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The British Navy has joined the US in bolstering its presence in the Persian Gulf. Although the ships consist of two minehunters in support of a frigate, in reality they are there for communications -- sendind a message to Teheran:
Two Royal Navy minehunters have arrived in the Gulf to reinforce a naval frigate on patrol in the area.
“We are going after their [Iran’s] networks in Iraq,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing US Ambassador to Baghdad, said. The aim was to change the behaviour of the Islamic regime in Tehran, he added. ...
The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier group entered the Gulf in December.
It will be joined by the USS John C. Stennis carrier group. This is the first time since the invasion of Iraq four years ago that the US has deployed two carrier strike groups in the Gulf at one time.
In addition, President Bush has ordered the deployment of an air defence battalion equipped with Patriot missile batteries to protect America’s Gulf Arab allies from possible air attack from Iran.
Britain’s contribution is two minehunters HMS Blyth and HMS Ramsey, which will remain in the Gulf for an unusually-long two-year mission to keep shipping routes open in the event that Iran attempts to block oil exports.
Combined with the promotion of an admiral to command Centcom, these maneuvers send the strongest possible message to Teheran. The Iranians have obliquely threatened to cut off oil distribution through the Straits of Hormuz, which Iran shares with the UAE. Britain and the US have just made it clear that they will force the Straits open if the Iranians attempt to close it, and that could lead quickly to war.
Last week, people asked themselves if the Bush administration could declare a "secret" war against Iran, an oxymoron but not a bad question. If Bush wanted to declare war against Iran in the result of a complete diplomatic breach, he would have to go to Congress for approval;. The Constitution is pretty clear on this point; Congress has to declare war. However, in the case of an attack on American forces, Bush can respond with military action immediately, but would have to get Congress' approval within 90 days. That comes from the War Powers Act of 1973, a piece of legislation that most if not all succeeding presidents have rejected as an infringement on presidential prerogative. (Nixon vetoed it, and Congress overrode the veto.)
Politically, however, it would be suicide to attempt a war with Iran without Congressional approval. The current administration might not want to act in support of the WPA, but Bush would risk impeachment if he attempted to commit serious forces against Iran in light of his political problems with the efforts in Iraq. If he went to Congress about Iran, he might find more support for some kind of action against the mullahcracy than he would for continuing the fight against terrorists in Baghdad; some Democrats, notably Hillary Clinton, have made the argument for the last two years that Iran is the real danger in southwest Asia. They may have no choice but to back those arguments with action -- although plenty of them talked tough about Iraq between 1998 and 2001, too.
A war against Iran would be a dangerous and daunting proposition. It's three times larger than Iraq, with much more difficult terrain. It also has a weak but still dangerous military and ICBM capabillity, even if the warheads are still conventional at the moment. It has a navy, which Iraq lacked, and it has not suffered under the same kind of sanctions that weakened Saddam. As John McCain said, it's about the worst possible option outside of allowing the mullahs to possess a nuclear weapon. If the Americans and British intend to either face down or provoke the Iranians in the Straits, we had better make sure we have a winning hand.Sphere It View blog reactions
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