tmpphpgerocb.jpgWhile everyone was laughing at Sen Craig, George was playing his favorite game – poking Iran with a sharp stick. Like blowing up frogs, it’s the perfect pastime for bullies who hope to provoke a fight.

The latest poke came yesterday afternoon when the Iraqi radio station, Radio Sawa, reported that a group of American Humvees had surrounded the Sheraton hotel in Baghdad – GorillasGuides ran the first translation of this news and updated here. In the evening, the BBC confirmed the story:

Seven Iranians working for the Iranian Electricity Ministry have been arrested by US forces in Baghdad, the Iranian embassy says.

A spokesman told the BBC the embassy had contacted the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and would send a formal protest letter in the morning.

He said the Iranians were in Baghdad in connection with the building of a power station.

The group were detained at the Sheraton Hotel where they were staying.

Video footage showed soldiers leading a group of men, blindfolded and handcuffed, out of the hotel in central Baghdad…

The arrests come shortly after a speech by US President George W Bush in which he criticised Iranian interference in Iraq.

(snip)

President Bush specifically stated that he had authorised his military commanders in Iraq to confront what he called “Iran’s murderous activities” in the country.

Assisting with the rebuilding of the electricity grid in Iraq – something the US occupation forces has not managed to do in four years is apparently now “murderous activities.”

Coming as it does right after Bush’s nuclear holocaust speech, Sarkozy’s Bush pandering rant, WaPo’s recent “let’s attack Iran” editorial Tougher on Iran:The Revolutionary Guard is at war with the United States. Why not fight back? and CNN’s Michael Ware repeating “US military sources” (aka Brig. Gen Bergner, that great PR flak sent over by the White House to sell more war) reports of increased Iranian involvement in attacks on US troop in Iraq, this is not good news.

As Peter Symonds wrote yesterday at Global Research:

Since the beginning of the year, the US military has steadily escalated its allegations of Iranian “meddling” in Iraq, variously accusing Tehran of supplying arms, training and even directing Shiite militia in attacks on American troops. Last week, Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the no 2 commander in Iraq, claimed that Iranian-backed Shiite groups were now responsible for half the attacks in Iraq, compared to 30 percent in January.

Such accusations rely on bald assertion, rather than evidence. The only “proof” made public by the US military has consisted of displays of Iranian-made weapons. Of course, the staggering hypocrisy involved in accusing Iran of “interfering” while the US military has laid waste to much of Iraq in the course of its criminal four-year occupation of the country is passed over without comment in the American and international media.

Symonds noted that Iran consulted with the IAEA last week on their nuclear development and the IAEA called the negotiations a “milestone” and put “further UN penalties on hold.” Rather than celebrating this positive development, Washington slammed the IAEA and further stepped up the propaganda.

In an article this past February, Newsweek noted “the Iranians have reason to feel paranoid.” And then reported:

At least one former White House official contends that some Bush advisers secretly want an excuse to attack Iran. “They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for,” says Hillary Mann, the administration’s former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs.

Given the willingness of both the House and the Senate to pass – almost unanimously – resolutions supporting Bush’s anti-Iran warmongering, I’m not reassured that they will step up to block an attack on Tehran … are you?

Update: Valuable background that’s worth reading can be found in Ken Silverstein’s Harpers’ series, War with Iran?, Ian Welsh’s Message to Sarkozy, and Ezra Klein pointed to this report from the Center for American Progress which polled 100 Foreign Policy experts who seem less than impressed with the Iranian threat. And don’t miss Howie’s take: Less Than Real Men Getting Ready to Attack Iran? Do the Democrats have the Cajones to Stop Them?

Update 2: CNN reports that the Iranians have been released and escorted to Maliki’s office. Interesting that the US military is claiming the Iranians were arrested at a checkpoint after guns were spotted in their cars – yet reports from Radio Sawa before the actual arrest point to US troops spotted surrounding the hotel where the Iranians were meeting with Iraqi colleagues and the AP TV footage clearly shows the Iranians being led out of the Sheraton by US troops and under arrest. Seems our friend Brig Gen Bergner was mighty busy spinning last night.

Photo from AP TV video of the arrest