The Guardian 5 September, 2007

Bush threatens to spread Middle East war

In an exceptionally bellicose and war-mongering speech last week, President Bush threatened military action against Iran even to the point of a "nuclear holocaust". He portrayed the ongoing US military occupation in Iraq as part of a broader regional struggle to defend vital US interests against "radicals and extremists".

Contained in this speech was the explicit threat of widening the US war in the Middle East, directed in the first instance against Iran.

"Either the forces of extremism succeed or the forces of freedom succeed," Bush said. "Either our enemies advance their interests in Iraq, or we advance our interests."

The immediate purpose of Bush’s two foreign policy speeches to American war veterans is to intimidate the massive popular opposition to the Iraq war and set the stage for the report on the Iraq surge that General David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are to deliver to Congress this month.

That this presentation has been scheduled for September 11, the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, is hardly a coincidence. It will unquestionably be packaged as part of a fresh propaganda campaign aimed at frightening the American people with the supposedly ubiquitous threat of terror.

Once again Bush mouthed the absurd and threadbare lie that 160,000 US troops are in Iraq to battle Al Qaida, incessantly and falsely described as "the same people who attacked us on 9/11", for the supposed purpose of preventing fresh attacks on the US.

"We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America", he told the veterans’ group. The presence of Al Qaida was not an issue in Iraq before the US invaded the country in March 2003.

Warning of the dire consequences that would supposedly unfold should Washington fail in its attempt to quell the resistance and establish its domination over Iraq, the US president said, "Extremists would control a key part of the world’s energy supply, could blackmail and sabotage the global economy. They could use billions of dollars of oil revenues to buy weapons and pursue their deadly ambitions."

That is exactly what the US is attempting to do by means of military aggression, gain absolute control over the key oil-producing regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. Control of these oil producing areas would strengthen the hand of US imperialism put it in a position to dictate terms to its rivals in Asia and Europe.

Bush portrayed the present occupation and struggle by US forces in Iraq as being against two "strains of radicalism": Sunni extremism, which he identified with Al Qaida; and Shia extremism, which he linked to Iran.

Bush accused the former of attempting to create "a violent and radical caliphate [Islamic republic] that spans from Spain to Indonesia", a delusional vision that only the right-wing ideologues in Washington give the slightest credibility.

The supposed threat from the other radical "strain," however, was presented in far more immediate and concrete terms.

Accusations against Iran

"Shia extremism", Bush charged, is "supported and embodied by the regime that sits in Tehran". He described the Iranian Government as "the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism", while claiming that it threatened the region with "a nuclear holocaust".

Bush repeated the unsubstantiated charges that US forces are coming under increasing attack from Iranian-supplied weapons and that Iranian Revolutionary Guard elements are training and arming Iraqi "extremist groups".

Such claims are unsupported by the US military’s own reports from Iraq. The Pentagon recently acknowledged that since the escalation of the US intervention last February, it has recorded a 50 percent increase in the number of detainees it is holding, soaring from 16,000 to 24,500. Yet, it has identified only 280 "foreign fighters", none of whom are Iranian.

According to statistics reported in the New York Times last week, 85 percent of those detained are Sunni, with the remaining Shia detainees drawn largely from supporters of the Sadrist Mahdi Army, which is openly hostile to Teheran.

The statistics provided by the Pentagon’s Task Force 134, which runs US detention operations in Iraq, contradict the entire thesis advanced by Bush that the war in Iraq is an "ideological struggle" against Islamist extremism. Only a relative handful of those detained identify with Al Qaida, while the military’s spokesman for the detention operation describes the vast majority of them as "angry men" who "don’t have jobs".

In other words, the resistance is motivated neither by supposed Sunni extremist visions of a caliphate nor Shia extremist agitation from Teheran, but by overwhelming hostility to the carnage and devastating destruction wrought by the US invasion and occupation upon every facet of Iraqi society.

Bush made claims in his speech as to the supposed success of his "surge" that can only be described as patent lies.

"Our new strategy is also showing results in places where it matters most, [in] the cities and neighbourhoods where ordinary Iraqis live", he said. "In these areas, Iraqis are increasingly reaching accommodations with each other, with the coalition, and with the government in Baghdad."

Every report coming out of occupied Iraq refutes these phoney assertions. Among the most recent is a survey conducted by the Associated Press showing that the average daily Iraqi death toll that it has documented through its reporting has nearly doubled since the surge began, climbing from 33 to 62. The news agency acknowledged that these numbers are a gross underestimation of the real carnage, as "many killings go unreported or uncounted". Also not included in the numbers were those classified as "insurgents" killed by the US military and its puppet forces.

Similarly, the Iraqi Red Crescent has documented a doubling of the number of displaced civilians since the beginning of the year, roughly since the US military escalation began, climbing from under 450,000 to over 1.1 million as of July 31.

Bush followed his allegations against Iran with an unmistakable threat. Iran, he said, "... cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces and the murder of innocent Iraqis. The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops. I have authorised our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities."

The implication is clear. The debacle confronting the American occupation of Iraq is driving the government in Washington not towards a withdrawal of US forces, but rather towards an even bloodier military adventure. There is every reason to believe that the world is on the brink of another eruption of US militarism.

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