Provocation

I can’t be the only one who thought ‘Sarajevo’ when I first heard of the capture of British sailors by Iran. It had ‘casus belli’ written all over it. But that’s not how things have turned out … so far.

It’s hard to work out the truth about the capture and subsequent release of the sailors. It’s widely assumed in the west that they were manipulated into making their televised apologies while in captivity. Now the Iranians say their retrospective accounts of what happened in Iran have been dictated to them by their military superiors.

It’s no surprise to learn that the US offered to take military action on behalf of Britain in response to the capture – if it had been US sailors, there’d probably be an all-out war now.

That the British wanted the Americans to stay out of it and asked for GWB not to inflame things is notable. No doubt Blair realises that there is no heart in Britain for a war with Iran – as there is no heart for the war in Iraq.

Why then, within a day of the sailors’ release, does Blair make a provocative statement about Iran? Six British soldiers have been killed in Iraq in the past week. Commenting on the death rate, Blair said:

Now it is far too early to say the particular terrorist act that killed our forces was an act committed by terrorists who were backed by any elements of the Iranian regime, so I make no allegation in respect of that particular incident.

“But the general picture, as I said before, is that there are elements, at least, of the Iranian regime that are backing, financing, arming, supporting terrorism in Iraq…

Maybe this is a statement of appeasement towards the Americans, like throwing a bone to a dog. Or maybe Blair is right there with the Americans, chowing down on that Iran-war bone too?

Noam Chomsky has written about Iran in the context of the sharp disconnect between foreign policy as it is pursued by the elite in power in the USA and the wishes of the majority of the population. It’s increasingly clear – if it ever weren’t clear – that what we citizens of western democracies think and want is irrelevant to what our ‘leaders’ are doing in the middle east. It’s impossible to tell what’s gone on behind the scenes in this latest incident and it’s impossible to tell what might eventuate between the US and Iran in the coming weeks.

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Posted in Iran, Iraq, Middle East, USA, War
56 comments on “Provocation
  1. Phil says:

    Re the last para, yep, the appearance of democracy. The best appearance oil wars can buy.

  2. Pterosaur says:

    Russian Intelligence Report links may explain ?

  3. Leinad says:

    Uh, it’s Easter Saturday, Pt…

  4. Sir Henry Casingbroke says:

    Any minute now, Greenfield is going to come up with an explanation.

  5. Amanda says:

    Pterosaur, refering Alex Jones, FFS. Absolute bottom of the barrel. And then some.

  6. joe2 says:

    As a bit of an expert on matters Iranian, Noam Chomsky and ‘The Insiders’, I would suggest that many matters are coming to a head here…. 70’s fashion.

    What is this suit without tie look? This scruffy, informal look is a matter of concern when world peace is at stake.

    Provocative you would have to agree.

  7. Fiasco da Gama says:

    A bit further up in Floppy’s Great Barrel of Disinformation and Paranoia, here’s the very conservative Bill Lind, from earlier this week (before the prisoners were freed).

    Rumors have circulated in Washington for months naming April as the likely time for a U.S. strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Such rumors are common in wartime and usually prove wrong. But starting about two weeks ago, the Russians have pulled out the hundreds of people they had working on Iran’s first nuclear power plant, now nearing completion. The official Russian explanation was a “contract dispute,” but if you believe that I have a great bridge up in Brooklyn I’d love to sell you. If in fact Washington plans to hit Iran in April, it almost has to have tipped the Russians off so they could get their people out. Not doing so would have meant lots of dead Russians, killed by American bombs, with serious consequences in Europe and the U.N. as well as to American-Russian relations. The Russian pull-out, if not a direct leak from Moscow to Tehran, would have tipped off the Iranians. The question for them then would be, how to pre-empt?

    Let’s go, Joint Chiefs, seriously, you know you’ve got to submit to civilian authority, so bring it onnnnn. I wanna know how well the latest Russian/Iranian surface-to-surface anti-ship missiles work, as I’m very doubtful about them working at all, and I’d love to know how the supposedly invulnerable US Air Force does against decent anti-air defence. C’mon, War Room. Fight.

  8. philip travers says:

    All of this stuff involving the Brits. and Iran occured before Easter.And apparently that is the only shared accuracy and boundary both the Brits. And Iranians could agree on.Could it be The Iranians were reminding the Brits about Israel and Lebanon,and knew from the start of their actions,with a fair amount of certainty, the whole thing would unravel as it has to this point.Best way to stop a war,maybe to provide a timely skirmish.And by the way,how do both sides know exactly where they are? Have they both got the same standard techniques of knowing,or just an acceptance whilst in a dangerous dispute?Answer myself please!

  9. Leinad says:

    F de G: Wow, I usually have a lot of time for Bill Lind’s 4GW/Geopolitical analysis (and his non-4GW stuff is usually interesting in the other sense of the word), it’s a shame to seem him fall for this as well. To listen to the infowars/prisonplanet crowd we’ve been two weeks from nuking/bombing/invading and/or flicking wet towels at Iran for the better part of three years.

    Get a new shtick guys, you’re plumbing the depths here.

  10. Fiasco da Gama says:

    I’m not sure you’re far wrong, Leniad, in filing that bit of Lind’s futurology into the same box as his OMG-Mexican-immigrants-English-decline-disaster style of column. Certainly, it’s got the stridency and the turgidness.
    Still, you can’t tell me that suz’s comment about ‘Sarajevo’ doesn’t ring a little bit true. Not the bit about some Arch-Duke getting stiffed again, that’s fanciful—the sense of a war starting pretextually, because of the consensus amonst lots and lots and lots of people, young and old, Western and otherwise, who’re sick of the old order and want a new one, and will settle for a fresh war if that’s what delivers it. I know I’m bored with the post-1991 equilibrium. C’mon, Joint Chiefs, let’s have another roll of the dice!
    Noam Chomsky’s column reproduced by Tomgram, by the way, is contemptibly glib, and characteristically naïve. The idea of mobilising non-elites against Governments to stop a potential war gets it quite the wrong way around—wars of choice happen for our benefit and entertainment, not in spite of us.

  11. Leinad says:

    F de G: D’oh. The Sarajevo bit flew right over my head and into the stands for six – I was thinking “Huh, what does this have to do with the Bosnian war, suz?”. I plead generational conditioning.

    I’ve always been pretty sanguine about the Looming Inevitable War with Iran, largely because I don’t think the risk-vs-reward stacks up in either side’s favor, and neither is so cornered and desperate that they can’t back down and take a hit for the team if its in their longer term interests. As you pointed out upthread, the Iranians aren’t without some serious teeth conventional and not, and I daresay at least some of the US brass is quite rightly worried that if they stick their end in too far this might be the time it gets snipped off.

    As for Tomgram, (I might be slow on this but) as the years have gone on I’ve noticed those guys take a pronounced swing into Counterpunch territory. It must be some sort of futurologist’s mercury, gradually eating away at the qualificatory lining of the geopol analyst’s cortex (that or they were always like this and I only just cottoned on).

  12. TimT says:

    “But the general picture, as I said before, is that there are elements, at least, of the Iranian regime that are backing, financing, arming, supporting terrorism in Iraq…

    Maybe this is a statement of appeasement towards the Americans, like throwing a bone to a dog. Or maybe Blair is right there with the Americans, chowing down on that Iran-war bone too?

    Or maybe he said that the Iranian regime are backing, financing, arming, [and] supporting terrorism in Iraq because the Iranian regime are backing, financing, arming, [and] supporting terrorism in Iraq. Frightfully impolite of him, but probably right.

  13. Leinad says:

    And that terrorism is called the Badr Organisation and the menagerie of Shia militias that run, infiltrate, and imitate the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Police and National guard. But hey, they hate Al-Qaeda and the Baathists too, so they can’t be all bad….

  14. suz says:

    Yes Leinad, I was referring to the events in Sarajevo of July 1914.
    And three years of speculation about a possible US strike against Iran doesn’t automatically invalidate such speculation. The European arms race/balance of power/imperialist scramble which resulted in WW1 had been intensifying for over a decade before 1914 and there’d been a few almost-wars before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand led to the war to end all wars.

  15. suz says:

    the sense of a war starting pretextually, because of the consensus amonst lots and lots and lots of people, young and old, Western and otherwise, who’re sick of the old order and want a new one, and will settle for a fresh war if that’s what delivers it. I know I’m bored with the post-1991 equilibrium. C’mon, Joint Chiefs, let’s have another roll of the dice!

    WW1 certainly started pretextually but not because ‘lots and lots and lots of people’ wanted it to because they were sick of the old order. Surely then such a lot of people would have had a revolution to get rid of the old order, rather than a war. (Which is what ended up happening in Russia.)

    wars of choice happen for our benefit and entertainment, not in spite of us.

    I can’t tell if you’re trying to be pomo clever here – or not. Personally I don’t find any war entertaining.

  16. Leinad says:

    Suz: I agree, with the caveat that some of what counts as ‘speculation’ looks more like uninformed, paranoiac conspiracy-mongering from organisations and individuals who make the Boy Who Cried Wolf look like a model of cautious and sober advocacy.

  17. Katz says:

    Someone said once that the CIA predicted 7 of the last 3 revolutions. It’s for sure that the CIA missed the collapse of Soviet Communism.

    This isn’t the start of a diatribe against the CIA (who by the way are no friends of Chimpo). It is merely a warning against over-confidence in prognostications about future events, especially wars and revolutions.

    And when Russian generals sidle up to reporters, tapping the side of their own noses and saying, “Did you hear the one about Iran … ?” Well, forgive me for being a little underwhelmed.

    It’s clear Chimpo wants to pressurise Teheran. It’s less clear that anyone whom Chimpo is listening to (in contradistinction to those who are talking at him) when he sits on his desk in the Oval Office scratching under his own armpit understands the dynamics of politics in a factionalised Iran. Thus, sending more naval hardware to the Persian Gulf than was required to win the Battle of Leyte Gulf seems to Chimpo to be a Really Powerful Way of Bringing Iran to Heel.

    Trouble is, it isn’t working.

    Now what? Do these Carrier Groups simply slip away back to their home bases as if nothing happened? If they do, that’s the end of Bush’s incumbency as an effective Commander-in-Chief. All of that shiny hardware, bought for trillions of dollars borrowed from the Bank of China, and they can’t even use it on Iran, Charter Member and Satan-in-Chief in the Axis of Evil. Oh, the humiliation!

    So, these Awfully Big Carriers won’t be ordered back to home ports by Bush. Instead, they’ll pace up and down the Persian gulf like circus lions with cabin fever until, (in the best possible world) with an enormous sigh of relief, sensible adults on the Joint Chiefs of Staff watch the swinging door of the Situation Room bang Chimpo on the arse as he shambles away from the Big Red Button for the last time.

    In the meantime, the GOP, the State Department, the CIA, the Joint Chiefs will be doing all in their power to prevent Bush from doing something stupid.

    Will they prevent him? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Because, remember too that Cheney knows that his life as a Man of History is about to end. He prefers Bangs to Whimpers.

    Nothing is certain. And all this is less certain than most things because and idiot and a megalomaniac still wield some power.

  18. Ostriches unite you have nothing to lose but your blindness.

  19. suz says:

    Or maybe he said that the Iranian regime are backing, financing, arming, [and] supporting terrorism in Iraq because the Iranian regime are backing, financing, arming, [and] supporting terrorism in Iraq.

    No doubt the Iranians are doing something in Iran, because the coalition of the willing helpfully cleared the way for them – now they’re all together in the same playground.

  20. Katz says:

    Or maybe he said that the Iranian regime are backing, financing, arming, [and] supporting terrorism in Iraq because the Iranian regime are backing, financing, arming, [and] supporting terrorism in Iraq.

    Or maybe this little soundbite relies for its rhetorical effect on a definition of “terrorism” that is so broad that the word loses its meaning beyond “something done by someone we don’t like”.

    Let’s be serious here. There are terroristic elements to all military activities. But to call the Badr Organisation (the group with the closest ties to Iran) terrorist pure and simple is absurd. In some parts of Iraq they comprise what passes for civil society for the civilian population.

    And why is that? Because state terror executed by the COW has helped to destroy civil society in large parts of Iraq.

  21. Tony says:

    Dear oh dear…

  22. Fiasco da Gama says:

    I can’t tell if you’re trying to be pomo clever here – or not.

    Most certainly not, suz, I’d neither admit to pomo or cleverness. I’m as fascinated by the possibility of a Tehran touch-up as everybody else, I just don’t mollify myself with the “I just want to see the people rise up against the War” post-justification, that Chomsky so cynically calls “Democracy promotion at Home”. Democracy promotion and domestic reform doesn’t require fascination with foreign policy and potential cabinet wars, quite the opposite: in fact, preoccupation with military affairs tends to quite something else. If there’ll be a war, it’ll be like the last one in 2003, with the active interest and support of a great proportion of us. If democracy is to be promoted anywhere, it’ll be boring, process-driven, non-newsworthy and certainly not warlike at all.
    As to whether lots and lots of Europeans lusted after war in 1914, simply look to the surge in enlistment in that year. They weren’t looking for ways to bring down their Goverments; they all knew perfectly well that they were simply off to something interesting and unprecedented, purifying and right, as the poem goes, to jump as swimmers into cleanness leaping.
    The history that blames 1914 on élites and treaties is right, but it’s totally insufficient to explain the pro-war enthusiasm that dominated in the first years, and existed significantly right up until the Armistice.

    Personally I don’t find any war entertaining.

    Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, and meanwhile, you and I both will keep reading potential-war speculation.

  23. Katz says:

    Dear oh dear…

    Well, Bulldozer Tony has my nomination for the most nuanced right-wing comment for April.

  24. Oigal says:

    “It’s hard to work out the truth about the capture and subsequent release of the sailors. It’s widely assumed in the west that they were manipulated into making their televised apologies while in captivity. Now the Iranians say their retrospective accounts of what happened in Iran have been dictated to them by their military superiors.”

    Does anyone not believe the statements by the captives were a lot of forced claptrap from the start? It just being smart, tell the thugs whatever they want hear, shit I would even admit to barracking for Collingwood as everyone back home would know its crap. Say what they want, do what they want, wait for the opportunity.

  25. joe2 says:

    “Does anyone not believe the statements by the captives were a lot of forced claptrap from the start?”
    Hardly.

    What’s clear, though, is that a number of British sailors were found sniffing, close to or in, someone elses backyard. If Iranians were floating around on boats close to British or American territory, huge would be the outcry.

    But if you want “claptrap” …… American spokesmen couldn’t even hold back on a lecture about the way the 14 were treated. “Just forget rendition, abu ghraib , gitmo and take that smirk off your face while I’m talking, son”.

    Go Noam, I say, and hope that democracy will break out in the U.S.A., one day.

  26. John Greenfield says:

    Y’all must be pretty old! Quoting Noam Chomsky in 2007!!?? Please. The guy is a crank and in the words of Arthur Schlessinger jnr. “an intellectual crook.”

    I have long maintained that Chomsky is a deep-cover CIA agent. His role is to play pied-piper to the Useful Idiots of the white, western, bourgeois-left.

    It seems the CIA was very wise in its choice.

  27. Sandstone says:

    sailor,sailor you are the blessing of all this easter, please dont stoop to anything less than your worth.

  28. Rob says:

    That’s right, John. If you apply Gnome’s logic to himself, it’s plain for all to see.

    He’s a CIA pigeon cunningly designed to persuade the world that the most repressive state in the history of the universe still permits tenured academics to tell it like it is in the most repressive state in the history of the universe without the most repressive state in the history of the universe doing anything about it because he is an agent of the most repressive state in the history of the universe who is cunningly pulling the wool over the eyes of the people of the most repressive state in the history of the universe to make them think that because he his allowed to live by the most repressive state in the history of the universe that it isn’t the most repressive state in the history of the universe — which it is.

  29. Gnome says:

    Makes perfect sense to me.

  30. Katz says:

    I have long maintained that Chomsky is a deep-cover CIA agent.

    How old are you?

  31. suz says:

    Personally I don’t find any war entertaining.

    Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, and meanwhile, you and I both will keep reading potential-war speculation.

    Not for entertainment. I read it with a sense of dread. I read it – and write it – because I feel that it’s wrong to avert my eyes, no matter how strongly I wish to. I don’t want to let them get away with it and hope that keeping tabs on them can contribute in some way to stopping a war.

  32. Leinad says:

    Suz, your post reminds me of a neighbour of mine who came round my place in early 3/03 asking if I’d like to sign a petition calling on my local MP to take immediate action to stop the looming war with Iraq. I had to resignedly point out to him that there were three carriers in the Gulf, and they were beyond Anthony Albanese’s incredible willpower to move. This was after I’d taken part in the largest worldwide protest ever, along with 200,000 of my fellow Sydneysiders.

    I don’t think warblogging, be it pro or anti, has much impact on anything frankly, and Vasco’s contention that a lot of people do it for entertainment has more than a bit of truth to it: for the more serious cases it becomes their key to internet fame and source of hits. Places like globalresearch and prisonplanet and the individuals who blog/comment there rely on half-baked rumors from dodgy Russian journalists as a matter of course to sustain interest and add that thrill of excitment ( /- spacecadet glow) to their internet lives. Are there real tensions in the Gulf? Sure. Has the pressure ramped up in the last few months? Undoubtably. Is Mossad about to stage a false-flag attack by bombing the USS Eisenhower in a giant hollow teddy-bear with ‘to Mahmuddy-poos from Mummy’ written in Farsi on the side or something equally bizaare? Nah, and I wish that was as crazy as some of the scenarios I’ve heard.

    For a lot of people this is entertainment and you don’t have to be pro-war to take part.

  33. Fiasco da Gama says:

    If you say so, Susoz. I believe you—millions wouldn’t.
    Personally, I’m fascinated by the unspoken assumption made here, by Chomsky and, well, everyone really, that a greater democratisation of foreign policy would mean fewer wars of choice. The history of twentieth century People’s Wars tends to suggest the opposite: that concentration of power in State bureaucracies, ruling classes and diplomatic elites tends to produce the easiest, most corruptly-lubricated peaceful compromises. It’s when popular opinion gets control of the simple tools of violence that the stupidest, most pointless wars break out.

  34. suz says:

    It’s when popular opinion gets control of the simple tools of violence that the stupidest, most pointless wars break out.

    ‘Popular opinion’ as exemplified in that headline (which was arguably not ‘popular opinion’ anyway – The Sun was owned by Murdoch, if memory serves me well) did not start or prosecute the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government did.

  35. ‘Popular opinion’ as exemplified in that headline (which was arguably not ‘popular opinion’ anyway – The Sun was owned by Murdoch, if memory serves me well) did not start or prosecute the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government did.

    Really? I thought the Argentinians did, by, you know, invading the Falklands.

    …if it had been US sailors, there’d probably be an all-out war now.

    Yeah, just like the way the US invaded China when the crew of a surveillance plane was captured in 2001.

    That the British wanted the Americans to stay out of it and asked for GWB not to inflame things is notable.

    Or at least, the fact that that is the story the UK Government is leaking to the media, is notable. Whether it has any relation to the facts is yet to be seen.

    Why then, within a day of the sailors’ release, does Blair make a provocative statement about Iran?

    To distract attention from the ‘Iran and the UK made a deal’ stories.

    As far as Chomsky goes, his entire ideology would collapse if he was able to admit to himself that perhaps the Iran-US conflict is mostly sabre-rattling. So he’s forced to prophesise about an attack on Iran. When it doesn’t happen, like all millennial leaders, his failure of prediction will of course be forgotten.

    For mine, there will be no attack on Iran.

    No-one who wants to see one is in any position to bring the military establishment along with them. The Pentagon has been leaking to Sy Hersh about ‘madman Bush’ for over a year now.

    If you want to warblog, try understanding how the US Government and military actually work. Enemies of President Bush’s policies are now firmly back in charge in the Pentagon, and their leader is Secretary Gates. There is no way at all that any attack on Iran could be launched.

    And yes, I’m taking bets.

  36. Fiasco da Gama says:

    For mine, there will be no attack on Iran.

    Say it ain’t so, David.
    I think you overrate the resilience and depth of the house Democrats’ anti-war sentiments, and, to be honest, their anti-Bush sentiment. Chuck in a decent casus belli and they’d knuckle under more thoroughly than your average zoo gorilla.
    The P-3 flight taken over China was in no way comparable to what’s happening around Iran right now: taking on the PRC over a couple of flying spies would be unthinkable. It’d be as if the US Seventh Army had invaded East Germany to get Gary Powers and his U-2 back.

  37. Shaun says:

    David,

    The political realities are significantly different now than April 2001. I don’t see how you can use that incident as a guide to what the US may have done if Iran had kidnapped some of their military personnel.

  38. suz says:

    It’s strange to have now been labelled a “warblogger” by two of you. (And not a very good one at that, in your opinions – I feel as if I’m being told off for trying to mix it with the big boys).
    I’m a Larvatus Prodeo blogger who wrote a post on developments between Iran and Britain – developments I think should be watched closely. Where Bush and Blair go, Howard usually follows.

  39. suz says:

    ‘Popular opinion’ as exemplified in that headline did not start or prosecute the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government did.

    Really? I thought the Argentinians did, by, you know, invading the Falklands.

    Well, that’s a very old argument David, which isn’t worth rehashing here, but I was responding to a comment that was focused on the domestic mood in Britain during the Falklands War (I was living there at the time) and my point is that “popular opinion” – or the populace – were not responsible for that war in the way that Fiasco implied they were.

    That the British wanted the Americans to stay out of it and asked for GWB not to inflame things is notable.

    Or at least, the fact that that is the story the UK Government is leaking to the media, is notable. Whether it has any relation to the facts is yet to be seen.

    Indeed.

    Why then, within a day of the sailors’ release, does Blair make a provocative statement about Iran?

    To distract attention from the ‘Iran and the UK made a deal’ stories.

    Yes it has occurred to me that Blair was trying to talk tough after what could be seen as a humiliating backdown.

  40. It’s strange to have now been labelled a “warbloggerâ€?

    I haven’t labelled you a warblogger, I said ‘if you want to warblog’. If you object to the phrase, I won’t use it.

    And not a very good one at that, in your opinions – I feel as if I’m being told off for trying to mix it with the big boys

    Your feelings inaccurately misinterpret my criticism of you.

    I’m criticising your strategic understanding of the Iran/UK/US situation, which I think is a reasonable thing to do if you are going to post on that topic, and say that you think it ‘should be watched closely’.

    Chuck in a decent casus belli and they’d knuckle under more thoroughly than your average zoo gorilla.

    Which Iran will go to great lengths not to provide. Iran, like Pakistan, will get its nuclear weapons, and the USA will have no choice but to acquiesce.

    The political realities are significantly different now than April 2001. I don’t see how you can use that incident as a guide to what the US may have done if Iran had kidnapped some of their military personnel.

    Since the only example in recent times of US forces being held by another State that the US was not already involved in hostilities against was in April 2001, it’s about the only data we have to go on.

    Political and military realities at the moment are such that the USA would be less likely, not more likely, to use force in such a situation.

    To say:

    if it had been US sailors, there’d probably be an all-out war now.

    is more of a guide to suz’ sentiments about President Bush and the USA than a useful prediction about what might happen in the world. It’s just wrong.

    There is no way the USA can, or will, launch an ‘all-out war’ against Iran. There are simply not the infantry divisions to invade and occupy Iran, as should be perfectly clear after 3 years of ‘military overstretch’ stories.

    Any attempt at strategic analysis needs to start by working out exactly what forces the USA have at their disposal, instead of assuming they are some evil giant who can start wars at will anywhere in the world.

    Those Shia in Iraq who have been restraining themselves from attacking US forces would feel no need for such restraint any more, and instead of 3 000 US troops dead in 4 years, we’d be seeing Tet-Offensive like casualty rates of 3 000 a month. The same would happen if the USA launches missiles against Iran.

    It’s places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt who are producing the terrorists who launched 9-11, not Iran. The US and Iran have no real strategic clash, but that fact is being well-hidden by both Bush and Ahmedinijad as they hurl insults at each other.

  41. Fiasco da Gama says:

    I don’t see how you can separate, suz, the Conservative Party’s appreciation of a vote-winning small war from the public opinion which supported that war. Thatcher won in 1983. Murdoch’s ownership of the very successfully chauvinist Sun is neither here nor there. My point remains that you could never conceive of small wars of choice like the Falklands, like the 1992 Gulf War, like the US invasions of Grenada and Panama, or like a potential strike on Iran, without considering the mobilisation of democratic public opinion in their favour.

    And not a very good one at that

    Well I can’t speak for David or Leniad, but I look forward to a much-expanded LP /war category with your author tag on it. Personally I much prefer your keenness to look at war and peace open-mindedly than Katz’s bizarre ‘Chimpo’ schtick. You’ve lost it, pal.
    All that’s left is for you is to accept your destiny and come over to the Dark Side. 🙂

  42. Shaun says:

    David, I don’t see what relevance an incident involving China 6 years ago has to do with the current situation with Iran today. Especially given how the Bush administration has regarded Iran since 911.

    I don’t see the US launching an all out attack on Iran. But limited strikes are a possibility. Not that such strikes would improve the situation. The hawks that are calling for military action against Iran seem remarkably naive concerning the after effects of such strikes.

    I agree with you regarding what countries are producing terrorists but, apart from Afghanistan, the Bush administration has seemed barely interested in actually prosecuting the so called “war on terror.” It is more about settling old scores such as Iraq and possibly Iran.

  43. David, I don’t see what relevance an incident involving China 6 years ago has to do with the current situation with Iran today.

    Because, as I said, it’s the most recent example we have of a similar situation. And the USA did not resort to war, or even threats of war, but to diplomacy.

    Especially given how the Bush administration has regarded Iran since 911.

    You mean the way they have destroyed the dictatorship that was oppressing Iran’s Shia brothers and sisters in Iraq? The same dictatorship that invaded Iran in the ’80s? Yeah, the Iranians were hating that.

    Look beneath the declarations and the sabre-rattling, and you’ll see that Iran and the USA share strategic interests – the weakening of the Sunni regimes that hate Iran and Shiites far, far more than they hate the USA.

    the Bush administration has seemed barely interested in actually prosecuting the so called “war on terror.â€? It is more about settling old scores such as Iraq and possibly Iran.

    I don’t know where to begin!

    Iraq, while it had no direct involvement in 9-11, is the perfect example of the ‘moderate (actually Sunni-fascist) Arab regime’ that the USA had propped up for 60 years before 9-11 – that is the source of the “foreign policy blowback” of which 9-11 is the best example.

    By destroying the Sunni regime in Iraq, the USA demonstrated that it believes that popular majorities, not ‘reliable’ dictatorships, can and should rule in the Middle East.

    The USA knows perfectly well that the clerical dictatorship in Iran is on it’s last legs, and won’t do anything to give it anti-US propaganda.

    You say the USA has ‘seemed barely interested’ in prosecuting the war on terror. Well, since a successful prosecution would involve the overthrow of the Saudi and Egyptian Governments (for a start), perhaps there is just a little bit of behind-the-scenes manoeuvering as the USA pretends that it has different targets.

    Committing to a policy of overthrowing the Saudi and Egyptian Governments would turn US policy for over half a century on its head, and that involves a long political struggle inside the Administration. People will, during that struggle, tell many lies about what they want to avoid defeat. Rather than what they say, we should look at what actually happens and what is strategically sensible and possible, if we want to make sense of what is going on.

  44. Fiasco da Gama says:

    the USA did not resort to war, or even threats of war, but to diplomacy [with China]

    Well they would do that, as the PRC already have the Bomb, the intercontinental missiles to deliver it to North America, and masses of United States dollars tied up in industry and capital investments. Iran has none of the above.

    since a successful prosecution would involve the overthrow of the Saudi and Egyptian Governments (for a start), perhaps there is just a little bit of behind-the-scenes manoeuvering as the USA pretends that it has different targets.

    OK, my turn. “I don’t know where to begin”!
    David, you’re hopelessly optimistic about the United States’ wisdom in foreign policy, as love-struck as I’ve ever seen any warblog commenter. Your bizarre crush on the US’s cabinet war-frenzy reminds me of the 1930s optimism about the USSR’s foreign policy, when well-meaning folks hoped against hope that Comrade Stalin knew what he was doing.
    Next up: Glorious War for the Liberation of Kittens And Puppies!

  45. David, you’re hopelessly optimistic about the United States’ wisdom in foreign policy, as love-struck as I’ve ever seen any warblog commenter.

    Perhaps you’d like to challenge some actual arguments of mine with facts or alternative readings of the facts?

    It’s really ridiculous, and of little help to the argument, for you to call me ‘lovestruck’ when I disagree with the common caricature of the USA as some evil, shambling beast that thinks it is all-powerful and can rule the world forever. Are we about understanding strategy, or merely about hating the Devil?

    Are you really saying that the USA does not understand its own strength and interests?

    That it really believes it could possibly take successful military action against Iran?

    Do you swallow the story, put out for public consumption, that the USA really regards Iran as its biggest threat? Or do you think that members of the USA foreign policy elite may just be lying?

  46. Shaun says:

    Well, since a successful prosecution would involve the overthrow of the Saudi and Egyptian Governments (for a start), perhaps there is just a little bit of behind-the-scenes manoeuvering as the USA pretends that it has different targets.

    What evidence is there for such actions beyonds your own hopes? This idea of “behind-the-scenes manoeuvering” is just wishful thinking.

  47. Fiasco da Gama says:

    Perhaps you’d like to challenge some actual arguments of mine with facts or alternative readings of the facts?

    Not really. It’s your fantasy-football imaginings of US foreign policy that require facts, not my petty ad-hominem mocking of them.

    Are you really saying that the USA does not understand its own strength and interests?

    In the middle east? I think that ought to be clear to everyone with eyes and ears.

    That it really believes it could possibly take successful military action against Iran?

    As I’ve said before, I don’t know, but I’m keen to find out.

    Do you swallow the story, put out for public consumption, that the USA really regards Iran as its biggest threat? Or do you think that members of the USA foreign policy elite may just be lying?

    Heh. I like your style in reality-inversion, Jacko.

  48. What evidence is there for such actions beyonds your own hopes? This idea of “behind-the-scenes manoeuveringâ€? is just wishful thinking.

    A rare example of in-front-of-the-scenes manoeuvering was Secretary Rice’s speech of June 20, 2005, at the American University in Cairo:

    For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East — and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

    The Egyptian Government must fulfill the promise it has made to its people — and to the entire world — by giving its citizens the freedom to choose. Egypt’s elections, including the Parliamentary elections, must meet objective standards that define every free election.

    Today, liberty is threatened by undemocratic governments. Some believe this is a permanent fact of history. But there are others who know better. These impatient patriots can be found in Baghdad and Beirut, in Riyadh and in Ramallah, in Amman and in Tehran and right here in Cairo.

    You wouldn’t make such a speech unless you intended to destabilise people while pretending to be their ally.

    You’d also have to fight the ‘realists’ in the USA who think such a policy is madness, and against all the interests of the US ruling class. However, Secretary Rice’s faction of the ruling class realises that their class interests have changed.

    I don’t suppose anyone feels like actually saying “This is what I think is happening and will happen”? Or will there be more picking apart what I am saying, while comfortably refusing to take an actual analytical stand?

  49. Perhaps you’d like to challenge some actual arguments of mine with facts or alternative readings of the facts?

    Not really. It’s your fantasy-football imaginings of US foreign policy that require facts, not my petty ad-hominem mocking of them.

    Yep, as I thought. Willing to mock and laugh at an alternative scenario, especially one that is in the minority, but not willing to go out on a limb and say “This is what I think is happening instead”.

    Come on, make a prediction or two that can actually be checked.

  50. Leinad says:

    Yeah, that groundbreaking “C’mon Egypt, just try to be a little more democratic, yeah?” speech that set the stage for… Hosni Mubarak winning 97% of the vote in a ‘free’ election six weeks later and the total non-suspension of Emergency Law in Egypt. All without the US so much as batting an eye.

    Wow, David, colour me impressed.

  51. Katz says:

    No, DJ has a point.

    This is a prediction game, and absent the unlikely event that some Iranian fool pulls a 9/11 or a Pearl Harbour in the Persian Gulf, the coming of war against Iran will be determined by the struggle for access to and influence in the Oval Office.

    If Rumsfeld, or a Rumsfeldian figure had still been in charge of Defense, then the likelihood of war against Iran would have been greater than under the present tenure of Gates. Gates is the conduit through which Bush gets his information about military readiness. And Gates is impressed by how weak is the US military machine. Gates has taken a more nuanced approach to the problem of winding back US commitments than Clark Clifford did in the context of Nam in 1968. Nevertheless, he is doing the same thing.

    Gates understands that Bush is fixated on the “Legacy Thing”. That is, Bush refuses to be the person to declare the Iraq misadventure a failure, like LBJ did in 1968 in the context of Nam.

    Gates knows that Cheney is hot for war. So Gates must placate Bush so as not to drive him into the arms of the neocon ultras who lurk about the hems of Cheney’s skirts.

    Gates’s game takes some careful handling. That is why I was slightly more accepting of the possibility of war when I made my prediction up-thread.

  52. So, Leinad, does that mean you would regard the Mubarak regime as undemocratic?

    If so, do you think it deserves to be overthrown? Or do you think, at least, that the USA (or we) should be loudly demanding that free elections be held?

    Katz, I think that perhaps Secretary Gates could be compared better to Defense Secretary Melvin Laird than Secretary Clifford.

    Laird carried out troop withdrawals from Vietnam to the Pentagon’s timetable – NOT President Nixon’s – and was certainly not considered ‘one of us’ in the Nixon White House.

    In the same way, Secretary Gates is re-establishing the ability of the military to ignore/defy the President’s wishes. If President Bush were to decide on warlike action in Iran, I think the DoD would defy him.

    Every single committee that was given the job to draw up plans would leak like a sieve (this is already happening – it appears to be the source of Seymour Hersh’s recent articles in the New York Times).

    In a hundred underhanded ways, the Pentagon would signal to those who know the signs that they are dead against any strike on Iran at all. And there is the little matter of Congressional authorisation.

    People who can’t follow the basic point you have made – that the Pentagon opposes war with Iran (and, in my opinion, is capable of enforcing its will) – will remain incapable of analysing the current situation, and will be stuck forever with their comforting caricatures of the USA.

  53. Leinad says:

    It’s deja vu all over again…

    The point was, David, that your contention that the US gave a shite about democracy in Egypt and the wider ME was nonense. All they’ve even done to Mubarak is to send strongly-worded letters urging him to democratise, wrapped around his yearly cheque for $US 3.5 billion.

    This is because:

    1) the US (like most nations) likes democracy when it means other nations electing people who’ll do what they say

    2) in places like Egypt, Saudi, Pakistan, hell, – most of the ME, that scenario is unlikely to be the case (a fact amply shown by Iraq, where the Iraqis used their newfound freedom to vote in Islamic fundamentalists and sectarian warlords, who really don’t like it)

    Consequently, the US isn’t in much of a political position to urge or impose democracy on wonderful states like Mubarak’s Egypt and Saudi Arabia, even if such were in their interests, because no one in the region trusts them, nor will they for a generation or more. I’d love to see Mubarak’s regime kicked out and replaced by a genuine democracy, but that can’t be achieved by the US, and it certainly isn’t going to be achieved by outside force.

  54. Katz says:

    Katz, I think that perhaps Secretary Gates could be compared better to Defense Secretary Melvin Laird than Secretary Clifford.

    Laird carried out troop withdrawals from Vietnam to the Pentagon’s timetable – NOT President Nixon’s – and was certainly not considered ‘one of us’ in the Nixon White House.

    Dj, while we are mostly singing from the same hymnsheet on this one, I can’t resist a little disagreement with you on this point.

    1. There is no evidence that Gates is doing a Melvin Laird, at least from the point of view of manipulating troop numbers downwards. Moreover, Melvin Laird had no serious enemies in the US administration in regard to his handling of Vietnam. Gates is in a much more ticklish situation than Laird was.

    2. Gates parallels Clifford in that Clifford administered and manipulated the change of heart on US military policy. Laird merely accelerated a process begun by Clifford.

  55. Nabakov says:

    Ahem! *Cough*

    I believe I have a comment trapped on this thread by whatever pest control system you’re employing these days.

    Let it out please. I thought it was funny.

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