Back from a baseball break

Sorry for the recent lack of posts, had to take the weekend off to watch the Red Sox finish their World Series sweep. (My condolences to the Rockies and their fans. They had one hell of a run, they’ll definitely get another shot in the next few years.)

With the baseball season in the books, time to get back to politics. I promised y’all more stuff on Iran, and I do like to keep to that sort of promise. So let’s head in and get to the bottom of what may well be our third war in six years. We’ll start with a bit of historical background.


Any understanding of US-Iran relations needs to start with this guy. Mohammed Mossadegh, prime minister of Iran in the early 50′s, led his country on a number of reforms, most notably and controversially the nationalization of the oil industry, until then controlled by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The Brits, amazingly enough, were annoyed by the loss of their oil, and asked the United States to take action. The CIA, in their inimitable way, put money into the right hands, and a military coup d’etat swept Mossadegh out of power in favor of the Shah.
This move proved fairly unpopular among the Iranian people, and thus the Shah maintained his power through the grand traditions of torture, repression, and secret police. He was supported in these endeavors, both financially and militarily, by the United States, who saw him as a valuable ally against Soviet expansion. Decades of oppression finally bubbled over in the Islamic Revolution of 1978-9, the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini’s theocratic government, and the seizing of the American Embassy in Tehran. Relations between the two countries entered a rather tense phase, with Iran supporting various anti-American terrorist causes (most notably Hezbollah) and the US supporting pretty much anyone who opposed the Ayatollah. For example, this guy, who you may recognize from his many appearances on South Park:

Saddam Hussein

Tensions eased a bit in the mid-90′s, largely due to a more moderate tone from the Iranian government toward the West and a generally receptive administration in the United States. After 9/11, Iran offered some cooperation (how much is still a matter of argument, there’s an excellent set of opinions here) against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Then, of course, we had the 2002 State of the Union and the “Axis of Evil” designation, followed by the invasion of Iraq. The hardliners within the Iranian government saw both (not unreasonably) as hostile moves, and used the opportunity to reassert control, purging the moderates and taking every opportunity to condemn American aggression.

And so here we sit, with Iran’s president giving bellicose speeches across the globe and our Congress declaring part of Iran’s military a terrorist organization. We’ve got prominent foreign policy analysts claiming that Iranians “have terrorism in their DNA.” It’s beginning to look very much as though the question of the United States attacking Iran is one of “when,” not “if.”

President Bush has apparently said on several occasions that he doesn’t want to leave Iran’s nuclear program as an unresolved issue after he leaves office. Yes, that’s right. A $9 trillion national debt, a still-flooded New Orleans, a collapsing healthcare system, and 130,000 troops in Iraq can be left to the next guy, but Iran we’ve gotta bomb tomorrow. And if you think Congress will stop him, you haven’t been paying much attention. For one thing, the new Democratic majority has been, shall we say, less than assertive in standing up to the President on matters of war.

For another, this is an Administration that has repeatedly made it clear that it feels Congress has absolutely no authority over the Presidency where war is concerned. Dick Cheney has said publicly that the first President Bush would have had the authority to invade Iraq in 1991 even if Congress had voted against it. Even better, remember that little resolution I mentioned earlier, which laid the groundwork for the President to declare part of Iran’s military a “supporter of terrorism”? Consider it in the context of the Sept. 14th, 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” effectively declaring the “War on Terror” underway. If part of Iran’s military is a terrorist group, then (according to these blokes) the President has the right to attack it without Congressional permission. And if the rest of Iran’s military counterattacks, then they’re supporting terrorists, and we get to go after them, too.

I wish I could say that this is a fluke, that if Congress can just find its spine for the next year or so and run out the clock on the Bushies, we’ll avoid a war. I’m more than a bit worried, though. Take a look at this debate, from Talking Points Memo:


The dude who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between Nazi Germany and, as Paul Krugman put it, “a country with roughly the G.D.P. of Connecticut” is Norman Podhoretz, who in addition to being the dean of Washington’s neoconservative dingbats, is the chief foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani, the GOP frontrunner for 2008. With that reassuring thought, I’m off to bed. With any luck I’ll have something cheerier for you tomorrow.

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