British fear US commander is beating the drum for Iran strikes |
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:53am BST 05/04/2008
British officials gave warning yesterday that
America's commander in Iraq will declare that Iran is waging war
against the US-backed Baghdad government.
A strong statement from General David Petraeus about
Iran's intervention in Iraq could set the stage for a US attack on
Iranian military facilities, according to a Whitehall assessment. In
closely watched testimony in Washington next week, Gen Petraeus will
state that the Iranian threat has risen as Tehran has supplied and
directed attacks by militia fighters against the Iraqi state and its
The outbreak of Iraq's worst violence in 18 months
last week with fighting in Basra and the daily bombardment of the
Green Zone diplomatic enclave, demonstrated that although the Sunni
Muslim insurgency is dramatically diminished, Shia forces remain in
a strong position to destabilise the country.
going to go very hard on Iran as the source of attacks on the
American effort in Iraq," a British official said. "Iran is waging a
war in Iraq. The idea that America can't fight a war on two fronts
is wrong, there can be airstrikes and other moves," he said.
"Petraeus has put emphasis on America having to
fight the battle on behalf of Iraq. In his report he can frame it in
terms of our soldiers killed and diplomats dead in attacks on the
Tension between Washington and Tehran is already
high over Iran's covert nuclear programme. The Bush administration
has not ruled out military strikes.
In remarks interpreted as signalling a change in his
approach to Iran, Gen Petraeus last week hit out at the Iranian
leadership. "The rockets that were launched at the Green Zone were
Iranian-provided, Iranian-made rockets," he said. "All of this in
complete violation of promises made by President Ahmadinejad and the
other most senior Iranian leaders to their Iraqi counterparts."
The humiliation of the Iraqi prime minister Nouri
al-Maliki by the Iranian-backed cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in fighting
in Basra last week triggered top-level warnings over Iran's strength
Gen Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to
Baghdad, will answer questions from American political leaders at
the US Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday before travelling to London
to brief Gordon Brown.
The Wall Street Journal said last week that the US
war effort in Iraq must have a double goal.
"The US must recognise that Iran is engaged in a
full-up proxy war against it in Iraq," wrote the military analyst
There are signs that targeting Iran would unite
American politicians across the bitter divide on Iraq. "Iran is the
bull in the china shop," said Ike Skelton, the Democrat chairman of
the Armed Services Committee. "In all of this, they seem to have
links to all of the Shi'ite groups, whether they be political or
Original article: Telegraph
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