Washington – The United States and Iran are playing an increasingly dangerous game of chicken in the Gulf. War could be only a ship collision or aircraft intrusion away.
Nations often blunder into war due to miscalculation, arrogance, or wrong intelligence. One need only recall August, 1914, when joyous throngs of French or Germans cried out, “on to Berlin!” and “On to Paris!” and “Home for Christmas.”
The current confrontation between the US/Israel and Iran is about more than Tehran’s nuclear program. With Iraq defanged and Syria in turmoil, Iran is the last major Mideast state that refuses to be part of the US sphere of influence – what I call the American Raj.
As Iran’s noisy defiance grows, Washington fears its influence and prestige will suffer unless it brings the annoying mullahs to heel. The so-called “Arab spring” has a confused Washington ready to lash out, as Libya showed.
Iran’s fiery nationalism is anchored to its nuclear program. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insists the West is determined to keep the Muslim world technologically backwards. Iran’s nuclear program is a great technological leap forward, which he insists is peaceful, for all Muslims.
Two recent US national intelligence estimates so far support the ayatollah’s assertions.
Meanwhile, Israel is straining every muscle to push the US into war against Iran, as it did with Iraq, thus sparing itself the difficult task. The recent string of murders of Iranian scientists appears designed to provoke Iran into a retaliation that would set of full-scale war.
The powerful US Israel lobby and its Christian fundamentalist allies (now 44% of all Republican voters) have bribed or intimidated the US Congress into pressing for war against Iran. A war, like Afghanistan and Iraq, that the US government will finance through borrowed money, not taxes.
America’s media is baying for Iran’s blood. We just saw Republican presidential candidates – the admirable Ron Paul and Jon Huntsmen excepted – vying to sound the most bloodthirsty over Iran.
Candidate Newt Gingrich got $5 million of indirect support from an American casino mogul who is a major financial backer of Israel’s West Bank settlers and expansionist Likud Party.
My visits to the Pentagon left me with the view that America’s military does not want war with Iran. Muscle-flexing yes to back up muscular diplomacy, but not a full-scale conflict involving repeated air and naval strikes against a minimum of 3,200 Iranian military and civilian targets, according to US Navy senior sources.
America’s warplanes are aging or nearly worn out after Afghanistan and Iraq. Falling military budgets will make aircraft, missiles, bombs and ships harder and harder to replace.
The US has been at war about every four years or so since the 1950’s. With 1,000 bases around the globe and 11 aircraft carrier battle groups, the Pentagon can no longer afford to project global power just as it’s getting drawn into East and West Africa. US military spending already accounts for almost half the global total.
All wars are unpredictable; all carefully laid plans break down after the first shot is fired. The Pentagon fears it will get sucked into a wider war against Iran – including ground operations in which Iran could effectively fight back against US forces.
The vulnerability to attack by Iranian special forces of US bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and even Central Asia is of great concern to the Pentagon’s Central Command.
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became a celebrated hero in the war against Iraq for leading deep penetration raids into enemy territory.
For its part, Iran seems to be foolishly going out of its way to goad and challenge the US and its allies. Last week, Tehran trumpeted that it was producing more 20% enriched uranium at a new underground plant at Fordow.
Few westerners understand anything about nuclear technology, never mind making weapons. To them, the Iranian announcement translated into “Iranian Nuclear Weapons!” Iran’s foes were delighted.
Iranian hardliners have told me they welcome war with the US. “The Americans will break their teeth on Iran!”
Brave words, but we heard similar foolhardy boasts from Iraqis in 2003.
Hot air, posturing and national egos can lead to disastrous real war – one that neither side wants, Israel excepted.
copyright Eric S. Margolis 2012
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