Robert Bridge / Russia Today & Warda Al-Jawahiry / Reuters – 2012-02-18 23:17:55
Russian Gen-Staff Chief: West May Strike Iran by Summer
Robert Bridge / Russia Today
MOSCOW (February 14, 2012) — Russia’s top military boss says an attack against Iran, which the west suspects of developing nuclear weapons, could begin as early as summer.
Thus far, tensions between Tehran and the west have been confined to the battlefield of heated rhetoric. Russia’s highest ranking military officer, however, predicts it may be just a matter of time before the verbal grenades get real.
The Russian General Staff is closely watching the situation, and is not ruling out the possibility of a coordinated attack on the Islamic Republic, General Nikolay Makarov, head of the Russian General Staff, told reporters on Tuesday.
“Iran is a sore spot,” Makarov noted. “I think a decision will be made by the summer.”
If Makarov is correct in his estimations, the situation in the region — overwhelmed as it is with political crises and war — could spin rapidly out of control. Indeed, some are warning that an attack on Iran could trigger a domino effect across the Middle East, possibly even culminating in another world war.
In the slide towards escalating violence, there have been a string of disturbing incidents, including alleged cyber attacks against Iran, as well as the downing of a sophisticated US drone, which Iran says it guided to the ground after electronically hacking into the vehicle.
Then there are the mysterious assassinations.
In January, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 31, who supervised a department at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was killed by a car bomb in northern Tehran.
Exactly two years earlier, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics professor at Tehran University, was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded beside his car as he was about to leave for work.
Iran blamed Israeli intelligence for the killings.
In the latest ratcheting up of tensions, Israel on Monday blamed Iran for masterminding attacks against Israeli embassies in Tbilisi and New Delhi. Following the incidences, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Iran “the world’s greatest exporter of terror.”
Clearly, this game of tit-for-tat can readily explode into all-out conflict, which would be a worst-case scenario not just for the region, but for the entire world.
In November, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warned that military action against Iran could have “unintended consequences” in the region. Panetta, like his Russian counterpart, believes that the decision to attack Iran may be imminent.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote earlier this month that Panetta “believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June before Iran enters what Israelis described as a ‘zone of immunity’ to commence building a nuclear bomb.”
US and French naval vessels are already prowling the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, and with Iranian patrol boats nearby the situation could rapidly deteriorate.
Russia is adamantly opposed to any military action against Iran, though Moscow has supported UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran in an effort to force the Islamic Republic to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu is working overtime to get US President Barack Obama onboard the campaign against Iran. And it will not hurt his fierce lobbying efforts that the Democrats and Republicans — the only game in town — are stockpiling ammunition for presidential elections in November.
Thanks to the hawkish neoconservative philosophy that has hijacked traditional conservative thinking (which, to his credit, Ron Paul genuinely represents), President Obama can expect to be accused of “going weak on Iran” if he proposes anything short of war.
Thus, Russiaâ€™s top military commander may be right: the overstretched US military and its budget-broke NATO allies may find themselves fighting yet another senseless war with unknown consequences very soon.
US Navy: Iran Prepares Suicide Bomb Boats in Gulf
Warda Al-Jawahiry / Reuters
MANAMA (February 12 2012) — Iran has built up its naval forces in the Gulf and prepared boats that could be used in suicide attacks, but the US Navy can prevent it from blocking the Strait of Hormuz, the commander of US naval forces in the region said on Sunday.
Iran has made a series of threats in recent weeks to disrupt shipping in the Gulf or strike US forces in retaliation if its oil trade is shut down by sanctions, or if its disputed nuclear program comes under attack.
“They have increased the number of submarines â€¦ they increased the number of fast attack craft,” Vice Admiral Mark Fox told reporters. “Some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used as a suicide explosive device. The Iranians have a large mine inventory.”
“We have watched with interest their development of long range rockets and short, medium and long range ballistic missiles and of course … the development of their nuclear program,” Fox, who heads the US Fifth Fleet, said at a briefing on the fleet’s base in the Gulf state of Bahrain.
Iran now has 10 small submarines, he said.
Military experts say the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet patrolling the Gulf — which always has at least one giant supercarrier accompanied by scores of jets and a fleet of frigates and destroyers — is overwhelmingly more powerful than Iran’s navy.
But ever since al Qaeda suicide bombers in a small boat killed 17 sailors on board the destroyer USS. Cole in a port in Yemen in 1996, Washington has been wary of the vulnerability of its huge battleships to bomb attacks by small enemy craft.
Asked whether the US Navy was prepared for an attack or other trouble in the Gulf, Fox said: “We are very vigilant, we have built a wide range of options to give the president and we are ready… What if it happened tonight? We are ready today.”
Iranian officials have threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, the outlet to the Gulf through which nearly all of the Middle East’s oil sails.
Asked if he took Iran’s threats seriously, Fox Said: “Could they make like extremely difficult for us? Yes they could. If we did nothing and they were able to operate without being inhibited, yeah they could close it, but I can’t see that we would ever be in that position.”
He added that diplomacy should be given priority in resolving the tension.
“So when you hear discussion about all this overheated rhetoric from Iran we really believe that the best way to handle this is with diplomacy… I am absolutely convinced that is the way to go. It is our job to be prepared. We are vigilant.”
Contacts between the US Navy and Iranian craft in the Gulf region were routine, Fox said, referring to cases where his sailors helped Iranian ships that were in distress or threatened by pirates.
In addition to commanding the Fifth Fleet, Fox is also the commander of a multinational naval task force charged with ensuring Gulf shipping routes stay open. Although most of its firepower is American, the task force also includes other Western countries and the Gulf Arab states.
The European Union slapped an embargo on Iranian oil last month, which is due to kick in completely by July 1. The United States and EU have both imposed new sanctions on Iran’s central bank, which make it difficult for countries to pay Tehran for oil and for Iran to pay for the goods it imports.
(c) Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.
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