By Foaad Khosmood

A strong majority of Americans have finally come around to recognizing America’s engagement in Iraq as an unmitigated disaster. Those who thoughtlessly perpetuated the Bush Administration’s baseless assertions in the months prior to the Iraq war, especially members of the mainstream media, are indirectly responsible for the current fiasco.

Some of these same voices, now go on and on about the “irresponsibility” of leaving Iraq “before the job is done.” It’s true that thanks to the irresponsible actions by the Bush Administration and the national media, we are now at a point where there are really no good solutions, although numerous analysts have stated that a U.S. withdrawal will be a net positive in terms of diffusing the violence.

But imagine how nice it would be at the position we were in 2002, before the deaths and the destruction with the chance to avoid a war of choice, as opposed to having to pick the least worst option to escape this quagmire with “only” half a million deaths and close to a $1 billion in costs so far.

This is exactly the position we are in vis-à-vis Iran. At the moment the U.S. Military build-up in the Persian Gulf is the largest since the start of the Iraq war. In addition to the recent “surge” of ground troops, two aircraft carrier groups, the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower have been sent to the region in recent months. Two Expeditionary Strike Groups, each of which consists of a number of naval vessels, submarines and about 2,000 marines, are also in the area. A third carrier group, the USS Ronald Reagan, is within 10 days of the region. Even the British Royal Navy’s deployment in the Persian Gulf has doubled since last October alone.

This build up is not for fighting Iraqi insurgents. The only reason for it to occur at this scale is to facilitate an attack on Iran. This force together with other U.S. air capability out of bases in Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and the Persian Gulf monarchies, means the U.S. and UK can launch hundreds of planes, thousands of missiles and even nuclear strikes on Iran.

It’s clear that the United States is in no position to do a ground invasion and occupy Tehran. But a Yugoslavia War-style massive bombing with almost no casualties is both possible and politically convenient. Another thing that is clear is that this will hardly be a strike against “nuclear” sites. If the aim was truly the handful of Iranian nuclear energy installations, a small group of stealth aircraft could do the job easily. Why expose more targets to the enemy by bringing in so much extra military hardware?

We know that the “nuclear weapons danger” is largely fabricated. Not a shred of evidence exists that there is any kind of nuclear weaponization program going on inside Iran. The dispute is over whether Iran has a right to carry out a nuclear energy program. In addition, most experts, including CIA, are on the record assessing that Iran is 8 to 10 years away from developing nuclear weapons, and that’s only if Iranians proceed with weaponization unimpeded from this point on. So the sheer number of aircraft and missiles now pointed at Iran indicate that there will be far more targets than simply military ones. Just as with Iraq, the Administration will claim “command and control” facilities are also targets. The problem is that these facilities are so broadly defined as to include telephone and emergency communication systems, roads, government vehicles, food, medicine and water processing plants and even news operations, all of which have been labeled “strategic” by the U.S.

The Administration’s real intent is not to defend America or to spread freedom, but to achieve regime change and replace the Iranian government with one friendly to the U.S. interests and corporations exactly like other U.S. allies in the region. Unfortunately Messrs Bush and Cheney couldn’t care less about Democracy in places like Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. It’s only a convenient excuse to get public support.

These massive military deployments are not cheap. Every American should understand that no President would spend millions of dollars strategically transporting and placing in possible danger such massive force without the intention of making use of it. It’s exactly how it happened with Iraq in 1991 and 2002. The only question is can the American public be fooled long enough until it’s too late? Well can they?

_Foaad Khosmood is a member of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII). He is also the External Vice President of the Graduate Student Association at UCSC. _