Dispatches From The Edge
Iran: Planning the Whack; Nepal & Somalia: Red Faces
By Conn Hallinan
May 30, 2006 .
Anyone who thinks the Bush Administration is too far
down in the polls to even contemplate attacking Iran
should consider the following developments:
First, the reason British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
was dumped was not because of a 'cabinet shuffle'
following the recent shellacking the Labor Party took
in local elections. The real reason was that
Washington demanded his head following a statement by
Straw that an attack on Iran 'was not on the agenda,'
would be a violation of international law, and that any
talk of using nuclear weapons against Teheran was
According to David Clark, special advisor to former
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Prime Minister Tony Blair
sacked Cook back in 2001 because Washington thought he
was wishy washy on using military force. Writing in the
Guardian, Cook argues that Straw's lack of enthusiasm
for a military solution to the Iran crisis doomed him.
'It wouldn't be the first time the Bush Administration
played an important role in persuading Tony Blair to
sack his foreign minister,' writes Clark.
The new Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, voted
against the Iraq war, but her nickname-The Great
Survivor-suggests that she will do whatever Blair wants
her to. And according to Ewan MacAskill of the
Guardian, Tony is actually more hawkish on Iran than
Second, Vice-President Dick Cheney's recent broadside
at Russia over using gas and oil as 'tools of
intimidation and blackmail,' and for the Kremlin's
anti-democratic turn, seemed almost designed to torpedo
any U.S.-Russian cooperation in the UN Security Council
on Iran. While some of Cheney's attack was aimed at
trying to undermine Russian and Chinese interests in
Central Asian oil by re-routing Azerbaijan and
Kazakhstan hydrocarbons through Turkey, the tone was
reminiscent of the 1950s. Indeed, the Moscow press
called it a 'new Cold War,' and one paper even compared
it to Winston Churchill's 1946 Fulton, Missouri speech
that launched the last one.
The White House is unhappy about the recent $100
billion gas deal between Iran and China and is fearful
that, in the scramble for Central Asian oil, Washington
is losing out. Last month Iran, India, Pakistan and
Mongolia were asked the join the Shanghai Cooperation
Group, an intergovernmental formation launched back in
2001 by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iranian Foreign Minister
Manuchehr Mohammadi said that the Group would 'make the
world more fair,' and allow Russia and Iran to build a
'gas and oil arc' and coordinate their activities.
All of which argues that the White House doesn't think
there is a snowball's chance in the Kara Kum desert
that China and Russia will vote to declare Iran in
violation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which would
declare Iran a threat to international peace and
security, and almost guarantee a war by September.
So why would the Administration turn its designated
berserker loose at this delicate time? To launch a new
Cold War on Russia and China, sideline the UN and, damn
the torpedoes, on to Teheran.
Third was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's coup
against the CIA. All intelligence will now be
controlled by the military, the same people that cooked
the information that launched the war on Iraq.
Fourth: Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Shah, is
organizing a 'front' of Iranian ex-patriots to
overthrow the present regime in Teheran.
And fifth, The Herald (Scotland) reported May 16 that
the Pentagon is ramping up two plans for bombing Iran.
Plan #1 calls for a five-day bombing campaign against
400 key targets, including 24 nuclear related sites, 14
military airfields, and Revolutionary Guard
headquarters. Attackers would use GBU-28 bunker-busters
on underground targets. Tomahawk cruise missiles and
aircraft carrier-launched fighter-bombers would whack
radar and anti-aircraft sites.
Plan #2 calls for 'demonstration' bombing raids on the
uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and the
hexafluoride plant at Isfahan.
No one is talking about sending in ground troops. Not
even the White House is that crazy.
Former Army intelligence analyst William Arkin, the man
who first blew the whistle on the possible use of
nuclear weapons on Iran, recently commented in the
Washington Post, 'The United States military is really,
really getting ready, building war plans and options,
studying maps, shifting its thinking.'
So the pieces are in place: a complacent ally, a
provocative VP, the military in charge, a plan, and
Ahmed Chalabi-sorry, Reza Pahlavi-ready to gather in
the rose petals.
If the Nepalese parliament ever gets around to
examining the role played by other nations in fueling
the civil war that has claimed some 13,000 lives over
the past decade, there are going to be some red faces
in Washington, London and New Delhi.
The British gave combat helicopters to the Royal Nepal
Army, and India supplied FN submachine guns and
advisors. The U.S., however, bears most of the blame
for not only encouraging the Nepalese monarchy to seek
a military victory over the Communist party of Nepal-
Maoist (CPNM), but also providing over 8,000 M-16
assault rifles, night fighting equipment, and military
Former U.S. Ambassador, Michael R. Malinowski-an old
Pakistan and Afghanistan hand-compared CPNM leader
Baburam Bhattarai to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph
Goebbels and said that the insurgents 'literally have
to be bent back to the table.' King Gyanendra took that
advice, dissolved parliament and went on the offensive.
The outcome was predictable: a massive jump in deaths
and disappearances and the eventual collapse of the
throne's attempt to rule by decree and 'win' the civil
For the time being, Parliament is back in charge, but
the Royal Nepal Army is 72,000 strong and, thanks to
the U.S., British, and Indians, very well armed. The
situation is still extremely dangerous.
The U.S. will also have some answering to do in
Somalia, where it is backing a coalition of warlords
who call themselves the 'Alliance for the Restoration
of Peace and Counter Terrorism.' Add those two last
words to your title and the U.S. turns on the money
The Bush Administration is mum on the charge, but the
government of President Abdullahi Yusuf has been quite
forthright. 'The U.S. funded the warlords in the recent
battle in Mogadishu, there is not doubt about that,'
Somali government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari told
Reuters May 4. 'The warlords, though U.S. support, have
caused so many deaths of innocent civilians - it only fuels civil war.'
Washington has long had its eye on Somalia because of
its proximity to the Gulf of Aden, gateway to the Red
Sea. The U.S. presently has 1,600 troops north of
Somalia in Djibouti, and has scattered bases and
Special Forces all across North Africa, supposedly
because the region is rife with terrorists. With the
possible exception of Morocco and Southern Algeria,
there is no evidence for this.
The ostensible reason for backing the Somalian warlords
is a rumored al-Qaeda presence. But even a Pentagon
study found no sign of the group (which is, in any
case, more a point of view than an organization). It is
no coincidence that 'terrorism' always seems to crop up
in places that have lots of oil and gas, or happen to
be located in critical choke points like the Gulf of
At least 160 people have been killed in the Mogadishu
fighting, the vast majority of them civilians caught in
[Conn Hallinan is a foreign policy analyst for Foreign
Policy In Focus (online at www.fpif.org) and a
lecturer in journalism at the University of California,