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An intensifying US campaign against Iran

Amid US charges of Iran's hand in Iraq's instability, some counsel caution.

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Somalia, 1993: During the darkest days of the American military intervention, when US troops were taking casualties from drug-addled gunmen wearing flip-flops, US officials pointed to a familiar nemesis.

It was Iran, warned Madeleine Albright, then-US envoy to the United Nations, that had forged a "tactical alliance" with a Somali warlord and "terrorists" in Sudan. Intelligence sources for the first time spoke of smuggled Iranian weapons. In Mogadishu, journalists were told that Iranian agents were training Somalis to make car bombs. But no proof was ever presented.

US charges against Iran's role in Iraq are mounting. But analysts say that a history of unsubstantiated US claims against Iran should serve as a cautionary tale. The lesson to be drawn is not that Iran is guiltless in Iraq, they say, but one of restraint as a familiar drumbeat sounds.

The latest step in the Bush administration's intensifying campaign to depict Iran as a disruptive force in Iraq is a decision to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard force a "terrorist" group. That label, and a push for more UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, and continued charges of training, funding, and supplying anti-US militants in Iraq, experts say, could harm Iraq security talks between US and Iranian diplomats in Baghdad.

"The Americans are blaming Iran for everything that goes wrong, even if it's not Iran's fault, and Iran does the same with the US," says Trita Parsi, the Washington-based author of the forthcoming "Treacherous Alliance: Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US."

"Decisionmakers in Washington are by-the-minute limiting their own maneuverability in how to deal with Iran, [thereby] making it more difficult to put the relationship on a positive track," he says.

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