FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iran and Rumors of War

by CONN HALLINAN

The May 8 letter from U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, to George W. Bush, received virtually no media coverage, in spite of the fact that it warned the President that an attack on Iran without Congressional approval would be grounds for impeachment. Rumor has it several senators have been briefed about the possibility of war with Iran.

Something is afoot.

Just what is not clear, but over the past several months, a number of moves by the White House strongly suggest that the Bush Administration will attack Iran sometime in the near future. According to the Asia Times, “a former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community” said an air attack will target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force garrisons. Not even the White House is bonkers enough to put troops on the ground amid 65 million Iranians.

There is a certain disconnect to all this, particularly given last December’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concluding that Iran had abandoned its program to build a nuclear weapon. The NIE is the consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence services. At the time, the report seemed to shelve any possibility of war with Iran.

However, shortly after the intelligence estimate on Iran was released, the old “into Iraq gang” went to work undermining it.

According to Newsweek, during his Middle East tour in January, President Bush “all but disowned the document” to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. A “senior administration official” told the magazine, “He [Bush] told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says but that [the NIE’s] conclusions don’t reflect his own views.”

Neither do they reflect the views of Vice-President Dick Cheney or Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In an interview with ABC during his recent 10-day visit to the region, Cheney downplayed the NIE: “We don’t know whether or not they’ve [the Iranians have] restarted.” Cheney also said Iran was seeking to build missiles capable of reaching the U.S. sometime in the next decade.

On April 21, Gates said that Iran was “hell bent” on acquiring nuclear weapons, and, while he was not advocating war with Iran, the military option should be kept on the table.

A month before Gates’ comment, the White House quietly extended an executive order stating that Iran represented an “ongoing threat” to U.S. national security. The Bush Administration claims that the 2002 resolution that led to the war in Iraq gives it the right to strike at “terrorists” wherever they are. Last September, the Kyl-Lieberman Sense of the Senate resolution designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a “terrorist organization.”

The Administration has sharply increased its rhetorical attacks on Iran in a way that is disquietingly similar to the campaign that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Take the current charge that the Quds Force is arming anti-American groups in Iraq and providing them with high tech roadside bombs and sophisticated rockets.

General David Petraeus, the new head of Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “special groups” are “funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran’s Quds Force… It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government” in the Green Zone.

Patraeus replaced Admiral William “Fox” Fallon, who had openly opposed a military confrontation with Iran.

But the U.S. has never presented any evidence to back up those charges. U.S. officials say the rockets pounding the Green Zone have Iranian markings on them, but they have yet to show any evidence to that effect. And, as for the special roadside bombs, or explosively formed penetrators (EFP), the evidence is entirely deductive.

The U.S. argues that the copper cores used in these bombs requires using a heavy machine press and that Iraq has no such presses. But before the invasion, Iraq was the most industrialized Arab country, with a sophisticated machine tool industry, and a study by Time magazine says the cities of Basra, Karbala and Najaf “may indeed have such presses.”

The Time article, “Doubting the Evidence Against Iran,” concludes, “No concrete evidence has emerged in public that Iran was behind the weapons [EFPs]. U.S. officials have revealed no captured shipments of such devices and offered no other proof.”

The lack of evidence has hardly cooled down the rhetoric. President Bush said in a speech at the White House that “two of the greatest threats to America” were Iran and al-Qaeda.

U.S. preparations for war, however, have been more than rhetorical.

According to the Israeli website, DEBKAfile, Cheney’s trip to the Middle East in March was seen in the region as a possible harbinger of war. “The vice-president’s choice of capitals for his tour is a pointer to the fact that the military option, off since December, may be on again,” DEBKA concluded. “America will need the cooperation of all four [countries he visited]—Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey.”

There has also been a steady build-up of naval and air power in the region. A new aircraft carrier battle group has been assigned to the area, Patriot anti-missile missiles have been deployed, and U.S. naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean have been beefed up.

What would likely happen if the U.S. did elect to attack?

Militarily there is little Teheran could do in response.

Iran’s army is smaller than it was during the Iran-Iraq war, and in a recent “show of force” its air force mustered a total of 140 out-of-date fighters. It navy is mostly small craft, and while it has anti-ship missiles, Teheran would probably think twice about trying to shut down the Gulf. The current regime depends on the sale of oil and gas to shore up its fragile economy.

While the White House portrays the militias in Iraq and Hezbollah as Teheran’s cats’ paws, that is nonsense. The militias in both countries will act on the basis of what is in their interests, not Iran’s.

There is talk that Iran might target Israel, but the Israelis have made it clear that any such attack would be met with a massive retaliation, probably nuclear. “An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel,” National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Elizer warned, “which would destroy the Iranian nation.”

In any case, it is far more likely that Israel would attack Iran than vice versa.

Any American attack would further isolate the U.S. in the Middle East. Ethan Chorin, of the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies, says U.S. threats against Iran are running cross current to efforts by other nations in the Gulf region to establish a détente with Teheran. “The U.S. seeks to defend the Arabs from Iran, but they are increasingly trying to defend themselves from the U.S. efforts to defend them against Iran,” he wrote in a recent commentary in the Financial Times.

All the war talk, says Chorin, “is translating into increasing open sympathy on the part of many Gulf Arabs for Iran and increasing skepticism about U.S. efforts to isolate the country.”

A U.S. war would deeply divide Europe as well, and might lead to a German withdrawal from Afghanistan. What Russia’s, China’s and India’s response would be is not clear. China and India are major clients for Iranian natural gas.

Domestically, the Bush Administration may see this as its only opportunity to hold on to the White House. The Republicans know they are going to lose seats in the House and the Senate, but at this point the race for the presidency is still tight. Might a new war against the demonized Iranians make voters stick with “war hero” John McCain?  It’s a long shot, but this administration has always had a major streak of riverboat gambler about it.

All this talk of war, of course, could be sound and fury signifying nothing. But it might also be the run up to a limited conflict, maybe one set off by a manufactured incident.

Once unleashed, however, no one controls the dogs of war. As hard as it is to imagine, war with Iran might top the Iraq War as a foreign policy disaster.

CONN HALLINAN is an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com 

February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail