|Southwest Asia News Digest
Saudis Warn: Cheney's Iran War Is On
Nov. 15 (EIRNS)Extraordinary comments from leading Saudi figures were reported in the Nov. 15 French daily Le Figaro, indicating that these figures, including Saudi Prince Bandar, know that an attack on Iran by the Cheney-Bush Administration is "on." The headline reads, "Riyadh Worried About an American Attack Against Iran," followed by the subhead, "Fearing retaliation from Tehran on its oil installations, Saudi Arabia has made a rapprochement towards Moscow, whom the Iranians listen to in this nuclear crisis."
After having supported diplomacy, the Saudi officials seem "resigned to the inevitability of the American war against Iran," writes Figaro's special envoy to Riyadh. "We are coming closer and closer to a confrontation," says Abdel Mohsen Hakas, the Saudi minister of social affairs. Prince Bandar's right-hand man, Rihad Massoud states, "The tone of George Bush makes us think that he has decided what he wanted to do."
While the Saudi monarchy is officially opposed to a new conflict, it will tacitly support one, if it ignites, because it fears the growing Iranian influence, and especially because they fear the Iranians would retaliate against their oil installations. "If the Iranians want to hurt the U.S., they will seek to block our oil provision lines by attacking the terminal of Abqaia or the Ras Al Tannoura refinery." These fears have apparently led to the extreme prudence of Saudi diplomacy on Iran. Even though the French and the British are pressuring the Saudis to join their move for increased sanctions against Tehran, the Saudis are rather insisting on potentially successful outcomes of Russian mediation.
"But," says Rihad Massoud, "the Russians told us that the ambiance in Tehran reminded them strangely of the atmosphere in Baghdad in the months that preceded the 2003 war."
China Tries To Derail Iran War, Pulls Out of Talks
Nov. 16 (EIRNS)Moving quickly to counter the attempts by the United States, Britain, and France to reach a consensus on further sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, China has pulled out of the London talks which had been scheduled for Nov. 19.
In what has been interpreted by the nations supporting sanctions against Iran as an indication that China will not risk its own economic interests there by backing additional UN sanctions, it was confirmed that China had called off its attendance at the planned meeting of officials from the "P5+1" group, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. A British Foreign Office official told Times Online on Nov. 16 that, unless a "miracle" happened over the weekend, the meeting was now unlikely to take place. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Tehran on Nov. 13, ostensibly carrying a message that China supports Iran's right to nuclear energy and expects Iran to work with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). "China also hopes all parties show flexibility and make its due efforts to the peaceful resolution of the issue," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said.
The United States recently imposed its own unilateral economic sanctions and has not ruled out military action against Iran. Britain has been pushing hard for a third round of UN sanctions, including restrictions on energy and financial investments in Iran. A group of British MPs is in Tehran holding talks with Iranian officials.
The Nov. 19 meeting was planned to discuss a third round of UN sanctions against Iran, after it was confirmed by the IAEA that Iran had reached a landmark 3,000 operational centrifuges.
On Nov. 18, the Washington Post reported that U.S. and European officials are now more worried about a Chinese veto than one from Russia, and that these Western officials charge that China is stalling any action in order to protect its economic interests in Iran.
House Panel Warned of Danger of Attack on Iran
Nov. 15 (EIRNS)On Nov. 14, the House National Security Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), held its third hearing on Iran, this time focussing on whether there are any military options there. The witnesses included: Col. Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell; retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner; retired CIA analyst Paul Pillar; and retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper. The testimony of the four witnesses confirmed that if the U.S. carried out military strikes against Iran, the result would be a strategic blunder even worse than the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Wilkerson said the result would be "disastrous," and argued that such strikes would spur the Iranians to accelerate their nuclear program, and would rally the population behind the government. The U.S., he said, would gain very little from a military campaign against Iran and, instead, "we would reinforce strategic failure." Gardiner identified the potential military targets in Iran, and concluded that in every case, from Revolutionary Guard formations, to alleged terrorist camps, to nuclear facilities, the effectiveness of air strikes would be limited, and would put the U.S. on the road to a war it could not end.
In discussion with EIR before the hearing started, Gardiner emphasized that once such a war starts, there's no way out.
Paul Pillar warned the panel that "Iranians would consider any action aimed at crippling Iranian nuclear capabilities as an act of war," and that Iran could be expected "to respond appropriately, in ways of its own choosing, and at times and places of its own choosing." He said that the most likely Iranian response would be in the realm of asymmetric warfare, and while it is presently hard to attribute any one act of violence in southern Iraq to Iran, "Tehran would have far less reason to exercise restraint" following U.S. military strikes.
Van Riper argued that Bush Administration has no comprehensive understanding of the complexities of international relations, or of the consequences that can occur when military force is used. "Our nation's leaders should be more humble when forecasting the results of specific actions in the international arena," he said, including when they contemplate confronting Iran, or any other nation, with military force.
U.S. Officers: We Have To Review Iraq Strategy
Nov. 15 (EIRNS) According to a Nov. 15 Washington Post front-page article by Tom Ricks, author of the book Fiasco, dozens of U.S. military officers are expressing concern over the Iraqi government's failure to capitalize on sharp declines in attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians. Ricks quotes Army Lt. General Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, saying, "A window of opportunity has opened for the government of Iraq to reach out to its former foes, but it's unclear how long that window is going to be open."
This lack of political progress calls into question the core rationale behind President Bush's troop surge, announced in January of this year, which was premised on the notion that improved security would create space for Iraqis to arrive at new power-sharing arrangements. Asked what will happen if there is no such breakthrough by next Summer, Odierno replied, "If that doesn't happen, we're going to have to review our strategy."
Brig. Gen. John F. Campbell, deputy commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, complained last week that Iraqi politicians are out of touch with reality in the country. Some U.S. Army officers now talk more sympathetically about former insurgents than they do about their ostensible allies in the Shi'ite-led central government. Army Lt. Col. Mark Fetter said of the Sunni fighters, who for years bombed and shot U.S. soldiers, and now want to join the police, "They have got to eat.... There are so many we've detained and interrogated, they did what they did for money."
Republicans are looking to dump Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to give them cover in an election year. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who staunchly supported Bush's Iraq troop surge strategy, said he is disappointed with the political reconciliation efforts in Iraq, and is considering alternatives to Maliki's government if the country does not make strides toward that goal. Graham told The Hill, "If his government has not delivered meaningful political reconciliation by the end of the year ... I will consider Maliki's government a failure, and then we look for other horses to support."