Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Diplomatic Solution

Newsday: The misunderstood Islamic divide
In what is viewed here as another example of the Bush administration's flawed understanding of basic forces in the Middle East, the president in his State of the Union address Tuesday lumped together Shia and Sunni militant groups as posing the same threat to America.

"The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat," President George W. Bush said. "They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale."
ABC News: Potential New Evidence of Iran Providing Weapons to Iraqi Insurgents
Out of all the enemies the United States faces in Iraq, the most troubling ones come from Iran, and according to U.S. officials, the Pentagon will soon present evidence that Iran is providing deadly weapons to insurgents.
Washington Post: Bush OKs Countering Iranians in Iraq
President Bush has authorized U.S. forces in Iraq to take whatever actions are necessary to counter Iranian agents deemed a threat to American troops or the public at large, the White House said Friday.

"It makes sense that if somebody's trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them," Bush said. "It's an obligation we all have ... to protect our folks and achieve our goal."
New York Post: How to Fight Iran
THE American carrier the USS John Stennis and its strike group are headed to the Persian Gulf to join another carrier group in a show of force meant to make Iran rethink its nuclear program. It may be a prelude to war.

The conventional wisdom is that there are "no good options" in dealing with Iran. Most commentators see one of two scenarios, both nightmares: a large, bloody and expensive ground invasion and occupation that would cause oil to spike through the roof or a monthslong aerial bombardment of Iran's estimated 1,500 nuclear-related targets that would trigger a worldwide terrorist backlash. (Alternately, the Israelis could do it for us and set the Middle East ablaze.)

Yet there is a third option, of which our show of force with two carrier groups could be the opening move: a naval and air campaign to topple the ayatollahs without a single U.S. soldier's setting foot on Iranian soil.
Front Page: Constitutional Authority to Attack Iran
It may be too much to expect George W. Bush to be another FDR, but it is not too much to hope that our current President will emulate Harry Truman—who dropped two atomic bombs in order to end the war in the Pacific and prevent countless more American deaths, and who knew that the buck stops in the Oval Office.
Bush has denied that he intends to take military action against Iran itself. He said that it was "a presumption that's simply not accurate".

On 10th March 2003 Blair wrote that "no decision has been taken to launch military action against Iraq".

On 12th March 2003, he again wrote that "no decision has been taken to launch military action against Iraq".

On 14th March 2003, he wrote that "no decision to launch military action against Iraq has been taken".

On 18th March 2003, he asked the House of Commons to rubber stamp his decision to go to war.

The war started on 20th March.

Just to be clear, it is impossible to be sure of Bush's intentions but it seems unlikely that an attack on Iran is days away.

But it should also be borne in mind that any U.S. attack on Iran would be different to the invasion of Iraq. As a ground invasion is not an option, there wouldn't be the need for a long build up to manoeuvre troops into position. Much of the equipment and manpower needed to launch an air attack is already in place and the second American carrier group will arrive in the region in a matter of weeks. And faced with an unfriendly Congress, Bush is highly unlikely to seek Congressional approval in advance. The actual attack, if/when it comes, is likely to come out of the blue.

For all the differences, all the sign are that public opinion is being prepared for some sort of military action against Iran just as it was before the invasion of Iraq.


Davide Simonetti said...

Have you heard about "The Khuzestan Gambit" that some military planners are talking about? The idea would be to just invade Khuzestan which is the small region of Iran containing 90% of it's oil. It's also the area which Saddam Hussein tried to take in the Iran/Iraq war. Being such a small area, it is assumed that it could be taken without that many forces.George Washington's blog has a good post on this plan with some intetresting links.

Obviously Iran would fight like hell to retain Khuzestan so I don't know how feasable this plan is but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it.

CuriousHamster said...

Thanks for that link. I'd say it is a possibility but I'm not sure how likely it is.

I'm pretty sure they could carry out the initial assault. The idea that the U.S. military is tied down in Iraq is only partly true; they've really only got a shortage of infantry. They can still bring overwhelming firepower to bear on any given target so they could clear Iran's conventional forces out of Khuzestan if they wanted too.

It'd be what'd happen after that'd be the problem. The Iranians know that the Americans could crush their military and will have planned accordingly. I'd be pretty certain that there are highly trained guerrillas and explosives and weapons caches stashed all over that area.

Whether Bush goes for this probably depends on what he thinks he can achieve. If he thinks he can bring down the current government, he may try this option. If he thinks he can't topple the regime, he'd be more likely to launch airstrikes against nuclear and other targets.

I'd sort of considered the latter to be the more likely because destroying known nuclear facilities is achievable in the real world.

The former, the idea of undermining support for the regime by attacking Iran and occupying its oilfields thus generating a huge surge in patriotic sentiment, is based mostly on naive wishful thinking and makes a lot less sense.

As I've articulated that, I've realised that there's a slight flaw in my reasoning. If anyone is going to order the Khuzestan gambit, it's going to be Bush.