Threat to Iran based on duplicity

 

Tensions continue to grow between the United States, in particular, and Iran over the suspected development of nuclear weapons by the latter. Iran has flatly refused to cease nuclear production, claiming it is for civilian energy purposes only, and will not comply with directives from the International Atomic Energy Agency or the UN Security Council.

In a recent twist, it has now publicly offered to share its technology with, among others, the genocidal, serial human rights abusers who wield power in Sudan. The president of Iran has said that Israel should be "wiped off the map".

As threats and counter-threats have begun to fly, there is an ominously familiar ring to it all. When the US and the UK decided to invade Iraq, they told us it was because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed a serious threat to stability in the entire Middle East region.

On the face of it, then, a similar case for invasion could easily be made again - but only if we allow it.

Another justificatory line being spun by both governments at the time of the Iraq invasion was that it was warranted, alone, by the scale of human rights abuses being committed by Saddam and his cronies.

How foolish some of us were to believe that our governments cared a jot about the ordinary people of Iraq. Or, that it particularly mattered to them whether or not Saddam posed a real threat to his neighbours.

After all, there were, and still are, a whole host of regimes around the world armed to the teeth, systematically abusing their peoples and busy threatening neighbouring countries, that are conveniently ignored.

Pakistan, which already is a nuclear power, is a prime example. It exists in a constant state of tension with neighbouring India, which also has nuclear capabilities. Though Pakistan is an ally of the US, it happens, as well, to have an appalling culture of abusing even the most basic human rights of women and young girls.

"Honour" killings of women by male family members are frequent, as are forced marriages, female genital mutilation and the gifting of young girls to other families as a means of settling debts or feuds. Yet, there is not a word of protest about any of this from the US or UK governments.

In the Darfur region of Sudan, at least 500,000 people have been butchered by government-backed rebels during the past few years. Hundreds of thousands more have been driven from their homes or abducted, tortured and raped. The UN Security Council, of which the UK and US governments are leading members, has done virtually nothing.

Admittedly, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe poses little or no threat to neighbouring countries in southern Africa. Even if he was of a mind to, he probably wouldn't have the time. He and his regime are too busy butchering white farmers and imprisoning, killing, raping or mutilating anyone who opposes them.

When Mugabe seized power more than 20 years ago, Zimbabwe was producing so much food it was known as the breadbasket of the region. Now, he presides over a nation whose economy is in tatters, where poverty and unemployment are endemic and political repression commonplace.

In northern Uganda during the past 19 years, an intermittent civil war has raged during which about 100,000 people have lost their lives, 20,000 children have been kidnapped, and about 1.6 million people have had to flee their homes. Most of the abducted youngsters have been forced into service as child soldiers.

In 1999, the Ugandan government invaded the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and though its troops officially withdrew in 2002, it has continued to foment strife by covertly delivering large consignments of weapons to insurgents based there.

Since the 1999 invasion, up to five million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo because of war or its direct consequences, half of them children under five. The country and its people have been plundered by neighbouring states for years now.

The West has given only minimal attention to scores of conflicts on the African continent. Indeed, there are innumerable places around the world where the plight of ordinary people suffering appalling brutality under dangerous, heavily armed regimes, is ignored.

A way has to be found where the UN can intervene to prevent conflict and protect the sovereign rights of hapless individuals. (Indicating a greater willingness to do so would be a start.) But invasion and war, even if logistically possible, are not the answer.

Neither is it acceptable for governments to make bogus claims on weaponry and use the suffering of others, as the US and UK did with Iraq, as mere cover for military adventures and post-colonial domination.

If a western coalition does decide to go to war with Iran, don't let them tell us it has anything to do with negating a threat or protecting human rights.