), warning the president not to take military action against Iran without the specific consent of Congress, and saying administration remarks about possible military action there are “counterproductive” and undermine diplomatic efforts to resolve tensions.

Signers include presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd, but not Joe Biden or Barack Obama.

Earlier, Clinton had drawn criticism for voting for labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, part of its armed forces, a terrorist organization. That measure passed, 76-22. Biden and Dodd opposed it; Obama did not vote.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have now introduced S. Res. 356, affirming that “any offensive military action taken against Iran must be explicitly approved by Congress before such action may be initiated.” So far it has only nine co-sponsors, including Clinton and Dodd.

The Council for a Livable World has started running anti-Iran-war newspaper ads around the country headlined “If you like war in Iraq, you’ll love war on Iran.”

A letter seeking donations to publish the ads more widely pointed out that the neoconservative group Freedom’s Watch will spend $200 million on pro-war messages. “We need to speak out in opposition,” the Council said. “The only thing worse than war with Iraq would be war with Iran.”

Said Hartung, “Instead of shipping arms and threatening force, the Bush administration should be pursuing a regional solution based on diplomacy. This would of course require taking the needs of other countries seriously, and engaging in give and take, a process the Bush crowd has shown little interest in. Nonetheless, there needs to be a loud public demand for a new approach.”

suewebb@pww.org