Thursday, February 04, 2010

the target is now iran

Guardian | We were ­supposed to have learned the lessons of the Iraq war. That's what Britain's ­Chilcot inquiry is meant to be all about. But the signs from the Middle East are that it could be happening all over again. The US is ­escalating the military build-up in the Gulf, officials revealed this week, boosting its naval presence and supplying tens of billions of dollars' worth of new weapons systems to allied Arab states.

The target is of course Iran. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain are all taking deliveries of Patriot missile batteries. In Saudi Arabia, Washington is sponsoring a 30,000-strong force to protect oil installations and ports. The UAE alone has bought 80 F16 fighters, and General Petraeus, the US commander, claims it could now "take out the entire Iranian airforce".

The US insists the growing militarisation is defensive, aimed at deterring Iran, calming Israel and reassuring its allies. But the shift of policy is clear enough. Last week Barack Obama warned that Iran would face "growing consequences" for failing to halt its nuclear programme, while linking it with North Korea – as George Bush did, in his "axis of evil" speech in 2002.

When Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week renewed Iran's earlier agreement to ship most of its enriched uranium abroad to be reprocessed, the US was dismissive. Obama's "outstretched hand", always combined with the threat of sanctions or worse, appears to have been all but withdrawn.

The US vice-president, Joe Biden, underlined that by insisting Iran's leaders were "sowing the seeds of their own destruction". And in Israel, which has vowed to take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, threats of war against its allies, Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas, are growing. "We must recruit the whole world to fight Ahmadinejad," Israeli president Shimon Peres declared on Tuesday.

The echoes of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq are unmistakable. Just as in 2002-3, we are told that a dictatorial Middle Eastern state is secretly ­developing weapons of mass destruction, defying UN resolutions, obstructing inspections, threatening its neighbours and supporting terrorism.