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Monday, April 07, 2008


action against iran closer?

faced with the humbling of iraqi/american authority in iraq at the hands of moktada al-sadr, the bush administration may be intending to use events to expand their imperial misadventures to iran.

"Petraeus is going to go very hard on Iran as the source of attacks on the American effort in Iraq," a British official said. "Iran is waging a war in Iraq. The idea that America can't fight a war on two fronts is wrong, there can be airstrikes and other moves," he said.

"Petraeus has put emphasis on America having to fight the battle on behalf of Iraq. In his report he can frame it in terms of our soldiers killed and diplomats dead in attacks on the Green Zone."

perhaps this is just so much posturing, the use of rhetoric to try to influence iranian behavior. but i'm inclined to think that the still-prideful administration and their handpicked generals are in over their heads and continue to refuse to understand either the limitations of american power or the same of iranian power.

iran is not a monolithic block. it is probable that the united states has both potential allies and potential enemies inside iran as they do in iraq, and that only some few are involved in the regional arms trade that sees iranian weapons show up across borders. it is also probable that, rather like the drug trade into the united states, there's little the iranian government could do about it even if it were deeply motivated. as juan cole notes, the mahdi army is not a destitute organization. i wouldn't be at all surprised if (unmentioned in the news, of course) american soldiers are finding not only iranian- but american-made weapons being fired at them, weapons which transited the black market either overseas or within iraq itself.

this may be clear to many on the american side as well. the administration in an election year, however, would find utility in a scapegoat to blame for its failings in iraq -- and this then amounts to another classic example of empires having their foreign policy driven by domestic politics.

strategically, the united states is left having upset the balance of power in the mideast by overturning the iraqi applecart, handing iran a regionally dominant position by empowering iraqi shi'ites, some sympathetic to iran. contrived efforts to now rebalance the situation by weakening iran are not going to be materially aided by a few airstrikes. it would take the construction of a durable american client state in iraq. this is no small undertaking, and it isn't kind generally to shia empowerment -- there's a reason some select sunnis have so consistently been installed by europeans atop the power structures of states carved from the former ottoman empire along the persian borderlands. this dissonance of american goals -- the utopian desire for decentralization and democratization on the one hand, the realistic need of a client state to preserve regional order in favor of america on the other -- is likely to be expressed in frustrated fits, the physcial manifestation of which is an airstrike, in lieu of anything like a real solution.

one should be wary, then, as ever. paranoid proclamations like this are flowing from the mouths of the more bloodyminded israeli politicians, and some questionably-sourced reports foresee a joint american-israeli action regionwide. while i imagine that to be too brash a move for all but the most evangelical neoconservatives, there's no doubting that the elevated propaganda in both israel and the united states is intended to evoke popular fear and hatred of iran -- a necessary preliminary condition of any military move.

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at the most crass and cynical level, a move against iran could also be seen as a way of bolstering mccain's election chances in this way: the argument that, in the midst of a 'hot' war (iran), who would you rather have at the helm, a seasoned vet or a neophyte? as far-fetched and disgusting as this sounds, you must remember the type of folks in positions of power in this administration.
on the other hand, i can't see pro-iranian elements within iraq sitting idly by while the u.s. or u.s./israel mounts attacks on iran. i doubt these sects could be bought off with greenbacks. so, it would appear to be about the worst possible move to act against iran in the near future.
perhaps a useful barometer would be to lexis/nexis fox news transcripts month by month and see if they are ratcheting up the propaganda like they did a year before the iraq invasion.

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