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Launching an air and naval war against Iran to compensate for failures in Iraq and Afghanistan would be like setting the barn on fire to keep the horses from freezing to death: counterintuitive, counterproductive and downright insane.  Unfortunately for us, counterproductive insanity is standard operating procedure for our commander in chief and his key advisers.
The Energizer War Bunnies–Still Going

Like the Energizer Bunny, Dick Cheney and his neocon cabal never stop banging their war drum.  They keep going, and going, and going, and going…

As Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane of Raw Story have noted, “The escalation of US military planning on Iran is only the latest chess move in a six-year push within the Bush Administration to attack Iran.”  A group within the Department of Defense known as the Iranian Directorate is doing the same kind of intelligence scrubbing that the Office of Special Plans did during the run up to the Iraq invasion.  

Two Sundays ago, a trio of “unnamed senior defense officials” at a secret briefing in Baghdad produced “proof” that the Quds force was supplying weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq at the order of “the highest levels” of the Iranian government.  Well, things got all unraveled when people started asking why this information was coming from “unnamed” sources, and why these sources gave no evidence to support the assertions about “the highest levels” statement.

Now, Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball of Newsweek tell us that the unnamed briefer was “straying from the script.”  But who told Isikoff and Hosenball that?  “Several Washington intelligence officials involved in monitoring fallout from the presentation.”  

In other words, unnamed administration spin-doctors.  

An unnamed Defense official in Washington who is “familiar” with intelligence reporting and analysis told Isikoff and Hosenball that “The Quds Force is like a special unit that reports to the leadership. They take direction from the leadership.”  But, said the Defense official, “Who gives the order, we don’t know.”

Yet another unnamed official who “has monitored relevant intelligence reporting” (what in the wide world of sports is that supposed to mean?) that said that evidence of top Iranian officials sanctioning Quds Force activity in Iraq is at best “circumstantial.”

Isikoff and Hosenball don’t get around to actually naming a single one of their sources until the last several paragraphs of the article, and those sources made their comments publicly.  

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace told journalists traveling with him in Asia that even though bombmaking materials found in Iraq appear to have come from Iran, “That does not translate that the Iranian government, per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this.”

Appear to have come from Iran, General?  What’s your definition of “appear?”  

Adm. William Fallon, the new top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, told CNN: “I have no idea who may be actually hands-on in this stuff, but I do know that this is not helpful to the situation in Iraq.”

If the top commander in the Middle East has no idea who’s “hands on” in this stuff, why is anybody claiming that they have clue one where the stuff is coming from?

And why did our commander in chief say this at his press conference last Wednesday?

What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq.  We know that. And we also know that the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. That’s a known. What we don’t know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds Force to do what they did.

Shades of Donald Rumsfeld: known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns.

Mr. Bush has done his old Secretary of Defense one better.  He’s talking about “unknown knowns.”  We can’t know if the Quds are involved in Iraq at all.  And those PowerPoint pictures of weapons supposedly supplied by the Quds that you’ve seen on television and the web (like the mortar rounds marked in English)–hell, they could have come from anywhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they were lifted from a U.S. Army Field Manual.  

Gunship Diplomats

We really don’t have anything on the Iranians that would justify a preemptive strike against them.  That could change in a heartbeat if an incident occurs in the Persian Gulf between U.S. and Iranian naval forces.  

Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, commander of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf, recently stated that Iran may pose a greater threat to Persian Gulf security that al-Qaeda.  Well, that makes sense, seeing how Iran has a navy and al-Qaeda doesn’t.  

But Walsh’s rhetoric is in line with the Bush administration’s propaganda strategy that seeks to make Iran the cause of all things wrong in the Middle East.  The U.S. naval buildup in the Gulf is, supposedly, a response to Iranian naval activity. “When you look at the recent Iranian exercises, in the last nine months, you see the open display and the implication of the use of mines,” Walsh says. “You also see and hear concerns and threats about the closure of the Strait of Hormuz.”

This is scary sounding, but it’s not news.  Mining shipping lanes and closing the Strait have been the crux of Iranian naval operations for decades.  

Walsh acknowledges that many of our Arab allies are concerned about the U.S. naval buildup in the Gulf.  

Having lived in the region since 2005, I can understand the concerns and the skepticism of those who live here.  I think what they want is long-term assurances. What they don’t want is offensive action meant to inflict some sort of damage to Iran and then a retreat because they will live with the consequences of any actions that we take.

So if we strike Iran, look forward to a long-term commitment of enhanced U.S. naval presence in the Gulf.  

There’s a fine line between deterrence and provocation, especially when you’re dealing with naval forces.  And it’s difficult to say whether we’re reacting to Iran or Iran is reacting to us.  Keep in mind, though, that an increased military footprint in the Gulf region was the neocons’ original intent, and so far, things are still going according to the plan.  

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Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

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