"the US doctrine of preemptive strike is a recipe for chaos and perpetual war. The damage that it has done in Iraq will be dwarfed by the damage it will do if applied to Iran"
Magazine | Jan 16, 2006
The Axis Of Excess
After Iraq, the US seems eager to repeat its mistakes. It's a set pattern.
PREM SHANKAR JHA
Three years ago the US and the UK invaded Iraq on the basis of intelligence reports that turned out to be figments of an Iraqi expatriate embezzler's fantasy. Today, a similar spiral of 'intelligence' briefings to friendly governments and planned leaks to the media designed to fuel the public's apprehension has begun again. This time the target is Iran. Earlier this week, Britain's leading newspaper, The Guardian, got access to an intelligence report compiled from US, British, French, German and Belgian sources that was used to warn European governments and industrialists about the existence of a network of Iranian 'front companies, official bodies, academic institutions and middlemen' to purchase critical components and technology to enrich uranium and build long-range rockets.
The original purpose of the briefings was to ask all concerned to exercise greater vigilance over the sale of critical technology, but the significant feature of the leak is not its content but its timing. The report itself is dated July 1, 2005. The briefings took place shortly after that date and were duly noted, albeit in passing, by the media.
Why has the report been leaked now? There are only two possible explanations: to pressurise Iran to put its uranium enrichment plants on Russian soil, as proposed by France, Germany and Britain, or, to prepare the ground for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Unfortunately, certain recent developments suggest that the scales are tilting towards the second option.
One telling indication is a flurry of visits to Turkey by high-ranking US officials. In December, Ankara was visited by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the heads of the FBI and the CIA, and the secretary general of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. According to a German news agency dispatch by a writer known to have close links with Germany's intelligence agency BND, the visit of the cia director, Porter Goss, on December 12 was particularly significant. Goss, he claimed, had handed over three documents to his Turkish counterpart showing that Iran was collaborating with Al Qaeda. Goss is believed to have told the Turkish PM in an hour-long meeting that the US was considering a strike on Iran early in 2006 and wanted Turkey's assistance in mounting it. The Turks would, in exchange, get an opportunity to crush the elements of the Kurdish insurgent group, the PKK, that are based in Iran.
The US, he claimed, had begun to tilt towards the military option after the new Iranian president, Ahmedinejad, had denied Israel's right to exist. Taken in conjunction with Iran's nuclear ambitions and its possession of rockets that could reach Israel, this declaration had made it decide that preemptive action to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities might be the best of the options that remained.
Der Spiegel's story would have remained in the realm of intelligent speculation had the intelligence report of July not been leaked to The Guardian at this time. Together they form a depressingly familiar pattern: first establish that Iran is making weapons of mass destruction; then link it with the Al Qaeda, and finally plant stories in the media that will, through repetition, give these charges the gloss of truth. As happened before the attacks on Serbia and Iraq, the international media, especially the English audio-visual media, can be relied upon to not go to Iran and present its rebuttal of the accusations made against it.
Somewhere along the way, certain facts such as that Iran, even by the CIA's estimates, is at least five years away from making a nuclear bomb; that the IAEA has certified that Iran is not pursuing banned nuclear activities; that the technology Iran needs to make nuclear arms and long-range rockets is yet to be acquired, and that this can be prevented through vigilance, will be forgotten.By the time the attack takes place Ahmedinejad will have taken the place of Saddam Hussein.
The preparations to attack Iran show that the only thing the US has learned from its misadventure in Iraq is the folly of committing ground troops to further its designs. Today, the Pentagon has a new mantra: the army may be overstretched but the sword arm of US power is its air force and navy. These remain unaffected and can be used to enforce the US' writ in any part of the world the government chooses.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The real damage that the invasion of Iraq did was to turn a secular country into a hotbed of Islamic terrorism. This will be multiplied ten-fold if the US launches an aerial attack on Iran. The chain of events that such an attack will trigger is not hard to construct. Iran will respond by withdrawing its cooperation with the US in maintaining peace in Iraq, and will provoke Shia factions like the one under Moqtada al-Sadr to join the resistance. Arms, terrorists and suicide bombers will start flowing into Iraq across the Iranian border. The terrorist attacks on Baghdad, its government and its occupiers will multiply and will come from both the east and the west. If Turkey decides to attack the PKK in Iran, the Kurds in Iraq may be sufficiently enraged to withdraw cooperation from the US. Iraq will then become ungovernable and slip out of the US' grasp. If this interrupts oil supplies out of Iraq, prices will rise to unthinkable heights. This could trigger a world-wide recession.
Pressure will then mount on the Bush administration to mount more attacks on Iran. But Iran is not Iraq. In the latter, the US faced resistance from five million Sunnis. In Iran, it will face a reservoir of 70 million potential terrorists. The truth is that the US doctrine of preemptive strike is a recipe for chaos and perpetual war. The damage that it has done in Iraq will be dwarfed by the damage it will do if applied to Iran.