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Israel’s Gift to Iran’s Hard-Liners
Posted on Jun 10, 2010
By Juan Cole
This essay was produced by TomDispatch.
Introduction by Tom Engelhardt
On May 24th, a piece headlined “U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast” appeared on the front page of the New York Times. It clearly involved a leak of a key, previously unknown document, though not as far as a reader could tell by someone unfriendly to its policy implications; nor did the Obama administration make a fuss about it. In fact, despite its front-paging, it vanished from the news with next to no commentary or follow up, and few expressions of surprise.
Too bad. It should have been attended to. According to the Times’ Mark Mazzetti, in September 2009 Centcom commander General David Petraeus signed a “secret directive” expanding the use of U.S. Special Operations forces throughout the Greater Middle East “and beyond” -- “to build networks that could ‘penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy’ al Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to ‘prepare the environment’ for future attacks by American or local military forces...”
Among the most striking, if least discussed, aspects of this leaked story were the brief summaries of Centcom’s military policy towards Iran where, we were told, the seven-page directive “appears to authorize specific operations in Iran, most likely to gather intelligence about the country’s nuclear program or identify dissident groups that might be useful for a future military offensive.” The report -- too ho-hum for most Americans to concern themselves with -- was surely read with care in Tehran, for it offered a genuine gift to the present Iranian regime. How useful to its hardline leaders to know that the U.S. military has already inserted, or is considering inserting, Special Forces teams into their country to “identify dissident groups that might be useful for a future military offensive.”
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In fact, this sort of thing is little better than a poison pill for that country’s dissident Green Movement, reinforcing the claims Iranian hardliners find it so convenient to make -- that some reformist elements are proxies for foreigners, even paving the way for future U.S. military action. From a purely practical point of view, this new policy is delusional, whether ordered only by General Petraeus or by President Obama himself, since -- despite raging fears on the left in the U.S. -- the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, is functionally incapable of launching a military operation against Iranian nuclear facilities, no less the Iranian fundamentalist government, while it has two wars on its hands. It is, however, remarkably typical of the blustering and blundering in Washington that has left Iranian dissidents saying, as one did in the Los Angeles Times recently, “Just leave us alone, please.”
Juan Cole, who runs Informed Comment, the blog that offers the single best running commentary on the Middle East available and whose most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World, considers other ways in which, on the first anniversary of the fraudulent Iranian elections and the rise of the Green Movement, both U.S. and Israeli policy moves have continued to backfire in Iran. Tom
Iran’s Green Movement: One Year Later
Iran’s Green Movement is one year old this Sunday, the anniversary of its first massive demonstrations in the streets of Tehran. Greeted with great hope in much of the world, a year later it’s weaker, the country is more repressive, and its hardliners are in a far stronger position -- and some of their success can be credited to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sanctions hawks in the Obama administration.
If, in the past year, those hardliners successfully faced down major challenges within Iranian society and abroad, it was only in part thanks to the regime’s skill at repression and sidestepping international pressure. Above all, the ayatollahs benefited from Israeli intransigence and American hypocrisy on nuclear disarmament in the Middle East.
Iran’s case against Israel was bolstered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued enthusiasm for the Gaza blockade, and by Tel Aviv’s recent arrogant dismissal of a conference of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatories, which called on Israel to join a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Nor has President Obama’s push for stronger sanctions on Iran at the United Nations Security Council hurt them.
And then, on Memorial Day in the United States, Israel’s Likud government handed Tehran its greatest recent propaganda victory by sending its commandos against a peace flotilla in international waters and so landing its men, guns blazing, on the deck of the USS Sanctions. Yesterday's vote at the U.N. Security Council on punishing Iran produced a weak, much watered-down resolution targeting 40 companies, which lacked the all-important imprimatur of unanimity, insofar as Turkey and Brazil voted "no" and Lebanon abstained. There was no mention of an oil or gasoline boycott, and the language of the resolution did not even seem to make the new sanctions obligatory. It was at best a pyrrhic victory for those hawks who had pressed for "crippling" sanctions, and likely to be counterproductive rather than effective in ending Iran's nuclear enrichment program. How we got here is a long, winding, sordid tale of the triumph of macho posturing over patient and effective policymaking.
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