Wednesday, January 24, 2007

US Preparations for Attack on Iran Gather Pace

With an April deadline set for a US-led strike on Iran, a second U.S. aircraft carrier strike group is on its way to the Gulf to join the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower battlegroup at the end of February - the last time such a force was assembled in the region Iraq was invaded. Patriot missile systems are being installed throughout the region to protect Gulf states from the expected Iranian retalliation following a US and/or Israeli act of aggression. The US now refuses to negotiate with Iran and appears to have attempted to create an incident which might provide a convenient pretext for war by detaining Iranian officials at a diplomatic compound in Iraq. In the meantime, Iran is carrying out missile tests as part of a five day exercise southeast of Tehran.

While the situation at a military level is being cranked up, so is the political rhetoric. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, giving an address to the influential Gulf Research Center, said "The Middle East isn't a region to be dominated by Iran. The Gulf isn't a body of water to be controlled by Iran. That's why we've seen the United States station two carrier battle groups in the region. Iran is going to have to understand that the United States will protect its interests if Iran seeks to confront us. We will defend our interests if we are challenged. That might be a message Iran must understand." Not all his audience were impressed. Mohammed al-Naqbi, who heads the Gulf Negotiations Center, told Burns "What we are not interested in is another war in the region. Iraq is your problem, not the problem of the Arabs. You destroyed a country that had institutions. You handed that country to Iran. Now you are crying to Europe and the Arabs to help you out of this mess."

Many prominent politicians and advisers are calling for diplomacy with Iran, not least because their help is desperately needed if a resolution to the 'civil war' in Iraq is to be found, but this idea flies in the face of the neo-con goal of absolute control in the Middle East, as does any attempt at resolving the Israeli/Palestinian issue. 'Bringing democracy to the region' is their passport to achieve their vision of a new American century. No velvet revolution is being considered when brute force would do the job so much quicker and teach any on-looking adversaries (eg. Syria) a well-deserved lesson. While Iran taunts G.W. Bush, suggesting that the American president may have already bitten off more than he can chew, the president and his like-minded administration would dearly like to prove them wrong and 're-address the regional balance' through military force.

It's ironic how the US wishes to halt Irans nuclear ambitions, military or otherwise, while at the same time offering to be a "willing partner" in support of civilian nuclear power programs in its six Gulf Arab allies. Nuclear sources of fuel are good in combatting global warming, US advisors say. Maybe if the Bush administration could strip out its own agenda regarding military, strategic and economic control of the Gulf region the Middle East may have the opportunity to move on in a way that benefits everyone. Unfortunately war isn't going to achieve this and, if anything, will produce a ten-fold Iraqi tragedy, the likes of which the outside world will not be able to contain or coontrol.

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