Mojahedin Khalq Organization too small to be considered
Will the US attack Iran?
by Lawrence Smallman
Wednesday 19 January 2005 7:22 PM GMT
The consensus among experts is that any proxy war, invasion or missile strike on Iran would be a costly mistake, but opinion is divided as to whether it could happen anyway.
Attack of madness
London-based analyst Dr Ali Ansari says all the arguments warning against a military solution would be fine - "if we were dealing with rational people".
But the Royal Institute of International Affairs analyst says the neo-conservative element in Washington contains irrational ideologues who have become even more powerful in Washington since President George Bush's re-election.
"They will continue on their crusade. These people are not of this planet. They still actually think that invading Iraq was a good idea," said Ansari. "I think a missile strike on Iran in 2005 is highly likely."
However, the analyst added that the numerous reports on US-Iran tensions - such as a Seymour Hersh article in The New Yorker on Monday are more indicative of a civil war in the Pentagon than in the Middle East.
"I do not believe that US intelligence agents have been trampling round Iran taking pictures of suspicious-looking buildings. After all, intelligence gathering has not been one of the US' strong points to date," he added.
And with few moderates left in the second Bush administration to argue that there is no military option, Ansari concludes the neo-conservatives are likely to win the policy and media battles.
One senior administration official involved in developing Iran policy told the British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday that "at some point the costs of doing nothing may just become too high.
"In Iran you have the intersection of nuclear weapons and proven ties to terrorism. That is what we are looking at now."
But in an ironic twist, groups previously labelled terrorist by the Bush administration are suddenly appearing not so terrorist-like.
The Pentagon was recently contemplating the infiltration of members of the Iranian rebel group Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) over the Iraq-Iran border, to collect intelligence.
The MEK has been declared a terrorist group by the state department, but a former Farsi-speaking CIA officer, quoted by the British newspaper, said he had been asked by neo-conservatives in the Pentagon to travel to Iraq to oversee "MEK cross-border operations".
The group, based at Camp Ashraf, near Baghdad, was under the protection of Saddam Hussein, and is under US guard while Washington decides on its strategy.
And though analysts who spoke to Aljazeera said MEK by themselves were too small a group to be able to fight a proxy war, other groups are also being considered.
Meanwhile in Congress, the proposed Iran Freedom and Support Act, sponsored by senators Rick Santorum and John Cornyn, calls on the administration to back "regime change" and promote and fund just such alliances with Tehran opposition groups.
A similar bill in the House of Representatives, proposed by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, seeks to strengthen existing legislation that would penalise foreign companies investing in Iran's energy sector.
The acts draws inspiration from the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act - which enshrined regime change. It has the backing of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobby group.
And proposed multi-million dollar funding for Iranian opposition activities has already been inserted by Congress in the 2005 budget on the initiative of Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican.
Whether or not there is a military option open to the US, it seems - at least for some groups in Washington - that preparing for war is as easy as changing the 'q' in Iraq to an 'n'.
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