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The British army in Iraq is beaten and in retreat. Of the 45,000 troops involved in the initial invasion, a mere 5,000 are left, confined to Basra Air Base, with the city of Basra a virtual no-go area. Meanwhile the cracks in the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ are widening with the trans-Atlantic war of words. And Gordon Brown is pursuing a twin track policy sending out different messages to different constituencies, one delivered by proxies such as Douglas Alexander to persuade the anti-war majority in Britain that he is breaking with Blair’s policies, and the other to the Bush team confirming business as usual as Washington’s junior partner.

Last week’s humiliating retreat had much more to do with the growing Iraqi opposition to the presence of occupying troops than to any desire on the part of Gordon Brown to distance himself from his predecessor. Keeping the remaining troops holed up at Basra Airport can serve no useful purpose apart from preserving the facade of an alliance with Bush that is rapidly falling apart. And as that happens, the architects of war and occupation will attempt to spread the blame for their mess onto everyone else. Its the Iraqi people who will have to get their house in order. Its the ‘dysfunctional’ Bagdad government which is to blame. Its Iranian interference which is preventing a resolution of the crisis.

British soldier in Iraq

And it is this last charge which is now being repeated time and again by George Bush and the US and UK media. The implication is that no progress can be made in solving the problem of Iraq and getting the troops out, unless we first take out Iran.

The charge of Iranian interference in Iraq is breathtaking in its hypocricy. The United States intervenes in the internal affairs of every country in the world to suit its foreign policy objectives. And in the case of Iraq it sent an army of up to 200,000 to invade and occupy that land resulting in the deaths of up to a million Iraqi people. By the standards set by the US and UK armed forces, any Iranian intervention in Iraq must be very small beer.


Iran’s real crime is that it has the second largest combined oil and gas reserves in the world and it refuses to bend the knee to the United States. Its growing influence in Iraq and other parts of the arab world has more to do with failed US and UK policies in the region than it has to do with any direct Iranian intervention.

An attack on Iran would be dangerous and reckless even by the standards of Bush and Cheney. Certainly America has the air power to destroy Iran’s military and economic infrastructure. But Iran could exact a heavy price in military and economic terms, closing the Gulf to oil exports and perhaps triggering a wider war in the Middle East with unpredictable consequencies.

Where would Gordon Brown stand on this issue? At the moment he is deliberately sending mixed signals. But his past record on Iraq does not inspire confidence. If he had joined the cabinet rebels in 2003 he could have torpedoed British involvement in the war and probably prevented the war from taking place. He chose not to. Only massive pressure from the peace movement will stop him supporting the next war.

Oil pipeline on Sakhalin Island


But perhaps Iran is really just a smokescreen to divert our attention away from the real US target. Russia, under Vladimir Putin, has emerged as an oil and gas superpower and over the past few years has taken decisive steps to bring back under national control its vast energy reserves. It is now a key player in the development of an Asian Energy Security Grid and its political equivalent, the Shanghai Co-Operation Organisation. This new alliance is seen as a major challenge to American control of the global oil and gas business and thus threatens the supremacy of the dollar.

In this situation America will use the one area of superiority it still possesses over all its rivals - its huge war machine and its virtual monopoly over advanced military technology. That’s why it is pushing ahead with Missile Defence despite the fact that its nuclear superiority has never been more emphatic and the nuclear forces of rivals like Russia and China are dilapidated, poorly maintained and obsolete.


Placing missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic along with the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons can only be interpreted as an aggressive first strike strategy. Trident replacement is no longer about insuring us against an uncertain future. Indeed, it is no longer a ‘deterrent’, but part of a blatent first strike force designed to threaten, intimidate, isolate and if necessary destroy an economically resurgent Russia and seize control of its oil and gas assets.

The Bush/Cheney bid for nuclear primacy is dangerous not just because it will trigger a new arms race. Already Putin has already announced retaliatory measures. It could usher in a period of such overwhelming US military dominance that will allow the United States dictate terms to every other country in the world.

Trident renewal is a key part of this strategy. In Scotland, we have a huge ‘moral majority’ against Trident. Now is the time to make it count.

Edinburgh protesters celebrate outside the Parliament after the vote

Alan Mackinnon

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