Friday, February 8, 2008

Scott Ritter: U.S. heading to war in Iran

The Cleveland Jewish Weekly reports:

U.S. heading to war in Iran, says former inspector

BY: MARILYN H. KARFELD Senior Staff Reporter

The former chief United Nations weapons inspector and a retired Middle East diplomat recently warned that America was heading straight toward imminent war with Iran.

And while both talked about wrong-headed U.S. policy in Iraq and Iran, they also criticized Israel for its role.

Scott Ritter, UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, and Edward Peck, onetime chief of mission in Baghdad and former ambassador to Mauritania, spoke recently at a forum sponsored by Cleveland Peace Action Now and Trinity Cathedral. Before the event, this reporter and a journalist from The Plain Dealer talked to Ritter and Peck.

The White House is using outright fabrications and exaggerations to persuade the American public that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program, Ritter and Peck claimed. The ultimate goal, they said, is overthrow of Iran’s Islamic theocracy.

Just as he did with Iraq, President Bush is falsely positioning Iran as a threat to U.S. national security and a leading sponsor of terrorism, contended Ritter, a 12-year Marine veteran who spent four years in Israel as lead liaison between the UN and the Jewish state on the issues of Iraq and nuclear weapons.

By demonizing Iran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bush is repeating the failed policy used against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, said Ritter, 46, who resigned under pressure from his UN post in 1998. Ritter claimed he was punished for criticizing the White House’s handling of Saddam Hussein. Allegations that he spied for Israel were ultimately dropped following an FBI investigation.

There is an 80% chance of war with Iran, probably in March or April, insisted the impassioned Ritter, who was last in Iran in September 2005. A second window of opportunity for an air assault opens in October or November, he added.

Ritter has been making this prediction of war with Iran for at least three years. Internet research turned up a similar forecast he made in April 2005, insisting an aerial attack on Iran was likely that June.

Israel, according to his 2006 book, is largely responsible for the coming military action. The Jewish Daily Forward reported that in Ritter’s Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plan for Regime Change, the antiwar activist writes: “Let there be no doubt. If there is an American war with Iran, it is a war that was made in Israel and nowhere else.”

The Bush Administration, with the help of the Israeli government and the pro-Israel “Lobby,” has exploited the American public’s fear of a nuclear-armed Iran, Ritter writes in his book, according to the Forward.

The current U.S. military buildup will peak this spring, and Ritter told the CJN that America would begin a 30-day limited, but massive, air strike against Iran. Neither Congress nor the corporate-controlled media will check the president’s power, Ritter maintained.

Iran will retaliate with missiles launched at Israel, Ritter predicted. The Islamist state will also shut down oil production by blocking the route out of the Persian Gulf through the Straits of Hormuz. And Iran will unleash Shia Muslims in southern Iraq to target American forces there, Ritter asserted.

“Now we have a major conflict. We’re caught in a spiral of events out of our control. After 30 days, the military will be putting Marines in Hormuz, soldiers in Iran. Israel, especially, stands to lose.”

In 2002, Ritter similarly talked about the likelihood of America launching a war against Iraq, despite the fact that UN inspectors repeatedly said Saddam Hussein no longer had weapons of mass destruction.

At the Cleveland Peace Action event, Peck and Ritter talked about the quagmire in Iraq and the lessons we failed to learn there and apply to Iran. Much of what Ahmadenijad is accused of saying he has never said, Ritter insisted. Furthermore, Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wields the only power to wage war and build nuclear weapons, not Ahmadenijad.

Sanctions against Iran are “a holding pattern, while revving up for war,” claimed Peck. “They are a guarantee of armed conflict.” He advocated diplomatic negotiation instead.

When Congress appropriates $77 million to finance dissident groups to overthrow the Iranian regime, “that’s an act of war,” Peck continued. People in the Middle East “are afraid of us. They do not see us as bringers of truth, justice and harmony.”

Forcing democracy on Middle Eastern countries is not possible, Peck warned. “Democracy is experiential. Iraqis know nothing about it. It’s something you grow up with.” The West pushes democracy and then hypocritically punishes the Palestinians for choosing Hamas in democratic elections, added Peck, who observed the balloting in the West Bank.

He criticized Israel for occupying the West Bank and for “doing terrible things” there. “One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter,” he said, alluding to suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians.

Most of those audience members who took the microphone to ask questions bashed Israel for its occupation and brutalization of the Palestinian people. Several blamed Israel for all conflict in the Middle East.

Pursuing its inhumane policy toward the Palestinian people will not bring Israel peace, Peck said. “Israel’s security will be derived from good relations with its neighbors. The future of Israel is at stake.”