Friday, August 24, 2007

Coming up next: the exciting new "Disaster!" spin-off!

Recently, Robert Baer, ex-CIA officer and now's intelligence columnist, caused a stir by writing that
[r]eports that the Bush Administration will put Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list can be read in one of two ways: it's either more bluster or, ominously, a wind-up for a strike on Iran. Officials I talk to in Washington vote for a hit on the IRGC, maybe within the next six months. And they think that as long as we have bombers and missiles in the air, we will hit Iran's nuclear facilities. An awe and shock campaign, lite, if you will.
Baer notes the claim that only a nation-state is capable of producing the deadly explosive formed projectiles, or EFPs. That would seem to be belied by the fact that two years ago intelligence officials were pointing to the existence of training materials describing how to make improvised versions of the charges, but never mind; Baer doesn't endorse the claim, he just reports it, admittedly without rebuttal or comment.

The point here is that Baer quotes an administration official as saying
"IRGC IED's are a casus belli for this Administration. There will be an attack on Iran."
Interestingly, however, McClatchy newspapers also reported on the idea of declaring the Revolutionary Guard "a foreign terrorist organization." Doing so, it noted, would mark the first time that a military unit of a national government was declared a terrorist group. It would certainly be destructive: at best inflammatory and almost certainly putting an end to any hope for US-Iran negotiations. But that report also suggested that Condoleeza Rice was behind the move and that
State Department officials and foreign diplomats see Rice's push for the declaration against the Revolutionary Guards as an effort to blunt arguments by Vice President Dick Cheney and his allies for air strikes on Iran. By making the declaration, they feel, Rice can strike out at a key Iranian institution without resorting to military action while still pushing for sanctions in the United Nations.
That is, rather than being advanced within the internal White House struggle as a basis to attack Iran, it's being pushed as a way to head off an attack by upping the ante in a way that would allow for other sanctions besides war. However,
[p]artisans of military force argue that Rice's strategy has failed to change Tehran's behavior.
So the push for war, lead by the ghoulish, bloodthirsty Veep, continues. The real danger here, and something of which I'm sure "The Big" Dick is aware, is that
"[t]he coercion ... undermines diplomacy. And once diplomacy is undermined, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
In other words, if McClatchy is right and it's an attempt by Rice to head off a direct strike, it may well do so in the short run only to make one more likely, even certain, in the longer run by creating a situation in which even those within the adminsitration who do not want to attack Iran come to feel that they must accede to it because the US couldn't not attack without losing that "credibility" in which they place so much stock. Yes, that is an astonishingly amoral position but still one likely to be adopted by "realistic" foreign policy advisers both in an out of the White House, people to who morality is a convenience, something nice to have as a frill, but not a guiding concern.

That situation of having to defend "credibility" is already being created by the Bushites:
The Bush administration has been engaging Iran in a increasingly strident war of words since the spring, when the Bush administration demanded tougher U.N. sanctions over Iran's nuclear energy program. ...

Recently, the administration has stepped up the rhetoric, accusing Iran of providing Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq with particularly deadly roadside bombs that have killed dozens of U.S. service members.
In fact, the military has now gotten very specific, according to another McClatchy report:
For the first time, the U.S. military said on Sunday that Iranian soldiers are in Iraq training insurgents to attack American forces.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a top U.S. commander who is in charge of a large swath of Iraq south of Baghdad, believes there are about 50 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps in his battlefield area, military spokeswoman Maj. Alayne Conway said.
The report also said that US military officials specifically named Muqtada al Sadr's so-called Mahdi Army (which isn't really an army, more one of the numerous militias; about every political party in Iraq has one) as the recipient of Iranian weapons.

And what's more, Baer writes that
there's a belief among neo-cons that the IRGC is the one obstacle to a democratic and friendly Iran. They believe that if we were to get rid of the IRGC, the clerics would fall, and our thirty-years war with Iran over.
They're aiding our enemies. They're supplying terrorists, in fact they are terrorists. They're gonna get The Bomb. We'll be seen as liberators. My god, they didn't even have to change the script. These are deeply warped people.

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