Local Vocal: Like Iraq? You’ll Love Iran! 

by Adam Waxman

Can you hear it? It starts as a slow, low noise in the distance. It grows louder and louder as it gets closer, until it’s a full-on drumbeat. Suddenly you’re swept up in the cacophony of voices, and the United States is at war with Iran. The Bush Administration wants to take America into its third war in six years, this time with the Islamic government in Tehran. There are two questions worth asking: why would Bush want a war with Iran, and what’s likely to happen if we attack? The answer is that if you think the Iraq war was a disaster, wait until you see our invasion of Iran.

The Bush administration’s basically got two reasons (right now) for US military action: Iran’s nuclear program, and the possibility that Iran is arming Shiite militias in Iraq to fuel sectarian conflict there. Both of these arguments are spurious at best, and rely on the same kinds of distortions that brought us into Iraq on a WMD snipe-hunt. While Iran has been very clear about it’s desire to maintain a robust nuclear energy program, international monitors have found no evidence of a weapons program. Even if Iran was actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons, there’s no agreement among Western intelligence agencies about how long it might take – but expect Bush and his lackeys to argue that Iran’s got the bomb right now to fuel a rush to war.

The exaggerations and misrepresentations that brought us into Iraq are present in discussions of Iranian involvement in the Iraqi insurgency. The Bush administration has recently been pushing the idea that the Iranian government arms and funds Shiite militias, presenting a dramatic dossier to the press. Problem is, the dossier has more holes in it than Colin Powell’s 2002 UN presentation. The Iranian dossier had so many holes that the recent presentation had to be postponed twice so career intelligence could scrub out overstatements. Never mind the facts; we’ve got an ideology and a villain in the form of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Not to let Ahmadinejad off the hook. He’s a bellicose opportunist who delights in anti-Semitism, including hosting a Holocaust-denial conference in Iran last year. Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Iranian students, led by activist Babak Zamanian, protested that conference, heckling the Iranian president. The conference episode illustrates an important point about Iran, namely it’s political and social complexity. There are 68 million people in Iran, and many of them are just as opposed to the regime in Tehran. The population is young, and many of them are political activists. I often think about what would happen to Babak and other reformists if the US either invaded or started a bombing campaign. I’m willing to bet that they would be marginalized, and the extremists in Iran strengthened.

It’s intellectually lazy and morally irresponsible to try to frame the US-Iran relationship in a simple, black and white way. The Bush administration sees Iran as simply a threat to be dealt with the way we “dealt with” Iraq, and all of the intelligence they look at will be colored that way. It’s going to be up to us to see the nuances, ask good skeptical questions, bring them to our government, and prevent what would be a disastrous war.

Adam Waxman is a senior at Guilford College studying political science and religion. His work has appeared in print and online. Contact him at