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September 13, 2007

The Iran problem is in Afghanistan
Posted by Moira Whelan

Friends in government are telling me that people are getting pretty nervous about Iran…in Afghanistan. Some reporting has started to pop up but it seems that everyone is still focused on Iran and their activities with Iraq. The real story seems to be that Iran’s flow of weapons into Afghanistan is increasing and recently has been blatant and unapologetic.

As these stories pan out, which I’m sure they will, I don’t think the point can be missed. Iraq is distracting us from our real enemies. It’s draining resources away from fighting those who harmed us on 9-11.


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This is a story requiring closer examination, particularly as to the possibility that Karzai -- who sees Iran as a "helper" -- and the NATO governments worried about Iranian aid to the Taliban could both be right.

We don't really know how many foreign policies Iran has, or how the subject relates to internal Iranian politics. We need to. I have long suspected that absence of consensus in Tehran as to Iranian interests in the region has led to agencies in the Iranian government pursuing their own agendas, in Iraq and Afghanistan but perhaps not only there, perhaps with the knowledge and tacit approval of other players in the government and perhaps not. But this is no more than a suspicion on my part, not a conclusion.

It's just not fair that when the US invades and occupies a country, the citizens of that country use imported arms to defend themselves. And it's all because third countries, just trying to make a buck (or an RMB), have a foreign military sales program. Don't they realize that the world is an exclusive military sales territory for the US? The nerve.

Another thing that ticks me off is that the US military is so tied up in Iraq that it can't invade Pakistan. What better way to solidify ties with Pakistan's enemy India and antagonize China, two countries on Pakistan's border? Hunting down that guy in a cave in Pakistan would roil not only Pakistan, the only Islamic country with nukes, and upset China, but would also cause further 9/11-type blowbacks as we escalate against the Islamic world. But hey, the US is a great power, no? I say bring 'em on, all 1.5 billion Muslims and 1.3 billion Chinese.

As these stories pan out, which I’m sure they will, I don’t think the point can be missed. Iraq is distracting us from our real enemies. It’s draining resources away from fighting those who harmed us on 9-11.

Maybe. But that has nothing to do with the latest White House snow job relating to the relationship between Iran and Afghanistan.

Have you not noticed that US officials always slyly formulate their claims about Iranian weapons in Afghanistan in such a way as to lead inattentive readers to infer that the Iranian government is supporting US enemies in Afghanistan, but without ever actually saying that the weapons are being provided by the Iranian government, or are reaching the Taliban with either the approval, or even the cognizance, of the Iranian government? They don't make these stronger claims because they know it is highly unlikely they are true. We get slick phrases like, "acquiring weapons in Iran", "acquiring weapons, made in Iran," "military equipment coming from Iran and into the hands of the Taliban," and "weapons from Iran are going to the Taliban rebels."

Consider the insurgency in Iraq, even prior to this so-called "Anbar awakening". It could with equal justice be said of the insurgents that they were acquiring weapons, made in America; that they were using military equipment coming from America and falling into the hands of the insurgency; and that weapons from America are going to the insurgency. Why do these things happen? Because weapons are like drugs. They are in high demand and easily find the buyers who seek them, despite the efforts of governments to control or regulate their flow. And in the particular case of Iran and Afghanistan, black market arms dealing is part of a big illicit loop that includes actual drug dealing.

Right now the US is in a full court propaganda press in Iran, mainly for US domestic consumption. If they find a Taliban fighter so much as eating an Iranian candy bar, they are going to spin it as Iranian support for America’s terrorist enemies.

Iran clearly supports the Karzai government, a fact to which Karzai and his government have frequently attested. Iran also has a history of extremely bad relations with the Taliban, and the Taliban have in turn been driven by extremist, Sunni takfiri hatred of Shia, whom they regard a apostates meriting death. Iran never recognized the former Taliban government of Afghanistan, and was a backer of the Northern Alliance. The Taliban also have a long record of slaughtering Shia Muslims and murdering Iranian diplomats. Iran almost went to war with the Taliban in 1998 following one such string of outrages.

Iran quite evidently wants good relations with its neighbors. It has been cultivating political and economic ties with Maliki government and the Karzai government. Allegedly, the US supports these governments, and that would suggest in theory that the US would like those government to strengthen and stabilize themselves by establishing solid relationships with strong regional neighbors. And that’s what Maliki and Karzai have tried to do. But alas, the US is also trying to isolate Iran completely, and doesn't want them to have good external relations with anyone, not even their closest neighbors. Any indication that Iran is not totally isolated, and has normal, healthy commercial or political relationships with countries beyond their borders, is seized on as evidence for a new Iranian "hegemony" in the Middle East - a depiction that is totally preposterous to anyone with even a passing familiarity with a map of the Middle East, and who knows anything about which people control of which regions.

It is rather depressing that a mere five years after this country was taken for a ride by lying executive branch officials, so many are eager to jump right back into the Dick Cheney sucker wagon. We don’t need to get out of Iraq because it is distracting us from all of our diabolical enemies. We need to get out because the war is simply a big waste of money and lives that has only made a hell out of Iraq.

The key parts of the president's speech on why the US should whack Iran have already been written by Nicholas Burns, underseceretary of state. Burns is a fine example of how US "diplomacy" works in a world of empire-takes-all.

According to a Fox news report, the US will bomb Iran because diplomacy has failed:

"Nicholas Burns, the most ardent proponent of a diplomatic resolution to the problem of Iran's nuclear ambitions, has had his chance on the Iranian account and come up empty."

Some past quotes on Burns's "ardent diplomacy":

Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said the administration is seeking to counter Iranian provocations across the region as part of a broader strategy. "Iran needs to learn to respect us," he said. "And Iran certainly needs to respect American power in the Middle East."

"Iran is one of our greatest concerns these days, and we're looking for ways to shut down any possible provision of capital or technology to the Iranians for their [legal] enrichment program and at Natanz, I think based on my own conversations with members, I just wanted to make absolutely sure that this was going to be part of the agreement and part that the Indians would acknowledge, and the Indians have."

"In Iraq, Iran continues to provide lethal support to select groups of Shia militants who target and kill U.S. and British troops, as well as innocent Iraqis. We have made clear to Tehran that this is unacceptable."

The United States has "irrefutable" evidence that Iran is transferring weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan, with the knowledge of the Iranian government, and NATO has intercepted some of the shipments, a senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.
"There's irrefutable evidence the Iranians are now doing this," said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns on CNN. "It's certainly coming from the government of Iran. It's coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps command, which is a basic unit of the Iranian government."

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