Monday, February 19, 2007

The Distraction

In the midst of the war in Iraq, the neo-cons are itching for a fight with Iran. We've seen this show before, and by that I don't mean merely the over-hyped claims of Iranian involvement in attacks on U.S. soldiers. I mean the creation of a sideshow that will distract us from the real objective. The war in Iraq has no doubt played a considerable role in this development:
Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.

The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.

American analysts said recent intelligence showed that the compounds functioned under a loose command structure and were operated by groups of Arab, Pakistani and Afghan militants allied with Al Qaeda. They receive guidance from their commanders and Mr. Zawahri, the analysts said. Mr. bin Laden, who has long played less of an operational role, appears to have little direct involvement.

Officials said the training camps had yet to reach the size and level of sophistication of the Qaeda camps established in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. But groups of 10 to 20 men are being trained at the camps, the officials said, and the Qaeda infrastructure in the region is gradually becoming more mature.
And they operate largely without molestation in those camps, thanks to the deal they cut with Pakistan not long ago. What are we doing about that? Other than letting them into Afghanistan to attack government and coalition forces, nothing. And yet the hawks in the Bush administation continue to agitate for war with Iran, which has no affiliation with Al Qaeda. And now Iran accuses us of "provoking" attacks inside their country by their own home-grown Sunni insurgents (via Prof. Scott Horton):

The Iranian Foreign Ministry charged Sunday that Sunni insurgents from Iran used Pakistan as a base to plan a bombing that killed 11 people and wounded more than 30 in the southeastern border city of Zahedan last week, and it said that it had demanded an explanation from the Pakistani ambassador.

Iran has accused the United States and Britain of provoking the Sunni insurgents. The authorities have said that the efforts are part of the plot to sow discord among Sunnis and Shiites in the country. Gen. Mohammad Ghaffari, a commander of security forces in the province, told the Fars news agency that a film that was confiscated from the suspects proved that the group was "affiliated to intelligence agencies of some of the foreign countries, such as the U.S. and Britain."

The news agency also quoted what it called informed sources as saying that the explosives used in the bombings were American.

Iran blamed the United States and Britain for a series of bombings in the southern city of Ahwaz in Khuzestan Province in 2006. Those bombings were also carried out by Iranian Sunnis. The government hanged 12 men after accusing them of carrying out the attacks, which killed eight people.

Prof. Horton's comments on this article are very enlightening:
Back almost two years ago, I debated John Yoo on an NPR program, and he went out of his way to differentiate: "Not all terrorists are bad," he said. It threw me for a loop. How could you wage a "War on Terror" in which you use terror as a technique and embrace, arm and dispatch terrorists out into the field? Well, John Yoo can. Soon thereafter I learned about the Mujahadeen e'Khalq, a scheduled Iranian terrorist organization, which has established tight links to the Neocon movement. I later heard credible accounts about meetings between US intelligence personnel and MEK, the delivery to them of sophisticated weaponry and their intimate involvement in tactical plans for attacks on Iran. The MEK units are stationed under US patronage and protection inside Iraq, right on the Iranian frontier. Similarly, Sunni Salafi groups in Baluchistan are reported to have been recruited for attacks on Iran from the west. The Iranian claims here might well be wrong, but they shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. If in fact Bush's war on terror embraces terror as a tactic and terrorists as pawns, these claims are more than plausible.
Note the timing. According to Prof. Horton, the Bush administration established ties to an Iranian terrorist organization well before they began accusing Iran of being involved in the killings of U.S. soldiers. Is Iran now retaliating for our meddling in their country? Is it not the height of hypocrisy to use as a pretext for war actions that you yourself are committing? And as to my larger point, do you imagine that war with Iran will make us safer from the now resurgant Al Qaeda? Do you think it will even help bring peace to Iraq? I don't. But then, for the hawks, that was never the point.

UPDATE: Another troubling development in the "war on terror":
Counterterrorism officials on three continents say the trouble in Tunisia is the latest evidence that a brutal Algerian group with a long history of violence is acting on its promise: to organize extremists across North Africa and join the remnants of Al Qaeda into a new international force for jihad.

They say North Africa, with its vast, thinly governed stretches of mountain and desert, could become an Afghanistan-like terrorist hinterland within easy striking distance of Europe. That is all the more alarming because of the deep roots that North African communities have in Europe and the ease of travel between the regions. For the United States, the threat is also real because of visa-free travel to American cities for most European passport holders.

Last year, on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda chose the G.S.P.C. as its representative in North Africa. In January, the group reciprocated by switching its name to Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, claiming that the Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, had ordered the change.

“Al Qaeda’s aim is for the G.S.P.C. to become a regional force, not solely an Algerian one,” said the French counterterrorism magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière, in Paris. He calls the Algerian group the biggest terrorist threat facing France today.
Read the rest.

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