US force in the Persian gulf on the rise
By S. M. Hali
The same harbingers of doom and gloom, who targeted Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya under trumped up charges, are now out to start a fresh war this time against Iran. US lawmakers are building a case to mobilize public opinion domestically to justify their adventurism. US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, author of sanctions legislation targeting Iran that was recently passed by a near-unanimous vote, coming amid an increasingly visible campaign by right-wing politicians and allied institutions to build the case for further sanctions and other acts of economic warfare against the Islamic Republic – and, perhaps, set the stage for military action, has claimed that through its ties with Venezuela and other nations in Latin America, Iran is building an anti-U.S. alliance in the Western Hemisphere that poses a direct, imminent threat to the United States.
Already the Obama administration has implemented stringent sanctions against Iran that have helped cripple its economy and, as the president himself noted in his State of the Union address last month, refused to take the prospect of all-out war off the table. On the other hand, US right-wing critics allege that the Obama administration has done too little to counter what they portray as an almost apocalyptic threat. Last week at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee focused on Iran's dealings in Latin America, Norman Bailey of the conservative American Foreign Policy Council went to the extent of charging that the Islamic Republic of Iran, through its allies Hezbollah, had constructed "numerous military camps inside Venezuela, as well as in South Lebanon, with the express purpose of training young Venezuelans to attack American targets." He also claimed Iran had "established missile bases in Venezuela", though adding that those reports were as of yet "unconfirmed".
The fact is these claims are baseless. Iran can take comfort from the fact that if there had been an iota of truth in these allegations, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper might have mentioned them during his Jan. 31 testimony before Congress on threats to the U.S. And, indeed, reports of Iranian missiles in Venezuela were last year explicitly rejected by the Pentagon, with a spokesman saying that not only were said reports unconfirmed, but in fact there was "no evidence" to support the claim and "therefore no reason to believe the assertions… are credible." But not to let the matter rest there, US lawmakers’ charges ranging from allegations of a covert nuclear weapons program to its providing training for the Venezuelan terrorists of tomorrow continue to spew venom against Tehran. Latin America is but the latest anti-Tehran talking point, spurred in part by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent four-country tour of the region, which U.S. policymakers have long considered their rightful sphere of influence.
During his January trip, Ahmadinejad met with heads of state in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador, all countries that enjoy at best rocky relations with Washington. To those seeking further sanctions and potentially a shooting war with Iran, the trip provided for ready-made right-wing propaganda. Regional experts, however, said the tour was more about Iran attempting to project an image of diplomatic strength amid U.S. and European efforts at isolation than launching attacks against the U.S.
Panelist Michael Braun, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) chief of operations under President George W. Bush has testified that Hezbollah and Iran's Quds Force, "are now heavily involved in the global drug trade. Not only that, they "are pouring into Latin America," he continued, "thanks in large part to Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, the undisputed gatekeeper for Middle Eastern terrorist groups seeking to enter Latin America." Additionally, the spectacular-if-true plot on behalf of some Iranian officials to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington "qualifies as the perfect example of the looming threat posed by Iran's proxies operating freely
in the Western Hemisphere, and their ability to collaborate with organized crime," Braun added in prepared testimony.
On its part, Iran’s General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard has announced that Iran will target any country where an attack against it is staged. Simultaneously, earlier this week, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order imposing new, stricter sanctions on Iran and its central bank, saying a broader asset freeze was necessary because Iranian banks were concealing transactions. The executive order, described as a further step in the US effort to isolate Iran, prevents any assets deemed to be in US control – including foreign branches of American banks – from being transferred, paid, exported or withdrawn.
While there are rumours that the US is likely to scuttle one of its old and dilapidated aircraft carriers and using the incident to blame Iran for the sinking and retaliating in an attack, the Revolutionary Guard of Iran have started maneuvers in the country's south, following naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil export route. Iran has threatened to close off the strait if Western sanctions limit Iranian oil exports.
The U.S. and its Western allies charge Iran is producing atomic weapons. Iran says its program is meant to produce fuel for future nuclear power reactors and medical radioisotopes needed for cancer patients. This being the election year for the US President, a beleaguered Obama is likely to fall victim to the temptation of adventurism against Iran in a desperate bid to make himself palatable to domestic voters. There is every likelihood that this adventurism will fail. The other option is to let Israel do the dirty work and look the other way as it becomes the assailant against alleged Iranian nuclear sites. What the west and its client Israel are forgetting that Iran is neither Afghanistan nor Iraq and will not allow a walkover to either Israel or the US. It will give not only give them a bloody nose but also cripple their economy by strangling the oil route. It is only hoped and prayed that good sense prevails and such adventurism is avoided.