Friday, March 30, 2007

The perils of a failure to retain a long attention span ...

Is pretty much my diagnosis of this analysis of foreign affairs. I would also note that since Mark now conflates neoconservatism with secular messianism and conflates anyone holding to a hawkish position on Iran with neoconservatism (i.e. the "End to Evil Crowd"), my assertion that he is for all practical purposes a functional pacifist on matters relating to Iran are looking as though they have more and more merit. If Mark wants to prove me wrong, he need only explain what exactly Iran would have to do for him to believe that matters had reached the point where he would consider it a proportional response to support military action against it. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting.

What Mark fails to recognize is that those of us who take a hawkish view of Iran do so because, to put it bluntly, the Iranian regime has a track record and history of wishing us ill. Take a look from no less august a source as the 9/11 Commission report:
In June 1996, an enormous truck bomb detonated in the Khobar Towers residential complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that housed U.S.Air Force personnel. Nineteen Americans were killed, and 372 were wounded.The operation was carried out principally, perhaps exclusively, by Saudi Hezbollah, an organization that had received support from the government of Iran.While the evidence of Iranian involvement is strong, there are also signs that al Qaeda played some role, as yet unknown.

... Turabi sought to persuade Shiites and Sunnis to put aside their divisions and join against the common enemy. In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support—even if only training—for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States. Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In the fall of 1993, another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as in intelligence and security. Bin Ladin reportedly showed particular interest in learning how to use truck bombs such as the one that had killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983.The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations.As will be described in chapter 7, al Qaeda contacts with Iran continued in ensuing years.

... Intelligence indicates the persistence of contacts between Iranian security officials and senior al Qaeda figures after Bin Ladin’s return to Afghanistan. Khallad has said that Iran made a concerted effort to strengthen relations with al Qaeda after the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole , but was rebuffed because Bin Ladin did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia. Khallad and other detainees have described the willingness of Iranian officials to facilitate the travel of al Qaeda members through Iran, on their way to and from Afghanistan. For example, Iranian border inspectors would be told not to place telltale stamps in the passports of these travelers. Such arrangements were particularly beneficial to Saudi members of al Qaeda.

... Our knowledge of the international travels of the al Qaeda operatives selected for the 9/11 operation remains fragmentary. But we now have evidence suggesting that 8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi “muscle” operatives traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.

... Also in October 2000, two future muscle hijackers, Mohand al Shehri and Hamza al Ghamdi, flew from Iran to Kuwait. In November, Ahmed al Ghamdi apparently flew to Beirut, traveling—perhaps by coincidence—on the same flight as a senior Hezbollah operative.Also in November, Salem al Hazmi apparently flew from Saudi Arabia to Beirut.

In mid-November, we believe, three of the future muscle hijackers,Wail al Shehri,Waleed al Shehri, and Ahmed al Nami, all of whom had obtained their U.S. visas in late October, traveled in a group from Saudi Arabia to Beirut and then onward to Iran. An associate of a senior Hezbollah operative was on the same flight that took the future hijackers to Iran. Hezbollah officials in Beirut and Iran were expecting the arrival of a group during the same time period. The travel of this group was important enough to merit the attention of senior figures in Hezbollah.

Later in November, two future muscle hijackers, Satam al Suqami and Majed Moqed, flew into Iran from Bahrain. In February 2001, Khalid al Mihdhar may have taken a flight from Syria to Iran, and then traveled further within Iran to a point near the Afghan border.

KSM and Binalshibh have confirmed that several of the 9/11 hijackers (at least eight, according to Binalshibh) transited Iran on their way to or from Afghanistan, taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports.They deny any other reason for the hijackers’ travel to Iran.They also deny any relationship between the hijackers and Hezbollah.

In sum, there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.There also is circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle hijackers into Iran in November 2000. However, we cannot rule out the possibility of a remarkable coincidence—that is, that Hezbollah was actually focusing on some other group of individuals traveling from Saudi Arabia during this same time frame, rather than the future hijackers.

It appears that this trend has continued to this day with horrid results for US troops in Iraq. Oh yeah, and there's Karbala. So while I would agree that this incident in of itself would not constitute cause for war, at some point this stuff starts adding up.

At any rate, as I have repeatedly noted, the US lacks the ability to logistically sustain a military offensive against Iran at this point even if the political will existed for us to do so. Outside of Mark's conspiracy-ladden world where a clique of millionnaires rule everything, it does not. At best, we can manage with a war of assassins. The administration is currently so weak that it is unable to get a political ally appointed as ambassador to Belgium because he donated money to an anti-Kerry 527 last election. An administration that is singularly unable to defend Alberto Gonzalez is not one that is going to be supervising the sacking Tehran any time soon outside all but the most paranoid fever swamps of the Daily Kos and the American Conservative. No doubt Ahmadinejad is happy for all the support they are willing to provide his regime.

Of course, when in doubt, Mark appears ready to adopt a position of extreme skepticism and conspiracy theories when it comes to justifying his functional pacifism on the question of Iran:
And I want to have more than the word of the Brits that their ship was in Iraqi waters. I'm sorry, but we've already seen that when our government is itching to go to war it will shape the facts to suit the agenda and persuade allies to do likewise. These seems like an awfully convenient incident for the War Party.

That doesn't mean I don't think Iran needs to let the prisoners go. I just remain skeptical that this is grounds for war.

And here again:
We know both the Administration and the UK gov's massaged information to stampede us into the last war. Why do we have any particular reason to assume they would not do it again? I'm not saying they did. I just would like something more than their word. Last war, I had Colin Powell's word. Turned out to be no good.

These comments at best reflect a complete disregard both for the realities of how foreign affairs are conducted and at worst an ever-increasing paranoia. What exactly does Mark think occurred here? That the UK deliberately had its ship captured (or at least deliberately violated Iranian territorial waters?) and crew held prisoner by one of the most odious regimes on the planet in order to drum up a pretext for war? To what possible end? He mentions "the War Party" (which I assume is a reference to the GOP) while ignoring that it was a British ship, does he think that the Republican Party has managed to influence the decisions of the British Ministry of Defense. All of these are at best extremely controversial inferences, especially given that there is no supporting evidence except Mark's ability to divine the true intentions of distant individuals in the corridors of power from far away. And not to worry, the black helicopters are now on "whisper mode" so he won't hear them coming until they're already gone ...

Mark appears to want some kind of neutral observer to guarantee the status of the British ship in Iraqi waters at the time of its capture. He apparently considers neither the US or UK government sufficiently credible to satisfy his current conspiratorial leanings (I guess he is open to the possibility that a regime that openly supports Holocaust denial is more credible), so I'm really not sure what he wants here. I strongly suspect that in his heart of hearts he would be willing to accept that the UK ship was seized by the Iranians, provided there be some kind of guarantee that no military response would ever be mounted against Iran. It is for this reason that I regard him as a functional pacifist on this issue.


Anonymous said...

On Shea's logic, the invasion of Poland was an awfully convenient incident for the Winston Churchill-led War Party in Britain.

Donald R. McClarey said...

"And I want to have more than the word of the Brits that their ship was in Iraqi waters."

Perhaps Mark will take the word of the Iranian government? After they captured the Brits they release gps coordinates that showed the Brits were in Iraqi waters. When this was brought to their attention they said oops, never mind, and released revised gps coordinates purporting to show that the Brits were in Iranian waters.

frank sales said...

Shea endorsed the Guardian's position that the Brits are being treated wonderfully, especially as compared with the barbaric US treatment of its Arab prisoners.

Can a Holocaust-denying terrorist Islamist theocracy have "useful idiots" or is that privilege reserved for Communist states?

Phillip said...

It has been a contention of mine that Mark has been a useful idiot for some time. I believe a number of his links have been fed him by very left of center toadies who then give further Daily Kos-like spin in the comments.

Marc said...

A couple of other thoughts... it was an Indian-flagged, not British, ship. Also the EU is at least backing the Brits' factual contentions (that the ship was not in Iranian waters) (FWIW).