Sunday, July 20, 2008

William O. Beeman--Bolton Appears to Advocate for Israeli Strike on Iran

Bolton Appears to Advocate for Israeli Strike on Iran

William O. Beeman

The drums of war against Iran are sounding again. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton has called for regime change in Iran in an editorial for the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, July 15, 2008. The editorial appears to be aimed at facilitating an Israeli attack on Iran.

For Ambassador Bolton, virtually the last of the unrepentant neoconservatives, hope of effecting regime change in Iran springs eternal. But his editorial is not just a wish. It is designed to influence the Bush administration to allow Israel to proceed with a bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities—an action they have been champing at the bit to carry out for some time. Ambassador Bolton writes: “instead of debating how much longer to continue five years of failed diplomacy, we should be intensively considering what cooperation the U.S. will extend to Israel before, during and after a strike on Iran.”

The magazine Mother Jones reported on July 10 that “a parade of high level Israeli officials are on their way to the White House over the next two weeks to discuss Iran policy.” These include Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak and Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi. One of the points of discussion will undoubtedly be obtaining the go-ahead for an Israeli military attack, just as was sought unsuccessfully more than a year and a half ago in as reported by the Daily Telegraph of London on February 25 of 2007.

To their credit American military officials remain recalcitrant. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on July 8 that Joint Chiefs of Staff Head, Admiral Mike Mullen, traveled to Israel specifically to tell Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi that Israel does not have an American ' green light ' to launch an air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities..

You can see the frustration in Mr. Bolton's rhetoric--excoriating the Bush administration for being pusillanimous. His impatience is palpable. He writes: “. . . consider what comes next for the U.S.: the Bush administration's last six months pursuing its limp diplomatic efforts, plus six months of a new president getting his national security team and policies together. In other words, one more year for Tehran to proceed unhindered to ‘the point of no return.’”

To elevate the heat on Washington, Ambassador Bolton is not above trotting out old information about the Iranian situation long decried as misleading or false. He claims that Iranian nuclear weapons development is an established fact, and hints that Iran is close to making a bomb.

Inconveniently for Ambassador Bolton, there is no proof anywhere that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exits. The National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 declares as much, and a series of hearings before the Committee on Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security on April 24 involved a parade of witnesses who verified the findings of the report. Typical was the testimony of research scientist Dr. Jim Walsh of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who stated: . “The fact that Iran did halt its military weaponization efforts, and that it did so because of changes in the international environment ‘indicates Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost- benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.’
Even if Iran somehow did have an active nuclear weapons program, they would still be years away from perfecting even the rudimentary techniques of weapons manufacture. Nuclear scientist Dr. Behrad Nakhai, formerly of the Oakridge Research Laboratories monitors Iran’s nuclear program closely. Having just returned from Iran on July 13, he reported, “Looking carefully at Iran’s nuclear program as it stands at present, it is only reasonable to conclude that Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts have so far been very elementary—effectively just practice runs for the very lowest levels of enrichment.”

Ambassador Bolton has the additional effrontery to call diplomacy "failed" while neglecting to note that the U.S. has engaged in none of it--including a comprehensive 2003 Iranian initiative offering to negotiate all differences between the United States and Iran--which Mr. Bolton presumably had a hand in rejecting..
It is shoddy and cheap for Washington to assert that the diplomacy undertaken by European powers as somehow justifying American frustration with Iran, when we have done nothing, except to host three meetings, in which Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Crocker hurled invective at the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad.

More and more it is looking like the neoconservative agenda of regime change throughout the Middle East as a means to achieve American and Israeli hegemony in the region is going down in flames. Bolton's editorial is the last gasp of this vampire movement, even as more moderate American and Israeli citizens try to drive a stake through its heart.

William O. Beeman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. He is President of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association, and former Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University. His most recent book is The “Great Satan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, University of Chicago Press.