July 16 -- War By Other Means

posted Jul 16, 2012, 7:26 PM by Tom Mayer
Hello peace activists and C-CAATI particiupants:

In the essay below, Conn Hallinan, a left wing
political activist and analyst, argues that the
United States has already launched an economic war
against Iran. This war is having dire effects on the
Iranian economy and, largely for this reason,
Hallinan doubts that a military attack on Iran will
be forthcoming.

Of course Iran might take military action to ward off the economic assault that is strangling its economy. This could lead to a full scale hot war.

Peace and Justice
Tom Mayer

Iran Sanctions: War By Other Means
By Conn Hallinan


Now that the talks with Iran on its nuclear program
appear to be on the ropes, are we on the road to
war? The Israelis threaten it almost weekly, and the
Obama administration has reportedly drawn up an
attack plan. But in a sense, we are already at war
with Iran. Carl von Clausewitz, the great
theoretician of modern warfare, defined war as the
continuation of politics by other means. In the case
of Iran, international politics has become a
de-facto state of war. According to reports, the
annual inflation rate in Iran is 22.2 percent,
although many economists estimate it at double that.
In the last week of June, the price of chicken rose
30 percent, grains were up 55.8 percent, fruits up
66.6 percent, and vegetables up 99.5 percent.

Iran’s Central Bank estimates unemployment among
the young is 22.5 percent, although the Financial
Times says “the official figures are vastly
underestimated.” The production sector is working
at half its capacity. The value of the Iranian rial
has fallen 40 percent since last year, and there is
a wave of business closings and bankruptcies due to
rising energy costs and imports made expensive by
the sanctions. Oil exports, Iran’s major source of
income, have fallen 40 percent in 2012, according to
the international Energy Agency, costing the country
just under $32 billion over the past year.

The 27-member European Union (EU) ban on buying Iranian
oil will further depress sales, and a EU withdrawal
of shipping insurance will make it difficult for
Teheran to ship oil and gas to its diminishing
number of customers. Loss of insurance coverage
could reduce Iran’s oil exports by 1/5 million
barrels a day, or $4.5 billion a month. Energy
accounts for about 80 percent of Iran’s public
revenues. Whipsawed by energy sanctions, the worst
may be yet to come.

The U.S. has already made it difficult for countries to dealing with Iran’s Central Bank, and the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would declare the Iranian energy
sector a “zone of proliferation concern” that
would strangle Teheran’s ability collect payments
for its oil exports. Other proposals would
essentially make it impossible to do business with
Iran’s banks. Any country that dared to do so
would find itself unable to conduct virtually any
kind of international banking.

If the blizzard of legislation does pass, “This would be a
significant ratcheting-up of the economic war
against Iran,” Mark Dubowitz told the Financial
Times. Dubowitz is executive director of the
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who has
lobbied for a series of economic assaults against
the Palestinians, China, and Hezbollah.

But the “war” has already gone far beyond the economic
sphere. In the past two years, five Iranian nuclear
scientists have been assassinated. The hits have
been widely attributed to the Israeli intelligence
service, Mossad, and the People’s Mujahidin of
Iran (MEK), an organization the U.S. designates as
“terrorist.” Last year a massive explosion
rocked the Bid Ganeh military base near Teheran,
killing 17 people, including the founder of Iran’s
missile program, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam.
According to Israeli media, the camp was sabotaged
by the MEK working with Mossad.

Deadly attacks directed at Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have been tied to Jundallah, a Sunni group with ties to U.S.
and Israel intelligence. It is no secret—indeed,
President Obama openly admitted it—that under the
codename “Olympic Games,” the U.S. has been
waging cyber war against Iran. The Stuxnet virus
shut down a considerable portion of Iran’s nuclear
program, although it also infected infrastructure
activities, including power plants, oil rigs, and
water supplies. The virus was designed to attack
systems made by the German company Siemens and has
apparently spread to China, Pakistan and Indonesia.

The U.S. is also suspected of being behind the Flame
virus, spyware able to record keystrokes, eavesdrop
on conversations near an infected computer, and tap
into screen images. Besides Iran, Flame has been
found in computers in the Palestinian West Bank,
Lebanon, Hungary, Austria, Russia, Hong Kong, and
the United Arab Emirates. Because “malware”
seeks out undefended computers no matter where they
are, it has a habit of spreading beyond its initial
target. Most of the media is focused on whether the
failure of the talks will lead to an Israeli or
American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and
there is certainly considerable smoke out there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been threatening to
attack Iran for the past two years. According to
Gideon Rachman, a leading columnist for the
Financial Times, some Israeli officials have told
him Tel Aviv will attack sometime this summer or
early fall. One source told him “Israel will wait
until September or October because the weather is
better and it’s closer to the US elections.”

But the Independent’s (UK) Patrick Cockburn, one of
the more reliable analysts on the Middle East,
thinks the Israeli threats are “the bluff of the
century.” Cockburn argues that there is simply no
reason for Tel Aviv to go to war, since the Iranian
economy is being effectively strangled by the
sanctions. But the saber rattling is useful because
it scares the EU into toughing up the siege of
Teheran, while also shifting the Palestinian issue
to a back burner. There are serious divisions within
Israel on whether to go to war, with the Israeli
intelligence and military generally opposed. The
latter’s reasons are simple: militarily Tel Aviv
couldn’t pull it off, and politically an attack
would garner worldwide sympathy for Iran.

Recent statements downgrading the threat of Iran by Israeli
Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz suggest the
Netanyahu government is finally feeling the pressure
from divisions within its own ranks and may be
backing off from a military confrontation.

And the US? According to Paul Rogers, a Department of Peace
Studies professor at Bradford University and
OpenDemocracy’s international security editor, the
Pentagon has drawn up plans for a concentrated
attack on Iran’s nuclear industry, using a
combination of bombers and cruise missiles. The U.S.
recently beefed up its military footprint in the
region. But while the possibility of such an attack
is real—especially if congressional hawks get
their way—the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence
establishment are hardly enthusiastic about it. And
in any case, the US is carpet-bombing Iran’s
economy without firing a shot or sending air crews
into harm’s way.

While Iran is generally depicted as the recalcitrant party in the current nuclear talks, it has already compromised, even agreeing to ship some of its enriched uranium out of the country and to guarantee the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) access to all nuclear facilities.
Teheran has also converted one-third of its 20
percent enriched uranium into plates, making it
almost impossible to use the fuel for nuclear
weapons. Weapon’s grade uranium is enriched to 90
percent. In return, Teheran is demanding the right
to enrich to 3.5 percent—the level one needs to
power a civilian reactor—and an end to sanctions.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not ban
enriching uranium—indeed, it is guaranteed by
Articles III and IV—as long as the fuel is not
weaponized. “Iran is raising eyebrows,” says
Yousaf M. Butt of the American Federation of
Scientists, “but what it is doing is a
concern—not illegal.” However, the P5+1—the
permanent UN Security Council members, Britain,
France, the US, Russia, China, plus Germany, is
demanding an end to all enrichment, shipping the
enriched fuel out of the country, and closing the
enrichment plant at Fordo: “stop, shut, and

In return Iran would get enriched fuel for
medical use and some spare parts for its civilian
airlines. The sanctions would remain in place,
however, although it would open the subject up for
discussion. The problem is that many of the more
onerous sanctions are those independently applied by
the U.S. and the EU. Russia and China have expressed
opposition to the independent sanctions, but so far
have not shown a willingness to openly flaunt them.

It will be hard for Teheran to make further
concessions, particularly if there is no light at
the end of the sanction tunnel. Indeed, some of the
demands seem almost crafted to derail a diplomatic
solution, raising the suspicion that the dispute is
less about Iran’s nuclear program than a concerted
drive to marginalize a country that has resisted
European and U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Isolate Iran enough, the thinking goes, and it might
bring about regime change. Moscow or Beijing don’t
support such an outcome, but they have little
influence over what Washington and Brussels do

There is no evidence that Iran is
trying to build nuclear weapons. Indeed, the body of
evidence suggests the opposite, including the 2007
US National Intelligence Estimate that Teheran
mothballed its program in 2003. But evidence is
irrelevant when the enormous economic power of the
US and the EU can cow the rest of the world, and
force a country to its knees without resorting to
open hostilities. In short, war by other means.