Monday, February 20, 2006

Iran War Hysteria

In the midst of very turbulent times in the Middle East, the Bush administration finds itself in, perhaps, a more tenable position to sound the alarm than it did prior to the fabricated Iraq WMD threat to pump up its anti-Iranian propaganda.

As Justin Raimondo of ponders, recent and seemingly unrelated international press releases that have inflamed the extremist Muslim communities in Europe and the Middle East (the Danish cartoon scandal, the publication of previously unreleased Abu Ghraib torture photos and the video of British troops beating Iraqis), have once again stirred up fury and fear in Westerners. I would also add to Raimondo's list the current stir over giving up port security to Dubai which prompted one CNN interviewer to ask a guest opposed to this turnover if he was "racist" because Arabs were involved. All of these events combine to stirring up more anti-Islam sentiment in the west.

While we're all busy discussion the free speech aspects of the Danish newspaper's cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, a deeper transition is taking place in those who can't see beyond the ensuing protests and riots which only serves to grow support for a war with Iran. Of course, the fact that Iran's president is full of weekly inflammatory rhetoric against the west isn't exactly helping his cause but he is, apparently, calling for a peaceful solution which will soon be dismissed by warmongers and critics as smoke and mirrors.

Regardless, the hysteria on all sides is detracting those concerned from delving into the facts about Iran's current nuclear situation. It's easy to justify a pre-emptive attack against a country, as we saw with Iraq, by simply appealing to emotions. Because of what happened with the flawed Iraq intelligence, one would like to think that we have become more discerning now. Have we? You decide.

Perhaps you've been less concerned about the possibility of Bushco attacking Iran because the US military is so overstretched. Think again. Bush holds all of the power this time. He alone can decide to use the US's nuclear capabilities as Jorge Hirsch explains and, when and if he does, there will be little the US congress can do. He's in his last term. If he were to act in 2006, the political fallout at home is currently fairly predictable: those supporters who have pulled support from the president over his misadventure in Iraq could once again stand proudly by his side and prop him up as a strong leader. His actions might even help the Republicans maintain control of all branches of government in this year's elections.

Many Americans, in shock from such a strong use of nuclear force by the US, might just grudgingly surrender to the commander in chief. The Democrats, on the other hand, would promptly be labelled as the dreaded "appeasers" for demanding actual facts. Bushco's habit of acting first and asking questions later which, with a Republican-led congress has become a continual exercise in futility, seems to be a winning strategy. The US public is still very divided and, although support for the Iraq war has slipped, the 2004 election showed that many are reluctant to switch horses in the midst of the apocalypse.

It's clear that the Democrats must be more vocal on the possibility of war with Iran. First of all, they need to convince Americans that the threat of nuclear action by Bush is real and, secondly, they must push support of the IAEA's ability to find the truth before such action along with pressuring the international diplomatic community to stand down until it can be shown that, this time, the intelligence is solid. There needs to be a broader discussion about China's increased interest and activity in Iran's oil patch and how this will affect US-China relations.

This is not a small matter nor is it an issue that can be held on the back burner while the press is obssessed with Cheney's hunting accident and the numerous other Bush White House scandals. We must be ever mindful of the neoconservative agenda that drives everything this administration does and the strategy needed to oppose it.

(For another perspective on neoconservatism, see Francis Fukuyama's NYT article, "After Neoconservatism")

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