Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Brown's bane will be getting dragged into an American attack on Iran

If he is not going to suffer Blair's fate with Iraq, his most important foreign policy task will be dissuading Washington

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday June 13, 2007
The Guardian

".......Still, there could be a much graver blow to come, as Iraq and Afghanistan come to look like the relatively simple files in Brown's foreign policy in-tray. Knottier and more urgent will be the one marked "Iran". The evidence is mounting that Brown could suffer the turmoil that came to define his predecessor - and be asked by a US president to join in a military adventure......

Other rumblings are just as telling. On Sunday Senator Joe Lieberman suggested "aggressive military action" against Iran, to punish it for training Iraqis to kill American soldiers. At the Hay festival last month former Pentagon adviser and super-hawk Richard Perle talked openly of bombing Iran, offering a clue as to timing: the US would wait till it had fewer troops in Iraq, so denying Tehran an easy target for retaliation.

Now Perle is not as tightly woven inside the loop as he once was; many of his neocon comrades have fallen by the wayside. But his predictions are worth taking seriously. I remember visiting him in Washington the day Kabul fell, in November 2001. Matter-of-factly he made clear that Washington's next target was Saddam Hussein. And so he was.

The military clues are harder to detect. Veteran analyst Dan Plesch of the School of Oriental and African Studies wonders why the US is strengthening airbases in Afghanistan, Kurdistan and Iraq, forming a ring around Iran: "You don't need air power to fight the insurgency, do you?" It has to be preparation for an attack on you-know-who. He also notes the two or three US expeditionary strike forces in the Gulf, each one with an aircraft carrier twice the size of the Ark Royal. Iran's neighbours certainly reckon something is up. This week Kuwait's defence minister said he would not allow the US to use his country's territory to attack Iran, and other Gulf states have made similar noises. They wouldn't be saying that if they thought the prospect was purely hypothetical......."

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