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Danger looms for Iran


Stefan Simanowitz argues that if Resolutions 362 and 580 are passed by Congress this week, military conflict with Iran could follow shortly


This week US Congress is set to debate two non-binding resolutions which, if passed, will greatly increase the likelihood of military action against Iran.  Resolutions 362 and 580 call on the President to "immediately and dramatically increase economical, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities." They demand "stringent inspection requirements" of all goods entering or leaving Iran and an embargo of refined petroleum products to Iran. To achieve such an embargo will require a full naval blockade. Although both resolutions explicitly exclude authorization for military action, it is clear that such a blockade could lead to skirmishs with the Iranian navy. Minor incidents like the one that occurred in the Gulf of Hormuz last January, could in turn trigger a greater military conflagration. The timing of these resolutions has increased speculation that George Bush might authorize military attacks against Iran before the end of his term in office in January or, indeed, before the November elections. Such action would undoubtedly boost to the likelihood of a McCain presidency.


Preparations for a naval blockade are well underway with US massing the largest armada of warships in the Persian Gulf since the 2003. Two aircraft carrier task forces, the Abraham Lincoln and the Peleliu, are already in the Persian Gulf and a third, the Iwo Jima, was dispatched to the Gulf on August 22. The US Theodore Roosevelt and the US Ronald Reagan are reportedly sailing to the Gulf together with French and British warships and carrier groups.


These naval maneuvers in concert with other military, political and strategic measures suggest that military action against Iran is not just a real possibility but an imminent reality. Congress recently authorised an extra $46bn in emergency military funds and most of the 28,500 US 'surge' troops have been deployed in bases and fortified checkpoints along the Iranian frontier. Iran's Revolutionary Guard has been put on the US list of "terrorist organisations" which means that Congress does not even need to be consulted prior to military intervention. 


The grounds for military action against Iran have been carefully laid with Iran standing accused of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Despite the reports from 16 intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections finding no evidence of a nuclear weaponisation programme the accusations do not abate. As with Saddam's alleged WDMs, the onus has been placed on the Iranians to prove that they are innocent of the charges levelled against them since, in the words of Dick Cheney, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."


In September 2005, the IAEA board was persuaded by the US to overrule its inspectors and declare Iran in breach of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). The following three years have seen the passing four UN Security Council resolutions against Iran. Although it is likely that Russia and China will veto any attempt at a further resolution authorising military intervention this is unlikely to hinder the US who could launch attacks "in support of" the UN resolutions as was done in 2003.


The UN Resolutions and the steady stream of accusations against Iran in the media have created an impression in the West that the international community is united against Iran, however this is not the case. In July a conference of ministers from 118 nations reaffirmed Iran's right to her nuclear enrichment programme, rejected the any calls for military action and called for all issues to be resolved within the IAEA framework.


Few are under any illusions that a war with Iran would be easy. Iran has three times the population of Iraq and a well-equipped army of over 12 million soliders. Paradoxically it is precisely Iran's strength that makes her more rather than less likely to be targeted. Iran is rapidly becoming a regional superpower and unless checked, the US and her allies fear she will seriously challenge Western influence in the region. No where is this more the case than in Iraq where the overthrow of Saddam Hussein removed one of the bulwarks to Iranian expansionism.


As the sole global superpower, neo-Conservatives in Washington believe that America must seize this moment to secure its position in the Middle East and ensure control of diminishing oil and gas reserves. They argue that it is preferable to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran sooner, whilst coalition forces are in the region, rather than later when Iran has become even stronger. Such an attack, based on the principle of 'anticipatory self defence', would once again demonstrate a total disregard for the precepts of international law and according to a recent Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report "could provoke an extremely violent backlash across the region".


US's massive air power could be used to destroy Iran's nuclear sites and much of her political-military infrastructure. This could be followed by a partial ground war and the encouragement of uprisings by separatist Kurdish and Azeri groups in the north-west. It is likely that the province of Khuzestan would be occupied by the US. This province borders Iraq and is home to 90 percent of Iran's oil. A pretext of providing a buffer against Iranian support for insurgents in Iraq could be used to justify Khuzestan's semi-permanent occupation.


The unpopularity of the Iraq invasion in America has made it very unlikely that a new incumbent, whether McCain or Obama, would want to start his presidency with a war against Iran and therefore the neo-Conservatives are determined to precipitate conflict before the end of the Bush administration.

With just weeks left until the Presidential elections and months before George Bush hands over the keys to the Oval Office, things will have to move quickly. Military forces are poised and politically the path to war has been paved. Resolutions 362 and 580 will be debated by Congress and if passed, an immediate naval blockade will be enforced. The stopping and searching of Iranian ships will inevitably result in an incident between the US navy and the Revolutionary Guard which in turn could be used as a casus belli and trigger military strikes against Iran. Before we know it we could find ourselves in the midst of another brutal, illegal war in the Middle East waged in our name.


About the author: Stefan Simanowitz is a writer and broadcaster. He is Chair of the Westminster Committee on Iran. Neither a campaigning organisation nor an official parliamentary body, the Westminster Committee on Iran aims to provide an independent analysis of the political situation and increase trust and understanding between Tehran and parliamentarians around the world.

... Payvand News - 09/14/08 ... --

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