Rather than adhere to the Baker-Hamilton recommendations
urging dialogue with Iran and Syria, US President George W. Bush has come out
As part of his Iraq "Surge" speech last week he
promised to "interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria" and
to "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and
training to our enemies in Iraq." British military heads, however, say
they've seen no evidence of this.
Shortly afterwards, the president authorised a raid on an
Iranian government mission in northern Iraq where six legitimate Iranian
diplomats were abducted. Iran has demanded their release and compensation for
the destruction of its offices.
Last week, US Vice President Dick Cheney characterised the
Iranian "threat" as "growing, multi-dimensional and of concern
to everybody in the region," while warning that the US would take steps
against any party out to destabilise Iraq.
Couple these snippets with the US aircraft carrier strike
groups and nuclear submarines congregating in the neighbourhood and the
appointment of a neocon, pro-Israel admiral to command US forces in the Middle
Add a slew of newspaper reports that Israel is planning to
attack Iranian nuclear sites using low-level nuclear bunker-busters and
Sherlock Holmes would have a field day.
At the same time the US has sent 16 or more F16s to the
Incirlink Airbase in southern Turkey, along with refuelling planes and an early
Patriot anti-missile missiles are being deployed at American
bases in the region, which indicates these may soon be vulnerable to attack.
Also suspect are the 21,500 extra US troops headed for Iraq.
The consensus among the military is these are not enough to break the
insurgency or tackle the sectarian conflict. They could, however, be used to
contain Iraq's pro-Iranian Shiite militias, who would probably side with Tehran
in any all-out US-Iranian war.
It's also worth noting that Israel has warned the
25,000-strong Iranian Jewish community to quit the country as a matter of
urgency. Most have chosen to stay put.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow wrote off any threat
to Iran's sovereignty as an "urban legend." He was trained by the
best obfuscating school in the world, Fox News.
Perhaps he can explain why US Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice is currently doing the regional rounds, attempting to woo America's Sunni
Arab allies on board the White House anti-Iranian bandwagon with nebulous
promises of US re-engagement in the abandoned Israel-Palestinian peace process.
These are dangerous times. Yesterday, the caretakers of the
Doomsday Clock moved the hands closer to midnight. We should all be concerned.
A Russian former fleet commander, Admiral Edward Baltin,
says he believes the presence of US nuclear submarines in the region implies a
likely strike on Iran. In this case, Tony Snow's "urban legend" is
fast gaining legs.
If the Bush administration is bluffing in the hope Tehran
will roll over by severing its links with Iraqi Shiites and offering up its
nuclear ambitions on a platter, it could backfire with terrible consequences.
But given that the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has
said he views a nuclear-armed Iran as an unacceptable existential threat and
the US president is a chronic bungler with Messianic leanings, it's likely the
US is prepared to go the whole hog.
From Bush's perspective there is just one problem. How can
he legitimise attacking Iran? The UN route is certainly closed to him. Russia
and China have made their positions plain and had no hesitation using their
powers of veto during a recent UN Security Council vote relating to Myanmar.
Then how could he possibly sell the idea of war with Iran to
an already jaundiced and war-weary American public, let alone a Democratic-led
Cong-ress clamouring to bring "our boys" home? Put simply, he can't.
However, if Israel ignites the fire, as it did in 1981 when
it bombed Iraq's Tuwaitha facility in the hallowed name of its security, the US
will have a clear road to weigh in. From Israel's perspective, though, this
option is fraught with peril due to its proximity to Iran's allies Hezbollah
and Syria, which have recently been strengthening their arsenals.
So what's left? Could it be that the US is deliberately goading
Iran in the hope of being given an excuse to let fly? What happens if Iran
refuses to take the bait? Another Gulf of Tonkin-type false flag event?
Finally, I would like to leave you with a précis of an Arab
legend, recently quoted in a fine article by Mirza Yawar Baig, titled The Black
Bull Died Today.
Three bulls lived in harmony in a forest. In the forest
roamed a tiger but each time he tried to attack one of the bulls the others
came to his aid.
The tiger came up with an idea. When one of the bulls was
grazing far away, the crafty beast persuaded the others that their lives would
be better without their friend. Seduced by the thought of extra grass, they
agreed to let the tiger do his worst. Then there were two.
Of course it wasn't long before the tiger approached another
bull and persuaded him to ditch the other. Soon the last bull left standing
received another visit from the tiger. He looked in the creature's eyes and
knew that this time he was the target. Too late, he realised the death of his
brothers had sealed his own fate.
S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes
feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.