by Naz Massoumi / source: Campaign Iran

Developments in the last few days have left many in the anti-war movement confused over the prospects of a US or Israeli attack on Iran. The decision by the US to send a senior official to yesterday’s meeting in Geneva between Iran and European powers over Iran’s nuclear programme will be the first time the countries have met over the issue and has been welcomed by many as a shift in US foreign policy. Taken together with reports of US plans to open a diplomatic mission in Iran for the first time since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the news appears to contradict other developments in recent weeks.

In early June this year the Israeli army carried out one of the largest military exercises in its history – flying one hundred F-15 and F-16 fighter jets 1500 km across the Mediterranean, the same distance from Israel to Iran’s nuclear facilities – in what was generally regarded as a dry run for an attack on Iran. This news followed on from an article in the New Yorker by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh unveiling the US government’s allocation of $400 million for covert operations inside Iran, including support for separatist groups. 

All this comes on the back of several years of sabre-rattling from Washington and Tel Aviv, the presence of a huge US naval fleet in the Persian Gulf and endless hostile rhetoric over Iran’s nuclear programme.  So news of US diplomacy appears to represent a very sharp shift.

But these mixed signals should not come as a surprise. Whilst US Vice President Dick Cheney is intent on war, others are opposed to it including the US military itself. In March this year, Admiral William Fallon resigned from his post as Commander of US Central Command after expressing his opposition to a war against Iran in an Esquire magazine interview. On returning from Israel late in June, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen publicly voiced opposition to an Israeli attack. This is not because they are in anyway anti-war, they just know an attack is incredibly high-risk. In the words of the IAEA chief El-Baradei “it would turn the region into a fireball”.  Aside from its ability to retaliate through its allied forces like Hezbollah in the Lebanon, Iran could shut down the Straits of Hormuz where the bulk of Middle Eastern oil is shipped. With oil at $140 a barrel, this makes a lot of people nervous.

So there are huge divisions in Washington over an attack on Iran and the mixed signals are an expression of these divisions.

This however, doesn’t mean we should be complacent.  Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s Transportation minister and potentially next Prime Minister, has repeated his threats of attacking Iran if it continues with the nuclear programme. More worrying, was last week’s Sunday Times piece which quoted a senior Pentagon official that Bush had given Israel an ‘amber light’ for an Israeli strike.

But there’s no point sitting around and speculating. As long as the US remains bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the threat to Iran will remain. The anti-war movement has prevented a war against Iran thus far. We must mobilise to ensure that remains the case for good.