The friend of my friend is my enemy

February 13, 2007

That’s the basic logic of Chancellor Bush’s present push to demonize Iran.

Our man in the Green Zone is al-Maliki. His governing coalition relies most heavily on SCIRI and Dawa, the two Shi’ite factions whose leadership consists of returned exiles from Iran, and which are the prime beneficiaries of Iran’s financial and military largesse.

The only major Shi’ite group hostile to us is al-Sadr’s, an explicitly nationalist outfit whose attitude toward Tehran has been, “Off, off, eely tentacle!” And al-Sadr has neither employed IEDs, nor concentrated its fire on coalition forces; it is more interested in its fellow Iraqis, in sending the residents of Sunni sectors of the city into exile or into morgues.

Yet the noise machine is instructing us to believe that Iran is successfully killing off hundreds of GIs through their Shi’ite proxies, our own closest allies. It doesn’t make sense. Like DNA being translated backwards, it only makes anti-sense.

But there’s no need to take my word for it. The stodgy, conservative Financial Times sets forth its skepticism in a blistering editorial.

The main ingredient of the IEDs used by Iraqi insurgents is the high explosive the US left unsecured in nearly 100 arms dumps. Hizbollah, which is Iranian-backed, has helped the most anti-American Shia militia, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army. It may also have imparted its roadside bomb expertise but so, frankly, could the internet.The Bush administration may be taking aim, ultimately, at Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. But what it is describing here is not rocket science.

Before the election, the war drummers beat on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It was a legitimate worry, which could have led to a superficially plausible casus belli. Since the election, they’ve switched their demonization strategy. Now it rests on a core that is patently nonsensical. Why would they devalue the currency of their own propaganda like this?

There is, unfortunately, one obvious answer. If Republicans had remained in control of Congress, Bush had a fair shot at obtaining a new AUMF, granting him license to attack Iran in a new preventive war. After November, that possibility evaporated. The challenge became to find grounds to start a war which would look defensive rather than pre-emptive. No one disputes the President’s power to respond to direct attacks on our forces. And so Iran must be painted as attacking our soldiers in Iraq. The propaganda has changed precisely because the goal – war with Iran – has not.

I wish I could think of an answer different from the obvious one.


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