Iran's elite 'Jerusalem Force' are thought to be as well-trained as US squaddies.
British officials have admitted today that they will commit the armed forces to US-led action against Iran. Owing to the failure of sanctions to make a dent in the regime's resolve, and renewed fears over its nuclear weapons programme, military officials have confirmed to the Guardian that they are drawing up contingency plans for an air-and-sea based campaign, to be launched in support of an American invasion. The news follows a meeting of Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards and his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, that was supposed to be secret, but has since been revealed by major Israeli news agencies. Apparently this was part of an annual event, aimed chiefly at maintaining relations - the secrecy supposedly standard British practice. But whether that's true or not, the timing - weeks after an Iranian-sponsored plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat on US soil - couldn't make the urgency of this message any more clear: David Cameron, no more wars!
We have been coerced and cajoled, and outright cheated into war on two separate occasions. Our armed forces found themselves fighting some of the fiercest battles in living memory against a background of chronic mismanagement and thoughtless budget cuts. The objectives of these wars continually change - perhaps to disguise the fact that we're not even close to achieving any of them - and it's a safe bet that most people across the country - and most politicians - couldn't actually put their finger on what they are, much less why are we doing them. And then there's the question of how: one which not even the military top brass seems able to answer. The cost is continually mounting. Lives continue to be lost or disfigured through conflict or its aftermath, and billions that could be better spent at home, on better things besides, are being poured down a financial hole. Ten years of war have not installed a credible democracy, they have not eradicated the poppy crop, they have not seen the defeat of the Taliban. With Osama bin Laden - the architect of 9.11 - killed, Britain - which lost almost seventy people in the attack - no longer has a stake in this fight. We should pack our bags and leave as soon as the structures are in place to cover our withdrawal.
But, if continuing a war without a point is nonsense, then there are no words to describe starting another one against a much bigger country and a much bigger army when our own military forces are taking defence cut after defence cut after defence cut. The Taliban currently number around ten thousand 'hard core' fighters, and tens of thousands more part-time soldiers and seasonal recruits. They had no air force, and no army. The Iranian armed force, in comparison, have two hundred and thirty thousand professional soldiers and two hundred and thirty-five thousand conscripts. There are also millions of government-sponsored militia in the Basij, and a capable (if not by any means good) air force and navy besides. Our overstretched and under-resourced army cannot realistically be expected to take on such a force without heavy casualties: even in support of US army, the sheer number of servicemen and women killed or wounded would be horrendous compared to what we've experienced so far, and that's saying something.
One million people marched in London against the Iraq War. They were roundly ignored by Blair. Let's hope that David Cameron is a better man, and does not commit armed forces which he has done more to emasculate than anyone else in post-war political history to the third senseless war in quick succession.