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Offering one interpretation, Anatol Lieven, senior associate of the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, observes that the Bush
administration’s efforts conform to “the classic modern strategy of an
endangered right-wing oligarchy, which is to divert mass discontent into
nationalism” through fear of external enemies.

The administration’s goal, Lieven says, is “unilateral world domination
through absolute military superiority”, which is why much of the world is so
frightened.

But the administration has overlooked a simple alternative to invading Iraq.
Let Iran do it. Before elaborating on this modest proposal, it’s worthwhile
to examine the antecedents of Washington’s bellicosity.

Ever since the September 11 attacks, Republicans have used the terrorist
threat as a pretext to push a right-wing political agenda. For the
congressional elections, the strategy has diverted attention from the
economy to war. When the presidential campaign begins, Republicans surely do
not want people to be asking questions about their pensions, jobs,
healthcare and other matters.

Rather, they should be praising their heroic leader for rescuing them from
imminent destruction by a foe of colossal power, and marching on to confront
the next powerful force bent on our destruction.

September 11 provided an opportunity and pretext to implement long-standing
plans to take control of Iraq’s immense oil wealth, a central component of
the Persian Gulf resources that the State Department in 1945 described as a
“stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material
prizes in world history”.

Control of energy sources fuels US economic and military might, and
“strategic power” translates to a lever of world control. A different
interpretation is that the administration believes exactly what it says:
Iraq has suddenly become a threat to our very existence and to its
neighbours.

So we must ensure that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the means for
producing them are destroyed, and Saddam Hussein, the monster himself,
eliminated. And quickly. The war must be waged this (northern) winter. Next
winter will be too late. By then the mushroom cloud that National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice predicts may have already consumed us.

Let us assume that this interpretation is correct. If the powers in the
Middle East fear Washington more than Saddam, as they apparently do, that
just reveals their limited grasp of reality.

It is only an accident that by next winter the US presidential campaign will
be under way. How then can we achieve the announced goals? One simple plan
seems to have been ignored, perhaps because it would be regarded as insane,
and rightly so. But it is instructive to ask why.

The modest proposal is for the US to encourage Iran to invade Iraq,
providing the Iranians with the necessary logistical and military support,
from a safe distance (missiles, bombs, bases, etc). As a proxy, one pole of
“the axis of evil” would take on another.

The proposal has many advantages over the alternatives. First, Saddam will
be overthrown–in fact, torn to shreds along with anyone close to him. His
weapons of mass destruction will also be destroyed, along with the means to
produce them.

Second, there will be no American casualties. True, many Iraqis and Iranians
will die. But that can hardly be a concern. Those in US President George W.
Bush’s circle–many of them recycled Reaganites–strongly supported Saddam
after he attacked Iran in 1980, quite oblivious to the enormous human cost,
either then or under the subsequent sanctions regime.

Saddam is likely to use chemical weapons. But the current leadership firmly
backed the “Beast of Baghdad” when he used chemical weapons against Iran in
the Reagan years, and when he used gas against “his own people”, the Iraqi
Kurds.

The current Washington planners continued to support the Beast after he had
committed by far his worst crimes, even providing him with means to develop
weapons of mass destruction, nuclear and biological, right up to the Kuwait
invasion.

Third, the UN will be no problem. It will be unnecessary to explain to the
world that the UN is relevant when it follows US orders, but irrelevant when
it doesn’t.

Fourth, Iran surely has far better credentials for war-making, and for
running a post-Saddam Iraq, than Washington. Unlike the Bush administration,
Iran has no record of support for the murderous Saddam and his program of
weapons of mass destruction.

Fifth, the liberation will be greeted with enthusiasm by much of the
population, far more so than if Americans invade. People will cheer on the
streets of Basra and Karbala, and we can join Iranian journalists in hailing
the nobility and just cause of the liberators.

Sixth, Iran can move towards instituting “democracy”. The majority of the
population is Shi’ite, and Iran would have fewer problems than the US in
granting them some say in a successor government. There will be no problem
in gaining access to Iraqi oil.

Granted, the modest proposal that Iran liberate Iraq is insane. Its only
merit is that it is far more reasonable than the plans now being
implemented–or it would be, if the administration’s professed goals had any
relation to the real ones.