Book Review: Target Iran

Target Iran – The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change.  Scott Ritter.  Nation Books, New York, 2006.

Review by Jim Miles

The mid-term elections have gone against the Republican desires and expectations, but for those watching as the empire turns, the difference will probably be insignificant.  Rather than the harsher bravado of George Bush and his neocon supporters, there will a less volatile, gentler rhetoric coming from the hallway of American government buildings. Unfortunately, everything else appears to be on line to remain the same. While some change is inevitable, simply because the status quo is not working, the overall picture will remain the same.  The Democrats are just as adamant as some Republicans that the troop levels in Iraq need to be increased, with more pressure put on the Iraqi government, such as it is, to control the mainly Sunni insurgency.  There have been calls for increased troop commitments in Afghanistan as well, recognizing the deteriorating military strategy there as well.  The overall picture still reminds the observer that America is still strongly attached to the neocon vision of ‘might is right’ and democracy and free market capitalism need to be delivered at the point of a gun barrel. 

When Bush planned on attacking Iraq, his minions concocted a whole range of reasons and evidence to substantiate the invasion, all later proven false.  Unfortunately, that same scenario is in process with Iran, with the same invention of irrational planning that aids and abets the plans of Israel as well as garnering support, as above, from the new Democrat caucus in government.   Scott Ritter, one of the top UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, a former U.S. Marine under Gen. Schwarzkopf in Iraq, has provided ample evidence in his new book Target Iran that the same mistakes are being repeated once again, mistakes that “saw the recent past being replayed, with American policy objectives once again being hidden behind a veil of deceit, with regime change disguised as disarmament.”

I do not read detective/mystery/spy stories, but I found myself quite fascinated by the convoluted negotiations between Iran, the U.S., Israel, Europe – in particular France, Germany and Britain – Russia, China, and Pakistan, a true political jigsaw puzzle of negotiators trying to out manipulate one another.  Many non-governmental organizations, especially AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association), further twisted the situation, along with the various spy agencies from different countries, with the Israeli’s apparently being the most proficient of the latter.   The overall impression is that the U.S. was constantly pushing for Security Council sanctions, as it had with Iraq, to make legitimate its claims against Iran, and following, to then find fault with those sanctions that could provide an excuse for attacking Iran.  From all that Ritter concludes “if there is an American war with Iran, it is a war that was made in Israel and nowhere else.”

The ‘crisis’ originated in Israel when the Iraqi’s targeted Israel in the First Gulf War and the Americans managed to keep the Israelis from retaliating and offending their Arab allies against Iraq.  Following that  “Israel became determined that it would stack the deck in its own favor,” using the powerful AIPAC lobby group to engage in activities “that can only be described as outright espionage and interference in the domestic politics of a sovereign state.”   The Israeli-American ties are strong enough in Ritter’s analysis with Israel seeing America as “a tool to be wielded in support of the larger Israeli interest,” with the “two nations…inextricably linked.” 

Mohammed El-Baradei’s report from the IAEA concerning Iran said, “To date there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities…were related to a nuclear weapons program.”  This was based on “the most intrusive inspections in the history of nuclear arms control,” but was dismissed by then U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, John Bolton (now U.S. Ambassador to the UN) as “impossible to believe.”   Throughout Ritter’s presentation, there is strong evidence provided that at no time had Iran abrogated the rules of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it was signatory, in comparison to Israel with its massive nuclear capabilities and its evasion of anything to do with the NPT.  Iran may have been unable and unwilling to answer certain questions, but to elevate that “to the status of being a threat to international peace and security was a stretch.” 

The U.S. refusal to negotiate directly because that would complicate the ideal of regime change combined with Europe’s unwillingness to negotiate in “good faith” resulted in Iran’s “obstinacy.”  Throughout the work, the double speak and biased rhetoric of the U.S., the weakening position of the European negotiators, and in the later stages that of IAEA, weighed heavily against the more pragmatic, guarded comments from Iran, not those of the figurehead Ahmadinejad, but from the more powerful and introspective Khamenei.  As for Bolton being the U.S.’s man in the UN, it sent a powerful message about the “ultimate intentions” of Bush, “a single policy objective: regime change, at any cost.”

As with Iraq, deception, lying, manipulating, dissembling, avoidance, ignorance have combined to increase tensions between the U.S. and Iran.  In his closing, Ritter restates his concerns about AIPAC and its influence in Washington such that Bolton has been referred to as “an Israeli diplomatic resource.”   While Ritter states support for Israel, that support is guarded, tainted by Israeli displays of “arrogance and rigidity when it comes to developing any diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue.”  The book was in press as the Israeli Hezbollah war flared up and Ritter correctly identifies Hezbollah as “a legitimate expression of the people of Lebanon” and Israel’s current actions are counterproductive for Israel as they “feed the very dynamic that gave birth to Hezbollah and facilitated its growth,” that being the initial Israeli invasion in 1982.

The situation has changed somewhat since the publication of this book, but that does not diminish its importance.  Clearly written, with the feel more of a spy novel (for all I know of them) than a history, it challenges American created perceptions of Iran as a rogue nuclear state.  It is a strong warning that should the U.S. continue along the same path of delusion, the unintended consequences as seen in Iraq will seem small compared to the results of an ill-conceived attack on Iran. 

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles.  His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization and economic subjugation of the global community and its commodification by corporate governance and by the American government. 

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