Activists fear another Middle East quagmire may be looming
As international concerns mount over Iran's nuclear program, a group of Calgary activists descended upon the U.S. consulate on Feb. 4 to voice their opposition to Western military intervention.
South of the border, Iran has become top foreign policy concern of Republican presidential candidates, and President Barack Obama has stated that "all options are on the table" when it comes to handling any Iranian threat.
About 30 activists at the small rally lamented what they perceived as a drumbeat from politicians for another war in the Middle East.
"I think [the nuclear issue] is less of an issue than our governments want us to think," Samantha Withnell, 18, said, while holding a sign that read: "Your tax dollars – their blood."
Iran insists that it has complied with all inspections from the UN's atomic watchdog and that its nuclear objectives are limited to energy supply and production of medical isotopes for cancer patients.
Nikki Baker, another activist, stated, "I don't think Iran is making nuclear weapons and the sanctions are harming innocent people."
In a sign of havoc being unleashed on Iran's civilian economy, Reuters has reported that bread prices in Tehran have tripled, while Iranian traders have defaulted on payments for 200,000 tonnes of rice from India.
However, in his 2012 State of the Union speech, President Obama insisted that harsh international sanctions are necessary to penalize Iran for its uranium enrichment and force negotiations on its program.
Withnell said that she is no fan of Iran's ruling Ayatollahs but questioned the effectiveness of sanctions as a tool to topple the regime.
"Often Iranians my age are out protesting on the street," she said. "It's just a matter of letting (regime change) happen. I don't know if we're letting it happen or making it worse."
Prospect of war
U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has told the Washington Post that he believes Israel will strike Iranian nuclear targets sometime in the spring, if sanctions fail to slow Iran's nuclear developments. Similarly, Israel destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1986, effectively ending Saddam Hussein's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The fear among peace activists is that any pre-emptive attack by a Western nation may draw others into the fray and lead to a long, protracted war – as what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I grew up with that whole situation of going into Iraq and Afghanistan, that's pretty much all I've ever known, and I don't like it at all," Withnell said.
Brent Talbot, another activist at the rally, said, "Peace is the only way we will achieve anything."
Talbot also noted that the U.S. seems to have a heightened interest in military intervention in resource-rich countries like Iran and Libya.
In contrast, the resource-poor countries of North Korea and Rwanda have respectively developed nuclear weapons and carried out genocide with no American military intervention.
Organizer Jan Bacon said that more protests will be planned as the situation develops.
- By GEOFFREY PICKETTS