March 28, 2007

Pffft! Now You're Marginalized, Too!

[Update added.]

Here's a sight you don't see every day, although, sad to say, it isn't as rare as it once was: Henley -- trees -- and no forest.


This reminds me of a brief episode from an early chapter of my life, when I was a young, fetchingly handsome lad. At a party suitably drenched in cocktails, necessary to place the two or three attending generations in a rough approximation of strained toleration for one another for the duration, mercifully short though it was, a mysterious man approached me. He insisted that he had an indispensable and invaluable piece of advice for me, if I cared about my future at all. It varied from the version with which you might be familiar in only one particular:
Mysterious Man: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Me: Yes, sir.

Mysterious Man: Are you listening?

Me: Yes, I am.

Mysterious Man: Munitions.
If only I had heeded his advice. I'd be a multibillionaire today. Starting a war is the easiest thing in the world. Even many self-proclaimed libertarian non-interventionists offer precious little opposition, if only by necessary implication. In these circumstances, implication is more than enough.

What is the forest to which I refer above? Part of it is explored here; more of it is explained in my current series, "Dominion Over the World," and in my earlier series on Iran (see here, here and here), and in the first part of my "Dispatch from Germany" series. Then there's the reporting of Seymour Hersh and others about the covert operations the United States has been running inside Iran for some time now, undoubtedly with Britain's full knowledge if not its actual assistance (although that too might well be in play).

And then there's the fact that we have loudly and repeatedly made very clear that the next item on our menu of world transformation is regime change in Iran. Everyone knows that, including the leaders of Iran.

One more fact, mentioned by Henley's first commenter. As Craig Murray explains:
The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker.

But there are two colossal problems.

A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.

B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.

None of which changes the fact that the Iranians, having made their point, should have handed back the captives immediately. I pray they do so before this thing spirals out of control. But by producing a fake map of the Iran/Iraq boundary, notably unfavourable to Iran, we can only harden the Iranian position.
Oh, yes, I nearly forgot. There is one additional fact, in two parts.



I do believe we have some evidence relating to this last fact, of recent vintage.

There are many other parts of the forest, which I leave you free to color in during your otherwise unoccupied hours.

UPDATE: Pepe Escobar, writing in Asia Times:
This correspondent has been to the Shatt-al-Arab. It's a busy and tricky waterway, to say the least. Iraqi fishing boats share the waters with Iranian patrol boats. From the Iraqi shore one can see the Iranian shore, flags aflutter. These remain extremely disputed waters. In 1975, a treaty was signed in Algiers between the shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein. The center of the river was supposed to be the border. Then Saddam invaded Iran in 1980. After the Iran-Iraq War that this sparked ended in 1988, and even after both Gulf wars, things remain perilously inconclusive: a new treaty still has not been signed.

The British are adamant that the sailors were in Iraqi waters checking for cars, not weapons, being smuggled. It's almost laughable that the Royal Navy should be reduced to finding dangerous Toyotas in the Persian Gulf. Some reports from Tehran claim the British were actually checking Iranian military preparations ahead of a possible confrontation with the US.

Western corporate media overwhelmingly take for granted that the British were in Iraqi or "international" waters (wrong: these are disputed Iran/Iraq waters). Tehran has accused the British of "blatant aggression" and reminded world public opinion "this is not the first time that Britain commits such illegal acts" (which is true). Tehran diplomats later suggested that the British might be charged with espionage (which is actually the case in Khuzestan province in Iran, conducted by US Special Forces).


Not surprisingly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had to take the side of the occupiers who installed him in his post: he said the British were in Iraq invited by the Iraqi government and were operating in Iraqi waters.

This doesn't stop people, especially in the Islamic world, questioning what business the British, as an occupation force, had in the Shatt-al-Arab to start with.

From the depths of their abysmal, recent historical experience, even the Arab world - which is not so fond of Persians - sees the US-orchestrated UN sanctions on Iran for what they are: the West, once again, trying to smash an independent nation daring to have its shot at more influence in the Middle East. More sanctions will be useless as China and India will continue to do serious business with Iran.

Tactically, as a backgammon or, better yet, chess move - in which Iranians excel - the Shatt-al-Arab incident may be much more clever than it appears.


If the Tehran leadership decides to drag out the proceedings, the Shi'ites in southern Iraq, already exasperated by the British (as they were in the 1920s), may take the hint and accelerate a confrontation. Strands of the Shi'ite resistance may start merging with strands of the Sunni resistance (that's what Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has wanted all along). And this would prove once again that you don't need nuclear weapons when you excel at playing chess.
I'll probably have more on this and related issues later today (Thursday).