relies on your donations. Your support
for our anti-war work is warmly welcomed and gratefully received.
FROM IRAQ, DOWNHILL TO IRAN
Former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew
'If the US stays bogged down in Iraq, the
final destination on this downhill track is likely to be head-on
conflict with Iran and with the broader world of Islam. A plausible
scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure
to meet US benchmarks [in other words, US failure in Iraq];
followed by US accusations of Iranian responsibility for the
failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act
in the US blamed on Iran. This could culminate in "defensive"
US military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America
into a deepening quagmire eventually encompassing Iraq, Iran,
Afghanistan and Pakistan.' (Financial
Times, 2 Feb. 2007, p. 15)
It is not clear what Brzezinski means by
'some provocation in Iraq', but recent US actions and public statements
have been sharply provocative.
'A number of Iranians were arrested in the
Iraqi capital on 21 December , when US forces raided a compound
belonging to Abdul Aziz Hakim, leader of a powerful pro-Iranian
Shia party... Officials told Newsnight the arrests produced highly
important intelligence, but no "smoking gun" about weapons
supplies or attacks on coalition forces. They said that the arrested
men were in Iraq to hold high-level meeting with representatives
of several Iraqi Shia factions.'
Iranian diplomats were among the arrested
- they were released rapidly, but the US 'continued for some time'
to hold two alleged intelligence officers. (BBC
News Online, 4 Jan. 2007)
It then emerged that the Iranians had been
invited to Baghdad by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. (Reuters,
26 Dec. 2006)
Three weeks later, US soldiers raided a building
in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, seizing five Iranians, computers and
documents. 'Iranian and Iraqi officials said the building was
an Iranian consulate and the detainees its employees.' (BBC
News Online, 11 Jan. 2007)
'The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshiyar Zebari,
called yesterday for the Iranians to be freed, stressing that
they have been working with
Iraqi government approval.' (Independent,
15 Jan. 2007, p. 23)
Having failed to provoke Iran into responding
aggressively, President Bush escalated the crisis.
'The belief that George Bush's troops "surge"
policy in Iraq is also aimed at confronting Iran was strengthened
yesterday when the White House declared that it was "going
to deal" with the actions of the Tehran regime.
In a series of interviews, Vice-President
Dick Cheney, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the
National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, struck belligerent
notes on Iranian activity inside Iraq.'
'Mr Hadley did not rule out the possibility
of US forces striking across the border' in so-called "hot
15 Jan. 2007, p. 23. Though this suggestion was later withdrawn.
See The Times, 2 Feb., p. 40)
'Asked about reports that he had authorised
a "kill or capture" policy against Iranians inside Iraq,
Mr Bush did not deny it, but rather appeared to defend the decision.
"It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troop
or stop us from achieving our goals or killing innocent citizens
in Iraq, that we will stop them".' (Times, 27 Jan. 2007 p.
How would the US react if Iranian forces
seized computers and documents from the US Embassy in Baghdad,
diplomats? How would the US react if Iran authorised a "kill
or capture" policy against US officials and troops inside
The intention seems to be to kidnap more
officials, and, soon, to kill one - in order to provoke Iran into
actions or statements that can
be converted into a justification for a major US assault.
NO EVIDENCE? ISSUE ANOTHER DOSSIER
Bush says: 'If Iran escalates its military
action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent
Iraqi people, we will respond firmly.' (Guardian,
30 Jan. 2007, p. 15)
The assumption is that Iran is already engaged
in military action in Iraq.
'The Bush administration believes Teheran
is fuelling the insurgency by supplying Shia militias with weapons,
money, bomb-making equipment and expertise.' (Telegraph,
27 Jan. 2007, p. 18)
In Jan. 2006, The Times and the Independent
both reported that British officials in Iraq had withdrawn this
claim, and in particular the assertion that Iran was supplying
a new and more deadly design of roadside bomb with infrared triggers
which cannot be disrupted by US/UK technology. (BBC
News Online, 10 Jan. 2006)
A year later, 'Senior British officials,
citing mistakes over Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass
destruction, are voicing scepticism about US efforts to build
an intelligence-based case against Iran... Amid signs of a concerted
American operation to prove that Iran is threatening US troops
in the region, British officials say that they are "not aware
of a smoking gun" that would justify taking military action
against Tehran.' (Times, 1
Feb. 2007, p. 38)
Just as with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there
are divisions within the Bush administration: 'The rift has spilled
over into a dispute about how and when to publish alleged evidence
of Iranian backing for Iraqi militias and Iran's provision of
supplies and technology for roadside bombs, the biggest killer
of American soldiers in Iraq, a White House adviser revealed...
The State Department and the CIA, which both objected to the way
the Bush administration used pre-war intelligence on Iraq, also
wanted to publicise clear evidence of Iranian interference in
Iraq as a way of justifying the US stance. "The military's
highest echelons really do not want the release of details of
what Iran is up to as they don't want the Iranians to know what's
working and what's not," the administration adviser said.'
'Stephen Hadley, Mr Bush's national security
adviser, acknowledged on Friday that the intelligence briefing
on Iranian interference in Iraq - publication of which has been
delayed twice - was still being refined.' (Sunday
Telegraph, 4 Feb. p. 24)
The history of such "dossiers"
is not promising. Bronwen Maddox notes that even the independent
International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) issued a 'dossier'
on Iraqi WMD 'which was authoritative and detailed, and soon proved
wrong comprehensively.' (Times,
1 Feb., p 38)
Maddox points out that the IISS has predicted
Iran is 'at least two or three years' away from acquiring a nuclear
bomb: 'That is the answer it has given for each of the past three
years; it is reassuring that every year the threatening date is
just as far in the future.'
DIVISIONS IN WASHINGTON
Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State,
and Bob Gates, the new Defence Secretary are said to be pushing
for open talks with Iran, 'having softened it up with the recent
application of United Nations-approved sanctions on Iran and the
beefing up of US naval forces off the Iranian coast'.
Richard Haass, head of policy planning in
the State Department in the first Bush administration, says: 'You
could interpret Bush's recent actions towards Iran in two ways
- either he is increasing pressure on the regime in order to soften
it up for talks over its uranium enrichment plans, or this is
classic gunboat diplomacy in which the US is preparing for some
kind of punitive action. My guess is that Mr Bush's actions leave
room for either scenario and the Bush administration remains divided
over which to pursue.'
Afshin Molavi of the New America Foundation
warns: 'The danger to this strategy is that it carries the risk
of accidentally leading into some kind of military confrontation.'
(All references this section from the Financial
Times, 27 Jan., p. 7)
On the other hand, raiding an Iranian consulate,
kidnapping and threatening to kill Iranian officials, and deploying
two US navy carrier battle-groups to the region for the first
time since mid-2003 (Paul Rogers, OpenDemocracy)
seem to lean towards provoking a clash.
'A diplomatic source in Washington told The
Times: "It is difficult to imagine Bush and Cheney leaving
office without resolving the Iranian issue, if necessary by force."
' (Times, 31 Jan., p. 34)
There are alternatives. 'The IAEA chief,
Mohamed El-Baradei, called at the weekend for a "timeout"
in the worsening confrontation in an attempt to enable both sides
to save face and climb down. But the Americans rejected the proposal.'
(Guardian, 31 Jan., p. 17)
to the top