In the Middle East, America’s Exit from Iraq Attracts Less Interest than Gathering War Clouds
".....Around 50-70,000 soldiers are to be redeployed to large strategic fortified enclaves in the south and the north as a semi-permanent US presence. They will be backed by four naval and aerial strike groups in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea and a chain of giant air bases, some expanded, others built from scratch, in Oman, Qatar and Jordan.......
Amid the furious political controversy over the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war, most Americans find it hard to imagine the US army capable of even contemplating taking on another conflict with Iran. It is seen by many as a nightmare scenario. But Tehran sees nothing far-fetched about it. Quite the reverse, Iranians are all but certain an US attack is inevitable this summer or, at latest, in the fall......
The Middle East is therefore on the move, in readiness for the worst:
- Monday, July 9, Damascus called on Syrian civilians to depart Lebanon to avoid “an eruption” expected next week.
- US defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled a planned four-nation Latin American tour – officially to help complete the Pentagon’s “benchmark” report due in September. However, as perceived in Middle East capitals, Gates can see a conflagration building up in the region and decided his place was in Washington.
- Israel, Syria and Hizballah have prepared their armies for a war contingency entailing a possible clash on Golan and the Lebanese-Israeli frontier regions.
- Iran has imposed gasoline rationing on civilian vehicles. An Iranian official admitted in Tehran two days ago that the country was preparing for an emergency and stocking up on fuel for the military.
- The Turkish army has 140,000 troops poised to invade northern Iraq’s Kurdistan. Notwithstanding denials in Ankara and Baghdad, Turkish units are operating in northern Iraq against Turkish Kurdish PKK rebels.
- The American carrier, the USS Enterprise, is on its way to the Middle East with a powerful strike group......"