Sunday, October 21, 2007

SAS In Iran - Or Not?

By Cernig

There's a Sunday Times article today which is causing some cherry-picked interpretation over on rightwing blogs. Michael Smith, the man who broke the Downing Street memos and was roundly lambasted by the Right as never trustable with a story again, is suddenly a reliable cite as long as they're careful what they trust.

For instance, McQ at Q&O blog believes the Sunday Times' lede:

BRITISH special forces have crossed into Iran several times in recent months as part of a secret border war against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Al-Quds special forces, defence sources have disclosed
but ignores the contrary view a few paragraphs down:
Last week, Bob Ainsworth, the armed forces minister, said the Ministry of Defence was unable to say whether British troops had killed or captured any Iranians in Iraq. The ministry declined to comment, but privately officials insisted British troops never carry out hot pursuit across the border.
Hmmm...seems like a bit of a contradiction there. Which is strange, because the whole article and headline relies on this point.

Read the article yourself - what I get from it, and I may well be guilty of cherrypicking to my own agenda too, is that UK forces in Iraq are concerned with very real smugglers but that officials in London are the ones jumping to perhaps unwarranted conclusions about Iranian leadership direction of all those smuggling outfits.

Certianly, Smith is as honest a reporter as you could hope to find working at a Murdoch newspaper. Unlike say, Sarah Baxter, editors can't rely on the journalist to put their approved spin in for them and may have to add it after a report is submitted. Murdoch's UK outlets are - to fit Conservative Party policy - anti Iraq occupation but pro attacking Iran.

The first part of the UK Murdoch Line is certainly something Smith is OK with. Evidence this blog post from 15th September:
the SAS have been stretched to the limit by their operations in Iraq. We have only a very few special forces. By the very nature of the work they do, we can’t keep them safe, but we do need to husband our resources. We need them out of Iraq and bolstering the forces protecting us from the terrorists both at home and in Afghanistan – where the SBS are currently leading the fight to try to ensure that we get one of Bush's ill-judged wars right!
Still, the most interesting part of the Sunday Times' article for me was a bit McQ failed to mention at all:
Seven American U2 spy planes have passed through RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire this year on their way to Akrotiri in Cyprus or Al-Dhafra in Abu Dhabi, the bases for flights over Iran.
Such flights would be a violation of Iranian airspace and themselves an intense provocation for war. I suspect U-2 spy planes aren't all that good for spotting transient stuff like smugglers - but great for targeting fixed targets for airstrikes.

With Cheney picking up the rhetorical baton from Bush and Mullen today, threatening Iran with "serious consequences" for pursuing nuclear knowledge and saying "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon", attacks are looking more and more likely - especially now that Bush has made clear that the knowledge to make a nuke, not making a nuke itself, is his administration's red line.