Attack on Iran: will it happen?

19 January 2006
The current stand-off between the US and Iran raises some interesting questions over whether it is correct for a government to engage in evasion and obfuscation as part of its diplomatic strategy.

Critics of the Iraq war point to plans drawn up in the US prior to 9/11, to dispose Saddam Hussein. The Project for a New American Century, for example, while not an official body, has several very influential members such as Richard Perle. In one of the project’s 1998 reports Robert Kagan wrote, ‘It has long been clear that the only way to rid the world of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction is to rid Iraq of Saddam. Last week, Paul Wolfowitz, a defense official in the Bush administration, laid out in testimony before Congress a thoughtful and coherent strategy to accomplish that goal.’ It is also said that in the immediate days after 9/11, the US administration sought fresh plans on ways in which to topple Saddam Hussein.

Of course, governments have to plan for a whole range of possibilities. During the Cold War, for example, both sides had all sorts of scenarios planned for – many of them utterly horrifying, as the Open Democracy interview with Daniel Ellsberg makes clear.

So the question remains – does the fact that the US has drawn up plans on military action against Iran mean that it’s a foregone conclusion? On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the US military was updating its war plan on Iran, but that this was, according to a senior military source, ‘routine.’ Of course, the lesson from Iraq would appear to be that the US was hell-bent on military action regardless of what Saddam Hussein did. But in the case of Iran, it is still perfectly possible that the plans drawn up by US are contingent – and that the diplomatic game is going to be played for some time. This is perhaps more a sign of the factors which constrain the US administration, such as the current impasse in Iraq, than anything else.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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