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Iran and Syria in the Crosshairs

Did President Bush this evening just signal that the U.S. is preparing to expand the war in the Middle East to include Syria and Iran?

While the Iraq Study Group advocated diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria, President Bush is evidently continuing to walk down the road of military engagement.

The elements are falling into place for an expansion of the war:

* Deployment of Patriot air missile defense systems to countries in the Middle East.

* Deployment of an additional aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf.

* Naming a new Commander of the Central Command who is an Admiral with experience in air and naval warfare to replace a General.

* Sharing of intelligence for potential cruise missile targets between Israel and the U.S.

* Sharing of intelligence with other countries in the region.

* Creation of the justification for an attack against Iran and / or Syria-the emphasis upon those countries’ alleged roles in attacks against U.S. armed forces in Iraq.

* At any point in time after February 21, the UN Security Council will revisit Iran’s nuclear program and potential further action against Iran under terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737.

Consider the following comments from President Bush last evening:

“Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity-and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

“We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing-and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.”

Does this mean that President Bush is preparing to launch a military strike against Iran and / or Syria? Two other developments-in August 2006 and just last week-are potentially ominous in this regard.

Last summer, during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space reported that: “Multiple military sources have told the Global Network that Pentagon personnel responsible for selecting cruise missile first strike attacks have been sent to Israel. This indicates that U.S. and Israeli military strategists are now likely meeting to plan a joint attack on Syria and / or Iran.”

Last week, on January 5, President Bush replaced General Abizaid as Commander of the Central Command (CENTCOM), the command body for U.S. armed forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. The replacement, Admiral Richard Fallon, was the Commander of Pacific Command (Pacom). This was a lateral move-not a promotion for Admiral Fallon.

Michael Klare writes in The Nation (January 10, 2007, on-line version):

“if you’re thinking instead of using force against Iran and / or Syria, then Admiral Fallon is exactly the man you’d want at CENTCOM.

“Why? Because combined air and naval operations are his forté. Fallon began his combat career as a Navy combat flyer in Vietnam, and he served with carrier-based forces for twenty-four years after that. He commanded a carrier battle wing during the first Gulf War in 1991 and led the naval group supporting NATO operations during the Bosnia conflict four years later. More recently, Fallon served as vice chief of naval operations before becoming the head of Pacom in 2005. All this means that he is primed to oversee an air, missile and naval attack on Iran, should the President give the green light for such an assault–and the fact that Fallon has been moved from Pacom to Centcom means that such a move is very much on Bush’s mind.”

So the challenge is now set before us once again. In 2002 and 2003 it was to stop the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Now the challenge is to stop the expansion of the war in and occupation of Iraq into a full blown regional war-indeed, into a full blown world war, the first world war initiated by a democracy.

Let us not wilt away from the challenge before us. At a minimum, demand that the powers-that-be in Congress act to stop an expansion of the war to Syria and Iran-and to end the war in and occupation of Iraq by voting against any additional funds for the war. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative and Senators office. Tell your Rep and Senators that you expect them to vote against an expansion of the war to Iran and / or Syria and to vote against any additional funds for the war in Iraq.

Organize and engage in nonviolent protest against an expansion of the war to Syria and / or Iran. Prepare for nonviolent civil disobedience / civil resistance to disrupt business as usual to prevent an expansion of the war. Join with the Occupation Project campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience to end funding for the war in and occupation of Iraq.

Whatever nonviolent means you choose to employ-act today.

JEFF LEYS is Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He can be reached via email, jeffleys@vcnv.org