Carrots and big sticks

Last week the major world powers struck what some news reports called a far-reaching agreement on a “carrots and sticks” package for Iran to halt uranium-enrichment activities. In reality it is an effort to create internal strife to destabilize the country, increasing the likelihood of putting a pro-U.S. (“pro-democracy”) government in power.

The U.S. made an offer of direct talks with Iranian leaders, so long as they agree to halt Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities, the very activities that, one would think, would be under discussion. Iranian leaders have stated repeatedly that they will not give up their right to enrich uranium, which is guaranteed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the law). Each side considers its position on uranium enrichment non-negotiable. The U.S. has one other non-negotiable position, which was buried in some news reports, though nonexistent in most: Whether or not Iran agrees to U.S. terms, the U.S. reserves the right to attack Iran. Iran, like North Korea (both of which the U.S. has threatened to attack for years), would like a security guarantee. The U.S. refuses to give such a guarantee, even if Iran gives up its nuclear program.

This might help explain the Iranian stance.

While last week’s news reports indicated that E.U. diplomats urged the U.S. to provide Iran with security guarantees, when asked whether the U.S. would consider such a guarantee, one State Department official said “Hell no.” Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was equally clear, telling reporters that “Security assurances are not on the table.”

As Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, told The Christian Science Monitor, the U.S. “reticence about offering the possibility of normalized relations, and the unwillingness to offer security guarantees if Iran comes into compliance [with U.S. and U.N. demands of ending uranium enrichment], may make it very difficult for Iran to accept” the U.S. offer. The Iranian people see their country’s nuclear program as a sign of progress and modernization, and they see foreign “offers” that would end the program as imperialist attempts to keep the country weak and dependent on Europe and the U.S.

The U.S. would like the Iranian people to think otherwise. According to the Monitor, Rice implied that although the U.S. offer was to talk to Iranian leaders, “the overture is really designed to talk to the Iranian people.” The paper notes that this continues the U.S. policy of interfering in Iranian internal affairs. This interference has increased with Bush administration efforts to establish contacts with opposition forces in the country, additional broadcasts of Radio Free Europe-type programming, and other efforts. The amount spent on interfering in Iranian affairs increased this year by 750 percent, going from $10 million to $85 million. Board members of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, after meeting with Vice President Cheney and other Bush administration officials, described this as a “more robust” campaign to undermine Iran’s leadership.

The U.S. is not concerned so much with enforcing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Threatening to attack Iran is a violation of the treaty because it creates a need for nuclear weapons for self-defense. Instead, the U.S. concern is that all means be used to punish states that act independent of U.S. demands. If Iran were to suspend uranium enrichment, or move its enrichment program to Russia, as the U.S. has suggested, there would be nothing to stop the U.S. from attacking, just as it did after the U.N. disarmed Iraq in the ’90s. Then the profits from Iran’s oil could go to U.S. oil companies, while the U.S. government would control the flow of Iran’s oil to ensure that those dependent on the oil – like Europe and China – would make policies favorable to U.S. companies and investors.

If Iran gave up its nuclear program, there would still be plenty of justification to attack – it would remain an undemocratic “state sponsor of terrorism,” “a troublemaker in the international system, a central banker of terrorism” (according to Condoleezza Rice), etc., but now it would be defenseless.

This has led Martin van Creveld, one of Israel’s leading military historians, to state that, “Obviously, we don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons and I don’t know if they’re developing them, but if they’re not developing them, they’re crazy.”

If Iran defies U.S. demands, it will be punished. A draft of the major powers’ agreement called for freezing assets, banning travel visas, banning the financial transactions of government leaders and those involved in Iran’s nuclear program, implementing an embargo on shipping gasoline to Iran (Iran actually imports gasoline for domestic use), and other measures.

That is, if Iranian leaders insist on the country’s right to enrich uranium, which the Iranian people support, then the Iranian people will suffer. But this is all for the good of the Iranian people. And U.S. power, corporations and investors.