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    Middle East
     Oct 27, 2007
Page 1 of 2
'War on terror' is now war on Iran
By Pepe Escobar

Scores of middle-aged, mild-mannered, bearded gentlemen - the technocrats of the Iranian military bourgeoisie - are now officially enjoying the status of "terrorists", at least from a Washington point of view.

The demonization of Iran drags on relentlessly as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been officially branded a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and its elite Quds

Force a supporter of terrorism. The latter has for months been accused of supplying Shi'ite militias in Iraq with weapons that are killing US soldiers.

The new round of US sanctions also targets Iran's Defense Ministry, as well as three major Iranian banks accused of financing "the usual suspects"; Shi'ite militias in Iraq, Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon and - absurd as it may sound - the Taliban in Afghanistan. The banks are the state-owned Bank Melli, Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat.

The US State and Treasury departments jointly announced the new sanctions, citing the Islamic Republic's defiance over its continued nuclear program and its alleged involvement with terrorist organizations. The new restrictions are unilateral and aim to prevent businesses and other groups both within and outside the US - but that do work within the US - from dealing with individuals who are part of any of the banks, military forces and other organizations in Iran that were named, including the IRGC.

The move follows President George W Bush's comments last week that implied that Iran obtaining nuclear weapons could lead to "World War III", and Vice President Dick Cheney's speech on Sunday in which he said that "the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences" if Iran does not comply with demands.

Sanctions do bite - as some Iranian conservatives have started to publicly admit. But Tehran won't be in a hurry to mount a hug-and-kiss expedition to Washington. Cuba has been fighting a US blockade and sanctions for almost five decades - and has managed to survive with dignity.

The more than 20 companies and individuals affiliated with the IRGC that are now excluded from the American financial system - and nodes of the international banking system - will still have plenty of opportunities of doing business with Russia, China or Arab monarchies. They may barter. They may exchange goods with services. And they may resort to the black market.

As far as Moscow and Beijing are concerned, they are hardly shivering with fear in the face of renewed State Department "warnings" to China not to invest and Russia not to sell weapons to Iran.

This new round of sanctions is just one side of the demonization of Iran campaign - as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was once again spinning the other side of the same old scratched vinyl, that of preventing "one of the world's worst regimes from acquiring the world's most dangerous weapons". The International Atomic Energy Agency still has not found any evidence Iran is developing a nuclear program for military use, and has called for the further engagement of Iran, rather than its isolation.

Meet the terrorists
The IRGC was founded by a decree of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, in May 1979. In the beginning, in pure revolutionary fashion, it was the "eyes and ears" of the revolution, its trusted popular army fighting the enemy within - which could be, according to revolutionary whim, the deposed Shah's supporters, communist militants, ethnic minorities like the Kurds in the northwest or Arabs in oil-rich Khuzestan province, or Western-educated, influential intellectuals.
The early revolutionaries in 1979 had two fears: a military coup orchestrated by remaining Shah supporters, or an attack by the US. What happened was the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), started by Saddam Hussein with the hardly silent support of the US and the West. So the popular army immediately had to be converted into a parallel - and soon very powerful - fighting army.

Almost 1 million IRGC people - pasdaran (soldiers) and bassijis (young militiamen under their control) - died in that horrendous war, and are today revered as martyrs.

The IRGC today numbers, according to their bureau in Tehran, about 130,000. Ground forces have 105,000 soldiers - four divisions, six mechanized divisions and one marine brigade. The air force has 5,000 men and the navy 20,000, with an undisclosed number of vessels equipped with anti-ship missiles. Three separate units man the Shahab-3 missiles, with a 1,500-kilometer range; the new Shahab-4 has a range of 2,000 kilometers.

The Quds Force of the IRGC - the key target of US ire - may have as many as 15,000 men. They are specialists in surveillance and 

Continued 1 2 

Attack Iran and you attack Russia (Oct 26, '07)

Iran looms over Turkey crisis diplomacy (Oct 25, '07)

1. Attack Iran and you attack Russia

2. Oil: The sovereignty showdown in Iraq

3. US soldiers shy from battle

4. Iran looms over Turkey crisis diplomacy

5. Turks have might, but it will be a fight

6. Pakistan's nut that won't crack

7. 'Indians are bastards anyway'

8. By the light of a Chinese moon

9. China agonizes over its fistful of dollars

(24 hours to 11:59 pm ET, Oct 25, 2007)


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