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Washington Intensifies Verbal Attack on Iran

Washington Intensifies Verbal Attack on Iran

Interview with Reese Erlich, radio journalist and author, conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio

In a dramatic pronouncement made at an Oct. 17 Capitol Hill press conference, President Bush told U.S. and international reporters, "...if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." Bush's dangerously blunt comments, and new unilateral sanctions targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard, make clear the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.

While the U.S. has been ratcheting up their accusations that Iran is supplying arms to Iraqi militia groups attacking American soldiers, Iran has charged that the Bush administration is supporting ethnic insurgent attacks and bombings targeting their Islamic government.

With the Sept. 26 Senate passage of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment declaring Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, some observers fear that President Bush could soon order a U.S. air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, triggering a wider war in the region. Between the Lines' Scott Harris spoke with award-winning radio journalist and author, Reese Erlich, who assesses the causes of the rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

REESE EHRLICH: What's significant is that the Bush administration has yet once again moved the goalposts. It’s no longer sufficient for Iran to not develop nuclear weapons, now they cannot have the knowledge of how to develop nuclear weapons. And of course, by changing the rules of the game, it makes it impossible for Iran to possibly comply because of course, they already have the knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons. Any halfway decent scientist in the United States has that knowledge. It's making the nuclear weapons that's the hard part. Iran has not made nuclear weapons and in fact, the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. body that actually oversees nuclear programs around the world says that they have no evidence that Iran is in fact developing nuclear weapons.

It's part and parcel of a "beating of the war drums" to get ready for a possible bombing raid on Iran or some other increased aggression against Iran. So they simply make up stuff as they go along in order to try and put more pressure on Iran.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Reese, Iranian ethnic minority groups and Kurdish guerrillas with the Kurdish Workers Party, (the PKK), are attacking targets in the military inside Iran, although there's been U.S. tacit support for attacks inside Iran, they get little or no attention in the U.S. press. Could this tense border situation be a trigger for a U.S. decision to bomb Iranian military targets in the future?

REESE EHRLICH: Well, it's more than tacit support. My reporting directly from those camps in northern Iraq indicates that the U.S. is arming and supporting the PKK guerrillas when they attack Iran. They (the U.S.) condemn them as a terrorist organization when they attack Turkey. And the hypocrisy is noted widely in Turkey and Iraq and Iran. Everybody else in the world knows that the U.S. is carrying out this double-dealing. So I think it's part of a general campaign by the U.S. to use ethnic minorities to destabilize Iran by carrying out terrorist attacks. And the irony of course is that the U.S. is doing to Iran precisely what it accuses Iran of doing to Iraq. That is, carrying out illegal terrorist attacks.

I don't think the covert war that's being waged by the U.S. against Iran, including attacks in the Kurdish regions –- they're part and parcel of a policy of the U.S. to overthrow the government in Iran, but they don't necessarily indicate that the U.S. is any closer or farther away from bombing. Those attacks have been going on for a couple of years now, and they will probably continue even whether the U.S. bombs or not.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Talk a little bit about, if you would, the veracity of these accusations leveled at Iran and their involvement in attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.

REESE EHRLICH: Yeah, the U.S. is basically trying to blame Iran for its losses in Iraq. And it's a myth. They've never presented convincing evidence that Iran is supplying these weapons to Iraqis with the intention or the instructions of killing American soldiers. Iran is, I think, supplying, providing political, military and economic support to certain of those factions among the Shiite in Iraq. But so is the United States, that's the irony of it. In two out of three cases, the U.S. and Iran are supporting the same Shiite militias and the same Shiite political parties.

It's not in Iran's interest. Their actual position is that they don't want to see an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq because it would destabilize the situation from their standpoint. So there's no reason for Iran to encourage their allies to attack U.S. soldiers.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Where is public opinion at, in your view, about a future military attack in Iran? Certainly, the Bush administration has convinced a lot of people in this country that Iran is pursuing nuclear weaponry, and that that would be dangerous and destabilize the world. But have they made the case yet that has convinced the majority of Americans that an airstrike on Iran's nuclear facilities is the right thing to do at this point?

REESE ERLICH: No, I don't think they have. The American people do not favor the bombing of Iran, just as they – some 70 percent now oppose the war in Iraq, and think it was a mistake to go in the first place. But public opinion is also very volatile. If the U.S. does bomb Iran and it looks like it's a victory and no or very few Americans get killed, the Bush administration will declare it a great victory in the war against terrorism. And people in the short run might well go along with it. But in the weeks and the months afterwards, when it becomes clear that attacking Iran was even a bigger disaster than starting the Iraq war, because all of a sudden there's a new war between Hezbollah and Israel in the Middle East, and the Shiite forces in Iraq are really going after American soldiers, and therefore everybody in Iraq has turned against the U.S. soldiers -- will see what a complete dufus move that was to attack Iran. So, public opinion I think is against the bombing now and will remain so after some brief time, and the Bush administration is going to be even more unpopular than it is today.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Just in closing here, what can people most effectively do to oppose a decision in the White House to launch airstrikes against Iran and possibly ignite a wider war? And do you think it's going to be kind of like a surprise Gulf of Tonkin-type of incident -- real or created -- that will set this thing off if the White House decides to go in that direction?

REESE ERLICH:? Yeah, it's perfectly possible that some soldiers will be killed in Iraq and the U.S. will manipulate the information to make it look like Iran was responsible and then they bomb in response to that. So yeah, the Tonkin Gulf is not a bad example as a precedent.

I think what people can do is educate yourself. You can get involved in various kinds of grassroots efforts – Code Pink and others are calling for local city councils to pass resolutions against the possible bombing of Iran. And the Oakland, Calif. city council will probably be passing such a resolution in early November. I come from Oakland and am familiar with the situation there.

Letter writing campaigns, pressuring your Congress people; go after the Democrats and give them some backbone, spine on this issue. All kinds of grassroots efforts. I think people are very creative on a local level. Get together with your friends and figure out what to do.

Read Reese Erlich's articles online at

Related links:


Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 40 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Nov. 9, 2007. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.

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