Just when you think the roiling relations between the US and Iran might be quieting down–they heat up again. In the last week, while two US aircraft-carrier strike forces continued to patrol the Persian Gulf (after "exercises" that took the carriers directly through the Straits of Hormuz and off Iran’s coast), American accusations against the Iranians have only escalated. Just as, last month, American officials continued to insist that the Iranians were supplying sophisticated roadside bombs to Iraqi insurgents (who are the enemies of their Shiite allies), so, this week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates "tied Iran’s government to large shipments of weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan and said Wednesday such quantities were unlikely without Tehran’s knowledge."
Similarly, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told CNN: "[T]here’s irrefutable evidence the Iranians are now doing this." (Forget the fact that the Iranians have long been fierce enemies of the Taliban and that the Afghan Defense Minister dismissed such claims out of hand.) In Baghdad, General David Petraeus, head of President Bush’s surge operation, also lashed out at the Iranians. ("The Iranian influence has been very, very harmful to Iraq. There is absolutely no question that Iranians are funding, arming, training, and even in some cases, directing the activities of extremists and militia elements.") And three Iranian diplomats were briefly detained and questioned by the U.S. military.
For the Bush administration, it seems, Iran has become the explanation for everything that has gone wrong (even, last week, in the Gaza Strip), the equivalent of Ronald Reagan’s Evil Empire reduced to a regional scale. According to Brian Ross of ABC News, the CIA has already helped launch secret terror operations inside Iran and President Bush has signed a "non-lethal presidential finding" to "mount a covert ‘black’ operation to destabilize the Iranian government." In addition, the administration has been waging a complex, partly covert, "financial war" against Iran. ("The aim is to squeeze the Iranian economy so that the nation’s leaders will decide the price of developing nuclear weapons is just too high."); and it also has a $75 million fund at its command to "promote democracy" or a "velvet revolution" in that country.