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The same old lie recycled...

Was I the only person who got a flash of dŽjˆ vu the other day when US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned that Iran could fire 'scores or hundreds' of missiles against Europe and it could do this in salvos rather than one at a time.

When I first came out to the Middle East in January 2003 to work in Dubai most people had never heard of the little emirate and only people in the oil industry seemed to have heard of the UAE.

But most of my friends told me I was mad to move to the region because Saddam Hussein's Iraq had a massive stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and the US and the UK were about to launch a very dangerous conflict in the region.

The US and UK did in fact launch that conflict from which they are a long way from extricating themselves, but no weapons of mass destruction, as we now know, existed.

Indeed in the early days of the conflict the US managed to capture masses of documents many of which seemed to make it clear that Saddam had given up on these weapons in the mid 1990s.

That did not stop the continuation of Shock and Awe and the destruction of much of the country's infrastructure.

Now to be fair to the US and UK, part of the reason they thought Iraq had dangerous weapons was that they had sold them to Saddam more than a decade before.

But any intelligence service worthy of the name also knew that these chemical weapons were well past their sell by date.

Most people now accept that they were lied to; to give the governments involved an excuse for an invasion.

The US would now appear to be at it again suggesting Iran at this present time poses a threat to Europe.

This is clearly to gain support for its continued anti Iranian policies and its desire to see that country made a pariah across the globe because it supports Palestine and is highly critical of US policies towards Israel.

Gates's new evaluation is a bit of a sudden change from what American military chiefs have been advancing for some time.

Until now the US made a point of playing down the missile menace posed from Iran to Israel, claiming that it consisted of no more than a few score ballistic missiles and far less launchers.

Gates' argument now is that the balance of strength has dramatically shifted in favour of Iran and against Israel.

It is perhaps not surprising that the US should be putting out scare stories about the vulnerability of Israel at a time when the world has been shocked by seeing heavily armed Israel troops murdering civilians for trying to take humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

A lot of people swallowed the messages of mass destruction lie about Iraq but I would hope that none of us is going to fall for this ridiculous second attempt to blacken the name of a Gulf country with highly questionable propaganda.

The US may, from time to time, elect politicians who are one brick short of the load but its intelligence services are probably second to none.

The US intelligence community has been monitoring what is going on in Iran with a high degree of intensity for more than two decades.

It has sophisticated satellites, unmanned spy planes, radio and telephone monitoring and probably even some feet in the sand checking up on Iran's military capability.

Are we really to be expected to believe that it was only in the wake of Israeli military attacks on aid flotillas that somebody notices a few hundred extra missiles and launchers?

I think not.

Anyway why on earth would Iran want to launch an attack on Europe?

Even the US has yet to claim that the country has a nuclear capability and most experts accept that even if it wanted one it would take up to five years to be effective.

In the meantime any conventional attack on Europe would be met with serious resistance from nations far more powerful than Iran.

The US would certainly intervene.

And let us remember that in Europe the UK, France and Russia all have an independent nuclear capability.

Under North Atlantic treaty weapons sharing, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all have a nuclear capability.

Israel also has a nuclear strike force.

Does Mr Gates really expect us to believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a barking mad suicide bomber prepared to have his country and people destroyed?

Seriously ambitious

Having yet again missed out of the FIFA World Cup finals, Scotland held its own world football championship last week.

As part of Refugee Week Scotland, a football tournament was organised with teams from Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Pakistan, Greece and Scotland.

And a team called ProStar made up of players from Africa, came out on top.

Scotland did not do great, but that is not upsetting anyone because we have not been seriously ambitious on the international front since the ignominy of Argentine in 1978.

England, on the other hand, appear to be taking things a bit too seriously.

An organisation called the Campaign for an English Parliament (CAP) last week successfully banned chain store HMV from having window displays of Anyone But England football shirts in its shops.

Apparently this organisation decided the shirts were insensitive and provocative items and called in the Old Bill.

PC Plod duly had the displays removed.

Now it is indeed the case that in just about any team sport if you ask a Scot who he is supporting, then it will be anyone but England.

The CAP claimed the shirts were criminally irresponsible and stirring up racial hatred.

What nonsense!

The vast majority of Scots are more than happy to be British, it's just that English sporting fans seem to have an arrogance way above their team's ability and anytime they win anything, they go on about it for years to come.

There must have been a least 40 references to England's victory in 1966 in the first half of the game with the US.

The reference was dropped by commentators as things started to look bleak in the second half.

That sort of thing tends to grate on Scots a bit, though as pride comes before a fall, it can also be amusing.

But I saw something that I did find rather irresponsible on a World Cup programme the other day.

Various broadcasters were looking at traditional rivalries in the game with one section looking at the history of Sweden against Denmark games.

Turns out the fans quite like each other these days.

Another section looked at the rivalry in sport between England and Germany.

Most of it was broadcast by a bloke standing in a military museum in front of a 1940s Spitfire fighter aircraft.

Which I would suggest is a lot more tasteless than Scottish humour. ARTHUR MACDONALD



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