The lessons of Iraq have been ignored. The target is now Iran
The US military buildup in the Gulf and Blair's promotion of war against
Tehran are a warning of yet another catastrophe
guardian.co.uk: 3 February 2010
We were supposed to have learned the lessons of the Iraq war. That's what
Britain's Chilcot inquiry is meant to be all about. But the signs from the
Middle East are that it could be happening all over again. The US
is escalating the military build-up in the Gulf --
officials revealed this week, boosting its naval presence and supplying tens
of billions of dollars' worth of new weapons systems to allied Arab states.
The target is of course Iran. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and
Bahrain are all taking deliveries of Patriot missile batteries. In Saudi
Arabia, Washington is sponsoring a 30,000-strong force to protect oil
installations and ports. The UAE alone has bought 80 F16 fighters, and
General Petraeus, the US commander, claims it could now "take out the entire
The US insists the growing militarisation is defensive, aimed at deterring
Iran, calming Israel and reassuring its allies. But the shift of policy is
clear enough. Last week Barack Obama warned that Iran would face "growing
consequences" for failing to halt its nuclear programme, while linking it
with North Korea - as George Bush did, in his "axis of evil" speech in 2002.
When Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week renewed Iran's earlier
agreement to ship most of its enriched uranium abroad to be reprocessed, the
US was dismissive. Obama's "outstretched hand", always combined with the
threat of sanctions or worse, appears to have been all but withdrawn.
The US vice-president, Joe Biden, underlined that by insisting Iran's
leaders were "sowing the seeds of their own destruction". And in Israel,
which has vowed to take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran
acquiring nuclear weapons, threats of war against its allies, Lebanon's
Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas, are growing. "We must recruit the whole
world to fight Ahmadinejad," Israeli president Shimon Peres declared on
The echoes of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq are unmistakable. Just as
in 2002-3, we are told that a dictatorial Middle Eastern state is
secretly developing weapons of mass destruction, defying UN resolutions,
obstructing inspections, threatening its neighbours and supporting
As in the case of Iraq, no evidence has been produced to back up the WMD
claims, though bogus leaks about secret programmes are regularly reproduced
in the mainstream press. Most recently, a former CIA official reported that
US intelligence believed documents, published in the Times, purporting to
show Iran planning to experiment on a "neutron initiator" for an atomic
weapon, had been forged -- http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=49833 --.
Shades of Iraq's non-existent attempts to buy uranium in Niger.
In case anyone missed the parallels, Tony Blair hammered them home at the
Iraq inquiry last Friday. Far from showing remorse about the bloodshed he
helped unleash on the Iraqi people, the former prime minister was allowed to
turn what was supposed to be a grilling into a platform for war against
In a timely demonstration that neoconservatism is alive and well and living
in London, Blair attempted to use the fact that Iraq had no WMD as part of
a case for taking the same approach against Iran. Perceived intention and
potential capability were enough to justify war, it turned out. Mentioning
Iran 58 times --
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/30/tony-blair-iran-spin-chilcot --, he
explained that the need to "deal" with Iran raised "very similar issues to
the ones we are discussing".
You might think that the views of a man that 37% of British people now
believe should be put on trial for war crimes --
http://www.comres.co.uk/page1901435538.aspx -- would be treated with
contempt. But Blair remains the Middle East envoy of the Quartet - the US,
UN, EU and Russia - even as he pockets £1m a year from a UAE investment
currently negotiating a slice of the profits from the exploitation of Iraqi
Nor is he alone in pressing the case for war on Iran. Another neocon
outrider from the Bush era, Daniel Pipes, wrote this week that the only way
for Obama to save his presidency was to "bomb Iran" and destroy the
country's "nuclear-weapon capacity", entailing few politically troublesome
US "boots on the ground" or casualties.
The reality is that such an attack would be potentially even more
devastating than the aggression against Iraq. Iran has the ability to
deliver armed retaliation, both directly and through its allies, which would
not only engulf the region but block the 20% of global oil supplies shipped
through the straits of Hormuz. It would also certainly set back the cause of
progressive change in Iran.
Iran is a divided authoritarian state, now cracking down harshly on the
opposition. But it is not a dictatorship in the Saddam Hussein mould. Unlike
Iraq, Israel, the US and Britain, Iran has not invaded and occupied
anybody's territory, but has the troops of two hostile, nuclear-armed powers
on its borders. And for all Ahmadinejad's inflammatory rhetoric, it is the
nuclear-armed US and Israel that maintain the option of an attack on Iran,
not the other way round.
Nor has the UN nuclear agency, the IAEA, found any evidence that Iran is
trying to acquire nuclear weapons, while the US's own national intelligence
estimate found that suspected work on a weapons programme had stopped in
2003, though that may now be adjusted in the new climate. Iran's leadership
has long insisted it does not want nuclear weapons, even while many suspect
it may be trying to become a threshold nuclear power, able to produce
weapons if threatened. Given the recent history of the region, that would
hardly be surprising.
For the US government, as during the Bush administration, the real problem
is Iran's independent power in the most sensitive region in the world -
heightened by the Iraq war. The signals coming out of Washington are mixed.
The head of US National Intelligence implied on Tuesday there was nothing
the US could do to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons if it chose to
do so. Perhaps the military build-up in the Gulf is just sabre rattling. The
preference is clearly for regime change rather than war.
But Israel is most unlikely to roll over if that option fails, and the risks
of the US and its allies, including Britain, being drawn into the fallout
from any attack would be high. As was discovered in the case of Iraq, the
views of outriders like Blair and Pipes can quickly become mainstream. If we
are to avoid a replay of that catastrophe, pressure to prevent war with Iran
will have to start now.
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