The Guardian, in a story in in yesterday’s edition, has revealed that Pentagon officials offered the British a number of “military options” to assist Britain in its attempts to obtain the release of the 15 British sailors and marines Iran had taken captive:

In the first few days after the captives were seized and British diplomats were getting no news from Tehran on their whereabouts, Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran. But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation.

Tony Blair’s government, showing a little basic common sense for a change, declined these generous offers. The British government also requested that the US tone down the military exercises it was holding in the Persian Gulf last month to make them appear less confrontational to Iran. Imagine if Britain had agreed to the active involvement of US military forces confronting Iran’s revolutionary Guard units. War would have been the most likely outcome of any American military involvement in the crisis.

A senior Iranian source with close ties to the Revolutionary Guard, told the Guardian: “If this had been between Iranian and American soldiers it could have been the beginning of an accidental war.”

I disagree with that gentlemen on only this point: there would have been nothing accidental about any war triggered by an incident between American and Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf. Bush has been attempting to provoke Iran into a war for some time now, as the Guardian’s own report makes clear.

The incident was a reminder of how inflammatory the situation in the Gulf is. According to some US and British officers, there is already a proxy war under way between their forces and elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Meanwhile, the Iranians are convinced that separatist guerrilla attacks in Khuzestan and Baluchistan provinces are the work of British and US intelligence respectively. Earlier this week, ABC television news reported that a Baluchi group, Jundullah, based in Pakistan and carrying out raids inside Iran, had been receiving advice and encouragement from American officials since 2005.

Add to that list the following:

1. The capture of five Iranians in the city of Irbil in Northern Iraq by American forces in January of this year. These five individuals are still being held, and Iran has only recently received permission for one its diplomats in Iraq to have access to them where they are being held prisoner as part of a delegation organized by the International Red Cross.

2. The Iranian diplomat who alleges he was taken hostage in Baghdad by Iraqi forces working with the American’s (the diplomat released 1 day before the release of the 15 Britons by Iran).

3. Frequent naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf led by US forces, including major exercises in October/November, 2006 and March, 2007.

4. Repeated assertions by American diplomats and military spokespeople that Iran is providing EFP’s, explosive devices alleged to be the major source of recent American casualties, despite much evidence to the contrary that these devices are actually being manufactured in Iraq by Sunni insurgents who are supported by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni gulf states.

5. US support for MEK, an anti-Iranian terrorist organization, allegedly employed by the Pentagon to obtain intelligence and conduct other “operations” inside Iran, including terrorist attacks on Iranian civilians.

In short, the US government have been waging low level war against Iran for some time. The only reason it has not escalated to full scale war to date, is due more to Iranian restraint in the face of these provocations, than any other factor. That restraint is all the more remarkable considering that the official policy goal of the Bush administration toward Iran is to remove the present Iranian regime from power and replace it with one friendlier to the US and other Western powers.

This latest news that Bush attempted to exploit the crisis over the 15 British captives held by Iran to take aggressive military actions against Iran is just more evidence that the Bush administration is seeking to start a war with Iran by any means at its disposal. The fact that the 15 Britons would likely have been sacrificed had Blair accepted Bush’s “offer of assistance” probably didn’t cause anyone in the Bush administration a moment’s pause. They clearly have expressed little if any remorse for the thousands of Iraqis and Americans they have sentenced to death through the pursuit of their disastrous misadventure in Iraq. Those serving in the American and British armed forces are volunteers, after all, mere playthings for the grand global designs of the neocon fantasists in the White House to use and abuse as they see fit.