Scott Ritter / Truthdig – 2007-10-06 23:04:05
(October 5, 2007) — The countdown to war with Iran is both real and terrifying. And it won’t be stopped so long as Iraq is in the spotlight.
The long-awaited “progress report” of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on the status of the occupation of Iraq has been made, providing Americans, via the compliant media, with the spectacle of loyal Bush yes men offering faith-based analysis in lieu of fact-based assessment.
In the days and weeks that have since passed, two things have become clear: Neither Congress nor the American people (including the antiwar movement) have a plan or the gumption to confront President Bush in anything more than cosmetic fashion over the war in Iraq, and while those charged with oversight mill about looking to score cheap political points and/or save face, the administration continues its march toward conflict with Iran unimpeded.
Bush responded to the Petraeus report by indicating that he would be inclined to start reducing the level of US forces in Iraq sometime soon (maybe December, maybe the spring of 2008). But the bottom line is that the troop levels in Iraq keep expanding, as does the infrastructure of perpetual occupation.
The Democrats in Congress are focused on winning the White House in 2008, not stopping a failed war, and as such they not only refuse to decisively confront the president on Iraq, they are trying to out-posture him over who would be the tougher opponent of an expansionist Iran.
Here’s the danger: While the antiwar movement focuses its limited resources on trying to leverage real congressional opposition to the war in Iraq, which simply will not happen before the 2008 election, the Bush administration and its Democratic opponents will outflank the antiwar movement on the issue of Iran, pushing forward an aggressive agenda in the face of light or nonexistent opposition.
Of the two problems (the reality of Iraq, the potential of Iran), Iran is by far the more important. The war in Iraq isn’t going to expand tenfold overnight. By simply doing nothing, the Democrats can rest assured that Bush’s bad policy will simply keep failing. War with Iran, on the other hand, can still be prevented. We are talking about the potential for conflict at this time, not the reality of war. But time is not on the side of peace.
Three story lines unfolded earlier this month which underscore just how easily manipulated the American people, via the media, are when it comes to the issues of Iran and weapons of mass destruction. In the first, Rear Adm. Mark Fox, a spokesperson for the US military in Iraq, let it be known that US forces had captured a “known operative” of the “Ramazan Corps,” the ostensible branch of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard command responsible for all Iranian operations inside Iraq. This “operative,” one Mahmudi Farhadi, was, according to Fox, the “linchpin” behind the smuggling of “sophisticated weapons” into Iraq by the Quds Force.
We’ve heard this story before. In January of this year a similar raid by US forces in Irbil netted six Iranians, five of whom are still in US custody. Senior American officials let it be known that these Iranians were likewise members of the Quds Force, and included that organization’s operations director. All were tied to the (unspecified) transfer of arms and munitions into Iraq from Iran. The Iranian government claimed, and the Iraqi government confirmed, that the detained Iranians were all attached to a trade mission in Irbil, where they oversaw legitimate commerce between Iran and Iraq along the Kurdish frontier.
The United States continues to hold the Iranians prisoner, undoubtedly subjecting them to “special treatment” in order to elicit some sort of confession, if our handling of other Iranian diplomats previously captured in Iraq is any guide. Their release any time soon is unlikely, given the impact a de facto admission that the Bush administration got it wrong would have on the overall case against Iran it is trying to build. The fate of Farhadi is likewise up in the air.
None other than Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, a staunch pro-American, condemned the detention of Farhadi by US military forces, noting that the Iranian was a well-known businessman who was in Iraq as part of an official trade delegation. The Iranians have threatened to close down cross-border trade in Talabani’s sector of Iraqi Kurdistan, shutting down a key income stream for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Iraqi Kurdish faction Talabani heads. Such is the reality of modern Iraq.
But this reality is nowhere to be found in the White House. The president himself has led the charge, as recently as this past August, when in a speech to the American Legion’s national convention in Reno, Nev., Bush threw down the gauntlet against Iran, declaring, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities … the Iranian regime must halt these actions.”
A former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served under Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Scott Ritter worked as a chief inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq from 1991 until 1998, helping lead the effort to disarm Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He is the author of several books, including “Iraq Confidential” (2005, Nation Books), “Target Iran” (2006, Nation Books) and “Waging Peace” (2007, Nation Books). “Target Iran,” with a new afterword by the author, has just been released in paperback by Nation Books.
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