Friday, January 26, 2007

Shots Fired in US-Iran War?

David Petraeus faces one tricky task after another in Iraq (Photo:

President Bush's recent announcement of a naval buildup in the Persian Gulf and the deployment there of Patriot missile batteries was seen in some circles as evidence that a war, however low-intensity, has already begun between the United States and Iran. Those kind of suspicions can only be stoked by today's announcement in the Washington Post by the administration and the National Security Council that US forces are now authorized to kill Iranian operatives, military and intelligence, working in Iraq. This is a change from the old policy of "catch and release," whereby the US military detained Iranian operatives for a few days to spook them. The idea is to ultimately change the diplomatic as well as the overall strategic equation with Iran, to strip Teheran of its triumphalism.

The American people and its elected representatives should be asking a lot of questions about this policy. Is this the best way to pressure an Iran that is frighteningly recalcitrant on the nuclear issue? What is the endgame? One thing that is far too unclear -- even to Condoleezza Rice, it seems -- is the nature of political oversight here. On the other hand, to what extent are US military personnel on the ground willing and prepared to implement the strategy? Most troubling is the program's origins in heady planning sessions led by, among others, the national security advisor Elliot Abrams, the Administration's notorious pointman on the Middle East. The notion of pushing an image of Iran on the public as a central foe in the War on Terror, with tentacles stretching from Kabul to Beirut, occurred to Abrams et. al. during last summer's Lebanon War. Not that these "tentacles" don't exist, but I confess, I'm not entirely intoxicated by this...what a way to proceed with one of the fundamental foreign policy challenges of our time!


Amos said...

You're right, Noah, the key question is to ask what the end game seems to be here. If this is part of an attempt to gather evidence that will be used to push for an invasion of Iran, I am definitely opposed. However, it is possible that this is actually a move to appeal to moderate Iraqi Sunni and to the Saudis.

BTW, I wonder what the recent attack on the U.S. base in Karbala has to do with this. It looks pretty clear to me that this was an inside job - i.e., that Iraqi security forces were involved in its planning and execution. Maybe it was a Shi'a group or the Iranians trying to send the Americans a message. We still have very few details about what happened there.

Anonymous said...

Dear Noah,

If, as you said, Mr. Abrams (why "notorious") only thought that Iran (when I say Iran I refer to its present government) is a central foe of us (the US), during the Lebanon 2006 military activities he is not doing his job. It seems to me that Iran is very convincingly and insistently talking, posturing and behaving as our enemy. We deserve them the courtesy to take them seriously.