Sunday, February 12, 2006

Death to Eurasia Eastasia

If you ever wandered what the perfect example of the controlled leak looks like, look no further.
Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" to block Teheran's efforts to develop an atomic bomb. Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
How did the Telegraph learn of these undoubtedly top secret plans?
"This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment," said a senior Pentagon adviser. "This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months."
The anonymous senior official strikes again and this really is a classic. Be in no doubt that the US administration are the ones behind the leaking of this information.

It all has a horribly familiar feel to it. The fancy graphic with the scary missiles and the even scarier map showing the range of those missiles is top notch scaremongery. It puts "chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes" to shame. It's hard to avoid the impression that this may be the start of the big push to prepare US, and possibly UK, public opinion for military action against Iran. It's deeply worrying.

The Telegraph, to be fair, do mention that it will be two years before the Iranians are "close to acquiring the knowledge to make an atomic bomb, although the construction will take longer". What they don't do is mention the elephant in the room.

Any US led military attack on Iran would cause chaos in Iraq. Moqtada al-Sadr, on a recent trip to Iran, pledged to defend Iran if it was attacked. Al-Sadr controls a large, disciplined militia which is the de facto security force in parts of Southern Iraq and also in areas of Baghdad. The SCIRI and their Badr militia have close ties to the Iranian regime and are also likely to react in a hostile fashion.

At the moment most of the attacks on coalition troops are conducted by Sunni groups and the US military has up till now been relying on the Shiite militias to help control the insurgency. The Badr militia has inflitrated the interior ministry and many of their number have now been trained and equipped by the US military as a result. If the Badr and al-Sadr militias, and possibly other Shiite groups, turn against the coalition troops, things would become very dangerous indeed. We would be fighting against militias controlled by factions of the Iraqi government. The only realistic option is likely to be withdrawal while trying to avoid sustaining too many more casualties.

It could be argued that this may be a price worth paying to stop Iran from aquiring nuclear weapons. That argument may or not be valid but it overlooks one vital question: what are we doing in Iraq at all? Is it some sort of sick joke? They told us they needed to send our troops to Iraq to disarm Saddam of WMD and make the world a safer place. Tens of thousands of people have died. And for what? To empower Shiite Islamists in Iraq? (The UIA have today decided that Ibrahim Jaafari will remain as Prime Minister.) To turn the Iraqi government into an ally of the Iranian hardliners? If it's a joke, there's not much funny about it.

The "war" on terror, much as I hate the ridiculous phrase (and the strategies employed), is a central pillar of US and UK government policy. So it should be; of course goverments should take suitable steps to combat extremist terrorist violence. Iraq in 2003 was not part of that problem. It is today, as Bush and Blair never fail to point out. What they fail to mention is that this is the case because of their decision to launch a war against a regime which had no connection to the terrorist attacks of September 11th and which posed no threat to the national security of our countries.

Moral considerations aside, indulging in the diversion of this aggressive war of choice at a time when the "war" on terror was underway was tactically idiotic. It has provoked a new wave of extremism and weakened our ability to confront it. (Yet another reason why all MPs should sign EDM 1088.) I say again, the people responsible for that fiasco must not be allowed to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue. It is a recipe for another disaster.

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