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    Middle East
     Aug 18, 2007
Page 2 of 2
US steps closer to war with Iran

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

coercive diplomacy toward Iran. The first casualty could be the US-Iran dialogue on Iraq's security, although this would simultaneously appease Israeli hawks who dread dialogue and any hints of Cold War-style detente between Tehran and Washington.

It would also become more difficult for Syria to collaborate with Iran with respect to Lebanon's Hezbollah, who owe much to the



IRGC since their inception in the early 1980s. The consensus in Iran is that chaos in Iraq is in Israel's interests, but not that of the US, and that the United States' Middle East policy is being held hostage by pro-Israel lobbyists who have painted an enemy image of the dreaded IRGC that is neither accurate nor in tune with the history of US-IRGC interaction.

The US and the IRGC
The current noise masks a hidden history of cooperation between the US military and the IRGC - in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan and, more and more likely, Iraq.

In Bosnia, the US military and intelligence interacted with the IRGC, which had trained Bosnian Muslims, and fought alongside it against their Serbian enemies. They also funneled arms to the IRGC, mainly through Croatia, with the tacit consent of the US government.

In Afghanistan, US military commanders have had similar interaction with commanders of the IRGC, including the elite Quds division of the IRGC, which supported anti-Taliban forces and helped those forces take over Kabul in 2001 with relative ease.

In Iraq, the IRGC has supported various Shi'ite militias as well as the Iraqi military and intelligence and, unofficially, it can credit for the relative stability of the eight Shi'ite provinces, including those in the south. The new US diplomatic engagement of Iran over Iraq is having direct and immediate effects on Iran's behavior inside Iraq, promising further results by the joint expert committees set up as a result of the latest round in the dialogue.

Yet true to the United States' traditional Janus-faced approach toward Iran, just as Iranian and US military and intelligence officials are about to embark on systematic discussions over Iraq and regional security, they will in effect be prevented from doing so by the labeling of the IRGC as terrorist.

Coming 'war of attrition'?
The idea of an all-out military confrontation between the US and Iran, triggered by a US attack on the IRGC, has its watered-down version in a "war of attrition" whereby instead of inter-state warfare, we would witness medium-to-low-intensity clashes.

The question, then, is whether or not the US superpower, addicted to its military doctrine of "superior and overwhelming response", will tolerate occasional bruises at the hands of the Iranians. The answer is highly unlikely given the myriad prestige issues involved and, in turn, this raises the advisability of the labeling initiative with such huge implications nested in it.

No matter, the stage is now set for direct physical clashes between Iran and the US, which has blamed the death of hundreds of its soldiers on Iranian-made roadside bombs. One plausible scenario is the United States' "hot pursuit" of the IRGC inside Iranian territory, initially through "hit and run" commando operations, soliciting an Iranian response, direct or indirect, potentially spiraling out of control.

The hallucination of a protracted "small warfare with Iran" that would somehow insulate both sides from an unwanted big "clash of titans" is just that, a fantasy born and bred in the minds of war-obsessed hawks in Washington and Israel.

Note
1. The Algiers Accords of January 19, 1981, were brokered by the Algerian government between the US and Iran to resolve the situation that arose from the capture of American citizens in the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Through this accord the US citizens were set free. Among its provisions it was stated that the US would not intervene in Iranian internal affairs. - Wikipedia

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of "Negotiating Iran's Nuclear Populism", Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume XII, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He also wrote "Keeping Iran's nuclear potential latent", Harvard International Review, and is author of Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction.

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