Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Iran, Iraq, Battles and Bluster

The tension is palpable and it's feeling like 2003 all over again. While the US senate is busy arguing over non-binding resolutions about the Iraq war which their opponents are fiercely contesting - as if non-binding actually holds some weight beyond just sending a message - other senators are actually pondering resolutions with teeth to finally present a real challenge to Bush's powers. Some, however, see that effort as affecting much more than what's going on in Iraq:

Even as the panel discussed issues from past conflicts, Senator Kennedy used the session to focus on a possible future conflict, asking the panel about what authority Mr. Bush would have to attack Iran. The panel’s members agreed that he had the power to take what actions he saw fit to deal with any short-term threat that Iran might pose to American troops in Iraq, but that he would need some form of Congressional authorization to begin any large-scale or long-term conflict.

And that is what brings our collective conscience back to 2003.

The aggressive rhetoric against Iran's president has increased dramatically since the beginning of 2007 and although many people believe Bush would attack Iran, the president has been busy dismissing such concerns while admitting, as he did in the run up to the Iraq war, that all options are still on the table. His administration's actions speak much louder than its words, however.

While US officials are now attempting to claim that Iran was behind last week's attacks in Karbala because "The officials said the sophistication of the attack astonished investigators, who doubt that Iraqis could have carried it out on their own" (that's an insult to the intelligence of the Iraqis if I ever saw one), Iraq's prime minister has come out swinging:

"We have told the Iranians and the Americans, 'We know that you have a problem with each other, but we are asking you, please solve your problems outside Iraq,' " Nuri al-Maliki old CNN.

"We will not accept Iran to use Iraq to attack the American forces," al-Maliki said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with CNN.

"We don't want the American forces to take Iraq as a field to attack Iran or Syria," he added.

Asked about the role of Iran in Iraq, al-Maliki said he was confident that Iranian influence was behind attacks on U.S. forces. "It exists, and I assure you it exists," he said.

I guess when Bush said 'bring 'em on', many more than he expected took him up on that invitation and now he's decided to use that opportunity to move up his timetable for dealing with that other 'axis of evil' member, Iran, as a result.

al-Maliki isn't the only one worried about what Bush might do next:

As transatlantic friction over how to deal with the Iranian impasse intensifies, there are fears in European capitals that the nuclear crisis could come to a head this year because of US frustration with Russian stalling tactics at the UN security council. "The clock is ticking," said one European official. "Military action has come back on to the table more seriously than before. The language in the US has changed."

As the Americans continue their biggest naval build-up in the Gulf since the start of the Iraq war four years ago, a transatlantic rift is opening up on several important aspects of the Iran dispute.

The Bush administration will shortly publish a dossier of charges of alleged Iranian subversion in Iraq. "Iran has steadily ramped up its activity in Iraq in the last three to four months. This applies to the scope and pace of their operations. You could call these brazen activities," a senior US official said in London yesterday.

There's that word: "dossier". Now why does that sound familiar and ominous?

The UK government has released its dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Published on the 24th September [2002] at 8am the dossier details the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime.

And do the words 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy' ring any bells? They certainly should.

I'd say this pretty much sums up where most of us are at right now:

"There's anxiety everywhere you turn," said a diplomat familiar with the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. "The Europeans are very concerned the shit could hit the fan."

Professor Juan Cole isn't the only one wondering why Iranian influence in Iraq has suddenly become such a major priority for the Bush administration:

To begin with, some 99 percent of all attacks on U.S. troops occur in Sunni Arab areas and are carried out by Baathist or Sunni fundamentalist (Salafi) guerrilla groups. Most of the outside help these groups get comes from the Sunni Arab public in countries allied with the United States, notably Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies. Washington has yet to denounce Saudi aid to the Sunni insurgents who are killing U.S. troops.

Meanwhile, the most virulent terror network in Iraq, which styles itself "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia," has openly announced that its policy is to kill as many Shiites as possible. That the ayatollahs of Shiite Iran are passing sophisticated weapons to these, their sworn enemies, is not plausible.

If Iran is providing materiel to anyone, it is to U.S. allies. Tehran may be helping the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Corps paramilitary, but the U.S. is not fighting that group. By sale or barter, some weaponry originally given to the Badr Corps might be finding its way to other groups, such as the Mahdi Army of nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, that do sometimes come into conflict with the U.S. That problem, however, must be a relatively small one, and cannot explain Bush's hyperbolic rhetoric about Iran.

Some of the reports of "thousands" of Iranian agents in Iraq come from the Mojahedin-e Khalq terrorist group, which is made up of Iranian expatriates who display a cultlike devotion to their leader, Maryam Rajavi. An enemy of Tehran, responsible for numerous bombings inside Iranian borders, the MEK was given a terrorist base, "Camp Ashraf," in eastern Iraq by Saddam Hussein. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, some Pentagon figures wanted to use the MEK against Tehran in the same way Saddam had, and the MEK fighters have not been expelled from the country. They now supply disinformation about Iran to the U.S. in order to foment conflict, much as Ahmad Chalabi lied in order to sell the Americans on invading Iraq.

I'm surprised Bush's people haven't tried to tie the Iranians to the recent and controversial battle in Najaf, which we still can't seem to get an accurate picture of from those so-called official sources.

One thing is certain: Bush no longer has any credibility. Now the question is whether those who actually do will be able to stop him this time.

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