Friday, June 9, 2006

Rule 1 in diplomatic negotiations between belligerents is no preconditions. Unless, of course, unconditional surrender, a la Nazi Germany and imperialist Japan, is the objective.

Bogged down in an insurgency that has spawned bloody anarchy, the U.S. is in no position to squeeze Iran into giving up its nuclear ambitions. The more the U.S. squeezes Iran with punitive diplomatic, financial and economic measures, the more Iran will squeeze the United States in Iraq, where it has tremendous leverage. Iran is even getting a powerful assist from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and the Pentagon.

The alleged killing in cold blood of 24 Iraqi civilians by a squad of U.S. Marines was splashed all over the now free Iraqi print and electronic media. Mr. al-Maliki hinted this could bring his own government to a boil and lead to a demand the U.S. pull its troops out of Iraq. But he didn’t add his own U.S.-trained Iraqi troops were ready to replace the Americans. Which, of course, they’re not.

Tehran has already done a pretty good job of “agitprop” in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city in the heart of Shi’ite Iraq. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, a separate military organization from the Defense Ministry, has equipped and funded two Shi’ite militia that do not respond to any commands from the new Iraqi government in Baghdad. The nascent Iraqi democracy appears to be at the tipping point of a lawless land that now clearly points to a strongman solution if such a political animal were available.

The military option, which President Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice say is on the table, cannot be exercised if Iran’s massive retaliatory capabilities have been honestly assessed. Air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities and the mullahocracy would order up a Vietnam II scenario for the U.S. presence in Iraq.

“Fact, Fallacy, and an Overall Grade of ‘F’ is the description given by Anthony H. Cordesman of the Defense Department’s latest quarterly report to Congress on “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq.” The Center for Strategic and International Studies senior strategic thinker, long the most prescient on the Iraq crisis, says the DOD report is “deeply flawed.” Mr.Cordesman adds, “It does more than simply spin the situation to provide false assurances. It makes basic analytical and statistical mistakes, fails to define key terms, provides undefined and unverifiable survey information, and deals with key issues by omission.” Wow. And this in the world’s greatest democracy.

Other Cordesman zingers:

• “The economic analysis is flawed to the point of absurdity.”

c “A fundamentally false picture of the political situation in Iraq, and of the difficulties ahead. It does not prepare the Congress or the American people for the years of effort that will be needed even under ‘best case’ conditions and the risk of far more serious forms of civil conflict.”

c “Very real progress in the development of Iraqi regular forces is exaggerated and the need for major continued support and aid is largely omitted.”

c ‘The basic problems in the police, justice system, and governance that represented a major threat and risk are omitted to the point where the analysis is so distorted as to be useless.”

The U.S. cannot afford to repeat its Vietnam mistakes, says Mr. Cordesman, but “lies by omission and spin” are taking America down the same road. The latest Quarterly report is both “dishonest and incompetent, and is a serious indictment of the professional integrity and competence of every individual and agency involved in drafting it.”

The U.S. says it will sit down at the same table with its EU3 partners and Iran, but not until Tehran agrees to abandon the nuclear option. That won’t happen until the cows come home. Iran is not about to throw 19 years of clandestine work out the minaret.

What air strikes would almost certainly trigger is a chain of events that would engulf the entire Middle East in unprecedented turmoil. And if that doesn’t faze the hawks, oil at 200 bucks a barrel almost certainly will. Unless, of course, they can look upon gas at $10 a gallon with equanimity.

Washington, frequently described as 10 square miles surrounded by reality, has both short- and long-term memory problems. If most Americans can recall how ABC’s “Nightline” and Ted Koppel became legends with their gripping coverage of the 444-day, 1979-80 hostage crisis, and the botched attempt to rescue 53 U.S. diplomatic personnel, few remember Tehran’s role in the killing of 241 U.S. Marines in a suicide truck bomb attack in Beirut Oct. 23, 1983.

It is useful to see how a major country with the tapestry of an ancient civilization looks at the rest of the world and sees what makes some nation-states more equal than others. The U.S. has some 7,000 nuclear weapons ready for action and another 3,000 in storage; Russia, 8,500 ready and 11,000 in reserve; China, 400 nukes; France, 350; Britain, 200; Israel, 200; India, 95; Pakistan, 50; (North Korea estimated 1 or 2).

There are 84 songs about nuclear war by pop groups and singers (e.g., “Atomic Garden” by Bad Religion; “Nuclear Trash” by Global Holocaust; “American Funded Genocide” by King Prawn) and 19 songs where nuclear war is referenced or implied (e.g., “Gay Bar” by Electric Six whose refrain is “Let’s start a nuclear war at the gay bar”).

Nuclear War is a card game in which each player is dealt a number of “population cards,” ranging from 1 million to 25 million. The objective is to protect a player’s population because the total loss of a nation’s people leads to player elimination.

Cards contain “Secrets,” which steal or reduce an opponent’s population; “Missiles,” which stay in play ready to download a warhead; “Warheads,” which are fitted to a missile or discarded if there are no available missiles. Once a warhead is fitted to a missile, the player can launch an attack. When a player’s population reaches zero, they can launch a retaliatory attack called “final retaliation.” Which can lead to many players being removed instantly.

It wouldn’t hurt to try to understand how others see us. Not always as a shining example for the rest of the world. We should always keep in mind what a religious fanatic like Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks. He believes in the return to Earth of the 12th Imam to lead the world to peace under the banner of Islam. But his creed says this can only happen following global death and destruction. In other words, he would welcome U.S. air strikes.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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