Ian Williams

Written By: Ian Williams
Published: January 29, 2012 Last modified: January 26, 2012

The financial and fornicatory hypocrisy of the Republican ­candidates is nauseating. But the salacious interest it excites allows the media and the electorate to overlook foreign policy. But then, in some ways we are fortunate that the rest of the world has not been a big item in the debates. Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out shortly after saying Turkey, a Nato member and recently a voice of balanced reason in the region, was run by an Islamic dictator and should not be allowed to be a member.

However, the other turkeys are every bit as bad, as they pander their way to see who can get most primary votes from Christian Zionists and cheques from Likud reactionaries. British leaders still bask in the illusion of the “special relationship”, but on Capitol Hill, the term is almost ­exclusively used for Israel and the United States. For better or worse, two world wars, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the half century of Britain being a prime nuclear target on America’s behalf, is not exactly at the front of legislative thoughts.

Between them, the candidates seem to have made it axiomatic that Israel should attack Iran, with US support. However, polls suggest, not surprisingly after the ­debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan, that one of the few points of unity for an otherwise bitterly divided American electorate is ­opposition to a new war. Even in Israel only 41 per cent support an attack, which is ­surprisingly high, considering who would suffer most in any exchange of weapons with Tehran. But Republican candidates happily cheer terrorist assassinations of Iranian scientists.

The one exception among the candidates, Ron Paul, has become the standard bearer of some on America’s alleged left, who are prepared to overlook his profoundly reactionary domestic policies because his America-firster views lead him to oppose Israeli influence in Washington.

This is no time to get sentimental about ayatollahs, and the appropriate response to Israeli threats is certainly not adulation for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The regime in Iran is almost as attached to fundamentalist religion and the death penalty as a southern Republican governor. It does appear to have stolen the last election, but some informed observers think that it might have won anyway.

However, if there is one thing that seems to unite Iranians, it is the nuclear programme, with many Iranians probably going beyond the government, which still disclaims a military nuclear option. As an aside, I am often invited as a pundit on Iran’s Press TV, and have told them, live, that they should disclaim civilian, let alone military nuclear programmes, abide by even unjust United Nations resolutions, and invest in their refining capacity instead. Last week I reached the limits of their ­tolerance. They called me about the ­Falklands, and when I told them I would say that even English speakers had the right to self-determination, my slot was immediately dropped.

I also said that Argentina used the issue to divert domestic discontent about the economy – which is a role that Iran plays for Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters in the Israel lobby in the US, where Iran can whip the majority of liberal-minded Jews into support for the occupying state.

So, begin with principles. It is useful to treat it like a mathematical equation and substitute the terms. Take out Iran and put it in Israel, Pakistan or India, the real rogue states. The difference is that Iran has signed the non-proliferation treaty and they have not. However, it could withdraw from the treaty, like North Korea, and it has not. If Israel attacks Iranian facilities and murders its citizens, it should not complain if its Dimona nuclear facility is targeted.

Even the International Atomic Energy Agency, despite some worries, has not concluded that Iran has moved decisively towards military nuclear capability. The UN Security Council only became involved when a kangaroo court on the IAEA’s ­ruling body referred the case – with nuclear India one of those supporting the referral, strongly instigated by Israel, the one ­definite nuclear state in the Middle East, with its several hundred war heads.

So is this a crusade, or jihad (since the Saudis seem to be onside) for civil rights? The Wahhabi theocracy in Saudi Arabia makes the most conservative ayatollahs appear positively Anglican in their ­tolerance. We are being invited to support or condone an illegal and unethical war that would unite Iranians and much of the Middle East against Israel and the West, and risk the destruction of Israel with collateral damage to its neighbours not to mention a high chance of casualties among the “oppressed” Iranians.

One does not expect our lords and ­masters to be too concerned about mere human body counts, but they should worry that one sure consequence would be a drastic spike in oil prices that could push the world economy, already teetering on the brink, over the edge, with a calculable chance of escalation. It seems a high price to pay so Netanyahu can keep on building settlements.

Any responsible government should be telling Israel that – far from backing, tacit or otherwise – there would be immediate consequences in terms of military and financial support. But the Republican and Likud circus is, at least in part, designed to weaken Barack Obama’s ability to do that in this election year – which is why we should be worried. What’s David Cameron’s excuse?

About Ian Williams

Ian Williams is Tribune's UN correspondent