Countdown for Iran: When Commonsense is Nonsense

Ramzy Baroud

Posted Feb 9, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Countdown for Iran: When Commonsense is Nonsense

By Ramzy Baroud

The relationship between Iran and the United States is one of peculiar
temperament: intense but accommodating at times, barefaced and seemingly
self-destructive at others.

Currently, the latter estimation rings truer: the US naval military build up
in the east Mediterranean and the Gulf, conjoined with an intense and
sinister propaganda campaign that is being drummed up at home, among other
signals, are all pointing to one ill-fated conclusion: the Bush
administration, entranced in its foolishness, has decided to discard, and in
its entirety, the Baker-Hamilton recommendations; instead of engaging Iran
politically, the US is opting to engage it militarily.

Is it possible that the increasingly prevailing analyses are true, as
fluently communicated in a recent commentary by Australian journalist John
Pilger, that the Bush administration is gearing up for an attack against
Iran as a way of “buying time for its disaster in Iraq”?

Pilger suggests another motivating factor for Bush’s new possible war: “As
the American disaster in Iraq deepens and domestic and foreign opposition
grows, neocon fanatics such as Vice-President Cheney believe their
opportunity to control Iran’s oil will pass unless they act no later than
the spring.”

But how can attacking Iran buy the ‘Bushites’ time, if they, more than any
one of us know the deeply entrenched Iranian presence and influence in Iraq,
often directly over prominent elements of the pro-American Shia government:
one of whom is the indestructible Abdel Aziz Al Hakim?

“Al Hakim spent 20 years in Iran prior to the fall of Saddam and is clearly
allied to the Mullahs,” writers US commentator Mike Whitney. “His militia,
the Badr Brigade, was trained by the Iranian Republican Guards (as well as
the CIA) and is perhaps the most feared death squad in all of Iraq. Al
Hakim’s militia operates out of the Iraqi interior ministry and is deeply
engaged in the purging of Sunnis from Baghdad.”

Isn’t it rational to envisage that an attack on Iran would upset the cozy
relations that the Americans have cultivated with al-Hakim and such
disreputable characters, thus lead to further destabilisation of Iraq, to
more of the same unmitigated violence, where well over 3,000 US soldiers,
nearly 1,000 contractors have met their doom, not counting the 45 thousand
who were evacuated due to injuries and other medical emergencies, as
indicated by

US sources claim that innumerable Iraqis receive their salaries from Tehran
(that is aside from the alleged 40,000 Iranian agents in Iraq, which the US
media ceaselessly talks about), an indication of Iran’s incessant efforts to
obtain the loyalty of many of Iraq’s Shia, and to dig into such valuable
human reserves whenever needed, such as in the case of a war with the United

Considering Iran’s “natural affinity with the Shia majority of Iraq”, as
accurately depicted by Pilger, by provoking a military showdown with Iran,
the US is condemned to broaden its military confrontation in Iraq, which
would then include Shia as well as Sunni, in a most imprudent barter to
achieve an impossible military mission in Iran. Since airpower and commando
style ‘surgical’ operations inside Iranian territories—that would most
likely involve some Israeli special army units—are all that the US can
conjure up at the moment, for ground troops are no longer a palpable option
(half of the recently announced US military surge of 21,000 troops in Iraq
will constitute from the same soldiers who are already serving in the
country, simply by prolonging their tours and cancelling some vacations) one
can safely conclude that any US military adventure in Iran will bring an
indecisive outcome, at best, if not a wholesale disaster, a most likely

How about the other suggestion, that neocon fanatics believe their
opportunity to control Iran’s oil will pass unless they act no later than
the spring?

This suggestion would also seem doubtful, for the neocon’s war architects
are still scrambling to avoid the blame of the Iraq fiasco and are at odds
with Bush himself and his war generals, using their wide sway over US
mainstream media to blame the president for all the ills that have befallen
the country—ills that were born mostly from their own ominous war
stratagems and their unwarranted commitment to Israel’s security at the
expense of their country’s own. How can such a group of intellectuals still
effectively hold sufficient clout to lead the US into another ill-advised
war? Moreover, how can Cheney and his discredited ilk even contemplate the
seizure of Iran’s oil if Iraq’s oil industry is still in shambles and has
proven ineffective to settle the heavy bill of war, which is moving its way
toward the half trillion dollar mark?

Considering these difficult questions, one must assume that any attack on
Iraq is both irrational from a military viewpoint and self-defeating from a
political one. However, the quandary with any political analysis of this
subject that consults reason or even Machiavellian realpolitik is that it
fails to consider history, and in this case, recent history which taught us
that the Bush administration functions in a vacuum, separate from
commonsense or any other kind of sense. It was around this time, some four
years ago, that many hoped that the American military buildup in the Gulf
region was aimed at strengthening the US political position against Iraq, to
simply convey to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that the US ‘means
business’. It was clear from the outset to any even-headed observer that a
war against Iraq would destabilise the region and harm the United States’
overall interests in the Middle East. I stated that numerous times on
American radio programmes, receiving all sorts of censure for being
anti-American and unpatriotic.

Now, we stand at the same critical junction, four years later, as US news
networks are readying for another awesome fireworks show, this time over
Tehran; dehumanisation of the Iranians has already begun; the public is
being fed with all kinds of half-truths and all sorts of rubbish about the
Islamic Republic and its people; insanity has returned and the voices of
reasons are again, labelled, shunned and marginalised. But for obvious
reasons, this time around, war is an evident mistake, a fact that should irk
and make every sensible American, every Congressman, every commentator
question the wisdom of a new war while the country is on the verge of defeat
in another.

Such a reality suggests that the Bush administration is working against the
interests of his own people and makes Pilger’s analysis the more poignant;
indeed, as irrational as it may seem, the US could very much be on its way
to war with Iran.

But as explained by Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister and vice
chancellor from 1998-2005, “getting into Iraq and defeating Saddam was easy.
But today, America is stuck there and knows neither how to win, nor how to
get out.” Fischer writes: “A mistake is not corrected by repeating it over
and over again. Perseverance in error does not correct the error; it merely
exacerbates it.”

But this is exactly the key trait that has defined the current Bush
administration since its early years in office. It’s committed to
duplicating failures; instead of abandoning the Iraqi ship, it insists on
setting sale in the same tumultuous sea, another defected one.

Indeed, the US is again back on the same self-destruct mode, in the name of
national security, regional stability, staying the course‚ and all the rest.
Reality cannot be any further from the truth, however. A war against Iran
will further exasperate the instability of the region and compromise the
security of the United States, at home and abroad. It might also be the end
of American military adventurism in the region for some time, but at a price
so heavy, so unbearable. If Iraq’s cakewalk has cost the lives of 650,000
Iraqis, how many more must die in broader war before Bush bows to
commonsense and brings the grinding wheel of war to a halt?

-Ramzy Baroud’s latest book, The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of
a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press), is available at and also from
the University of Michigan Press. Baroud is a veteran journalist and a human
rights advocate at a London-based NGO; he is the editor of; his website is