Chances of Iran-U.S. War Just Increased


The details are fuzzy, but news agencies are reporting that the Iranian Navy has just detained 15 British troops in Iraqi waters.
After some negotiation and diplomatic sizzle, these troops will no doubt be released.
But this is more evidence that America and Iran are poking each other through proxies. Iran is using these British military personnel to send signals to the U.S. — and the U.S. has taken similar actions against Iran inside Iraq and probably along the Iran-Iraq border.
These kinds of incidents become the stuff of escalation and miscalculation. One would hope that the President has purchased copies of The Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis for his team to get them to understand what reckless escalation might cause. The problem is that part of Bush’s foreign policy team views “reckless escalation” as its hobby.
Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage reportedly bought copies of this book and distributed to both sides in what could have been a hot nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan.
One hopes that Bush has the sense to drop the swagger and realizes that we are increasingly tilting towards accidental, if not purposeful, war — but perhaps that is the President’s intention.
— Steve Clemons


15 comments on “Chances of Iran-U.S. War Just Increased

  1. 2oo7 says:

    Annonomys source: British Bombers are fueled, and naval fleet on red alert. 3 trident class subs off the coast of iran, ready to go.
    Precautionary or Preemptive?


  2. Bourbon Straight says:

    Captured without firing a shot. Just like their USSA counterparts. Small wonder, considering the USSA commander in chief has no clue how to or desire to KILL THE ENEMY, POST 911.


  3. pauline says:

    Does this quotation from the AP story sound like it was spoken by an Iraqi fisherman?
    “Two boats, each with a crew of six to eight multinational forces, were searching Iraqi and Iranian boats Friday morning in Ras al-Beesha area in the northern entrance of the Arab Gulf, but big Iranian boats came and took the two boats with their crews to the Iranian waters,” said the fisherman.
    Smells a bit fishy?


  4. Matthew says:

    Alan: Did you just use the phrase “Iraqi sovereignty”?
    That disappeared in 2003. It’s now catalogued at the Smithsonian next to the Dodo bird.


  5. pen Name says:

    I should think US attack on Iran will mean the end of US-EU presence in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
    I think that the initial phase of the war will cause the death and maiming of 15,000 Iranians. I think another 2000 US soldiers will die in Iraq as a consequence. I also think US will cause upwards of 200 Billion dollars worth of damages in Iran.
    As the war enters its second, thirs, … years we will see more and more casualties on both sides.
    I think there will be balck ops. against Bahrain, Qatar, and UAE.
    I think that US will be routed out of Iraq.
    I think Iran will exit NPT and build atomic weapons.
    I think you are looking at a sort of Israel vs. Arabs type of situation in whcih there will neither war nor peace in the Levant and the Persian Gulf.
    Based on the speeches of the Iranian leaders for the New Year, it seems that Iran has made itself ready for war with US.
    I would like to point out that US cannot win this war with Iran and Iran will not loose. Regardless of the costs to Iran that I enumerated above, I think the war will achieve one of the main objectives of the Iranian and Russian governments – US exit from the Middle East. The exit will be forced on US as the war with Iran drage on for years and the cost of maintaining that war keep on going up.
    US cannot remain in the Middle East while at war with both branches of Islam at the same time.


  6. steve duncan says:

    Many people, both Iranians and Americans, will die in such a conflict. This is truly tragic for all involved. Iran endured much hardship and death during their war with Saddam. They could withstand more. They’re fervent in their hatred of the U.S. Bush and Cheney and the rest of Bushco need taught a lesson, albeit with the accompanying unfortunate suffering of our military. Let Bush launch such a war. Just as in Iraq we’ll get our asses kicked eventually. It would finally seal the verdict he’s a war criminal worthy of the gallows. He won’t suffer such a fate of course. At least when the history books are written it would certify him as the worst President to ever serve.


  7. Zathras says:

    It might be a good idea to wait and learn a little more about this incident before proclaiming that we’re on the brink of war.
    Initial reports suggested a routine anti-smuggling operation disrupted by Iranians who objected to the boarding of one specific ship. Now, it’s possible the British personnel strayed into Iranian waters, as a British team is alleged to have done back in 2004. It’s also possible that the Iranians involved in this incident objected to boarding of this ship because it was involved in smuggling and they were party to it. Smuggling is not exactly a new thing in that part of the world, you know.
    I will admit freely that if the sky does actually fall and we find ourselves in Cuban Missile Crisis territory over this incident, this post will sound very foolish. Perhaps as Steve and the other posters here imply, this is really the perfect time to panic. But I doubt it, and think in any case we ought to wait before jumping to conclusions.


  8. Alan says:

    Let me get this straight. The Iranians have just abducted 15 British sailors, in blatant violation of both international law and Iraqi sovereignty, and you are warning that the Bush administration will see this as a provocation? Wouldn’t it be more intellectually honest to acknowledge that the Iranians don’t have much of a problem with escalation on their end?
    It is, of course, very much in vogue to demonize Bush administration decision-making, and you (and your readers) are welcome to do so ad nauseam. But you – and they – should be careful not to miss the forest for the trees.


  9. Nicholas Weaver says:

    Call me naive, but I don’t understand WHY all the provocations…
    For the US, war with Iran might as well be a global economic suicide pact: Iran can do so much to disrupt the world’s oil supply, they have a pretty effective proxy government in Iran now, allies along the entire supply routes for 150k US troops, etc, that it would be stupid to start shooting.
    For Iran’s leaders, war with the US might as well be a suicide pact. The US military may not be able to hold land and rebuild nations, yet when it comes to conquesting nation-states nobody comes close.
    I’d bet that 40K marines and army troops, using the tanks already prepositioned in Iraq, backed up by a couple of carrier groups and the USAF, could march into Tehran and take down the Iranian government without breaking much of a sweat. We won’t be able to deal with the subsequent populist uprisings, and it would require admitting we are defeated in Iraq too (it would be basicaly an anti-surge of US troops from Iraq into Iran), but for the Mullahs, dead is still dead.
    So the question is, what do the saber rattlers on both sides think they can accomplish?


  10. Den Valdron says:

    Steve, a few days ago it became clear that the Russians were withdrawing their personnel from Bushehr and other likely target sites, citing ‘non-payment.’
    Interestingly, the Iranians have claimed publicly that their accounts are up to date and no payments are outstanding.
    Whatever the case, Iran is of such potential strategic significance to the Russians that it is unlikely that they would risk a major breach lightly.
    On this basis, there is a real suspicion that the dispute over accounts is a cover, and that the Russians are removing their personnel in anticipation of an American attack.
    Presumably the Russians would know something, either through effective intelligence, or being told by the Americans wishing to avoid an incident.
    Matters are not sanguine.


  11. pauline says:

    March 23, 2007
    “The Pelosi-crats and the war caught like a deer in the headlights”
    by Justin Raimondo
    The times, they sure are a changin.’ Why, it seems like only yesterday — although it was December 16, 1998 — that Nancy Pelosi opined:
    “As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”
    Today, however, she’s singing a different tune: “There was never anything in the intelligence that said Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States, never.”
    When Bush launched the war, both the Senate and House adopted resolutions ostensibly to “support the troops,” but in reality endorsing the war, the bombing, and the policies of the Bush administration. The Senate voted 99-to-nothing for a resolution that “commends and supports the efforts and leadership of the President, as Commander in Chief, in the conflict against Iraq.”
    The House version, co-authored by Nancy Pelosi and Tom Delay (what a tag-team!), passed 392-11, with 22 abstentions. It went much further than the Senate version in supporting Bush, not only claiming that Iraq was in “material breach” of UN resolutions, but also going so far as to offer “unequivocal support” for Bush’s “firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq,” which it described as “part of the ongoing Global War on Terrorism.” Eleven Democrats voted against the resolution, averring that they could support the troops without supporting this tripe. As American bombs were falling on Iraq, killing thousands, Pelosi declared,
    “Saddam Hussein is a menace to his own people, and a threat to the peace and stability of the entire region. As our soldiers risk their own lives to secure the lives and liberty of others, we pledge to repay their courage by guaranteeing that we will spare no resource and no effort to make sure nothing stands between them and victory.”
    She is fulfilling that pledge today: the bill she is trying to strong-arm though the Democratic Congress, the “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health and Iraq Accountability Act,” gives the President more money to expand the military than he asked for. It also establishes benchmarks that would supposedly regulate the number of troops in Iraq and their mission, leading to a complete withdrawal by the summer of next year. The only problem is that these benchmarks can be unilaterally waived by the President, with Congress in only an advisory role.
    The Pelosi bill, in short, is the most partisan, most dishonest piece of legislation possible, under the circumstances. With one hand it proffers a veritable cornucopia of goodies, benchmarks on “troop readiness,” an end to extended deployment, “rest periods” between deployments, and, most delectable of all, a deadline of October 1, 2007, for the Iraqis to get their act together, or else we’re out of there.
    With the other hand, however, the Pelosi-crats hand the ball back to the Bush administration, ensuring that nothing will come of it but a campaign issue for the Democrats. It’s all smoke-and-mirrors. News accounts insist the Pelosi bill requires a complete U.S. withdrawal, except it just isn’t true: as currently written, the legislation provides for the stationing of considerable forces in Iraq provided they are (supposedly) going after al Qaeda, or other terrorist organizations with “global reach.” We’re just going to have to take this administration’s word for it if, or, rather, when the President makes short shrift of Pelosi’s feeble benchmarks.
    Listen to the language of the “antiwar” Pelosi-crats: they never say we ought to withdraw from Iraq: instead, they insist, we should “redeploy.” Which means we’ll bide our time, and wait for the opportunity to pounce once again on whatever practically defenseless Middle Eastern nation is targeted next.
    At the beginning of this conflict, Pelosi promised: “I don’t have any intention of second-guessing the strategy of the commander in chief and those who are waging this war.” This from someone who now wants to micromanage the U.S. military campaign in Iraq,down to the number of troops, and how they’re to be deployed.
    I won’t bore you, dear readers, with a long disquisition on Pelosi’s many wobbles on the Iraq question: suffice to say it is dizzying. Anyone can change their mind: but usually they acknowledge the change. We have seen no such acknowledgement from the Speaker, and I wouldn’t hold my breath: her arrogance is legendary. Now that the war she endorsed, and refused to “second-guess,” is unpopular, the Speaker has decided she’s against it — but not so much that she is willing to cut off the funding.
    With the introduction of the “U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health and Iraq Accountability Act,” disguised as an “antiwar” measure, this is no longer merely Bush’s war. By approving funds to continue the conflict, after having been voted into office largely on account of their ostensible opposition to it, Pelosi & Co. have made it their war, too. The party leadership’s role as the “left” wing of the War Party is underscored by the Speaker’s threats to punish those genuinely antiwar Democrats who oppose this bill.
    The idea that the Democrats are any kind of “peace party” is belied by the latest action of the Speaker in regard to this bill, who excised a provision that would have required the President to come to Congress for permission to attack Iran. And, gee, what a coincidence, but that this was done right after the recent conference of the American-Israel Political Affairs Committee, where Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared:
    “I know that all of you who are concerned about the security and the future of the State of Israel understand the importance of strong American leadership addressing the Iranian threat, and I am sure you will not hamper or restrain that strong leadership unnecessarily.”
    He forgot to add: or else. Not that he had to: Nancy skeedaddled back to her office so fast that she must have broken the sound barrier and the offending passage was cut from the bill.
    Yes, the times, they are a changin’ but not in a good way. Nancy and the Democrats just gave Bush the green light to start bombing Tehran at Olmert’s earliest convenience — so get ready for the Second Great Middle East War, brought to you by the leadership of both “major” parties.


  12. Via says:

    I think an ‘accidental’ confrontation with Iran would suit Bush’s purposes very nicely just now. He is not only the Decider, he is the Distracter. Sort of like the ‘second Pearl Harbor’ of 911 that the neocons had been praying for ever since the PNAC was hatched.


  13. Brigitte N. says:

    Very much agree–decision-makers would do well to learn from history, at least those who read and understand what the read. Essence of Decision is an excellent recommendation.
    As for the first comment: Presidents tend to ignore the constitution on this point (as in others) and the War Powers Act of 1973, often hailed as restoring Congresses war powers, does not work out this way at all: By given the president a window in which he can act, he has gotten in practice free hand. Once the military is deployed, Congress is not willing to interfere.


  14. Steve Clemons says:

    rich — the answer is yes, of course. But the provocations are now manifesting themselves more publicly. best, Steve


  15. rich says:

    Agree with the post. But, didn’t the risk of war increase when Bush ordered covert ops to operate inside Iran? NOT when Iran detained British troops? (relatively speaking) British troops that had been operating INSIDE Iranian territory?
    By any definition, Bush’s use of covert ops is an Act of War. (That this happens all the time at some level is not relevant.) And as such, it’s not so much an unwise provocation as a usurpation of Congress’s Article 1, Section 8 Powers under the Constitution.
    That America hasn’t paid an OBvious price for such covert Acts of War during the 20th Century doesn’t mean the costs have not been huge–and perhaps irreparable.


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