Joe Baker: Ritter claims Iran war already started

Former United Nations arms inspector Scott Ritter says war with Iran has already begun while Americans are focused on Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. Ritter bases his conclusion on past precedent and recent events.

Ritter aired his comments on, the Arab television network. That alone will cause so-called conservative elements to attack him for having a dissenting opinion.

Ritter stated in the broadcast: “The reality is that the U.S. war with Iran has already begun. As we speak, American over flights of Iranian soil are taking place, using pilotless drones and other more sophisticated capabilities. The violation of a sovereign nation’s airspace is an act of war in and of itself. But the war with Iran has gone far beyond the intelligence-gathering phase.”

The former arms inspector says recent developments regarding Iran have followed the same pattern as events before the invasion of Iraq. On Oct. 16, 2002, President George W. Bush told the country he had not ordered the use of force against Iraq and that he hoped it would not be necessary.

Today, we know that statement was untrue. By late August 2002, President Bush had signed orders directing the U.S. military to begin operations inside Iraq, and those orders were implemented as early as September 2002, when the U.S. Air Force and the British Royal Air Force began widening their bombing of targets in and out of the no-fly zone in Iraq.

The bombings smoothed the way for U.S. Special Operations troops to enter Iraq, conduct reconnaissance, and, later, direct action and operations against specific targets.

The president had signed an order in late spring 2002 that authorized the CIA and U.S. Special Operation forces to send secret units into Iraq to try to remove Saddam Hussein from power. But, Ritter said on Al-Jazeera, the Iraq war had actually started by the beginning of summer 2002. The official beginning of hostilities was March 19, 2003.

The Bush administration, before March 2003, spoke of diplomacy and the desire for peaceful resolution in Iraq. As it did then, it does now with respect to Iran, conditioning the American public and the only too compliant media to take, at face value, the worth of a policy of regime change in Iran and tying the Mullah’s government to an “axis of evil” that includes Iraq and North Korea. It also stresses the need to spread democracy to the Iranian people.

President Bush is using broad powers granted him after Sept. 11 to launch a number of offensive covert actions inside Iran. The most obvious of these are recent events carried out by the CIA-controlled Mujahadeen el-Khalq, or MEK. The MEK is an Iranian opposition group once controlled by Saddam’s intelligence services and now under the exclusive direction of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.

Ritter told Al-Jazeera it is ironic that the CIA is using a group still considered a terrorist organization, trained in the art of explosive assassination by the same units formerly commanded by Saddam, who are killing Americans in Iraq today. They carry out the kind of remote bombings in Iran that Bush condemns almost daily inside Iraq.

The MEK attacks, however, aren’t the only actions against Iran. North of that country, in Azerbaijan, the U.S. military is building a large base for a massive presence that may forecast a ground offensive against Iran. The intent would be to capture Tehran.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s interest in Azerbaijan has drawn little attention from Western media, but it hasn’t escaped notice by Russia and the Caucasus countries.

Ritter says ethnic ties between the Azeri of northern Iran and Azerbaijan are being used by the CIA, which is training Azerbaijani forces to create special units to operate inside Iran to gather intelligence, direct actions, and stir up indigenous opposition to the Mullahs in Tehran.

Forward bases in Azerbaijan will allow U.S. aircraft to fly shorter routes when attacking targets in and around Tehran. Ritter thinks American air power should be able to keep an almost 24/7 presence over Tehran once a shooting war begins.

U.S. Marines, he said, will be able to occupy and secure the Persian Gulf cities of Chah Bahar and Bandar Abbas, which will protect the narrow Straits of Hormuz, a choke-point vital to controlling the flow of oil to Asia.

Given that much of the capability needed to make war on Iran is already at forward bases in the region because of the U.S. presence in Iraq, the run-up time for an Iranian war would be much reduced compared to that for the Iraq conflict.

Ritter notes debate is beginning to build about the justification for the war in Iraq, but he fears that with public attention riveted on that topic, the new actions of the Bush administration against Iran will be overlooked.

He commented on Al-Jazeera’s Web site: “Most Americans, together with the mainstream American media, are blind to the telltale signs of war, waiting instead, for some formal declaration of hostility, a made-for-TV moment such as was witnessed on March 19, 2003.

“We now know that the war had started much earlier,” Ritter continued. “Likewise, history will show that the U.S.-led war with Iran will not have begun once a similar formal statement is offered by the Bush administration, but rather, had already been underway since June 2005, when the CIA began its program of MEK-executed terror bombings in Iran.”

From the Aug. 3-9, 2005, issue

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