People ask whether the United States can trust Iran. The better question is whether Iran can trust the United States.
Since 1979 the U.S. government has prosecuted a covert and proxy war against Iran. The objective has been regime change and installation of a government that will loyally serve U.S. state objectives. This war began after the popular overthrow of the U.S. governmentâ€™s client, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose brutal regime the Eisenhower administration and CIA had preserved by driving Iranâ€™s popular Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh from office in 1953.
Had the U.S. government not supported the shah and his secret police, there would have been no 1979 Islamic Revolution or 444-day hostage-taking at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
The U.S. government has pursued regime change in a variety of ways. When Saddam Husseinâ€™s Iraqi army invaded Iran in 1980, the Reagan administration supplied Saddam with intelligence and the ingredients for chemical weapons. Saddam,Â helped by that intelligence, used poison gas against Iranian troops.
During the Iraq-Iran war, the U.S. Navy shot down anÂ Iranian civilian airplaneÂ over Iranian airspace, killing 290 passengers and crew members. The captain of the USSÂ VincennesÂ said his ship was being attacked by gunboats at the time, and the Airbus A300 was misidentified as an attacking F-14 Tomcat. Iran countered that the civilian flight left Iran every day at the same time. Witnesses with Italyâ€™s navy and on a nearby U.S. warship said the airliner was climbing, not diving (as a plane would for an attack), when it was shot down.
The U.S. government, or its closest Middle East ally,Â Israel, has helpedÂ ethnic insurgentsÂ to attack Iranâ€™s regime. Some groups encouraged by the U.S. government, such asÂ JundallahÂ and theÂ Mujahedin e-KhalqÂ cult, have been regarded as terrorist organizations by the State Department. Covert warfare has also taken the form of theÂ assassination of Iranian scientistsandÂ cyber warfare. (It strains credulity to think that Israel, which annually receives billions in U.S. military assistance, acts without the knowledge of U.S. officials.)
Then there are the economic sanctions. In international law, sanctions are an act of war. How could they not be? They aim to deprive a population of food, medicine, and other needed goods. The sanctions are said to â€œcripple the Iranian economy,â€ but an economy consists of people. Thus, sanctions inflictÂ harm on innocent individuals, with the greatest damage to children, the elderly, and the sick. That is cruel and unconscionable. It must stop, yet some in Congress would toughen the sanctions further.
As one can see, theÂ Iranians are the aggrieved partyÂ in the conflict with the United States.Â Thus they have good reason to doubt the sincerity of recent conciliatory statements, especially when President Obama insists that â€œall options are on the tableâ€ â€” which logically includes a military and even nuclear attack. Obama should match the conciliatory words with action.
But, some will say, Iran is building a nuclear bomb. The problem is that this is not true. Twice the American intelligence complex (some 14 agencies) hasÂ concludedÂ that Iran abandoned whatever weapons program it had in 2003, the year the U.S. government eliminated its archenemy, Saddam Hussein. Israeli intelligence agrees that Iran has not decided to build a bomb. Indeed, Iranâ€™s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a religiousÂ fatwacondemning Â nuclear weapons years ago and has repeatedly invoked it.
It is true that Iran has enriched uranium to near 20 percent (as it may do legally), but it is turning that uranium intoÂ plates, which, although suitable for medical purposes, are unsuitable for bombs. (Weapons-grade uranium is 90 percent enriched.)
Moreover, Iran, a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, submits to inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has repeatedly certified that Iranâ€™s uranium has not been diverted to making bombs. On the other hand, Israel, a nuclear power whose government (and American lobby) agitates for war between America and Iran, is not a member of the NPT.
Despite the peace overtures from President Rouhani, whichÂ echoÂ those of his predecessors, Obama is on a course for war. He should spurn the warmongers and choose peace.
Sheldon RichmanÂ is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).