Tomgram: Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, Playing for Time on Iran
Courtesy: TomDispatch.com, June 20, 2012
Recently, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta finally said it. The U.S. is “fighting a war” in the Pakistani tribal belt. Similarly, observers are starting to suggest that “war” is the right word for the American air and special operations campaign against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in southern Yemen. (There have already been 23 U.S. air strikes there this year.) Call that a war and you’re already up to three, including the Afghan one.
But consider the possibility that a fourth (partial) American war is underway in the shadows, and that it’s in Iran. This seems more evident today because of a recent New York Times report on the release of Stuxnet, the advanced cyberworm President Obama ordered sent to destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. Since the Pentagon has defined such a release as an “act of war,” it’s reasonable to suggest that the U.S. is now “at war” with Iran, too.
In fact, you could say that, since at least 2008, when Congress granted the Bush administration up to $400 million “to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran,” including “cross-border” operations from Iraq, war has been the name of the game. Meanwhile, U.S. special operations forces were secretly training members of M.E.K., an Iranian opposition-group-cum-cult that’s still on the State Department’s terror list, at a Department of Energy site in the Nevada desert; the CIA was running a large-scale drone surveillance operation against the country -- and that just touches on the shadowy American (as well as Israeli) state of war vis-à-vis Iran.
Having relabeled those conflicts, it might also be worth considering the way we describe our ongoing nuclear mania about Iran. After all, the world is already chock-a-block full of nuclear weapons, including the thousands the U.S. and Russia still possess, as well as those of Pakistan, a country we seem intent on destabilizing. And yet, the only nuclear weapon that ever seems to make the news, obsessively, repetitively, is the one that doesn’t exist -- the Iranian bomb.
In times long gone, when a Chinese dynasty took over the “mandate of heaven,” one of the early ceremonies carried out by the new emperor was called “the rectification of names.” The thought was that the previous dynasty had fallen into ruin in part because the gap between reality and the names for it had grown so wide. We are, it seems, now in such a world. Some renaming is surely in order.
This, in a sense, is the task Iran experts Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, who run the Race for Iran blog, take on in their first appearance at TomDispatch. They remind us, among other things, that an American president did once decide to bring names and reality back together when it came to another rising regional power (which actually had nuclear weapons) -- and he traveled to China to do it, startling the world. Unfortunately, though our planet has its surprises, it’s hard to imagine that a second-term Obama or a first-term Romney would be among them when it comes to our country's Iran policy, which, in terms of reality, is the saddest story of all. Tom