Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Persian Gulf emirates Feb. 20–24 to launch a new diplomatic campaign to build international support for a U.S. confrontation of Iran. The trip comes after a sudden emergency White House request to Congress for $75 million in funding, in addition to $10 million already allocated, for a new propaganda campaign against Tehran. The request includes funds to create new "pro-democracy" groups within Iran, ignoring an already well-established democracy movement that opposes U.S. intervention.
Sound familiar? Brace yourself for a big, new war. Planning is under way, according to the Sunday, Feb. 12, edition of the Daily Telegraph in London. Start working now to prevent it. It can be done.
As incomprehensible as it might seem in the wake of Iraq failure, the Bush cabal has been diligently laying the groundwork for an attack on Iran, using the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a bully pulpit to portray Iran as a country intent on illegally developing nuclear weapons. The IAEA hasn't bought it, due mostly to a notable lack of evidence, but the campaign has done two things: It has enraged and emboldened Iran's hard-liner cleric leadership, and it has planted the idea of Iran as an "axis of evil" rogue state firmly in the mind of the American public.
Few expect the U.S. to launch an actual invasion. Much more likely is a strike by a combination of U.S. and Israeli forces on some 40 sites key to Iran's developing nuclear energy (and possibly weapons) program. Such a strike wouldn't be easy; the sites are scattered, often deeply buried, and well defended, and most are located in densely populated areas. There is talk of using American "bunker-busting" bombs, hundreds of which were provided recently to Israel.
Any attack on Iranian facilities would surely be answered, and probably escalated. If war escalates, there is another prize: Iran's enormous oil reserves, 90 percent of which are massed in one province along an Iraqi border already crawling with U.S. troops.
Iran is no Iraq. The Tehran regime, for all its religious oppressiveness and rhetorical belligerence, has popular support, especially in responding to U.S. aggression. The savage American-installed shah dictatorship is still remembered and despised. Iran is a much larger, more populous, and more prosperous country than Iraq. Its military is well equipped. Iran also has links with terror groups around the world that would happily target U.S. facilities.
Most important, Iran shares borders with both Iraq and Afghanistan. Just as it would be easy for American troops to cross from neighboring countries into Iran, Iranian and pro-Iranian forces could easily make U.S. soldiers' lives hell in the already-tenuous countries.
What Bush is playing with—practically unnoticed by the American public—is a conflagration that could involve Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and the entire Middle East, and perhaps beyond. It has the potential to dwarf the body count thus far in Afghanistan and Iraq, inspire new generations of terrorism and anti-American jihadism, severely damage our economy, and decimate an American military already stretched thin and reeling in Iraq.
Why not use diplomacy, as Bush successfully did with Libya, a terror-state dictatorship with an established nuclear program? Why risk it? With dreams of remaking the Middle East, it just might be too much of a honey pot for Bush's hawkish neocons to resist.
Unfortunately, such an imbroglio is not only by definition militarily unwinnable, it is likely to be disastrous. How can such an outcome be prevented? The U.S. is now so badly in debt to countries like China, Japan, and South Korea that any massive new military expenditure would require the Asian countries to be writing the checks, and they're not about to do so for a war that threatens their own strategic interests. Bush might well find the limits of a global empire defined by other people's money.
But that scenario relies on stopping hostilities from expanding, after the initial military strike and retribution. To prevent them entirely requires domestic popular opposition. For a country already palpably tired of the Iraq war and wanting troop reductions (if not total withdrawal), a military incursion leading to a broader regional conflict would be pure madness. The only way it can play out politically for Bush is if it unfolds in stages.
If a "justifiable" U.S. attack on "nuclear weapons" facilities leads to Iranian retaliation (to which we, in turn, must respond), such a war would float. If the probability of a broader and disastrous war becomes an issue ahead of time, the question then becomes the advisability—or foolishness—of the original raid. And especially in an election year, such public perceptions might derail the whole thing.
The Bush administration's hostility to negotiation and the possibility of its attack on Iran, and the likely result, must be widely publicized. Now. Before it's too late and we're stuck with another deadly disaster America will regret for generations.