Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Guardian: Are we going to war with Iran?

This is indeed a question that has recently generated a good deal of analyses and commentaries since Iran continues to defy the West over its nuclear program and US rhetoric against mullahs has begun to acquire a harsher tone. Here are the highlights of the latest opinion on the prospective falling-out between Iran and the US :

It appears that the UK and US have decided to raise the stakes in the confrontation with Iran. The two countries persuaded the IAEA board - including India - to overrule its inspectors, declare Iran in breach of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and say that Iran's activities could be examined by the UN security council.

The timing of the recent allegations about Iranian intervention in Iraq also appears to be significant. Ever since the US refused to control Iraq's borders in April 2003, Iranian backed militia have dominated the south and, with under 10,000 soldiers amongst a population of millions, the British army had little option but to go along. No fuss was made until now.

But is the war talk for real or is it just sabre rattling? The conventional wisdom is that for both military and political reasons it would be impossible for Israel and the UK/US to attack and that, in any event, after the politically damaging Iraq war, neither Tony Blair nor George Bush would be able to gather political support for another attack.

The US army and marines are heavily committed in Iraq, but soldiers could be found if the Bush administration were intent on invasion. Donald Rumsfeld has been reorganising the army to increase front-line forces by a third. More importantly, naval and air force firepower has barely been used in Iraq. Just 120 B52 and stealth bombers could target 5,000 points in Iran with satellite-guided bombs in just one mission. It is for this reason that John Pike of globalsecurity.org thinks that a US attack could come with no warning at all. US action is often portrayed as impossible, not only because of the alleged lack of firepower, but because Iranian facilities are too hard to target. In a strategic logic not lost on Washington, the conclusion then is that if you cannot guarantee to destroy all the alleged weapons, then it must be necessary to remove the regime that wants them, and regime change has been the official policy in Washington for many years.

For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year's congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president...