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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More Bush incompetence....or a deliberate provocation to justify war?
Posted by Jill | 5:44 AM
This president is insane. We are going to have war with Iran for no reason other than because he wants it:

A failed American attempt to abduct two senior Iranian security officers on an official visit to northern Iraq was the starting pistol for a crisis that 10 weeks later led to Iranians seizing 15 British sailors and Marines.

Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds.

In reality the US attack had a far more ambitious objective, The Independent has learned. The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment.

Better understanding of the seriousness of the US action in Arbil - and the angry Iranian response to it - should have led Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence to realise that Iran was likely to retaliate against American or British forces such as highly vulnerable Navy search parties in the Gulf. The two senior Iranian officers the US sought to capture were Mohammed Jafari, the powerful deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Kurdish officials.

The two men were in Kurdistan on an official visit during which they met the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, and later saw Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), at his mountain headquarters overlooking Arbil.

"They were after Jafari," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, told The Independent. He confirmed that the Iranian office had been established in Arbil for a long time and was often visited by Kurds obtaining documents to visit Iran. "The Americans thought he [Jafari] was there," said Mr Hussein.

Mr Jafari was accompanied by a second, high-ranking Iranian official. "His name was General Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of intelligence of the Pasdaran [Iranian Revolutionary Guard]," said Sadi Ahmed Pire, now head of the Diwan (office) of President Talabani in Baghdad. Mr Pire previously lived in Arbil, where he headed the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Mr Talabani's political party.

The attempt by the US to seize the two high-ranking Iranian security officers openly meeting with Iraqi leaders is somewhat as if Iran had tried to kidnap the heads of the CIA and MI6 while they were on an official visit to a country neighbouring Iran, such as Pakistan or Afghanistan.

They tried to paint Iran with the same kind of "imminent threat" language they used against Iraq five years ago, but this time no one believed them. So they needed more -- they needed to poke the bear with a stick, as Oxycontin Mouth might say.

Meanwhile, Borzou Daragahi, who is very familiar to old Morning Sedition listeners, says that even the tactics about which the Administration has been forthcoming have failed:

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Increase the military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to get the country to bow to the international community on its nuclear enrichment program and curtail its alleged troublemaking in Iraq.

But now, with 15 British sailors and marines held captive and Tehran threatening to withhold its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, that strategy has apparently backfired.

Months of hard-nosed U.S. political and military pressure on Iran may have further radicalized and emboldened the regime, undermining Washington's stated aim of neutralizing the Iranian threat without resorting to war, analysts say.

Elements of Iran's government, painted as a rogue state for its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program, responded forcefully to the U.S.-led challenge, those analysts say. Not only have they sparked an international crisis by capturing the 15 Britons in disputed Persian Gulf waters, and airing alleged confessions on television, they've ramped up security operations in the gulf with war games and missile launches.

The regime has blamed a fear of U.S. airstrikes for its decision to stop disclosing non-required information about its nuclear program, according to a series of memos described by the Associated Press.

"Iranians are on the offensive because they're in a defensive posture," said Patrick Cronin, a former State Department and Pentagon official who is now director of research at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Cronin, a U.S. Navy intelligence officer in the Persian Gulf during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, called the capture of the Britons a "horizontal escalation" meant both to shift the domestic discussion and to gain leverage against the West.

"They have to go on the offensive to change the narrative," he said. "There's a domestic audience and a fight over who is the rightful voice of Iran. If they don't have outside threats, they're going to lose power. If we slap on sanctions, they can blame the West."

Overstretched militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing no easy options on confronting Iran's rising regional ambitions, the Bush administration appeared to settle months ago on a hard-line strategy, U.S. officials and analysts say.

Ranking U.S. officials for months insisted that "no option was off the table" as far as possible military action against Iran. The Pentagon flooded the gulf with U.S. military hardware and leaked word of a policy to "kill or capture" suspected Iranian agents stirring up trouble in Iraq.

As a result, many Iranian officials are convinced that the U.S. remains committed to "regime change" and plans to bomb Iran.

"You can't divorce [the detention of the Britons] from all the saber-rattling against Iran," said Kaveh Afrasiabi, a former political science professor at the University of Tehran now based in Cambridge, Mass. "There's a concern of a U.S.-British concert to control the Persian Gulf waterways."

Unless, of course, the Bush Administration's attempts to kidnap two Iranian officials were designed to justify the war they had already planned on instigating.

It all sounds so depressingly familiar, doesn't it? The question now is: Will we let him do it again?

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