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Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Yet again.

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Will anyone say

… “appeasement“?

Maybe not – appeasement is for Teh Left, after all.

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All is well

Cheap petrol and peace in our time.

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The US has announced new, unilateral sanctions against Iran. Thus continues the march toward war.

Noted cheerleaders for the Bush administration’s foreign policy approach, Senators Joe Lieberman and John Kyl, have suggested that the aim of the sanctions is to increase the pressure for Iran to engage in diplomatic negotiations:

“Far from taking us closer to war with Iran, as some have irresponsibly suggested, these kinds of targeted sanctions represent our best chance to influence Iran’s action so as to be able to avoid military action,” they said.

But, as Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards points out, this approach has the potential to escalate tensions with Iran toward the point where armed conflict appears justified. As Edwards notes:

Today, George Bush and Dick Cheney again rattled the sabers in their march toward military action against Iran. The Bush Administration has been making plans to attack Iran for many months. At this critical moment, we need strong leadership to stand against George Bush’s dangerous ‘preventive war’ policy, which makes force the first option, not the last.

I learned a clear lesson from the lead up to the Iraq War in 2002: if you give this president an inch, he will take a mile – and launch a war.

Edwards’ statement is particularly aimed at Hillary Clinton, who he argues has failed to provide clear opposition to Bush’s march toward war. But in the context of the Australian election, we might question whether the two major parties are providing implicit or explicit support for a move toward military action.

Interestingly, the rationale given for these sanctions manages to tie together the two lines of attack the Bush administration has attempted to use in building support to act against Iran. The Iranian military groups that have been linked to supporting terrorism are now also being tied to nuclear proliferation. I wonder how much longer it will be before we start to hear a direct connection of the two – i.e., talk of mushroom clouds in Baghdad or Jerusalem, from terrorists using IRGC- or Quds-supplied nuclear bombs.

UPDATE: Dolly and Tony Burke were asked about the sanctions on Lateline last night, with neither displaying any concern about the possible escalation toward military conflict. Downer is confident the United States will soon be joined by other nations in imposing sanctions and says he does not believe the US is on a “path to war”. Burke would not even comment on the United States, instead focusing on the Iranian leadership’s inflammatory rhetoric.

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Subtle – Real subtle

Remember – John Howard is against pre-emptive strikes (this election cycle, anyway). What will he make of this?

Tucked inside the White House’s $196 billion emergency funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is an item that has some people wondering whether the administration is preparing for military action against Iran.

The item: $88 million to modify B-2 stealth bombers so they can carry a newly developed 30,000-pound bomb called the massive ordnance penetrator, or, in military-speak, the MOP.

So where would the military use a stealth bomber armed with a 30,000-pound bomb like this? Defense analysts say the most likely target for this bomb would be Iran’s flagship nuclear facility in Natanz, which is both heavily fortified and deeply buried.

“You’d use it on Natanz,” said John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org. “And you’d use it on a stealth bomber because you want it to be a surprise. And you put in an emergency funding request because you want to bomb quickly.”

“It’s kind of strange,” Pike said. “It sends a signal that you are preparing to bomb Iran, and if you were actually going to bomb Iran I wouldn’t think you would want to announce it like that.”

Maybe Pike is right. Maybe this is even an intentional strategy to appear to be preparing to attack Iran, in an attempt to ratchet up pressure on them. I wish I could have any confidence that those possibilities are true, but I find it more plausible that the Bush administration is gearing up to attack and is too arrogant and/or stupid to care whether Iran, let alone the general public in the Western world, knows it is coming.

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Lock it in?

Last week, Ken Lovell suggested that the two critical questions that should have been asked in last night’s debate were:

1. What advice will you be giving to the Bush Administration about its apparent intention to attack Iran?

2. If the USA does attack Iran, what will your government’s response be? And no, that is not a ‘hypothetical question’, it’s a very real one that may well arise within a few months.

Despite extensive discussion of foreign policy and “national security” (i.e., terrorism and withdrawal from Iraq) in the debate, nobody mentioned Iran. Howard had the gall to trumpet a “discussion” that will commence tomorrow about changing the role of Australia’s troops in Iraq. But there is a genuine potential for the entire situation in the Middle East to change, as the Bush administration ramps up its rhetoric about Iran. After months of neoconservative rumblings about the need to take whatever action is necessary about Iran, the President weighed in last week by suggesting that Iran’s nuclear ambitions could lead to World War III.

Now, the joint leader of the free world has said his piece:

“The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences,” Mr Cheney told a conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

He said that progress toward a more stable and peaceful Middle East would depend on responsible conduct by countries in the region, such as respect for neighbours’ sovereignty and compliance with international agreements.

“If you apply all these measures it becomes immediately clear that the Government of Iran falls far short and is a growing obstacle to peace in the Middle East,” Mr Cheney said.

Given the scope of what the Bush administration does not regard as torture, I’m hesitant to rule out anything when Cheney talks about “serious consequences” for an entire nation.

ELSEWHERE: CNN has coverage of Cheney’s speech.

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Not the time for idiocy

Larvatus Prodeo notes that in the aftermath of troop casualties in Afghanistan, finger-pointing at Iran has begun. Based on the discussion in the comments thread, it appears that Admiral Nelson’s quote may have been taken somewhat out of context and that it’s shoddy reporting. However, one would like to think that an experienced Government Minister could manage to deflect some silly questions and keep the focus where it belongs at this time – on observing and honouring the passing of a dedicated Australian soldier.

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Petraeus pitches in

General Petraeus is at it again – after selling the success of the troop surge, he is now helping to build the Bush administration’s narrative to justify an attack on Iran:

“Al Qaeda remains the wolf closest to the sled, if you will,” he said. “The enemy that is always bent on reigniting sectarian violence, causing the most horrific casualties, damaging the infrastructure in the most difficult way. So you cannot lose focus on al Qaeda.”

So, you’re off to Pakistan to help search for Osama? No, that’s probably not what you meant.

But, Petraeus added, there was “no question” that Iranian arms were ending up in the hands of the Iraqi militias and there was “no debate” that six Iranians detained by the U.S. military in northern Iraq are Iranian Quds force members — the Iranian unit the United States accuses of training and arming insurgents.

Which is, of course, entirely independent of and in no way exacerbated by the fact that the US has been arming Sunni militias to fight against al Qaeda in Iraq, prompting concerns that, once the external insurgents have been dealt with, Iraq can devolve into a full-fledged civil war between Sunni and Shiite militias. Inconceivable.

So what does Petraeus need now, to allay his concerns?

Petraeus said the Iranian ambassador has given his Iraqi counterpart assurances Iran would stop supplying and training Iraqi insurgents.

“They had two sessions,” he said. “Numerous Iraqi leaders have gone to Tehran and asked that they stop very, very directly, stop the lethal assistance. There have been sub-ambassadorial meetings as well. And there have been assurances in return actually from Iran to Iraqi leaders and we are waiting to see if those assurances bear fruit or not, frankly.

“We are very much in the ‘show-me’ mode right now. We would love to see that.”

Because the US were so convinced by the last Middle Eastern leader who claimed he had stopped doing something naughty.

This should all work out fine.

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Via Aunty comes news of a New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh about the Bush administration’s shifting approach to a potential attack on Iran. Read the whole article – I am not going to quote from it, because a look at the entire thing gives an indication of the extent of Hersh’s research and reasoning in putting together his argument.

The key points that I see coming from the article are that:

  • preparing for an attack on Iran is a fundamental planning objective of the Bush administration, which is shaping their military, diplomatic, and public relations approaches;
  • the aim is to identify and establish support for an argument that the American public might accept as a valid justification of an attack on Iran – as Hersh notes, preventing nuclear proliferation has not gained traction, which is probably not surprising after its use in justifying the Iraq invasion;
  • the approach that is being taken toward potential military engagement with Iran is having consequences within Iraq, and it seems plausible that sectarian tensions in Iran will be escalated as a result; and
  • the Bush administration seems unconcerned about political implications for the Republican Party – although it is not clear to me whether this is because they see the 2008 election as already lost, because they hope to immerse the next President into such a military entanglement in the Middle East that it makes no difference to them who that successor is, or because they truly believe they are doing the morally right thing and consider their actions to be above politics.

Hersh has done an excellent job of tying together the various threads that are already out there. His message appears to be that although a US attack on Iran is not inevitable, the circumstances are moving (and, in fact, being moved) toward the point where it is probable.

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A reality injection

There’s a lot of good analysis of the Iraq situation going on at the moment – unfortunately, not a lot of it is in the Australian traditional media. Here’s a collection of the highlights:

  • At Road to Surfdom, Eric Martin breaks down the argument that the non-partisan GAO’s report is flawed, while the White House’s Petraeus report will be the gold standard.
  • The Washington Post is running a series on Iraq: Part I examines the results of the surge; Part II focuses on the security and refugee crises for Iraqi civilians.
  • At Daily Kos,Meteor Blades  has an update on an Iraqi blogger who has now fled the country.
  • Again at Daily Kos, DHinMI questions the validity of holding Anbar province up as an example of progress.
  • Greg Mitchell at Editor & Publisher questions whether the media has learned anything from their earlier experiences of being White House stooges.

And, let’s finish with some truly disturbing speculation from Larry Johnson – how did some nuclear warheads accidentally get transported to a base that is used for Middle East operations?

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