Khaleej Times
April 13, 2008

LATEST movements in Washington’s war lobby indicate a reassessment of the Iraq policy with Iran slowly replacing Al Qaeda as the prime terrorism threat as officials juggle with justification for continued surge level troops.

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker spoke of Al Qaeda only in “retreat and disarray” terms in congressional hearings, leaning almost exclusively on Teheran’s role in fuelling the insurgency that jolted occupation forces in Baghdad and Basra recently. President Bush also squeezed Iran into his explanation for endorsing Gen Petraeus’ recommendation of maintaining the increased numbers which, seen in combination with increased US military hardware in the region, means America’s war noose is tightening around Iran’s neck.

Iran’s strong sectarian influence on Iraq’s dominant militias cannot be written down, but it is equally true that the United States itself bears the responsibility for Iran’s increasing clout in the region, especially inside Iraq. Washington’s war on terrorism quickly dismembered Iran’s two biggest cross-border concerns — Taleban’s Afghanistan and Saddam’s Iraq — and even the most feeble minded strategists would have expected Teheran to exploit post occupation Iraq.

Even though Washington has hinted at diplomatic engagement with Iran through a “multilateral forum”, the chronology of the last few years’ fallout between the two — especially with regard to Iran’s nuclear programme — shows a meaningful agreement is unlikely to develop. Ahmadinejad’s regime no doubt realises well that Washington’s latest ‘upping the rhetoric’ against his country owes in no small manner to attempts at diverting popular attention as the mess in Iraq has all but written off the neocons’ political credibility. Therefore, despite firm knowledge that its position in Iraq as well as the nuclear negotiations will continue to provoke America, it is unlikely to step off the front foot, banking on regional pressure preventing America from further military initiatives in the Middle East.

Yet Israel’s largest ever military exercises have pushed many an observer to fear more war is imminent once again, with good reason, especially since Tel Aviv has its own axe to grind. It was Iran’s client Hezbollah that embarrassed the Olmert dispensation and rubbished the myth of Israel’s fabled military might when the rag-tag militia stopped IDF tanks dead in their tracks, an insult that is crying for revenge in the Jewish state’s hierarchy. Should these fears be true, the Washington-Tel Aviv nexus is on the verge of displaying criminal disregard for ground reality, on a scale even its staunchest detractors would have doubted. The debacle in Iraq and summer ‘06’s botched skirmishes with Hezbollah have robbed them of the military alternative.

Unlike Iraq and Hezbollah, Iran has the capacity of striking against American and Israeli interests in the region, while leveraging its client outfits for targeted guerilla tactics. What can follow can only worsen the regional and indeed global situation.

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