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Retired General Tommy Ray Franks, former Commander-in-chief of CENTCOM and present there as 9/11 unravelled.
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War-clouds over Iran?  MSM Imbibers of Bush-Koolaid cool their sneakers on Iran invasion plans.

Posted by Helena Cobban at February 3, 2007.

Are the imminent arrival of the additional US Navy carrier battle group to the waters of the Persian/Arabian Gulf and the despatch of an admiral as the first-ever head of US CentCom decisive signs that some form of an American military strike against Iran is about to begin?

Other signs of this include the increase in the volume of the continuous barrage of anti-Iranian accusations made by the Bush administration, and their apparent orchestration of a very broad anti-Iranian propaganda campaign by their principal aid-recipients in the Arab world. (I'm now in Egypt. You can certainly see some signs of that here.)

In a well compiled contribution to Open Democracy the British analyst Paul Rogers writes:
Today, in the context of the changed mood in Washington - and even though it is an extraordinarily dangerous prospect and seems so far-fetched as to be unbelievable - the risk [of such an attack] can no longer be ignored.

...As the United States predicament in Iraq has steadily deteriorated, the reaction among the more hawkish opinion-formers in the US has been to insist in the strongest terms on the need for victory in Iraq, while seeing Iran as the real reason for current failures. Iran therefore must be dealt with, initially at least in terms of destroying any nuclear capability it may possess or be seeking to acquire. This objective is aided by the rhetoric of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, especially his holocaust-denial propaganda..

In one sense, Iran was always the main issue for neo-conservatives: "the road to Tehran runs through Baghdad" was their mantra. Indeed there was a strong view in 2003 that the best way to deal with Iran was by installing a client administration in Iraq, secured by a substantial permanent American military presence at four large bases. Iraq would become a western bastion, with the added double benefit of reducing the significance of a somewhat unpredictable House of Saud while ensuring the Iran would know its place. In essence, regime termination to Iran's east (Afghanistan) and west (Iraq) within two years would achieve a precious strategic success: a pliant Tehran.

It has not exactly worked out like that...
The Bushists have certainly raised tensions with Iran to a new high over recent weeks,. They have also made many preparations at the levels of both military logistics and propganda/rhetoric for an even greater confrontation with Teheran that may lead-- whether by intention or through some "accident" (planned or unplanned)-- to an outbreak of actual military conflict.

As I wrote here last September, the two sides urgently need a hot-line arrangement, whether at the level of military-to-military, or leader-to-leader, in order to avert mishaps or miscommunications that might lead to disaster. The inauguration of such a deconfliction mechanism could also be the first step towards building further confidence and establishing further means of averting conflicts.

But meanwhile, what we have from Washington instead is an eery repeat of the kind of propaganda preparations, now directed against Iran, that we saw four years ago directed against Iraq. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has pulled together some old Bush tapes from 2002 to show the keen degree of overlap there. You can view them here. (Hat-tip to D. Froomkin.)

I do note, too, that much of the US MSM-- which in 2002 were still nearly all drinking the Bushists' Koolaid-- seem to be much more skeptical and wary of what's happening this time round.

I'm planning a column for the CSM this week that implores the President not to take us once again down the path of a completely voluntary and quite predictably harmful war. Back in 2002, I was one of that majority of experienced American analysts of the current Middle East who warned loudly that an invasion of Iraq would lead to such harmful consequences as: the incubation of stiff, anti-US resistance by Iraqis, the strengthening of the Shiite Islamist trends, and extremely complex conflicts over Kirkuk and the whole of northern Iraq. The Bushists chose not to listen to us, preferring instead the counsels of Bernard Lewis (a scholar of medieval Islam) and of others-- primarily, pro-Israeli ideologues-- who assured them that an invasion of Iraq would be "a cakewalk", whose success at bringing about a pro-US transformation there was virtually guaranteed..

I take no pleasure whatsoever in saying that I and the colleagues who agreed with me then were right. Lewis, Cheney, Adelman, Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Woolsey, and all that sad group of pro-war propagandists of that day were wrong.

They have never been held to any account. I think this should be a matter of keen concern to all Americans, as well as all Iraqis (whose sufferings since March 2003 have been a hundred times worse.)

But it completely beggars belief that the counsels of war coming yet again from some of these very same people are once again being listened to by the President.

Just one small footnote from me here: Some friends have suggested that in what I wrote here about the late-January incident at PJCC Karbala I was helping to provide ammunition for the anti-Iranian propaganda campaign in the US. That was certainly not my intention. As I wrote there, I did think that it was "possible" that some Iranian government-backed formation had undertaken the attack on US forces there. But I also noted explicitly that, "I'm in no position to put a probability figure on that scenario."

Beyond that, I want to note that even if there was an Iranian government hand of some kind in the Karbala attack, I don't think this would in any way qualify as a "casus belli" for a US attack on Iran.

Finally, since I'm in a hurry here, I just want to put in Paul Rogers' assessment of the kinds of damage that cane be predicted from a US attack on Iran:
It is clear that a full-scale US air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and related infrastructure could do substantial damage, as well as causing hundreds and probably thousands of casualties. Even a more limited Israeli raid would have a major effect.

Equally clear is the wide range of options open to Iran in responding to such an attack - especially as its principal immediate effect would be a fundamental unifying of opinion in favour of the government (no matter how unpopular it might be in other respects).

The possibilities include:

* immediate withdrawal from the non-proliferation treaty and a wholehearted effort to develop nuclear weapons as quickly as possible - leading to further action by the United States and Israel, and a long war

* action against US forces in Iraq, through Shi'a militia intermediaries on a far larger scale than at present

* direct involvement of Iran's Revolutionary Guards in Iraq

* closure of the Straits of Hormuz, causing a steep increase in world oil prices

* aid and encouragement to Hizbollah in southern Lebanon (especially if Israel was involved in the attacks)

* paramilitary attacks on oil facilities in western Gulf states.

Furthermore, an attack on Iran would be seen by Shi'a groups in many other countries as an attack on them; this would create potential for severe disturbance, not least in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain...
I agree with just about all of that. I would add, however, that any large-scale US or Israeli attack on Iran could very well trigger storms of outrage from a much broader spectrum of Muslim groups than Rogers lists... Yes, including many Sunni Arabs.

It is to try to forestall that possibility, of course, that the US and its allies in the region are now engaged in such a frenzy of anti-Iranian propagandizing. But I am not sure at all that they will succeed.

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