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Bush's 130,000 Hostages: Why the U.S. Probably Won't Attack Iran

Jimmy Carter presented Iran with 52 hostages. George Bush has done a lot better, sending 130,000 Americans across the ocean as guarantees of his administration's good behavior toward the Islamic Republic. Last week, Tehran reminded us of its ability to make life unpleasant for US forces in Iraq by hosting Moqtada al Sadr for a high profile visit, in the course of which he obligingly pledged that his militia, the Mahdi army, would retaliate for any American attack on Iran. His spokesman quoted him as telling his hosts "If any Islamic state, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is attacked, the Mahdi Army would fight inside and outside Iraq."
This warning should be taken seriously. The Jaish al Mahdi, al Sadr's militia, has emerged as a formidable force since its formation in 2003. Fifteen months ago, in November 2004, when it was less well trained and equipped than today, this army held off a determined assault by US Marines for three weeks in Najaf.

But Iranian interest and influence in Iran are by no means confined to the radical Shi'ite cleric and his fighters. SCIRI, the principal party in the dominant Shi'ite coalition that triumphed in the Iraqi elections, was after all originally founded and fostered in Iran. Its first leader was Ayatollah Mohammed Shahroodi, presently head of the Iranian judiciary. SCIRI's military arm, the Badr Army, fought on the Iranian side in the Iran-Iraq war, and was long regarded as the direct instrument of Iranian intelligence. Elsewhere, Iranian intelligence can look to such assets as Abu Mehdi al-Mohandis--"the engineer"--resident in Najaf with mentoring responsibilities for Sadr's militia there.

In the north, in and around the Kurdish enclave, credible sources attest that Iranian intelligence has been providing some measure of support to Sunni insurgents, including the militant Islamic Sunni group Ansar al Islam. Indeed, the dozen or so senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) commanders killed in a plane crash two weeks ago, possibly including Mohammed Sulaimani, the key Guards official involved in Iraqi affairs, were on their way to Oroumieh in north west Iran, the main base for Iranian operations in northern Iraq.

It may seem counter-intuitive for the Shi'ite Iranians to be supporting groups with a militantly anti-Shi'ite agenda, but this same regime sheltered the Afghan fundamentalist Sunni leader Gulbeddin Hekmatyar for many years, despite deep seated mutual antipathy.

Furthermore, power in Iran is diffused. Iraq is a huge prize, and control of this asset, so obligingly proffered to Iran by George Bush when he toppled Saddam Hussein, is inevitably a matter for contention among powerful factions inside the regime. Revolutionary Guards commanders may have a different agenda from that of the "Etalaat"--intelligence services, or the office of Supreme Leader Khamanei, let alone that of the elected President Amahdinejad. Among other imperatives, these various fiefdoms have financial interests at stake in Iraq. Many of the IRGC commanders, for example, are "Moawedun," meaning they are of Iranian descent but born in Iraq, who have property interests in Iraq.

Following the US invasion, the most influential voice in Iranian policy toward Iraq was that of President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who opted for limited cooperation with the occupiers. Despite alarmist rumors circulating in Baghdad that "One million Iranians had infiltrated into Iraq with fake Iraqi ID cards," most of the Iranians on view were pacific pilgrims thronging the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala. The consensus in Tehran appeared to be that Iraq should be maintained in what officials called "managed chaos;" both to keep the country weak and discourage a prolonged US occupation while avoiding the wholesale disintegration of Iraq into anarchy.

However, the defeat of Rafsanjani by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Presidential election and the steadily escalating confrontation with the US over Iran's nuclear program have changed the rules of the game. Ahmadinejad is close to some of the more radical IRGC leaders, and shows little desire to defer to American sensitivities. His outspoken defiance of the west over the nuclear issue, not to mention his remarks about Israel, have only bolstered his political position at home, while his ability to play the Iraq card should certainly give Washington pause. As a close aide to one of the leaders of SCIRI, which is generally considered less violently radical than Moqtada Sadr's group, told me recently "If America attacks Iran, then all bets are off." With such a deterrent at hand, who needs a nuclear weapon?

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Where it's headed 01.Feb.2006 14:15

g.d. dem

I have a grudge against Alexander Cockburn - because of his ignorant dissing of 9-11 and election fraud issues as "conspiracy theory". But this time, I tend to agree with Cockburn. On the other hand, it's impossible to know for sure what the crazy bastards will or won't do. That's why many of us have been inclined to emphasize the enormity of the possible nuclear disaster - and the importance of focus on the U.S. nuclear policy as it affects Iran.

KosmikK and others in







make an important point -- that the ONLY way that the U.S can possibly continue with its PNAC plans would be by way of all-out nuclear war on Iran. However, it looks like - hopefully - relatively sane heads in the Pentagon have nixed the PNAC megalomania. Not that the relatively less insane ones have suddenly come to understand the stupidity of warfare, just that their efforts to surround and undermine Iran, to soften it for an invasion, have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

Therefore, the idea now is to go to 'Plan B', which means implementing a containment policy for Iran. That implies that the US/UK coalition is even more committed to maintaining military hegemony in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan).

In December, Israel (former PM Sharon) was saying that someone - but it wouldn't just be Israel, supposedly, or even primarily Israel - would be bombing Iran's nuke facilities soon, that is, before April 1. That's the origin of the current big Iran war scare. That, and the background of the PNAC doctrine and the fact that the U.S. has been making low-intensity war on Iran for a long time now, as reported by Scott Ritter.

Today, Bush is making interesting remarks about Israel.

BUSH: "Israel is a solid ally of the United States, we will rise to Israel's defense if need be." Asked if he meant the United States would rise to Israel's defense militarily, Bush said: "You bet, we'll defend Israel."

So, what this probably means is that the U.S. has told Israel not to proceed with any air strikes and also the U.S. won't be making any strikes either. (Other than little air defense system probes by drones, etc.) In return for Israel not attacking Iran and starting World War III, Bush promises to extend the threat umbrella of U.S. all-out nuclear war to cover Israel, just as such a threat supposedly protected the "free world" from Soviet nuke attack during the Cold War. Similarly, Bush implies increasing U.S. financial and military support for Israel. Thus, as with the Cold War, the U.S. is adopting a containment policy for iran -- NOT a first-strike at this time.

In other words, in the language of diplomatic double-speak, when Bush says that the U.S. will defend Israel against Iran - when the threat was the other way around, namely that Israel and the U.S./U.K. coaliton was to attack Iran - it means that the attack on Iran has been called off, for the time being. Not because Bush has suddenly seen the error of his ways, but because the Pentagon has informed him that there is no way it can be done. Iran has already won the war, in the way that the Chinese strategist SunTzu most admires: without firing a shot.

Obviously, the reason for pulling back from a "regime change" war against Iran is that Iran already has advanced militarily to the point of being able to shut down the Persian Gulf and throw the corporate global economy into the mother of all tail-spins. As for the 130,000 hostages -- that fits in because (as Scott Ritter has said) those 130,000 troops would be needed, in a war on Iran, to seize the Iran side of the straits of Hormuz. But moving troops from Iraq to the straits of Hormuz would result in a classic revolving door disaster for the U.S., destabilizing Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

The bottom line is that the big winners in Bush's Iraq misadventure are Iran and, also, China. The "little" winners are all those making huge profits off the disaster -- the Carlyle Group and Halliburton Corp., for example.

The U.S. public, of course, is being kept in the dark about the facts of the failure of PNAC (AKA the "Bush doctrine") as exposed by Iran's defiance of the U.S., just as they have been kept in the dark about 9-11 and election vote-counting corporate fraud. The spin now will be that it's absolutely necessary to "contain" Iran, continuing the Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan blood bath. That will definitely please the Saudis and our other oil-rich "friends" in the Gulf.