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Operation Iran: Past Pretence War Underway PDF Print E-mail
Peace News
Friday, 19 January 2007 09:28
Operation Iran: Past Pretence War Underway

AG - Patrick Seale - It is now clear that U.S. President George W. Bush has decided to confront Iran -- politically, economically and militarily -- rather than engage it in negotiations, as he was advised to do by James Baker and Lee Hamilton in their Iraq Study Group report.


George Bush has decided to respond exactly opposite the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, with confrontation of Iran instead of negotiation and dialogue. And France's Chirac -- as in 2003, regarding Iraq -- appears to be the most strenuously resisting Western leader.
George Bush's Iranian Machinations

Patrick Seale

Agence Global
January 19, 2007

Copyright ? 2007 Patrick Seale
[Republished at PEJ News with AG permission]

Bush appears to have been influenced by pro-Israeli advisers such as Eliott Abrams, the man in charge of the Middle East at the National Security Council, and by arm-chair strategists at neo-conservative think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, who have long clamoured for regime change in Tehran.

Although Washington?s neo-cons have suffered some severe setbacks, notably because of the abysmal failure of their belligerent Iraqi strategy, they clearly continue to exercise considerable influence in the White House and in the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney.

On a recent visit to the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to mobilize the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, plus Egypt and Jordan, to join the United States in confronting Iran.

Leading Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are, of course, concerned by the rise of Iran and of militant Shi?ism, but they are even more alarmed at the possibility of a United States/Israeli war against Iran, which would inevitably inflict heavy blows on their own societies.

The declared aim of the United States is to contain Iran and reduce its influence throughout the Middle East. But the danger of such a policy is that it runs the risk of escalating from verbal assaults and sanctions to armed clashes, and even to a war.

Some experts believe that if the United States were to attack Iran, Iran might respond by firing missiles against U.S. bases in Iraq and the Gulf, Hizbullah might attack Israel, and Israel might invade Syria, igniting a full-scale regional war with devastating consequences for all concerned.

Washington has long identified Iran as an adversary, part of Bush?s famous -- or infamous -- "axis of evil." But, in the last few weeks, a decision appears to have been made to get tough with the regime in Tehran which, in the words of Vice President Cheney, is said to pose a "multidimensional threat" to the United States and its allies.

The American view of these threats may be summarised as follows:

? Iran is challenging U.S. hegemony in the Gulf region. It aims to expel the U.S. military presence from the Gulf and substitute its own influence, backed by its revolutionary Islamic ideology.

? Iran?s nuclear programme -- plainly aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons -- poses a threat to Israel and to America?s Arab allies. Unless the programme is halted, it would limit the freedom of action in the region of both the U.S. and Israel and overturn the regional balance of power in Iran?s favour.

? By dominating the Straits of Hormuz, a hostile Iran would be in a position to interrupt the flow of Middle East oil to the industrial world.

? Members of Iran?s Revolutionary Guard Corps have infiltrated into Iraq where they are training and arming Shi?ite militias to kill American troops and prevent the stabilisation of the country.

? By means of Hizbullah and Hamas, Iran is seeking to overthrow Lebanon?s pro-Western Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the moderate Palestinian leader, Mahmud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, thereby extending Tehran?s reach into Lebanese politics and into the arena of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

? In Latin America, Iran?s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is teaming up with America?s adversaries -- Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Evo Morales of Bolivia -- in a common front against American imperialism.

To counter this multidimensional threat, the United States is adopting a multi-pronged strategy.

? It is seeking to cripple Iran?s banking system, as well as the financing of its external trade, by pressuring international banks not to deal with Iran. It has urged several major companies to stop trading with Iran.

? It has moved two aircraft carriers -- the Eisenhower and the Stennis -- to within quick sailing distance of Iran to counter Iran?s own missile capacity and naval power, and it has ordered Patriot missile defence systems to the GCC states. The United States has also taken steps to prevent Iran from blocking oil shipments from the Gulf.

? The U.S. troops have arrested five Iranian consular officials at Irbil, about 350 kilometres north of Baghdad, accusing them of financing and arming Iraqi insurgents. On January 10, President Bush declared: "We will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

? The United States is also planning to stiffen sanctions against Iran if it fails to suspend its uranium enrichment activities by early February, as stipulated by UN Security Council Resolution 1737 of 23 December.

? The United States is angry with the Europeans for watering down the Resolution in order to win the backing of Russia and China, to the extent that Iran can afford to ignore it. The United States wants a far tougher UN Resolution or, if that proves impossible, then a "coalition of the willing" to impose more severe sanctions on Iran.

These many moves have aroused fears in European capitals -- and in the Arab world -- that President Bush has embarked on the road to war.

In a direct challenge to American policy, President Jacques Chirac of France has called for dialogue rather than confrontation with Iran -- a policy which has been sharply criticised by Condoleezza Rice.

The situation is not unlike that of 2003, when France opposed the invasion of Iraq, triggering a severe diplomatic crisis between Paris and Washington.

President Chirac is planning to send a high-level envoy to Tehran to urge the Iranian authorities to rein in Hizbullah, and thereby help defuse the dangerous situation in Lebanon, a country to which the French president is particularly attached.

He is planning to preside over a donors? conference in Paris on 25 January, aimed at raising funds for Lebanon?s reconstruction. He is clearly anxious to prevent the regional crisis from undermining his attempts to put Lebanon back on its feet after Israel?s assault last summer which smashed the country?s infrastructure, killed some 1,300 people, and brought the economy to its knees.

Patrick Seale
is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright ? 2007 Patrick Seale


Released: 19 January 2007
Word Count: 1,035



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Agence Global is the exclusive syndication agency for The Nation, The American Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, as well as expert commentary by Richard Bulliet, Mark Hertsgaard, Rami G. Khouri, Tom Porteous, Patrick Seale and Immanuel Wallerstein

Last Updated on Friday, 19 January 2007 09:28

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