Saturday, February 24, 2007

"A sign of our resolve"

The Daily Telegraph has several reports this morning that add up to a significant amount of sabre-rattling. Israel is apparently requesting permission from the Americans to fly over Iraq so that they can bomb Iran. Another report comes from an American aircraft carrier somewhere in the mouth of the Persian Gulf. This carrier, according to an American diplomat, Mike Gayle, speaking in London last night, is "a sign of our resolve". That was as direct a reply as he would give to the repeated question of whether the United States is willing to go to war with Iran.

The American doctrine of pre-emption has fewer supporters today than it did in 2002. That seems to be the reason why Mr Gayle was keen to suggest that, effectively, Iran is already at war with the United States, citing as evidence a dossier recently published by the US military. This showed photographs of weapons seized in Iraq which the Americans claim are Iranian-made and which they say proves that the Iranian government is behind a wave of devastating attacks on American forces using explosively formed penetrators. But there is a leap in logic there, as one US general has admitted: even if we accept the assumption that the weapons are Iranian-made, proving they have therefore been supplied by the Iranian government is a hard task given the fact that, as any expert on Iran immediately admits, the political structure in Iran is Byzantine in its complexity. And the Americans face considerably greater scepticism than they did five years ago.

The question of whether Iran is supplying weaponry to bog the Americans down in Iraq is misleading and designed to draw attention away from the central question of whether a pre-emptive attack on Iran to halt its nuclear weapons programme is either justified or likely to succeed, by suggesting the United States already has a casus belli for future action.

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