Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Rhetoric or real intentions?

May 3 2006
DIFFERENTIATING between rhetoric and actual intentions in the US-Iran confrontation over Tehran's nuclear programme has become intensely difficult. On the one hand, Iran has cranked up the intensity of what could be nothing but provocation to the US and Israel. It is as if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, having concluded that Iran is targeted for regime change by the US, is daring the US and Israel to stage military strikes against his country.
If that is indeed the case, then his strategy is based on a conviction that the Iranians, who are in no position to launch a military offensive against the US, could draw the Americans into starting military action. Such action would justify a "defensive" war by Iran into defensive war that could prove catastrophic for the US, given the American military and non-military exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region. American analysts speculate that more US soldiers than those who lost their lives in the invasion and occupation of Iraq so far could die in a matter of weeks if not days as a result of military action against Iran. It does not matter for the Iranian leadership how many Iranians and pro-Iranians could die since the Iranian mindset has an intense focus on martyrdom.
Beyond military casualties, the chain of events sparked by US military action against Iran could shoot up international oil prices through the roof, and this could pull the rug under the feet of the US dollar, the key currency in which oil is traded around the world. If the dollar collapses at this point in time, so does the American economy, throwing chaos in the international scene. Again, that expectation, coupled with the awareness that the US could not but be mindful of the eventuality, could be a central pillar of Ahmedinejad's strategy. If the US pulls back from the brink and puts off military plans against Iran, then it would also be touted as a major victory by the Iranian leadership.
On the other hand, the US, despite having the most advanced and sophisticated spying technology, does not seem to have any clue about Iran's nuclear programmes except what has been reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Veteran members of the US congressional intelligence committees have already admitted that there is no way the US could determine how far the Iranians have gone ahead with their nuclear programme. They have asserted that US intelligence network simply lacks the capability to secure accurate information on Iran's nuclear activities.
The painful and embarrassing truth — which also exposes the gaping shortcomings in US intelligence work — is also prodding Washington into undertaking a military adventure against Iran. At the same time, to propagate that the world is in the dark about Iran's plans also suits the US strategy because it could always cite the benefit of the doubt in favour of action against Iran.
Whatever considerations the US might have, Israel, which is determined not to allow any Middle Eastern power other than itself to have a nuclear programme, is straining to hold back itself from staging a repeat in Iran of the 1981 attack that demolished Iraq's sole nuclear reactor. Israeli lobbyists are hard at work in Washington, hyping up the "Iranian nuclear threat" and lobbying for military action against Iran. Leading and misleading interpretations of Iran's strategy are being sown around in order to create murky waters to exploited to benefit Israel's objective of using the US military to wage war for the sake of the Jewish state.
Against these realities, what is indeed unmistakable is that Iran might be engaging in rhetoric, but the US is not. Washington has made up its mind that Iran should not be allowed any leeway that would permit it to develop an effective nuclear programme. It is only a matter of time and methods to achieve that objective.