As the US cranked up its political and diplomatic pressure for war against Iraq, in the run up to its invasion in 2003, it was clear that two other countries were playing a particular role in preparing the international political ground: Britain and Israel. Precisely the same pattern is increasingly emerging now, as the US builds pressure on Islamic Iran, even though it apparently sees Syria as a more immediate target (described by US officials as “low-hanging fruit” that can easily be picked).
After the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resisted American demands in September that it refer Iran to the UN Security Council for alleged breaches of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Israel and Britain opened new fronts against Iran in last month. British prime minister Tony Blair first accused Iran of direct responsibility for the deaths of British soldiers in southern Iraq, on the basis of British military suggestions that some of the weaponry used by Shi’i resistance groups in Iraq was similar to that used by the Hizbullah in Lebanon. Extrapolating from this dubious and indirect point, Blair accused Iran of direct responsibility for the deaths of all eight British soldiers killed in Iraq so far this year. His initial clear accusations were later contradicted by military sources and watered down by other government ministers; defence minister John Reid said later that Britain suspected links between Iraqi militias and unknown parties in Iran, which needed to be investigated further before clear conclusions could be drawn. This pattern of seriously accusations being qualified later is precisely what happened when Blair was cheerleading for the US before the invasion of Iraq. For the bulk of the British public, the impression has been created that Iran is to blame for the problems in Iraq, thus adding a new layer to the carefully-cultivated perception of Iran as an aggressive and dangerous power that the US and its allies have to rein in.
On October 27 former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres opened a new line of attack, calling for Iran to be expelled from the UN after president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quoted Imam Khomeini as saying that “Israel should be wiped off the map” while addressing a conference, “A World Without Zionism”, in Tehran. This clear statement of Israel’s illegitimacy, and the Islamic movement’s intention to liberate the whole of Palestine, which can hardly be news to anyone who knows anything about Islam and Muslims, was immediately linked to the West’s long-established claim that Iran’s nuclear programme is intended to produce bombs, to bolster the empty case that Iran poses a threat to peace in the region.
The West’s anti-Iranian propaganda is unlikely to develop into anything significantly more serious in the near future. The US cannot afford to confront Iran at the moment; Syria is indeed in far greater danger of attack, particularly in the period before the next presidential elections, as the neo-conservatives try to ensure that Dick Cheney or another of their men is elected to replace George W. Bush in the White House.
Nonetheless, Muslims around the world cannot afford to ignore these developments. The US and its allies are planning far ahead in their determination to destroy the world’s only Islamic state; we cannot afford to be any less far-sighted in recognising the threat Iran faces, and to begin defending it as best we can without further delay.