Iraq: Strategic Battle Between the US and Iran
The Bush administration is setting the stage for “surgical” strikes on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, writes Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. Although the Bush Administration still publicly supports a diplomatic solution to the conflict surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, behind the scenes the strategy is changing. The CIA’s Iran Desk has been expanded, the administration is trying to declare the Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization, and Bush recently stated that he had “authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”
These efforts come at a time when Bush and his team still have not been able to convince the world of the urgency of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. A nuclear weapons arsenal seems at least five years away, and there is no popular or international support for broad bombing campaigns.
The conflict with Tehran is therefore being reinterpreted through the looking glass of Iraq. The mounting violence and insurgency there are portrayed as consequences of Iran’s interference in the country, its supply of arms and training to Shiite insurgents. As Hersh describes it, the war in Iraq is being redefined as “a strategic battle between the United States and Iran.”
Targeting the Revolutionary Guards
Instead of bombing Iran’s nuclear sites, the newest scenario of attack—pushed chiefly by Dick Cheney—stipulates precisely planned strikes on the Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities. These could be carried out with sea-launched cruise missiles from the Navy ships already patrolling the Persian Gulf on a daily basis.
The Revolutionary Guards are not only seen as a cause of terror in the Middle East, but are also considered to be in charge of Iran’s nuclear program. According to this logic, a strike against the Guards would be a strike against both proliferation and terror.
Lack of intelligence—again
At first sight, evidence for Iran’s influence in Iraq is abundant. Most intelligence services agree that Iran is supporting Shiite groups in Iraq with weapons, money and training. General Petraeus’ Iraq Report describes Iran fighting a proxy war in Iraq.
Iran’s involvement takes place on a humanitarian and trade level as well, however, and Tehran has shown support not only for Shiite insurgents but also for regularly elected groups. By this measure, the line between good and evil is hard to draw. And with the black market for weapons growing steadily, it is difficult to pinpoint the source of arms with any certainty.
Critics therefore see the lack of intelligence from inside Iran and Iraq as the main obstacle to Bush and Cheney’s campaign against Iran. European governments seem wary of forwarding incomplete information to the US, as it has been misused before.
Support from Britain, skepticism from France
The international reaction to Bush’s and Cheney’s new Iran plan has been skeptical. A recent report of the International Crisis Group explains the problems in the province of Basra as those of corruption and misuse of power—not of externally imported terrorism. And the IAEA has said that the US does not seem to take seriously their reports on how little progress Iran has made in its nuclear program.
In Europe, the most positive reaction to Cheney’s plan has come from the newly elected British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The British, after all, suffered severe humiliation from Iran when their soldiers were taken hostage.
The French, however, have not warmed to the plan. They assume Iran’s involvement in Iraq is being exaggerated by American intelligence in order to cover up America’s failure in pacifying the country.
Additionally, most Iran experts warn that Tehran is already stepping up plans of retaliation. The Islamic Republic could use its proxy, Hezbollah, to bring instability to the entire region. And asymmetrical responses, i.e. terrorist attacks, could also be carried out in Latin America and Europe.
The summary above was prepared by the Atlantic Community editorial team from an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
Related Materials from the Atlantic Community
- Manjana Milkoreit and Jason J. Blackstock - No Sanctions, No Strikes: Plan C for Iran
- Tony Karon says we’re Asking the Wrong Questions on Iran
- Hans-Ulrich Klose on How To Deal With Iran
- Steven Clemons thinks the Neocons Should End Dangerous Iran Obsession
Prepared By Annette Pölking