US DEFENCE Secretary Robert Gates is complaining this week that European members of Nato are not contributing enough troops to Afghanistan. Much the same applies in Iraq, where even Britain is pulling out its forces.
The present coalition of the wilting is such that the Pentagon is hailing Slovakia as a model ally. That country has promised to retain its contingent of 78 soldiers in Afghanistan, and even pledged to send 47 more.
In Kiev (Ukraine) on Monday, Gates warned Europeans that lacking support for the US occupation risked their “eventual irrelevance.” If that sounds familiar, it was the same kind of warning President Bush made to the United Nations over invading Iraq.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s dispatch of heavily armed troops to its border with Iraq against rebel Kurds there could heighten Iraqi violence and tension. Since many Turks want their government to hit back at the rebels, democracy requires Turkey to do so.
On Tuesday, Ankara rejected Kurdish offers of a ceasefire, confident that Washington is unlikely to halt a cross-border raid because of Turkey’s strategic location between West Asia and Europe. All this makes a barely veiled US threat to attack Iran highly suspect, despite Joint Chiefs chairman Michael Mullen saying that US forces can do so while holding Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mullen’s service chiefs disagree with him, warning earlier that US forces had already been stretched to breaking point. But the White House remains oblivious to the strain of imperial overreach, as Vice-President Dick Cheney’s speech on Sunday showed.
Cheney said the United States and an undefined “international community” would not let Iran have nuclear weapons, again turning a hunch into a reality to be reversed.
Iran is not acquiring nuclear weapons, there is no proof it is doing so, it says it does not want to do so, and Russia and the UN’s IAEA (both opposed to a nuclear-armed Iran) confirmed Iran is not doing so.
Cheney then said it was intolerable to let Iran fulfil its “grandest ambitions,” when this is not clearly, evidentially or necessarily its ambition at all. Third, he blamed Iran for its “obvious” pursuit of nuclear weapons technology, when that is far from obvious.
The vice-president also accused Iran of “delay and deceit in an obvious effort to buy time.” Instead, Iran has welcomed talks and inspections, moving swiftly from unilateral US pressure to negotiations with the EU and the IAEA.
Cheney even said Iran wants to undermine a free Shi’ite-majority Iraq. But Shi’ite Iran and a former Sunni, post-Saddam Shi’ite Iraq, which like deepening sectarianism resulted from the US invasion, are only too happy to work together.
He then said Iran “has the right to be free of tyranny,” without saying it also had the right to be free of foreign meddling. An obvious fact is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was freely elected while Cheney as Bush’s running mate was not.
Cheney also accused Iran of being directly responsible for the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq. But allegations of Iran sending weapons like roadside bombs into Iraq have been debunked by independent parties.
Cheney denounced Teheran for having “solidified its grip on (Iraq)” since 1979. Yet post-Shah Iran has had an erratic relationship with Iraq, marked mostly by an inconclusive war against a US-backed Saddam regime.
Cheney’s main theme for the week was that the United States “will not let Iran go nuclear.” This begs the question of whether the rest of the Bush administration, Congress and the electorate will let Cheney go ballistic over Iran.
Bush had earlier said a nuclear Iran could lead to “World War III.” Yet the record around the world suggests the opposite.
US forces attacked non-nuclear-armed Iraq and Afghanistan, but not nuclear-armed North Korea. Then India, Pakistan and Israel, all nuclear-armed and refusing to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, were made into US allies.
US policies and actions could tempt Iran to seek nuclear weapons to deter a US attack, if Teheran ever wanted nuclear missiles (despite its fatwa against them). It would be the same argument for US-Soviet nuclear deterrence during the Cold War, which both had credited for keeping the peace between them.