From The Democrat’s Diary
Scott Ritter – ex of the US Marine Corps and former chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq – was unequivocal. Plans for an attack on Iran are being drawn up and acted upon ‘right now’.as we speak’. In preparation, the US is ‘already committing acts of war on a daily basis’, including reconnaissance missions and other cross-border operations, some of which are being carried out on its behalf by the terrorist group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq. All of these activities are violations of Iran’s national sovereignty.
Ritter was speaking in London last week on the subject of whether a US attack on Iran is in prospect, on the same evening that the UK Foreign Office accused Iran of being behind all the British troop deaths in Iraq this year. Alongside him were Dan Plesch, a former Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, and Fred Halliday, Professor of International Relations at LSE. Neither dissented from Ritter’s view.
According to Ritter, events will unfold in a familiar pattern. First, the deception, based around talk of the security threat posed by Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons. Second, confrontation in the field of international diplomacy. The ‘EU3’ (Britain, France, Germany) have involved themselves in negotiations with Iran on its nascent civilian nuclear capability that the US has no intention of allowing to succeed. Dan Plesch described one of the offers made to the Iranians that he had been told about by officials involved in the discussions. In return for Iran promising never to pursue any nuclear capability, civilian or military, the UK and France alone would promise not to use nuclear weapons against Iran in any conflict. Hardly a sign of serious dialogue taking place.
When the impasse reaches the UN Security Council the US will challenge the international community to act, the fraudulent case for war will of course be rejected, at which point unilateral military action will commence. This had been originally planned for June 2005 but was postponed when John Bolton’s nomination to the post of UN ambassador to the UN stumbled in Congress. Bolton is central to the diplomatic side of the strategy.
Ritter described the stages various stages the attack would move through, starting with air strikes on political and military targets. Then, four divisions of US troops will invade from Azerbaijan and head straight for Tehran. By hitting Iran hard with air strikes, then applying pressure on the regime with the presence of ground troops on the country’s borders and encircling Tehran, the aim is to create the conditions for a civilian uprising to emerge and depose the regime. To this end ‘usable nuclear weapons’ (Ritter: ‘and the thing about ‘usable nuclear weapons’ is, they’re usable’) will be retained as an option.
Given the now all but universal acceptance that the invasion of Iraq has been a disaster, and the political crises currently circling the Bush Presidency, one might have expected discussion of a US strike on Iran to be couched in ifs buts and maybes, if not for the idea to be dismissed as a thwarted neo-con ambition. But Ritter was forceful in his certainty. One audience member asked how an invasion could be militarily feasible, and where the US would find the troops to control the situation on the ground post-invasion. Ritter, again, was unequivocal. We can discuss the feasibility of a military operation for as long as we want, he said, but the fact is that it’s happening. You can test this by checking the deployment of US National Guard units internationally. You’ll find them concentrated round the Caspian Sea area, in particular Azerbaijan. There’s no shortage of troops. The US has all the troops it needs for this plan, in the shape of air crews for the bombers that will form the main focus of the attack. Yes, the idea that the Iranians will help the US overthrow the regime is ludicrous. Yes, the attack will end in yet another military disaster for the US. And yes, any use of nuclear weapons will ‘uncork the genie’ with terrible consequences. But none of this means it won’t happen because, in a White House administration run by the neo-conservatives, fantasy is reality.
Another audience member asked how accusations of WMD proliferation could be made with any credibility after Iraq. Scott Ritter said simply, ‘no problem’. Those who lied their way to war paid no serious political price for doing so. Bush has been exonerated in several inquiries on the subject. At least as far as the non-existent Iraqi WMD is concerned, they got away with it. Dan Plesch pointed out that the Reagan government had two maxims: firstly, always have a bad guy, and secondly, when in trouble change the subject. In the current political circumstances, an attack on Iran fits in very well with this way of thinking. As for political opposition, there’s little chance of the Democrats ‘defending the mullahs’ (as any opposition would be portrayed), and in the UK, probably only a Tory party under Ken Clarke would oppose an attack, and that would cause it to split.
An audience member asked about the significance of oil. Dan Plesch said that oil is precisely what gives the greater Middle East its significance in world affairs. Currently the US, Russia and China are in fierce competition over access to and control over energy reserves throughout Central Asia. Fred Halliday said that the issue at stake was about who holds power in the greater Middle East: the US (and its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia) or Iran. He noted that if the US interest in Iraq had been purely about access to oil it could have done a deal with Saddam. The concerns of hegemony and credibility were also factors. Ritter mentioned the recent US National Security Strategy, and its stated intention to dominate the globe, allowing no rival power to emerge anywhere. Control over resources is central to this.
Above all, Ritter stressed that the issue of Iran should not be seen as having to do with legitimate US/UK national security concerns. This has absolutely nothing to do with it, as was the case with Iraq. The real issue is the global ambitions of the neo-conservative Bush administration.
Fred Halliday pointed out that in Washington in 2003, the modish phrase was, ‘wimps go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran’.