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The Buildup to a US-Iran War

By Robert Tracinski

For more than a year now, I have been arguing that war with Iran is inevitable, that our only choice is how long we wait to fight it, and that the only question is what cost we will suffer for putting off the necessary confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

Now, finally, there is evidence that some of our leaders are beginning to recognize the necessity of this war and are preparing to fight it. And so for past few weeks, as I have been documenting in TIA Daily, the newspapers have been filled with rumors and speculation about an American air war against Iran.

There was some chatter about US planning for air strikes on Iran back in the spring of 2006--but that summer President Bush put the whole idea on hold while he gave his backing to Condoleezza Rice's foolish plan to convince the Europeans and the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran. By this summer, however, those negotiations had clearly failed--giving the upper hand, in internal White House debates, to the advocates of military force.

The first sign of this shift of momentum was the proposal, floated a month ago, to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps--a kind of Iranian SS, composed of the regime's most committed fanatics--as an international terrorist organization. But the IRGC is pretty much coextensive with the Iranian state, especially now that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has placed its members in key positions of power. If the Revolutionary Guard is a terrorist organization, in the same category as al Qaeda and Hezbollah, than so is the entire government of Iran. This obviously establishes the legal groundwork for war on Iran.

Interestingly, this proposal was reportedly the brainchild of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the chief figure in the administration's diplomatist faction. It was described as her attempt to mollify the administration's hawks, while putting pressure on the Iranians to cut a diplomatic deal and on the Europeans to agree to stronger economic sanctions on Iran.

A few weeks ago, the Bush administration followed this up with a more substantive threat against Iran. The London Times reported on Pentagon planning for a massive three-day air attack on Iran. "US military planners were not preparing for 'pinprick strikes' against Iran's nuclear facilities," the Times wrote, quoting a source who declared that the plans are "about taking out the entire Iranian military." A second report in London's Telegraph described a "war game" conducted to practice for the economic effects of war with Iran, especially if Iran attempts to cut off oil shipments through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. The participants reportedly concluded that "The policy recommendations eliminated virtually all of the negative outcomes" from an attack.

The fact that these stories were leaked to the international press suggests that their intended audience was, once again, the European diplomatists and the establishment in Tehran. This was an attempt to show them the big stick Uncle Sam is holding behind his back, ready to use if the Europeans and Iranians can't come up with their promised "diplomatic solution."

In that context, we can see the significance of last week's report that a diplomatic solution has now been definitively killed--and killed by the Germans, who had most loudly championed diplomacy. According to Fox News, Germany has "notified its allies...that the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel refuses to support the imposition of any further sanctions against Iran that could be imposed by the UN Security Council." The reason: "the damaging effects any further sanctions on Iran would have on the German economy." But "according to diplomats from other countries, [the Germans] gave the distinct impression that they would privately welcome, while publicly protesting, an American bombing campaign against Iran's nuclear facilities."

This makes the Germans the second most reprehensible party in this drama--after Iran, of course. The Germans have sidetracked the US for years in diplomatic wrangling that would supposedly end with European support for economic sanctions against Iran--yet it is now clear that the Germans never really intended to impose those sanctions. Worse, they betrayed their allies in the free world for short-term economic gain--this from a country that accuses America of waging war for oil. And the hypocrites now encourage us to attack Iran anyway, while they publicly condemn us.

This is a crucial turning point. The Fox News report makes it clear that Germany's refusal has utterly discredited the administration's advocates of "diplomatic containment" of Iran, with the hawks telling the diplomatists, in so many words, "we told you so."

In the past week, this has touched off a flurry of renewed speculation about the coming war, complete with a scrambling of nations to take sides and the issuing of counter-threats by the Iranians.

Earlier this week, for example, the French foreign minister made public comments that described a war as likely and even seemed to offer France's implicit backing to US strikes on Iran. While "we must negotiate right to the end," he said, an Iranian nuclear weapon would be "a real danger for the whole world"--so the world must "prepare for the worst...which is war."

For their part, the Iranians issued a rash threat that their air force was drawing up plans to bomb Israel if Iran is attacked. (One commentator suggested that a better headline on this story would be: "Iran Draws Plans to Have Entire Air Force Shot Down.")

There are three other factors that are speeding up a potential military confrontation between the US and Iran.

This first is the speculation that a recent Israeli air strike in Syria targeted a site being used to build nuclear weapons with help from North Korea. Combine that with a new report that Syria and Iran are cooperating on a project to equip ballistic missiles with chemical weapons, and you can see why the Bush administration may be regarding the Iranian threat with greater urgency. These reports belie all of the glib assurances we have heard about the Iranians being at least five years away from having a nuclear weapon. As my friend Jack Wakeland noted to me, "In 1945 one of the Manhattan Project scientists took the first plutonium core manufactured at Hanford to Los Alamos for testing and for the final assembly of 'Fat Man.' He carried it in his briefcase on the train. I'm wondering what the North Korean nuclear scientists and technicians currently visiting Syria were carrying in their suitcases."

The second factor moving us toward a confrontation with Iran is the success of the "surge" and the subsequent collapse of the anti-war movement. Americans are still dissatisfied with the war in Iraq, but there is no groundswell demanding an immediate withdrawal, and anti-war rallies have shrunk rather than grow. The far left anti-war radicals have merely embarrassed mainstream Democrats by calling General Petraeus a liar and by admitting that they don't support the troops. It was no surprise, then, when the Democratic leaders in the Senate gave up today on the measure that was considered their best chance at forcing a withdrawal from Iraq.

No longer pinned down by the need to prevent a catastrophe in Iraq, President Bush may finally feel he has the political breathing room needed to move against Iran.

The final factor moving us closer to war with Iran is the fact that we are already fighting a proxy war with Iran inside Iraq. The most under-appreciated passage from General Petraeus's congressional testimony was his description of the role of Iran:

In the past six months we have also targeted Shia militia extremists, capturing a number of senior leaders and fighters, as well as the deputy commander of Lebanese Hezbollah Department 2800, the organization created to support the training, arming, funding, and, in some cases, direction of the militia extremists by the Iranian Republican Guard Corps' Qods Force. These elements have assassinated and kidnapped Iraqi governmental leaders, killed and wounded our soldiers with advanced explosive devices provided by Iran, and indiscriminately rocketed civilians in the International Zone and elsewhere. It is increasingly apparent to both Coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Qods Force, seeks to turn the Iraqi Special Groups into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.

To pursue this proxy war, the US is arresting Iranian operatives and building outposts on the Iranian border for the purpose of interdicting weapons smuggled to Iran's agents in Iraq.

What is the significance of this fact? One of the considerations holding the administration back from an attack on Iran was the fear that the Iranians would retaliate by fomenting an uprising of Shiite militias in Iraq. But as the Fox News report I mentioned earlier notes, administration officials have concluded that the Iranians are already doing so--leaving the US with little to lose, as far as Iraq is concerned, by confronting Iran.

But most fundamentally, beneath all of these factors, is the fact that Iran's leaders want war and have been pursuing it, pushed forward by an insane confidence that they will win. If you don't believe me, read some of the latest rants from speeches by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who calls on the world to unite against the allegedly declining powers of the West, whose days are "now coming to an end." Ahmadinejad calls for a conflict that will "transcend the boundaries of the Muslim world" and seek "to establish the rule of the Hidden Imam"--a kind of Shiite Muslim messiah--whose return is "imminent."

In short, Ahmadinejad is seeking to initiate a world war in order to achieve global Muslim dominion, so that he can bring about the coming of the messiah. Clearly, he's a man who can be reasoned with, don't you think?

This, and not just the timidity of the Europeans, is the real reason why diplomacy with Iran has collapsed. And it's the reason why we're already enmeshed in a proxy war with Iran as the regime plows its manpower and resources into killing American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bear in mind that Ahmadinejad has been in office for two years now and is a known quantity. If Iran's Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, were unhappy with Ahmadinejad's bluster and aggression, he would already have ousted him. So we can assume Ahmadinejad has the backing of the ruling establishment. And after all, he is merely carrying on--with an increased scope and intensity--the Islamic Republic's decades-long war against the Great Satan.

The coming of the war with Iran has very little to do with our intentions and has everything to do with the enemy's intentions. Our only choice is how we will respond. Will we continue to evade the need to confront this threat--or will we finally begin to fight back?

Robert Tracinski writes daily commentary at He is the editor of The Intellectual Activist and

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