2009/04/10

Fascinating other side to the story

We in the progressive community have long been very, very sour on the idea of the Bush Administration following up the occupation of Iraq by invading Iran. Very shortly after the fall of Baghdad, a Bush official boasted "Anyone can go to Baghdad. Real men go to Tehran." He was expressing a view that had deep roots. Both Israel and the US have been eager to take out Iran since the 1978 Iranian Revolution that had overthrown the Shah and that put the Ayatollah Khomeini in power. In early 2006,

Nearly three years after the Iraqi invasion, the real men are still stuck in Baghdad. Yes, there has been a great deal of talk about attacking Iran: plans in place for air strikes on Iran's revolutionary guards, on its nuclear installations and other WMD sites, and even talk of a ground invasion. There have been reports of spy flights over Iran and operations by special forces inside Iran. Israel too has been goading the US to strike, and if the US shrinks from this duty, threatening to go solo.

The author details the many obstacles that have held back that invasion. A very primary reason it has never taken place is that the US Army in Iraq is essentially hostage to an Iranian counter-strike. Iran is right over the border and has had a healthy cross-border trade with Iraq for as long as both countries have existed. Iran has much more internal cohesion than Iraq and is a great deal stronger. The US Army, not wanting a draft (Which would energize the peace movement back home in any event) and being stretched to the max, would very quickly find itself in severe trouble if Iran were to launch guerrilla attacks in Iraq on US troops.

Time Magazine noted in mid-2004 that

...despite the enthusiasm of those who most aggressively championed the Iraq war for taking on Iran, the results of the Iraq war may, paradoxically, have actually strengthened the position of the Mullahs in Tehran, by making their cooperation essential to achieving U.S. objectives.

Time Magazine also took note of the Colin Powell camps' lack of enthusiasm for an invasion of Iran and their preference for a negotiated solution. Even so, as late as mid-2008, VP Cheney's daughter, undoubtedly speaking for her father as well as many other frustrated neo-cons, declared to Iran:

"[D]espite what you may be hearing from Congress, despite what you may be hearing from others in the administration who might be saying force isn't on the table... we're serious." Asked about an Israeli strike on Iran, she said: "I certainly don't think that we should do anything but support them."

Fortunately, the Obama Administration has made it quite clear that force is indeed "off the table."

Very interestingly, it now appears that the lack of enthusiasm for invading Iran was one that many other countries shared. Bush Administration official David Wurmser describes the reaction he got in European capitals when he brought up the subject of a US attack on Iran:

“Every time in this period I landed in a European capital at [U.N. Ambassador] John Bolton’s request to discuss Iran, the first thing I got was: ‘What is your end game here; are you going to use the information to pull another Iraq? Tell us where you are going with this before we tell you how much we will admit Iran is going down the path to a bomb in the U.N.’ When I failed to give them a guarantee that we will not strike Iran, they stalled on moving ahead with acknowledging or using the evidence in public which in private they accepted.” [emphasis added]

As Iran is much closer to Europe than it is to the States, it may very well be that Europe was primarily interested in self-preservation, but I find it very highly interesting that Europe prevented the US from making what could have been a very costly mistake, a mistake that could very well have ranked with the utterly disastrous Athenian attack on Syracuse of 415-413 BC.

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