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Wednesday 23 August 2006

There are only two countries left in the Axis of Evil [Beej]

A recent article in the Sunday papers seems to have passed the average punter by, and its fair enough because we're all becoming blase to Iraq and "Terror" and in general to to a Government which has spun itself a bit too far. The article is interesting because its a little under the radar, but maybe its something we're going to be reminded of whenever it might be that the West gets bored of Iran's diplomatic games over nukes.
Three Iranian factories 'mass-produce bombs to kill British in Iraq'
Well hey, that headline grabs me folks. Some journo is saying that there is a suggestion that Iran, that unfairly picked on energy-developing nation, is not just playing around in Iraq trying to make a quick buck, but is actively running a production line of advanced bombs at facilities in Tehran and handing them over to terrorists attacking British soldiers? Whoah. Pretty heavyweight suggestion there I think. Certainly one that gives us a reason to get off the fence.
So what's so significant? Well I'll tell you what I reckon we're missing here: This is the first claim that terrorist attacks in Iraq can be linked to the Iranian Government.
Aha. But haven't the UK press been banging on about Iranian involvement in Iraq for nearly a year? Well yes. Here's a reminder from November 2005:

"[the] technology certainly, and probably the equipment, is coming through Iran"

So it's been pointed out the deaths of some British squaddies isn't 100% organic to Iraq, it's not some underdog resistance fighters figuring out bomb technology and tactics as they go along, plucky scamps. But isn't this a case of Shia Terrorist A in support of Shia Terrorist B, a bit like the way the Scots and the French might have a snog whenever the hilarious English football team loses? Well yes, it is like that. At a low level. But you see, now there's this suggestion that actually, the support isn't from the other side of the hill from where a line was drawn on a map, somewhere a thousand miles from Tehran, so hey they might not even know, and that border is intangible, ooh it's just like Pakistan and Afghanistan, give the benefit of the doubt because its all so feudal and we're applying rigid Western values to tribal lawlessness!
Yeah, maybe... but maybe not. If we're going to bang on with British liberalism, a worthy tradition that gives the benefit of the doubt, let's also entertain the far-out fantasy that Iran is run by servants of God under a religion which does not tolerate unbelievers and isn't adapting to modern values too well. Hold that thought, and let's spin something that The Sun could splash:
  1. The bombs used to kill British soldiers are made in Iran (yeah yeah, so we heard)
  2. These bombs aren't made in a quiet town in the mountains, they're made in Tehran (oh?)
  3. At least one of the three factories allegedly produces weapons for Iranian Army (interesting claim!)

Now it's important to wheel out the caveat, so Guardian readers, start your engines please: The. Source. Is. A. Pro. Democracy. Anti. Iranian. Group. pass the salt, and whilst you're at it, pass the link to remind us about faulty intelligence that the West were suckers for because of that ghastly man Chalabi. The source of this bomb-making article is apparently a bit politically untidy and maybe that's one reason why with the present British Government running on empty, the Yanks aren't rushing to push the claim either.
The article got me thinking about how the Iran issue has gone a bit quiet despite UN deadlines and with Lebanon as a bit of a distraction. So step back. Take the long term view.
Countries announced as Evil in the way back when:
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • Syria
  • Cuba
  • North Korea
  • Venezuela (only kidding Hugo! Hating America doesn't qualify as evil, otherwise most of Europe would be on this list)

Now update this list with four and a half years of international politics and "War on Terror":
  • Iran
  • Iraq (invaded in March 2003, under occuption three weeks later)
  • Libya (kicked the terrorism habit the same year)
  • Syria (gone quiet and under subtle but serious pressure since 2005)
  • Cuba (Castro is unwell and detente seems as imminent as The Reaper)
  • North Korea

With hindsight, is it a surprise that there's just two of the six untouched? Maybe. Did we think the list would be rattled through this quickly? (Sadly we didn't blog what we thought at the time). It's not hard to guesstimate which one of these countries might be seeing some pressure over the next few months, and maybe the claim linking terrorism in Iraq directly to Tehran is a pointer at what's brewing for the next year or two.


  1. I hope its Iran, i really, really do. Because they might be able to sink a carrier. That would be SO great TV :)

  2. Your blog search was interesting and I saw from that we discussed the region a couple of years ago.
    Getting back to this subject. Just as with the Iraq war, this whole scenario gives me the same feeling that what ultimately decides whether or not military action will be undertaken, and what form, has more to do with the feasibility of it and how justifiable it is at home to the voters than the actual crime itself. Iran is a very different place than Iraq. I don't think any General with the most pink-tinted of battlefield binoculars could believe there's a relatively bloodless way of forcing a change in the ruling regime. Iran is more of a kind of weird religious democratic hybrid that genuinely has the support of the peopler than Saddam's merry dictatorship.
    The so-called coalition of the willing taking out Iraq was met with lots of nasty words from various Arab countries but secretly they were probably quite pleased that one of their major rivals in the region was destabilised. So long as it doesn't turn into a non-Islamic law democratic regime, which as you've infered in this blog, is probably the overriding motivation as to why Iran is doing what it is alleged to be doing right now.
    I'm just not seeing any reasonable logistical prospect (support in region etc) or the political stomach to do something as drastic as Iraq but things seem to be spiraling towards a conclusion that isn't going to be resolved by talking and obviously the goals (of a cessation of nuclear development) isn't going to be met by sanctions either.
    The only thing that I can see happening is a continued and sustained bombing effort on anything believed to be connected to the nuclear programme. And if you believe that, then this is pretty scary indeed when considering the long term prospects for our relations with Islamic states.

  3. Update @ mid-Feb 2007. So the basics of US plans to attack Iran have made their way into the media, in that bifunctional role of warning the Iranians about the reality of American hegemony in the world, and also as part of a future justification of attacks in the form of reprisals. These two circumstances are given:evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapona high-profile mass-casualty attack occurs on the Coalition in Iraq, that can be directly linked to TehranThe second one is interesting. It's of course a public warning. We've already noted in this blog one probable (but not easily proveable) link between attacks on the Coalition and Tehran reported in the media. Given the scale of problems in Iraq, we might want to consider that the use of and connection to specialist roadside bombs might not be a case of infrequent or one-off attacks that are over (certainly not until the Coalition has left). The border between the countries is remote and inadequately secured. Iran has such a large number of influences in Iraq that you can't just switch them off.It might be possible as an outside bet that the Americans think that Iranian-influenced criminal or terrorist groups are already at a stage of planning more destructive attacks. Given the situation on the ground in Iraq, and the failure to turn the insurgency around, this shouldn't be ruled out.It would be a timely leakage of strategy if they think an attack on the Coalition is something they can't prevent, and might already be in the works. With an apparent increase in successful attacks on helos, if they're missile attacks we might ask where these missiles are likely to have come from - Syria or Iran mostly likely. Let's not forget what has been suggested about the SAM attack on a British helicopter in Basra last year.I'd like to think that even though this release supports the neo-con strategy, Congress is in no current mood to let the White House go to war like it did in 2003.

  4. If the USA attacks Iran, three things will happen:
    1. 9/11 will be made to look like amateur hour.2. Iraq will explode, possibly literally.3. Israel will get a serious kicking, and kick back.
    We all know that the Middle East is a tinderbox mishmash of everyone and everything, but this is frankly insane - the United States must behave; I'm with Beej & rather hope that regardless of the current USN deployments, Congress will wake up and stop the Executive/NSC doing something truly stupid (and lets face it, these guys have prior).