Monday, June 30, 2008

COUNTDOWN TO DISASTER

IRAN THREATENS WEST'S OIL SUPPLY IF ATTACKED

BORZOU DARAGAHI, LOS ANGELES TIMES The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard said the government might shut down vital oil lanes through the Persian Gulf if the country were attacked by the United States or Israel, according to a newspaper report. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari warned that if there were any confrontation over Iran's nuclear program, Tehran would try to damage Western economies by targeting oil. "Naturally every country under attack by an enemy uses all its capacity and opportunities to confront the enemy," Jafari said to the hard-line newspaper Jaam-e Jam, according to translations of his comments on the English-language website of the semiofficial Fars News Agency.

"Iran will definitely act to impose control on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz," through which 17 million barrels of oil passes each day. "After this action, the oil price will rise very considerably and this is among the factors deterring the enemies," he said.

Iran abuts the strategic strait, and Iranian and Western analysts have frequently said that the country could try to blockade or mine it in the event of a war, a move that would send oil prices skyrocketing.

But some military analysts say Iran might not be able to hold the waterway, which is 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, in a confrontation with U.S. warships and aircraft.

DEMOCRATS PUSHING THE WAR

CRAIG CRAWFORD If Democratic congressional leaders are signing on to George W. Bush's covert war against Iran, as Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker, does it really matter which party wins the White House in November? On this front at least, it seems that Bush gets a third term no matter which party wins.

Perhaps fostering regime change in Iran is the best policy for the U.S. But that is not how Democrats have campaigned in this election year. Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee, stands for talks, not belligerence, in dealing with Iran. . . But Democrats appear to be talking soft while advocating the rough stuff behind the scenes.

IRAN TO DIG 320,000 GRAVES FOR ENEMY BODIES

AFP Iran is to dig 320,000 graves in border districts to allow for the burial of enemy soldiers in the event of any attack on its territory, a top commander said. "In implementation of the Geneva Conventions. . . he necessary measures are being taken to provide for the burial of enemy soldiers," the Mehr news agency quoted General Mir-Faisal Bagherzadeh as saying. "We have plans to dig 15,000 to 20,000 graves in each of the border provinces or a total of 320,000," the general said, some of them mass graves if necessary.

Bagherzadeh said Iran was keen to "reduce the suffering of the families of the fallen in any attack against our country. . . and prevent any repetition of the long and bitter experience of the Vietnam War."

ISRAEL GEARS UP FOR WAR

GUARDIAN, UK Israeli fighter jets flew 1,500 kms across the Mediterranean this month, in a dry run for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Tehran has threatened to treat such a raid as a declaration of war. As the Middle East braces itself for a stand-off of epic proportions, how close is the region to that nightmare scenario?. . .

If Israel were to attack it would have to overcome considerable practical problems. . . To destroy the uranium centrifuge halls at Natanz alone, analysts have argued, might require up to 80 5,000lb penetrating bombs dropped in almost simultaneous pairs to allow the second bomb to burrow through the crater of the first. Opera required just a handful of bombs.

To strike even the bare minimum of so-called target sets associated with Natanz and Bushehr without the assistance of US cruise missiles fired from their ships in the Persian Gulf would require a massive military effort and, according to the Israeli air force's own assessments, might risk the loss of large numbers of its aircraft for a temporary impact. . .

If the rhetoric. . . is alarming, then so too are Israel's ostentatious preparations for war. . . Earlier this month, the Israeli Air Force conducted one of the largest aerial exercises in its history, flying 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, supported by midair fuel tankers and rescue helicopters, 1,500kms west over the Mediterranean. That precisely matches the distance from Israel to Iran's nuclear facilities. . .

Academics and journalists who have recently visited Israel have come back from meetings convinced the country is getting ready for war. The campaign has been assisted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the US and the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre in the UK, two influential Jewish lobby groups who have brought over experts to brief the media. . .

What is clear is that the push inside the Israeli establishment for a strike is not being driven by the timetable of Iran's mastery of the technical aspects alone, but by geopolitical considerations. That point was reinforced by Bar last week when he identified a window of opportunity for a strike on Iran - ahead of the November presidential election in the United States which could see Barack Obama take power, and possibly engage with Syria and Iran. An Obama presidency would close that window for Israel, says Bar. . .

A recent flurry of bilateral meetings between senior US and Israeli military officials in recent weeks has contributed to a sense that planning for a strike may be far advanced. Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, travelled to Israel last week for the second time in seven months, cutting short a tour of Europe to meet with Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel's military chief. . .

And amid the talk of windows of opportunity and the dry runs for missile strikes, more moderate voices are managing to make themselves heard. Ephraim Halevy, a former head of the intelligence agency Mossad, told a meeting of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem that Iran's nuclear ambitions did not represent an existential threat to Israel.

'I am convinced that Israel cannot be destroyed,' Halevy said. 'We should not sink into the doldrums of "Israel is on the verge of extinction".' Ultimately, he said, the United States would talk to Iran, and Israel needed to be part of that dialogue.

U.S. INCREASES COVERT OPERATIONS AGAINST IRAN

CNN - The Bush administration has launched a "significant escalation" of covert operations in Iran, sending U.S. commandos to spy on the country's nuclear facilities and undermine the Islamic republic's government, journalist Seymour Hersh said Sunday. An Iranian flag flies outside the building containing the reactor of Bushehr nuclear power plant, south of Tehran. . . . Hersh told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that Congress has authorized up to $400 million to fund the secret campaign, which involves U.S. special operations troops and Iranian dissidents. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have rejected findings from U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran has halted a clandestine effort to build a nuclear bomb and "do not want to leave Iran in place with a nuclear program," Hersh said. "They believe that their mission is to make sure that before they get out of office next year, either Iran is attacked or it stops its weapons program," Hersh said.

SOME MILITARY LEADERS MORE CAUTIOUS ON IRAN THAN DEMOCRATS

SEYMOUR M. HERSH, NEW YORKER Military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon share the White House's concern about Iran 's nuclear ambitions, but there is disagreement about whether a military strike is the right solution. Some Pentagon officials believe, as they have let Congress and the media know, that bombing Iran is not a viable response to the nuclear-proliferation issue, and that more diplomacy is necessary.

A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, "We'll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America." Gates's comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates's answer, the senator told me, was "Let's just say that I'm here speaking for myself." (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator's characterization.)

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, were "pushing back very hard" against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran, the person familiar with the Finding told me. Similarly, a Pentagon consultant who is involved in the war on terror said that "at least ten senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders"-the four-star officers who direct military operations around the world-"have weighed in on that issue."

The most outspoken of those officers is Admiral William Fallon, who until recently was the head of U.S. Central Command, and thus in charge of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March, Fallon resigned under pressure, after giving a series of interviews stating his reservations about an armed attack on Iran. For example, late last year he told the Financial Times that the "real objective" of U.S. policy was to change the Iranians' behavior, and that "attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice."

Admiral Fallon acknowledged, when I spoke to him in June, that he had heard that there were people in the White House who were upset by his public statements. "Too many people believe you have to be either for or against the Iranians," he told me. "Let's get serious. Eighty million people live there, and everyone's an individual. The idea that they're only one way or another is nonsense.". . .

The Democratic leadership's agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others. "The oversight process has not kept pace-it's been coopted" by the Administration, the person familiar with the contents of the Finding said. "The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we're authorizing.". . .

1 Comments:

At June 30, 2008 6:09 PM, Anonymous robbie said...

Makes you just want to jump right out of bed everyday, doesn't it?

 

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