Via The Guardian:
The US offered to take military action on behalf of the 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran, including buzzing Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions with warplanes, the Guardian has learned.
In the first few days after the captives were seized and British diplomats were getting no news from Tehran on their whereabouts, Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran. But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation.
The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it. London also asked the US to tone down military exercises that were already under way in the Gulf. Three days before the capture of the 15 Britons , a second carrier group arrived having been ordered there by president George Bush in January. The aim was to add to pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme and alleged operations inside Iraq against coalition forces.
At the request of the British, the two US carrier groups, totalling 40 ships plus aircraft, modified their exercises to make them less confrontational.
The British government also asked the US administration from Mr Bush down to be cautious in its use of rhetoric, which was relatively restrained throughout.
If the captives had been American, things would obviously look very different today.
It's not surprising that Bush had to be asked to back off and squelch the presence of military might in the region since his first instinct is to shoot first and ask questions later. Any diplomatic posturing by that administration lends the appearance of negotiations but it's all geared towards one end: a push towards that so-called "last option". Well, Bush wasn't able to use this incident as an excuse to invade Iran (much to his chagrin, I imagine).
Experts are launching serious warnings Bushco's way. Let's hope at least some of them are getting through.
The results of an attack on Iran could be horrendous. After all, according to a recent study of "the Iraq effect" by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, using government and Rand Corporation data, the Iraq invasion has already led to a seven-fold increase in terror. The "Iran effect" would probably be far more severe and long-lasting. British military historian Corelli Barnett speaks for many when he warns that "an attack on Iran would effectively launch World War III."
It's important to reframe the context of the situation with Iran in order to understand the ramifications of the US's behaviour towards that country, as Noam Chomsky points out:
Doubtless Iran's government merits harsh condemnation, including for its recent actions that have inflamed the crisis. It is, however, useful to ask how we would act if Iran had invaded and occupied Canada and Mexico and was arresting U.S. government representatives there on the grounds that they were resisting the Iranian occupation (called "liberation," of course). Imagine as well that Iran was deploying massive naval forces in the Caribbean and issuing credible threats to launch a wave of attacks against a vast range of sites -- nuclear and otherwise -- in the United States, if the U.S. government did not immediately terminate all its nuclear energy programs (and, naturally, dismantle all its nuclear weapons). Suppose that all of this happened after Iran had overthrown the government of the U.S. and installed a vicious tyrant (as the US did to Iran in 1953), then later supported a Russian invasion of the U.S. that killed millions of people (just as the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in 1980, killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians, a figure comparable to millions of Americans). Would we watch quietly?
It is easy to understand an observation by one of Israel's leading military historians, Martin van Creveld. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, knowing it to be defenseless, he noted, "Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy."
And he reaches a conclusion that is sorely obvious:
These facts suggest a possible way to prevent the current crisis from exploding, perhaps even into some version of World War III. That awesome threat might be averted by pursuing a familiar proposal: democracy promotion -- this time at home, where it is badly needed.
That would, of course, depend on the actions of the Democrats who now hold congressional power and who recently backed away from attempting to stop Bush from using the military option with Iran. Their series of Iraq war resolutions, while symbolic, may show that they have the will to counter the Bush administration but he's also shown that it's his way or the highway - democracy and the will of the people be damned. Democrats need to pull out every single tool they have to take back power from the executive branch which is using its cherished unitary executive theory - in essence turning the US into a monarchy. Words just aren't enough. Serious cohesive action is desperately needed.
The world is waiting - and not all that patiently anymore. Following 9/11, the world actually cared about what happened to America. All these years later, you can't blame people if they're just turning their backs now and walking away while US democracy continues to be a shadow of its former self - not that it ever was perfect - but at least it was actually seen as a model to be admired to some extent. That perspective has faded significantly.