So Much For That Argument

In the long and painful run up to war with Iran, part of the administration’s tactic has been to wage a PR battle to get Americans used to the idea that Iran poses a threat and needs to be dealt with quickly.  Half of this blitz has been spent talking up Iran’s Nuclear Weapon threat, while the other half has been spent on asserting that Iran is fighting a “proxy war” with the US through Iraq.

I’ve been consistently countering the nuclear argument, the fact that the IAEA itself isn’t convinced that Iran has weapons coupled with the fact that Iran actually has a history of pursuing nuclear power would suggest a path of prudence over expediency.  Now it’s time to take a look at the other argument.

In his address to the American people Thursday night, President Bush stated as though it were inarguable fact that Iran was aiding Iraqi Shiite militias in training in a proxy war:

One year ago, Shia extremists and Iranian-backed militants were gaining strength and targeting Sunnis for assassination. Today, these groups are being broken up, and many of their leaders are being captured or killed.

(snip)

The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. A free Iraq will deny Al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will counter the destructive ambitions of Iran. A free Iraq will marginalize extremists, unleash the talent of its people, and be an anchor of stability in the region. A free Iraq will set an example for people across the Middle East. A free Iraq will be our partner in the fight against terror — and that will make us safer here at home.

References to Iran were few in the speech, and subtle.  Yet they were definitive, much like the leaked words of many administration officials seeking to perpetuate the concept that Iran is a threat so that it becomes acceptable to engage in direct military action against the nation.  But as it turns out, there seems to be a whole lot of smoke, and thus far no real fire.

Petraeus dealt the final blow to the notion of a Quds Force training role when he noted that the Hezbollah trainers had also been withdrawn from the country.The briefing by U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner on Jul. 2 was aimed primarily at advancing the theme that Hezbollah acts in Iraq as a “proxy” for Iran. But the real significance of the briefing — unreported in the news media — was the first suggestion by a U.S. official that the Quds Force personnel in Iraq might have avoided direct contacts with Shiite militias altogether. Asked by a journalist why the Quds Force would “subcontract” the training of Shiite militias to Hezbollah, Bergner answered that Hezbollah could “do things that perhaps they didn’t want to have to do themselves in terms of interacting directly with special groups”.

Without mentioning any pull-out of Quds force personnel, spokesperson Conway said on Aug. 19 that Gen. Lynch estimated that there were 50 Quds Force agents in his entire area of responsibility in southern Iraq. Four days later Lynch clarified that estimate, telling reporters that 30 of those estimated 50 agents were “surrogates” — presumably referring to Hezbollah operatives engaged in training Shiites in southern Iraq.

Although it was buried in the Aug. 19 story inaccurately reporting Lynch’s statement about training in Iraq, Megan Greenwell of the Washington Post reported the much more significant fact that “some military intelligence analysts have concluded there is no concrete evidence” linking the Quds force in Iraq with the Shiite militias.

The charge that Iran was using the Quds force to fight a proxy war was an effort to raise tension with Iran by suggesting a potential reason for U.S. attack against Iran. Similarly, the pressure for targeting the Quds Force in Iraq late last year came from senior officials in the Bush administration who wished to demonstrate U.S. resolve to confront Iran, according to an in-depth account of the origins of the plan by the Washington Post’s Dafna Linzer published Feb. 26.

That policy was regarded with “scepticism” by the intelligence community, the State Department and the Defence Department when it was proposed, Linzer wrote, because of the fear it would contribute to an escalation conflict with Iran.

“This has little to do with Iraq,” a senior intelligence officer told Linzer. “It’s all about pushing Iran’s buttons. It’s purely political.”

There is no question about it, this is a must read article, and should be read in its entirety.

Now, a word for the hawks out there.  For some reason we tend to attract a lot more of you guys than many other liberal bloggers, so I want you to listen up here.

I’ve said it before, Iran’s not our friend.  But stay with me for a moment.  Because a nation is not our friend, does not mean that it is a good idea to go to war against them, or even to go INTENTIONALLY looking for one.

If a nation poses a true and immediate threat, then maybe the story changes, but that is thus far not the case here.  We have the pentagon drawing up plans, and word coming out on what seems to be a weekly basis that the administration wants to hit Iran, this while still mired in Iraq, and before true credible and irrefutable evidence has been displayed to back up the arguments for war.

It seems to me that among the right side of the ‘sphere much of the Iraq argument could be boiled down to, “okay, maybe we shouldn’t have gone in, but now that we’re there, we can’t worry about that, and we need to win.”

Well, we’re standing on the precipice of another Iraq, only this time we have fair warning.  We have fair warning of what can happen when you launch a war you shouldn’t, and we are getting the right information NOW about the case for war that the administration is trying to build.

Iraq’s a mess, and it’ll be a long time before that isn’t the case, but we at least have the ability to not repeat the same mistake in Iran.  The evidence simply doesn’t warrant it at this juncture, and it is time to take a step back before we literally bumble our way into a third world war.

We need to get back to the place where we only go to war when we have to, not when someone in the White House wants to enough to start scraping flimsy evidence together.  We should have learned this by now.

(h/t Cernig)

One Response to “So Much For That Argument”

  1. Charles Bird says:

    Porter ignored Petraeus’ other testimony that the flow of weapons from Iran is unchanged. Last month, Gen. Odierno remarked that $750,000 to $3 million worth of military equipment comes from Iran every month.

    Porter refers to Hezbollah as the culprits but failed to mention that Hezbollah is itself a proxy army for Iran, bought and paid for by the Iranian mullahs at a clip of $60 to $100 million per year.

    It looks like the fella who denied genocide in Cambodia and downtalked NVA massacres in Vietnam is still up to his old tricks.

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