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Archive for ianuarie, 2012

 


IRAN: DRUMS OF WAR BEATING LOUDER: U.S. Mounts Further Military Build-Up in Persian Gulf
By Ben Schreiner

With the drums of war beating ever louder against Iran, the U.S. military has quickly moved to reestablish a war footing in the Persian Gulf. The preparations for a looming military confrontation thus continue apace.

According to the Washington Post (1/27), “The Pentagon is rushing to send a large floating base for commando teams to the Middle East.” As the paper reports, the USS Ponce, a 40-year old amphibious transport dock previously set for decommission, will now be converted into a special ops hub, and then likely sent to the Persian Gulf.

The Pentagon, the Post reports, is seeking to retrofit the USS Ponce on an accelerated timeline. In fact, the military has gone ahead and waived “normal procurement rules because any delay presented a ‘national security risk.’”

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports (1/28) the Pentagon has notified Congress that it will divert an additional $82 million to refine the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP). (The MOP is a 30,000-pound “bunker-buster” bomb “specifically designed to take out the hardened fortifications built by Iran and North Korea to cloak their nuclear programs.”)

The decision to seek an upgrade in the MOP reportedly comes after a series of tests revealed that the ordinance remains incapable of destroying certain Iranian nuclear facilities, such as the enrichment site at Fordow, located near the holy city of Qom. (Fordow is buried deep within the mountainside, below 260 feet of rock and soil).

The Journal also reports that, “The decision to ask now for more money to develop the weapon was directly related to efforts by the U.S. military’s Central Command to prepare military options against Iran as quickly as possible.” And thus much the same as with the retrofitting of the USS Ponce, the Pentagon has decided to sidestep the normal budgetary request process in seeking additional funds for the MOP. As Journal notes, “The Pentagon deems the MOP upgrades to be a matter of some urgency.”

Meanwhile, it was also reported Friday that the joint Israel-U.S. war games—deemed Austere Challenge 12—have been rescheduled for October 2012. The games were originally scheduled for spring, but were postponed on January 15 for reasons that were unclear. But with Austere Challenge 12 now set to take place in October, U.S. military officers are scheduled to begin arriving in Israel this coming week in preparation for the largest joint operation ever conducted between the two armed forces.

These latest military maneuvers come on the heels of an announced U.S. troop build-up in the region revealed earlier this month. As the Los Angeles Times first reported (1/12), the build-up, including the stationing of 15,000 U.S. troops in Kuwait, is “intended as a quick-reaction and contingency force in case a military crisis erupts in the standoff with Tehran over its suspected nuclear weapons program.”

Yet despite the ongoing military preparations, the power elites in both Washington and Tel Aviv remain divided as to whether to go ahead with a strike against Iran. As Jim Lobe noted, this growing debate has actually led to “a number of influential members of the [U.S.] foreign policy establishment – including several prominent liberal interventionists who had supported the Iraq war – to warn against any further escalation either by the US or Israel.”

This rhetorical drawback by certain segments within the power structure has also been seen in Israel. On January 18, for example, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to speculate on whether Israel would unilaterally strike Iran, while also going on to state that Israel was “very far off” from even making such a decision.

Barak, however, already seems to have changed course. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, the Israeli defense minister argued that the world must act quickly to stop Iran from reaching the point at which time a strike becomes ineffective. As he stated, “It seems to us to be urgent, because the Iranians are deliberately drifting into what we call an immunity zone where practically no surgical operation could block them.” Very far off appears to be rapidly approaching.

Indeed, writing in the latest New York Times Magazine (1/25), Ronen Bergman argues that Israel remains poised to strike Iran. As Bergman concludes his piece: “After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012.” Of course, an Israeli strike would quickly ensnare the U.S., along with many others, in a regional, if not global, conflict.

Yet, even as all signs continue to point towards an impending war, a glimmer of hope has perhaps also begun to emerge. Organized popular resistance to yet another imperial conquest is now finally visible within the U.S. As was announced earlier this month, a “broad spectrum of U.S.-based anti-imperialist and anti-war organizations,” including many Occupy movements, have called for a coordinated nationwide protests on February 4 to resist the drive to war with Iran. The protesters will demand: “No war, no sanctions, no intervention, no assassinations against Iran.”

And with the power elite in both Israel and the U.S. still debating and divided over when to launch a strike against Iran, and with the Occupy movement already active in cities across the country, a window of opportunity exists (however brief) for a powerful working class-led push back to gain traction nationally against the further expansion of U.S. militarism into Iran. In fact, the only assured hope for warding off war–establishment doves, after all, rarely prevail against their hawkish counterparts–will be for the U.S. working class to demonstrate its opposition to imperialism by taking to the streets in protest. In the end, such resistance offers the only real hope for a peaceful resolution to the present crisis.

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The real answer is no, they will not. But you would never figure that out by reading the New York Times.

The sensationalist article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine (Jan. 29) adds to the hysteria surrounding U.S. and Israeli relations with Iran. Ronen Bergman, a columnist with the leading Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, concludes that Israel will probably attack Iran this year.

He draws this fearful conclusion after recounting his discussions with key Israeli military and intelligence officials, present and former, who describe to him in great detail: (1) why Israel is incapable of conducting such an attack; (2) why such a foolhardy action would fail to stop Iran’s nuclear program; and (3) why it would actually leave the situation far worse than it is now.

Say what?

Not only is his conclusion at odds with virtually everything he produces as evidence, but there are some omissions in his analysis that regrettably have become predictably routine in talking about the Iranian nuclear program:

He darkly quotes “the latest intelligence” about the number and current activity of Iran’s centrifuges. Where did he get that secret information? Well, just like you or me, he can read the periodic reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which are published on the web virtually the same day they are handed to member states. 

How did the IAEA get that “intelligence?” Not hard: they have inspectors in all the sites where Iran is producing enriched uranium. These inspectors, who make frequent surprise visits, keep cameras in place to watch every move, and they carefully measure Iran’s input of feed stock to the centrifuges and the output of low enriched uranium, which is then placed under seal. You would think that would be worth mentioning, at least in passing, but it gets overlooked by virtually every journalist writing on this subject. 

Like virtually all other commentators on this issue, Bergman slides over the fact that the IAEA consistently reports that Iran has diverted none of its uranium to military purposes. Like others, he focuses on the recent IAEA report, which was the most detailed to date in discussing Iran’s suspected experiments with military implications; but like others, he fails to mention that the suspect activity took place seven or more years ago and there is no reliable evidence that it has resumed. A problem, yes; an imminent threat, no.

Bergman also overlooks the fact that Iran has almost certainly NOT made a decision to actually build a bomb and that we are very likely to know if they should make such a decision. How would we know? Simply because those pesky IAEA inspectors are there on site and Iran would have to kick them out and break the seals on their stored uranium in order to produce the high enriched uranium needed for a bomb.

Would Israel actually attack while these international inspectors are at work? No, they would need to give them warning, thereby giving Iran warning that something was coming. The IAEA presence is a trip wire that works both ways. It is an invaluable resource. Risking its loss would be not only foolhardy but self-destructive to Israel and everyone else.

Bergman’s dramatic statement that “I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012,” is also nothing new — it simply changes the date. We heard the same thing a year ago from Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, and two years before that from uber-hawk John Bolton, who confidently predicted that the U.S. and/or Israel would strike Iran before George W. Bush left office.  It is becoming almost an annual ritual. 

Why do these false alarms keep going off? Bergman suggests an answer with disarming honesty: “Some have argued that Israel has intentionally exaggerated its assessments to create an atmosphere of fear that would drag Europe into its extensive economic campaign against Iran…” To this, the ubiquitous “senior American official” adds that “It is unclear if the Israelis firmly believe this or are using worst-case estimates to raise greater urgency from the United States.” In other words, Israel benefits by keeping the pot near the boiling point so that no one can ignore the Iran issue, even for a moment.

If that is true, then Israeli strategists and American hawks should be overjoyed at Bergman’s analysis.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/magazine/will-israel-attack-iran.html?_r=1&hpw

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If the conflict with Iran takes the shape of a protracted bombing campaign and comes as a prologue to the occupation of the country, the US will need to strengthen its positions in adjacent regions, meaning that Washington will be trying to draw the Caucasian republics (Georgia, Azerbaijan) and those of Central Asia into the orbit of its policy and thus tightening the “Anaconda loop” around Russia.

The opposition mounted to the plans underlying the military scenario by China, Russia, and India seems to hold the promise of an alliance of countries seeking to tame US hegemony and raging unilateralism.

The morally charged concepts of humanitarian interventions and war on terror had just as well been invoked to legitimize downright aggressions against Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Matthew H. Kroenig from the Council on Foreign Relations recently went so far as to warn that Iran would some day pass its nuclear technologies to Venezuela. The motivation must be to somehow bundle all critics of the US foreign policy.

Chances are that a part of the oil embargo plan is to make the West encounter oil supply problems and start constructing pipelines across Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Qatar, and Iraq as alternative routes reaching the shores of the Arabian, Red, and Mediterranean Seas.

Since the new US military strategy implies focusing on two regions – the Greater Middle East and South East Asia – the issue of the Strait of Hormuz appears coupled to that of the Strait of Malacca which offers the shortest route for the oil supply from the Indian Ocean to China, Japan, South Korea, and the rest of South East Asia.

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The EU oil embargo recently slapped on Iran and the threats voiced by the US and other Western countries to come up with further sanctions against the country led watchers to conclude that an armed conflict between Iran and the West has finally became imminent.

The first potential scenario in this context is that the current standoff would eventually escalate into a war. The US forces in the Gulf area currently number 40,000, plus 90,000 are deployed in Afghanistan, just east of Iran, and several thousand support troops are deployed in various Asian countries. That adds up to a considerable military potential which may still fall short of what it takes to keep a lid on everything if armed hostilities break out. For example, Colin H. Kahl argues in a recent paper in Foreign Affairs that, even though “there is no doubt that Washington will win in the narrow operational sense” (1), the US would have to take a vast array of pertinent problems into account.

At the moment, maintaining the status quo is not in US interests, holds Stratfor, a US-based global intelligence agency: “If al Assad survives and if the situation in Iraq proceeds as it has been proceeding, then Iran is creating a reality that will define the region. The United States does not have a broad and effective coalition, and certainly not one that would rally in the event of war. It has only Israel…” (2) If the conflict with Iran takes the shape of a protracted bombing campaign and comes as a prologue to the occupation of the country, the US will need to strengthen its positions in adjacent regions, meaning that Washington will be trying to draw the Caucasian republics (Georgia, Azerbaijan) and those of Central Asia into the orbit of its policy and thus tightening the “Anaconda loop” around Russia.

An alternative scenario also deserves attention. EU sanctions would surely hurt many of the European economies – notably, those of Greece, Italy, and Spain – by ricochet. In fact, Spanish diplomatic chief José Manuel García-Margallo Y Marfil bluntly described the sanctions decision as a sacrifice (3).

As for Iran, the oil blockade can cause its annual budget to contract by $15-20 billion, which generally should not be critical but, as the country’s parliamentary elections and the 2013 presidential poll are drawing closer and the West actively props up its domestic opposition, outbreaks of unrest in Iran would quite possibly ensue. Tehran has already made it clear it would make a serious effort to find buyers for its oil export elsewhere.

China and India, Iran’s respective number one and number three clients, brushed off the idea of the US-led sanctions momentarily. Japan pledged support for Washington over the matter but did not post any specific plans to reduce the volume of oil it imports from Iran. Japan, by the way, was badly hit in 1973 when Wall Street provoked an oil crisis and US guarantees turned hollow. Consequently, Tokyo can be expected to approach Washington’s sanction suggestions with the utmost caution and to ask the US for unequivocal guarantees that the White House will be unable to provide. Right now the US is courting South Korea with the aim of having it cut off the import of oil from Iran.

The opposition mounted to the plans underlying the military scenario by China, Russia, and India seems to hold the promise of an alliance of countries seeking to tame US hegemony and raging unilateralism. Stratfor analysts have a point saying that time is not on the US side, considering that the BRICs countries have some opportunities to influence the situation in the potential conflict zone by launching joint anti-terrorism and anti-piracy maneuvers in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, etc.

Inducing regime change in Iran, which is Washington’s end goal, still takes a pretext. The US has long been eying various factions in Iran in the hope of capitalizing on the country’s existing domestic rivalries parallel to the employment of tested color revolution techniques such as the support for the Green Movement or the establishment of a virtual embassy in Iran.

Richard Sanders, a vocal critic of US foreign policy, opined that, at least since the invasion of Mexico in the late XIX century, the US permanently relied on the mechanism of war pretext incidents to compile justifications for its military interventions (4). US arch-conservative Patrick J. Buchanan cited in his opinion piece titled “Did FDR Provoke Pearl Harbor?” the fairly common view that US financial circles knowingly provoked the Pearl Harbor attack to drag the US into a war with the remote goal of ensuring the dollar empire’s global primacy (5).

The lesson to be learned from the history of the Vietnam War, namely the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which USS Maddox entered Vietnam’s territorial waters and opened fire on boats of its navy, is that the initial conflict was similarly ignited by the US intelligence community, the result being that the US Congress authorized LBJ to militarily engage Vietnam. (By the way, no retribution followed in June 1967 when the Israelis attacked USS Liberty, killing 34 and wounding 172). The morally charged concepts of humanitarian interventions and war on terror had just as well been invoked to legitimize downright aggressions against Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Speaking of the current developments around the Persian Gulf, Washington’s choice of pretexts for aggression comprises at least three options, namely (1) Iran’s nuclear dossier; (2) an engineered escalation in the Strait of Hormuz; (3) allegations that Iran supports international terrorism. The US objective behind the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program – to make everybody in the world accept Washington’s rules of the game – has never been deeply hidden. The abundant alarmist talk is intended to deflect attention from the simple truth that building a nuclear arsenal with the help of civilian nuclear technologies is absolutely impossible, but Matthew H. Kroenig from the Council on Foreign Relations recently went so far as to warn that Iran would some day pass its nuclear technologies to Venezuela (6). The motivation must be to somehow bundle all critics of the US foreign policy.

The Strait of Hormuz, which is the maritime chokepoint of the Persian Gulf, is regarded as the epicenter of the coming new war. It serves as the avenue for oil supplies from Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates and is therefore being closely monitored by all likely parties to the conflict. According to the US Department of Energy, 2011 oil transit via the Strait of Hormuz totaled 17 billion barrels, or roughly 20% of the world’s total (7). Oil prices are projected to increase by 50% if anything disquieting happens in the Strait of Hormuz (8).

Passing through the Strait of Hormuz takes navigation across the territorial waters of Iran and Oman. Iran grants as a courtesy the right to sail across its waters based on the UN Treaty on Maritime Goods Transportation. It must be understood in connection with Washington’s recurrent statements concerning the Strait of Hormuz that in this regard the US and Iran have the same legal status as countries which penned but did not ratify the treaty, and thus the US has no moral right to references to international law. Iran’s administration stressed recently after consultations on national legislation that Tehran would possibly subject to a revision the regulations under which foreign vessels are admitted to Iranian territorial waters (9).

Navies are also supposed to observe certain international laws, in particular those defining the minimal distance to be maintained by vessels of other countries. It constantly pops up in the US media that Iranian boats come riskily close to US vessels but, as watchers note, provocateurs like the CIA-sponsored separatists from Iran’s Baluchistan could in some cases be pulling off the tricks in disguise.

Chances are that a part of the oil embargo plan is to make the West encounter oil supply problems and start constructing pipelines across Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Qatar, and Iraq as alternative routes reaching the shores of the Arabian, Red, and Mediterranean Seas. A few of these projects, the Hashan–Fujairah pipeline, for instance, are as of today in the process of being implemented. If that is the idea, the explanation behind Washington’s tendency to convince its allies to create a “safer” pipeline infrastructure is straightforward. Geopolitics being an inescapable reality, it does have to be taken into account, though, that the region’s countries remain locked in a variety of conflicts and, due to geographic reasons, Tehran would be a key player even if the pipelines are launched.

Since the new US military strategy implies focusing on two regions – the Greater Middle East and South East Asia – the issue of the Strait of Hormuz appears coupled to that of the Strait of Malacca which offers the shortest route for the oil supply from the Indian Ocean to China, Japan, South Korea, and the rest of South East Asia. The arrangement implicitly factors into the Asian countries’ decision-making related to Iran.

The precedent of “the war on terror” – a campaign during which the US occupied under dubious pretexts Iraq and Afghanistan at the costs of thousands of lives – must also be kept in mind. Ages ago, the White House sanctioned subversive activities against various parts of the the Iranian administration, including the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. Former CIA operative Phillip Giraldi writes that US and Israeli agents have been active in Iran for quite some time and are responsible for the epidemic of the Stuxnet virus and the series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear physicists. The groups within Iran which aligned themselves with the country’s foes are the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, the Baluchistan-based separatist Jundallah, whose leader Abdolmajid Rigi was arrested in February, 2010 by Iranian security forces and admitted to cooperating with the CIA, and the Kurdish Free Life of Kurdistan (10).

In essence, a war against Iran – up to date a secret war – is underway. The problem the parties involved are trying to resolve is to find a way of prevailing without entering the “hot” phase of the conflict.

(1) Colin H. Kahl. Not Time to Attack Iran. January 17, 2012.

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/137031/colin-h-kahl/not-time-to-attack-iran?cid=nlc-public-the_world_this_week-link6-20120120

(2) Iran, the U.S. and the Strait of Hormuz Crisis. January 17, 2012. http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/iran-us-and-strait-hormuz-crisis?utm_source=freelist f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20120117&utm_term=gweekly&utm_content=readmore&elq=b90cfbef7b1a402ea2f1fc384080fa15

(3) La UE acuerda vetar las importaciones de petroleo de Iran. 23.01.2012 http://www.lavanguardia.com/internacional/20120123/54245752767/ue-vetar-importaciones-petroleo-iran.html

(4) Richard Sanders. How to Start a War: The American Use of War Pretext Incidents. Global Research, January 9, 2012. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28554

(5) http://buchanan.org/blog/did-fdr-provoke-pearl-harbor-4953

(6) Recent Events in Iran and the Progress of Its Nuclear Program. January 17, 2012. http://www.cfr.org/iran/recent-events-iran-progress-its-nuclear-program/p27090?cid=nlc-public-the_world_this_week-link5-20120120

(7)  http://www.eia.gov/cabs/world_oil_transit_chokepoints/full.html
(8) Michael T. Klare. Danger Waters. January 10, 2012. http://aep.typepad.com/american_empire_project/2012/01/danger-waters.html#more

(9) Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya. The Geo-Politics of the Strait of Hormuz: Could the U.S. Navy be defeated by Iran in the Persian Gulf? Global Research, January 8, 2012. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28516

(10) Philip Giraldi. Washington’s Secret Wars. 08 December 2011. http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org/news/opinion-a-analysis/item/1236-washington%E2%80%99s-secret-wars

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/the-war-against-iran-is-already-underway/

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In the effort to stir global action against the Iranian nuclear program, Israel has played its hand brilliantly.  Having twice sent fighter-bombers to erase nuclear reactors in hostile states — to Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007 — its conspicuous preparations against Iran form a firm flank in the effort to corral world opinion. This week, as the European Union joined the United States in launching exceptionally potent sanctions on Iran’s petroleum industry and central bank, a senior French official explained the urgency as follows:  ”We must do everything possible to avoid an Israeli attack on Iran.”

But could Israel go it alone?

The question is addressed in detail in the latest print edition of TIME. The full article is available to subscribers here. But as quoted by a senior security official, the assessment offered to the cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last autumn was not altogether encouraging:

“I informed the cabinet we have no ability to hit the Iranian nuclear program in a meaningful way,” the official quoted a senior commander as saying. “If I get the order I will do it, but we don’t have the ability to hit in a meaningful way.”

The key word is”meaningful.” The working assumption behind Israel’s military preparations has been that, to be worth mounting, a strike must be likely to delay Tehran’s nuclear capabilities by at least two years. But given the wide geographic dispersion of Iran’s atomic facilities–combined with the limits of Israel’s air armada–the Jewish State can expect to push back the Iranian program only by a matter of months — a year at most, according to the official, who attributed the estimate to the Atomic Energy Commission that Israel has charged with assessing the likely effect of a strike.

That assessment comes as no surprise to military experts both inside and outside Israel.  ”That’s a perfectly logical calculation, for somebody who actually knows how Israel assesses this,” says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  Perhaps the most respected military analyst working stateside, Cordesman went on for a while in our telephone interview about how weary he’d grown of reading back-of-the-envelope estimates of “former Israeli officials.”  The reality, he says, is that the decisive, actual capabilities are known only to the military professionals who have the details in front of them.  Even then, the course of action – in this case, whether Israel will launch the attack it has spent more than a decade equipping and training its military for — will be determined by more than strictly military matters:

Israel is going to act strategically. It’s going to look at the political outcome of what it says and does, not simply measure this in terms of some computer game and what the immediate tactical impact is.

What everyone agrees, however, is that as formidable as the Israeli Air Force is, it simply lacks the capacity to mount the kind of sustained, weeks-long aerial bombardment required to knock down Iran’s nuclear program, with the requisite pauses for damage assessments followed by fresh waves of bombing.  Without forward platforms like air craft carriers, Israel’s air armada must rely on mid-air refueling to reach targets more than 1,000 miles away, and anyone who reads Israel’s order of battle sees it simply doesn’t have but a half dozen or so.  Another drawback noted by analysts is Israel’s inventory of bunker-busting bombs, the sort that penetrate deep into concrete or rock that shield the centrifuge arrays at Natanz and now Fordow, near Qum.  Israel has loads of GBU-28s, which might penetrate Natanz. But only the U.S. Air Force has the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator that could take on Fordow, the mountainside redoubt where critics suspect Iran would enrich uranium to military levels.

Still, Israel could launch a surprise strike of a single wave and do significant damage.  And sometime this year it probably will, according to the Israeli author of  ”Will Israel Attack Iran?” the New York Times Magazine story that went online Wednesday.  The piece begins in the high-rise apartment of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and more or less maintains that perspective throughout.  The bottom line is attributed not to an individual or institution but to a state: “Israel believes that these platforms have the capacity to cause enough damage to set the Iranian nuclear project back by three to five years.”

It’s also entirely possible, of course, that Israel’s credible threat to go it alone is both sincere and, at the same time, understood as a wonderfully effective motivator for sanctions and other coercive measures short of war. (Indeed, amid another round of Strait of Hormuz threats by Iranian politicians, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared today that his country was ready to talk about its nuclear program–though he insisted it was not going to give it up.) The world paid a lot more attention than it might have to the Nov. 8 report of the IAEA — the one detailing Iran’s efforts to prepare a nuclear weapon — because in the fortnight before its release, Israel fairly thrummed with debate over whether it should launch an attack.  There’s surely a limit how many times the threat can be made and remain credible. Already, the dynamic between Jerusalem and Washington is being compared to Fred and Grady in  ”Sanford and Son” — “Hold me back!”  But as enriched uranium piles up inside the mountain outside Qum, the calendar may well provide the suspense.

Read more: http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2012/01/26/will-israel-attack-iran-and-if-it-does-can-it-really-stop-tehrans-nuclear-program/#ixzz1kZyzucFY

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By Chris Floyd 

January 25, 2012 “Empire Burlesque” —  This week, the warlords of the West took yet another step toward their long-desired war against Iran. (Open war, that is; their covert war has been going on for decades — via subversion, terrorism, and proxies like Saddam Hussein.) On Monday, the European Union obediently followed the dictates of its Washington masters by agreeing to impose an embargo on Iranian oil.

The embargo bans all new oil contracts with Iran, and cuts off all existing deals after July. The embargo is accompanied by a freeze on all European assets of the Iranian central bank. In imposing these draconian measures on a country which is not at war with any nation, which has not invaded or attacked another nation in centuries, and which is developing a nuclear energy program that is not only entirely legal under international law but is also subject to the most stringent international inspection regime ever seen, the EU is “targeting the economic lifeline of the regime,” as one of its diplomats put it, with admirable candor.

The embargo will have serious, perhaps disastrous effects on many of Europe’s sinking economies, which are heavy users of Iranian oil. This is particularly true in Greece, the poster boy for our modern “Shock Doctrine über alles” global economic system. For even as Greece writhes beneath the blows of European bankers determined to bleed the country dry to avoid the consequences of their own knowingly corrupt loan policies, the Iranians have been giving the Greeks substantial discounts on oil, which has helped ease — at least in some measure — the economic ruin being imposed on the “birthplace of democracy.”

Now this slender lifeline is being cut, leaving Greece — and other nations under assault by the plutocrats and their political lackeys — to seek a replacement for discounted Iranian oil in what will be a seller’s market, thanks to the shortages caused by the embargo. The result will be higher prices across the board, leading to more economic ruin for all those beyond the golden penumbra of the One Percent.

And of course, the effects will be even more catastrophic for millions of innocent people in Iran. Already the lives of these innocent people — including all of the dissidents supposedly so cherished by the West — are being diminished and degraded by the series of sanctions imposed by the United States and its pack of tail-wagging Europuppies. But who cares about that? After all, it is glaringly obvious that our Euro-American elites are more than happy to see their own rabble go down the shock-doctrine toilet; it is inconceivable that the ruin of a bunch of dirty Mooslim furriners would disturb them for even a nano-second.

The ostensible aim of all these sanctions, we are told, is to “force Iran back to the negotiating table” on its nuclear program. This is patent nonsense. Innumerable “negotiations” — including major concessions by Iran — have been rejected by Washington and the puppies. For example, who can forget Barack Obama’s “major diplomatic initiative” in 2010, when he proposed a solution to the impasse: Iran should ship its nuclear fuel to Brazil and Turkey for processing. What happened? Well, as we noted here at the time:

Obama puts forth what is purported to be a major “diplomatic” solution to have Iran ship its nuclear fuel to Brazil and Turkey for processing. This was, of course, a hollow gesture, meant to show how intransigent and untrustworthy  Iran really is; the nuke-hungry mullahs would naturally reject the deal. But when Iran made an agreement with Brazil to do exactly what Obama requested, this wasimmediately denounced — by Obama — as …. a demonstration of how intransigent and untrustworthy Iran really is. Meet a benchmark, and the masters simply change the rules. That’s how it works until they get what they want: regime change in strategic lands laden with natural resources.

The latter statement is the key. The aim of this endless string of sanctions, this constant tightening of the noose, is not more “negotiations.” It is regime change, by any means necessary. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrovlaid out one possible school of thought motivating the Western warmongers: “[The sanctions have] nothing to do with a desire to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation. It’s aimed at stifling the Iranian economy and the population in an apparent hope to provoke discontent.”

That is a scenario often touted by our high and mighty mongerers: squeeze an enemy regime until the people rise up and get rid of a ruler you don’t like. Of course, as we saw in Iraq, a people driven to their knees by murderous sanctions rarely have the strength or capability to overturn a regime. In fact, the leaders of sanctioned regimes are almost always strengthened (and enriched) by sanctions.

But unlike some bitter cynics, I happen to have great faith in the abiding intelligence of our betters. I believe they know perfectly well that sanctions will not drive the Iranian regime from power. Instead, I think the current strategy here is two-fold.

First, while long-running sanctions do not in themselves overturn a regime, they do make the entire country much weaker. Infrastructure falls apart, society crumbles, communities wither, families fray, the people themselves become physically weaker — indeed, they can die in droves, in multitudes, as in Iraq. All of this makes for a much softer target when you finally decide to pull the trigger on military action.

Second — and I think much more relevant to this case — there is the hope that ever-tightening sanctions will provoke a violent response from the victim, thereby “justifying” a war of “self-defense” against the “unprovoked” attack. The series of escalating provocations being carried out by Washington and its allies, chiefly Israel — including an increasingly open program of assassinations — is clearly designed to goad the Iranians into a casus belli retaliation.

So far, the Iranians have resisted — a forbearance that has driven the Western warmongers into ludicrous attempts to manufacture casus belli incidents. such as the recent “Gleiwitz gambit”: the story that the super-duper Iranian spymasters tried to hire a goofball car dealer to kill a Saudi diplomat on the streets of Washington.  But the matches our masters keep throwing at this bone-dry pile of tinder are getting closer and closer to sparking the desired conflagration. The Iranians have already threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz if the EU goes through with its embargo. This, of course, would likely be the “Pearl Harbor” moment the war-whoopers are waiting for: an “unprovoked” attack aimed at — what else? — “targeting the economic lifeline” of the West. (Targeting economic lifelines is a tactic reserved solely for God’s good eggs, you understand; it’s an unmitigated evil when those heathen devils try it.)

The Iranians might back down on this threat, of course; the wily Persians tend to play the long game, and usually with more subtle calibration than the Western elites, who, like spoiled children, like to have their loot and power now now now! But if this latest provocation doesn’t do the trick, rest assured there are more coming in the, er, pipeline. For the bipartisan goal, as noted above, remains the same: “regime change in strategic lands laden with natural resources.” And our masters have already demonstrated that they do not care how many people are ruined — or are killed — in pursuit of this aim.

UPDATE: Arthur Silber offers some powerful amplification of these observations in his latest post. As always, you should read the whole thing, but here is one particularly piercing — and tragically true — insight from his piece:

After Iraq, after Afghanistan, after Libya, after all of these horrors and many more, can the American people be led into another war? Why, it’s the easiest thing in the world.

Again, read the whole piece to see the background leading to this tragic and inevitable conclusion.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30353.htm

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Gary Sick was earlier. Here George Friedman of Stratfor presents an argument that it may be possible for the Obama administration and Iran to reach some agreement that reduces tensions. Again I disagree, but I’ll be wrong when I see an indication that the US is willing to abandon its policy that Iran must not be able to acquire legal nuclear weapons capabilities like those Japan, Brazil and many other countries have.

For structural reasons, I don’t think that is possible. It would be very difficult for Iran to both have legal nuclear weapons capabilities and to be a weak enough power to fit into the US’ objective for a balance of artificially weak powers in the region.

George Friedman presents a scenario where the US wants three things regarding the Persian Gulf: 1) that the US does not have to directly intervene 2) that there is no disruption to the flow of oil 3) that Iran not become more powerful.

Iran wants three things: 1) Reduction in the US presence in the Persian Gulf, 2) Recognition as a major power in the region 3) An arrangement of some sort that shifts more Gulf oil revenues to Iran.

For Friedman, the nuclear issue in itself is not important while negotiations somehow or other can resolve the US’ differences with Iran over their differences.

If Friedman was right and these were the US’ and Iran’s primary objectives, then other than the US’ third, these objectives are complementary. All the US has to do to ensure free flow of oil is stop increasing tension with Iran. The US could accommodate all three of Friedman’s supposed Iranian objections without harming its own objectives if it papers over the objective of Iran not becoming more powerful.

It is not clear from Friedman why Iran not being powerful would be a first order objective for the US.

What Friedman misses is that the constraint the US’ commitment to Israel puts on US policy in its region. I’ve talked about why the US’ commitment to Israel led to the US’ intervention in Iraq.

A balance of powers could have been accomplished without an invasion of Iraq. A balance of powers could be accomplished without the expensive current attempt to economically isolate Iran.

A balance of very weak powers. Subject to the constraint that none of the powers is strong enough to threaten Israel is much more expensive to emplace and maintain. The US does it for emotional reasons, but will stop when the costs become too high. But the cost of maintaining that constraint is part of the cost of US support for Israel.

US policy in the Middle East is driven by oil and the strategic implications of a large amount of that resource that is concentrated in the region. But the US has accepted, for reasons that have nothing to do with pure strategy, a strategic priority in protecting Israel’s status as a Jewish state that imposes heavy and costly constraints on that policy.

In short, balance of power is easy. Balance of power where none of the balanced powers prevents Israel from being viable as an enforced Jewish political majority state is much more difficult.

That difficulty alone explains why it is a US objective that Iran not be powerful.

As an aside, many Westerners have convinced themselves that the Arab world is prepared to accept Israel in the context of a two-state solution. I’ve talked about this before, but it is interesting to discuss the polls that supposedly support this idea. Western pollsters like to go to Arab and Muslim populations and ask: “If Israel retreats to the 1967 borders, accepts the Palestinian refugees and resolves other issues to the Palestinians’ satisfaction, would you accept Israel?”

That’s a complicated question, huh? Not the simpler, more relevant and more direct “Do you consider Israel a legitimate country”. Readers Digest asked that question of Iranians in 2006. But I guess Western pollsters have learned their lesson. I’ve never seen that question asked of a Middle Eastern population since. Populations that, unlike Iran’s, are Arab and majority Sunni can be presumed to be even less likely to consider Israel legitimate.

Question 18: Level of Agreement – The state of Israel is illegitimate and should not exist

Strong disagreement: 3.9%
Weak disagreement: 4.6% (Total disagree, 8.5%)
Neutral: 21.1%
Weak agreement: 14.6%
Strong agreement: 51.9% (Total agree, 66.5%)

But Israel has never offered to retreat to the 1967 borders or accept the Palestinian refugees. What the Arab populations that are being polled are being asked is an impossible and irrelevant hypothetical. When Israel’s actual conditions, that Israel keep some of the territory and that the right of refugees to return be limited, are added, even the supposed majority that supports two states always disappears. But what this question does is allows Westerners to continue to feel justified in terms of their own moral systems as they support Zionism, which is the whole point. Westerners fooling other Westerners who willingly go along. I guess interesting to observe, nothing to actually take seriously.

So anyway, Friedman seriously underestimates the deepness of the dispute between the United States and Iran. Iran cannot agree to remain a weak enough state to fit into the US weak balance of power that Israel requires to remain viable. Until the US removes that constraint on its regional policy, it will be in opposition to Iran and to any and every independent, which is to say non-colonial, state in the region.

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Relations between Iran and the West, fraught with tension and conflict for decades, have in the past few months reached a fever pitch. There is talk of war on a daily basis from both sides. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, have been spent both to fuel the Iranian missile and nuclear program and the counter-measures taken by the West to frustrate it. Leaders on both sides have worked themselves into paroxysms of rage regarding the alleged homicidal intensions of the other side.

The situation is volatile and the danger of war real. But the premise of the Western approach to Iran has dangerous shortcomings.

There is a common conception of Western policy as based on a two-pronged, carrot and stick approach: one a diplomatic track and the other a military threat. There is certainly the guise of a real diplomatic track. Both sides have talked at various times of the need for negotiations, and for very short periods there have been talks. Recently, Iran expressed willingness to begin a new round of talks with its opponents about its nuclear program.

But by all appearances, the Western approach is solely designed to achieve Iranian capitulation to Western demands that it dismantle its nuclear research program. It is not designed as an open-ended negotiation in which both sides are open to compromise to achieve a mutually agreed-on objective. The United States and Israel are little interested in acknowledging Iran’s perceived interests or compromising over its nuclear program so that each side will end up with some of its key interests satisfied.

Bad Faith

To study the efficacy of the diplomatic track, let’s look at its history. In 2003, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami made his famous offer to discontinue Iran’s nuclear program in return for the full normalization of its relations with the United States, including an end to sanctions. In the run-up to the Iraq War and in the context of the Bush-Cheney “stand tough” approach to the Islamist militancy of that era, the United States not only spurned the offer, it soundly berated the Swiss diplomat representing U.S. interests in Iran for having the temerity to pass the proposal along.

Barack Obama came into office with some vague notions of pursuing talks with Iran, criticizing the unhelpful threats of the previous administration. Western powers, however, only held talks with Iran for a mere three weeks. At those talks, the West again presented demands on a more or less take-it-or-leave-it basis; this was again not a negotiation of equals. It was one side communicating to the other what it expected of them to end the impasse. That’s why the talks ended almost before they began.

In recent years, Brazil and Turkey successfully negotiated a compromise with Iran involving the transfer of the country’s enriched uranium to a third country. But the Obama administration dismissed the plan and wasn’t even willing to pursue further negotiations about it.

If the diplomatic track was truly what Western officials have claimed it to be, there would be a more flexible and less destructive sanctions regime in place. Even officials in the U.S. government told The Washington Post that U.S. policy toward Iran, including the sanctions plan, is designed to achieve regime change, rather than policy change. The administration later attempted to deny that its officials had made such a claim, but it’s no wonder that Iran understands the U.S. approach as unilateral and categorical, rather than open-ended.

One-Track Policy

So there is not a two-track policy regarding Iran. There is instead a one-track policy with two facets. On the one hand, there is a program of sanctions and covert war designed to intimidate and bloody Iran into capitulation. But if that doesn’t work (and it surely cannot), there is a military option designed to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. It’s no surprise, then, that the Iranians see their enemies closing in on them like a vise. An enemy who believes he has no options left is very dangerous. He is likely to lash out in unforeseen ways. Such desperation is precisely what could fuel not just a bilateral military conflict, but a full-scale regional war.

There is another misconception about Western policy. The liberals among us talk about a “military strike” as an option of last resort. The more clear-eyed, like the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Riedeltalk of a potential war against Iran. Neither is precisely right. As Israeli journalists have pointed out, there already is a war under way against Iran. It is bought and paid for by a $400 million allocation by the Bush administration in 2007. It has funded all the tools in the Mossad arsenal that were used to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program and foment general unrest inside the country.

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan outlined Israel’s thinking in a Wikileaks cable in which he told the State Department’s Nicholas Burns that Israel planned to sow general discord inside Iran by acts of sabotage perpetrated by domestic minority groups like the Sunnis and Kurds:

Dagan said that more should be done to foment regime change in Iran, possibly with the support of student democracy movements, and ethnic groups (e.g., Azeris, Kurds, Baluchs) opposed to the ruling regime…Iran’s minorities are “raising their heads, and are tempted to resort to violence.”

Dagan urged more attention on regime change, asserting that more could be done to develop the identities of ethnic minorities in Iran. He said he was sure that Israel and the U.S. could “change the ruling regime in Iran, and its attitude towards backing terror regimes.” He added, “We could also get them to delay their nuclear project. Iran could become a normal state.”

Though the cable doesn’t mention the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), the Mossad clearly views it as a potent force with an extensive internal network within the country, whose muscle could be exploited to further Israeli interests.

Mark Perry recently published an expose of one particular Mossad project, a false flag operation in which it recruited the leader of Jundallah, a Sunni terrorist group operating in Iran, by posing as NATO and CIA agents. When the Bush administration discovered the nature of the program, it was furious. But ultimately it decided it had other fish to fry and would not make a major stink about the danger the duplicitous operation posed to U.S. agents in the region.

Such Israeli tactics suggest that Israel pursues its own interests with little or no regard for how its behavior will impact friend or foe. For example, it utilizes the MEK as a partner in many of its terror operations inside Iran, even though U.S. State Department officially designates the MEK as a terror group.

This, of course, doesn’t stop the MEK and its well-paid domestic allies in the United States from pursuing an aggressive campaign to delist it as a terror group. Millions of dollars have been spent to further this goal, including enlisting prominent figures on both the Democratic and Republican sides to shill for delisting. The MEK appears to believe that terrorist activities in which it may be engaged inside Iran will not have an impact on its delisting by the United States. This is all the more reason for journalists in Israel and outside to make known its cooperation with the Mossad, so that the U.S. government can make an informed judgment about whether or not the MEK has renounced terrorism as it claims.

Some analysts have called this a black ops campaign or covert war. Whatever we call it, it is war by another means. If the United States is serious about seeking a diplomatic solution with Iran, then why would it both encourage and fund such a powerful campaign of terror inside Iran?

The campaign has included the Stuxnet computer worm, most certainlydeveloped by the Israel Defense Force’s cyber warfare Unit 8200 with some U.S. assistance. Israeli security correspondents and a former Israeli minister reported to me that the Mossad and the MEK have jointly engaged in numerous terror operations that have killed five nuclear scientists and resulted in an almost fatal attack on a sixth. There have been crashes of Revolutionary Guard military planes and two more recent explosions: one that wiped out a missile base and killed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard general directing the entire national missile program, and another that sabotaged an Isfahan uranium enrichment facility.

So how much credence should Iran’s leaders put in the claim that the West is pursuing a diplomatic track? If there is no such real option for negotiation to resolve this conflict, is there any other prospect than war?

An Alternative to War

After following Iranian-Western relations for years, I believe the diplomatic track is a mirage and that the sanctions regime, which the West has pursued without success for 30 years, will not gain Iran’s capitulation. That leaves only two options: war, or Western impotence in the face of Iran’s implacable determination to pursue a nuclear option. Either option is bad, but the first is far worse than the second.

The fallout from a war with Iran has been widely discussed. Iran might mine the Straits of Hormuz and activate its shore-based defenses to repel U.S. naval forces. The price of oil would skyrocket, imperiling a global economy already teetering on the brink of recession or worse. Iranian allies in Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria could make mayhem for Israel and the United States alike. Iran could activate elements inside Afghanistan and Iraq to make life even more miserable there than it already is.

Since the United States doesn’t appear prepared for a real negotiation with Iran regarding its nuclear program, there is only one real approach short of war: containment. The United States adopted this approach during the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Though it was never optimal, considering the dysfunction in the relationship between the superpowers, containment worked reasonably well until the Soviet collapse in 1989.

As former Defense Department Undersecretary Colin Kahl argues in his latestForeign Affairs article, the United States already has the assets in place in the region to pursue a policy of containment: 40,000 troops are stationed in the Gulf, with 90,000 more in Afghanistan.  There are two carrier task forces deployed in the Gulf, and various allies view Iran with deep suspicion. They could be a local bulwark against any possible Iranian aspirations that threaten the regional status quo.

Containment still isn’t an optimal approach, but it’s the least bad one considering the current dysfunction characterizing relations between Iran and the West. In the future, Iran may turn to a reformist, more democratic government that might approach these issues differently. Or the climate in the West may change so that it would be willing to seriously engage with Iran on a similar basis to the Khatami 2003 proposals. But given the almost lunatic tone of the Republican presidential debates concerning Iran, and the fact that Barack Obama appears convinced that he must maintain impeccable national security credentials to protect his right flank, the United States is unlikely to adopt a more reasonable, pragmatic approach to Iran.

Under the circumstances, containment is the only remaining option that doesn’t lead to regional war, stalemate, and deeper dysfunction.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/an_alternative_to_war_with_iran?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FPIF+%28Foreign+Policy+In+Focus+%28All+News%29%29

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