Word that Iran has plans to retaliate abroad with secret commando units should give pause to the neo-con hotheads in the Bush administration who are slavering for war against the Middle East's most formidable military power.
The fantasy prevailing in the White House and the Pentagon (and among some pandering Democrats in Congress) is that the U.S. can cripple Iran's nascent nuclear weapons development program by aerial bombardment of its enrichment facilities and scientific centers, and that this can be done at little cost or risk to the U.S.
In fact, the doctrine of legitimate response to attack gives Iraq a wide range of responses to any attack, which should make Americans very leery about playing such games.
If the U.S. were to bomb an Iraqi nuclear power facility, Iraq would have the legal right to do the same to vulnerable American nuclear facilities. And while the U.S. might do its attacking with B-52 bombers, stealth aircraft or missiles, Iraq could accomplish the same thing with trained commando units. Furthermore, under the international laws of war, if the commandos wore uniforms during their assault on U.S. facilities, they would have to be considered legitimate soldiers fighting for their country. The president would not be able to simply call them enemy combatants and order their fingernails ripped out.
Nor would he be able to accuse them of war crimes for spewing nuclear fallout across vast stretches of the United States, if our own attack on Iranian nuclear facilities did the same thing there.
Well, let me correct that. This president has made it abundantly clear that he doesn't give a rat’s ass about international law, so he could declare captured Iranian commandos terrorists, deny them POW status, and start the torture he is so fond of, but he'd only make more enemies by so blatantly flaunting international law.
Meanwhile, Iran would not be limited to attacking U.S. nuclear facilities. If the U.S. were to attack Iranian territory, it would be as much an act of war as was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and it would enable Iran to respond in kind against any legitimate U.S. target, which could include U.S. shipping (including the targeting of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf bound for the U.S. or for U.S. allies), port facilities, transport centers like airports and rail stations, factories, oil storage facilities, chemical plants, etc. Civilian casualties? Well, as the Pentagon is wont to say, those are just unfortunate side effects—collateral damage, you might say. Iran could also turn the U.S. occupation force in Iraq into sitting ducks for attack by its allies, the Shiites in Iraq, whose forces already demonstrated their courage and capabilities in an earlier uprising against U.S. forces early in the occupation. This time, they'd have overt Iranian assistance and weapons.
During the days leading up to the Iraq war, the same warning was made about Iraq, but clearly, the Iraqi government, hobbled by years of sanctions, and massively unpopular at home, was in no position to mount such a counterstrike campaign against the U.S. The whole White House story about Iraq’s posing a threat to America was a big lie. But Iran is another story. Not only does it have a battle-tested army of some 800,000 people, and plenty of arms and money, thanks to its being the second largest oil exporter in the world. It also has a democratically elected government that--whether we like it or not-- has the support of a large segment of the population.
Add to that the fact of Iranian nationalism. Where Iraq is basically a hodgepodge of tribes and ethnicities cobbled together by British colonial rulers and then held together by the use of state terror and brute force, Iran is an ancient civilization and culture with an intense sense of national pride and identity. Attack Iran, and the U.S. will instantly galvanize most Iranians--even those who may despise the current theocratic leadership--into blood enemies of America.
That is the kind of enemy that can successfully mount covert campaigns against this country.
Surely no one wants to see yet another country in an unstable region acquiring nuclear weapons, but the solution is not the Bush default of war, which Iraq and Afghanistan have shown us tends to follow the law of unintended consequences.
This is an administration of chickenhawk policymakers and leaders who have never met a war they didn’t weasel their way out of, and who seem to be trying to compensate for their youthful cowardice and lack of patriotism by displays of wanton violance and aggression. If they aren't stopped, they could well be responsible for losing a few more American cities by the time Bush's second term mercifully ends.
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