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The Bush case for war against Iran

Subject:        The Bush case for war against Iran
Date:   Tue, 15 Aug 2006 16:50:06 EDT
From:  Ray Close

Dear Friends:

Despite vehement official assertions to the contrary, indications are
increasing every day that the Bush Administration has already decided
that conventional diplomacy will fail as a way to manage its
confrontation with Iran, and that military action against the Teheran
regime has therefore already reached the point of final countdown.  This
message is not an attempt to analyze all aspects of that highly complex
and controversial question, all the pros and all the cons, which are
numerous on both sides, but merely to toss a few small but perhaps
significant considerations into the balance.  Make your own judgments.

1.  First, some military realities that have not yet been fully
appreciated by the American public:

    A.  The Lebanon conflict substantiates pre-crisis intelligence that
Iran has apparently provided sophisticated “strategic” rockets to
Hizballah, such as the Fajr-5 (range: 75 km) and probably also the
Zelzal (range: 150 km).

Possession of the Zelzal (or even the Fajr-5) would effectively negate
much of the strategic value of attempting to protect Israel’s northern
regions from attack simply by making the area south of the Litani River
into a buffer zone without fully disarming Hizballah and ensuring that
it cannot be resupplied --- a goal almost certainly beyond the
capabilities of forces presently available.  Because the competence of
the Lebanese Army is greatly in doubt, and the military and political
mandate of a U.N. peacekeeping force is likely to be both tenuous and
impermanent, the long-term value of the recent Israeli action against
Hizballah is very much in question. (COMMENT: The tactical and strategic
threat to Israel's security demonstrated by Hizballah's use of
Iranian-supplied missiles is being underrated.  The fact that after a
full month of furious Israeli bombardment and infantry assault Hizballah
was capable of launching 250 rockets into northern Israel in the last
hours before the ceasefire proves that defense of Israel based on narrow
buffer zones, multi-national peacekeepers and separation walls is an
illiusion.  We must remember that it was only the absence of a reliable
guidance system that prevented massive killing of Israeli civilians by
thousands of Katyusha rockets --- a technological gap that can and will
be filled in a very short time, no doubt. This frightening reality, when
it sinks in, will redouble the already heavy public pressure on the Bush
Administration, strongly supported and encouraged by Israel and the
pro-Israel lobby, to “do something decisive about Iran”.

The only real defense against this new kind of threat available to
Israel today is the total cessation of Iran's support for organizations
like Hizballah and Hamas, and the denial to them of operational bases in
Palestine, Lebanon or Syria. _ Only the long reach of American military
power has any chance of achieving that objective on Israel's behalf._
Undertaking that effort would be a strategic commitment that went very
far beyond traditional American policy of sympathy and support.  We are
talking here about an historic new departure in American foreign and
defense policy, the costs and risks of which the American people have
not yet even begun to understand, much less aceept.

    B.  Hizballah’s successful use of the C-802/SACCADE anti-ship
cruise missile against an Israeli corvette caught both the U.S. and
Israel by surprise.  The general consensus among defense intelligence
analysts is that Iran’s small cadre of IRGC operatives attached to
Hizballah (estimated to be about 100 men) helped arm this weapon and
guide it to its target.  Hizballah’s successful use of the C-802 also
raises questions about the safety of U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf
in the event of Iran’s closure of the Strait of Hormuz in reaction to
U.S. military action against the Teheran regime.  Iran reportedly has
“hundreds” of these missiles (C-802s) lining its shore of the Strait.
(COMMENT:  Contrary to some press reports, the C-802 is not an
adaptation of the Chinese Silkworm, but rather a Chinese improvement on
the [originally French]_ Exocet_ that was used effectively by the
Argentine navy in the Falklands war in 1982, and by Iraq against a U.S.
Navy ship in the Gulf in 1987.  This might be viewed as a deterrent to
U.S. military action against Iran; on the contrary, however, it has
become an added incentive to take urgent action to eliminate Iran’s
capacity to interfere with the free movement of oil supplies in the Gulf
--- a factor that the Bush Administration regards as a potential
blackmail threat and an unacceptable limitation on its own capacity to
control the actions of a regime that supports terrorism.)

2.  Then there is what I must admit is basically an intuitive indicator
of Bush Administration intentions to take aggressive action against Iran:

    A.  It is now indisputably true that during the build-up to the
invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration aggressively searched for, and
then selectively highlighted, any intelligence that they believed would
support and justify their already-firm determination to destroy the
Saddam Hussein regime by military force.  An important part of the
rationale for attacking Iraq was to demonstrate, as an object lesson for
the whole world to note, that America will  “maintain the offensive
against terrorism”, and will attack and destroy all who support or
encourage terrorism anywhere in the world.  President Bush deeply
believes what he has said publicly on this subject,  and nothing he has
said or done recently has portrayed the slightest uncertainty on his
part about the correctness of the underlying national strategy that made
the invasion of Iraq such an urgent necessity in 2003.

    B.  If the Bush Administration has carefully weighed the risks and
costs of launching a military attack against Iran, and decided (after
three-plus years of absorbing the hard lessons of Iraq) that making war
on seventy million angry Persians is not a sensible thing to do at this
moment in history, (as most military experts would argue), then prudence
and common sense would dictate that it serves no useful purpose for
President Bush and his representatives to emphasize continually and
bombastically, at every opportunity, that Iran (and to a lesser extent
Syria) are guilty of acting in flagrant violation of the “red lines”
clearly defined in U.S. national strategy.  As we have repeatedly
reminded ourselves, the first rule of diplomacy or war is never to
declare objectives that one does not have the means or the will to
achieve, and never issue threats that one has no intention of
enforcing.  At the moment, we seem to be doing both these things at the
same time.

Today, the Washington Post reports:

As a U.N.-imposed truce seemed to be holding yesterday, Bush made clear
that he blames Hizballah and its patrons, Iran and Syria, for igniting
the conflict. “We recognize that the responsibility for this lies with
Hizballah,” Bush said. “Responsibility lies also with Hizbollah's state
sponsors, Iran and Syria.”
  Bush warned Tehran to stop backing militias in Lebanon and in Iraq,
where U.S. officials have long accused Iran of feeding the sectarian
violence that is threatening to erupt into a full-scale civil war.
   “In both these countries, Iran is backing armed groups in the hope
of stopping democracy from taking hold,” Bush said._ “The message of
this administration is clear. America will stay on the offensive against
al-Qaeda. Iran must stop its support for terror_, and the leaders of
these armed groups must make a choice. If they want to participate in
the political life of their countries, they must disarm.”

(Note President Bush's familiar technique of implying a direct
operational relationship between Iran and Hizballah, on the one hand,
and Osama bin Ladin's al-Qaeda organization on the other --- a
deliberate distortion of fact similar to the canards associating Saddam
Hussein directly with al-Qaeda and hence with the 9-11 events.  These
subtle but very significant deceptions fly right over the heads of the
vast majority of Americans, but they undermine the credibility of our
president and hence our confidence in his decisions about matters like
war and peace.)

And in today’s New York Times we read a dispatch from Baghdad::

“The American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said that Iran had been
encouraging Shiite militias to attack American-led forces (in Iraq) in
retaliation for American backing of Israel’s military campaign against
Hizballah in Lebanon”

This gratuitous remark makes sense only if one is seeking some sort of
legal license from the international community to take unilateral
punitive action against Iran.  However, at a time when the popularity of
Hizballah, and corresponding hatred of Israel, are both at their zenith
among the populations of Iraq and the rest of the Arab and Muslim
worlds, it is nothing short of foolhardy and irresponsible for the
American ambassador in Baghdad to be advertising Iran’s contribution to
what that critically important constituency regards (correctly or not)
as a humiliating failure of mighty Israel and its superpower ally
America to defeat and disarm the valiant little "Party of God" in Lebanon.

Unless, of course, Bush and his advisers seriously expect that Iran will
be intimidated into reversing its own policies. (Not bloody likely.)

Otherwise, Khalilzad is merely feeding the fears of Iraq's majority
Shi'a population that the United States, probably in coordination with
Israel, is moving purposefully toward war with Iran, and needs only to
pump up its legal justification for taking that action. _ Not a good way
to win the confidence and cooperation of the parties upon whom the
success of our enterprise in Iraq critically depends._

This bombastic and posturing style of “diplomacy” is going to lead
inescapably to one or the other of the following results:

    1.  War with Iran (with negative consequences beyond anyone's
ability to imagine); or
    2.  Another humiliating demonstration of impotence.

--
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