Monday, March 31, 2003

Iran and Syria hit back over Rumsfeld threat
'US officials fear the movement of Iranian Badr Corps fighters into Iraq could further complicate the war effort. They suspect the Iranian fighters want to create a zone of influence in Iraq which would give them control of oil fields and act as a buffer against future American aggression.

'The corps is the military wing of the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), the main Iran-based Iraqi opposition movement. According to diplomatic sources, it is a trained fighting force with between 10,000 and 15,000 men. SAIRI is one of many anti-Saddam groups that make up the Iraqi opposition, which the US has been cultivating up to now. Officially, Iran is neutral.'

'Last night, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said Rumsfeld’s comments would be an embarrassment to Tony Blair, who had attempted to forge closer relations with Syria . Campbell said: "We could do without too much loose talk about Syria. The inference behind Mr Rumsfeld’s remarks appears to be that Syria might be next in line."

'Former defence minister Doug Henderson, a leading Labour backbench opponent of the war, said: "All I can see is a major escalation, with all the risks of involving Syria, Iran and Turkey, or a ceasefire and a withdrawal and I think a ceasefire and withdrawal is by far the better way forward." In Turkey, scores of people in Urfa province yesterday set upon four Jeeps carrying American soldiers, throwing eggs and stones, breaking windows and shouting anti-war slogans.'

If things go badly for America and the neo-conservative cabal falls into increasing disrepute, Iran, Syria and other countries will be emboldened to intervene in the war, to increase the costs for the US, to try and effect a favourable ceasefire or peace agreement, and to protect their own interests. The stakes are high.

No comments: