British fear US commander is beating the drum for Iran strikes
By Damien McElroy, Foreign
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
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 US allies. 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
position to destabilise
the country. "Petraeus
is 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
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 Green
Zone." 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 in Iraq.
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 Kimberly Kagan.
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 military."