George Bush and the US establishment are preparing for yet another war in the Middle East. As in the build up to war with Iraq, the justification for military action against Iran is the looming threat supposedly posed by the regime’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
But according to Mohamed ElBaradei – the International Atomic Energy Agency chief whose assessment of Iraq proved correct – Iran does not have the capacity to make an atomic weapon within the next five years.
The campaign of misinformation is proceeding as though the claims about WMD and Iraq’s links to Al Qaida had never been exposed as lies.
Bush ordered the US military to “seek out and destroy” Iranian networks in Iraq. He confirmed he had authorised US troops to capture or kill Iranian agents, saying, “If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly.”
The US is carrying out its biggest naval build-up in the Gulf since the start of the Iraq war.
Bush has despatched two aircraft carrier groups that will put 50 warships as well as hundreds of warplanes in the Gulf.
US planes have been sent to countries around Iran, and Israeli bombers are practising long-range missions. The US has the ability to conduct an air offensive 24 hours a day for 30 to 40 days against Iran.
Last week, former organiser of Latin American death squads, John Negroponte, who has been nominated as deputy secretary of state, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that Iran’s “behaviour, such as supporting Shia extremists in Iraq, should not go unchallenged.
“If they feel they can continue with this kind of activity with impunity, that will be harmful to the security of Iraq and to our interests in that country.”
An article appeared in the Los Angeles Times outlining plans for more aggressive patrols by US warplanes along the Iran-Iraq border, supposedly to counter the smuggling of weapons into Iraq.
A senior Pentagon official told the newspaper, “Air power plays major roles, and one of those is as a deterrent, whether it be in border control, air sovereignty or something more kinetic.”
“Kinetic” is military speak for offensive military action.
One of the most hypocritical aspects of the current offensive is the argument, repeated by various US officials, that Iran has to be prevented from “meddling” in Iraqi affairs.
For instance David Petraeus, the new US commander of military operations in Iraq, said a top priority will be “countering the threats posed by Iranian and Syrian meddling in Iraq, and the continued mission of dismantling terrorist networks and killing or capturing those who refuse to support a unified, stable Iraq”.
The devastation wrought by the US and British occupation apparently does not constitute “meddling”.
The build up to an attack on Iran is not simply the last desperate action of a defeated animal. It is inherent in the logic of the US imperial project.
The US and Israel are determined to ignore the lessons of the wars they have waged, and lost, in Iraq and Lebanon.
With the US public rebelling against the disaster in Iraq, as shown from the recent anti-war demonstration in Washington DC, the White House can no longer “stay the course”.
There are sharp tactical divisions within the US political establishment over extending the war to Iran and the implications of such a reckless move.
But within the top echelons of the Bush administration a consensus has emerged that the only means to salvage the disaster in Iraq is to extend the war.
Some wrongly argue that it is not logical for the US to attack Iran. Yet in 2001 and 2002 there were those who said a US-British attack on Iraq did not make sense – it didn’t stop them doing it.
Attacking Iran may not be logical if you are against the perpetual war of US imperialism, but for the neocons and the imperialists in the White House it makes sense.
There is a convergence of interest between those in the US establishment who think the only solution to the problems in Iraq is to blame Iran, and those who have always wanted to attack Iran to establish US domination of the region.
As a senior US official said in London this week, “We don’t want a progressively more confident and bolder Iran. The perception that Iran is ascendant in the region, that’s what is destabilising.”
Iraq has shown there are almost no limits to the stupidity and arrogance of the Bush administration.
The question is can we mobilise enough opposition to their plans to stop them before they kill again?
As Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford university, puts it, “The neocon tide may still be flowing in Washington, but US military action against Iran is certainly not inevitable.
“A pivotal influence in shaping the key decision could well be the position of the Tony Blair government in London.
“If one of his last actions in office is to back a US confrontation with Iran, it would be an even more grievous mistake than Iraq.”