The Arab Times & The Guardian & CounterPunch & Christian Science Monitor – 2007-01-16 22:18:37
US Military Strike on Iran Seen by April;
Sea-launched Attack to Hit Oil, Nuclear Sites
Ahmed Al-Jarallah / The Arab Times
KUWAIT CITY (January 16, 2007) — Washington will launch a military strike on Iran before April 2007, say sources. The attack will be launched from the sea and Patriot missiles will guard all oil-producing countries in the region, they add.
Recent statements emanating from the United States indicate the Bush administration’s new strategy for Iraq doesn’t include any proposal to make a compromise or negotiate with Syria or Iran.
A reliable source said President Bush recently held a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice and other assistants in the White House where they discussed the plan to attack Iran in minute detail.
According to the source, Vice President Dick Cheney highlighted the threat posed by Iran to not only Saudi Arabia but the whole region. “Tehran is not playing politics. Iranian leaders are using their country’s religious influence to support the aggressive regime’s ambition to expand,” the source quoted Dick Cheney as saying.
Indicating participants of the meeting agreed to impose restrictions on the ambitions of Iranian regime before April 2007 without exposing other countries in the region to any danger, the source said “they have chosen April as British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said it will be the last month in office for him. The United States has to take action against Iran and Syria before April 2007.”
Claiming the attack will be launched from the sea and not from any country in the region, he said “the US and its allies will target the oil installations and nuclear facilities of Iran ensuring there is no environmental catastrophe or after effects.”
“Already the US has started sending its warships to the Gulf and the build-up will continue until Washington has the required number by the end of this month,” the source said. “US forces in Iraq and other countries in the region will be protected against any Iranian missile attack by an advanced Patriot missile system.”
He went on to say “although US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice suggested postponing the attack, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney insisted on attacking Tehran without any negotiations based on the lesson they learnt in Iraq recently.”
The Bush administration believes attacking Iran will create a new power balance in the region, calm down the situation in Iraq and pave the way for their democratic project, which had to be suspended due to the interference of Tehran and Damascus in Iraq, he continued. The attack on Iran will weaken the Syrian regime, which will eventually fade away, the source said.
Ahmed Al-Jarallah is Editor-in-Chief of the Arab Times
Iran Target of US Gulf Military Moves, Gates Says
Mark Tran and agencies / Guardian Unlimited
WASHINGTON (January 15, 2007) — Increased US military activity in the Gulf is aimed at Iran’s “very negative” behaviour, the Bush administration said today.
The defence secretary, Robert Gates, told reporters that the decision to deploy a Patriot missile battalion and a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf in conjunction with a “surge” of troops in Iraq was designed to show Iran that the US was not “overcommitted” in Iraq.
Speaking in Brussels after meeting Nato officials, Mr Gates said: “We are simply reaffirming that statement of the importance of the Gulf region to the United States and our determination to be an ongoing strong presence in that area for a long time into the future.”
His remarks followed tough comments on Iran at the weekend from other senior US officials. The vice-president, Dick Cheney, accused Iran of “fishing in troubled waters inside Iraq”, while the national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the US was “going to need to deal with what Iran is doing inside Iraq”.
Such remarks, following the prospect of “hot pursuit” raids into Iran as raised by George Bush in his televised address last week, have fuelled speculation that the US is softening up the American public for possible action against Tehran.
The increasingly confrontational pose struck by the US is a repudiation of one of the key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which called for the start of a dialogue with Iran and Syria in an effort to extricate the US from Iraq.
Mr Gates, who as recently as 2004 publicly called for diplomatic engagement with Iran, said the situation was now different. In 2004, Iran was concerned by the presence of US forces on its eastern and western borders, in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its behaviour had changed.
“The Iranians clearly believe that we are tied down in Iraq, that they have the initiative, that they are in position to press us in many ways,” he said. “They are doing nothing to be constructive in Iraq at this point.”
“And so the Iranians are acting in a very negative way in many respects. My view is that when the Iranians are prepared to play a constructive role in dealing with some of these problems then there might be opportunities for engagement.”
Besides concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, the US has accused Tehran of supporting Shia militia and of not doing enough to stop foreign fighters from infiltrating Iraq.
US-led forces in northern Iraq arrested five Iranians last week who the US military says were connected to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard faction that funds and arms insurgents in Iraq – a claim Iran has rejected.
Meanwhile, Iran said it was installing 3,000 centrifuges, effectively confirming that its nuclear programme was running behind schedule as these devices for uranium enrichment were meant to have been in place by the end of last year.
“We are moving toward the production of nuclear fuel, which requires 3,000 centrifuges and more than this figure,” the government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told a news conference. “This programme is being carried out and moving toward completion.”
At the weekend, Iran dismissed reports from Europe that its uranium enrichment programme had stalled. Enriched uranium is used as fuel in nuclear reactors and, at a higher degree of enrichment, in atomic bombs.
Iran has condemned as “invalid” and “illegal” a UN security council resolution that imposed sanctions on it last month for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007
The Pieces Are Being Put in Place
Col. Sam Gardiner (USAF, Ret.)
WASHINGTON (January 15, 2007) — The pieces are moving. They’ll be in place by the end of February. The United States will be able to escalate military operations against Iran.
The second carrier strike group leaves the U.S. west coast on January 16. It will be joined by naval mine clearing assets from both the United States and the UK. Patriot missile defense systems have also been ordered to deploy to the Gulf.
Maybe as a guard against North Korea seeing operations focused on Iran as a chance to be aggressive, a squadron of F-117 stealth fighters has just been deployed to Korea.
This has to be called escalation. We have to remind ourselves, just as Iran is supporting groups inside Iraq, the United States is supporting groups inside Iran. Just as Iran has special operations troops operating inside Iraq, we’ve read the United States has special operations troops operating inside Iran.
Just as Iran is supporting Hamas, two weeks ago we found out the United States is supporting arms for Abbas. Just as Iran and Syria are supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon we’re now learning the White House has approved a finding to allow the CIA to support opposition groups inside Lebanon. Just as Iran is supporting Syria, we’ve learned recently that the United States is going to fund Syrian opposition groups.
We learned this week the President authorized an attack on the Iranian liaison office in Irbil.
The White House keeps saying there are no plans to attack Iran. Obviously, the facts suggest otherwise. Equally as clear, the Iranians will read what the Administrations is doing not what it is saying.
It is possible the White House strategy is just implementing a strategy to put pressure on Iran on a number of fronts, and this will never amount to anything. On the other hand, if the White House is on a path to strike Iran, we’ll see a few more steps unfold.
First, we know there is a National Security Council staff-led group whose mission is to create outrage in the world against Iran. Just like before Gulf II, this media group will begin to release stories to sell a strike against Iran. Watch for the outrage stuff. The Patriot missiles going to the GCC states are only part of the missile defense assets. I would expect to see the deployment of some of the European-based missile defense assets to Israel, just as they were before Gulf II.
I would expect deployment of additional USAF fighters into the bases in Iraq, maybe some into Afghanistan.
I think we will read about the deployment of some of the newly arriving Army brigades going into Iraq being deployed to the border with Iran. Their mission will be to guard against any Iranian movements into Iraq.
As one of the last steps before a strike, we’ll see USAF tankers moved to unusual places, like Bulgaria. These will be used to refuel the US-based B-2 bombers on their strike missions into Iran. When that happens, we’ll only be days away from a strike.
The White House could be telling the truth. Maybe there are no plans to take Iran to the next level. The fuel for a fire is in place, however. All we need is a spark. The danger is that we have created conditions that could lead to a Greater Middle East War.
Sam Gardiner is a retired colonel of the US Air Force. He has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College.
From Counterpunch – http://counterpunch.org
US Moves to Confront Iran and Syria
Scott Peterson / The Christian Science Monitor
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (January 12, 2007) — Close to the same hour Wednesday night that President Bush vowed to disrupt the “flow of support” from Iran and Syria to “terrorists and insurgents” in Iraq, US forces raided an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq, arresting five diplomats and staff and taking computers and files.
The raid, and a buildup of US warships in the Persian Gulf, indicate that the Bush administration is ignoring the advice of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) to reach out to the two neighbors to help quell the violence in Iraq.
The tough rhetoric and military action – the second incident involving Iranian officials in Iraq in recent weeks – is seen in Tehran as a sign of escalation in the prickly US-Iran dynamic that could further complicate American efforts to calm the fires in Iraq and establish regional stability.
“It seems these 21,000 new troops Mr. Bush wants to send to Iraq are not just to calm [that] country,” says Saeed Laylaz, a political and security analyst in Tehran. “It means the new strategy of the US in Iraq and the region is going to put more actual pressure against Iran – financial and military at the same time.”
Iranian officials reacted angrily, calling the raid in the northern Kurdish city of Arbil illegal and a signal that US policy toward the Islamic Republic remained “hostile.” Throughout 2006, the possibility of US-Iran talks about Iraq appeared to indicate the possibility that 28 years of bitter estrangement might be starting to fade.
There had been some hope in Syria, too, that the ISG’s recommendations to engage Iran and Syria might improve strained US-Syrian ties. Bush’s reference to deploying Patriot antimissile batteries to the region was aimed squarely at Iran – a point not missed in Tehran.
There had been some hope in Syria, too, that the ISG’s recommendations to engage Iran and Syria might improve heavily strained US-Syrian ties. Bush’s reference to deploying Patriot antimissile batteries to the region, to “reassure our friends and allies,” was aimed squarely at Iran – a point not missed in Tehran.
Their arrival “is part of the US policy direction to create a support umbrella for the Zionist [Israeli] regime through an Islamic country,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini. The troop surge, he said, will only “extend insecurity, danger, and tension in the country. This will not help solve Iraq’s problems.”
Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa said that boosting US troops would “pour oil on the fire” in Iraq.
Bush’s comments, in which he stated as fact that a consequence of US “failure” in Iraq would leave Iran “emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” left many Iranians convinced that there is little chance of rapprochement during the remaining two years of his presidency, regardless of the results in Iraq.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy production, and denies that it wants the bomb. To date, UN atomic energy agency inspectors say they have found no evidence that Iran, a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has a weapons program.
“It appears that George Bush is hostile against the Islamic Republic, and is ruling out any compromise between Iran and the US,” says Sadiq Zibakalam, a political scientist at Tehran University. “It was a bit surprising because after the [ISG] report, one thought that George Bush would be thinking seriously about its findings … but he simply ignored it altogether.”
The tough talk and military steps have led “many people in Iran [to] feel that if George Bush had not been bogged down in Iraq, he would have definitely attacked Iran long ago,” says Mr. Zibakalam, adding that the current climate of suspicion resembles the period after Bush declared Iran part of an “axis of evil” three years ago.
“If the increase in [US] force levels in Iraq represents an escalation of the war as some insist,” says Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University, “then the extension of US power, directly or indirectly, against Iran would represent an escalation of a different sort – and no less momentous in terms of its potential long-range implications.” Mr. Sick was the principal White House aide for Iran during the 1979 Islamic revolution and hostage crisis.
In December, several Iranians were arrested in Baghdad at the offices of a prominent Shiite leader. US officials are reported also to have found documents about Iran’s role in Iraq, working with both anti-US Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents.
The White House has long accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, though analysts in Tehran agree that a stable Iraq – although preferably one of “manageable chaos” that keeps US forces tied down – is in its best interest.
“Raising troop levels shows that the US is not ready to go out of the region,” says analyst Mr. Laylaz. “The US can’t go out of [Iraq] at the moment. If they go now, there will be a bloodbath in Iraq, and it will be absolutely harmful for the majority Shiites in the country. I don’t think Mr. Maliki’s regime can stay in power for more than week if the Americans leave.”
At a press conference Thursday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice renewed an offer to talk with her Iranian counterpart to discuss “every facet” of mutual grievance, if Iran first suspends uranium-enrichment programs – a step that Tehran has ruled out.
But Secretary Rice also told Fox News: “The president made very clear last night that we know that Iran is engaged in activities that are endangering our troops, activities that are destabilizing the young Iraqi government, and that we’re going to pursue those who may be involved in those activities.”
“There is a sense in Washington among some [conservative] circles – mistakenly, I would say – that their policy of putting pressure on Iran is working,” says Mohammad Hadi Semati, a professor of political science at Tehran University who is finishing a three-year stint at the Woodrow Wilson Center and Carnegie Endowment in Washington.
US conservatives point to the backlash in December elections against candidates loyal to archconservative Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the recent unanimous UN Security Council decision to impose modest sanctions against Iran over the nuclear issue.
“There is a perception in some quarters in [Washington], that ‘maybe our policy is working, so let’s push further, and further put the screws on Iran,’ ” says Mr. Semati, noting that the election backlash was largely due to domestic issues in Iran. “The facts of the matter really don’t matter.”
The effect of Bush’s stance may instead be the opposite in Iran. “If anything, this will help consolidate conservative forces, the hard-liners, even more,” says Semati. “And the moderate, pragmatic forces, looking for an engagement [with the US and the West] – even a minimal engagement – they are going to lose the case.”
A similar reaction may take place in Syria. “I keep hearing from Syrians that President Bush has lost touch with reality,” says Andrew Tabler, a Damascus-based fellow with the Institute of Current World Affairs. The continued tough US stance against Syria, he says “is only going to strengthen the hard-liners in Syria, who have already come into the ascendance in the last year-and-a-half or so.”
US-Syrian relations have been in a deep freeze since the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister, two years ago. But several US senators have visited Damascus in recent weeks, emboldened by the Democrats’ success in the midterm elections, and by the ISG call to re-engage.
Even as the US has criticized Syria for allowing militants across its 400-mile border with Iraq, Iraq-Syria ties have improved since a visit by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to Baghdad in November. Diplomatic
ties were restored last month, and a joint security agreement signed.
Still, Syria’s vice president, Mr. Sharaa, does not expect the Americans to ease their tough stance, says Ibrahim Hamidi, the Damascus correspondent of the Arabic Al-Hayat daily, who met Sharaa on Wednesday.
“If the Syrians keep on sending positive messages to the Iraqis, and if the relations with the Iraqis improve, then this may have some impact on Syria’s relations with the Americans,” says Mr. Hamidi. “But nothing will happen soon. It will take time.”
Correspondent Nicholas Blanford contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.
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