Monday, June 12, 2006

Iran War: We knew it couldn't be that simple

"God may smile on us, but I don't think so." - anonymous Pentagon adviser quoted by Seymour Hersh April 2006 on Bush administration plans to pressure Iran militarily

Gareth Porter argues that the new, more flexible Bush adminstration negotiating stance toward Iran had less to do with the vicory of Condi Rice and a realist/pragmatist faction in the Bush foreign policy team, than with the administration's"decisive defeat" in their efforts to gain backing for a UN Security Council resolution that would have given them a fig leaf of a legal excuse to bomb Iran.: Bush Iran Strategy Suffers Major Diplomatic Defeat Inter Press Service (IPS) 06/11/06.

The key phrase here is "Chapter VII".  As Porter notes, "Chapter VII authorises the use of penalties, and if those are ineffective, of military force."  In other words, if the Security Council designates a resolution as enforceable under Chapter VII, that automatically puts military action "on the table" (as the current phrase has it) in case of noncompliance.  For the Bush administration, that would be as good as a blank check for war from the UN.

So far, I haven't seen any signs that Bush feels the need to go the US Congress for a war resolution.

As Porter describes it:

U.S. officials and French and British diplomats have sought to obscure the failure to get the agreement of Russia and China to a hardline U.N. Security Council resolution making Iranian compliance mandatory if it refused to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. Nevertheless, details of the proposal finally given to Iran and Russia's subsequent statement both confirm that the administration has had to accept a package without the threat of Security Council action it had counted on.  ...

The New York Times reported Apr. 30 that U.S. officials had described an administration plan by Rice to get agreement on a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring that Iran cease enriching uranium that would be enforceable under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. Chapter VII authorises the use of penalties, and if those are ineffective, of military force.

It is now clear that Rice hoped to get the agreement of the five powers to her plan by making a concession the administration had been resisting for weeks -- the agreement to join the talks between the EU3 (Britain, France and Germany) with Iran. On her way to New York for the crucial meeting with the other five powers May 8 and 9, Rice shared with aides her plan to offer that concession at the meeting, as senior State Department officials later revealed to the Times.

In return, the United States wanted the five powers to call for U.N. sanctions under Chapter VII.

Russia's current position seems to be that they would support sanctions only in the case that Iran actually violates the Non-Proliferations Treaty:

As reported by RIA Novosti news agency on Jun. 8, Foreign Minister Lavrov said Russia would back U.N. Security Council "measures" against Iran only if "Iran starts to act in contradiction to its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty" (NPT).

Iran's enrichment programme itself does not constitute a violation of the NPT, much to the dismay of the United States, which has proposed changes to the treaty that would outlaw such activities.

Michael Carmichael presents a gloomy view of the A New "Perle Harbor": Neocon Foreign Policy Architect Richard Perle reveals US War Plans in the Iranian Theater 06/07/06

The "Perle", of course, refers to Richard Perle.  And I think he gives Perle credit for more actual influence over policy than he has.  At least I hope so!

He cites this report from Ray McGovern that seems at first glance close to tinfoil-hat territory, although McGovern is not normally a tinfoil-hat kind of guy at all: Former CIA Analyst Says Iran Strike Possibly Set For June Or July: McGovern: Staged terror attacks across Europe, US by Paul Joseph Watson 06/02/06.  It reports:

Former CIA analyst and Presidential advisor Ray McGovern, fresh from his heated public confrontation with Donald Rumsfeld, fears that staged terror attacks across Europe and the US are probable in order to justify the Bush administration's plan to launch a military strike against Iran, which he thinks will take place in June or July. ...

"There is already one carrier task force there in the Gulf, two are steaming toward it at the last report I have at least - they will all be there in another week or so."

"The propaganda has been laid, the aircraft carriers are in place, it doesn't take much to fly the bombers out of British and US bases - cruse missiles are at the ready, Israel is egging us on," said McGovern.

McGovern said Iran's likely response to a US air strike would be threefold - mobilizing worldwide terrorist cells that would make Al-Qaeda look like a girls netball team - utilizing its cruise missile arsenal to attack US ships and sending fighters into Iraq to attack US forces. ...

"I can see Karl Rove saying, 'look what you need to do is become a war president again, get us involved with something pretty big here and then strut around and say you can't vote for a bunch of Democrats to pull the rug out from under me while there's a war going on'."

I have to wonder if this report garbled what McGovern supposedly said about staged terrorist attacks, the implication being that the Bush administration would actually stage terrorist incidents as a kind of "Reichstag fire" justification for attacking Iran.  It seems far-fetched, and I really wonder if that what McGovern said.

Duncan Black (Atrios) does report on a good sign from Congress, specifically from Senate minority leader Harry Reid at the YearlyKos convention this past weekend in Las Vegas.  Reid said in his speech, according to the press release:

Looking ahead to Iran and other national security challenges, Reid said: "We face many threats - threats that have grown worse - because this administration took its eye off the ball. We must address these threats, but we must never allow this Administration or any future Administration to manipulate or mislead for ideological or political reasons."

Reid's legislation, the Iran Intelligence Oversight Act, would:

* Require an updated national intelligence estimate on Iran with an unclassified summary available to inform debate by Congress and the American people

* Require the President to report to Congress on his objectives regarding Iran and his strategy for achieving them

* Require the Director of National Intelligence to show Congress that he has a process to review statements about Iran and other key challenges to our national security made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and key cabinet officials to ensure they are consistent with the consensus assessments of professional intelligence analysts.

"Next week, I will introduce new legislation to ensure that Americans are not misled again about a national security challenge. The bill will require intelligence community professionals to monitor and certify administration statements about the threat posed by Iran," Reid said of the legislation. "Every thing they say will have to be supported by facts. I have no doubt the White House won't like this requirement, but after what happened in Iraq, the American people deserve nothing less."

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