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Commentary Last Updated: Apr 9th, 2008 - 00:28:48

War clouds over the Mideast
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 9, 2008, 00:15

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Russian President Vladimir Putin was recently quoted as saying, �No one can seriously think that Iran would dare attack the US. Instead of pushing Iran into a corner, it would be far more sensible to think together how to help Iran become more predictable and transparent.� Finally, a voice of reason amid a cacophony of belligerence!

Indeed, the way Iran is being treated by the so-called �international community,� a euphemism for nations hanging onto the coattails of Uncle Sam, does little except provide fodder for hardliners and their incendiary rhetoric. As long as Iran is under siege it will lock down rather than open up.

I�m reminded of the competition between the sun and the wind that saw a man pulling his coat around him. Both boasted that they would be the one to force the man to remove his coat. The wind whipped up a gale but the man simply held on tightly to the garment. Then the sun shone brightly and you know what happened next.

Iran is being demonized for a purpose. The deliberately orchestrated hype and fear mongering obscures the reality. There is no evidence that Iran is working toward the production of nuclear weapons as a US National Intelligence Estimate clearly stated and far from threatening its neighbors, it is going out of its way to extend the hand of friendship to all except Israel, which, by the way, President Ahmadinejad did not advocate wiping off the map. His words were mistranslated and the Western media shirked their duty to correct the mistake.

The fact is Iran remains the last obstacle to America�s complete domination of this region. If Washington could force Iran to do its bidding, its hegemonic ambitions in this part of the world, including control over its resources, would be attained. This, my friends, is the bottom line. This is why Iraq was invaded and occupied and this is why Iran is being groomed to go the same way.

Weakening Iran is just another phase of the neoconservative New Middle East itinerary, which has nothing to do with spreading freedom and democracy and all to do with increasing US power and that of its regional satellite, Israel. If you look at it from the American/Israeli perspective, a defanged Iran might translate into a compliant Shiite population, and the eventual demise of Hezbollah and Hamas due to a lack of funding and weapons.

But this truth isn�t palatable to most ordinary people and flies in the face of international law. So, just as the US contrived to come up with a pretext -- or rather a series of pretexts -- to invade Iraq, it has had to find excuses to sanction Tehran, perhaps as a prelude to military action.

Indeed, a military assault on Iran looks ever more likely. Now that the nuclear weapons pretext has been shelved, US officials have changed tack and are now accusing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard of supplying Iraqi Shiite militias with weapons, cash and training with which to attack US forces. They say Iran is using surrogates to wage a de facto war on the US. Gen. David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker reinforced this message to Congress; not that President Bush believes he requires approval from lawmakers to launch strikes on Iran.

The Daily Telegraph has quoted �a Whitehall assessment� to the effect �a strong statement� from Gen. Petraeus �about Iran�s intervention in Iraq could set the stage for a US attack on Iranian military facilities.�

Indicators that there may be a looming conflagration include the recent resignation of head of CENTCOM Adm. William Fallon, who famously said �there will be no attack on Iran on my watch.�

Then came the botched attack by the Iraqi military, backed up by the US, on "pro-Iranian" Shiite militias in Basra, which defeated the purpose of eradicating hostile entities by, instead, bringing them together to expose the feebleness of the Iraqi Army whose members deserted or switched sides in large numbers.

At the same time, Israel is engaged in a five-day homeland security exercise that, according to Ha�aretz will �include a simulated missile attack on civilian areas -- some missiles with chemical warheads.� Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has urged his army to remain alert, while Hezbollah believes the emergency drill is a precursor to a new war.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is trying hard to allay Lebanese and Syrian suspicions but when it comes to Iran, he has made his position clear. He says he is absolutely certain Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and has called for a �concerted world action� to prevent it from attaining such �nonconventional capacity.�

Another piece of the puzzle may be found in the presence of US warships off the coast of Lebanon, while, according to reports, the USS Abraham Lincoln strike force is heading for the Gulf along with a US nuclear submarine. It�s also worth noting that Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Minister Robert Gates have recently been touring the region and holding discussions with its leaders.

Countries here are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea on this issue. Most moderate, predominately Sunni, states fear the unencumbered rise of Iran that would empower Shiite populations and result in a power play. But at the same time, they don�t want another war on their doorstep in which they will be coerced to take sides, for when the dust settles Iran will still be their neighbor and memories in this part of the world tend to be long. The mistrust between Sunnis and Shiites engendered by the occupation of Iraq has tragically fueled this divide, which plays right into the hands of the US and Israel.

A visiting alien might wonder why Muslim nations sharing the same turf and seas and with so much in common can�t get together, preferring instead to allow a foreign power to set their neighborhood alight to further its geopolitical interests with virtually no risk to itself. On second thoughts, one doesn�t have to be an extraterrestrial to be shocked at the ridiculousness of that.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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