The Raw StoryVideo: Recent US actions could signal Iran conflictSun Jan 14, 2007 21:32Video: Recent US actions could signal Iran conflict, despite White House denials; GOPer's bill requires Congress OK on Iran
David Edwards and Mike Sheehan
The US-Iran-Iraq-Israeli-Syrian War
By Robert Parry
At a not-for-quotation pre-speech briefing on Jan. 10, George W. Bush and his top national security aides unnerved network anchors and other senior news executives with suggestions that a major confrontation with Iran is looming.
Commenting about the briefing on MSNBC after Bush's nationwide address, NBC's Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said "there's a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly a a major issue in the country and the world in a very acute way."
Russert and NBC anchor Brian Williams depicted this White House emphasis on Iran as the biggest surprise from the briefing as Bush stepped into the meeting to speak passionately about why he is determined to prevail in the Middle East.
"The President's inference was this: that an entire region would blow up from the inside, the core being Iraq, from the inside out," Williams said, paraphrasing Bush.
Despite the already high cost of the Iraq War, Bush also defended his decision to invade Iraq and to eliminate Saddam Hussein by arguing that otherwise "he and Iran would be in a race to acquire a nuclear bomb and if we didn't stop him, Iran would be going to Pakistan or to China and things would be much worse," Russert said.
If Russert's account is correct, there could be questions raised about whether Bush has lost touch with reality and may be slipping back into the false pre-invasion intelligence claims about Hussein threatening the United States with "a mushroom cloud."
U.S. weapons inspectors concluded in 2004 that Hussein had long ago abandoned his nuclear weapons program. Many experts agreed that continued international sanctions would have prevented its resumption for the foreseeable future.
Indeed, some observers believe Bush's invasion of Iraq has proved counterproductive by spurring Iran and other countries to speed up their development of nuclear and other unconventional weapons in hopes of keeping the United States at bay.
The countries on Bush's "axis of evil" hit list saw that Iraq's WMD disarmament and acceptance of United Nations inspections didn't stop the U.S.-led invasion.
Not only have possibly hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died as a result, but U.S. forces killed Hussein's two sons and turned the deposed dictator over to his enemies so he could hanged like a common criminal on Dec. 30.
So there can be little incentive for Iranian or North Korean leaders to follow the Iraq model of disarmament and inspections. Further, the explosion of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world has increased risks to the pro-U.S. dictatorship in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where Islamic militants with close ties to al-Qaeda are reported to be gaining strength.
While avoiding any overt criticism of Bush's comments about an imaginary Iraqi-Iranian arms race, Russert suggested that the news executives found the remarks perplexing.
"That's the way he sees the world," Russert explained. "His rationale, he believes, for going into Iraq still was one that was sound."
MSNBC's Chris Matthews then interjected, "And it could be the rationale for going into Iran at some point."
Russert paused for a few seconds before responding, "It's going to be very interesting to watch that issue and we have to cover it very, very carefully and very exhaustively."
Reasons For Alarm
In his prime-time speech, Bush injected other reasons to anticipate a wider war. He used language that suggested U.S. or allied forces might launch attacks inside Iran and Syria to "disrupt the attacks on our forces" in Iraq.
"We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria," Bush said. "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training t our enemies in Iraq."
Bush announced other steps that could be interpreted as building a military infrastructure for a regional war or at least for air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
"I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region," Bush said. "We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies."
Though most news accounts of Bush's speech focused on his decision to send about 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq on top of the 132,000 already there Bush's comments about his regional strategy could ultimately prove more significant.
Militarily, a second aircraft carrier strike force would do little to interdict arms smuggling across the Iran-Iraq border. Similarly, Patriot anti-missile batteries would be of no use in defeating lightly armed insurgent forces and militias inside Iraq.
However, both deployments would be useful to deter or defend against retaliatory missile strikes from Iran if the Israelis or the United States bomb Iran's nuclear facilities or stage military raids inside Iranian territory.
Iran has a relatively sophisticated arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles. Those short-range missiles could be fired at U.S. bases in Iraq or elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. The medium-range missiles could conceivably hit Tel Aviv.
Not only could Patriot missiles be used to knock down Iranian missiles while they're heading toward their targets, but the fearsome firepower of two aircraft carrier strike forces could deter any Iranian retaliatory strike following a U.S. or Israeli attack.
In other words, the deployments would fit with Israel or the United States bombing Iran's nuclear sites and then trying to tamp down any Iranian response.
Another danger to American interests, however, would be pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq seeking revenge against U.S. troops. If that were to happen, Bush's escalation of troop levels in Iraq would make sense as a way to protect the Green Zone and other sensitive targets.
So, Bush's actions and rhetoric over the past several weeks continue to mesh with a scenario for a wider regional war a possibility that now mainstream journalists, such as Tim Russert, are beginning to take seriously.
The Surge Purge
Other data points are aiming in that same direction.
- IRAN READY TO CLOSE THE TRAP ON AMERICA'S NAVY CLIFYLQ@aol.com, Sun Jan 14 20:55
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