Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards on Saturday have killed 17 rebels described as opponents of the Islamic republic in clashes in a remote area close to the Turkish border.
The state-run IRNA agency said the clashes took place after Revolutionary Guards ground forces descended on the northwestern area 17 kilometres (10 miles) from the Turkish border, in pursuit of the rebels.
“The Revolutionary Guards besieged these elements and started neutralising them. In this operation at least 17 mercenary anti-revolution elements were killed and some were injured,” the report quoted a Guards statement as saying.
Iran’s northwestern West Azarbaijan province, which has borders with Turkey and restive Iraq, has already been the scene of regular armed clashes between Iranian border guards and Kurdish militant parties, in particular Pejak, a group linked to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey has praised Iran’s efforts to crack down on Kurdish rebels who have been waging a deadly armed struggle for self-rule in the southeast of Turkey since 1984.
Iran is bound by treaty with Turkey to fight the PKK. In return, Turkey has pledged to fight the outlawed Iranian armed opposition group, the Iraq-based People’s Mujahedeen. Article
With six years of record of the dangerously arrogant and cold-bloodedly driven woebegone G. Walker administration to study, there should be uproar in the ranks and among the brass. That a public rift between the military and the administration is being openly reported, though, is simultaneously heartening and dispiriting.
Brinksmanship and the chess match of international relations require concentration and skill. The gaping voids where those qualities ought to be within the inner circles of the administration make any (even slight) misstep a thousand times more perilous. A single pebble dislodged is capable of unleashing an avalanche.
Some of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.
Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.
“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.
“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”
A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: “The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.”
But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.
Pace’s view was backed up by British intelligence officials who said the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in activities inside Iraq by a small number of Revolutionary Guards was “far from clear”.
Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.
“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.” Article