by William O. Beeman
United States has accused Iran of harboring al Qaeda leaders. There is not a shred of evidence that this is true. The accusation is so insubstantial that it leads one to believe that the accusation is a prelude to some dramatic political or military move, such as an attempt at regime change in Iran.
The latest accusation is nothing new. The United States has a long list of unsubstantiated accusations against Iran. These fall into several categories of supposition:
All these charges fall apart upon closer examination.
Iran's nuclear program was advised and engineered by the United States. In the 1960s, before North Sea and Alaskan oil had been developed, the United States urged Iran to develop nuclear power, as a way of saving its oil reserves for high-value uses such as petrochemical and pharmaceutical production. In reality, America wanted Iran to save its oil for the use of the West. The United States never helped Iran develop anything more sophisticated than laundry powder and fertilizer.
The nuclear plant recently opened in Bushehr, which has been denounced as an incubator for nuclear weapons, was actually started with America's blessing under the regime of the Shah in the 1970s.
An Iranian connection with the Al Khobar Towers attack is equally unproven. Despite years of investigation, this attack, like an attack on a Vinnell Corp. compound in Riyadh the year before, and the recent bombings in Riyadh, seem to have been carried out by indigenous Saudi groups that oppose the royal family. When examined closely, the grand conspiracy that would tie Iran and al Qaeda to these attacks falls apart like a house of cards.
This leads to the third charge -- that Iran is harboring al Qaeda operatives.
The latest accusation seems to hinge on the possible presence of Saif al Adel, an Egyptian who may or may not be hiding out in northern Iran, having possibly sneaked over the border from Northern Iraq during the American invasion. Adel has been accused of masterminding the recent Saudi attacks.
No one has demonstrated whether Adel is in Iran, whether he really is an al Qaeda operative, or whether he really had anything to do with the Saudi attack. The accusation seems to stem from the opinion of a lone expert: Rohan Gunaratna, a former UN terrorist specialist and author of a recent book on al Qaeda.
Even if evidence that Adel is in Iran and masterminded the attacks comes to light, there is no proof of Iranian state complicity in any of this. In fact, the Iranian regime has been opposed to Osama bin Laden and to his hosts in Afghanistan, the Taliban, since the early 1990s. In 2002, Iranian officials repatriated Saudi al Qaeda members to Saudi Arabia almost as soon as they crossed the Iranian border.
So what kind of a game is the Bush administration playing? The only reasonable conclusion is that this volley of accusations is a pre-emptive justification for some political or military action against Iran.
The Iranian clerical leadership has repressed freedom of expression and controlled the public behavior of its citizenry. Washington insiders are convinced that regime change in Iran would be greeted with enthusiasm by the Iranians. The Bush administration looks with eagerness to Iran's restive youthful population, which seems to oppose the clerics and has a favorable view of the United States and American-style democracy.
This view has been promoted by Michael Ledeen, neo-conservative Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute and author of "The War Against the Terror Masters." He believes that a popular uprising in Iran is imminent, and advocates American support of it. Ledeen, with Iranian American Rob Sobhani, created the Coalition for Democracy in Iran, which favors eventual re-establishment of the monarchy by restoring Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed Shah. Ledeen has been identified by the Washington Post as one of only four political advisors to presidential guru Karl Rove.
Restoration of a pro-American government in Iran would be a great domestic political coup in the United States, giving the Bush administration the political success in the Middle East that eludes it in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are flaws in the plan, of course. Most Iranians don't want a new Pahlavi ruler. They also remember all too well the "restoration" of the Pahlavi monarchy in 1953, when the CIA toppled Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, effectively colonizing their nation. Moreover, though many Iranians would welcome an opening to the West, they are tired of being insulted by Washington politicians. Establishing a truly pro-American government in Iran will be a long, long process after decades of these baseless accusations.
October 14, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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