OPINION Half the warships in the US Navy are sitting within striking distance of Iran. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have stepped up their rhetoric, accusing Iran of killing Americans in Iraq and of threatening to start a nuclear holocaust. The British media is predicting that the Bush administration will bomb Iran in the near future.
The White House is using the same propaganda techniques to whip up popular opinion against Iran that it used four years ago against Iraq. Here's the real story:
•Iran has no nuclear weapons and couldn't have them for years. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations body that was right about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, says it has no proof of Iranian plans to build nuclear bombs. The IAEA recently reached a binding agreement for Iran to reveal its past nuclear activities and allow full inspection of nuclear-power sites.
•The sophisticated explosively formed penetrators supposedly supplied by Iran to militias in Iraq are easily made in Iraqi machine shops and can be purchased commercially for mining operations.
•For years Iran has given political, economic, and military support to Shia and Kurdish militias, but the Bush administration has never proved that Iran is intentionally targeting US soldiers.
•For two years the United States has helped splinter groups among Iran's ethnic minorities to blow up buildings, assassinate revolutionary guards, and kill civilians in an effort to destabilize the Tehran regime. In short, the United States does to Iran what it accuses Iran of doing in Iraq.
The hardliners in the administration, led by Cheney, see a dwindling opportunity to bomb Iran before Bush leaves office. They hope to launch a massive bombing campaign to so weaken Tehran that the regime will fall and Iranians will see the United States as their savior. Does this sound the faintest bit familiar?
In reality, a US attack would be disastrous. Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 25 percent of the world's oil supplies passes. Oil prices would skyrocket. Iran could encourage Hezbollah to launch missiles into Israel. Muslims would hold demonstrations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Iran could mobilize that anger and encourage Shiite parties in Iraq to attack US troops.
In a truly nightmare scenario, Iran could encourage terrorist attacks inside the United States and in allied countries. When I interviewed Syria's President Bashar al-Asad in 2006, he said, "If you do a military strike, you will have chaos. It's very dangerous."
The decision to bomb Iran depends, in part, on actions by the American people. Now is the time to let your national and local politicians know that we don't need another human disaster in the Middle East. Code Pink is organizing a national campaign to get city councils to pass resolutions against attacks on Iran (www.codepinkalert.org/article.php?list=type&type=135). US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a Senate bill to prohibit an attack on Iran without congressional authorization.
I can't predict with certainty that the United States will bomb Iran, but the danger is greater today than anytime in the past 25 years. The question is, what will you be doing to stop it?
Reese Erlich (www.reeseerlich.com) is author of the new book The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis (Polipoint). Oct. 2 will be Reese Erlich Day in Oakland to honor his work and that of all investigative journalists.