'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

War with Iran? 

UPDATE: From a CNN report:

The lives of ordinary Iranians have been deeply touched by the Western sanctions. Several spoke to CNN about how they are coping with staggering inflation and a plunging national currency, although none felt comfortable being fully identified, fearful of the Islamic Republic's long reach into private lives.

Farhad, 47, was once comfortable, but things began sliding downhill when sanctions came and the foreign oil firm that employed him packed up and left.

As a taxi driver, he works hard but saves little money. With the latest round of U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran's Central Bank last month, he has seen staggering inflation; the price of meat and milk have skyrocketed by as much as 50 percent.

He and his wife have stopped having guests at their home or going out to eat. They can't remember when they bought new clothes and no longer send their suits to the cleaners.

I feel bad for the cleaners, he says. They must be suffering as a result of people like me not using their services.

Farhad has a savings account that is shrinking fast as he dips into it to make ends meet.

His 21-year-old son works two part-time jobs while he earns a degree in computer science. Farhad feels bad that he can't afford to buy him the computer equipment he needs.

I wait and pray for something to spark the economy and get it going, but I am not holding my breath, he says. Life must go on. We can only wait and see what the future has in store for us.

In the meantime, he says, the only way for his sons to live a decent life is to fall in with influential people or make shady business deals like trading foreign currency on the black market.

INITIAL POST: Alexander Cockburn believes that war with Iran is inevitable. Indeed, he maintains, as have a number of others, that the conflict has already begun. Beyond the black budget covert operations, there is the direct US assault upon the country's economy, as revealed by a precipitous decline in the value of the Iranian currency, the rial. The embargo of Iranian oil, to be enforced by punitive measures against international corporations that facilitate the sale of it, is beginning to inflict greater and greater hardship upon the Iranian populace, no doubt in the expectation that the real US objective, regime change, will soon be accomplished. The European Union, consistent with its history of hesitant support for US imperial action, has agreed to embargo Iranian oil this summer.

Meanwhile, voices for war in the US have privileged access to the media, with outlets like the New York Times, NPR and PBS providing a veneer of understated, urbane legitimacy to the more populist, shrill expressions of militarism found elsewhere. Journalists and foreign policy analysts perpetually reference a non-existent nuclear weapons program, subject only to subsequent, tepid criticisms buried within newspapers and websites. Furthermore, as noted by John Glaser of antiwar.com, while opponents of military action have been granted the opportunity to challenge the case for war, the media has confined the debate within the boundaries of the acceptance of the necessity to stop the Iranian nuclear research program.

Of course, the reason for such a circumscribed debate is obvious. As already noted, the real objective of US policy is regime change. Indeed, it would not be shocking if, upon the emergence of a new, acceptable Iranian government, the US, Europe and Israel permitted the nuclear research program to proceed. After all, as explained here last year, there are few endeavors so perfectly suited to the proliferation of the hierarchy of specialization and the accumulation of capital than the construction of nuclear research facilities and power plants. Iranian nuclear research scientists currently trying to avoid assassination would find themselves welcome at academic conferences and research programs around the world. Accordingly, the Iranian nuclear research program is merely a MacGuffin that accelerates the plot of the regime change narrative.

Hence, any public discussion in the US that would result in a candid discussion of the US relationship with Iran, and the true objectives of US policy, must be suppressed. Cockburn, for understandable reasons, analogizes current US policy towards Iran with US policy towards Japan before the attack upon Pearl Harbor. But, a more contemporary, and perhaps, more apposite one, is US policy towards the Allende government in Chile. Just as the US waged an economic war upon Chile in the early 1970s, the US is now doing so against Iran. But, as Pepe Escobar has recognized, the consequences of such economic warfare are as likely to hurt the G-20 countries as much as Iran because of the growth suppression associated with increased oil prices. He astutely notes that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner actually argued against the sanctions bill as it made its way through Congress. With characteristic hyperbole that contains grains of troubling insight, Escobar concludes: the name of the game in 2012 is deep global recession. Conversely, Iranians may be able to offset the inflated prices of imported goods with increased employment as a devalued rial makes domestically produced goods more competitive.

Unfortunately, that's the more optimistic scenario. As Behzad Yaghmaian said today:

The United States and its allies are using elaborate economic sanctions to drain the resources of the Iranian regime, ignite domestic revolt, and force the government to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Sanctions are, however, chocking the Iranian people. While the government continues enriching uranium, sanctions penalize the Iranian people through dizzying increase in the price of food, gasoline and other basic items in ordinary people’s basket of consumer goods. Food inflation in Iran is currently at 50%, more than double the official inflation rate.

Fear of new sanctions and war also created an exodus from the local currency to the dollar and other major currencies. The nearly 60% depreciation of the Iranian rial, and the embargo on Iran’s oil exports will further increase food and other consumer goods prices. The dire economic conditions of Iranians with fixed income is a painful reminder of standing in long line for hours to buy milk, oil, and other basic necessities during the war with Iraq.

Yaghmaian concludes with a warning, that the passivity of the Iranian people should not be misunderstood as support for military confrontation. In this, they possess an insight beyond many Americans, particularly those who respond to the exhortations of Republican presidential candidates for military action with applause. Even more troubling is the possibility that the economic elites of the G-20 have decided that Iran is the next great capital accumulation opportunity of disaster capitalism. Just imagine the prospects for private military contractors, private security and surveillance firms and construction companies. Exponentially more in billions await them than they received over the course of the Iraqi occupation. For now, they are still patient enough to find out if the sanctions will work because they can avoid the risks associated with military conflict. But, with no fear of significant public resistance, the way is clear for them to seek a military resolution if they fail.

Given the acquiescence of liberals and social democrats in the US and Europe, the likelihood of protests against such a war on the scale of February 2003 is nil. This is most terrifying aspect of the current situation in the Gulf, the fact that there is not even the pretense of a restraint upon their ability to launch an indefinite, tremendously destructive war in order to further concentrate their wealth and power. But what comes afterwards? The great variable is the response of the burgeoning population of young people around the world, the people who fight the police on the streets of Athens, Cairo, Rome, Manama, London, Oakland, Lyon and Santiago, among other places, the people who realize that their future is bleak because of the avariousness and violence of those who have come before them. What will they do? The success or failure of this hideous venture is dependent upon the answer.

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