Sunday, February 04, 2007

US still 'not sure' over new Iran strategy

Kash Kheirkhah

Inspite of all the brouhahah that President Bush's new aggressive tone on Iran has created, it's quite obvious that neither he nor any other official in his administration has a clear idea how to confront Iran.

The Sunday Telegraph reports today that a rift has been growing among America's military chiefs and the country's diplomats over "confronting Iranian agents in Iraq over their role in lethal attacks on US forces."

"Angered by the mounting toll of troops killed by ever-more sophisticated devices, US commanders insisted last month that the White House give them authority to target and kill Iranian operatives in Iraq as part of the new 21,500-troop "surge" strategy ordered by Mr Bush...But the State Department, headed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and the CIA had argued against openly targeting Iranian agents, most of whom claim to be diplomats based at Teheran's network of consulates, liaison offices and cultural offices in Iraq. They contended that this approach could escalate into direct armed conflict with Iran...The military and the State Department and CIA are coming at this from very different approaches. State and the CIA believe we should respect the supposed diplomatic immunity of these Iranians. But the military has had enough and they say 'to hell with their fake diplomatic immunity'."

This past week, The Bush administration decided, twice, not to release evidence on Iran's activities in Iraq, contradicted a previous statement made by the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad who, in a briefing with reporters last week, had said that the United States will provide details on its case against Iran soon. Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser, said on Friday, "The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated, and we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts," meaning the US can't prove Iran's role in Iraq--not at least for now. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also admitted Friday that U.S. officials can't say for sure whether the Iranian government is involved in assisting the attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq. "I don't know that we know the answer to that question," Gates said. As for Iran's role in the abduction and killings of five U.S. servicemen in Karbala last month, Gates refused to say whether the US had any evidence linking Iran to the incident, "I would just tell you flatly that the investigation is still going on, and the information that I've seen is ambiguous. It's not clear yet."

Iran's role in Iraq is the world's worst-kept secret. The Iranian agants arrested in Erbil by US forces are still in custody and allegedly speaking like a canary. U.S. military leaders in Iraq have time and again said they have evidence that Iran is behind the supply network of explosives. In an interview last week with the USA Today, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said that the US forces have weapons--such as RPG-29 and Katyusha rockets-- that through serial numbers trace back to Iran."

So why do Hadly and Gates play possum here? because conceding Iran's role in Iraq in general and in specificdeadly attacks against US targets in particular--like the recent Karbala incident which is considered as a possible eye-for-an-eye act of revenge by Iran (five US soldiers in return for five Iranian agants in US custody)--would mean that the US will have to confront Iran militarily in Iraq and that, the US diplomats contend, can lead to full-blown confrontation of unknown consequences with Iran. On the other hand if the US doesn't react, Tehran could get even more emboldened, feeling it has been able to call the US bluff.

So how will the Bush administration be able to put an end to this dilemma? The answer could lie with the Iranian regime.

Memri reports that according to the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, in his just-published memoir, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy tellsabout a meeting between three European foreign ministers and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Iran'snuclear program, in New York on September 15, 2005. Douste-Blazy wrote that, after a prolonged fruitless discussion, Ahmadinejad suddenly changed the course of the discussion by telling the ministers: "Do you know why we should wish for chaos at any price? Because after the chaos, we can see the greatness of Allah."

Also earlier today, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani--falsely reputed as "moderate" former president-- said, "the Iranian nation will emerge successful from this psychological warfare too and will defend their rights," later adding "To us, martyrdom is the shortest way to come closer to Almighty God."