Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Iran - 'case for war' is building

In America's sights. But is it a game of bluff [pic. The Independent 12/02/2007]

Iran is once again in the crosshairs of the US and UK coalition as Tehran continues to defy the international community’s request to halt its Uranium enrichment. In the last few days their has been a series of statements from both the United States and from the United Kingdom which many broadcasters are taking as a possible prelude to military action against the country. During a recent visit to coalition ally Australia, Dick Cheney said that “all options were on the table”. And today Tony Blair in his monthly news conference told the assembled media that “it was a big mistake” for Iran to continue Uranium enrichment.
During Dick Cheney’s Australian visit he described Iran’s role in the Middle East as being “fairly aggressive” and reiterated America’s belief that “they appear to be pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.” [BBC]

The threat to Iran went up a notch on Monday as the US military presented what some media organisations described as a ‘smoking gun’ in Iran’s perceived complicity in supplying Iraqi insurgents with weapons [BBC]. Earlier this month US defence officials in Baghdad told reporters that the Iranians were supplying sophisticated bombs capable of penetrating the armour of a US-made Abrams tank. This latest find consisted of 120mm mortar rounds, 122mm rockets and bags of C4 plastic explosives. All were of Iranian origin and were found near to a village stronghold of the Shia Mehdi Army of leading cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The speculation in the media of possible military action was heightened by a report in one journal which suggested plans were already being drawn up [BBC]. In the weekly New Yorker magazine, journalist Seymour Hersh said a special planning group was planning raids to be carried out within 24 hours of a presidential order for military action. According to the article which quoted unnamed sources, covert intelligence-gathering inside Iran had been stepped up in recent months, with special operations groups entering from Iraq to pursue Iranians suspected of working against US interests. The operations were said to be co-ordinated by Vice-President Dick Cheney and relied heavily on support from Saudi Arabia.

Iran was not the only country criticized during Dick Cheney’s Australian visit. He spoke too of China’s military build up which he said was at odds with their stated peaceful aims [BBC]. Whilst he praised the Chinese government’s efforts in securing a peace deal with North Korea, he said China's destruction of an inactive weather satellite last month, as well as its "continued fast-paced military build-up are less constructive, and are not consistent with China's stated goal of a peaceful rise". His praise for the Chinese government’s help in brokering a deal with the DPRK was punctuated with an element of cynicism. He said that China was motivated by its own interest in that "the Chinese understand that a nuclear North Korea would be a threat to their own security."

After a brief surprise visit to Pakistan where he met with Pervez Musharraf, he touched down in Afghanistan. But whilst he had met with protest in his Australian visit, in the Afghan capital he was greeted with bombs. The blast which one US military spokesman described as “a direct attack” on the Bagram air base, killed 14 people according to reports. At least one US soldier, a South Korean soldier and a contractor, whose nationality has not been released, were amongst the dead [BBC]. Mr Cheney was unhurt in the blast which also took the life of the bomber. The Taleban have said that Dick Cheney was their target. After the attack he met with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, though few details have emerged as to what they discussed [CNN].

As the case for war with Iran builds, many Iranians are feeling they are being unduly singled out, particularly with supposed support of the Shi’ite militias. Other surrounding nations have often been criticized for their part in aiding the continuing insurgency, but the case being built against Iran is worrying many Iranians, both at home and abroad. There are also voices of concern that military threats are building so readily whilst the threat from Iran has not been entirely established. The head of the UN nuclear watchdog Mr ElBaradei has said it could take Iran another six to 12 months to get 3,000 centrifuges running, and four to six years to be able to produce a bomb [BBC]. And this if indeed it wanted one, which Iran insists it doesn’t. There is still time for negotiations on the nuclear front but US trigger finger appears to be getting very itchy.

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