The storming of the British embassy in Iran
conjures up hideous memories. If you're as old as I am, you'll recall that the nightly drama of "America held hostage" was the single greatest force pushing this country to the right. The sheer humiliation of seeing our sovereignty trampled turned many middle-of-the-roaders into Reaganites. In a sense, the Ayatollah Khomeini was the best friend American reactionaries ever had.
In the current situation, six staffers
were taken hostage -- or so says one report. British or Iranian? We don't yet know. (Update:
Apparently, the six were British; the cops secured their release.
Iranian riot police have stepped in to quell the "student" protesters. (Always and forever, we see that label "student." How many units do you think they're taking?) The fact that Iran's government stepped in to restore order indicates that this incident probably won't segue into the kind of nightmare that marred Carter's last year.
Still, this paragraph from the BBC report jumped out at me...
An unconfirmed report from the official Irna news agency said a separate group of protesters broke into another British embassy compound in the north of the city and seized "classified documents".
It is possible, I suppose, that the Iranians permitted -- briefly -- the main embassy attack in order to provide cover for the theft of those documents. There is some indication that the Iranian government, or a faction of it, encouraged the attack
. Yes, the riot police stepped in -- but only after the attackers had been at work for a full hour.
The motive remains a bit unclear, at least to me. At the back of it all, we run into the long-simmering dispute over Iranian nukes:
For its part, the UK Treasury imposed sanctions on Iranian banks, accusing them of facilitating the country's nuclear programme
That decision followed a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that suggested Iran was working towards acquiring a nuclear weapon.
In response to the British sanctions, the Iranian parliament voted to downgrade diplomatic relations with the U.K.
Would a downgrade in relations cause "students" to take such rash action? In 1979, the cause was much more emotional -- much sexier, if you will: The United States gave protection and medical treatment to the deposed Shah of Iran (who really was a vicious tyrant), while the Iranians wanted him tried on their soil. I can see how violence might arise out of that
But I'm surprised to learn that sanctions can have a similarly electrifying effect. After the revolution, the Iranians accepted -- almost invited -- economic sanctions and political isolation. Are things so very different now?Nukes:
The basic issue comes down to the question of Iranian nukes, and whether Israel -- or the U.S., acting on Israel's behalf -- should launch a strike against Iran in order to take out the weapons. There have been warnings of imminent war for so long that the tableau has begun to take on a Lucy-and-the-football
Clearly, a mad dog faction of the American establishment would love to drop bombs on Iran. (That faction is led by a crafty fellow named Michael Ledeen, about whom I've written much.) It is also clear that such an attack would probably end up doing as much damage to this country as to Iran. Maybe more
My own view is simple and unpopular: By what right
can we prevent the Iranians from joining the nuclear club? We did not prevent Israel. We did not prevent South Africa. We did not prevent India and Pakistan. True, the current regime in Iran is, in many ways, quite obnoxious. But that government has been at peace with its neighbors since the Iran-Iraq war, which was initiated by Saddam Hussein (then an American semi-ally). We cannot say the same about Israel.
Obviously, most Americans won't share my view.
So the question comes down to this: Are the Iranians building bombs? The IAEA report is less clear than the afore-linked BBC report would have you believe. See here
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says in the leaked report by Director-General Yukiya Amano that it "has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."
Amano says "the information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."
The report says that while some of the suspected secret nuclear work by Iran can have peaceful purposes, "others are specific to nuclear weapons." The document says those activities may be continuing.
Signaling frustration at Iranian officials' dealings so far on crucial topics, the report "requests" that Iran "engage substantively with the Agency without delay for the purpose of providing clarifications regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."
The report's summary says that since "Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol [to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."
Excuse me, but -- haven't we already seen this movie?
Iraq. Remember? We were told that Saddam Hussein was not cooperating sufficiently with inspectors -- therefore (the Bush administration concluded) the Iraqi dictator must have been stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
Of course, he was doing no such thing.
We can't allow thousands -- perhaps millions -- to die simply because someone at the IAEA complained of insufficient cooperation.
Hypocritically, some Israelis are calling for an Iran strike on the basis of the IAEA report. Israel itself, a member of the IAEA since 1957, possesses 200 nuclear warheads -- and unlike Iran, Israel refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty
and refuses to allow inspections at the Dimona facilty.
Rush Limbaugh is giving the idea of war with Iran the hard-sell treatment. Since Rush is the voice of the Republican party, we should take his words as a warning. Something bad is brewing.