Iran: Why you should read Colonel Gardiner

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Ken Coates

For some years now there has been concern about the confrontationbetween the United States and Iran. This has continuously given riseto apprehension, as leaks from the American Intelligence Services, andthe notable dispatches of Seymour Hersh have raised alarm from timeto time. But there have been other voices which, without being sanguine,have been somewhat more reassuring. Discounting the apologists for theAmerican administration, there have been serious voices from the UnitedStates Intelligence, and the American military, explaining why the militaryand social costs of an extension of the Middle East war to Iran wouldbe prohibitive, wreaking far more damage on American interests thanit would be rational to risk. This view has not usually been foundedon any moral rejection of the awful consequences of war, but on calculationsof its likely consequences.

Quite generally this nowadays excludes the possibility of any groundoffensive. What has been a more open question has been whether the UnitedStates might launch air attacks. Rational people might have expectedthat. The remarkable story of the offensive against Lebanon, which sufferedprolonged Israeli bombardment and immense destruction, and yet remainedundefeated, would have given serious thought to military planners inthe United States. It certainly seems that the opposition of the Britishand American Governments to an immediate ceasefire was based on thecalculation that given sufficient time the Israelis would be able todestroy Hezbollah, even if this process involved the most widespreaddestruction, and very large numbers of civilian casualties. But Hezbollahwas not crushed, and indeed, according to its leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah,it emerged from that terrible conflict stronger in popular support,and indeed, even in a stronger military position than it had at thebeginning.

But there have been insistent noises from the Bush entourage, not onlyaccusing Hezbollah of being proxies for Iran, but also threatening tovisit a similar destruction upon Iran from the air, like that whichhas afflicted the Lebanon. As sometimes happens, events that might providean awesome deterrent to rational people may sometimes be an incentiveto military adventurism.
Now there is a careful report from Sam Gardiner (full text availableat, theretired Air Force Colonel who has been evaluating the prospects fora military onslaught on Iran. Gardiner thinks that the consequencesof a serious air strike on Iran can be incalculable. But he thinks thatwhereas military rationality might have prevailed heretofore, todaythe issue is perilously more uncertain.

His conclusion is very chilling. Just prior to any anticipated strike,he says we can expect the quiet deployment of Air Force tankers to stagingbases, and ³we will see additional Navy assets moved to the region².There will also be a fierce intensification of the propaganda preparationsfor war on terrorism.

All of us are well aware of some of the recent propaganda moves inthis direction. Now, more ominously, the latest news is that a significant³Strike Group² of ships is heading for the Persian Gulf. OnSeptember 21st it was reported in The Nation that:

³the Eisenhower Strike Group bristling with Tomahawk cruise missiles,has received orders to depart the United States in a little over a weekŠ other official sources Š confirm that this armada is scheduledto arrive off the coast of Iran on or around October 21st².

If such an air strike is scheduled, then we need only look at theIsraeli onslaught on Lebanon to see what is likely to happen. Certainly,just as the Lebanon was comprehensively flattened, we can expect immensedevastation to be wrought on Iran. This is adequately reported by Gardiner.We can also expect serious retaliation, and quite possibly immense economicdamage as oil supplies are cut off.

Of course, Gardiner may not be right about the economic consequences.Oil may not reach the spike of $125 per barrel, leave alone $200. Theanticipated paralysing recession may not happen. If the state of mindof American military planners can be deduced from what is said by Gardiner,there can be little doubt that they have been intensively studying thelessons of Hezbollah in Lebanon, which are most likely to be appliedin Iran when that is levelled by even larger air attacks. But the globaleconomic consequences of attacks on the Lebanon will not be in any waycomparable with the potential ruin that can be brought about by attackson Iran.

Colonel Gardiner has tried to estimate what these might be. The onlyconclusion a sane person can draw is that the very idea of such an offensiveis suicidal lunacy. There is quite a lot of evidence that this appreciationextends deep into the leadership of the military intelligence communitiesin the United States, and is shared by diplomats and other opinion-shapersaround the world.

Will their view prevail on the United States Government? Is the AmericanFleet voyaging to the Gulf simply in order to make belligerent threats?Is it thought that such threats alone might conduce to an election victoryin the mid-term, based upon fear and irrationalism?

We do not know the answer to these questions. Not so very long agoit would have been unthinkable that anyone could ask them. If ever therewas work for the peace movements to do, surely it is here, and neverwas it more pressing.

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