Texan Poker Bluff and Persian Chess Moves

"The arrogance of military power has led to a grave crisis - and to a decline of the United States' role and influence." Mikhail Gorbachev.

"The president is living in a dream world,' US Sen. Barbara Boxer.

On Iran, US Administration has reached the pre-Iraq invasion rhetoric level of 2003, when against the UN Charter and world opinion, President George Bush decided to invade Iraq after having assembled a naval armada and air and land forces in the region, cheerlead by a subservient US media. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are accusing Tehran of developing nuclear weapons and exporting terrorism, just as Saddam Hussein was allegedly doing. Iran is also not abiding by UN resolutions on its nuclear weapons program, which, like Iraq then, it denies it has. UN Nuclear Agency in Vienna has found no proof of a weapons program. Neither there was one in Iraq in 2003. Almost all accusations made by US President, his deputy and others, exaggerated by US corporate owned media proved to be false.

But after 4 years of blunders and stupidity, the situation is unlike March, 2003, with an isolated Bush administration now under siege having become unpopular and discredited at home and with allies abroad. In Iran it faces a people with a long history of survival beginning with Alexander and his uncouth Macedonian hordes, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and others. And they succeeded in civilizing most of them.
Even the new Chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, John D. Rockefeller (D) took umbrage at the Bush administration's increasingly hostile barrage against Iran. The efforts to portray it as a growing threat were uncomfortably reminiscent of the rhetoric about Iraq. "To be quite honest, I'm a little concerned that it's Iraq again," Senator Rockefeller said in an interview on 19 January. "This whole concept of moving against Iran is bizarre." "I don't think that policymakers in this administration particularly understand Iran," he added. Rockefeller, a moderate, with good access to most classified intelligence about the threat from Tehran felt that US agencies still knew little about either Iran's internal dynamics or its intentions in the Middle East.

On how President Bush has dealt with the threat of Islamic fundamentalism since 119 attacks, Rockefeller believed that the campaign against international terrorism was "still a mystery" to the President. "I don't think he understands the world," he said. "I don't think he's particularly curious about the world. I don't think he reads like he says he does." He added, "Every time he's read something he tells you about it, I think."

Over Bush's policy of 'Surge' i.e. sending additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, hot words are being exchanged between Democrat party, resurgent after Bush's Republican party debacle in November elections and the White House. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are backing a nonbinding Senate Democratic resolution declaring that "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the US military force presence in Iraq."

Pelosi warned that President Bush was wading too deeply into Iraq .It should not be "an obligation of the American people in perpetuity." She added that Bush "has dug a hole so deep he can't even see the light on this. It's a tragedy. It's a stark blunder." White House spokeswoman Dana Perino retorted that Pelosi's comments were "poisonous," stating that Bush feels that once additional troops reached Iraq and once they're in battle, the Congress won't cut off funds.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat front runner for party's Presidential nomination during her recent visit to Baghdad met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. She felt that Bush's strategy had little chance of success. "The Iraqi government is not committed to taking the steps both militarily and politically that would help them to gain control over Baghdad and other places in the country," Clinton told NBC ."I do not think that this strategy has a very high level of success at all attached to it. In fact, I think that at best it's a holding pattern." But she supported "the beginning of a phased redeployment out of Baghdad and eventually out of Iraq completely." She backed placing an immediate cap on the number of US troops in the country, currently about 132, 000.

The arrival of new US reinforcements have met with increased attacks against occupation troops . On 20 January, at least 19 American troops were killed, the deadliest day for US forces in two years, including 12 brought down in a helicopter crash claimed by the resistance and 5 in an attack by militia fighters in Shia holy city of Karbala  A British soldier was killed by a roadside bomb and 4 other soldiers were wounded in the attack in Basra and south Iraq.

Bush raises the stakes

It was the prospect of " hot pursuit" raids into Iran, raised by Bush last week, that fuelled fears that the Administration was preparing the public for attacks on Iran. Many analysts have been warning since 2004 against a planned US attack alone or in cahoots with Israel on Iran, one of the so called axis of evil, in the hoary Western tradition of demonizing those they want to invade, colonize and then loot.

US accusations of Tehran aiding militias and insurgents who attack US troops in Iraq, have been denied by Tehran. Yes, most of Iraq's Shia ruling elite and al-Badr militia were financed and trained by Iran when Saddam Hussein was a US darling in 1980s. Tehran also extended support to Kurds in north Iraq, whenever pressurized by the Saddam regime.

Having flouted most international rules, regulations, treaties and conventions since Bush was crowned by a judicial sleight of hand in 2000, tarnishing USA's electoral and legal credibility, Washington has now initiated clearly illegal and aggressive actions like the abduction of accredited Iranian personnel in Irbil in north Iraqi Kurdistan. Even the Kurdish leaders, beholden to Washington and thriving under US protection since the end of 1991 Gulf War, have demurred and protested as have the Iraqi leaders and government 'elected' or selected by US Viceroys since the occupation.

Senior Iraqi Shia politicians, now in power, and beholden to Tehran since decades are now required to implement Bush's policy of 'Surge', by adding over 21,500 troops to help fight militias, provide security and reconstruction. They are naturally reluctant in striking against Shia militias and their leaders on whose support they survive, politically and militarily.  In spite of public bonhomie and some token measures there are clear signs of a growing rift between the White House and the Iraqi leadership resident in Baghdad's Green Zone fortress, on policies at home or vis a vis Tehran.

A tour of the Middle East by the US Congress harassed Secretary of State Condi Rice, after her August trip last year when she described the destruction of civilian infrastructure and deaths in Lebanon by Israel as the birth pangs of a new Middle East, evoked little enthusiasm or real support from USA's Sunni allies in the region, who are in panic over Tehran's expanding influence in the region, Muslim Ummah and the world.

After the Lebanese Hezbollah gave a bloody nose to Israel's famed commandos in July-August war last year, its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both Shias were voted the most popular Muslim leaders even in the Sunni bastion of Egypt and elsewhere much to the discomfiture of regional Sunni leaders, who had lambasted the Hezbollah after Tel Aviv used the abduction of its two soldiers to launch a full scale war it had prepared for. The continued ramification of Israeli defeat ended in the recent resignation of Israeli Military chief Lt.Gen Dan Halutz. "Since the end of the war we had been expecting Halutz to resign and [Defence Minister Amir] Peretz and [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert to follow him," gloated Sheikh Nasrallah.

Iraq's other neighbor; Turkey's position

There is little common ground on Iraq between USA and its NATO ally Turkey with a million armed men and a key regional player. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a US TV channel last month that with  the dead in sectarian violence having exceeded 650,000 ... it could only be explained as a civil war. He added that Iraq's neighbors have a huge stake in the Iraqi civil war not spreading outwards. In addition to Iran, Turkey, Syria and US having bilateral or trilateral meetings, there should be an international consensus that includes all neighboring countries and the U.N. Security Council.

As for the 'Surge' in US troops, Erdogan felt that it was time for a phased reduction of US military presence in Iraq.  Erdogan had earlier opposed dispatch of more US troops to Iraqi Kurdistan. He declared recently that if faraway US could ferry troops to Iraq then Ankara had the right to enter north Iraq too, as the situation there impinged on Turkey directly and adversely.

Thousands of rebels from PKK (Turkish Workers Party ) are now sheltered in north Iraq. Since 1984 over 37,000 have been killed in the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey's South East. Ankara has some times laid claims on the north Iraq city of Kirkuk, floating on oil like Kuwait, where its kinsman the Turcomen have a sizable presence. This region was occupied by the British after the First World War ceasefire following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, of which the region was a province.

Policy differences between Washington and Iraqi leaders

The acrimonious exchanges between US Administration and Prime Minister, al-Maliki on implementation of Bush's policy of 'Surge " have become public. To counter US criticism of his failure to halt sectarian violence al Maliki said, "I wish that we could receive strong messages of support from the US so we don't give some boost to the terrorists and make them feel that they might have achieved success." To Condi Rice's statement of his government living on "borrowed time", he responded tartly, "Secretary Rice is expressing her own point of view if she thinks that the government is on borrowed time, whether it is borrowed time for the Iraqi government or American administration."

Al Maliki claimed if Iraqi security forces were given sufficient training and equipment, which were denied, Iraq could be stabilized and allow US troops to begin withdrawing. "I think that within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down." But "that's on the condition that there are real strong efforts to support our military forces." US officials are how ever worried that military equipment would end up in with the Shia militias, which has happened.

Regarding action to eliminate all militias, al Maliki announced that 400 member, including some commanders of the Mahdi Army loyal to the highly popular and powerful cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were arrested. One Mahdi commander told the AP,  "Our top leadership has told us to lay low and not confront the Americans. But if Sadr City is attacked, if civilians are hurt, we will ignore those orders and take matters in our own hands. We won't need orders from Sheik Muqtada."

Mahdi street fighters have been told not to wear their black uniforms and hide their weapons and make their checkpoints less visible. It appears that instructions are being obeyed. With the US plans a public secret, Moqtda also reshuffled the Mahdi Army command structure, transferring many leaders to new districts and firing others of suspected loyalty.

The six-member Moqtda al-Sadr bloc which boycotted the Iraqi Parliament would rejoin on 21 January, in spite of the arrest of Sheikh Abdel Hadi Al-Diraji, a close aide of Moqtda, who has ordered his men to avoid armed confrontation with the government. The Parliament boycott was enforced when Al Maliki met with Bush in Amman in spite of Moqtda's demand. Al Maliki depends on Moqtda for political and military support .The other Shia Dawa militia is under Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim of Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).  

In an interview out on 19 January in Rome 's La Republica, Moqtada stated that he never trusted Prime Minister al-Maliki nor his predecessor Iyad Allawi. He accused them of being in cahoots with the US plans to destroy him and his militia. A crackdown on his movement "has already kicked off." "Last night they arrested over 400 of my people. But it is not us they want to destroy, it's Islam," he declared.

Moqtda also denied that members of his militia have infiltrated the army and police. "The exact opposite has happened: it is our militia which is full of spies. It is actually very easy to infiltrate an army of the people." He also denied that those who chanted his name and insulted Saddam Hussein at his execution were his men. "Those were people paid to disparage me, to make me appear like the person responsible for the hanging," he declared.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a former Iraqi Prime Minister, when asked if an increase in US troops would be a threat to Iran, replied: "We don't want Iraq to pose a threat to any country. We also don't accept that any neighboring country poses a threat to Iraq."
The Iraqi Government and the Mahdi Army could employ the tactics used by Washington's major non-NAO strategic ally in the war against terrorism, Pakistan and its all purpose powerful tool, Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). When pressed by Washington, Islamabad produces a few Al Qaeda operatives, mostly low level, for Washington to garner some propaganda points.  Five years on after 911, the results of the war on terrorism are dismal, with most convinced it is but a charade, to keep US public frightened for Bush Administration to implement its partisan agenda. In return Pakistan has received billions worth of aid, mostly for defence, which has only strengthened the strangle hold of the military over civil society.

Iraq leaders criticize US action in Irbil

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim of SCIRI, leader of the 130-member Shia bloc in the Parliament and thus one of Iraq's most powerful politicians and who was hosted at the White House in early December criticized the US action in Irbil. He described the detention of the Iranians an attack on Iraq's sovereignty. "Regardless of the Iranian position, we consider these actions as incorrect," Hakim, told the BBC. "They represent a kind of attack on Iraq's sovereignty, and we hope such things are not repeated."

In a statement Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, expressed "disturbance and condemnation" of the predawn operation and urged the US military to release the arrested. Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, also a Kurd, said that Iraq needed good relations with Iran. "We can't change the geographical reality that Iran is our neighbor. This is a delicate balance and we are treading a very thin line," he said. "We fully respect the views, policies and strategy of the United States, which is Iraq's strongest ally, but the Iraqi government has national interests of its own."

US Iran hostilities would disrupt peace in the region and the growing affluence of Kurdish war lords. In that case Turkey might even intervene. To calm the situation President Talbani, who has been to Ankara a few times, went to Damascus, first such visit in 3 decades by an Iraqi Head of State. Of course he visited Damascus many times during the Saddam era. Post 2003 invasion, Of course Iraq's Shia leadership, with long close relations with Iran have visited Tehran many times. Even convicted embezzler but Minister,exile Ahmet Celebi, once a blue eyed boy of the Pentagon.

Iranians have played it cool and not made such a big issue of the raid. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Husseini condemned the raid. "The activity of all those people at our office in Irbil was legal and was in cooperation with and had the approval of the Iraqi side," Husseini told Iran's state-owned Arabic language satellite channel Al-Alam.

In ratcheting up tensions beyond threats, Washington might try to implement the so called 'Khuzestan gambit'  i.e. creating dissentions and even intervening across south Iraq in Iran's major oil producing region of Khuzestan, of ancient Elam and Cyrus's Persian empire's capital Susa. Now it is sparsely populated by preponderantly Arab Shias. During the 1980-99 Iraq-Iran war, Shia Arabs on the two sides of the border had fought loyally for their countries.

When the Shias in Basra were quiet watching disenfranchised Sunni elite take on the US troops and harm each other, British James Bonds were active across in Khuzestan. But Iraqi Shia militias would take on all occupation troops if Iran or themselves are attacked. A large majority of Shia population and leadership is now strongly opposed to the occupation. So the un-nerved British forces fled from Basra city to the airport and safe desert bases for easier Dunkirk like run for home, when necessary.

The British had even suggested that they would like to shift their troops to a more important mission in South Afghanistan, where along with reluctant NATO it is now confronted by a resurgent Taleban. With Pakistan having lost over 800 troops in its North West Frontier Province and forced into a peace agreement with the Taleban, attacks against NATO forces in Afghanistan have increased.

Muhammad Hanif, a Taliban spokesman captured by British and Afghan troops near the border with Pakistan, on being grilled, confessed that the Taleban Emir Mullah Omar lives in Quetta in Pakistan. "He is protected by ISI," Hanif said.  Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, made similar allegations in the past. But Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, Pakistan's Interior Minister denied the reports, "We have no information on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar. He is not living in Pakistan."

Following the old European and now US policy of divide and rule, Washington is successfully igniting dissensions and perhaps succeeding in arousing the dormant historic hatred between Arab Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, who are now savagely killing each other, more so since the US reported that Al Qaeda damaged the Shia Golden Dome mosque in Samarrah early last year. US cracked the first Shia-Sunni fault line in Iraqi nationalism when then President George Bush Senior asked Shias and Kurds of Iraq to rise against Saddam Hussein at the end of 1991 Gulf War. And then did nothing when Saddam Hussein regime attacked by the rebels suppressed the uprising brutally. That would not inspire Shia trust in US words. The illegal trial and lynching of Saddam Hussein under US direction, control and occupation has deepened this sectarian chasm further.

Robert Gates- A strong and a long time US presence in Middle East

It was quite apparent that the Iraq Study Group Report was just another red herring to mollify a disenchanted US public and keep the new Congress diverted. USA would not walk away from the region. Listen to what a major contributor to ISG report, the newly minted Defence Secretary Robert Gates said about the buildup of US forces in the region, involving the dispatch of an aircraft carrier and Patriot missile defence batteries, apart from US troops.

"We are simply reaffirming that statement of the importance of the Gulf region to the United States and our determination to be an ongoing strong presence in that area for a long time into the future," said Gates on the first arrival of reinforcements in Baghdad as part of Bush's "surge" strategy. The US military buildup is intended to signal American determination to remain a dominant player in the region.

"The Iranians clearly believe we are tied down in Iraq, that they have the initiative, that they are in a position to press us in many ways," Gates told journalists in Brussels.

"They are doing nothing to be constructive in Iraq at this point." He added that Tehran was seeking to foment conflict in Lebanon through Hezbollah.

But Gates did not rule out the possibility of talks in the future if Iran changed its behavior. "When the Iranians are prepared to play a constructive role in dealing with some of these problems there might be opportunities for engagement," he said.

Bush 'Stays the Course' - in aggressive mode

When asked if the alleged killing of Americans by Iranian agents in Iraq constituted an act of war, Bush said he was not a lawyer so could not define what constituted an act of war but "let me just say it's unacceptable". He warned if the US failed in Iraq it would lead to a wider regional crisis, "If the [Iraq] government falls apart and there is sectarian enclaves and violence it'll invite Iran into the Shia neighborhoods."

On June 21, 2005, General John R Vines, then a senior US commander in Iraq, told reporters that the insurgents had probably drawn on bomb-making expertise from Saddam's battle hardened army. US media and the British keep on claiming Iranian hand in supplying and helping Iraqi militias, even to the Sunni resistance.

Baltimore Times reported that at the current spending rate on the Iraq War, being waged along with the fighting in Afghanistan, the cost of the Iraq invasion will reach $600 billion this year. Much of the funding for the war comes from outside the normal budgetary process, through emergency appropriation bills.

US Congress rallies against 'Surge'

The policy of the 'Surge 'was concocted to counter ISG Report by Neo-Cons of American Enterprise Institute and former Lt Gen Keane. But Democrat Congressman John Murtha, a former decorated Marine and vocal opponent of the Iraq war and the incoming chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee said, "If we have our way there will be substantial change and substantial pressure put on this administration… The allies don't want us over there. The Iraqis don't want us over there and we expect that even the Republicans will support us when we get our bill up."

He then added ominously, (we want a) "redeployment of troops out of Iraq" and (we will) "restrict funding until some of the problems are fixed at home." [ redeployment to new massive bases in Iraq which can house up to 70,000 soldiers !]

Murtha clarified, " You know they say that Al Qaeda is causing the divisions and sectarian violence? The invasion itself is what causes the sectarian violence –It's the occupation causes the violence. That's the problem we have and we have to change directions."

Murtha had raised the alarm in 2005 that the US army had done what it could do in Iraq. It was now broken. It was followed by the Generals revolt, when 8 senior retired generals went against Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and blamed him for defective Iraq war planning and its implementation. The two top Generals, Arabic knowing Gen. John Abizaid (of Lebanese extraction) Head of Centcom and Gen George Casey the man on the ground in Iraq who expressed themselves against increased US troops, are being eased out.  Along with the naval build up in the Gulf, a Naval Admiral is being appointed apparently to carry out operations against Iran. But the opposition to the war has seeped even into the ranks of the US forces. Some 1,000 active-duty soldiers and Marines urged US lawmakers to support a quick withdrawal. Although they're duty-bound to carry out the President's orders, they can legally express their views. The statement, carried on the Web site, was signed by 1,080 troops by 16 January.

It urged the US Congress to support "the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq," adding, "Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price." "Despite our best efforts, Iraq fell further into chaos," said Marine Corps Sgt. Liam Madden at a press conference. He believed that the war "benefits neither the United States nor Iraq, and especially not the American military".

Senate leaders have introduced a non-binding bipartisan resolution opposing the 'surge' policy. It has been drafted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden  Jr. (D-Del.), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M.Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) "The whole thing could let Republicans off the hook with a meaningless, toothless vote," said Andrews, who has been meeting with senior Democrats on war issues. "It's a pressure valve that could work against us."

A Pew Research Center poll released on 16 January showed that 61 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq. Some 60 percent of Republicans support Bush's plan and 33 percent oppose it. Among Democrats, 12 percent support it and 82 percent oppose it.

The media is owned and manipulated by corporate interests who fund elections and employ lobbies with a US$ 2.4 billion treasure chest to get favorable laws enacted. Thus the interests of the poor and the middle classes remain neglected. But even the misinformed and info-challenged US electorate has deciphered the truth in Iraq and in November elections bashed up the Republican party. Only an election deters these, some not so, honorable legislators, afraid of losing the power and the pelf they enjoy. Republicans slated for next elections are opposing the 'surge '. Hillary Clinton, who has announced her bid for the Presidency, a fervid supporter of Israel and a strong supporter of US war on Iraq is now singing a different tune. There would be lot of political maneuverings but US would not easily give up its addiction to cheap Middle East oil and enormous profits for the energy interests and the military industry complex, which promotes wars. They rule the roost in the USA.

Retired US Generals recommend political solution in the Senate

A panel of retired generals told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 18 January that sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq would do little to solve the underlying political problems in the country. "Too little and too late," said Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, a former chief of the Central Command. He added that American leaders had failed to understand the political forces at work in the country. "The solution is political, not military," he said. Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who commanded troops in the first Gulf War, described it as "A fool's errand." Other countries had concluded that the effort in Iraq was not succeeding, and "our allies are leaving us and will be gone by summer." He said that Iraqis should try to make political deals domestically and negotiate for stability with neighboring nations, particularly Syria and Iran.

"The United States did not understand the consequences of deposing Saddam Hussein," said Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, a former director of the National Security Agency. The war benefited Iran and Al Qaeda, not the United States. "There is no way to win a war that is not in your interests," he said.  USA is in a 'No Win' situation. Even a plan to start withdrawing US troops carried the risk of the armed Iraqi population to step up the level of attacks. "We will be shot at as we are going out." said Gen. Jack Keane, a former vice chief of staff of the Army.

Iran's counter moves

After the ISG recommendation that US talk with Syria and Iran, Tehran was somewhat euphoric and so was Damascus. But that is now gone and Tehran is pondering over its moves carefully to counter political and military moves by Washington. Ali Larijani, Iran's chief negotiator on the nuclear question delivered a joint letter to the Saudi King Abdullah from the Iranian Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad requesting Saudi mediation with the US. The letter was delivered just before Rice's visit to Riyadh. Reuters quoted an unnamed Saudi official saying Iran wanted the Saudi King to relay a goodwill message to Washington to "help bring opinions together" between Iran and the US.

Ever green Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former President who lost  to Ahmadinejad said that the US having failed to achieve its goals in the region, was now seeking to embark on a new adventure to cover up its defeat. He urged the need for vigilance.

To temper President Ahmadinejad's over blown rhetoric and consequent popularity with the public, but bad press in the West , Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has allowed 150 parliamentarians to attack the President's economic policies. In a signed letter they blamed Ahmadinejad for the raging inflation, high unemployment and failure to even present the budget in time. They decried his going on a tour of Latin America at the time of a crisis. Western media hopefully suggested that the mounting criticism could mean Ahmadinejad's political doom and even impeachment. But on return from Latin America  Ahmadinejad reiterated that Tehran's program on nuclear energy would continue.

Like (the Chess King)  Ali Khamenei might remove from the centre (Knight ) Ahmadinejad with his awkward moves. Iranians have shown Chess like long term planning and finesse to counter US moves in the region, even offering full cooperation in 2003 (an honorable draw) , if US normalized bilateral relations disrupted since 1979. Always many moves ahead they nurtured SCIRI, Dawa and other Iraqi groups and Kurds. Since the invasion of Iraq, they now occupy and control the centre (as in Chess board), with open and hidden threats to any US moves .  

In Bishop like pincer moves across the region, Tehran has smartly moved with Hamas after its  electoral victory in Palestine, taking it under its wings, with its top political leader Khaled Meshaal resident in Damascus. If Iraq President Talabani is visiting Damascus, so is Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with President Bashar Assad but meeting with Meshaal did not materialize as no agreement could be reached on a unity government in Palestine. Perhaps both visitors have US acquiescence if not approval. They must also plan if US commitment in the region weakens or dwindles away.

Ahmed Yusuf, an adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, said Hamas ministers had received promises of donations amounting to £500m during recent visits in the Muslim world. But the largest pledge was from Iran, more than that of EU. Last year Tehran pledged £125 m to help Hamas survive the international boycott led by USA. After inroads in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon , Tehran's support to Hamas has created serious concern in US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states- at Iran's rapid expansion as a regional power.

Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel's secret service, Shin Bet, warned that international sanctions against the authority were forcing Hamas into a closer relationship with Iran. President Bush has asked Congress to approve $83 million for Abbas 's security forces. Israeli officials transferred $100 million in withheld revenues collected as Tax and Customs dues to the Authority.

Palestine has become an arena of Shia Iran and Sunni Arab rivalry. Apart from Fathah and other cadres, Abbas is raising a 3,500-strong Presidential Guard, as a bulwark against Hamas' militia of 5,000 gunmen. If Iran is supplying funds and arms to Hamas then Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and USA are arming the now discredited and corrupt Palestine Authority. Hamas and Fathah militants are killing each other apart from the Israeli forces genocidal ways in Gaza in another example of divide and rule.

Apparently Hezbollah had abducted two Israeli soldiers last July to also ease intense Israeli pressure off Hamas in Gaza. Of course it did not expect a full blown savage destructive war by Israel as Nasrallah himself later admitted. But it turned out well for them and has altered the strategic power landscape in Lebanon and the region benefiting Iran. Israel must now watch over its shoulders before any reckless military venture.

In spite of blatant Western lies, nationalist Hezbollah movement has very wide support in Lebanon, where USA has now sent in its disruptive agents to counter Hezbollah's peaceful sit in for a role in decision making appropriate to its showing in the war and its popularity. In Syria with over 80% Sunni population, the ruling elite is dominated by Assad family led Shia Alawaites. But no where in the world such a minuscule minority rules as do the Jews and the Israel Lobby in USA. If the Holocaust can not be questioned neither can the influence of Israeli Lobby in USA. A recent book by former President and highly respected peacemaker Jimmy Carter, comparing Israel's apartheid system with that of former state of South Africa has brought the whole force of Israeli lobby on his head.

Condi Rice in the New Middle East after last years birth pangs

Condi Rice began her safari of the Middle East from Israel and returned via friendly Angela Markel's Berlin and London with Tony Blair still clinging on despite failed policies and other scandals .As for Rice's attempt at rejuvenating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Arab media simply described it as an attempt to change the subject. US has little credibility as an honest broker.

The carefully worded support that Arab allies are offering for Bush's new Iraq strategy highlights the deep suspicion among Washington's few real friends and puppets in the region that Iraq might already be a lost cause. The Bush plan "encountered strong skepticism across the Mideast, where many believe that even with more soldiers, America will fail to break the cycle of violence."

Rice who discussed the 'Surge' plan in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, got only vague commitments and lukewarm response.  She and 8 Arab foreign ministers in a statement welcomed U.S. commitment to defend Iraq 's " territorial integrity and guarantees of its stability ."  The host, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed Al Sabah, when asked if it was already too late to stop the rising cycle of Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq replied, "Nine foreign ministers are meeting in Kuwait today to try to prevent Iraq from sliding into a civil war." " I think that speaks volumes." Or rather the hopelessness of the situation.

Earlier key Sunni Arab allies while endorsing the goals of Bush's plan, and expressing hopes of success , almost in the same breath suggested that the Shia -led government in Baghdad cannot or would not implement the plan.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal was perhaps the most positive, who agreed " with the full objectives set by the new plan, the strategy." After talks with Rice earlier, he commented, "This has objectives that ... if it were applied, it will solve the problems facing Iraq." But he emphasized that it was the responsibility of the Iraq government alone. "We cannot be Iraqis more than Iraqis," Saud emphasized. "Other countries can help, but the burden, the whole burden and taking a decision will be the Iraqis'."

It was well put by the Saudi newspaper Al Jazirah which noted, "The Americans are trying to get out of the Baghdad bottleneck and they are looking for agent players in managing their conflict with Tehran to make their new strategy in Iraq successful."

Of course the Sunni Arab world would not trust Prime Minister al-Maliki's government with close ties with Shia Iran.  The Shias have become empowered after many centuries, courtesy Washington and would not let go. Rice did admit  that "There are concerns about whether the Maliki government is prepared to take an evenhanded, nonsectarian path here. There's no doubt about that."

Bush's plan that al-Maliki use Iraqi troops to crack down on militants from both sides and meet a series of benchmarks to promote reconciliation between Sunnis and Shias is unlikely to succeed. Al-Maliki has resisted U.S. pressure in the past .Before Bush unveiled his plan al-Maliki was made to agree that he would go after his political ally Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

But he has already criticized US for not imparting proper training or providing weapons to Iraqi forces (aka artillery, tanks and helicopter gun ships), which US fears might be passed on to the militias and used against US forces. To begin with al-Maliki has appointed his own man as commander of the Iraqi forces in Baghdad against US choice.

Rice tried to exploit fear of Iran among US's Sunni allies, many with substantial Shia minorities, to support its plans, But have not they outsourced their security to USA since decades in return for free exploitation of the regions oil riches by US led West. The Arab states have amassed massive arms inventories , earn fat bribes and subsidize US-UK military industry complex. They can hardly use these arms, as was proved in Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Scared and hoodwinked Saudi Arabia allowed US GIs including female troopers, a run of the Arabian peninsula, sacred soil according to Muslims. The rest i.e. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda is history.

Yes, the statement in Kuwait did contain a coded signal to Iran, which was reportedly not part of the group's discussions. "Relations among all countries should be based on mutual respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states and on the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations," [ Does Washington respect this principle and what did the group do when US invaded Iraq illegally].

Intimidated and nervous, Sunni Arab rulers in Cairo, Amman, Riyadh and the Gulf are egging US to stay put in the region, to stop and roll back Iranian influence. They had acted similarly when  Saudis, Kuwaitis, Emirates, Egypt, West et al had encouraged and funded 'brother Saddam' and Iraq in its 1980-88 war against a rampant Iran after the Khomeini led Shia revolution of 1979. Iraq's Shia Arabs had fought against Iran's Revolutionary Guards and young boys seeking martyrdom. And how did the Arabs repay that debt and react to the US controlled and Al Maliki executed Kangaroo Court trials and lynching of 'brother Saddam'? In 2003 many in the Arab world were unhappy that for Arab honor, Iraqi officers and soldiers did not sacrifice themselves futilely against absurd odds in Iraq against F-16, Cobra gun ships and massive artillery. (They melted to fight another day, as the Iraqi resistance now.)

But who among the Arabs would fight. Egypt initiated the 1973 war to recover its lands and oil fields lost to Israel after the 1967 debacle. The oil Sheikhs used the war to raise oil prices and its nouvo riche citizens went around lording over sophisticated Cairo and Beirut. After the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, Egypt, now on US pay roll retired .There can be no war without Egypt in the Middle East (against Israel) and no peace without Syria. During the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war millions of Egyptians worked on Iraqi farms and industries for Iraqis doing the fighting.

It was Pakistani Brigadier Zia-ul- Haq who organized the military operation against PLO guerillas in Jordan and expelled them to Lebanon in 1977. (With the ruler scripting a message for the Pakistani Military Chief for saving his Kingdom, so a retired Pakistani General told me). So who will fight the Iranians or even Iraqi Shia Arabs now in militias, army and police. They and Sunni Iraqi resistance now fought Iran's Shia revolutionary guards and young boys looking for martyrdom.

Western Policy of Divide and Rule

USA and the perfidious Albion would only succeed in igniting a Shia-Sunni conflagration in the region except that oil prices would zoom and seriously affect the US and world economy. The US dilemma is how to expel Iran and keep control of Iraq, the region with its oil wealth for its use, as hitherto. It is a mission impossible. The British divided Hindustan into Pakistan and India, so that a weaker Muslim Pakistan (with its ruling military elite), would perforce ally with the West to protect from USSR, Middle East oil wells, for exclusive Western exploitation. This can be seen from the British records of the period quoted in a recent book by an Indian diplomat, who was ADC in 1947 to the last British Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Following the partition of India there was ethnic cleansing in West Pakistan, exchange of populations and millions of Hindus and Muslims butchered each other. The West is at its old game again in the Middle East.

One can not forget the most disruptive Joker in the pack; Israel. Now in a state of uncertainty and an existential threat in the wake of its defeat by Lebanon's Hezbollah. An Israeli Naval warship was disabled with Hassan Nasrallah giving a running commentary of the attack on Al Minar, its TV channel, which Tel Aviv could not disrupt during the war. Apparently Hezbollah succeeded in breaking into Israeli communications net work. Some reports suggest among other things, by providing drugs to bored Israeli border guards across south Lebanon.

West and USA are now flaunting its military prowess and would later rewrite history. Except that with online media, internet blogs and many honest and dedicated media persons even in the West, one can surf and ferry out the truth. For example, in the Second World War, USA played a minor role compared to the Soviet Union in the destruction of the Nazi war machine in which USSR sacrificed tens of millions of its soldiers and citizens. Its  economy was destroyed. Come lately US (it has already spent more time in Iraq now than in that war) and even UK tried to take all the credit .

They produced 'The longest day' and 'Gen Patton' and UK dreams up James Bond victories in the battle field and the bed room. Even channels like 'Discovery Channel' spew lies all the time and brain wash the ignorant . Germans and Russian soldiers were accused of mass rapes and killings. US soldiers raped many thousands women in West Europe and it faced a very high rate of desertion in its troops. But for instant communications now, you would not have heard of or very little of Gulags like Guantamano, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, genocide in Fallujah, Haditha and elsewhere, and rendition by CIA for torture of innocents, mostly Muslims in secret places all around the world. This has been the core of the Western mental make up though out the colonial era and even now.

Shias developed the first human bomber, the Assassins and evolved the system of takkyia i.e. not telling the truth under duress and occupation making them very secretive in their methods as shown in Lebanon. So US would be making a grave mistake in attacking Iran, exposed as it is and fully stretched on the ground. Iran's military build up has not been degraded by sanctions like in Iraq, which had no navy or air force or missiles and even WMDs. US and China and others have provided enough military hardware including sophisticated missiles to Iran and Syria.

As for US righteousness most of the military hard ware US gifted to Pakistan to fight communism was used against democratic India. US now grants Air and Naval aircraft and hardware to counter terrorism in Afghanistan (and Pakistan). Israel and USA should not forget the deep tunnels and other innovations employed brilliantly in south Lebanon against such heavy odds.


Like Iraq, some fancy schemes are on the anvil in Pentagon. To ward off the threats to the world economy if Tehran curtailed oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, the
US has reportedly made contingency plans for the indefinite takeover of Iranian territory in Chah Bahar, which would deny Tehran its strategic leverage with Hormuz. Washington might even push for outright "regime change" in Tehran, never mind lack of troops necessary for even a limited war. Theoretically, would this not take the war and US troops to Iran (via Azerbaijan), which will then face Russia across and the Caspian Sea.

During the failed 1979 US hostages rescue operation in Iran ordered by President Jimmy Carter, it was said that USSR had tipped Tehran about Washington's
plans. Both Russia and China have serious and log term stakes in a united and stable Iran.

"The administration does have Iran on the brain, and I think they are exaggerating the amount of Iranian activities in Iraq," commented Kenneth Pollack, the director of research at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, "There's a good chance that this is going to be counterproductive."

W Joseph Stroupe, editor of Global Events Magazine wrote recently that the Middle East was already 'like a sectarian tinderbox waiting for a spark to ignite its multiple civil wars-in-waiting. The United States' additional 21,500 new troops will be like a desperate roving band of flamethrowers let loose on the entire region, from Saudi Arabia to Iran. " Stroupe wondered if the current invasion plans were any better than of 2003 .Would it achieve only " an early but short-lived victory over Iran, only to massively lose the longer war, just as happened in Iraq? "

Iraq's sectarian and other militias will not lay down their arms and would fight the US led occupation forces to retain and further consolidate their hard-won power and prestige within their respective regions.  Very importantly, the majority of Iraqis, who have come to rely on their respective militias for safety and security in the environment of the abject failure of Iraq's government and the US and British forces to provide such, would not wish to see their favored militias weakened or defanged.

Hence the population can be expected to deny all meaningful support to the US. Many will actively oppose the occupying powers through their respective militias, thereby dooming the entire effort to massive failure.  " If the US and Britain are perceived by Iraq's Shias as excessively targeting Shia militias while largely ignoring Sunni militias, then they risk mobilizing the entire body of Iraq's Shia population against the continued presence of foreign forces, resulting in a virtual Shia insurrection, with catastrophic results,' says Stroupe.

By unintentionally shoving the entire oil-and-gas-rich Middle East on to a fast track to chaos, the US will empower Russia as the immovable global energy kingpin. Already, Europe and Asia are being forced to reconsider placing too much reliance on the region for energy imports, opening the way for Russia." Africa and Latin America suffer from strategic instability and long distances haulage.

Iran would be helped in its recovery by Russia, China and other key energy exporting and consuming nations of the world. While signing another liquid gas contract with Tehran, Beijing brushed aside Washington's opposition in the spirit of recent UNSC resolution. Iran has excellent relations with Russia and China. The three powers could initiate a global energy consortium opposed to US power. It could be joined by others like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, with Iran even becoming a full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is slowly morphing into a military alliance to counter a rapacious NATO, now getting ensnared in the Afghanistan morass.

"I am deeply concerned about Iraq. The task you have given me is becoming really impossible. Our forces are reduced now to very slender proportions… I do not see what political strength there is to face a disaster of any kind, and certainly I cannot believe that in any circumstances any large reinforcements would be sent from here…

There is scarcely a single newspaper… which is not consistently hostile to our remaining in this country. … Any alternative Government that might be formed here… would gain popularity by ordering instant evacuation. Moreover, in my own heart I do not see what we are getting out of it. …No progress has been made in developing the oil. Altogether I am getting to the end of my resources. --At present we are paying… millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having."

Extracts from a memorandum dated September 1, 1922, from Winston Churchill, Colonial Secretary to Prime Minister David Lloyd George, whose government was on its last legs.

Both Bush and Blair claim to be great admirers of Churchill, but never come round to read this chapter in Iraq's history or Churchill's naval debacle at Gallipoli. Now another naval misadventure is under planning.  

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author. E-mail:  


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