Amid rising U.S.-Iran tensions Saturday, DEBKA reported "the deployment of a large number of warplanes in the Turkish base of Incirlik" in addition to other indices of escalation, viewing the actions as moves in the context of a conference Condoleezza Rice will lead in mid-week in Kuwait of Arab foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan.  --  In a piece posted Friday on Salon.com, Juan Cole said that "In escalating a confrontation with Iran, Bush is placating his friends in Sunni-dominated states."[2]  --  Yet Thursday's pre-dawn raid on an Iranian office in Iraq "alienated some of America's best friends."  --  Global Research reported a rumor circulating in the U.S. capital that "the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran."[3]  --  In the context of fire-breathing editorials in right-wing media,[4] Dr. Nader Sadeghi's conclusion that "U.S. is determined to expand the war in the region" and "expand a failed war to Iran"[5] is a plausible one.  --  On Tuesday, a former Russian Black Sea Fleet Commander told Interfax that the presence of so many U.S. nuclear submarines in Persian Gulf waters pointed to likely plans for a U.S. attack against Iran, the Kuwait News Agency reported.[6]  --  Admiral Edward Baltine "blamed Monday's collision between a U.S. submarine and a Japanese sea liner near the Strait of Hormuz on the fact that U.S. submarines needed to sail relatively higher than their usual depths to get clearer vision enabling them to zero in on likely targets."  --  Former U.S. Treasury Assistant Secretary Paul Craig Roberts wrote Thursday that "a good case can be made" that the Iraq troop surge is "an orchestrated distraction from the real war plan."[7]  --  Roberts said the U.S. carrier groups in the Persian Gulf region could be "either to provide the means for a hard hit on Iran or to serve as sitting ducks for a new Pearl Harbor that would rally Americans behind the new war."  --  In Roberts's view, circumstances will probably never be as favorable as now to what he called "the Israeli/neoconservative plan" to attack Iran.  --  He concluded:  "Now is the chance — the only chance — for Israel and the neoconservatives to achieve their goal of bringing Muslims to heel, a goal that they have been writing about and working to achieve for a decade.  This goal requires the war to be widened by whatever deceit and treachery necessary to bring the American public along.  The U.S. Congress must immediately refocus its attention from the surge to Iran, the real target of Bush administration aggression." ...

1.

DEBKAfile reports

WASHINGTON AGAIN UPS THE MILITARY STAKES AGAINST IRAN, AS U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE RICE ARRIVES IN THE MIDDLE EAST SATURDAY

DEBKA
January 13, 2007

http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=3723

For the first time, the Pentagon released the figures of U.S. and British casualties in Iraq from the extra-lethal explosive devices manufactured in Iran: 198 dead and more than 600 wounded. These devices are smuggled in through the southern marshes and along the Tigris River.

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress Friday that Iranians are now on the U.S. target list in Iraq. He spoke of an “aggressive ground campaign” against Iranian networks operating inside Iraq. The Pentagon has also referred to possible cross-border raids into Iran, but so far none has been approved. The stakes have been rising since Wednesday, Jan. 10, when the U.S. president vowed to seek out and destroy Iranian and Syrian networks disrupting U.S. operations in Iran and fomenting violence.

Attempts to disrupt these networks combine with the decision to send a second aircraft carrier, the USS John. C. Stennis, to the Persian Gulf as a warning to Iran plus a Patriot air defense missile battalion to the Middle East and the deployment of a large number of warplanes in the Turkish base of Incirlik. A U.S. military spokesman has said the two carrier strike groups will not just be showing force but actively involved in combat operations and providing air support across the region. Thursday, U.S. forces detained five suspected Iranian Revolutionary Guards members operating out of the northern Iraq town of Irbil in Kurdistan.

All these actions are raising the ante of the conference Condoleezza Rice will lead in mid-week in Kuwait of Arab foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan. She will try to build a pro-American alliance by selling the argument that an American failure in Iraq would pose an existential threat to all their nations. She launched her Middle East tour Saturday in Jerusalem, meeting Israeli defense minister Amir Peretz and foreign minister Tzipi Livni and talking to Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Sunday, on the assumption that some progress on the Israel-Palestinian front would help bolster her case.

DEBKAfile adds:  Saturday night, Pentagon sources were not holding out much hope that American military preparations would deter Iran from meddling in Iraq or reduce Iran-backed networks’ attacks on U.S. and British forces.

2.

DID THE U.S. JUST PROVOKE IRAN?
By Juan Cole

** Thursday's raid on the Iranian consulate is more evidence that President Bush is ready to escalate the conflict. **

Salon.com
January 12, 2007

http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/01/12/iran/index_np.html (subscription required)
or
http://blog.myspace.com/13340991

For months, rumors of war between the United States and Iran have been building. Many fear that President Bush is spoiling for a fight, and they've begun to interpret various developments in the region as the run-up to an attack on Tehran. A report in the British press about a possible Israeli raid on Iran's nuclear facilities quickly became linked with predictions about coordinated action with the United States. Observers on all sides, left, right, and other, convinced themselves that the appointment of Adm. William Fallon to oversee military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan meant there would soon be Tomahawk missiles, if not U.S. soldiers, crossing the border into Iran.

President Bush's speech on Wednesday night only stoked such speculation. Bush paid lip service to the Iraq Study Group report, but cast aside its advice that he negotiate with Iran and Syria. Instead, he rattled sabers at Iran with some ferocity, accusing it of arming insurgents in Iraq and threatening it with international isolation. He attempted to rally his Sunni Arab allies, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, in this effort. He said, "We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." He announced that he would position another aircraft-carrier battle group in the Persian Gulf and would deploy Patriot antimissile batteries.

Then Thursday came a U.S. raid on an Iranian consulate in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Irbil. By the end of the day, rumors of war with Iran had spread to normally cautious corners of the Internet. The Washington Note wondered aloud if Bush had issued an executive order to commence military action against Iran and Syria. Was the raid a deliberate provocation and the preface to war?

An eyewitness report briefly posted in Arabic to the Web site of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan reported that two U.S. helicopters hovered near the building for a quarter of an hour early Thursday morning, then dropped off several soldiers. They approached the consulate and used megaphones to demand that those within surrender. They then tossed stun grenades inside before attacking it and detaining five persons within, three of whom were Iranians. The U.S. soldiers confiscated computers and records from the building. According to the Associated Press, U.S. troops also hurried to the Irbil airport in hopes of detaining persons suspected of trying to flee the country.

The Iranian mission's application to the Kurdistan Regional Government to be recognized as a consulate is still in process, but it would be sophistry to argue, as the U.S. has done, that its status as a diplomatic mission is questionable. American forces did, indeed, raid an Iranian government installation. Thursday's events, however, are unlikely to be the immediate preface to wider action against Iran, since the operation appears to have been carefully targeted and limited in scope. It was also not the first action taken against Iranian targets inside Iraq. Last month, U.S. forces raided the compound of influential Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and netted Iranian intelligence officers.

But if Bush were to escalate the regional conflict and try to involve Iran, the assault on the Iranian consulate in Irbil suggests the ways in which he would justify his actions. He and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have begun speaking, without presenting any evidence, of Iranian aid to groups killing U.S. troops in Iraq -- hence the reference to "networks" in his Wednesday speech. The difficulties faced by the U.S. military occupation of Iraq itself may well be made the pretext for aggressive action against Iran.

In escalating a confrontation with Iran, Bush is placating his friends in Sunni-dominated states. On Thursday, the Saudi-backed London daily Al-Hayat ("Life") reported that Bush called Saudi King Abdullah to discuss security issues with him, and described the measures to be taken in Baghdad. Saudi officials have on several occasions expressed alarm about increasing Iranian influence over Iraq. Sunni Arab allies of the U.S. such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt have taken the lead in asking that Bush not withdraw precipitately from Iraq and not acquiesce in growing Iranian influence and power in the region. In return, the Bush administration is pressuring the kingdom to help rein in rebellious Iraqi Sunni Arabs.

Speaking in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, Saudi ambassador to Washington Prince Turki al-Faisal seemed to endorse Bush's plan, saying, Saudi Arabia "has always maintained that since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave uninvited . . . For America to pack up now and leave would be very detrimental and something that would be unacceptable to our part of the world."

The anti-Iranian passages of Bush's speech seem to have pleased Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as well. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat ("the Middle East"), a pan-Arab London daily, reported that Mubarak warned on Thursday against a deep cleavage in the region, which he said would harm the Middle East and the whole world. He accused the Iranians of seeking support in the region. He called on "all to keep their hands off Iraq," urging that the dangers of a sectarian or ethnic war be recognized. He predicted that the situation in Iraq would deteriorate after the "barbaric" way in which former dictator Saddam Hussein was executed. Iran had welcomed the execution of its old enemy.

Reviews from elsewhere were less kind. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini condemned Bush's new security plan, charging that more U.S. troops would only bring greater instability and tension to the Iraqi capital. He called instead for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as the only realistic means for solving U.S. problems in that country. He dismissed Bush's charges of Iranian and Syrian intervention in Iraqi domestic affairs as merely an attempt to find a scapegoat for its failed policies. He described Bush's decision to bring Patriot antiaircraft missiles to Iraq as a ploy to protect Israel ("the Zionist regime") under the guise of safeguarding Iraq, a Muslim country. With regard to the Iranians detained in Irbil, he demanded their immediate release. He pointed out that Iraqi officials had denied Iranian interference in their domestic affairs.

And the Iranians were not the only ones alarmed by the belligerent tone of Bush's address and the immediate follow-up with a violation of international norms in assaulting a consulate. Senators of both parties also lambasted Bush's apparent resort to a tactic similar to that of Richard Nixon in Cambodia, when he widened a failing war. At a hearing on the Hill where Secretary of State Rice was grilled, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., warned that Bush would need a new and separate congressional authorization to launch an attack on Iran. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., called Bush's plan "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam." Hagel specifically cautioned against a Cambodia-style diversion in Iran.

Within Iraq, even local critics of Iran objected to Bush's plan to put more U.S. troops in Baghdad. The Association of Muslim Scholars, a hard-line Sunni Arab clerical organization, replied that "every U.S. soldier on Iraqi soil is one too many," and beseeched the U.S. Congress to take a stand against the president's plan so as "to prevent the continuing spillage of the blood of innocents," according to German wire service DPA.

The consulate raid, meanwhile, seems to have alienated some of America's best friends. Members of the Kurdistan Regional Government maintain that the Americans did not contact them about this operation beforehand, and Kurdish leaders protested the raid. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is of Kurdish heritage, said on the Al-Arabiyah satellite television channel, "What happened . . . was very annoying because there has been an Iranian liaison office there for years and it provides services to the citizens."

The U.S. definitely failed to coordinate the raid with Kurdish security forces. When American troops went to the airport, the Kurdish peshmerga who were guarding it, alarmed at the approach of unauthorized foreign troops, came very close to firing on them. Whether or not the raid was intended to provoke Iran, it almost turned into yet another Bush gambit with unforeseen, disastrous consequences. The fallout from a big firefight between U.S. soldiers and the Kurdistan paramilitary could have been serious, since Kurds are among the few strongly pro-American populations left in Iraq.

3.

DID THE PRESIDENT DECLARE A "SECRET WAR" AGAINST SYRIA AND IRAN?
By Steve Clemons

Global Research
January 13, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Washington intelligence, military, and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

The bare outlines of that order may have appeared in President Bush's Address to the Nation last night outlining his new course on Iraq: "Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq. We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region."

Adding fuel to the speculation is that U.S. forces today raided an Iranian Consulate in Arbil, Iraq, and detained five Iranian staff members. Given that Iran showed little deference to the political sanctity of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran 29 years ago, it would be ironic for Iran to hyperventilate much about the raid.

But what is disconcerting is that some are speculating that Bush has decided to heat up military engagement with Iran and Syria -- taking possible action within their borders, not just within Iraq.

Some are suggesting that the Consulate raid may have been designed to try and prompt a military response from Iran -- to generate a casus belli for further American action.

If this is the case, the debate about adding four brigades to Iraq is pathetic. The situation will get even hotter than it now is, worsening the American position and exposing the fact that to fight Iran both within the borders of Iraq and into Iranian territory, there are not enough troops in the theatre.

Bush may really have pushed the escalation pedal more than any of us realize.

***

UPDATE: This exchange today in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee between Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden and Senator Chuck Hagel with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is full of non-denial denials and evasive answers to Biden's query about the President's ability to authorize military operations against forces within Iran and Syria:

SEN. BIDEN: Last night, the president said, and I quote, "Succeeding in Iraq requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges, and that begins with addressing Iran and Syria." He went on to say, "We will interrupt the flow of support for Iran and Syria, and we will seek out and destroy networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

Does that mean the president has plans to cross the Syrian and/or Iranian border to pursue those persons or individuals or governments providing that help?

SEC. RICE: Mr. Chairman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs was just asked this question, and I think he perhaps said it best. He talked about what we're really trying to do here which is to protect our forces and that we are doing that by seeking out these networks that we know are operating in Iraq. We are doing it through intelligence. We are then able, as we did on the 21st of December, to go after these groups where we find them. In that case, we then asked the Iraqi government to declare them persona non grata and expel them from the country because they were holding diplomatic passports.

But the -- what is really being contemplated here in terms of these networks is that we believe we can do what we need to do inside Iraq. Obviously, the president isn't going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq.

The broader point is that we do have and we have always had as a country very strong interests and allies in the Gulf Region, and we do need to work with our allies to make certain that they have the defense capacity that they need against growing Iranian military build-up, that they fell that we are going to be a presence in the Persian Gulf Region as we have been, and that we establish confidence with the states with which we have long alliances, that we will help defend their interests. And that's what the president had in mind.

SEN. BIDEN: Secretary Rice, do you believe the president has the constitutional authority to pursue across the border into Iraq (sic/Iran) or Syria, the networks in those countries?

SEC. RICE: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think I would not like to speculate on the president's constitutional authority or to try and say anything that certainly would abridge his constitutional authority, which is broad as commander in chief.

I do think that everyone will understand that -- the American people and I assume the Congress expect the president to do what is necessary to protect our forces.

SEN. BIDEN: Madame Secretary, I just want to make it clear, speaking for myself, that if the president concluded he had to invade Iran or Iraq in pursuit of these -- or Syria -- in pursuit of these networks, I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that, and he does need congressional authority to do that. I just want to set that marker.

SEN. HAGEL: I want to comment briefly on the president's speech last night, as he presented to America and the world his new strategy for Iraq, and then I want to ask you a couple of questions.

I'm going to note one of the points that the president made last night at the conclusion of his speech. When he said, quote, "We mourn the loss of every fallen American, and we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice" -- and I don't think there is a question that we all in this country agree with that -- but I would even begin with this evaluation; that we owe the military and their families a policy, a policy worthy of their sacrifices, and I don't believe, Dr. Rice, we have that policy today.

I think what the president said last night -- and I listened carefully and read through it again this morning -- is all about a broadened American involvement, escalation in Iraq and the Middle East. I do not agree with that escalation, and I would further note that when you say, as you have here this morning, that we need to address and help the Iraqis and pay attention to the fact that Iraqis are being killed, Madame Secretary, Iraqis are killing Iraqis. We are in a civil war. This is sectarian violence out of control -- Iraqi on Iraqi. Worse, it is inter-sectarian violence -- Shi'a killing Shi'a.

To ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives, to be put in the middle of a civil war is wrong.

It's, first of all, in my opinion, morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong. We will not win a war of attrition in the Middle East.

And I further note that you talk about skepticism and pessimism of the American people and some in Congress. That is not some kind of a subjective analysis, that is because, Madame Secretary, we've been there almost four years, and there's a reason for that skepticism and pessimism, and that is based on the facts on the ground, the reality of the dynamics.

And so I have been one, as you know, who have believed that the appropriate focus is not to escalate, but to try to find a broader incorporation of a framework. And it will have to be, certainly, regional, as many of us have been saying for a long time. That should not be new to anyone. But it has to be more than regional, it is going to have to be internally sponsored, and that's going to include Iran and Syria.

When you were engaging Chairman Biden on this issue, on the specific question -- will our troops go into Iran or Syria in pursuit, based on what the president said last night -- you cannot sit here today -- not because you're dishonest or you don't understand, but no one in our government can sit here today and tell Americans that we won't engage the Iranians and the Syrians cross-border.

Some of us remember 1970, Madame Secretary, and that was Cambodia, and when our government lied to the American people and said we didn't cross the border going into Cambodia. In fact we did. I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee.

So, Madame Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the president is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous. Matter of fact, I have to say, Madame Secretary, that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out. I will resist it -- (interrupted by applause.)

4.

WORDS NOT ENOUGH TO STOP IRAN, SYRIA
By Andrew C. McCarthy

** Bush Must Decisively Deal With Iraq's Neighbors **

National Review Online
January 11, 2007

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/11/opinion/main2350568.shtml

Supporters of the war on terror -- the global war against jihadists as distinguished from its isolated battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan -- were surely heartened last night by President Bush’s monitory words for Iran and Syria. The president declared with apparent boldness:

"Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

Sounds great. But there is less there than meets the ear -- maybe much less.

At a background briefing before the president's speech, administration officials, quite appropriately, refused to get into what the new strategy for dealing with Iran and Syria precisely entails. But it was fairly clear that military steps outside Iraq are highly unlikely.

An official pointedly explained that, while the violence in Iraq is being "fiercely stoked" by Iran and Syria, the mayhem would not end even if the Iranian and Syrian influence were to disappear.

True enough, but still, this is a very strange distinction to draw. Material support is, after all, material support. Under the Bush Doctrine as articulated in September 2001, it is supposed to be met with a vigorous American response because we deem rogue regimes to be just like the terrorists they abet. Patently, in the case of Iran and Syria, we have not done that. In turning away from the Bush Doctrine in this most essential of its potential applications, we have turned away from the blueprint for winning the war -- not the Battle of Baghdad but the War on Terror.

More importantly, though, this is not a zero-sum game. It is not a case in which, if the Iranian/Syrian influence were, say, 30 percent of the problem, subtracting it would leave the same 70 percent we face now.

No, even if you wish, for argument's sake, to consider the war as existing only in Iraq, dealing decisively with these terror-facilitators would have a dynamic effect on the insurgency. It could be the difference between how the United States was perceived in the first six or so shock-and-awe months after the March 2003 invasion and how American resolve was seen in the ensuing three years -- characterized by temporizing in Fallujah, negotiating with terrorists (even some affiliated with al Qaeda), and abiding the provocations of Tehran and Damascus.

Thankfully, the president has not gone for the frivolous Iraq Study Group notion of direct negotiations with these enemy nations. All signs, however, are that nuance rather than unambiguous resolve is still the note we are trying to hit.

Administration thinking is that Iran is a neighbor of Iraq and, consequently, it is unreasonable to expect Iraq to have the same relationship with Iran that we have. Geopolitically, the theory goes, they have to have a different modus vivendi.

Maybe so. But if Iran is still part of the "axis of evil" -- and, let's face it, the mullahs and Ahmadinejad have gotten only more provocative since the president famously used that phrase in January 2002 -- it is difficult to understand what accommodations we foresee. In the raging sectarian warfare, Iran promotes jihadists of both Sunni and Shiite stripe. Plainly, it sees its interest in a destabilized Iraq. For our part, we've shrunk from making regime change in Iran official American policy. So just what kind of constructive role do we really think Tehran, as presently constituted, could ever play in Iraq?

In any event, most telling was one administration official's sense that our forces in Iraq had "sure sent a signal to the Iranians" by detaining the Iranian military officials who were captured in raids in mid-December. Yet, even as the president was preparing his new strategy, even as he was readying the words of warning he uttered so forcefully last night, those Iranians were released by the Maliki government and sent back to Iran after about a week in custody.

What signal can this have sent? This one: If you're an Iranian in Iraq helping to kill American troops, the comeuppance is that we’ll hold you for a few days and then send you back home.

Actions, the old saw tells us, speak louder than words. Given our actions, and what they imply about our sentiments, it's going to take a lot more than last night’s rhetoric to make an impression on Iran and Syria.

5.

U.S. POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST TAKING A TURN FOR WORSE
By Nader Sadeghi, M.D.

** The Catastrophic Human Consequences **

Campaign Iran (CASMII)

http://www.payvand.com/news/07/jan/1148.html

The U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East in the last quarter century has resulted in untold suffering for the people of the region. These policies in one hand are extremely short-sighted for the U.S. strategic interests. On the other hand they have resulted in massive destruction of countries in the region such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Today few would argue against the established fact that the creation of Jihadist fundamentalist fighters in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation was largely formulated and supported by the United States and its allies in the region. The result over 25 years later is a failed state and Afghanistan today is not faring any better than it did before the latest U.S. and coalition invasion of that country. Yet the scope of [the] U.S. plan for the submission, to its misguided will, of the Middle East and lack of tolerance for any independent state in the Middle East is so entrenched in its foreign policy that destruction of one country and failure in one must soon follow with another failed policy. It seems that the Unites States can only see the Middle East region and the Moslem world at large through the spectacles that the late Edward Said called “Orientalism.” {These are] the same spectacle[s] that [were] invented by “Oxidant” centuries [ago] and became the core of colonialist expansion to the Middle East and the rest of the “Orient” through 18th and 19th century, latest intellectual champions of this movements having been Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington, Paul Wolfowitz, and [a] score of others with U.S. neoconservatives at their political front, bringing new cycle of violence and neocolonial wars to the Middle East.

The old colonial strategy of divide and conquer has never lost its appeal to the practitioners. Support for Iraqi government of Saddam Hussain during his invasion of Iran in 1980s to the point of arming him with chemical weapons and turning a blind eye to his use of chemical weapons against civilians in Iran (1) as well as in Iraq’s Halabja (2) shows clearly the lack of empathy for human life in this “Orientalist” view of the Middle East by the U.S. and its Western allies. All this is then sold to the mass population of the west in the name of “war on terror,” expansion of “democracy” and other words to conceal the real intent.

The massive campaign of dehumanizing the Middle East and its people in order to facilitate the support for neocolonialist wars in the region is yet another chapter in this “Orientalist” vision of the Middle East. This dehumanizing campaign is the metamorphosis and another face of “subspeciation” strategy borrowed from the social Darwinists of the 19th century (and this has nothing to do with Darwin and his biological work) and used by racists who drove the policy of segregation in the U.S. until recently ( the effects of which is still persistent in U.S. society today), the apartheid policy of South Africa until they could sustain it no more, and the regime in Israel whose “apartheid policies” are “worse than South Africa” in the words of Jimmy Carter in his recent book titled Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.

Let's look at Iraq to see a small glimpse of human tragedy the country has suffered since 1991 with first invasion of that country by U.S. and subsequent sanctions for 12 years followed by another massive attack in 2003 which still continues. A look at the infant and child mortality rates in Iraq, as reported by UNICEF (3) in the last 40 years is very telling of the story. (Figure 1)

Compared to Iran and Turkey, Iraq had the lowest child mortality rate until 1990. The reduction in child mortality in Iran and Iraq despite the 8-year Iran-Iraq War is impressive. However following the sanctions against Iraq instituted in 1991 there was almost a 2.5-fold increase in child mortality that has sustained since then.(4) The infant mortality follows the similar outcome. (Figure 2)

How many children and infants in Iraq [have] perished as a consequence of sanctions and ongoing wars seem inconsequential to the U.S. foreign policy makers. The massive human fall out of the 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S. and its allies has already put over 650,000 Iraqis to death, according to the study by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University(5). This [loss of] human life has resulted directly from the violence as well as indirectly as a result of massive destruction of the infrastructure in Iraq. This is only the beginning of the story and Iraq has yet decades to pay. The deterioration of public health with escalation of all communicable diseases, tuberculosis, diarrhea, measles, rubella, polio, maternal death, and reduced life expectancy among many other core health indicators in Iraq are just one dimension of the tragedy. Collapse of the infrastructure of the economy, education, universities, and basic human needs will make [it] ever harder for Iraqi people to have any quality of life for years to come. Americans have also paid a heavy price for these ongoing conflicts both in material and human life. Yet neoconservatives who have hold of the power in U.S. administration turn a blind eye and deaf ears to the need of its own population, 40 million of which lack any form of health access, while $500 billion has already been spent in the destruction of Iraq.

The Irony is that neoconservatives are determined to expand a failed war to Iran. Every effort for diplomacy is promptly blocked by the neoconservative agenda of the U.S. administration, including the recent Iraq Study Group report calling for engaging Iran diplomatically to help stabilize Iraq.(6) There are many more concrete steps that U.S. has actively taken to pave the way for military confrontation with Iran. The threat of nuclear attack on Iran by both U.S. and Israel in an attempt to prepare the public mind for such eventual nuclear holocaust on Iranians, accusing Iran of possession of WMD’s, repeated accusation of Iran’s intention to develop nuclear weapons despite IAEA reports showing no evidence of military diversion of Iranian nuclear activity, allocation of funds for “regime change” in Iran, covert incursions to Iranian soil, movement of U.S. warships to the Persian Gulf, calling for additional 22,000 troops in Iraq, and attacking [an] Iranian consulate within Iraqi Kurdistan and taking Iranians working there as hostage despite forceful objections of the regional Kurdish authorities are all signs that U.S. is determined to expand the war in the region.

The catastrophic consequences of a military attack on Iran and wide spread destruction of human life will devastate Iran and the entire region as well as causing unpredictable economic fallout not only for the Middle East, but through the rest of the world. This madness must be stopped. The world must stand up against the warmongers and for peace. A peaceful multilateral engagement of the Middle East and unconditional negotiations with Iran and allowing the region to speak for itself and letting go of the “Orientalist” spectacles in viewing the Middle East is the only way for U.S. to achieve peace and security in the region. The problem of the Middle East is not a sectarian divide. Rallying the Arab Sunni governments by trying to sell them a fabricated “Shia threat” posed by Iran will not work. The people on the ground across the Muslim world do not buy such propaganda anymore. It is also time for the decent citizens in the U.S. and across the Western hemisphere to stand up against the escalation of U.S. imposed doctrinal pre-emptive wars. The next war must be stopped before it starts.

NOTES

1. http://www.scwvs.org/en/about.asp?t=Introduction&sl=1&mc=2
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halabja_poison_gas_attack
3. UNICEF Child Data, http://www.childinfo.org/cmr/revis/db2.htm
4. Ascherio, A. C., R. Cote, et al., (1992). "Effect of the Gulf War on infant and child mortality in Iraq." N Engl J Med 327(13): 931-6
5. The human cost of war in Iraq, A mortality study, 2002-2006, Bloomberg School of public health, John Hopkins University, http://web.mit.edu/cis/human-cost-war-101106.pdf
6. Iraq Study Group Report http://www.usip.org/isg/iraq_study_group_report/report/1206/index.html

6.

RUSSIAN ADMIRAL PREDICTS IMPENDING U.S. STRIKE AGAINST IRAN

Kuwait News Agency
January 9, 2007

http://www.kuna.net.kw/Home/print.aspx?Language=en&DSNO=940826

MOSCOW -- Former Russian Black Sea Fleet Commander Admiral Edward Baltin said Tuesday that the presence of so many nuclear submarines in the [Persian] Gulf waters pointed to likely plans for a U.S. attack against Iran.

Baltine, who was quoted by Interfax news agency, said the presence of U.S. submarines in Gulf waters meant that Washington was contemplating a strike against Iran.

"The presence of the submarines indicates that Washington has not abandoned plans to launch a sudden attack against Iran," the admiral said.

He blamed Monday's collision between a U.S. submarine and a Japanese sea liner near the Strait of Hormuz on the fact that U.S. submarines needed to sail relatively higher than their usual depths to get clearer vision enabling them to zero in on likely targets.

The admiral recalled that, in previous conflicts, U.S. submarines had "cleaned up" the road to pave the way for an air strike through destroying enemy air defense installations.

7.

DISTRACTING CONGRESS FROM THE REAL WAR PLAN
By Paul Craig Roberts

Information Clearing House
January 11, 2007

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article16121.htm

Is the surge an orchestrated distraction from the real war plan?

A good case can be made that it is. The U.S. Congress and media are focused on President Bush’s proposal for an increase of 20,000 US troops in Iraq, while Israel and its American neoconservative allies prepare an assault on Iran.

Commentators have expressed puzzlement over President Bush’s appointment of a U.S. Navy admiral as commander in charge of the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The appointment makes sense only if the administration’s attention has shifted from the insurgencies to an attack on Iran.

The Bush administration has recently doubled its aircraft carrier forces and air power in the Persian Gulf. According to credible news reports, the Israeli air force has been making practice runs in preparation for an attack on Iran.

Recently, Israeli military and political leaders have described Israeli machinations to manipulate the American public and their representatives into supporting or joining an Israeli assault on Iran.

Two U.S. carrier task forces or strike groups will certainly congest the Persian Gulf. On January 9 a U.S. nuclear sub collided with a Japanese tanker in the Persian Gulf. Two carrier groups will have scant room for maneuver. Their purpose is either to provide the means for a hard hit on Iran or to serve as sitting ducks for a new Pearl Harbor that would rally Americans behind the new war.

Whether our ships are hit by Iran in retaliation to an attack from Israel or suffer an orchestrated attack by Israel that is blamed on the Iranians, there are certainly far more U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf than prudence demands.

Bush’s proposed surge appears to have no real military purpose. The U.S. military opposes it as militarily pointless and as damaging to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. The surge can only be accomplished by keeping troops deployed after the arrival of their replacements. Moreover, the increase in numbers that can be achieved in this way are far short of the numbers required to put down the insurgency and civil war.

The only purpose of the surge is to distract Congress while plans are implemented to widen the war.

Weapons inspectors have failed to find a nuclear weapons program in Iran. Most experts say it would be years before Iran could make a weapon even if the Iranian government is actively working on a weapons program. Since the danger, if any, is years away, why is Israel so determined to attack Iran now?

The answer might be that Israel has the chance now. The Bush administration is in its pocket. The White House is working with neoconservatives, not with the American foreign policy community represented by the Iraq Study Group. Neoconservative propagandists are in influential positions in the media. The U.S. Congress is intimidated by AIPAC. The correlation of forces are heavily in Israel’s favor.

Part of the Israeli/neoconservative plan has already been achieved with the destruction of civilian infrastructure and spread of sectarian strife in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. If Iran can be taken out with a powerful air attack that might involve nuclear weapons, Syria would be isolated and Hezbollah would be cut off from Iranian supplies.

Israel has two years remaining to use its American resources to achieve its aims in the Middle East. How influential will Israel and the neoconservatives be with the next president in the wake of a U.S. defeat in Iraq and Israeli defeat in Lebanaon? If the U.S. withdraws its troops from Iraq, as the U.S. military and foreign policy community recommend and as polls show the American public wants, the only effect of Bush’s Iraq invasion will have been to radicalize Muslims against Israel, the U.S., and U.S. puppet governments in the Middle East. Extremist elements will tout their victory over the U.S., and the pressures on Israel to accept a realistic accommodation with Palestinians will be over-powering.

Now is the chance -- the only chance -- for Israel and the neoconservatives to achieve their goal of bringing Muslims to heel, a goal that they have been writing about and working to achieve for a decade.

This goal requires the war to be widened by whatever deceit and treachery necessary to bring the American public along.

The U.S. Congress must immediately refocus its attention from the surge to Iran, the real target of Bush administration aggression.