Click above for an expanded view of this CIA map of the Middle East (Greater Near East, Southwest Asia, whatever you want to call it), from the University of Texas PCL Map Collection.
Over the weekend, journalist Scott Ritter gave a speech asserting that inside sources tell him that the Bush administration has already signed off on plans to bomb Iran in June, and that it manipulated the January elections in Iraq. It would seem that the story has been noticed, since I've seen it on half a dozen web pages and in my email this morning. The folks breathlessly declaring these to be historic revelations need to get a grip, immediately. Though it says something that it's now a notable event for someone stating the obvious to be taken seriously.
So this week's map is presented so as to provide a bit of geographic context to current events.
Sez the article, "Ritter said that U.S. authorities in Iraq had manipulated the results in order to reduce the percentage of the vote received by the United Iraqi Alliance from 56% to 48%." Quite the accomplishment, it would seem, especially after the U.S. bombed the Sunnis into boycotting the election, which undoubtedly boosted the UIA from around 30% to an absolute majority for the Shiites in the Iraqi parliament. Which is a huge setback both to Bush's petroleum cronies and the Iraqi feminists. And Rumsfeld, for that matter, is suddenly quite unlikely to get to keep those permanent bases he so desperately wants. But hey, at least the Iranians won't complain about the outcome. So, nice work there.
I don't know whether Bush has signed off on a particular invasion plan, but I'd be very suprised if the Pentagon hasn't put one together. The DoD, after all, can see the writing on the wall, and they'd like very much to be a bit better prepared for Iran than they were for Iraq. But let us, for a moment, look at the map I posted. Long sea coast, which means that in the event of hostilities a considerable presence in the Gulf would be needed just to keep the fleet marginally safe. And then take note of where all the major Mideastern mountain ranges are. Correct, they pretty much define Iran's borders. No blitzkreig dash from the sea to Tehran, I'm thinking. No wonder Iran has been independent for most of the past 2,600 years. Persia has been called the most defensible territory on the planet. And that was before they had a modern military.
On the other hand, nobody should be in the least suprised if Bush really does have another war in the works. The Iraq war was just about a done deal at this point in the game last time around, and all the signs indicate that the administration's following the same quite successful playbook. We've already got the agitation about links to terrorism -- I'm just waiting for the first Fox anchor to suggest that it was actually the Hizbullah behind 9/11. Then there's the hysteria over Iran's 'nukular' bombs that are, no doubt, just about to start rolling off the assembly line of evil. Some neocons have even gone so far as to trot out the cannard about how shaking things up with a few precision missile strikes will cause the oppressed people rising up against the tyrannical clerics. And in case you hadn't noticed, Israel is once again none too subtley hinting that they'd really, really like Iran out of the way.
Thing is, the facts on the ground are wildly different this time around, so the playbook should probably have been modified to reflect that. For one thing, there's that pesky defensible geography protected by a military that, interestingly enough, hasn't been under embargo for the past decade1. The Europeans are wise(r) to Bush this time around, so America can't expect even the flimsy diplomatic cover that it got in Iraq; there's not so much as a decade-old Security Council resolution that can be spun to authorize a war. Most important, though, is the you-and-what-army? factor. Also stated as, gee golly, our entire army is either tied down in Iraq or recouperating and in no condition to fight elsewhere, and the reserves seem to be running dry pretty fast.
1 Okay, actually the U.S. has had sanctions against Iran for some time, but since nobody in Eurasia, nor even our own Halliburton, seems to have followed suit, let's assume it can buy anything it wants.