August 15, 2007

When Is An Army Not An Army?

When it's Iranian, silly.

The Bush administration now wants to label a branch of the Iranian military as a terrorist organization:

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States may soon designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization in a hard-line diplomatic move that will target the finances of the group, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

... U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior U.S. officials have said frequently that Washington could take tougher action unilaterally outside of the United Nations. A move against the Revolutionary Guard would be in line with that thinking. ...

You know what this would be exactly like? It would be like Iran declaring the US Navy a terrorist organization and threatening to attack it. They wouldn't be attacking the US, right? Just this terrorist organization ... that happens to be a branch of our government. Who could ever take offense at that? I mean, it isn't an act of war or anything to go after terrorists.

Laura Rozen at War and Piece has more stories linked, and notes that the administration is putting this forward as a way to extract more sanctions against Iran out of the United Nations Security Council.

Also, consider what this administration has said previously about how to regard terrorists and what protections they're entitled to:

[Ari Fleischer, May 7, 2003] ... Afghanistan is a party to the Geneva Convention. Although the United States does not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate Afghani government, the President determined that the Taliban members are covered under the treaty because Afghanistan is a party to the Convention.

Under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, however, Taliban detainees are not entitled to POW status. To qualify as POWs under Article 4, al Qaeda and Taliban detainees would have to have satisfied four conditions: They would have to be part of a military hierarchy; they would have to have worn uniforms or other distinctive signs visible at a distance; they would have to have carried arms openly; and they would have to have conducted their military operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

The Taliban have not effectively distinguished themselves from the civilian population of Afghanistan. Moreover, they have not conducted their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. Instead, they have knowingly adopted and provided support to the unlawful terrorist objectives of the al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda is an international terrorist group and cannot be considered a state party to the Geneva Convention. Its members, therefore, are not covered by the Geneva Convention, and are not entitled to POW status under the treaty. ...

I wonder which of these designations Iranian military personnel would fall under if declared terrorists. I wouldn't put it past the Bush administration to say that they don't regard Iran's current government as legitimate, but in theory they wouldn't claim that Iranian guard captures were international terrorists. Under the policy laid out for Afghan Taliban detainees, they might be subject to Geneva conventions generally, but might not be regarded as POWs.

After a 2006 Supreme Court decision, the Bush administration was forced to apply Geneva protections to all detainees, which they of course hadn't been doing. In fact, they've done a lot of things to a lot of detainees of the US government that shouldn't be done to anybody, ever.

Though the Bush administration doesn't seem to care about any of that, anyway. They've already been treating the Revolutionary Guard as though they were a terrorist organization. Acting as though they were just daring the Iranian government to call the Bush administration's actions what anybody else would call them: acts of war.

US forces already attempted to kidnap a senior intelligence officer of the Revolutionary Guard, seizing instead several junior staff of an embassy in Kurdish Arbil. A member of the Revolutionary Guard's intelligence service might even indeed go out dressed in civilian clothes, displaying no insignia, carrying no obvious weapons, operating internationally, as do the members of many countries' intelligence services. As did, probably, Gen. Ali Reza Asgari, who disappeared mysteriously in Turkey; the US claims he defected, his wife says he was kidnapped. Asgari is alleged to be still providing information to the US, but who knows.

Let's not be lulled into believing that this is in sum just a hamfisted ploy to curtail Iran's financial dealings. Like the FISA law that's now 'legitimized' Bush's previous breaking of the law, a declaration that the Revolutionary Guard is a terrorist organization will merely be a legitimization of the actions the administration has already taken against them, and perhaps, even more provocative strikes in the months to come.

This is an opening invitation to open war. With yet a third country.

Posted by natasha at August 15, 2007 01:39 PM | Iran | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |