Why is US President George Bush threatening to go to war against Iran over its civilian nuclear program at a time when American forces are bogged down in Iraq and US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld is facing a virtual insurrection against his disastrous handling of the war by retired American military generals? Considering another adventure under such circumstances appears grossly irrational, but Washington is not run by rational beings. At a time when several US officials have been forced to resign either on corruption charges—Jack Abramoff and Lewis “Scooter” Libby—or for lying to Congress and others, such as White House chief of staff Andrew Card and press secretary Scott MacClellan, have resigned, ostensibly because Bush needs to bring in fresh faces, it is clear that his administration is crumbling.

But the odor of something rotten in Washington cannot be cleared by such resignations; the problems are much deeper: Bush’s approval ratings are hitting record lows and calls for his impeachment for lying and launching an illegal war are getting louder. But it is precisely at such a time that he may strike elsewhere to divert attention from his crimes. The threats against Iran are also seen as psychological warfare to force Iran to submit to the US’s demands. Such threats have been heard before, but it was not until Seymour Hersh’s article in the New Yorker on April 17 that the threat of war was made explicit. The US’s threats to use nuclear weapons to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, as is its right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), are unbelievably hypocritical.

Neither Russia nor China supports UN sanctions against Iran, as proposed by Washington. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported back to Security Council on April 28 that Iran was enriching uranium, something Iran itself had confirmed earlier in the month. Contrary to US propaganda, the Security Council’s statement on March 29 did not—and could not—demand that Iran halt its enrichment program, since Tehran is in full compliance with its NPT obligations. It only appealed for a voluntary suspension. On April 24, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad warned that any UN action against Iran would force it to reconsider its membership of the NPT and its cooperation with the IAEA; if Iran is threatened despite adhering to its treaty obligations, there is no point allowing IAEA inspectors to snoop on its facilities, especially when many of them are known to work for the US. In any case, the IAEA statements regarding Iran are routinely distorted by the US to advance their own agenda.

US foreign policy is currently dictated by the neocons, the same group that peddled blatant lies about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction to hoodwink the American public into supporting the disastrous war. As long as Rumsfeld remains boss at the Pentagon, the pro-zionist neocons will continue to push their war agenda; they are widely believed to want Bush to attack Iran before he leaves office, not least because of the profits that wars make for the arms and military services industries. They do not care how many Americans are killed, much less how many Muslim lives are lost, provided their own interests are served.

Fortunately, however, influential voices are being raised in the US against such madness, especially against the use of nuclear weapons and indeed a war against another Muslim country. Among other things, such prominent figures as Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and a large number of American scientists fear that such a war might provoke a massive backlash across the Muslim world. Senior generals have also expressed grave misgivings. Whether Bush and the neocons will heed such warnings appears unlikely. One thing, however, is clear: attacking Iran will not be easy, and the US would suffer huge losses; if Iraq was difficult, Iran would be much worse. Iran has the ability to defend itself, and to hit back hard. Oil supplies would be disrupted, forcing prices to over $100 per barrel, or even towards $200 per barrel, threatening recession in the US, Europe and Japan. The much-touted American way of life would end, resulting in massive suffering. Perhaps the Christian fundamentalist president wants an Armageddon.

Bush has also started talking about “regime change” in Tehran. Hersh suggested that US Special Forces are already operating inside Iran, agitating tribes and ethnic minorities to undermine the Islamic Republic. The US is quite capable of such interference in another country; it has a long record of illegal activities against other peoples, without any constraint from international legal bodies. If such activities are confirmed – Iran has said it has no evidence of them – Iran should know that there would be no point in complaining to the UN or the International Court of Justice. The US has never been constrained by legal niceties, only by the threat of an effective political or military response. It only ever learns the hard way.

The neocons’ wish for “regime change” in Tehran will never materialize; Islamic Iran has nothing in common with Saddam’s Iraq. Their plans can achieve nothing more than massive conflict in the world, and regime change in Washington as US casualties mount and the American public realizes the consequences of the megalomaniac fantasies of the neocon warlords. If Washington does not change course, the US is heading for a meltdown. Few in the world would shed any tears if this were to happen.