Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The short march to war
The Bush administration imposed new sanctions on Iran today -- the harshest sanctions since the 1979 hostage crisis -- and there are other signs that the neocons may be willing the battle for what's left of Dubya's addled little mind. From the AP yesterday:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some Democratic lawmakers questioned on Wednesday whether a new Bush administration request for $88 million to fit "bunker-busting" bombs to B-2 stealth bombers was part of preparations for an attack on Iran.

The proposal was included as part of a nearly $200 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Bush administration sent to Capitol Hill on Monday.

The request included $87.8 million for further development of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, a conventional bomb designed to destroy hardened or deeply buried targets.

Many of Iran's nuclear development facilities are believed to be underground. The United States accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear bomb while Tehran insists its nuclear program is only for power generation.

A Bush administration summary said the request was needed for "development of a Massive Ordnance Penetrator for the B-2 aircraft in response to an urgent operational need from theater commanders," but gave no details.

"My assumption is that it is Iran, because you wouldn't use them in Iraq, and I don't know where you would use them in Afghanistan, it doesn't have any weapons facilities underground that we know of," said Rep. Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat who is on the House defense spending committee and intends to argue against the request.

"I suppose you could try to bomb out a cave (in Afghanistan), but that seems like taking a sledgehammer to a tack. A little excessive," Moran said in a phone interview.

Another Democrat, Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, said the bunker-buster request worried him because of the rising tide of criticism of Iran coming from the Bush administration. Last week, Bush warned that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War Three.

"The drumbeats of war are beating again, this time against Iran and we have to step in while there is still time," McDermott said through a spokesman.
But will the Dems step in before Bush uses their prior votes -- Hillary's included -- as an excuse to pull the trigger? Signs point to no. The Dems clearly lack the political will to confront the administration, even in its weakened state, and they have proved to be woefully inadequate at countering the political gamesmanship (and Stepford-like loyalty to the president) of their Republican counterparts. The neocons and their robotic operatives on Capitol Hill are still carrying the day, and beating the Dems at every punch. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid should be ashamed of the way they have conducted themselves thus far.

The optimist in me (which at this stage is a very junior operative) still holds out hopd for some show of sanity -- perhaps from within the military itself, or maybe even from Bob Gates -- to stop this train before it leaves the station, and a president with nothing left to lose decides to lose one more for his dwindling, war-crazed, paronoid delusional base.

And then there's this: the noises out of Russia are nearly as bellicose as those coming out of Dick Cheney's pharyngeal motor cortex. From the Asia Times:

... The barely reported highlight of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for the Caspian Sea summit last week was a key face-to-face meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A high-level diplomatic source in Tehran tells Asia Times Online that essentially Putin and the Supreme Leader have agreed on a plan to nullify the George W Bush administration's relentless drive towards launching a preemptive attack, perhaps a tactical nuclear strike, against Iran. An American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia. ...
There's also news in that same report that Putin may be working on a plan to temporarily have Tehran halt its nuclear program in exchange for a Russian push to kill U.N. sanctions, eventually allowing Iran's program to resume. That would be good news. But my sinking feeling is that Washington is hurtling toward war, because Cheney and his neocons fear that the next president cannot be trusted to do it (unless they can guarantee a Giuliani win, in which case the same neocons will continue to be in charge.) If that happens, Russia is in something of a "heads we win, tails you lose" position. An attack would drive up oil prices, as Uri Kasparov explained on "60 Minutes," enriching oil-soaked Russia. And an attack would dirve Iran deeper into the embrace of the KGB-led Russian government, strengthening Putin's hand in the now Iran-centric Middle East.

If on the other hand, Russia is able to forestall an attack, Iran's debt to Moscow grows deep, and Putin's influence grows anyway. Either way, it's unlikely that the Bushies have much of a clue as to what they will unleash with even an air attack on Iran.

After all, foreward planning isn't their strong suit. Their strong suit is bombing Muslims.

Back to the planning. TIME reports that the real target of the new U.S. sanctions against Iran might be the European businesses and governments that continue to have deep economic ties with Tehran, and that:
the new measures may actually signal a splintering of the international consensus pressuring Tehran to curb its nuclear program.
The teeth in the new measures derives from the fact that they target anyone who is doing business with those Iranian institutions and individuals. And that means doing business with Iran at all, because as Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson put it, the IRGC "is so deeply entrenched in Iran's economy and commercial enterprises, it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran, you are doing business with [the Guard]." Administration officials told the New York Times that a key purpose of the new measures was "to persuade foreign governments and financial institutions to cut ties with Iranian businesses and individuals."

The move comes amid U.S. frustration at its failure to elicit sufficient support for new U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, and at the slow progress of efforts to persuade European countries and institutions that do business with Iran to voluntarily desist. Some of Iran's biggest European trading partners, such as Italy and Germany, oppose unilateral sanctions, warning that if their companies were to withdraw from Iran, they would simply be replaced by competitors from Russia and China. But to the extent that the latest U.S. moves are used to pressure third-country governments, banks and corporations doing business with Iran, they will be perceived as Washington using its muscle in the international financial system to impose its own Iran policy on others. And resentment may not be the only consequence. China, for example, would be unlikely to accept any U.S. effort to stop any of its corporations from doing important business with Iran, and could threaten economic countermeasures to deter such action. ...
Again, failure to foresee the consequences.
While the U.S. call to ratchet up economic pressure on Iran is strongly backed by Britain and France, Russia and China have both warned against taking unilateral measures outside of the U.N. Italy and Germany, Iran's largest European trading partners, have also opposed moves to pressure Iran outside of the U.N. Security Council. The move suggests the U.S. may be reverting to a "coalition of the willing" model for dealing with Iran. Yet the case Washington makes for escalating sanctions — the claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and that shutting down its uranium-enrichment program is a matter of urgency to prevent it attaining the know-how to build a bomb — is not the international consensus. Russia's President Vladimir Putin last week visited Tehran, and made clear that Russia sees no evidence that Iran is actually pursuing nuclear weapons — contradicting the U.S. charge that the civilian nuclear technologies Iran seeks will give it the means eventually to build such weapons.
Meanwhile, Bush is pressing forward knowing that Congress doesn't have the cojones to stand in his way, should he and his neocons choose war to grab the resources ... I mean "alter the behavior" of Iran.

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