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Aijaz Ahmad on the Petraeus hearings and why the neocons target Iran

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ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: The top two US officials in Iraq, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, testified on Tuesday about the progress of the war. They spoke about the success of the surge, the current factional fighting, and the influence of Iran in the region. For a better understanding, we spoke to senior news analyst Aijaz Ahmad.

AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: Just before the testimony, there was a lot of buildup in the media that the testimony of Petraeus and Crocker is going to set up the scene for war drums to start beating against Iran, for preparations to take place for military action against Iran. I would say that it was basically media hype. There is in fact no content to it, because the United States is in no position to attack Iran at this point—it is too bogged down in Iraq itself, the military is exhausted, and there is absolutely no support for any such action anywhere in the world, whether in Europe or elsewhere. The testimony itself, in fact, did not play up the role of Iran, although under interrogation and under pressure they said harsher things about Iran in the actual text of these testimonies. They did not offer anything that would lead to serious escalation of hostilities. The idea that Iran has a connection with al-Qaeda is simply fantastic. Iran has no connection with al-Qaeda, and it need not support any such outsider group, because Iran itself has a great deal of influence on virtually every major group in Iraq, particularly the two major parties in the government, the Dawa and the Islamic Revolutionary Council—al-Hakim’s and al-Maliki’s outfits. Even the president of Iraq, Mr. Talabani, was a refugee in Iran for about ten years. There is no reason why Iran would have any connection with al-Qaeda, and by the same token, there is no reason why they needed special groups. This blame game on Iran, I believe, has two particular motivations. One is that Israel would like very much for the United States to go and make war on Iran, or at least carry out a serious military action against Iran. So it is the pro-Israeli lobby in the US Congress, which is pressing for that kind of blame on Iran. Secondly, the problem even for Petraeus, who did talk about special groups, is that until two weeks before the testimony, everyone was saying the surge is working, the surge is working, the surge is working; and then just a week or ten days before, suddenly the fighting escalates in Basra and Baghdad to a very high level, with very high level of casualties. If they can blame Iran, then they can say, “Well, our surge was working, but now there is this external intervention going on. And because there is this external intervention going on, we cannot afford to withdraw any more troops,” which again then greatly strengthens the position of McCain. That is what McCain is saying: “I’m not going to withdraw any troops. We have made some gains, but in order to stabilize those gains, we have to keep up the troop strength.” So why is this escalation taking place? My sense is that this was going to be their showpiece just before the testimony. If they could show that al-Maliki’s own militias, which are parading around as Iraq’s national army, can inflict serious defeat on the Mahdi Army with full support of the US air force, then they could come to Washington and say, “See? The surge has worked. As we start withdrawing the troops, the Iraqi army is standing up,” and so on. So this was going to be the model for the near future, where what happened in fact is that the whole thing blew in their faces. Al-Maliki’s militias simply could not fight the Mahdi Army. They had to go and ask Iran to work out a truce between the two of them. Under pressure, Petraeus actually confessed that Iran had been a peacemaker.


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Based in New Delhi, Aijaz Ahmad has appeared many times on The Real News Network; he is Senior Editorial Consultant, and political commentator for the Indian newsmagazine, Frontline. He has taught Political Science, and has written widely on South Asia and the Middle East.