Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sam Gardiner with More on Iran

My trust of the Bush Administration is very low and yet it's important to watch closely what they react to and actually set in motion. For example, there are people who believe that if Bush sends a third carrier group to the Persian Gulf, we may see action against Iran. That has not happened yet. There are signs that Tony Blair does not want to make Iran his top priority and that he wants at least to finish the job in Afghanistan (after five long years). Bush is also showing increasing signs of responding to domestic pressure. And Bush can no longer ignore the growing discontent of Republicans with his incompetent foreign policy. But it's important to recognize that it wouldn't take much for events to spin out of control as long as the gang that can't shoot straight is still in charge of our foreign policy; Bush and his inner circle have shown enormous recklessness and incompetence in the past and, despite some mild checks on the administration's powers recently, it is still possible for Bush's Iran policy to lead to ugly developments.

Sam Gardiner of The Left Coaster has some observations on where we currently stand:
We are repeatedly told the Administration has no plans for a strike on Iran. The forces, the message and the justification are being put in place. These moves point to an attack, but it is more like a game of strategic chicken.

The USS Stennis carrier group arrived in the region on February 15th. By my count, this is the fifth time the United States has sent multiple carriers the past fifteen years. All the earlier surges ended up with strikes on Iraq.

On January 20th another new ship arrived in the Gulf, U.S. a mine counter measures ship. The UK has sent two mine counter measures ships. These ships find and destroy naval mines. The actions are clearly aimed at Iran.

(snip)

The messaging is being done. The White House has established a media working group whose mission is to create international outrage against Iran. Both in quantity and theme, we are seeing the kind of messaging campaign we say prior to the attack on Iraq.

The U.S. messaging strategy against Iran is obvious in a volume analysis. It began in a major way last summer when the Administration implemented what the Secretary of State called the “Frog Strategy.” Gradually turning up the heat on Iran. There have been two lulls since then. A six weeks lull came before the U.S. congressional elections that resulted in lower oil prices. There was then a lull when the President was considering the Iraq surge. The pressure is back.

Short ads have appeared on television stations in the Washington area. These ads say things like, “Iran sent thousands of children marching to their deaths to clear minefields, armed with only plastic keys to unlock the gates of heaven.” As in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, some group is supporting the White House effort to generate outrage.

I would like to know a great deal more about those ads and whose paying for them and whether the administration or its neocon allies approve of them; this is where Congress and the media needs to ask some hard questions. We saw similar behavior before the war with Iraq but more in the way of organized articles justifying Bush's war.

In some ways, the many scandals of the Bush Administration, most of them self-inflicted, have been weakening the authority of the president and I feel the risk of war with Iran may actually be somewhat less than it was six weeks ago. But Bush and his friends are masters of public relations manipulations and it's possible that Bush is sandbagging for the moment and distracting everyone from his true intentions. Col. Gardiner knows what he's talking about considerably more than I do and I defer to him on Iran largely because of his major concern that the Iranians may not understand Bush's foreign policy and they could easily, perhaps with some manipulation on the part of Cheney, blunder into a war against the US; here's more of what Sam Gardiner has to say:
I remember talking to an Iranian ambassador in Berlin about that imaginary table where policy options seem to be placed and taken off. He said the United States should take the regime change option off that table. That was a profound comment.

The Iranian leadership believes the worst of the United States intentions. Because of that, the current strategy is absolutely wrong. The military pressuring confirms their fears. They have no choice but to push back. The tensions will grow. The chances of a greater Middle East war by miscalculation will grow, and the Iranians are not likely to give up enrichment.

(snip)

The strategy to isolate Iran failed. It does not take much analysis to see the strategy to make the leadership feel vulnerable is gong to fail. Strategic chicken will fail. That failure would be disastrous. We need a new strategy now.

We do not need a war with Iran and $7/gallon at the gas pump (and that might be nothing more than the best case scenario if one starts to consider the effect on the economy, the possible vulnerabillity of our soldiers in Iraq and the prospect of a wider regional war with very broad borders to control). If we attack Iran, I predict nuclear proliferation will be worse afterward because we will find it very difficult to get international cooperation and we will have succeeded in providing sympathy for the Iranians throughout the world, and not just the Muslim world; the latter has apparently been the deliberate goal of some very foolish neoconservatives who refuse to recognize the growing hole they're digging. If we attack, the chance of nuclear weapons slipping unobserved out of Pakistan or Russia into the hands of the Iranians or others will be greater.

Until Bush became president, our foreign policy for sixty years was useful most of the time to Americans and useful most of the time to the world. But things have changed and with the reelection of Bush in 2004, the world can no longer be certain how much of these changes are an aberration and how much right wing policies will continue in place. Even now, new alliances around the world are beginning to form for no other purpose but to check America's power, a power that to many nations appears to be overreaching and overbearing and extremely dangerous. It's being dangerous that may be the most concern; we attacked Iraq with a very flawed case to justify the war and a very flawed plan for after major combat operations. It is correct to fear a president who makes such dangerous miscalculations.

Until a new administration, Republican or Democratic, can repair our foreign policy, it is why so many people in Washington are working to box in Bush, to limit any further damage he can do, particularly when it comes to Iran and the ongoing failure to have two wars under control. No one with a successful record in foreign policy has any faith in George W. Bush or Dick Cheney.

To be honest, a lot of what happens next depends on the Iranians and whether they're smart enough to talk to some of the better foreign policy people in Europe, Russia and China by way of lowering the tensions from their own side. I've seen some signs that such a development is already going on, but Iranians need to be careful that they don't stall until after the next American elections. A great deal can happen between now and then; and they could easily stumble into some unpleasant surprises on their own.

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