Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Navy Admiral Says Ready To Take Military Action Against Iran

Those who worry that the Bush administration is deliberately creating the correct climate for an incident which will provide a causus belli with Iran will not be comforted by the words of the man in charge of the US Fifth Fleet, three-star vice admiral Patrick Walsh.

Yesterday in Bahrain, in an interview so far little noticed in the US, he told reporters:
Although our presence in the Arabian Gulf is for defensive and not offensive purposes, the US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack,"

..."The question is not what the US is planning, but rather what Iran is planning for the region," he said.

"When you look at the exercises conducted by Iran in the last nine months, you see the open display of suggestions. They are using mines in their exercises and, very importantly, they are conducting sea manoeuvres in the proximity of the Strait of Hormuz. Why would Iran conduct them in that region when they have so much space elsewhere?" About 40 per cent of all the world's traded oil passes through the strategic waterway, and last month, an Iranian newspaper warned that retaliation by Tehran could include stopping oil traffic through the Strait.

Another indication of Iran's aggressive intentions, according to Walsh, is the fiery statements from the Iranian leadership.

But the admiral said that the US would not give up the region to Iran.
That Iran has a legal right to conduct whatever exercizes it likes in its own territorial waters, just like every other nation on earth, doesn't seem to matter any.

Yesterday, the BBC reported that US plans for an attack on Iran were well advanced. Rightwing commentators immediately pounced, saying there was nothing new in the BBC's report but of course there was one very significant new fact - one that Tehran has not failed to notice.
What will alarm Tehran about the latest details of US military planning for a strike on Iran is the fact that there are now two possible triggers for an attack. One is, as expected, the nuclear programme. But the new one is any major attack on US forces in Iraq that could be traced back to Iran.

...There is also a feeling among many analysts that the US has started building a case for war against Iran over its alleged interference in Iraq.

For many in Iran it seems unfair that the full blame for the violence in Iraq is suddenly being put on them and not on Sunni Arab countries that also back groups inside Iraq.

...In the Iranian establishment it appears there are deep differences of opinion about how grave the situation is.

Many reformists and moderates are very worried America is preparing for war, but hardliners like President Ahmedinejad seem to dismiss the risk believing their own propaganda that Iran is too powerful a nation to be attacked by the West.

Some take a middle position - arguing that the talk of war is a bluff - a means to pressure Iran. But they concede there is a possibility of an accidental war if Iranian Revolutionary Guards, for example, retaliated against US forces in Iraq.

They compare the situation to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers last summer by Hezbollah in Lebanon which triggered the war there.
The original neocon narrative for war with Iran involved it's nuclear program, but that narrative isn't going too well. Really only the deliberately paranoid in the US, UK and Israel still believe that program to be an immenent threat - the rest of the world believes there's still plenty time for diplomacy. Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said that Iran is still at least five and as many as ten years away from the capability to build a nuke and he warned against "hype" over Tehran's nuclear progress. There is still no hard evidence either that Iran is actually seeking a nuclear weapon, just "assessments" based on intelligence provided by such shady sources as the MeK terror group.

Iran is now calling for no-conditions talks on the basis that conceding what the talks would be about - stopping enrichment activities - before entering such talks would hardly be in their national interest. They have problems in proceeding with their nuclear program in any case - the news that Russia has slowed work on the new reactor at Bushehr because Iran cannot pay its bills hardly fits the neocon hype of Iran as a comic-book supervillain bent on world domination. Who ever heard of Lex Luthor not paying his contractors?

So instead, a new path to a plausible excuse for war has been constructed, fixing the intelligence around the policy as usual. With a second carrier task force, centered around the USS John C. Stennis having now arrived in the Gulf, the Bush administration now has sufficient assets pre-positioned should it decide to create the conditions to justify a Naval-based do-over of the Isaeli air campaign over Lebanon last Summer.

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