Op-Ed in Spectator
Harper is wrong in demonizing Iran
U.S. is a greater security threat than peaceful Mideast country
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Prime Minister Stephen Harper characterized “Islamicism” as the main security threat to Canada. Last week, he labelled Iran “as the world’s most serious threat to international peace and security.”
In the first instance, Harper deliberately contributed to Islamophobia, the fear of Muslims and of Islam, which is the intellectual underpinning of the continuing U.S. “war on terror.” Only a few weeks after Harper’s September remarks, there was a deliberate targeting by racists of Hamilton’s Downtown Mosque. Coincidence? I think not.
Now labelling Iran as the main threat to world peace, Harper is seeking to prepare Canadians for a role in a possible U.S., NATO, or Israeli attack on Iran. His government recently placed the frigate HMCS Charlottetown on station in the region.
However, nothing Harper said about Iran is true. I visited Iran in October for an international conference on Palestine, as a guest of the Iranian government. Iran lives in peace with its neighbours and, unlike the U.S., hasn’t attacked any country in over 200 years. It is developing nuclear energy to produce electricity because its oil reserves will run out in 20 years. Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT) and is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
On the other hand, Israel, India, and Pakistan have not signed the NNPT nor joined the IAEA. All three have nuclear weapons and have gone to war with their neighbours repeatedly. Why Harper’s double standard, then, on Iran?
Last November, the IAEA released its most recent report on Iran. There was nothing in the report indicating that Iran was producing a nuclear bomb. Yet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Iran be attacked to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons. At the same time, Israel test-fired a new missile that could reach Iran. President Barack Obama repeated that “all options are on the table,” sent bunker-busting bombs to Israel, and initiated a fifth round of sanctions on Iran, this time including Iran’s central bank which finances Iran’s key export: oil. Russia and China refused to support this fifth round but Britain and Canada jumped enthusiastically on the U.S. bandwagon.
In response to Western sabre-rattling and unjustified economic sanctions, Iran talked about closing the Straits of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil is shipped. It’s acutely aware of the similarities between the U.S.-sponsored campaign of sanctions and military intervention against Iraq, allegedly over Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and Obama’s bellicose threats regarding Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons. The regime of economic sanctions against Iraq caused the malnutrition deaths of a half-million Iraqi children and softened up Iraq for attack from the West. The Iranians do not want to be the next victims in the U.S. war of terror. Justifiably, they want to put pressure on the West to remove the sanctions.
If Harper is seeking the main threat to peace and security in the world, he needs to look south. The U.S. is a NNPT signatory but violated the treaty because it failed to enter into negotiations for global nuclear disarmament. In fact, the U.S. developed a whole new generation of nuclear weapons and currently has between 10,000 and 20,000 strategic and tactical warheads. The U.S. surrounds Iran with military bases, arms its Persian Gulf client states, and conducts naval exercises in disputed waters off Iran’s shores. The U.S. is also waging covert war, with Israeli help, against Iran. It flies drones over Iranian airspace, introduces computer viruses into Iran’s nuclear software, and funds terrorist groups who assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.
Harper could also castigate America’s NATO henchmen as a danger to world peace. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to which Canada belongs, has intervened militarily in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Libya in the last 12 years, and may yet play a role in Syria and Iran.
Finally, Harper could single out Israel as a warmonger that killed 1,500 civilians in Gaza in 2008, invaded Lebanon in 2006, attacked what it claimed was a nuclear facility in Syria in 2007, and yet maintains its own secret cache of over 200 nuclear weapons.
One way Harper could seek peace and security for Canada is to quit NATO, drop its economic sanctions against Iran, and join those countries, like Iran, that are seeking to create a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East (NWFME).
Hamiltonians have a unique opportunity to hear about a NWFME on Jan. 26. Zafar Bangash of Toronto, one of the world’s pre-eminent Muslim scholars, will be addressing the issue at McMaster University in a lecture at a room to be announced. The public is invited.
Ken Stone is treasurer of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War and a longtime resident of Hamilton.