Copyright © 2007 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Link – http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/02/06/EDGC7N76FM1.DTL
21,500 troops for Iran
– Amandeep Sandhu
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
President Bush is deploying 21,500 troops against Iran. As standing close to an object blocks out the wider view, focusing on Iraq blocks out Iran. Opponents of the deployment believe that it will fail because the administration’s Iraq strategy is not working. This, however, is already clear to the Bush administration — but its plans are for Iran.
One of Israel’s flanks was secured in 1978 at Camp David when Egypt was made a suppliant client with the promise of $2 billion a year in economic and military foreign aid. Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the United States has pursued initially a “balance of power” and then a dual-containment policy, both intended to square off against each other and discipline the two other biggest military powers in the region, Iraq and Iran.
The United States and Israel believed that Iraq and Iran would drain their own resources fighting each other. Otherwise, they feared, the two would fight together or alone against Israel.
What if alone or together they pressured other Persian Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, that form the world’s central bank of oil? In the first decade of the new century, Iraq, weakened by sanctions and starvation, was eliminated as a regional power. But eliminating one party to dual containment leaves the other party, Iran, unhindered.
So, the 21,500 U.S. troops are there to hinder Iran. Since the late November 2006 meeting between the Saudi King Abdullah II and Vice President Dick Cheney, both the United States and the Saudis have agreed on a course to rollback Iran, especially because of its ascendance even among Sunnis following Hezbollah’s unprecedented defeat of Israel. They are waging an information and financial war on Iran, which is augmented by the threat of a military war as well.
On the information front, there are two components to the plan. First, the Saudis and the United States are pressuring Iran by mobilizing Sunni politicians, press, Muslims scholars and public opinion against the “Persian threat.” King Abdullah, who seldom grants interviews, last month warned Iran, in an interview given to a Kuwaiti newspaper, to stop spreading Shiaism.
Second, an increasing number of stories about an impending attack on Iran are being leaked. These stories pressure the political and business elites in Iran, leading to infighting. On the financial front, the Saudis are slashing oil prices from the highs seen past summer, pressuring Iranians who, given their heavy domestic oil subsidization, pay a greater proportional cost for low oil prices. The Saudis are financially underwriting the campaign against Iran by backing the tattered Fouad Siniora government in Lebanon against the Iranian-supported Hezbollah. In the Palestinian territories, the Saudis are financially backing the Fatah against the Iranian-financed Hamas.
Outside the Middle East, however, the financial war on Iran targets Iranian, European and Asian banks central to Iranian trade. The resulting high inflation in Iran is fueling anti-government anger, crystallized in the public protest over the price of tomatoes, which has tripled over the past month. The United States is now tightening the screws by dispatching Patriot missile defense batteries and aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf and, especially, by dispatching 21,500 soldiers to the region. Right when Iran was expecting a gradual withdrawal of the United States from the region, the United States fires a shot across Iran’s bow by strengthening troop presence.
These troops are to check any hostilities — a possible reaction against the pressure applied by the United States and Saudis — by Iranians, either in the Persian Gulf or in Iraq, where the Iranians can respond by activating the militias. The Bush administration knows that 21,500 troops are not enough to stop the bloodshed in Iraq. A controlled civil war is not much of a concern, as long as the bloodshed does not spill over into other countries.
Iraq, weakened by a civil war, is less of a future threat to either Israel or to the Persian Gulf states which, with declining oil reserves in other parts of the world, form the central core around which the global economy spins.
According to Gen. George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, the 21,500 troops will begin leaving by late summer. The informational, financial and military seizure of Iran, it is hoped by the planners, will result in a social revolution inside Iran before late summer.
Two bullets fired in Sarajevo in 1914 shaped the 20th century. While the Americans, Israelis and Saudis do not yet want an open war, their actions might just lead to a new war in the Middle East. A random incident in the Persian Gulf in 2007 could soon turn into the Sarajevo of the 21st century.
Amandeep Sandhu is a political sociologist who writes on global political and economic issues with special focus on South Asia and the Middle East. He is a chancellor’s fellow at UC Santa Barbara.