Thursday, March 08, 2007

Why War with Iran is an Increasing Reality

The relationship between the US and Iran has grown increasingly weary and tense over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iranians are generally supportive of it, but the US doesn’t like it. On top of that, the war in Iraq has led the US down further suspicion that Iran is either providing assistance to Iraqi Shia insurgents, or is blithely ignorant to the flow of assistance to Iraqi insurgents from/through Iran. A spiral of attacks in Iraq culminating in the January 2007 attacks in Karbala, Iraq, definitely did not help. Several US dead soldiers later and allegations began flying that Iranian agents had trained the perpetrators. US President Bush has ordered a 2nd aircraft carrier group to be deployed in the Persian Gulf and according to the February edition of Newsweek, a 3rd carrier group is also scheduled for gulf duties soon. That’s a lot of ships steaming Iran’s way.

In addition, a strategic map of offensive (defensive?) bombing sorties has been planned out by the US and the UK, just in case. The option for military action is definitely on the table and surprise, a poll conducted by the LA Times in January this year found that 57% of US citizens favoured military action if Iran continued with its nuclear development programmes.

Like most people living outside of Iran and the US, I do not want to see a 3rd protracted conflict emerge in the Middle East; Iraq and the Palestinian territories suffice for the moment. But the indications are clear that Bush is sending in the military muscle for another round of ‘shock and awe’. While many people do not want to believe it, the Bush administration is not going to give up on the Middle East. With Afghanistan largely in NATO’s hands, Iraq is the US’s only other major on-going conflict theatre. Simplistically, that means more resources and more time.

But apart from its military exhibition in the Gulf, has the US laid the groundwork for/in Iran? The Bush administration has poured money on direct broadcasts of Iranian exiled dissidents into Iran in an attempt to rouse the lay Iranian spirit. According to BBC News, one such fellow is Ahmad Baharloo, who has been quaintly dubbed “The Iranian Larry King”. Another Iranian academic, Abbas Milani, has also been busy ‘advising’ senior Bush officials from his base in Stanford University. It is also publicly known that the US has been funding (for how long?) militant ethnic separatist groups within iran to raise the domestic pressure. The official Washington response has been denial, but at least one former US State Department official has admitted to US efforts in supplying and training Iran’s ethnic minorities to destabilize the regime. Even worse, there are suspicions that other Iranian groups and terrorist groups with an anti-Iranian agenda might be roped in. We may see more of the Mujahidin al-Kaqh. Sound familiar?

That’s because the hands laying the pre-emptive groundwork in Iran now, are the same hands that laid the foundations for regime change in Iran 54 years ago. Back then, the US and the UK orchestrated a covert geo-political ops to oust then Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Known as ‘Ops TPAJAX’, influential Iranian figures were bribed, ‘strategic’ reports were planted in newspapers, and undercover agents incited street violence in Iran (Stephen Kizner’s “All the Shah’s Men” is worth a read)

Lets pause for a moment. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories since linking events separated by half a century amounts to just that. But the evidence is sometimes just too good (no thanks to the buffet of memoirs by former XXX agents). When Bush bravely announced during his State of Union address (and to the world) in 2002 the ‘who’s who’ of the ‘Axis of Evil’, he must have had his reasons, and more importantly, a plan for doing so. Saddam Hussein is out of the picture and US bases are firmly in Iraq. With this, the US is ideally positioned to further its goals in the Middle East. Next, North Korea has finally capitulated. Chris Hill is set to resume talks with the North Koreans who had indicated that they will cease all nuclear development activities at Yongbyon plant within 60 dsya starting 13 Feb this year. Whether they go the 1990 way of German reunification will be another interesting development worth any front row seat. (with kimchi)

Bush would surely like to bring his trilogy of evil axes to a close and Iran is the final act. The North Korean development will no doubt pile on the pressure for Iran. For if Kim can see the light, the US is one step close to Iran and Ahmadinejad will need more than national pride to resist mounting global pressure. Though the EU nations have been consistent in pressing for a diplomatic solution with Iran, they have also been equally firm in backing UN Security Council resolutions for further sanctions. US and Israeli officials have begun talks to discuss ways of cutting Iran’s business ties to the world and key European financial institutions are feeling the pinch and have re-evaluated their business relationships with Iranian banks and companies. When such efforts gather momentum, an isolated Iran may force the US and the world to confront another North Korean debacle. Only this time, no more sneaky underground nuclear tests for Ahmadinejad. It is certain that the US and the world is painfully aware that this is a tune nobody wants to sing again.

Ultimately, US military action in Iran will be shaped by events in the Iraq, as it is in Iraq that the US will find reasons for a protracted war, as opposed to a bombing campaign to knock out nuclear facilities for a simple violation of UN resolutions. As it is, members of the Non-Aligned Movement have publicly supported Iran’s nuclear programme and have asked the UN Security Council to remove the nuclear bit from its agenda. The US will need Iraq to supply reasons for military action against Iran if it wants to mitigate condemnation. For if there is evidence (and there are certainly indications) that Iran is involved in supplying or aiding the conflict in Iraq, you can be very sure that the entire gamut of state-sponsored terrorism-Hizbollah-Lebanon charges will be thrown at Iran. Top this off with a suspicious nuclear ambition and a leader who wants to wipe Israel off the map, there will be little left to stop the war machine. I’m sure Ahmadinejad would have been piqued at George Bernard Shaw’s wry observation that we learn from history that we never learn anything from history.

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