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Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran

by Stephen Sniegoski Monday, Sep. 14, 2009 at 12:58 PM

Neocons support war with Afghanistan in order to get war with Iran

The Obama administration has made Afghanistan the focus of its foreign policy, significantly escalating the war effort there.  ( Though there is division within the administration regarding the degree of escalation sought.) Obama's motive for expanding the war in Afghanistan seems to be a desire  to appear strong in foreign policy combined with the idea that war in Afghanistan is much safer than a war on Iran-the primary target of Israel and its Lobby.

Since campaigning for the presidency, Obama has felt a political need to demonstrate that his professed opposition to the war in Iraq did not mean that he was an "isolationist" or afraid of using American military power in the world. To illustrate this position he has been consistently supportive of an effective war in Afghanistan. 

Stephen G. Rademacker writes in the "Washington Post" of Sept. 5:  "As a candidate for president, Barack Obama correctly sensed that to win the Democratic nomination he needed to portray himself as more opposed to the Iraq war than any of his opponents, but that to win the general election he needed to be able to reassure the American people of his determination to
defeat terrorism.

"Afghanistan offered a convenient solution: Obama held it up as the 'good' war that he was determined to win, unlike the 'bad' war in Iraq that he would end. He promised a military surge in Afghanistan, and he dared John McCain and the outgoing administration to get to his right on the issue.

"On a political level this strategy worked brilliantly, enabling Obama to deflect any suspicion that he was a McGovernite ready to surrender toIslamic extremism. But now that he is president, events are testing his professed commitment to victory in Afghanistan."

Other factors also currently shape Obama's Afghanistan policy.  The security situation has deteriorated and the US military does not want to lose a war. General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan,  is preparing to tell President Barack Obama that thousands of more troops areneeded to defeat the insurgents. Oil interests  and some American geostrategists have been interested in Afghanistan (See "The Transparent Cabal,"  pp. 130-36, 148-50),  but it  appears that at the present time the American traditional foreign policy establishment is wary of a major increase in American troops and an escalating war there. 

For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski  (author of  "The Grand Chessboard" ( 1997) which claims a critical need for American power in Eurasia)   has been opposed to an American escalation of the war in Afghanistan for some time, though he is also not supportive of a significant troop withdrawal.

A similar view is expressed by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger; former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.

In short, the general position of the foreign policy establishment is against a major increase of American troops in Afghanistan but also opposed to a withdrawal.  The foreign policy establishment believes  that American imperial interests are involved in Afghanistan but that overall American global interests are not helped by a larger war. It seeks international support to stabilize Afghanistan-including Iranian involvement. 

But this establishment balancing act is very difficult and some diplomatic options would be nearly impossible in the current political atmosphere in the US--such as allowing for Iranian participation.  Obama thus faces a serious problem since  the military commanders on the scene are saying that if the US does not escalate the war it will be lost. 

The major domestic supporters of an accelerated war in Afghanistan  are the neoconservatives. As Ben Smith writes in a recent piece in  "Politico" (Sept. 4, 2009), "Prominent conservative foreign policy thinkers and activists who backed the Iraq war are circulating a letter to President Obama supporting his engagement in Afghanistan against criticism from left and right, and urging him to stay the course."

Of course, these "conservatives" actually are neoconservatives.  Signatories of the pro-war letter include such prominent neocons as:  McCain's major foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann,   "Commentary"  editor John Podhoretz,  Gary Schmitt, Iraq surge architect Fred Kagan, Robert Kagan, Max Boot, "Weekly Standard"  editor Bill Kristol, former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor, Eliot A. Cohen (who coined the term "World War IV"), Eric Edelman, John Hannah,  and Joshua Muravchik.  These neocons have been intimately involved in the neocon Middle East war agenda and are discussed in my "The Transparent Cabal."   Website Amazon Listing

In fact, neoocons have been supporting Obama on Afghanistan for some time. Neocon Max Boot wrote in late March in a "Commentary" blog: ""The new Afghanistan policy that President Obama unveiled at the White House today was pretty much all that supporters of the war effort could have asked for, and probably pretty similar to what President McCain would have decided on."

And Barron YoungSmith  observed in a "New Republic" blog at the beginning of April: "Kristol and Robert Kagan--the same duo who founded the Iraq War-boosting Project For the New American Century--decided to create FPI [Foreign Policy Initiative] in order to beat back what they perceive to be creeping isolationism and domestic fecklessness (defined by them as military budget cuts and troop drawdowns) in the face of existential threats. Ordinarily,one would expect a group like this to oppose President Obama, but since he unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan last week, they have become some of his biggest cheerleaders."

Jacob Heilbrunn titled an article on this neocon support for Obama's interventionist foreign policy, One can ask why neocons have been so enthusiastic about Obama's focus on Afghanistan since Afghanistan has not been one of their primary concerns. After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,  the neocons pushed for an immediate attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan.  Temporarily they lost this fight, but they were soon able to divert the US war from Afghanistan to Iraq. ( "The Transparent Cabal," pp. 141-150)

Since the occupation of Iraq, the neocons have targeted Iran for attack.Iran is seen as Israel's major enemy-even, allegedly, a threat to Israel's very existence. So why do the neocons identify so strongly with Obama's Afghanistan policy?  Won't that divert attention from the issue of Iran? I think there are fundamentally two reasons-one defensive and the other offensive-that explain the neocons support for an expanded war in Afghanistan, which they believe will facilitate their broader Middle East
war agenda.   

If the US were to abandon a military solution in Afghanistan, it probably would, as an alternative, seek to bring about stability in that beleaguered country through diplomacy.  To be effective, this would involve broadening Iran's role in Afghanistan.  If Iran were working to bring about stability in Afghanistan, it would be virtually impossible for the US to treat it as an enemy.   American policy toward Iran thus would be decoupled from that of Israel.  Moreover, abandonment of the war in Afghanistan could likely begin a chain reaction that would end American involvement in the entire Middle East/Central Asian region. This would mean that the US would abandon any effort to destroy Israel's enemies.  The  neocons' entire Middle East war agenda would be completely undermined.

In an offensive manner,  an accelerated war in Afghanistan could provide a back door to initiating war with Iran.  As the American military became bogged down in a no-win war in Afghanistan, Iran could provide a convenient scapegoat.  One can envision the neocons trumpeting  allegations that American problems in Afghanistan are caused by covert Iranian support for the Taliban insurgents,  and that the only way to an American victory in Afghanistan would be by eliminating the Taliban's Iranian sponsors.  Various intelligence reports citing evidence of Iranian weapons and advisors in Afghanistan would be highlighted in the media. The US government has, in fact, already  made these claims. General Petraeus, for example, has publicly claimed that Iran was supporting the Taliban.  As it becomes more apparent that the American military is unable to pacify Afghanistan, US military commanders will have a vested interest in blaming their failure on the alleged involvement of the Iranians.   

More than just providing a rationale for an attack on Iran,  Afghanistanalso can  provide the physical opportunity to start a war.   In pursuit of insurgents, American troops could enter Iranian border regions leading to incidents that could usher in all-out war.  In short, it is quite conceivable to see the United States going to war with Iran by way of Afghanistan.   This would provide a back-door to war with Iran without any real consideration of the ramifications of such a war.

In short, the United States could be involved in a war with Iran without Obama actually intending to bring about such a conflagration.  It would simply develop as a result of the expanded war in Afghanistan. 

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