Monday, November 26, 2007

Drift to War

October 2007 - Paul Rogers Oxford Research Group

There was a decrease in US military casualties in Iraq during October. A decline in civilian casualties was also claimed by the US military authorities but other agencies, including Iraqi government sources, were less positive. These other reports were more plausible given the huge increase in the use of air power by the US military – there were more than three times as many air strikes in the first ten months of 2007 as in the whole of 2006.

In any case, even if the security situation in Iraq was showing some small sign of improvement, attention shifted a thousand miles to the east where even the violent conflict in south east Afghanistan was overshadowed by political developments in Pakistan.

The return of the former Prime Minister Benzir Bhutto had been expected to see a consolidation of power in the hands of General Musharraf in combination with Mrs Bhutto and her party. In the event, a suicide bomb attack on her motorcade on the day of her arrival indicated the problems that would be faced and Mrs Bhutto returned to her residence in Dubai before the end of the month.

As the security situation in the border districts with Afghanistan deteriorated, General Musharraf endeavoured to take direct control of the country, leaving the US attempts to broker a Musharraf/Bhutto coalition in disarray. By the end of the month it looked highly unlikely that the forthcoming elections would be held, especially as many key members of opposition political parties were being detained by security forces on behalf of the Musharraf regime.

Further Sanctions against Iran

In the United States, the situation in Pakistan caused concern but this scarcely impinged on the 2008 presidential election campaign. Indeed, it was the issue of Iran that became steadily more prominent during the course of October, with the Bush administration announcing a further round of sanctions at the end of the month. These appeared to pre-empt further international discussions and, on the surface, appeared mainly directed at Iran’s presumed nuclear weapon programme. The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice concentrated on this, saying that “the international community cannot just sit idly by until we face unpalatable choices. A nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranian regime would be deeply destabilizing in the world’s most volatile region.” Read article