US Wants to Have It Both
Ways on Iranian Nonintervention Pact
by Reese Erlich
President Bush and leading
Democratic presidential candidates have said a military attack on Iran is a
viable option. According to the president, Iran's
pursuit of nuclear technology puts the Middle East
"under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust."
Yet the 1981 Algiers
Accords, backed by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton,
prohibit such an attack.
The Bush administration has
defended the validity of the Algiers Accords in court, and the courts agreed,
so there can be no doubt of the documents' legality.
Issued Jan. 19, 1981, and
brokered at the end of the Carter administration, the accords declared,
"It is now and will be the policy of the United
States not to intervene, directly or indirectly,
politically or militarily, in Iran's
The accords mostly dealt
with potential legal disputes arising out of the 1979 hostage crisis. They
prohibited individual lawsuits against Iran and established a procedure
for the resolution of future disputes between the two countries.
A group of former hostages
challenged that agreement in 2000 and sued Iran for subjecting them to 444
days of captivity. Iran
never responded to the lawsuit, and the former hostages won a default judgment.
They wanted $33 billion in damages. But the State Department invoked the
Algiers Accords, arguing that individuals suing sovereign governments would
interfere with U.S.
foreign policy. A federal appeals court agreed in 2004 and upheld the Algiers
The hypocrisy is obvious.
The administration supported the dispute resolution portions of the accord
while ignoring the nonintervention provisions. Barry Rosen, a former press
officer at the U.S. Embassy in Iran
who was part of the 2000 lawsuit, put it bluntly: "This administration has
not been shy about breaking international agreements," he told The
Washington Post last year. "The administration appears to be in
contradiction of itself. "
The situation has only
gotten worse. Two years ago, the Bush administration initiated a covert program
of military attacks against Iran
by disaffected ethnic minority groups, as Seymour M. Hersh
documented in The New Yorker.
Last year, I interviewed
leaders of PJAK, a branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is on the
State Department's list of terrorist organizations. As I reported in Mother
Jones this year, PJAK receives money and arms from the United States in a program designed to
destabilize northern Iran.
The PJAK guerrillas claimed they killed more than 100 Iranian Revolutionary
Guards last year. Iran retaliated
by shelling Kurdish villages in northern Iraq.
Turkey says it captured PKK
guerrillas possessing U.S.
arms. In recent weeks, because of PKK attacks, Turkey
has sent helicopters to attack the PKK in northern Iraq. U.S. policy is destabilizing the entire
According to the ABC Evening
News, similar covert actions are under way in Baluchistan, a province near the Pakistan
border. ABC reported that the U.S.
is funding Jondollah, the insurgent group behind the
February 2007 bombing in Baluchistan that
killed 11 Revolutionary Guards and wounded several civilians. Jondollah is headed by a former Taliban member turned
freedom fighter against Iran.
These proxy troops are
similar to the Afghanistan mujahedeen that the U.S. armed and funded to fight the
Soviets in the 1980s. Some of those fighters, including Osama bin Laden, later
attacked the U.S.
Will history repeat itself?
By engaging in this covert
war and selectively ignoring the Algiers Accords, the U.S. undermines efforts to make Iran follow
United Nations resolutions and international law. To support the Algiers
Accords and reject them at the same time is consistent with the general illogic
of the Bush administration. But to allow this backdoor war to continue is to
is the author of "The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S.
the Middle East Crisis." His e-mail is