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THE MOVING FINGER
- India's vote hardly matters; the script regarding Iran is ready

The script follows its own inexorable grammar. The International Atomic Energy Agency has voted in September. It will, for routine's sake, take another vote in November. It does not really matter whether India chooses to reverse its vote in this second round, or stays neutral. Since the European Union is this time solidly with it, the United States of America has the seal of approval of the IAEA for whatever it intends to do at the next stage.

At the United Nations security council, things are going to be much smoother than what they were during the imbroglio over Iraq. At the time the blatant aggression was planned against Saddam Hussein's mythical weapons of mass destruction, France and Germany constituted a formidable pair of Doubting Thomases. This time the snooty Europeans have been caught in the American trap. Having sponsored a resolution to the effect that Iran's impertinence in persisting with its nuclear power programme be reported to the security council, France and Germany will have neither logic nor face to stall the proposal for punitive measures against the Iran regime. The proposal will be duly vetoed by Russia and China. That too is, however, well anticipated in the script punctiliously authored by George W. Bush's henchmen. The UN will be immobilized by the veto. The clarion call from the US president will nonetheless ring out: this was the appropriate moment for the international community to assume responsibility.

There are innocents abroad who assume that, following the outcry over the invasion of Iraq and the nightmare that country has subsequently been reduced to, the US ' once bitten twice shy ' will be extraordinarily cautious before attempting a similar military solution in Iran. Nothing of the sort. The American strategy in west Asia is a tight integrated package. To the architects of this strategy, the entire west Asia is a homogeneous zone presenting a common battlefield. Those holding the reins of power in the countries included in the zone are congenitally anti-American, they must be sent packing one after another; there is no other way to ensure American near-monopoly over the region's oil supply. As per the script, Afghanistan was number one on the agenda; Iraq followed. The third country to be enlightened on the facts of life happens to be Iran. After Iran, it will be, rest assured, the turn of Syria.

That apart, Bush is now a veteran of at least two according-to-him-enormously-successful wars. He knows how to consummate his heart's desires. In the past, cloak-and-dagger operations against a country reckoned as enemy of the US were managed by the Central Intelligence Agency, with the state department having a large say in the preparation of such operations. The US has now decisively entered the imperial age; maintaining international relations on an even keel has low priority. The state department is therefore downgraded, the department of defence has assumed centrestage. The war against terrorism is henceforth the outstanding issue in foreign relations. The Pentagon is in supreme charge and will be given a free hand in the conduct of this war. The nuisance of, for instance, congressional approval for waging covert activities against a foreign country has been successfully circumvented by a series of presidential 'findings'. These findings furnish the defence department and its various wings with full authority for military strikes against hostile concentrations in alien territories, concentrations which, in the judgment of the Pentagon, affect the security of the US. An Extraordinary Strike Group, over which the defence department has total command, has been set up for the purpose. This group will receive fullest logistical support from the army, the navy and the air force. It is supposedly capable of mounting a massive aggression against the enemy at a moment's notice in any part of the world. There is no question any more of divided responsibility and the associated handicap of multiple centres of decision-making which made such a mess of the Bay of Pigs operation four-and-a-half decades ago. From now on, foreign invasion, by whatever name it is called, will be planned and executed exclusively by the defence department; the state department will have practically no say. In fact, the successive installations of two secretaries of state, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, both black ' or at least of mixed ethnic background ' has coincided with the state department's loss of clout. Whether there is a causality involved can be left to academic researchers to mull over.

Whatever it be, Donald Rumsfeld and his defence department, the script says, will henceforth call the tune. Once the diplomats have played their role and the IAEA and the security council palavers are over, the admirals, the air marshals, and the generals will take over. A pretext ' such as Iran's alleged instigation of guerrilla activities in Iraq ' will be found, a number of softening up operations by the Special Expeditionary Force, launched from the Persian Gulf or the Arab Sea, will follow, ostensibly in search of hidden caches of enriched uranium or other fissionable material or concealed warheads and delivery systems. Maybe over a period of a couple of months, Iran will receive the treatment, with the usual quota of wholesale killings and destruction. At the end of this phase, troops will enter Iran from perhaps four directions ' from Afghanistan, from the southern waters, from Iraq and from, who knows, this or that central Asian republic where the US has of late been allowed to establish military bases. The revolution devours its children; the counter-revolution too does exactly the same thing. The taliban were set up in Afghanistan by the US in the Eighties to get rid of the Soviet invaders; the relationship turned sour and the taliban had to be destroyed by the Americans some 20 years later. Similarly, the mullahs under Ayatollah Khomeini were encouraged in Iran in the Fifties by the CIA to checkmate Mossadeq and his Nationalist Front hell-bent on nationalizing foreign-owned oil companies; the mullahs having gone astray ' first by ejecting the Shah and subsequently succumbing to wild Americanism ' must now be destroyed by the same good Americans.

Given this context, the ire the left are nurturing against our prime minister, who saw to it that we voted the straight American line at the IAEA, is neither here nor there. As product of the long civil service tradition, the prime minister knows the way contemporary history has arranged its script and who the global master is. Besides, he has by now also learnt how to ignore the bark of the left. Even though the latter has threatened to support the prime minister's government from now on only on an issue-to-issue basis, it has not said that it would actually oppose and vote against the government on the same basis. So who is afraid of Bhai Vir Singh Marg'

But the dilemma of India's officialdom is hardly the heart of the matter. The coming American invasion will turn Iran into a heap of mass destruction, as happened in the case of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of this will be vindication of Samuel Huntington, but will the US succeed in entering the orbit of either tranquillity or contentment' The guerrillas, by whatever name they are called, have taken over Iraq and Afghanistan. Do not bother to lay a wager, they will do so, in no time, in Iran too, The script does not deviate.

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