US President Bush has announced a plan for withdrawing a paltry 5,700 troops from Iraq by Christmas, and more next summer – “the more successful we are, the more American troops can return home", he said. But even as he spoke, it became clearer than ever that the only end game for Bush and his co-thinkers Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney is yet another war. Or as one anti-war West Coast newspaper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, put it, “kicking ass”. Bush is singing from the same hymn sheet as General Petraeus, using him as a pillar of authority. In his speech, Bush referred to the General no less than eight times.
Rice had been on NBC television earlier in the day to talk about “a generational challenge to our security brought on by extremism coming principally out of the Middle East”. She singled out Iraq’s borders with Iran as a new mission, saying the US would “resist both terrorism and Iranian aggression in Iraq”. Iraq, she said, “has some very troublesome neighbours”. US military spokesman Major-General Kevin Bergner claimed that an Iranian-made missile was used in an attack on their HQ in Baghdad on Tuesday, ratcheting up the anti-Iran propaganda.
Rice’s provocative words came only days after Nobel Prize-winning Mohammed El Baradei, head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, interrupted talks on Tuesday afternoon in protest against the lack of support he was receiving from EU states. Al Baradei is working to reach an agreement with Teheran over nuclear enrichment inspections, and had been making progress in convincing Iran’s negotiators. Whilst Europe hedged its bets, the non-aligned nations, which make up a third of the IAEA board, have been backing Iran.
It was a recent decision by Germany to withdraw from the new sanctions against Iran and its insistence on supporting the UN inspection process, which shocked the Bush administration. Hardened political and military officers at the State Department are said to have given up on diplomatic approaches to Iran - if they ever believed in them in the first place. According to the Washington Post “everyone in town”, is now discussing the costs and benefits of military action against Iran, with a “likely timeframe” of the next 8-10 months. Two options are being considered: a US blockade of Iranian imports of gas and oil; and full-scale aerial bombardment.
The Post’s report makes chilling reading: “…consideration is being given as to how long it would take to degrade Iranian air defences before American air superiority could be established and US fighter jets could then begin a systematic attack on Iran’s known nuclear targets…. A comprehensive attack plan would require at least a week of sustained bombing runs, and would at best set the Iranian nuclear programme back a couple of years.”
Rice and Cheney's attitude is echoed in Israel, which yesterday called for a toughening of sanctions against Iran, urging companies around the world to stop doing business with the Islamic republic. Last week, Israeli jets launched strikes deep into Syria, saying the UN Security Council sanctions were inadequate. Israel, which is the Middle East’s only, though undeclared, nuclear power, is determined to prevent Iran from developing its own atomic weapons. The US is now planning to host top officials from Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany on September 21 to push for a new UN resolution with punitive measures against Teheran. With rout in Iraq staring them in the face, the US industrial-military-political complex must find a new target for their operations. US leaders, followed by Britain, chose to fall out with UN weapons inspectors before, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, pretending that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Four years and 130,000 US troops later, the main weapon of mass destruction is the US army, backed by its allies. We have been here before.