Target Iran - December, 2011

We have experienced an endless array of debates, analysis and warnings regarding Iran and why it's nuclear program is a grave threat to the world. Naturally, we have all been primarily exposed to the Western perspective when it come to this important topic. Therefore, please put aside all the nonsense you have seen, read and heard about Iran. In my humble opinion, the following is more-or-less the reality as to why Iran has been presented to the global community as an existential threat.

Simply put, a militarily powerful Iran independently executing self-serving political policy in the strategic region in question is a direct threat to the geopolitical ambitions of the Western alliance and its regional friends. This more-or-less explains everything the reader needs to know about why Iran is being targeted.

Those who understand the political West understand that
the Angl0-American-Zionist alliance will simply not tolerate a politically independent Iran freely operating in the much coveted strategic region under the secure cover of a nuclear deterrence. Thus, it will use every excuse in the book, including the standard "democracy" card of course, to undermine the Iranian state. The Anglo-American-Zionist alliance is not alone in not wanting to see a powerful Iranian state; Sunni Arabs don't want it, Turks don't want it, Kurds don't want it and Europeans don't want it. As a matter of fact, in principle, even Russians wouldn't have wanted it. But in the case of Moscow, serious, if not grave, geostrategic considerations are compelling it to assist Tehran.

Policymakers in Moscow understand why the Western alliances has set its sights on Iran. Moscow also understands that if Iran falls to the West, it will eventually be its turn. The ultimate goal of the "Great Game" being played by the Western alliance is to gain a direct access to the energy rich Eurasian heartland and in doing so to also undermine Russia's and China's growth as super powers in the region. Due to these geostrategic considerations, Moscow has played a fundamental role in helping Tehran develop its nuclear technology. Moscow has also provided Iran with substantial military assistance. More recently, Moscow has also begun making serious military preparations with the intent of exploiting emerging situations once Western military strikes against Iran engulfs the region in a war.

After Iran downed one of the most advanced stealth aircrafts in US inventory, I immediately suspected Russian involvement in the operation. My suspicions may have been correct. Please see the article about the "Avtobaza" that quietly made a subtle appearance in the news towards the bottom of this page. What's astonishing here is the fact that the pilot-less, remotely operated CIA drone was brought down fully intact! This means that electronic warfare experts operating in Iran were able to hack into the aircraft's control system and commandeer it to the ground. In other words, they waited until the CIA operated drone was deep inside Iranian territory (which means they were able to track the stealth aircraft, something said to be virtually invisible to even the most sophisticated radar systems in the world), they then took control of it and safely landed it on an Iranian airfield. This was simply an amazing feat of historic importance and a very major setback for the Western war effort; and it underscores the nature of Moscow's military cooperation with Tehran.

Nevertheless, allowing Iran to acquire nuclear capability is simply out of the question for the political West and its regional allies. The West is not even comfortable with the idea of allowing independent nations take root in the region. Vladimir Putin recently mentioned: Washington is not seeking allies, it is seeking vassals. When a strategically important nation does not submit to Western rule willingly, and they are assessed to be politically vulnerable, they will eventually become a target. Tolerating a nuclear capable Iran, therefore, is out of the question. However,
Tehran has proven to be a tough opponent. Iranian self-worth, an organic national pride and perhaps a sense of destiny is what's driving the Iranian regime today. Tehran is courageously, and I should also add brilliantly, standing up to the West and its regional allies. Tehran has truly lived up to its noble Aryan heritage.

After dealing with self-destructive Arabs for all these years, the West is finding the going for it getting much tougher. Due to Tehran's formidable capabilities and its good relations with Moscow and Beijing, Western military leaders have been very cautious in their approach with regards to Iran. Senior policymakers in the West are realizing that Iran will not be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, Western leaders (military leaders in particular) fully realize the grave dangers in taking on an opponent like Iran, but their overwhelming desire to remain the supreme power in the strategic region as well as protecting the Zionist state and ensuring the survival of their Sunni Arab client states are forcing them to take the risk.

A brief political background

Despite all the fear-mongering we have been exposed to in recent years, let's first acknowledge that the nation of Iran has not invaded another nation in centuries; while its antagonist in the West has been responsible for dozens of wars and invasions and the deaths of millions of innocent people in recent years alone. Back in 1953, the democratically elected secular prime-minister of Iran was ousted by a Western organized
coup d'état and a brutal dictator operating under the guise of "Shah" artificially placed into power. This Western action at the time has been widely recognized to have caused the radicalization Iranian society. After years of serving Western and Israeli interest in the region and brutally cracking down on his opposition, Iranians finally rose to reclaim their country back in 1979, when they overthrew Reza Shah Pahlavi.

As a punishment to the new Islamic government that had dared to oppose Western interests in Tehran, Western leaders stood-by Saddam Hussein when he invade Iran in 1980. When Iraq's Hussein could not defeat the Iranians despite Western help (including the supply of chemical weapons), the West responded by arming and funding various anti-Iranian factions in and around Iran. And when that approach didn't bring any tangible results, the West simply began to directly plan Iran's destruction.

The covert war against Iran

In recent years, Tehran has seen series of invasions bringing massive amounts of Western military assets near its eastern, western and southern borders. Tehran has also been watching Sunni Arab states in the region being armed and readied for war by Washington. Tehran has seen Washington overtly embrace anti-Iranian terror groups such as the Mujaheddin Khalq in Iraq and Jundullah in Pakistan. There have been a series of Iranian uprisings instigated by Western and Israeli intelligence agencies. There have been a series of assassinations and bombings that have targeted Iranian scientists and military leaders. Western special operations teams and reconnaissance flights have regularly violated Iranian territory. The West has also waged an economic/financial war against Iran. Tehran has also been reeling under a massive media assault and threatening rhetoric from leaders stretching from Washington to Riyadh. Tehran has been accused of plotting an assassination in the United States as well as having been involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Seeing how Iran has been treated by its antagonists for decades, how should we have expected the Iranian leadership react?

The Axis of Evil

Back in 2002, cowboys in Washington announced that Iran, Iraq and North Korea were a part of some dreaded "Axis of Evil" even though none of the aforementioned nations had an alliance with each another. But, as usual, reality does not matter for Washington because through its many levers it is fully capable of fabricating realty. Coming soon after the events of September 11, 2001, president Bush's infamous Axis of Evil speech reverberated throughout the world. The Arab/Muslim world in particular shivered in fear as Washington readied itself to pounce on the strategic region after one of its black operations had given it the
carte blanche to do so with impunity. Thus, it's easy to see that those on Washington's blacklist must have taken Bush's threats and warnings at the time very seriously.

Putting aside Iran for a moment, let's consider what happened to the other two members of the so-called Axis of Evil: A besieged Iraq that had long dropped its nuclear ambitions was desperately signaling that it was ready to cooperate with Western powers, while North Korea was stubbornly pressing ahead with building its atomic bomb, which it did around the year 2005. In the end, Iraq got invaded and shattered into bloody pieces while a nuclear armed North Korea is allowed to sink South Korean warships and bombard South Korean islands from time-to-time without anybody even raising an eyebrow...

Lesson number one: Iraq got invaded simply because it did not posses potent weapons with which it could protect itself. Lesson number two: North Korea can continue acting tough on the world stage because it has the "bomb". The same can be said about Pakistan and the same can be said about Israel, a nation that possesses upwards of several hundred nuclear warheads yet no one in the West wants to talk about it. 

And lesson number three: The so-called "Arab spring" has been hijacked by Western, Turkish and Saudi interests and is currently being used as an excuse to give the Middle East a drastic makeover. 

Naturally, this bloody makeover of sorts, is ultimately being orchestrated by senior level American officials. Similar to what it did in Iraq, Washington has also managed to turn Libya into a failed state and it is currently working on toppling the regime in Damascus. Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria had long been looked upon by the West as the region's loose-ends. With Iraq and Libya now dead, with Syria now stricken with a terminal ailment, Iran and its isolated Hezbollah allies in Lebanon remain the only entities in the region not yet under Western control. Needless to say, Tehran feels the noose around its neck getting gradually tighter.

Tehran's military options

Looking at all this and fully realizing that it is high on Washington's (s)hit list, how should we have expected Iranian officials to react, by rolling over and playing dead similar to what Arabs do? No, Iranians are not Arabs. Realizing that the Western noose is getting tighter-and-tighter around its neck with each passing year, Iran is pursuing nuclear deterrence! Thus, what we have today is essentially a new global nuclear arms race and one that is in certain ways more perilous than the one that existed during the Cold War; and we can all thank the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance and friends for bringing us to this dangerous point in human history.

As it stands today, it is not a matter of if there will be a military strike against Iran, it is simply a matter of when. If events continue digressing at this pace, if Moscow or Beijing do not step up and assume a more proactive role in protecting Tehran, I predict the war (or the airstrikes to be more precise) against Iran will begin by sometime next spring.

Although embattled and under the constant threat of a war, Tehran is, relatively speaking, in good shape. Despite how the situation in the region is portrayed by Western officials and their propaganda outlets, Tehran controls much of the situation on the ground currently. Tehran is perhaps the single most influential foreign force in Iraq today. Iraq's Baathist government was so utterly decimated by Western forces that Washington inadvertently allowed the rise of the shattered nation's Iran-leaning Shiites into power. A pivotal figure that helped facilitate this transition was none-other-than Ahmad Chalabi, a one time Washington insider who may actually have been an Iranian double agent. Loosing Iraq to Shiites was one of Washington's biggest strategic failures in the region, but since CNN did not report it you don't know about it. In fact, Tehran also has a significant presence in Afghanistan. 

Now, with specter of yet another war looming over the region, Western forces have been taken out of harms way in Iraq and repositioned elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. What we are seeing occur today is the preparatory phase of the upcoming war. When America's political/financial elite's black slave in the White House announced that US forces would be pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan several years ago, the American sheeple rejoiced and took comfort in their "democracy". When I humbly suggested to some of the sheeple that US forces are being pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan simply to be repositioned and made ready for a future operation against Iran, I was laughed at by them. Sadly, idiots, as it seems, make up a vast majority of human society. Please see a recent New York Times article on this page titled - "U.S. Planning Troop Buildup in Gulf After Exit From Iraq." I first publicly announced the troop pull-back deception back in April of this year in the following blog post -
US forces in the region have only been in control of their military installations, and sometimes not even that. Any military attack upon Iran by Western forces will most likely be answered swiftly by a massive uprising of Shiites throughout Iraq; perhaps even with the participation of special forces from Iran. A well-organized and a well-armed 'Hezbollah' style guerrilla force operating in Iraq can open up a new bloody front for Western armies. Such a force is theoretically capable of making Western troops stationed in Iraq retreat under fire within a matter of weeks or months. Although many of America's warmongering officials may not comprehend this possibility, US military high command does. Thus, military leaders realize the need to reorganize and redeploy their regional assets and they are doing so under the cleaver guise of "pulling back troops from Iraq and Afghanistan to fulfill Obama's presidential campaign promise." 

Despite what Washington propaganda outlets such as CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, FOX, NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Times (to name only a few) are suggesting, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been failures; their geopolitical experiments in both nations have backfired miserably. Iraq today is more-or-less under Shiite control and Afghanistan today remains more-or-less under Pakistani control. Washington has come to the hard realization that it has no future in either place. In addition to having an organic influence over the region's Shiite populations, militarily, Tehran also controls some of the strategic situation as well.

The Strait of Hormuz will be a theater of military operations

Iran has deployed thousands of missile systems (including anti-ship missiles),
artillery of all calibers, rocket-launchers and combat aircraft of all sorts near the strategic Straits of Hormuz. What most people fail to realize is that approximately 40% of the world's crude oil comes through the Straits of Hormuz; and Iranian forces today are fully capable of stopping all maritime traffic in the strait essentially on command. Any prolonged shutdown of the strait will have a devastating impact upon the global economy.

Moreover, with its large missile arsenal, Iranian forces can also target all Western military bases and Saudi Arabian oilfields within the region.
In the event of a full-scale war, American and coalition warships within the Persian Gulf would also be very vulnerable to Iran's Russian and Chinese made anti-ship missiles. See the article on this page on "Iran's Sunburn Missile System". I have no doubt that US Naval high command realizes its bleak prospects in the region. In the summer of 2006, Hezbollah showed us that a single Chinese made anti-ship missile could easily knockout a highly sophisticated warship. The Iranian military today, immensely more capable than the Hezbollah, can deploy various missile systems that can hit any US Naval vessels found in the region. Imagine the political repercussions the sinking of an aircraft carrier will have within the home-front. Such an incident will be a public relations catastrophe; it may even compel Washington to consider a nuclear strike in retaliation.

But if Washington resorts to attacking Iran with tactical nuclear bombs, as it has threatened to do so on several occasions, Tehran also has the capability of hitting Israel's nuclear power plant at the Dimona facility in retaliation. Simple put, consequences of attacking Iran is too unpredictable and the many risks of such an action are too horrible to even consider.

Iran is not Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya

An attack on Iran can have disastrous repercussions for the entire region on many levels. Some today speak of the relative easy with which Iraq was defeated in 1991 and again in 2003, and they go on to suggest that Iran will be more-or-less the same. Foremost, as responsible members of human society, we should not be seeking the violent overthrow of the regime in Tehran, especially by non-Iranian interests. I personally would like to see sociopolitical change in Iran. This change, however, needs to be organic/native to Iran; it has to come from within Iranian society and without foreign meddling. 

Nevertheless, Iran will not capitulate; its population is too nationalistic, its military is very capable. After its military's collapse in the aftermath of the fall of the Western-backed Shah, Iran has systematically rebuilt its armed forces from scratch. During the past two decades they have invested hundreds of billions of their oil dollars on their military technology and infrastructure. Moreover, unlike Iraq in 1983, Iran has its nuclear research and development sites and its military command-and-control facilities spread-out throughout the country, many being located in undisclosed underground locations. Unlike Iraq, Iran deploys capable anti-aircraft missile systems. Unlike Iraq, Iran is much larger geographically, much larger demographically and its topography is much more rugged. Unlike Iraq, Iran is not an isolated nation. Also unlike Iraq, Iran is prepared for an eventual strike against it; they have in fact been preparing for it for many years.

On the diplomatic front, unlike Iraq and Libya, Iran is being assisted by Russia and China. Moreover, Tehran has a vital lifeline to the north open through Armenia. If the region descends into a full-scale war, there is a real possibility that Russian forces based in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will drive south and linkup with Armenian forces to ensure a direct line-of-communication with Iran. It is also imperative to note here that Russian forces in Armenia have been operating in relative isolation. As one of the consequences of its war with Russia back in the summer of 2008, Tbilisi has refused to allow Moscow passage to resupply its military installations in Armenia. In the event of a major war in the region, Russia's military high command will most probably attempt to linkup with their forces stationed in Armenia as a measure to help Iran and to secure its interests in the Southern Caucasus. A very interesting RT article about Moscow's options appears below this commentary. Please read it, the article references Armenia and, interestingly, it also discusses the military measure I referred to above.

The global community is facing a third world war

Psychological warfare operations against Iran are going forward full throttle and covert operations inside Iran by special forces are in full swing. Moreover, as we have been witnessing, they are also diligently working on the destruction of Syria to prevent Damascus from opening a diversionary front when military operations begin in Iran. This may all be a prelude to a possible military strike against Iran by as early as next spring. Western officials are not be crazy enough to attempt a ground invasion; such an undertaking would prove disastrous for them. The only realistic option they have on their planning table are airstrikes. Concurrent to these air strikes against Iran, we may also see the resumption of Israeli aggression against Lebanon and the Gaza strip. [Of course they recently released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners; they can now kill them all in the Gaza concentration camp with complete impunity.]

But a strike against Iran is not yet set in stone; it can still be thwarted, or at the very least delayed further! Had senior military officials in Washington and Tel Aviv felt confidant in a military strike against Iran, they would have attacked many years ago. The reason why Iran has not yet been attacked is the high level of uncertainty and anxiety within in Washington and Tel Aviv. Therefore, until they figure out what to do militarily, they will simply continue their threatening rhetoric, covert operations, economic sanctions
and reconnaissance. The uncertainty in Washington and Tel Aviv over attacking Iran is the reason why aggressive posturing by Tehran, Moscow and Beijing are crucially important. Tehran's enemies must be convinced that an attack against Iran may not be worth the risk.

Iran must not fall. If Iran falls as a result of Western intervention, the entire southern periphery of the Eurasian continent, from Spain to Pakistan, will more-or-less find itself under one management. It is well known that the Western alliance has two primary intentions in the region: economic exploitation of the energy rich region and a preventative geostrategic measure of making sure that no Eurasian power rises to challenge it.

Needless to say, Moscow and Beijing will not allow themselves to become passive spectators in this Great Game.
Thus, key in all this is what will Russia and to a lesser extent China do to forestall the Western-led campaign against Iran. Military officials in Moscow already seem to be preparing contingency plans and I'm pretty sure Washington is taking notice. Although an attack against Iran is not yet imminent, tensions in the region already saturated with troops and weaponry are currently very high; a misstep by any of the parties involved could prove catastrophic.

Although the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance is blinded by its long-term geostrategic pursuits, its arrogance and its blood-thirst, it is clear to the rest of us that a military strike against Iran can potentially trigger a major global confrontation.
The global community today is facing a third world war.


December, 2011

CrossTalk: Iran Baiting:

Iran spots US Navy near drill, 'ready for confrontation':

US court claims Iranian 9/11 link:

'Iran cornerstone of possible WW3 over Mid East':

Arab Spring a western ploy to control Eurasia:

Loose Cannon: Will Israel attack Iran?

'West looks over Syria shoulder to Iran intervention':

CNN discussion of drone's authenticity:


Global Warfare: Targeting Iran: Preparing for World War III

The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the World simultaneously.

Militarization at the global level is instrumented through the US military's Unified Command structure: the entire planet is divided up into geographic Combatant Commands under the control of the Pentagon. According to (former) NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon’s military road-map consists of a sequence of war theaters: “[The] five-year campaign plan [includes]... a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.” 
The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest. A War on Iran has been on the drawing board of The Pentagon since 2004. Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme is the pretext and the justification. Tehran is also identified as a "State sponsor of terrorism", for allegedly supporting the Al Qaeda network.In recent developments, what is unfolding is an integrated attack plan on Iran led by the US, with the participation of the United Kingdom and Israel. While the media has presented Israeli and British military planning pertaining to Iran as separate initiatives, what we are dealing with is an integrated and coordinated US led military endeavor. In early November, Israel confirmed that it is preparing to launch air attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities, without however acknowledging that this would be carried out as part of a US led initative:
Reportedly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently sought to drum up cabinet support for a military strike against the nuclear sites of the Islamic republic of Iran. In joint efforts with the defense minister Ehud Barak, Netanyahu has succeeded in wringing support for such a reckless act from the skeptics who were already opposed to launching an attack on Iran. Among those he managed to convince was Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.There are still those in the Israeli cabinet who are against such a move including Interior Minister Eli Yishai of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, Strategic Affairs Minister and Netanyahu confidant Moshe Yaalon, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, army chief Benny Gantz, the head of Israel's intelligence agency Tamir Pardo, the chief of military intelligence Aviv Kochavi and the head of Israel's domestic intelligence agency Yoram Cohen. However, the support voiced by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is considered an ace in the hole for Netanyahu who also enjoys the full-throated support of Washington. In a show of military prowess and obvious brinkmanship, Israel test-fired a nuke capable missile on Wednesday which cannot be taken as a coincidence considering the threat made by Netanyahu. ( Ismail Salami. An Israel Attack on Iran: Military Suicide , Global Research, November 3, 2011)
Meanwhile, the British government has also signified that it will participate in a US led attack on Iran:
The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government. In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign. They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East. (The Guardian, November 2, 2011
The War on Syria 
There is a military roadmap characterised by a sequence of US-NATO war theaters. In the wake of the war on Libya, there are also war plans directed against under NATO's Responsibility to Protect (R2P). These plans are integrated with those pertaining to Iran. The road to Tehran goes through Damascus. A US-NATO sponsored war on Iran would involve, as a first step, a destabilization campaign ("regime change") including covert intelligence operations in support of rebel forces directed against the Syrian government

The World is at dangerous crossroads.

Were a US-NATO military operation to be launched against either Syria or Iran, the broader Middle East Central Asian region extending from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with China would be engulfed in the turmoil of an extended regional war. There are at present four distinct war theaters: Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine and Libya. An attack on Syria would lead to the integration of these separate war theaters, eventually leading towards a broader Middle East-Central Asian war. In turn, a war on Syria would evolve towards a US-NATO military campaign directed against Iran, in which Turkey and Israel would be directly involved. It would also contribute to the ongoing destabilization of Lebanon.

Central to an understanding of war, is the media campaign which grants it legitimacy in the eyes of public opinion. A good versus evil dichotomy prevails. The perpetrators of war are presented as the victims. Public opinion is misled: “We must fight against evil in all its forms as a means to preserving the Western way of life.” Breaking the "big lie" which upholds war as a humanitarian undertaking, means breaking a criminal project of global destruction, in which the quest for profit is the overriding force. This profit-driven military agenda destroys human values and transforms people into unconscious zombies.

The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well organized grassroots antiwar network, across the land, nationally and internationally, which challenges the structures of power and authority. People must mobilize not only against the military agenda, the authority of the state and its officials must also be challenged. This war can be prevented if people forcefully confront their governments, pressure their elected representatives, organize at the local level in towns, villages and municipalities, spread the word, inform their fellow citizens as to the implications of a nuclear war, initiate debate and discussion within the armed forces.

The objective is to forcefully reverse the tide of war, challenge the war criminals in high office and the powerful corporate lobby groups which support them. Break the American Inquisition. Undermine the US-NATO-Israel military crusade. Close down the weapons factories and the military bases. Members of the armed forces should disobey orders and refuse to participate in a criminal war. Bring home the troops.


Moscow Optimizes its Military Grouping in the South

Russia prepares for an adequate response to Tel-Aviv and Washington’s possible strikes against Tehran

The geopolitical situation unfolding around Syria and Iran is prompting Russia to make its military structures in the South Caucasus, on the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions more efficient. Nezavisimaya Gazeta’s (NG) Defense Ministry sources are saying that the Kremlin has been informed about an upcoming US-supported Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The strike will be sudden and take place on “day X” in the near future. One could assume Iran’s reaction will not be delayed. A full-scale war is possible, and its consequences could be unpredictable.

This problem is currently being addressed as a priority issue at the EU-Russia summit in Brussels with the participation of President Dmitry Medvedev. A day before the event, Russia’s envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, relayed a message from the Kremlin, saying that an Israeli or US strike on Iran will lead to “a catastrophic development of events.” The diplomat stressed that the negative consequences will not only be felt by the region, “but also in a much broader context.” Russia’s direct diplomatic pressure on Europe and the global community in respect to issues concerning a possible war in Iran began recently after the IAEA’s publication of a report on the Iranian nuclear program in November.

However, in the military sphere, Russia’s preparations for minimization of losses from possible military action against Tehran began more than two years ago. Today, they are nearly complete. According to the Defense Ministry sources, the 102nd military base in Armenia was fully optimized in October-November 2011. Military personnel’s families have been evacuated to Russia, and the Russian garrison deployed near Yerevan reduced. Military sub-units stationed in the area have been transferred to Gyumri district, closer to the Turkish border. Strikes against Iranian facilities by US troops are possible from Turkish territory. So far, it is unclear as to what tasks the 102nd military base will perform in relation to this. But it is known that Russian troops stationed at military bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, have been on high alert since December 1 of this year. Meanwhile, ships of the Black Sea Fleet are located not far from the Georgian border which in this conflict could act on the side of the anti-Iranian forces.

In Izberbash, Dagestan, nearly adjacent to the Azerbaijani border, a coastal guided missile battalion equipped with onshore anti-ship Bal-E missile systems with a range of 130 km, have been put on permanent combat readiness status. All guided missile craft of the Caspian Flotilla have been redeployed from Astrakhan to Makhachkala and Kaspiysk districts to form a single group. Meanwhile, the flagship of the Flotilla, the sentry rocket ship “Tatarstan”, will soon be joined by the small gunboat "Volgodonsk” and missile ship “Dagestan”. The flagships of the Flotilla are equipped with missile systems with a range of up to 200 km.

Recently, the Northern Fleet’s aircraft carrier group with the heavy aircraft carrier “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov”, headed towards the Mediterranean with plans to ultimately enter the Syrian port of Tartus. NG’s sources from the Defense Ministry did not confirm or deny the fact that the surface warships are being accompanied by the Northern Fleet’s nuclear submarines. The tasks that will be carried out by the army and the navy in the event of a war against Iran are, of course, not being disclosed. But Russia’s Defense Ministry is apparently concerned about the logistical support of troops in Armenia. The 102nd military base is a key point as it is Russia’s outpost in the South Caucasus. It holds a very important geopolitical position. But Kremlin officials are worried that this position will be lost. In the event of a US-Israeli war against Iran, this will indeed be tragic for Russia.

In April of this year, Georgia broke the agreement on the transit of military cargo to Armenia from Russia. Essentially, the Russian-Armenian grouping in the South Caucasus has been isolated. Supplies to the Russian army (POL, food, etc.) are delivered only by air and through direct agreements with Armenia which, in turn, purchases these products (gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene) from Iran. A war in Iran will close this supply channel.

Lt.-Gen. Yury Netkachev, who for a long time served as the deputy commander of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus and was personally engaged in work on the supply of arms and ammunition to combined armed forces and units (including the 102nd military base), believes that, in the event of a full-fledged war against Iran, Russia will be looking to securely supply the military facility through Georgia. “Perhaps, it will be necessary to break the Georgian transport blockade and supply the transport corridors leading to Armenia by military means,” said the expert.

“Apparently, Russia’s Defense Ministry is also quite wary of Azerbaijan, which over the last three years has doubled its military budget and is currently buying Israeli drones and other advanced means of reconnaissance and topographic location, naturally aggravating Tehran and Armenia,” says head of the Center for Military Forecasting, Anatoly Tsyganok. “Baku has stepped up its pressure on Moscow, demanding significantly higher rental fees for the Gabala radar station. But even considering the disputes between Iran and Azerbaijan over oilfields in the south of the Caspian Sea, one could hardly argue that Baku will support an anti-Iranian military campaign. It is also very unlikely that it will unleash hostilities against Armenia.”

Col. Vladimir Popov, who was engaged in the analysis of hostilities between Baku and Yerevan between 1991 and 1993, and is currently following the military reforms conducted by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, disagrees with the expert. Popov believes that “the negotiation process on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict has been unreasonably delayed.” Baku is making open statements on revenge. “Azerbaijan pre-emptive strikes on Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, made in order to finally settle the territorial dispute in its favor, are possible,” says the expert. But, in his opinion, the question of how Russia will behave is important. “If in the midst of a war in Iran, Azerbaijan supported by Turkey, attacks Armenia, then, of course, all of the adversary’s attacks against Armenia will be repelled by Russia in conjunction with Armenian anti-missile defense forces. It’s hard to say whether or not this will be considered as Moscow’s involvement in military action. Russian troops will certainly not be engaged in military action on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. But in the event of a military threat to Armenia coming from Turkey or Azerbaijan, for example, Russia will apparently take part in ground operations,” says Popov.

The analyst does not exclude the possibility of Russia’s military involvement in the Iranian conflict. “In the worst-case scenario, if Tehran is facing complete military defeat after a land invasion of the US and NATO troops, Russia will provide its military support – at least on a military-technical level,” predicts Vladimir Popov.


Trouble in the region: Russian military base in Armenia as factor in possible war on Iran

The United States has stepped up sanctions against Iran amid ongoing information preparations for the possible application of force against Iran. Both the Islamic Republic and Russia, which remains a major player in the region, have warned that a military strike against Teheran may entail unpredictable consequences. But Russia has gone further and, in fact, stated that it will take part in the possible war, because it may affect its vital interests. Among these ‘vitally interests’ for Russia may also be its military base, which is located in Armenia and which also has the functions of protecting the security of the South Caucasus ally.

The influential Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper published an article on Thursday quoting sources as saying that the situation forming around Syria and Iran “causes Russia to expedite the course of improvement of its military groups in the South Caucasus, the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.” The paper quotes sources at the military department as saying that the Kremlin has been receiving information about plans for a U.S.-backed Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “The strike will be a sudden one and will happen soon, but the data is unspecified. Tehran’s response is likely to be quick, too, with the possibility of a full-scale war, whose consequences could be unpredictable,” the Russian newspaper writes.

“Military base 102 [situated in Gyumri, Armenia] is a key point, Russia’s outpost in the South Caucasus. It occupies a very important geopolitical position. But the Kremlin fears lest it should lose this situation,” the periodical adds. Remarkably, the Russian newspaper suggests a new war is possible between Russia and Georgia. It says that Georgia now blocks the only land transportation route for Russian military cargoes meant for the military base in Armenia, and even fuel now has to be obtained from Iran. “In fact, the Russian-Armenian group in the South Caucasus is already isolated. The war in Iran would mean the cutting of supplies through this channel.”

Russia has also decided to “strike” Azerbaijan, dropping hints that it is from its territory that Israel might attack Iran. On Thursday it was officially stated in Baku that Azerbaijan will not be used as a springboard for an attack on Iran. But military expert Colonel Vladimir Popov thinks that in such a situation Azerbaijan may also solve some of its problems as well.

“If against the background of the war in Iran, Azerbaijan, with the support of Turkey, attacks Armenia, then, of course, all the attacks of the enemy aircraft against Armenia will be resisted by Russia together with air defense units of the armed forces of Armenia. It is hard to say whether this will be considered as Moscow’s participation in military operations. Undoubtedly, Russian troops will not participate in hostilities in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. But in the event of a military threat to Armenia, for example, from Turkey or Azerbaijan, Russia is likely to engage in ground battles,” says Popov.


NATO Plans Campaign in Syria, Tightens Noose Around Iran - Russian Envoy

NATO is planning a military campaign against Syria to help overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad with a long-reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran, Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said. The UN Security Council condemned on Wednesday ongoing violence in Syria and urged the country's authorities to stop using force against peaceful protesters, while saying the current situation in the country has not yet called for NATO interference.

"[This statement] means that the planning [of the military campaign] is well underway. It could be a logical conclusion of those military and propaganda operations, which have been carried out by certain Western countries against North Africa," Rogozin said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published on Friday. The Russian diplomat pointed out at the fact that the alliance is aiming to interfere only with the regimes "whose views do not coincide with those of the West."

Rogozin agreed with the opinion expressed by some experts that Syria and later Yemen could be NATO's last steps on the way to launch an attack on Iran. "The noose around Iran is tightening. Military planning against Iran is underway. And we are certainly concerned about an escalation of a large-scale war in this huge region," Rogozin said. Having learned the Libyan lesson, Russia "will continue to oppose a forcible resolution of the situation in Syria," he said, adding that the consequences of a large-scale conflict in North Africa would be devastating for the whole world.


Iran Readies Plan to Close Strait of Hormuz

Iran's Revolutionary Guards are making preparations for a massive assault on U.S. naval forces and international shipping in the Persian Gulf, according to a former Iranian intelligence officer who defected to the West in 2001. The plans, which include the use of bottom-tethered mines potentially capable of destroying U.S. aircraft carriers, were designed to counter a U.S. land invasion and to close the Strait of Hormuz, the defector said in a phone interview from his home in Europe. They would also be triggered if the United States or Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on Iran to knock out nuclear and missile facilities.

"The plan is to stop trade," the source said.

Between 15 and 16.5 million barrels of oil transit the Strait of Hormuz each day, roughly 20 percent of the world's daily oil production, according to the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration. The source provided NewsMax parts of a more than 30-page contingency plan, which bears the stamp of the Strategic Studies Center of the Iranian Navy, NDAJA. The document appears to have been drafted in September or October of 2005.

The NDAJA document was just one part of a larger strike plan to be coordinated by a single operational headquarters that would integrate Revolutionary Guards missile units, strike aircraft, surface and underwater naval vessels, Chinese-supplied C-801 and C-802 anti-shipping missiles, mines, coastal artillery, as well as chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The overall plans are being coordinated by the intelligence office of the Ministry of Defense, known as HFADA. Revolutionary Guards missile units have identified "more than 100 targets, including Saudi oil production and oil export centers," the defector said. "They have more than 45 to 50 Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 missiles ready for shooting" against those targets and against Israel, he added.

The defector, Hamid Reza Zakeri, warned the CIA in July 2001 that Iran was preparing a massive attack on America using Arab terrorists flying airplanes, which he said was planned for Sept. 11, 2001. The CIA dismissed his claims and called him a fabricator. The source also identified a previously unknown nuclear weapons site last year to this writer, which was independently confirmed by three separate intelligence agencies. NewsMax showed the defector's documents to two native Persian-speakers who each have more than 20 years of experience analyzing intelligence documents from the Islamic Republic regime. They believed the documents were authentic.

A U.S. military intelligence official, while unable to authenticate the documents without seeing them, recognized the Strategic Studies Center and noted that the individual whose name appears as the author of the plan, Abbas Motaj, was head of the Iranian navy until late 2005. A former Revolutionary Guards officer, contacted by NewsMax in Europe, immediately recognized the Naval Strategic Studies institute from its Persian-language acronym, NDAJA. He provided independent information on recent deployments of Shahab-3 missiles that coincided with information contained in the NDAJA plan.

The Iranian contingency plan is summarized in an "Order of Battle" map, which schematically lays out Iran's military and strategic assets and how they will be used against U.S. military forces from the Strait of Hormuz up to Busheir. The map identifies three major areas of operations, called "mass kill zones," where Iranian strategists believe they can decimate a U.S.-led invasion force before it actually enters the Persian Gulf. The kill zones run from the low-lying coast just to the east of Bandar Abbas, Iran's main port that sits in the bottleneck of the Strait of Hormuz, to the ports of Jask and Shah Bahar on the Indian Ocean, beyond the Strait.

Behind the kill zones are strategic missile launchers labeled as "area of chemical operations," "area of biological warfare operations," and "area where nuclear operations start." Iran's overall battle management will be handled through C4I and surveillance satellites. It is unclear in the documents shared with NewsMax whether this refers to commercial satellites or satellite intelligence obtained from allies, such as Russia or China. Iran has satellite cooperation programs with both nations. The map is labeled "the current status of military forces in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, 1384." 1384 is the Iranian year that ends on March 20, 2006.

Iran plans to begin offensive operations by launching successive waves of explosives-packed boats against U.S. warships in the Gulf, piloted by "Ashura" or suicide bombers. The first wave can draw on more than 1,000 small fast-attack boats operated by the Revolutionary Guards navy, equipped with rocket launchers, heavy machine-guns and possibly Sagger anti-tank missiles. In recent years, the Iranians have used these small boats to practice "swarming" raids on commercial vessels and U.S. warships patrolling the Persian Gulf.

The White House listed two such attacks in the list of 10 foiled al-Qaida terrorist attacks it released on Feb. 10. The attacks were identified as a "plot by al-Qaida operatives to attack ships in the [Persian] Gulf" in early 2003, and a separate plot to "attack ships in the Strait of Hormuz." A second wave of suicide attacks would be carried out by "suicide submarines" and semi-submersible boats, before Iran deploys its Russian-built Kilo-class submarines and Chinese-built Huodong missile boats to attack U.S. warships, the source said.

The 114-foot Chinese boats are equipped with advanced radar-guided C-802s, a sea-skimming cruise-missile with a 60-mile range against which many U.S. naval analysts believe there is no effective defense. When Iran first tested the sea-launched C-802s a decade ago, Vice Admiral Scott Redd, then commander of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf, called them "a new dimension ... of the Iranian threat to shipping." Admiral Redd was appointed to head the National Counterterrorism Center last year.

Iran's naval strategists believe the U.S. will attempt to land ground forces to the east of Bandar Abbas. Their plans call for extensive use of ground-launched tactical missiles, coastal artillery, as swell as strategic missiles aimed at Saudi Arabia and Israel tipped with chemical, biological and possibly nuclear warheads. The Iranians also plan to lay huge minefields across the Persian Gulf inside the Strait of Hormuz, effectively trapping ships that manage to cross the Strait before they can enter the Gulf, where they can be destroyed by coastal artillery and land-based "Silkworm" missile batteries.

Today, Iran has sophisticated EM-53 bottom-tethered mines, which it purchased from China in the 1990s. The EM-53 presents a serious threat to major U.S. surface vessels, since its rocket-propelled charge is capable of hitting the hull of its target at speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour. Some analysts believe it can knock out a U.S. aircraft carrier. The Joint Chiefs of Staff has been warning about Iran's growing naval buildup in the Persian Gulf for over a decade, and in a draft presidential finding submitted to President Clinton in late February 1995, concluded that Iran already had the capability to close the Strait of Hormuz.

"I think it would be problematic for any navy to face a combination of mines, small boats, anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, coastal artillery, and Silkworms," said retired Navy Commander Joseph Tenaglia, CEO of Tactical Defense Concepts, a maritime security company. "This is a credible threat." In Tenaglia's view, "the major problem will be the mines. Naval minefields are hard to locate and to sweep," and the United States has few minesweepers. "It's going to be like running the gauntlet getting through there," he said.

When Iran last mined the Gulf, in 1987-1988, several U.S. ships and reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers were hit, even though the mines they used were similar to those used in the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, Tenaglia said. The biggest challenge facing Iran today would be to actually lay the mines without getting caught. "If they are successful in getting mines into the water, it's going to take us months to get them out," Tenaglia said.


The Worst Case For War With Iran

If you'd like to read a textbook example of war-mongering disguised as "analysis," I recommend Matthew Kroenig's forthcoming article in Foreign Affairs, titled "Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option." It is a remarkably poor piece of advocacy, all the more surprising because Kroenig is a smart scholar who has done some good work in the past. It makes one wonder if there's something peculiar in the D.C. water supply.

There is a simple and time-honored formula for making the case for war, especially preventive war. First, you portray the supposed threat as dire and growing, and then try to convince people that if we don't act now, horrible things will happen down the road. (Remember Condi Rice's infamous warnings about Saddam's "mushroom cloud"?) All this step requires is a bit of imagination and a willingness to assume the worst. Second, you have to persuade readers that the costs and risks of going to war aren't that great. If you want to sound sophisticated and balanced, you acknowledge that there are counterarguments and risks involved. But then you do your best to shoot down the objections and emphasize all the ways that those risks can be minimized. In short: In Step 1 you adopt a relentlessly gloomy view of the consequences of inaction; in Step 2 you switch to bulletproof optimism about how the war will play out.

Kroenig's piece follows this blueprint perfectly. He assumes that Iran is hellbent on getting nuclear weapons (not just a latent capability to produce one quickly if needed) and suggests that it is likely to cross the threshold soon. Never mind that Iran has had a nuclear program for decades and still has no weapon, and that both the 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates have concluded that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran is pursuing an actual bomb. He further assumes -- without a shred of evidence -- that a nuclear-armed Iran would have far-reaching geopolitical consequences. For example, he says that other states are already "shifting their allegiances to Tehran" but doesn't offer a single example or explain how these alleged shifts have anything to do with Iran's nuclear program.

He also declares, "With atomic power behind it, Iran could threaten any U.S. political or military initiative in the Middle East with nuclear war." Huh? If this bizarre fantasy were true, why couldn't the former Soviet Union do similar things during the Cold War, and why can't other nuclear powers make similar threats today when they don't like a particular American initiative? The simple reason is that threatening nuclear war against the United States is not credible unless one is willing to commit national suicide, and even Kroenig concedes that Tehran is not suicidal. Nuclear weapons are good for deterring attacks on one's own territory (and perhaps the territory of very close allies), but that's about it. They are not good for blackmail, coercive diplomacy, or anything else. And if Kroenig is right in warning that an Iranian nuclear weapon might lead others to develop them too, then Iran would end up being deterred by the United States, by Israel, and by some of its other neighbors too. (As I've noted before, Iran's awareness of this possibility may be one reason why Tehran has thus far stayed on this side of the nuclear threshold.)

Kroenig also declares that a nuclear-armed Iran would force the United States to "deploy naval and ground units and potentially nuclear weapons across the Middle East, keeping a large force in the area for decades to come." But why? Iran's entire defense budget is only about $10 billion per year (compared with the nearly $700 billion the United States spends on national defense), and it has no meaningful power-projection capabilities. Thus, contrary to what Kroenig thinks, containing/deterring Iran would not add much to U.S. defense burdens. The Persian Gulf is already an American lake (from a military point of view), and Washington already has thousands of nuclear weapons in its own arsenal. Given how weak Iran really is, containing or deterring them for the foreseeable future will be relatively easy.
The key point is that Kroenig offers up these lurid forecasts in a completely uncritical way. He never asks the probing questions that any security scholar with a Ph.D. should axiomatically raise and examine in a sophisticated manner. Instead, his article is a classic illustration of worst-case analysis, intended to make not going to war seem more dangerous than peace.

When he turns to the case for using force, however, Kroenig offers a consistently upbeat appraisal of how the war would go. (Needless to say, this is not the kind of analysis one would expect from a Georgetown professor.) He knows there are serious objections to his proposed course of action, and he works hard to come up with reasons why these concerns should be not be taken seriously. What if Iran has concealed some of its facilities? Such fears are overblown, he thinks, because our intelligence is really, really good. (Gee, where have we heard that before?) What about facilities that are hardened or defended? Not an insurmountable obstacle, he maintains, and in any case there are plenty of other facilities that are aboveground and vulnerable.

Isn't there a danger of civilian casualties? Well, yes, but "Washington should be able to limit civilian casualties in any campaign." What if Iran escalates by firing missiles at U.S. allies, ordering its proxies to attack Israel, or closing the Strait of Hormuz to oil shipments? Not to worry, says Kroenig, "None of these outcomes is predetermined," and the United States "could do much to mitigate them." (Of course, none of the scary outcomes that Kroenig says would accompany an Iranian bomb are "predetermined" either.) Doesn't starting a war increase the risk of regional conflict, especially if Iran retaliates and Americans or Israelis die? Maybe, but not if the United States makes its own "redlines" clear in advance and if it takes prudent steps to "manage the confrontation." To do this we have to be willing to "absorb Iranian responses that [fall] short of these redlines" and reassure the mullahs that we aren't trying to overthrow them (!). Bombing another country is a peculiar way to "reassure" them, of course, and it's a bit odd to assume that those wicked Iranians will be cooperative and restrained as the bombs rain down. Won't Iran just reconstitute its nuclear program later, and possibly on a crash basis? It might, but Kroenig says that we would have bought time and that whacking the Iranians really hard right now might convince them to give up the whole idea. Or not.

You see the pattern: When Kroenig is trying to justify the need for war, he depicts an Iran with far-reaching capabilities and dangerously evil intentions in order to convince readers that we have to stop them before it is too late. But when he turns to selling a preventive war, then suddenly Iran's capabilities are rather modest, its leaders are sensible, and the United States can easily deal with any countermeasures that Iran might take. In other words, Kroenig makes the case for war by assuming everything will go south if the United States does not attack and that everything will go swimmingly if it does. This is not fair-minded "analysis"; it is simply a brief for war designed to reach a predetermined conclusion.

And let's be crystal clear about what Kroenig is advocating here. He is openly calling for preventive war against Iran, even though the United States has no authorization from the U.N. Security Council, it is not clear that Iran is actively developing nuclear weapons, and Iran has not attacked us or any of our allies -- ever. He is therefore openly calling for his country to violate international law. He is calmly advocating a course of action that will inevitably kill a significant number of people, including civilians, some of whom probably despise the clerical regime (and with good reason). And Kroenig is willing to have their deaths on his conscience on the basis of a series of unsupported assertions, almost all of them subject to serious doubt.

Kroenig tries to allay this concern by saying that the main victims of a U.S. attack would be the "military personnel, engineers, scientists, and technicians" working at Iran's nuclear facilities. But even if we assume for the moment that this is true, would he consider Iran justified if it followed a similar course of action, to the limited extent that it could? Suppose a bright young analyst working for Iran's Revolutionary Guards read the latest issue of Foreign Affairs and concluded that there were well-connected people at American universities and in the Department of Defense who were actively planning and advocating war against Iran. Suppose he further concluded that if these plans are allowed to come to fruition, it would pose a grave danger to the Islamic Republic. Iran doesn't have a sophisticated air force or drones capable of attacking the United States, so this bright young analyst recommends that the Revolutionary Guards organize a covert-action team to attack the people who were planning and advocating this war, and to do whatever else they could to sabotage the forces that the United States might use to conduct such an attack. He advises his superiors that appropriate measures be taken to minimize the loss of innocent life and that the attack should focus only on the "military and civilian personnel" who were working directly on planning or advocating war with Iran. From Iran's perspective, this response would be a "preventive strike" designed to forestall an attack from the United States. Does Kroenig think a purely preventive measure of this kind on Iran's part would be acceptable behavior? And if he doesn't, then why does he think it's perfectly OK for us to do far more?


10 Factors That May Lead to War With Iran

Over the last several days, much time has been spent speculating about the likelihood of war with Iran. Several encouraging pieces have been written indicating that the war is unlikely thanks to international pressure for the U.S. to back off, particularly from China and Russia. Others have indicated that Israel will not launch attacks against Iran. I sincerely pray they are right. Unfortunately, while I hope I am wrong, it seems necessary to draw attention to some disturbing conditions surrounding the possibility of war with Iran.

1. New “nuclear concerns” have arisen.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released a new report that indicates Iran may be working on nuclear warhead components. Such reports are supposed to be confidential and are delivered only to “member states,” but they are quickly leaked. The newest report is no exception. Such reports are already being used by those pining for war to create public panic. It might be the justification they hoped for.

2. Britain is increasingly supportive of war.

Britain has already begun to make threatening military gestures toward Iran. One article in The Guardian states,
Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program, The Guardian has learned. The Ministry of Defense believes the U.S. may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, U.K. military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government. In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign. They also believe the U.S. would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East.
In other words, not only are the British making public military “contingency”plans, but they are already forming a coalition with the U.S. and giving a kind of permission to attack Iran.

3. Israel is still saber-rattling.

Last week, Israeli leaders began debating the merits of preemptive strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Some have suggested that these (and Britain’s actions as well) are merely rhetorical tools intended to create more severe international pressure on Iran. Perhaps that will work. After all, China and France came out to pressure Iran just last week. Let’s hope it is simply a ploy. But there is also a point to be made that such threats and saber-rattling have been the cause of actual military conflict in the Middle East before. The 1967 war, for example, between Israel and the Arab coalition of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria began with political threats, not overt military actions. It has been accurately pointed out that Israel would be insane to attack Iran by itself, but that would never happen given America’s allegiance to Israel and the current push for war in the U.S. No, Israel would not go it alone, but it wouldn’t have to.

4. The alleged assassination ploy didn’t work.

Someone has been trying to incite war with Iran in more direct ways recently. But who knew that people would question that an Iranian-American used-car salesman from Texas would work with the Iranian government in recruiting help from a Mexican drug cartel to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador on American soil? Strangely, people doubted. With that ploy ruined, more serious tactics must be sought to justify increased aggression against Iran, something many in Washington have wanted for years. And they want it badly enough to throw out this kind of ridiculous plot. I mean, if this story were made into a movie, it would be bad enough for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez to co-star in.

5. The calls for sanctions have failed.

As soon as the story of the alleged assassination plot broke, many began calling for stern action against Iran. “They must pay,” “all options are on the table,” and whatnot. Severe economic sanctions were the first proposal, but they have been met with resistance from many in the international community. So, with the assassination story going over with a thud and the calls for sanctions failing internationally, what will be done to hold Iran accountable for its ongoing nuclear program and (yes, Washington still pretends to believe this) its attempt to kill the Saudi ambassador?

6. Democrats are pressuring Obama for sanctions anyway.

Some Democrats are seeking to push the sanctions forward despite the problems that may develop in the oil market. For example, Rep. Adam Smith said, “All these steps entail huge risks, but our best approach is to continue to ramp up economic pressures.” Rep. Howard Berman, another Democrat, even proposed a bill that would require the president to sanction Iran (particularly its central bank) under broad conditions, not limited to the development of nuclear weapons.

7. Iran has stated that sanctions would be an “act of war.”

Such pressure from the Democrats comes even in light of Iran’s statement that it would consider such sanctions an “act of war.”

8. Republicans are calling for war.

It is surprising to some that Democrats are taking a hard line on sanctioning Iran, but of course no one can outdo the Republican hawks. Many of them are calling for all-out war. In a New York Times article published Monday, several GOP presidential candidates indicated their support for military action. (Ron Paul strongly disagreed.) Rick Perry said the U.S. should use any method in dealing with Iran, “up to and including military action.” Herman Cain warned Iran that “he would equate an attack on Israel with an attack on the United States,” and Michele Bachmann echoed that sentiment. Mitt Romney said he would also consider military options against Iran. Rick Santorum has been calling for war with Iran for years now, and he has even publicly supported Israel’s use of preemptive strikes. Newt Gingrich, another GOP presidential candidate, has been beating the war drum against Iran and North Korea for some time now. While such calls from the opposition could cause President Obama to reject tangling with Iran, when coupled with pressure from Democrats, they may not. Not only that, the bipartisan support for war may be an indication of how the U.S. Congress would vote in the off chance Obama sought their approval for war.

9. Obama desperately wants to be reelected.

In 2004, one of the tactics of the Bush reelection campaign was to point out that a nation should not change its commander in chief in the middle of an ongoing war. Even the press pointed this out. Similarly, the late David Broder, an influential journalist for The Washington Post and 400-time guest on Meet the Press, argued last year that Obama needs war with Iran to gain conservative support for his reelection and spur the economy. Crazy? Yes, but it could be just crazy enough to work. Americans love war, after all.
10. America is arrogant, and arrogance makes you stupid.

This is really more of a summary than a separate point. Democrats and Republicans are both calling for sanctions and/or military action against Iran, in spite of the tremendous spike this would cause in oil prices and international tension. Arrogance makes you stupid. One could have taken heart in knowing that other nations would resist our actions, because Americans love building “coalitions.” But, as the days unfold, Israel’s cries for preemptive strikes have gotten louder, and Britain has jumped on the bandwagon. Israel and Britain are buckled up, just waiting for America to climb in and drive the car into yet another war. And when was the last time common sense, good judgment, and love for peace so dominated American policy that we were talked out of war? I hope I am wrong. I pray that cooler heads will prevail, but I fear there are too few cool heads leading America.


12 Consequences of Attacking Iran

The murdered Israeli leader Gen. Yitzhak Rabin opposed the First Gulf War in 1990, warning that one never knows when starting a war where it will lead. As Bush and the neocons are reportedly planning to attack Iran, we should all think of the likely consequences.

Most Americans already believe that George Bush is not much influenced by facts, but rather by his ideology. Already he is reportedly thinking of his legacy and dreaming that history will prove him "right." More disturbing are his religious beliefs, in particular his daily readings of Scottish preacher Oswald Chambers, who argues that if plans and events go wrong, it just means that God is testing believers' faith, not that strategies should be changed. This may also explain Bush's aversion to diplomacy. After all, God does not "negotiate" with evil. Various reports state that Iran is years away from the ability to produce a single nuke. In a few years' time the government in Iran could easily change or modify its positions; indeed, already President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is losing power. But time is running out for Bush (although not for America).

An article about Iran in The American Conservative by former CIA officer Phil Giraldi says that Bush may attack before Tony Blair retires in April. Blair has already just sent two British minesweepers to the Gulf. U.S. war plans are reportedly counting on a few weeks of war (as they did with Iraq) to disable Iran's nuclear and military industries. The concept that the U.S. could simply destroy much of Iran then proclaim the war over neglects all the lessons of Iraq, namely that a wounded Muslim nation only gives up when it wants to. Repeatedly, the U.S. loses when we expect enemies to play by American rules. Following are consequences we must anticipate following such an American attack:

1. Iran wouldblockade the Straits of Hormuz. Iran has new, "state of the art" Russian anti-aircraft defenses as well as powerful Sunburn anti-ship missiles purchased from the Ukraine, Chinese mines, and also itself manufactures other missiles. Anti-ship mines may already be in place, able to be activated from shore.

U.S. strategy calls for destroying all the anti-ship missile emplacements and small missile and mine-laying boats long deployed along Iran's coastline. Obviously, a surprise U.S. attack may miss some Iranian weaponry, or U.S. Navy anti-missile systems may not work to defend all ships in the Gulf. Probably Iran would try to sink tankers (see a projected scenario) to set off a worldwide panic for oil rather than just aim at U.S. Navy ships. Even the threat of this would cause insurance rates to skyrocket and possibly shut down the straits. Just the risk of all this happening should be cause of great concern for America and the whole world.

2. War quickly gets out of hand. U.S. plans to destroy Iran's anti-aircraft and military infrastructure could easily escalate to destroying Iran's oil-loading and shipment facilities. This would take even more millions of barrels off the market for a prolonged period. If Bush/Cheney hadn't shown themselves to be so incompetent, one might imagine it was a plan of their Texas oil friends to raise oil prices to the stratosphere. Jim Cramer warned on MSNBC's Scarborough Country on Jan. 30 that war would quickly drive U.S. gas prices to $5 per gallon.

The far greater risk is that Iran would then retaliate against the hopelessly exposed Kuwaiti, Saudi, and Gulf states oil facilities. Iran has already warned Qatar, where the U.S. has CENTCOM, that its vast gas compression facilities would be targeted if it allows a U.S. attack. Washington announced that it was sending Patriot missiles to defend our "allies," but there is no assurance that these would all work. After all, only one Iranian missile (or ground attack from sympathetic Shias) would need to get through. Also, the Bush administration has made secret the publication of test results for the U.S. anti-missile program. This could easily cover up corruption and incompetence. We already now are finding out that some of our largest defense contractors have designed ships for the Coast Guard that aren't even seaworthy.

3. The whole world's prosperity would be at risk if oil didn't flow again quickly. Any such severe shock to the world economy would cause foreigners to cut back on financing U.S. deficits, with a consequent sharp rise in U.S. interest rates. This would cause very severe repercussions to the whole U.S. economy and government spending. Any real constriction of the Chinese economy would cause a collapse in worldwide commodity prices, with consequent effects on Third World buying power.

4. American citizens and businesses in many nations would be under threat of attack by militant Iranians and other Muslims. War would multiply our terrorist enemies tremendously. Administration officials keep arguing that by fighting in the Middle East we are avoiding terrorist attacks in America. This is the usual American "body count" way of fighting wars. The reasoning assumes that the number of terrorists is somehow finite. But if we keep creating more enemies, we then increase the risk of reprisals inside the U.S.

5. The attack would make America even more suspect and hated in the whole Islamic world. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security adviser, told Congress the war in Iraq was a calamity and was likely to lead to "a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large."

6. War would greatly increase Russian power vis-à-vis Europe as the latter would become even more dependent upon Russian energy supplies. Already a majority of Europeans think that Washington is the greatest threat to world peace. War would severely strain the American alliance. In Latin America, new, higher oil prices would further strengthen President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, giving him more money to subsidize further damage against American interests all over the continent.

7. We don't know the effectiveness of the Russian and Chinese weapons that have been sold to Iran. There is a risk that they might be very effective.

8. We might even lose an aircraft carrier. Bush's plan may be to provoke Iran to attack first by putting ships in harm's way in the narrow Gulf. He may be thinking that after such an attack he would have all Americans behind him in retaliating against Iran. It is hard to know what is in his (and Cheney's) mind, but we do know that they are ignorant and full of wishful thinking.

9. American forces in Iraq would be very vulnerable to modern war supplies from Iran, for example, effective anti-tank weaponry such as that used by Hezbollah to destroy dozens of Israeli tanks. The long U.S. supply convoys from Kuwait would be subject to much greater attacks. A sustained Iranian missile attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad or the Doha base camp in Kuwait could kill many Americans.

10. War would curtail the great influence of the religious Right in Washington. Christian fundamentalists are the backbone of support for continuing wars and chaos in the Middle East (see Armageddon Lobby). Their power would finally backfire as more Americans become wary of leaders who claim a direct line to God. The fundamentalists' passion for war, callousness towards the death of foreigners, fear and (almost total) ignorance of the outside world, and unstinting support for police state measures out of Washington have already discredited them among many Americans. Their fomenting another war would be a final blow.

11. The disasters for America could also weaken and challenge the power of the Israel Lobby, especially AIPAC. At least that is the concern of writers at the major Jewish newspaper The Forward. The writers note concern for the perceptions that Israeli interests fomented the attack on Iraq. The antiwar and anti-empire movement is also heavily Jewish, but without "the New York money people" pushing America into war with Iran, as warned by Gen. Wesley Clark.

12. Finally, another war might be the final nail in the Republican coffin for a generation. The party would fracture. Republicans may be the "Daddy Party," which once was thought to provide masculinity to foreign policy, but as James Pinkerton says, "If dad keeps wrecking the car, then there may be reason to change."

'Bring It On': Why Dr. Ahmadinejad Is Not Worrying
The Iranians are contemplating two developments. First, to create a new oil exchange in March 2006, which will sell Iranian oil for euros. Second, to develop the nation's nuclear technology capabilities, possibly for producing nuclear weapons, but officially for the generation of electricity.

Officially, the Bush Administration is deeply concerned about the second development. I have no doubt that it is deeply concerned in a surrogate sort of way, because politicians in the State of Israel are deeply concerned. They resent the fact that an Islamic country that is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (1970) is taking steps that might conceivably lead to a deliberate violation of that treaty – a treaty that the State of Israel never signed, so as not to interfere with the production of hundreds of nuclear weapons.

In contrast to its official concern over Iran's nuclear developments, the Bush Administration says not a word publicly about the first development, strictly peaceful, which would create new international demand for euros in place of dollars. This could break apart the lock-step decision of OPEC governments to accept payment only in dollars, a possibility welcomed by the Islamic press.

In an era when the dollar is the world's reserve currency, held by central banks as a legal reserve for their nations' domestic currencies, central bankers inflate their domestic currencies in order to purchase dollar-denominated, low-return investment assets. This is part of the mercantilism of central banking: an indirect subsidy to the domestic export sectors at the expense of monetary stability and also consumer sovereignty at home.

The introduction of a new oil market transacted in euros is a significant symbolic challenge to U.S. economic leadership. Symbols are important, which is why political leaders adopt them. After all, President Bush did not have to be flown in a naval jet from San Diego's Naval Air Station to the Abraham Lincoln, which was floating just far enough away from San Diego to make a helicopter flight plausibly unacceptable. The carrier could have come a few miles closer to shore on the day before the famous "Mission Accomplished" photo-op and speech, which remains on the White House website: President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended. But, as the title of that speech reveals, symbols are not a politically safe substitute for reality.

How safe is Iran? To answer this crucial question, consider how it might be answered by Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


The President of Iran holds a Ph.D. in engineering. Presumably, he has a working concept of cause and effect. He rules in a Shi'ite-dominated nation that is sitting on top of what are the second-largest oil reserves in the world: 126 billion barrels. Iraq, commonly cited as number two, is probably number three, and given its present pipeline infrastructure and delivery problems, not a major factor.

He has replaced rule by the mullahs, who have been unable to persuade Iran's youth to give up Western fashions, music, and dreams of economic prosperity. Yet toned-down attacks on Khomeini's "Great Satan" still have a political market. The President regards himself as what the American political tradition designates as a populist. He still lives in a small house in a working class neighborhood. Symbols do count for something. From what we can tell from his language, he is a certifiable apocalyptic. He has said publicly that his work must prepare the way for the return of the Mahdi, Islam's long-expected messianic deliverer.

In December 2005, after the crash of an ancient C-130 military plane in which 108 people died, he made : "But what is important is that they have shown the way to martyrdom which we must follow." This was a calculated political statement that was aimed at the hearts of tens of millions of Shi'ite voters. He who assumes otherwise does not understand the rhetoric of successful politicians. They know their market.

Why would this man fear an air attack by the United States? What has he got to lose?


Consider his situation. He presides over a country whose majority regards Iran as a working political and spiritual model for the rest of Islam. Iran has oil. It is modernizing. It is Shi'ite. Shi'ites have now seen the defeat of their long-time Sunni enemy, Iraq. The elected government in Iraq is predominantly Shi'ite. He has positioned himself as the Middle East's preeminent nose-tweaker of the United States. In his November 17, 2005 speech before the United Nations General Assembly, he challenged the moral authority of the United States government to oppose Iran's development of nuclear power. He did not mention the United States by name. He did not need to. His audience understood.

Thousands of nuclear warheads that are stockpiled in various locations coupled with programs to further develop these inhuman weapons have created a new atmosphere of repression and the rule of the machines of war, threatening the international community and even the citizens of the countries that possess them.

Ironically, those who have actually used nuclear weapons, continue to produce, stockpile and extensively test such weapons, have used depleted uranium bombs and bullets against tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Kuwaitis, and even their own soldiers and those of their allies, afflicting them with incurable diseases, blatantly violate their obligations under the NPT, have refrained from signing the CTBT and have armed the Zionist occupation regime with WMDs, are not only refusing to remedy their past deeds, but in clear breech of the NPT, are trying to prevent other countries from acquiring the technology to produce peaceful nuclear energy.

All these problems emanate from the fact that justice and spirituality are missing in the way powerful governments conduct their affairs with other nations. He was killing two birds with one rhetorical stone, linking the Great Satan with the Middle East's universally hated nation, and then blaming the United States for that pariah nation's nuclear weapons capabilities.

How could this speech hurt him back home? How could it hurt him in Islamic streets? What if the United States drops assorted non-nuclear weapons on Iran before the bourse opens? The potential targets are many; the underground facilities will be hard to destroy. But what if all of them are taken out?

Iran instantly wins the legitimacy sweepstakes. Dr. Ahmadinejad becomes the first universally respected Shi'ite political leader in the Sunni- and Wahhabi-dominated Middle East. All across the Middle East, restive Muslims in the streets will start murmuring: "Where is our leader? Why doesn't he stand up to the United States?" The answer is obvious: because he has long been bought off by the United States. Because, in the immortal words of Lyndon Johnson, the United States has his pecker in its pocket.

There will soon be a lot of newly exposed members at risk. An unprovoked American attack on Iran will instantly and permanently de-legitimize every American client state in the Middle East. If the United States bombs Iran, the Bush Administration might as well send that "Mission Accomplished" banner to Al Qaeda headquarters.

The crucial issue here is political legitimacy of the nation-state. This is the supreme political issue of our day, as the great Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld has argued in his book, The Rise and Decline of the State (Cambridge University Press, 1999). It is also the supreme strategic issue of fourth-generation warfare, the warfare of the rest of this century. The day the bombs begin to fall, the mullahs will join ranks with teenagers in the streets of Tehran. Dr. Ahmadinejad will become as politically immune from public criticism as Mr. Bush was on September 12, 2001.


The day after the bombs begin to fall on Iran, clandestine weapons will begin to flow westward across the Iran-Iraq border. The Shi'ites in Iraq will instantly become the long-lost cousins of the Sunni resistance movement. There is an old Muslim saying, "My brother and I against our cousin. We and our cousin against the world."

The United States' troops on the ground will discover the deadly power of that alliance. All co-operation from the Shi'ites will cease. There will be a unified anti-American front south of the Kurdish region. The United States will be told to get out. If the government of Iraq does not issue this order immediately, its members had better be sure to renew their life insurance policies. The Iraqi army will melt into the countryside. Anyone who stands up will be shot down.


President Bush can issue warnings. The Administration can talk tough. But what is the point? The President of Iran can call the President of the United States's bluff, if it is a bluff. He is doing this, day by day. He is not going to cooperate with the United Nations. There is no need to. If it is not a bluff, and the bombs fall, the United States' client regimes in the Middle East are as good as gone. We will then be driven out of Iraq. This message will be fully understood by every Muslim in the street. The Great Satan can be whipped. No better reason exists to start looking for a local client to whip.


Iran cannot be occupied by U.S. troops. As retired four-star general and NBC commentator Barry McCaffrey said in mid-2005, the wheels are already close to coming off the Army's machine in Iraq. So, the enforcement of any anti-nuclear technology development program is a bluff.

Iran's program can be delayed a few years by bombing, but only at the price of solidifying Dr. Ahmadinejad's rule in Iran and making him a regional symbol of Islamic defiance. In this non-elected office, he will replace Osama bin Laden. The difference is, Ahmadinejad is a legitimately elected President of a nation with a lot of oil.

This is about oil, political power, currencies, and above all, legitimacy. It is about the ability of the United States to change regimes its way and then preserve these new regimes from replacement by domestic enemies. The United States and its client state regimes will be replaced in the Middle East. It is only a matter of time. If the United States bombs Iran, the timetable will speed up. You may have heard of the catbird seat. Dr. Ahmadinejad is sitting in it.


Bye Bye, American Lie

The biggest foreign policy event of the past few weeks has been the UN Security Council vote on the draft resolution on Syria, tabled by a US-led group of Western countries and eventually vetoed by Russia and China. The United States and its allies were hoping to push through a resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad and his government for their crackdown on anti-government protesters, which would provide for an increased international pressure on Damascus, and possibly pave the way for a military operation. Their intended scenario appeared similar to that in Libya: using the country’s internal violence to justify an intervention and launching an air strike campaign to depose Syria’s present government. But this time, Russia and China made it clear they would not allow the West to stage the same stunt in Syria.

Following this slapdown, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that Moscow and Beijing would now have to “explain their vetoes to the Syrian people.” What I find most remarkable is how the United States always manages to assume a self-righteous posture and point fingers without even trying to apply a similar reasoning to itself.

For starters, why doesn’t Washington try to explain itself to the people of Iraq? What do you say was your case for invading that country – and whatever it was, was it worth the 100,000 to 300,000 civilians that have since perished there? Furthermore, Senator Clinton should have something to tell the people of Afghanistan with regard to all the “collateral damage” regularly inflicted by coalition forces. Last but not least, the US and NATO owe an explanation for the ongoing bombing campaign in Libya, which was launched on the pretext of protecting the civilian population and has claimed hundreds of civilian lives, including women and children, with NATO jets pulverizing urban neighborhoods for their own safety.

Secretary of State Clinton’s rant has testified to the fact that the US under President Obama is not giving up its double standards on foreign affairs, not by a long shot. All its human rights rhetoric and posturing boils down to a familiar attitude: we are the force for good, and we define what “good” means, so either you jump on our bandwagon or shut up. The bottom line is that, in stark contrast to US actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, Russia has not committed any crimes against civilians in Syria. So it is not Russia that owes an explanation.

The veto imposed by Russia and China was to be expected. Neither Moscow nor Beijing would like to see the Libyan scenario replayed in Syria. The UNSC Resolution 1973 on Libya has taught the world a lesson, as it was used by NATO to provide direct military support to the insurgents by supplying them with arms and deploying spec op squads in a supposedly internal conflict.

The UNSC vote on Syria was also telling in that three other up-and-coming international players chose to abstain from it: Brazil, India and South Africa, which form the BRICS together with Russia and China. The policy makers in Washington had presumably pushed for the vote hoping that Moscow and Beijing would eventually back down and not go as far as exercising their right to veto. Turns out they guessed wrong.

The argument in the Security Council saw a proper exchange of harsh criticism between the US and Russian delegations. Russia’s Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin blasted the Western draft resolution, saying it could “spark off a full-scale military conflict in Syria and eventually destabilize the entire region.”US Ambassador Susan Rice retorted by describing the Russian-Chinese stance as a “cheap ruse by those who would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime than stand with the Syrian people.” The Russian envoy returned the accusation, saying he found it odd that such criticism should come from the representative of a nation that has been “pumping hundreds of billions of dollars worth of military hardware into the area.”

The UNSC vote has also demonstrated that the world’s most prominent non-NATO countries are no longer willing to unquestioningly stand behind the United States and its allies in all of their military adventures. The stonewalled resolution on Syria is not a one-off, occasional failure of US diplomacy: it is a yet another event signaling a fundamental change in the global balance of power. America’s free-shoot bonanza of the 1990s–2000s is over, and there is no way Washington will turn the tide.


Avoiding War in Iran is Russia's Aim

No other sphere of Russia’s foreign policy is subject to such wide-ranging scrutiny as Moscow’s policy towards Iran, says Dmitry Babich. Conservative American analysts in think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation often view Russia as a tacit ally of Iran, turning a blind eye to its dangerous nuclear programme and ignoring the Iranian regime’s aggressive form of Islamist fundamentalism.

Israeli government officials, when visiting Moscow, persistently point to the divergence of Russia’s national interests with those of Iran, citing Russia’s own troubles with Islamist fundamentalism in the North Caucasus and, earlier, in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Obviously pursuing their country’s national interest, those Israeli officials believe in the possibility of a return to the very cold peace that existed between the Soviet Union and Iran in the Eighties, when Moscow was very wary of the effect of Ayatollah Khomeini’s teachings on its Muslim minorities.

So what is the Russian authorities’ attitude now? And where does Russia’s national interest in the Iranian question lie? The truth is that the Kremlin has been sending out a whole array of signals on the issue, some of which are contradictory. On the one hand, Russia stopped selling or transiting any kind of weapons to Iran, fulfilling UN resolution 1929, which was adopted in June 2010. This meant cancelling the contract to ship S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, which could have helped the Iranians to challenge Israel’s superiority in the air. On the other hand, Russia finished the construction of the nuclear power station in Bushehr. Where is the logic?

Actually, the logic is very simple: Russia is concerned about Iran’s nuclear programme. It has no sympathy for Islamist fundamentalism but, considering Iran is right next to Russia’s border and to the borders of Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic with a several million-strong Azeri minority in Iran, it is extremely keen to avoid a war breaking out on its doorstep. It is not too difficult to guess in which direction the Azeri minority would flee from Iran in the event of it being turned into a war zone. Azeris are already the biggest Muslim minority in Russia.

Hence Russia’s strong desire to see Iran at peace with other countries and to have a peaceful nuclear programme. Incidentally, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which Iran is a signatory, obliges nuclear powers to help non-nuclear countries to develop the peaceful use of atomic energy. The balancing act between Iran and the West, which Russia has to perform, however, is becoming more and more difficult.

It should be said that Iran has shown remarkable restraint in its reaction to a number of regional wars in which Russia has been a party in recent years. Unlike certain Western circles, Iran never provided help to anti-Russian mudjaheddin in Afghanistan or to the Chechen rebels, and it stayed largely neutral in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, despite an obvious temptation to show solidarity with its 
Muslim brothers.

Tehran’s restraint in Russia- related issues is ever more laudable, since Iran historically has had little positive sentiment about Russia. Modern Azerbaijan had for centuries been a part of the Iranian empire, and Georgia was in its zone of influence until the Russian tsars wrestled the territories away from Iran in the early 19th century. In his childhood, Ayatollah Khomeini was a witness to the joint Soviet-British occupation of Iran in 1941. But despite the troubled history, Iran’s rhetoric on Russia is in most cases less critical than that of some members of the EU .

The recent Western interventions in Iraq, and even more recently in Libya, make Russia suspicious of what lies behind Western hostility towards Iran. Iranian restraint in Afghanistan and the Caucasus makes Russians somewhat sceptical about the information on Iran’s support for extremists in the Middle East – a region which is becoming more and more distanced and estranged from Russia. Hence Russia’s unwillingness to see Iran condemned and punished by the West according to the Iraqi or Libyan scenario.


'Removing Saddam Strengthened Iran'

Political Islam expert Vali Nasr says the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq by the US during the invasion of the country in 2003 strengthened Iran's strategic viability and increased its regional popularity, especially among Iraq's Shia majority. Nasr, author of the recently published book The Shia Revival, says despite its defiant rhetoric Iran is really seeking open and wide-ranging normalisation talks with Washington. Professor of Middle East and South Asia Politics at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, Nasr was one several Middle East experts recently invited by George Bush, the US president, to brief him on internal Iraqi religious and political dynamics. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have voiced fears of a Shia revival in the wake of the invasion of Iraq. Will a sectarian war engulf this "new" Middle East?

Vali Nasr: I think in individual countries they do fear the Shia revival because, unfortunately, Iraq, which is the very first stage of transfer of power from Sunnis to Shia, has gone very badly for a variety of reasons. There was an enormous amount of blood shed in Iraqi politics for a very long time ... Iraq after 1991 became far more of a sectarian state than it was before, and the Americans mishandled many things - they weren't as prepared, which aggravated the situation. As did also the influx of foreign fighters with their own agenda who may have thought the best way to get the Americans out of Iraq was to provoke a civil war by generating sectarian violence, hitting the shrines … Secondly, the Shia want to avoid what happened in Iraq as do the Sunnis. So we are in a period of calm where the sectarian violence in Iraq is impacting all the debates about political transition, democracy, opening, and power sharing in the region.

Many have blamed Washington's policies for putting a defiant Iran in command of the Islamic street. Do you agree?

Yes and no. Saddam Hussein was definitely a bulwark against Iran because the Baathist government in Iraq was extremely anti-Iranian. It goes back to the days of the Shah ever since 1958. But now Iran will definitely have a greater say in any Iraqi government that comes to power and is friendlier to Iran - especially if that government is a Shia government.

Secondly, the US has become bogged down in Iraq in a major way militarily and that takes away from its capability to contain Iran. And Iran knows that. Part of Iran's power comes from the fact that it's very difficult to effectively contain it. The public mood in America is not in favour of military activity abroad ... when Israel was not able to beat Hezbollah in a country of only 3.5 million people, when 130,000 US troops are bogged down in Iraq, obviously Iran feels it has a lot more room to manoeuvre and say "no" to the international community and to the nuclear issue.

Also, while the Iranian power was on the rise in the 1990s, nobody was watching, the economy was growing and the price of oil went up, it became very wealthy. It's a country of 70 million people. There were many indicators that Iran was on the move during the [former Iranian President Mohammed] Khatami years. But the military edge of this, the more regional military edge of this, has only become evident now. Iran's reading of the Arab street has been fairly good. At the time when the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was in a stalemate, there was frustration and anger on the streets because of the fact that the peace process was not going anywhere.

There was increasing difficulty between Palestinians and Israelis and then Iraq was producing so much unhappiness in the region. The Iranians did not focus on winning support among the palaces of the Arab world. They went directly for the kind of things that make them very unpopular in the West and very popular on the Arab streets. So Iranian President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad started to attack Israel and question the Holocaust. That has damaged Iran greatly in terms of its diplomacy with the West. But these pictures were sold on the streets in Damascus and Beirut before the war between Israel and Hezbollah.

The recent conflict in Lebanon has boosted Hezbollah's popularity to an unprecedented level and has given the mullahs - Hezbollah's backers - greater leverage to use at the international bargaining table. What does Tehran really want?

There are big things that Tehran wants and there are little things that Tehran wants. Iran wants to be recognised as a great power in the region. It wants to be like India is in South Asia. They basically want their position to be accepted and acknowledged. And the nuclear issue is part of that. Iran wants to sit as an equal with the US and not be talked down to.

That should be an outcome of negotiations rather than a pre-condition for negotiations. Also, you are right, as time has passed particularly after the Lebanon war, Iran feels increasingly more confident not that the overall goal has changed but that they would like to make any kind of negotiation from a position of strength. I personally think they want to talk. That's why President Ahmadinejad gave an interview to CBS's Mike Wallace. That's why in his interview he complained about the fact that President Bush did not answer his letter, it's the reason why again he called for a public debate with Bush a few days ago. And they do condescendingly say they want to talk but not the way in which the West wants to talk.

Why won't the US talk to them?

There are multiple reasons. This Bush administration began by putting Iran in the axis of evil. There are domestic considerations for engaging in talks, for both countries. You become ultimately a prisoner of your own rhetoric.

Secondly, the US believes that Iran is not serious. And the US has not really made up its mind yet about normalising relations with Iran. Or what that means. What the US wants is for Iran to stop doing specific things that the US is bothered by: namely their support for Hezbollah, support for terrorism, stop meddling in Iraq, and above all suspension of uranium enrichment and ending the nuclear programme in Iran. But you know these are specific issues that the US would like Iran to deal with but it doesn't change the overall relation between the US and Iran. The Iranians argue that if they were to do these things, they would still be in a position of difficulty. Once Ahmadinejad said in his own usual crude way, "If we gave up the nuclear programme, they will ask for human rights. If we gave up human rights they will ask for animal rights."

The US is refusing to engage directly with Iran, but will oil interests force US–Iran reconciliation?

I don't know if it will impose reconciliation but it is definitely a pressure factor. First of all, it's very difficult even if everybody at the UN agreed to punish Iran economically by imposing sanctions on Iran because ultimately those sanctions will include the oil sector.

If you include oil sanctions on Iran, then the price of oil is going to go up dramatically in such a way that will impact Western economies and Japan far more quickly than it will impact Iran itself. So oil is a limiting factor on the United Nations and the US. Secondly, the easiest way in which Iran can always threaten any kind of counteraction is to attack oil tankers or to close off the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. And you know Iran does not even have to succeed there, just the threat of it will already send the prices up. As a result, Iran has the ability to impact oil markets in ways that would constrict US policymaking. I don't think it's necessarily a path to reconciliation so much as it is a path to preventing further escalation of tension.

With Iran remaining defiant and ignoring a deadline set by the UN Security Council to suspend enrichment of uranium, do you think it's more likely Israel will attack Iran before the US does?

I don't think it would be too likely for two reasons. One, Iran is not anywhere close to having a nuclear bomb. In fact, the very fact that the IAEA just said Iran has been going rather slow on the uranium enrichment indicated that they are having technical problems. Before Iran gets to a bomb it has to master many technologies, not just enrichment. They have to master bomb making and many other things before they can actually be a threat.

Many estimates, including US intelligence agencies, have put a time-frame anywhere from five to eight years away if all is well. So there is no imminent threat that would require a sort of military pre-emptive strike. We might actually be at a time-frame right now - despite the hard talk from both sides - that the cost of a military attack on Iran may be higher than the benefit. In other words, an attack won't achieve much; it will only push the nuclear programme back. But the political, military and security cost of attacking Iran will be higher than the gains you are going to get.

What is the key to breaking up Iran's hegemony in the region?

There is no easy solution to this. In other words, there could always be a military solution, but I don't think there is a good military solution, and if there is a war, it's not going to even change the regime. Like we saw in Lebanon, an attack will only stabilise the regime further, it will cause anger on the streets, and if Iran is attacked it won't have any incentives to play by the rules either. This will be tremendously destabilising to the Persian Gulf and to the whole region. Secondly, the countries in the region don't have the capability to contain Iran because they don't have the military capability to do so. Once upon a time Iraq and Iran balanced one another out. Saudi Arabia doesn't have that capability so they are going to look at the US to provide that military capability.

The question is, to what extent is the US committed to staying in the Persian Gulf. But ultimately I think for the Arab countries, particularly the Persian Gulf countries and the US, the best way is to find a way to engage Iran, give Iran an interest in stability and order in the region. When you keep a power like Iran out in the cold, you give it an incentive to try to show that it exists and matters. And that is something the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf are better positioned to do with support from the West than the West on its own.


Iran Strengthens Ties With Afghanistan

From cheap ice cream to 24-hour electricity, Iran is strengthening economic ties with western Afghanistan that could undermine support for U.S. and NATO forces. Western Afghanistan has a newly paved 75-mile stretch of highway between the Iranian border and its main city, Herat, courtesy of the Islamic republic. Iran is also considering building a rail line on the busy route, and has pledged another $560 million to help rebuild Afghan infrastructure and businesses.

"Iran is not going away from here," a Herat-based Western diplomat said. "The question is whether we can coexist in this region together and realize that some of our aims might even be the same when it comes to Afghanistan."

Tehran has built 10 schools and built several clinics in western Afghanistan, and paid for the equipment to provide electricity 24 hours a day in Herat, unlike in most other parts of the country, including the capital, Kabul. Iranian influence here dates back to ancient times and, while dependent on U.S. military and financial support, the Afghan government tries not to antagonize Iran, which currently houses about 2 million Afghan refugees.

"Our hope is for Afghanistan to be peaceful and stable because that would be good for the region," said an Iranian diplomat in Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media. "Everyone wants a stable neighbor." If Iran and the United States are at odds, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said, "we will stay out of it."


Iran 'is ready for war': Tehran vows to retaliate if Israel and the West attack nuclear plants

Iran ratcheted up tensions in the Middle East yesterday when its foreign minister declared the country was ‘ready for war’ with Israel and the West. In inflammatory remarks certain to fuel uncertainty in the volatile region, Ali Akbar Salehi warned that Tehran would ‘not hesitate’ to retaliate if attacked. His posturing came as Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Israel’s defence minister not to fan the flames during top-level talks in London.

Iran has come sharply back into focus following the end of the Libya conflict. Mr Hague made it ‘very clear’ to Ehud Barak – who reportedly favours a pre-emptive strike against the rogue Islamic state – to pursue a diplomatic solution. Iran’s hardliners, led by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been increasingly aggressive in recent weeks sparking fears that the belligerent regime is close to producing a nuclear bomb. Israel reacted on Wednesday by test-firing a new long-range missile. Downing Street has also been warned that Iran is concealing technology to enrich uranium – used in atomic weapons – in a mountain base beneath the city of Qom to protect it from air strikes.

Britain is now developing plans for military action against Iran amid mounting alarm about the nuclear threat from Ahmadinejad, who has vowed to ‘wipe Israel off the face of the earth’. Submarines armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Royal Navy warships could be deployed within range of Iran and RAF planes could carry out reconnaissance, surveillance and air-to-air refuelling. Diplomats in Whitehall are keen to rein in Iran using a diplomatic solution but admit that ‘all options should be kept on the table’.

However, the UK would take part only if the U.S. launched an attack.

Barack Obama is unlikely to strike before seeking re-election in a year, but the president is aware that action is needed before Iran acquires a nuclear bomb. Last night, Mr Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister, said the regime was ‘ready for war’ while on a visit to Libya. He said: ‘We have been hearing threats from Israel for eight years. Our nation is a united nation. Such threats are not new to us. 'We are very sure of ourselves. We can defend our country.’ He warned of retaliation a day after Iran’s chief of staff said Israel and the West would be ‘punished’ for any attack on its nuclear sites.

General Hassan Firouzabadi said: ‘We take every threat, however distant and improbable, as very real, and are fully prepared to use suitable equipment to punish any kind of mistake. ‘The United States is fully aware that a military attack by the Zionist regime on Iran will not only cause tremendous damage to that regime, but it will also inflict serious damage to the U.S.’ Iran insists it has a nuclear programme only to produce energy. But a report by the International Atomic Energy Association, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, to be published next week, will conclude that Iran is attempting to produce nuclear weapons in defiance of UN sanctions. Yesterday Mr Hague said it was vital to continue tackling ‘shared concerns such as ... the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear programme’.

Jim Murphy, Labour defence spokesman, said: ‘Iran’s efforts to acquire and weaponise nuclear capabilities are well known. 'The international community has a responsibility to prevent this from happening through a combination of economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts. ‘Should the Government be thinking of going beyond that, this would be a very serious development indeed.’ Meanwhile, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a probe into alleged leaks of plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Ministers in Tel Aviv believe that domestic opponents who authorised the leaks were undermining the government and ‘gambling with Israel’s national interest’.

In other developments, Mr Hague accused Israel of undermining peace efforts by accelerating settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He condemned the decision to build at least 2,000 apartments in Jewish-held areas in retaliation for Palestinian efforts to secure recognition as a state at the United Nations. Speaking after yesterday’s talks, Mr Hague insisted the UK remained ‘fully committed to Israel’s security’. But he said: ‘I urged Israel to revoke the plan for new settlements and to avoid further provocative steps which only make more difficult the attempt to facilitate a return to talks.

'These steps undermine efforts to achieve peace, and increase Israel’s isolation.’ 'The U.S. has unfortunately lost its wisdom and prudence in dealing with international issues. It only depends on power,' he said on a visit to the Libyan city of Benghazi. 'Of course we are prepared for the worst, but we hope they think twice before they put themselves on a collision course with Iran.' In an interview published in Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Mr Salehi had said that 'Iran was always ready for war'.

Work to develop nuclear facilities began in the 1990s, with the Russian Federation providing experts, although the U.S. blocked the trade of equipment or construction of technology for Iran. International attention was drawn to its developing nuclear potential in 2002 after an Iranian dissident revealed the existence of two sites that were under construction - a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sought access to these facilities, but it wasn't until 2003 that Iran agreed to cooperate with it and suspend enrichment activities. The investigation revealed Iran had failed to meet several obligations, including divulging the importation of uranium from China. The following year, work began on the construction of a heavy water reactor, but again Iran announced a suspension of uranium enrichment under the terms of the Paris Agreement.

After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election as president in August 2005, Iran removed the seals on its enrichment equipment and effectively rejected the Paris Agreement. President Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had successfully enriched uranium in a televised address in 2006, where he announced the country had joined those with nuclear technology.

Then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had urged the UN Security Council to consider 'strong steps' to force Tehran to shelve its nuclear ambitions. Subsequently the UN Security Council has passed seven resolutions on Iran insisting it ends its enrichment activities. These have included freezing the assets of people and organisations linked to its nuclear and missile programmes.Three nuclear scientists working on the programme have been killed in the last two years and a computer virus also affected enrichment at the Natanz plant in 2010.


Russia, China Warn US Against Attacking Iran

Faced with a round of threats and speculations of an impending war so shrill that it has sent oil prices soaring, Russia and China were quick today to caution the United States against launching an attack on Iran. Attacking Iran would be a “very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences,” warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while China expressed concern that the threats were harming the prospects of diplomacy. They are just the latest in a growing chorus of nations to express concerns about starting another major war. Germany has also said they oppose such a move. A growing number of US officials past and present have expressed a preference for launching a military attack on Iran soon, with an IAEA report alleging some vague allegations about computer simulations serving as the latest pretext. Israeli officials have also been hyping the prospect of launching an attack on Iran themselves, with President Shimon Peres insisted the war was “more likely” than any sort of diplomatic solution. Israeli military officials are said to prefer an attack before winter.

Iran Will Hit Israel First if US attacks

Rear Admiral says Iran is capable of responding to American long-range heavy bomber aircraft

A senior Iranian military official warned Tuesday that the Islamic republic would target Israel if it came under US attack over its nuclear programme. "We have announced that if America gets up to mischief, Israel will be our first target to hit," said the spokesman for the Iranian war games held in April, Rear Admiral Mohammad Ebrahim Dehqani, quoted by the student news agency ISNA.

When asked about Iran's ability to respond to American long-range heavy bomber aircraft, Dehqani said: "We will definitely resist against the US B-52." In early April, Iran, whose hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, launched a military manoeuvre used as much to rally support on the domestic front as to send a message to critics of its controversial nuclear programme.

It unveiled a wide range of weaponry such as multiple-head missiles, high-speed torpedoes and radar-evading anti-ship missiles, in a week of military exercises in the strategic Gulf waters. Tehran has been under international pressure to suspend its nuclear activities, which it insists is for civilian energy purposes but which some Western countries fear is aimed at manufacturing an atomic bomb.

US and European officials are pushing for a tough, binding UN resolution for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, which makes the fuel for civilian reactors but what can also be the explosive core of bombs. "The Security Council has no option but to proceed with the Chapter 7," US State Department number three Nicholas Burns said Tuesday, referring to an article in the UN charter that could lead to sanctions or even military action.


A Chinese link to Middle East conflict

There is no doubt that Iran is the source of Hezbollah's arsenal of missiles, which have recently been used against Israel. But the controversial issue is whether these missiles are genuine Iranian products. Military and intelligence reports have long confirmed that they are one of the fruits of the strategic alliance between Tehran and Beijing. Sino-Iranian ties, initiated in 1971 during the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, have strengthened after Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. In recent years, however, cooperation between the two countries has grown exponentially, primarily because of China's insatiable energy needs and Iran's hunger for technology and consumer goods, as the economies of both states continue to expand.

One of the aspects of the relationship is cooperation in the energy and construction sectors. China is now Iran's third-largest export market for crude oil. Its state-owned oil company Sinopec has a 50 per cent stake in the development of Yadavaran, Iran's largest undeveloped oil field. In April 2005, the two countries decided to set up a joint-venture to build huge tankers capable of ensuring deliveries of Iran's liquefied gas to China. And one month later, China agreed to buy some 110 million metric tons of Iranian gas over 25 years in a contract which may be worth $20 billion. China is also involved in the construction of Iranian dams, airports, steel mills, and roads, including Tehran's metro and a new highway linking Tehran with the Caspian Sea coast. Bilateral trade, on the other hand, hit a new record of $9.5 billion last year, compared with $7.5 billion in 2004.

The most important aspect of the alliance, however, is Tehran's access to the technology being developed by the Chinese People's Army, particularly in the area of cruise and ballistic missiles. This has long been an issue of great concern for the Americans. Washington has repeatedly expressed its dissatisfaction on the grounds that promoting the military capability of Iran's Islamic regime could raise tensions in the Gulf and threaten US interests in the region and the safe passage of oil tankers.

Beijing first began exporting Chinese-made missiles to Tehran in 1985, during the Iran-Iraq war, when it supplied weapons to both sides. At the time, Chinese missile exports were purely driven by commercial considerations. The decline in the domestic military orders in the 1980s, owing to declining defence budgets had forced defence industrial sectors to make up the shortfalls by trying to market military products abroad, particularly in the Third World. But commercial considerations have soon changed to strategic ones under the pressure of a number of developments.

Beijing has realised since the 1990s that it could use the export of missiles and related technology to Iran as a bargaining card with the west regarding issues concerning its own security, such as Taiwan, US military sales to the Taipei regime, US military presence in the neighbouring central Asian republics, and the west's repeated criticism of human rights violation in China. Tehran realised too that Beijing's hunger for energy represented a golden opportunity to connect its oil supplies and concessions to China with the latter's military exports to Iran.

As a result, China continued throughout the 1990s to provide Iran not only with missiles but also with production technology, equipment, training and testing facilities for the indigenous Iranian manufacture of Chinese and North Korean designed missiles. Following US-China summits in 1997 and 1998, however, Beijing decided, under US pressure, to halt its sales of missiles to Iran and pledged not to provide Tehran with missile production technology. This was a significant development as Chinese officials had never before admitted their country's involvement in promoting Iran's missile programme. They had always denied reports on the issue, accusing the west of spreading rumours about China.

But this did not last long. New tensions in US-China relations in 2000 and 2001 in the backdrop of events such as the Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, the growing tension in the Taiwan Strait and the EP-3 spy plane incident led Beijing to resume its missile cooperation with Tehran. Despite the improvement in US-China relations in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in Washington and New York and the release by Beijing in 2002 of a set of measures aimed at controlling exports of missile related technology and assistance, Sino-Iranian missile cooperation has continued according to many reliable reports.

Based on these reports and other intelligence information, Washington imposed sanctions on three different occasions between 2002 and 2005 on tens of Chinese state-owned firms for the transfer to Iran of dual-use missile-related items. The Iranians have always asserted that their missiles are indigenous and fully designed and manufactured at missile facilities near Tehran and Esfahan by local scientists and experts.

But the aforementioned evidence and many other indicate otherwise. Iranian missiles such as Zilzal, Raad, Oghab, Nour and Mushak are said to be copies of Chinese missiles, particularly the Silkworm, with the fuselage being lengthened and the engine's place being changed. China, therefore, is indirectly responsible for encouraging Hezbollah to act as a state within the state and drag Lebanon into war.


China Must Protect Iran Even With WWIII

A professor from the Chinese National Defense University says if Iran is attacked, China will not hesitate to protect the Islamic Republic even by launching the Third World War. Major General Zhang Zhaozhong said, "China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third World War." The United States and Israel have repeatedly threatened Tehran with the "option" of a military strike, based on the allegation that Iran's nuclear program may consist of a covert military agenda.

Iran has refuted the allegations, saying that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Over the past weeks, Israel has renewed its aggressive rhetoric against Iran. On November 21, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that "time has come" to deal with Iran. Israeli President Shimon Peres also threatened on November 6 that an attack against Iran is becoming "more and more likely."

Iranian officials have promised a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the Middle East.


China Backs Iran Against The Great Satan
Combine China's recent Iranian energy mega-deal with Vladimir Putin's new strategic coalition, which includes nuclear-capable Brazil, and it rapidly becomes clear that New York's "Fortress Americas" fallback initiative is already dead in the water. Twenty years ago 'The Great Satan' referred only to a collection of murderous Zionist Jews who illegally invaded Palestine in the 1940s, to butcher the residents and steal their land for Ben Gurion's "Yisrael". But as Zionists later took firm control of the United States, and forced the use of American soldiers in the 1990 Gulf War against Iraq, a subtle change slowly took place. In the minds of about 70 percent of the global population, America had simply become Zionist Headquarters, and was thus itself anointed 'The Great Satan'. Nowadays the contempt and hatred of the civilized world is being directed against ordinary American citizens, who in the future will pay a heavy price for failing to remove a handful of Zionist madmen from Wall Street while they still had the chance to do so. The rest of the world will no longer tolerate the megalomanic 'New Zion', and is now taking active steps to destroy it.

Back in November 1962 when President Kennedy forced the removal of Russian missiles from Cuba, very few Americans stopped to ponder whether, at some point in the distant future, the tiny island of Cuba would decide to exact revenge on the United States for this very public humiliation. Forty years ago it all seemed most unlikely, but today the wheel has turned full circle, and a little Fidel Castro payback appears to be just over the horizon. Based on received intelligence, it seems likely that the Island of Cuba will soon be used as 'point man' in a grand plan to deny American warships and other vessels safe transit through the Gulf of Mexico. Quite apart from thoroughly humiliating New York and Washington, such a move will have a far more devastating effect if tankers are denied access to the southern American oil terminals. Without oil imported through its critical southern oil terminals, and also possibly facing denial of access to underwater oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, America will collapse in less than six months.

How this will be brought about is a long and sometimes complicated story, but bear with me and I will try to make the multi faceted components of this truly multinational operation as clear as I can, in a report normally limited to a mere 3,000 words. To do this we must first circle the globe, picking up seemingly random pieces of the operational jigsaw on the way, until the last piece slips neatly into place less than 200 miles south of Florida Keys. As you may expect, there is really nothing random about the process at all - merely the understandable caution and strategic camouflage of a multinational coalition closing in on the most dangerous and brutal nation on Planet Earth since early in the 20th Century. During the last thirty years alone, America's Zionist controllers have ordered the calculated murder of more than six million innocents around the world, and the world is not prepared to tolerate another six million innocents being murdered by Zion during the next thirty years.

Much has happened during the past few months, so now we have to slip back in time in order to discover the intriguing answers to why Middle East LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is now heading east rather than west; why Russia has forged an ironclad coalition with China, India and Brazil, and why the Zionists really want the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed El Baradei removed from office. Finally we will have to show the connections between these events and future mayhem in the Gulf of Mexico.

On 10 November 2004, the India Daily reported that, "Russian President Putin is taking a lead role in the most powerful coalition of regional and superpowers in the world. The coalition consists of India, China, Russia and Brazil. This will challenge the superpower supremacy of America." … "He [Putin] wants to establish a long-term Russian footprint in Latin America in order to expand Moscow's geopolitical influence in the region. Brazil is very open to the coalition concept where these large countries support each other in term of trade, economics, international politics and defense." Just this single strategic move means that the new coalition embraces just over three quarters of the world's total population, eighty percent of its natural resources, and a majority of technical and scientific experts. Nor does it end there, because the coalition automatically includes the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is presently comprised of China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Dangerously for America, the coalition will soon have another important member, Iran, currently due to enter informally in a few months time through the SCO "back door" because of a mammoth energy deal. We will return to Iran shortly.

Obviously from the Zionist perspective, the most disturbing new member of the coalition is Brazil, because New York has long believed and insisted that the whole of Central and South America is under its personal "protection", which is just another way of claiming that Zionists can pillage the place whenever they want to, proved by countless CIA atrocities in almost every American country south of Puerto Rica. Now then, what would happen to this cozy pillaging arrangement if Russia-friendly coalition partner Brazil decided to develop nuclear weapons? On 16 November 2004, just six days after Vladimir Putin formally introduced Brazil as a member of the new coalition, IAEA inspectors from Geneva visited Rio de Janeiro. Just eight days later on 24 November 2004, Brazilian Energy Minister Eduardo Campos announced that the IAEA had issued Brazil with a permit to commence the experimental stage of uranium enrichment.

Paranoia immediately swept down Wall Street at the speed of light, and within hours the White House was pathetically whining that IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei should be removed from office. Dark hints by the New York Times that El Baradei had "not been doing enough in Iran", were just a hasty smoke screen. For many years the Zionists had a fallback plan in case global conquest became impossible. Code-named "Fortress Americas", the plan relied on the USA being able to conquer both Canada and South America, thereby building themselves an impregnable redoubt in the Western Hemisphere, to provide cover while rebuilding their strength. I wrote two long reports on this top-secret plan, which are linked at the bottom of this page for those who wish to study the details. With Brazil now a full coalition partner with Russia and China, "Fortress Americas" was already doomed to failure, especially because Vladimir Putin had been economical with the truth when he named the coalition members. Venezuela had already signed up in secret, but this was kept under wraps for fear of alerting the CIA to what was to come next. As most readers know, Venezuela has massive oil reserves that America relies on heavily, and premature exposure might have led to rash military action against the country, in order to seize the Venezuelan oilfields in the sacred name of "American National Security".

In its normal crude way, the CIA had already given advance warning of this intent by planning to shoot down Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's aircraft in late September, when he was en route to address the United Nations in New York. Fortunately for Chavez and his country, Venezuelan Intelligence received advance warning and blocked the President's flight. The CIA shoot-down was to be followed 14 hours later by "phase 2", an attack on the Presidential barracks while the country was still in shock about President Chavez's 'accidental death', thus capturing Venezuelan oil and handing it to America on a plate. Of course the CIA should have cancelled "Phase 2" the minute it knew that the Presidential aircraft had not taken off from Caracas for New York, but sadly the CIA planners forgot, and the Presidential barracks attack force was swiftly overwhelmed by a very alert Venezuelan military. Needless to say, "Phase 2" proved that "Phase 1" was very real and accurate intelligence, in turn proving that the Zionists had yet again ordered the murder of a head of state for monetary gain, a long standing tradition on Wall Street.

Within days Russia 'agreed' to provide Venezuela with fifty Mig 29 fighters, because it was obvious that Wall Street would try again later if a deterrent was not put in place, and Chavez could hardly rely on America to send spare parts for his fleet of aging F-16s. New York was furious of course, but could hardly do anything about it. And besides, what harm could 50 Mig interceptors a thousand miles away do to America? New York had made the fatal error of assuming that the Migs in question were being delivered exclusively to protect Venezuela against American bombers or troop transports. In fact, all fifty aircraft are Mig 29 SMTs, the very latest in Russian technology with enhanced attack payload capacity and a Plasma Stealth System. Hardly the aircraft one would choose for a Red Baron dogfight at 15,000 feet, now is it? All Venezuelan Mig 29 SMTs are painted dark blue, which may be part of the stealth system, but more commonly denotes that the aircraft will be used for low level attacks over water. When nosey European diplomatic officials asked Venezuelan Air Force generals why they needed such sophisticated aircraft, the generals responded "To protect the Panama Canal". When asked against whom, the air chiefs wouldn't specify.

What absolutely no one outside Russia and Venezuela knew until two weeks ago, is that 20 of the fifty Mig 29 SMTs are fully equipped to carry and fire the devastating SS-N-25 [and now SS-N-26] "Onyx", a devastating and completely unstoppable Mach 2.9 ramjet anti-ship cruise missile which skims the waves at twenty feet, before delivering a knock out blow to its maritime target more than 200 kilometers away. So great is the kinetic energy at the point of impact on the target, that Onyx can sink an American aircraft carrier or supertanker using only a conventional penetrating warhead. Those scientists who might doubt this should calculate the impact energy of 5,500 pounds of missile striking a carrier or tanker at a terminal velocity of 2,460 feet per second. It is understood that Russia is providing Venezuela with a stockpile of forty anti-ship Onyx missiles.


US Generals ‘Will Quit’ if Bush Orders Iran Attack

SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources. Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.

The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President xxxx Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”.

Iran ignored a United Nations deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment programme last week. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted that his country “will not withdraw from its nuclear stances even one single step”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran could soon produce enough enriched uranium for two nuclear bombs a year, although Tehran claims its programme is purely for civilian energy purposes. Nicholas Burns, the top US negotiator, is to meet British, French, German, Chinese and Russian officials in London tomorrow to discuss additional penalties against Iran. But UN diplomats cautioned that further measures would take weeks to agree and would be mild at best.

A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: “The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.”

But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive. Pace’s view was backed up by British intelligence officials who said the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in activities inside Iraq by a small number of Revolutionary Guards was “far from clear”.

Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.

“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.”

Mann fears the administration is seeking to provoke Iran into a reaction that could be used as an excuse for an attack. A British official said the US navy was well aware of the risks of confrontation and was being “seriously careful” in the Gulf. The US air force is regarded as being more willing to attack Iran. General Michael Moseley, the head of the air force, cited Iran as the main likely target for American aircraft at a military conference earlier this month.

According to a report in The New Yorker magazine, the Pentagon has already set up a working group to plan airstrikes on Iran. The panel initially focused on destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been instructed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq. However, army chiefs fear an attack on Iran would backfire on American troops in Iraq and lead to more terrorist attacks, a rise in oil prices and the threat of a regional war.

Britain is concerned that its own troops in Iraq might be drawn into any American conflict with Iran, regardless of whether the government takes part in the attack. One retired general who participated in the “generals’ revolt” against Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of the Iraq war said he hoped his former colleagues would resign in the event of an order to attack. “We don’t want to take another initiative unless we’ve really thought through the consequences of our strategy,” he warned.


Time to Attack IranLink

In early October, U.S. officials accused Iranian operatives of planning to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States on American soil. Iran denied the charges, but the episode has already managed to increase tensions between Washington and Tehran. Although the Obama administration has not publicly threatened to retaliate with military force, the allegations have underscored the real and growing risk that the two sides could go to war sometime soon -- particularly over Iran’s advancing nuclear program.

For several years now, starting long before this episode, American pundits and policymakers have been debating whether the United States should attack Iran and attempt to eliminate its nuclear facilities. Proponents of a strike have argued that the only thing worse than military action against Iran would be an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. Critics, meanwhile, have warned that such a raid would likely fail and, even if it succeeded, would spark a full-fledged war and a global economic crisis. They have urged the United States to rely on nonmilitary options, such as diplomacy, sanctions, and covert operations, to prevent Iran from acquiring a bomb. Fearing the costs of a bombing campaign, most critics maintain that if these other tactics fail to impede Tehran’s progress, the United States should simply learn to live with a nuclear Iran.

But skeptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease -- that is, that the consequences of a U.S. assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.


Years of international pressure have failed to halt Iran’s attempt to build a nuclear program. The Stuxnet computer worm, which attacked control systems in Iranian nuclear facilities, temporarily disrupted Tehran’s enrichment effort, but a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency this past May revealed that the targeted plants have fully recovered from the assault. And the latest IAEA findings on Iran, released in November, provided the most compelling evidence yet that the Islamic Republic has weathered sanctions and sabotage, allegedly testing nuclear triggering devices and redesigning its missiles to carry nuclear payloads. The Institute for Science and International Security, a nonprofit research institution, estimates that Iran could now produce its first nuclear weapon within six months of deciding to do so. Tehran’s plans to move sensitive nuclear operations into more secure facilities over the course of the coming year could reduce the window for effective military action even further. If Iran expels IAEA inspectors, begins enriching its stockpiles of uranium to weapons-grade levels of 90 percent, or installs advanced centrifuges at its uranium-enrichment facility in Qom, the United States must strike immediately or forfeit its last opportunity to prevent Iran from joining the nuclear club.

Some states in the region are doubting U.S. resolve to stop the program and are shifting their allegiances to Tehran. Others have begun to discuss launching their own nuclear initiatives to counter a possible Iranian bomb. For those nations and the United States itself, the threat will only continue to grow as Tehran moves closer to its goal. A nuclear-armed Iran would immediately limit U.S. freedom of action in the Middle East. With atomic power behind it, Iran could threaten any U.S. political or military initiative in the Middle East with nuclear war, forcing Washington to think twice before acting in the region. Iran’s regional rivals, such as Saudi Arabia, would likely decide to acquire their own nuclear arsenals, sparking an arms race. To constrain its geopolitical rivals, Iran could choose to spur proliferation by transferring nuclear technology to its allies -- other countries and terrorist groups alike. Having the bomb would give Iran greater cover for conventional aggression and coercive diplomacy, and the battles between its terrorist proxies and Israel, for example, could escalate. And Iran and Israel lack nearly all the safeguards that helped the United States and the Soviet Union avoid a nuclear exchange during the Cold War -- secure second-strike capabilities, clear lines of communication, long flight times for ballistic missiles from one country to the other, and experience managing nuclear arsenals. To be sure, a nuclear-armed Iran would not intentionally launch a suicidal nuclear war. But the volatile nuclear balance between Iran and Israel could easily spiral out of control as a crisis unfolds, resulting in a nuclear exchange between the two countries that could draw the United States in, as well.

These security threats would require Washington to contain Tehran. Yet deterrence would come at a heavy price. To keep the Iranian threat at bay, the United States would need to deploy naval and ground units and potentially nuclear weapons across the Middle East, keeping a large force in the area for decades to come. Alongside those troops, the United States would have to permanently deploy significant intelligence assets to monitor any attempts by Iran to transfer its nuclear technology. And it would also need to devote perhaps billions of dollars to improving its allies’ capability to defend themselves. This might include helping Israel construct submarine-launched ballistic missiles and hardened ballistic missile silos to ensure that it can maintain a secure second-strike capability. Most of all, to make containment credible, the United States would need to extend its nuclear umbrella to its partners in the region, pledging to defend them with military force should Iran launch an attack.

In other words, to contain a nuclear Iran, the United States would need to make a substantial investment of political and military capital to the Middle East in the midst of an economic crisis and at a time when it is attempting to shift its forces out of the region. Deterrence would come with enormous economic and geopolitical costs and would have to remain in place as long as Iran remained hostile to U.S. interests, which could mean decades or longer. Given the instability of the region, this effort might still fail, resulting in a war far more costly and destructive than the one that critics of a preemptive strike on Iran now hope to avoid.


A nuclear Iran would impose a huge burden on the United States. But that does not necessarily mean that Washington should resort to military means. In deciding whether it should, the first question to answer is if an attack on Iran’s nuclear program could even work. Doubters point out that the United States might not know the location of Iran’s key facilities. Given Tehran’s previous attempts to hide the construction of such stations, most notably the uranium-enrichment facilities in Natanz and Qom, it is possible that the regime already possesses nuclear assets that a bombing campaign might miss, which would leave Iran’s program damaged but alive.

This scenario is possible, but not likely; indeed, such fears are probably overblown. U.S. intelligence agencies, the IAEA, and opposition groups within Iran have provided timely warning of Tehran’s nuclear activities in the past -- exposing, for example, Iran’s secret construction at Natanz and Qom before those facilities ever became operational. Thus, although Tehran might again attempt to build clandestine facilities, Washington has a very good chance of catching it before they go online. And given the amount of time it takes to construct and activate a nuclear facility, the scarcity of Iran’s resources, and its failure to hide the facilities in Natanz and Qom successfully, it is unlikely that Tehran has any significant operational nuclear facilities still unknown to Western intelligence agencies.

Even if the United States managed to identify all of Iran’s nuclear plants, however, actually destroying them could prove enormously difficult. Critics of a U.S. assault argue that Iran’s nuclear facilities are dispersed across the country, buried deep underground and hardened against attack, and ringed with air defenses, making a raid complex and dangerous. In addition, they claim that Iran has purposefully placed its nuclear facilities near civilian populations, which would almost certainly come under fire in a U.S. raid, potentially leading to hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths.

These obstacles, however, would not prevent the United States from disabling or demolishing Iran’s known nuclear facilities. A preventive operation would need to target the uranium-conversion plant at Isfahan, the heavy-water reactor at Arak, and various centrifuge-manufacturing sites near Natanz and Tehran, all of which are located aboveground and are highly vulnerable to air strikes. It would also have to hit the Natanz facility, which, although it is buried under reinforced concrete and ringed by air defenses, would not survive an attack from the U.S. military’s new bunker-busting bomb, the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, capable of penetrating up to 200 feet of reinforced concrete. The plant in Qom is built into the side of a mountain and thus represents a more challenging target. But the facility is not yet operational and still contains little nuclear equipment, so if the United States acted quickly, it would not need to destroy it.

Washington would also be able to limit civilian casualties in any campaign. Iran built its most critical nuclear plants, such as the one in Natanz, away from heavily populated areas. For those less important facilities that exist near civilian centers, such as the centrifuge-manufacturing sites, U.S. precision-guided missiles could pinpoint specific buildings while leaving their surroundings unscathed. The United States could reduce the collateral damage even further by striking at night or simply leaving those less important plants off its target list at little cost to the overall success of the mission. Although Iran would undoubtedly publicize any human suffering in the wake of a military action, the majority of the victims would be the military personnel, engineers, scientists, and technicians working at the facilities.


The fact that the United States can likely set back or destroy Iran’s nuclear program does not necessarily mean that it should. Such an attack could have potentially devastating consequences -- for international security, the global economy, and Iranian domestic politics -- all of which need to be accounted for.

To begin with, critics note, U.S. military action could easily spark a full-blown war. Iran might retaliate against U.S. troops or allies, launching missiles at military installations or civilian populations in the Gulf or perhaps even Europe. It could activate its proxies abroad, stirring sectarian tensions in Iraq, disrupting the Arab Spring, and ordering terrorist attacks against Israel and the United States. This could draw Israel or other states into the fighting and compel the United States to escalate the conflict in response. Powerful allies of Iran, including China and Russia, may attempt to economically and diplomatically isolate the United States. In the midst of such spiraling violence, neither side may see a clear path out of the battle, resulting in a long-lasting, devastating war, whose impact may critically damage the United States’ standing in the Muslim world.

Those wary of a U.S. strike also point out that Iran could retaliate by attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow access point to the Persian Gulf through which roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil supply travels. And even if Iran did not threaten the strait, speculators, fearing possible supply disruptions, would bid up the price of oil, possibly triggering a wider economic crisis at an already fragile moment.

None of these outcomes is predetermined, however; indeed, the United States could do much to mitigate them. Tehran would certainly feel like it needed to respond to a U.S. attack, in order to reestablish deterrence and save face domestically. But it would also likely seek to calibrate its actions to avoid starting a conflict that could lead to the destruction of its military or the regime itself. In all likelihood, the Iranian leadership would resort to its worst forms of retaliation, such as closing the Strait of Hormuz or launching missiles at southern Europe, only if it felt that its very existence was threatened. A targeted U.S. operation need not threaten Tehran in such a fundamental way.

To make sure it doesn’t and to reassure the Iranian regime, the United States could first make clear that it is interested only in destroying Iran’s nuclear program, not in overthrowing the government. It could then identify certain forms of retaliation to which it would respond with devastating military action, such as attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz, conducting massive and sustained attacks on Gulf states and U.S. troops or ships, or launching terrorist attacks in the United States itself. Washington would then need to clearly articulate these “redlines” to Tehran during and after the attack to ensure that the message was not lost in battle. And it would need to accept the fact that it would have to absorb Iranian responses that fell short of these redlines without escalating the conflict. This might include accepting token missile strikes against U.S. bases and ships in the region -- several salvos over the course of a few days that soon taper off -- or the harassment of commercial and U.S. naval vessels. To avoid the kind of casualties that could compel the White House to escalate the struggle, the United States would need to evacuate nonessential personnel from U.S. bases within range of Iranian missiles and ensure that its troops were safely in bunkers before Iran launched its response. Washington might also need to allow for stepped-up support to Iran’s proxies in Afghanistan and Iraq and missile and terrorist attacks against Israel. In doing so, it could induce Iran to follow the path of Iraq and Syria, both of which refrained from starting a war after Israel struck their nuclear reactors in 1981 and 2007, respectively.

Even if Tehran did cross Washington’s redlines, the United States could still manage the confrontation. At the outset of any such violation, it could target the Iranian weapons that it finds most threatening to prevent Tehran from deploying them. To de-escalate the situation quickly and prevent a wider regional war, the United States could also secure the agreement of its allies to avoid responding to an Iranian attack. This would keep other armies, particularly the Israel Defense Forces, out of the fray. Israel should prove willing to accept such an arrangement in exchange for a U.S. promise to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat. Indeed, it struck a similar agreement with the United States during the Gulf War, when it refrained from responding to the launching of Scud missiles by Saddam Hussein.

Finally, the U.S. government could blunt the economic consequences of a strike. For example, it could offset any disruption of oil supplies by opening its Strategic Petroleum Reserve and quietly encouraging some Gulf states to increase their production in the run-up to the attack. Given that many oil-producing nations in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, have urged the United States to attack Iran, they would likely cooperate.

Washington could also reduce the political fallout of military action by building global support for it in advance. Many countries may still criticize the United States for using force, but some -- the Arab states in particular -- would privately thank Washington for eliminating the Iranian threat. By building such a consensus in the lead-up to an attack and taking the outlined steps to mitigate it once it began, the United States could avoid an international crisis and limit the scope of the conflict.


Critics have another objection: even if the United States managed to eliminate Iran’s nuclear facilities and mitigate the consequences, the effects might not last long. Sure enough, there is no guarantee that an assault would deter Iran from attempting to rebuild its plants; it may even harden Iran’s resolve to acquire nuclear technology as a means of retaliating or protecting itself in the future. The United States might not have the wherewithal or the political capital to launch another raid, forcing it to rely on the same ineffective tools that it now uses to restrain Iran’s nuclear drive. If that happens, U.S. action will have only delayed the inevitable.

Yet according to the IAEA, Iran already appears fully committed to developing a nuclear weapons program and needs no further motivation from the United States. And it will not be able to simply resume its progress after its entire nuclear infrastructure is reduced to rubble. Indeed, such a devastating offensive could well force Iran to quit the nuclear game altogether, as Iraq did after its nuclear program was destroyed in the Gulf War and as Syria did after the 2007 Israeli strike. And even if Iran did try to reconstitute its nuclear program, it would be forced to contend with continued international pressure, greater difficulty in securing necessary nuclear materials on the international market, and the lurking possibility of subsequent attacks. Military action could, therefore, delay Iran’s nuclear program by anywhere from a few years to a decade, and perhaps even indefinitely.

Skeptics might still counter that at best a strike would only buy time. But time is a valuable commodity. Countries often hope to delay worst-case scenarios as far into the future as possible in the hope that this might eliminate the threat altogether. Those countries whose nuclear facilities have been attacked -- most recently Iraq and Syria -- have proved unwilling or unable to restart their programs. Thus, what appears to be only a temporary setback to Iran could eventually become a game changer.

Yet another argument against military action against Iran is that it would embolden the hard-liners within Iran’s government, helping them rally the population around the regime and eliminate any remaining reformists. This critique ignores the fact that the hard-liners are already firmly in control. The ruling regime has become so extreme that it has sidelined even those leaders once considered to be right-wingers, such as former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, for their perceived softness. And Rafsanjani or the former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi would likely continue the nuclear program if he assumed power. An attack might actually create more openings for dissidents in the long term (after temporarily uniting Iran behind Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), giving them grounds for criticizing a government that invited disaster. Even if a strike would strengthen Iran’s hard-liners, the United States must not prioritize the outcomes of Iran’s domestic political tussles over its vital national security interest in preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.


Attacking Iran is hardly an attractive prospect. But the United States can anticipate and reduce many of the feared consequences of such an attack. If it does so successfully, it can remove the incentive for other nations in the region to start their own atomic programs and, more broadly, strengthen global nonproliferation by demonstrating that it will use military force to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It can also head off a possible Israeli operation against Iran, which, given Israel’s limited capability to mitigate a potential battle and inflict lasting damage, would likely result in far more devastating consequences and carry a far lower probability of success than a U.S. attack. Finally, a carefully managed U.S. attack would prove less risky than the prospect of containing a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic -- a costly, decades-long proposition that would likely still result in grave national security threats. Indeed, attempting to manage a nuclear-armed Iran is not only a terrible option but the worst.

With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq winding down and the United States facing economic hardship at home, Americans have little appetite for further strife. Yet Iran’s rapid nuclear development will ultimately force the United States to choose between a conventional conflict and a possible nuclear war. Faced with that decision, the United States should conduct a surgical strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, absorb an inevitable round of retaliation, and then seek to quickly de-escalate the crisis. Addressing the threat now will spare the United States from confronting a far more dangerous situation in the future.


U.S. Planning Troop Buildup in Gulf After Exit From Iraq

The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.

The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after President Obama’s announcement this month that the last American soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by the end of December. Ending the eight-year war was a central pledge of his presidential campaign, but American military officers and diplomats, as well as officials of several countries in the region, worry that the withdrawal could leave instability or worse in its wake.

After unsuccessfully pressing both the Obama administration and the Iraqi government to permit as many as 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011, the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative. In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the United States is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.

With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran, the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new “security architecture” for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense.

The size of the standby American combat force to be based in Kuwait remains the subject of negotiations, with an answer expected in coming days. Officers at the Central Command headquarters here declined to discuss specifics of the proposals, but it was clear that successful deployment plans from past decades could be incorporated into plans for a post-Iraq footprint in the region. For example, in the time between the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States Army kept at least a combat battalion — and sometimes a full combat brigade — in Kuwait year-round, along with an enormous arsenal ready to be unpacked should even more troops have been called to the region.

“Back to the future” is how Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, Central Command’s chief of staff, described planning for a new posture in the Gulf. He said the command was focusing on smaller but highly capable deployments and training partnerships with regional militaries. “We are kind of thinking of going back to the way it was before we had a big ‘boots on the ground’ presence,” General Horst said. “I think it is healthy. I think it is efficient. I think it is practical.”

Mr. Obama and his senior national security advisers have sought to reassure allies and answer critics, including many Republicans, that the United States will not abandon its commitments in the Persian Gulf even as it winds down the war in Iraq and looks ahead to doing the same in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. “We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Tajikistan after the president’s announcement.

During town-hall-style meetings with military personnel in Asia last week, the secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta, noted that the United States had 40,000 troops in the region, including 23,000 in Kuwait, though the bulk of those serve as logistical support for the forces in Iraq. As they undertake this effort, the Pentagon and its Central Command, which oversees operations in the region, have begun a significant rearrangement of American forces, acutely aware of the political and budgetary constraints facing the United States, including at least $450 billion of cuts in military spending over the next decade as part of the agreement to reduce the budget deficit.

Officers at Central Command said that the post-Iraq era required them to seek more efficient ways to deploy forces and maximize cooperation with regional partners. One significant outcome of the coming cuts, officials said, could be a steep decrease in the number of intelligence analysts assigned to the region. At the same time, officers hope to expand security relationships in the region. General Horst said that training exercises were “a sign of commitment to presence, a sign of commitment of resources, and a sign of commitment in building partner capability and partner capacity.”

Col. John G. Worman, Central Command’s chief for exercises, noted a Persian Gulf milestone: For the first time, he said, the military of Iraq had been invited to participate in a regional exercise in Jordan next year, called Eager Lion 12, built around the threat of guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Another part of the administration’s post-Iraq planning involves the Gulf Cooperation Council, dominated by Saudi Arabia. It has increasingly sought to exert its diplomatic and military influence in the region and beyond. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, for example, sent combat aircraft to the Mediterranean as part of the NATO-led intervention in Libya, while Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates each have forces in Afghanistan.

At the same time, however, the council sent a mostly Saudi ground force into Bahrain to support that government’s suppression of demonstrations this year, despite international criticism. Despite such concerns, the administration has proposed establishing a stronger, multilateral security alliance with the six nations and the United States. Mr. Panetta and Mrs. Clinton outlined the proposal in an unusual joint meeting with the council on the sidelines of the United Nations in New York last month.

The proposal still requires the approval of the council, whose leaders will meet again in December in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and the kind of multilateral collaboration that the administration envisions must overcome rivalries among the six nations. “It’s not going to be a NATO tomorrow,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations still under way, “but the idea is to move to a more integrated effort.”

Iran, as it has been for more than three decades, remains the most worrisome threat to many of those nations, as well as to Iraq itself, where it has re-established political, cultural and economic ties, even as it provided covert support for Shiite insurgents who have battled American forces. “They’re worried that the American withdrawal will leave a vacuum, that their being close by will always make anyone think twice before taking any action,” Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, said in an interview, referring to officials in the Persian Gulf region.

Sheik Khalid was in Washington last week for meetings with the administration and Congress. “There’s no doubt it will create a vacuum,” he said, “and it may invite regional powers to exert more overt action in Iraq.” He added that the administration’s proposal to expand its security relationship with the Persian Gulf nations would not “replace what’s going on in Iraq” but was required in the wake of the withdrawal to demonstrate a unified defense in a dangerous region. “Now the game is different,” he said. “We’ll have to be partners in operations, in issues and in many ways that we should work together.”

At home, Iraq has long been a matter of intense dispute. Some foreign policy analysts and Democrats — and a few Republicans — say the United States has remained in Iraq for too long. Others, including many Republicans and military analysts, have criticized Mr. Obama’s announcement of a final withdrawal, expressing fear that Iraq remained too weak and unstable. “The U.S. will have to come to terms with an Iraq that is unable to defend itself for at least a decade,” Adam Mausner and Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote after the withdrawal announcement.

Twelve Republican Senators demanded hearings on the administration’s ending of negotiations with the Iraqis — for now at least — on the continuation of American training and on counterterrorism efforts in Iraq. “As you know, the complete withdrawal of our forces from Iraq is likely to be viewed as a strategic victory by our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime,” the senators wrote Wednesday in a letter to the chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.


ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran

A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News. The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran. It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials. U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight.

Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states. Jundullah has produced its own videos showing Iranian soldiers and border guards it says it has captured and brought back to Pakistan. The leader, Regi, claims to have personally executed some of the Iranians. "He used to fight with the Taliban. He's part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist," said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant who recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members.

"Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera," Debat said.

Most recently, Jundullah took credit for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan. Last month, Iranian state television broadcast what it said were confessions by those responsible for the bus attack. They reportedly admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan.

The Iranian TV broadcast is interspersed with the logo of the CIA, which the broadcast blamed for the plot. A CIA spokesperson said "the account of alleged CIA action is false" and reiterated that the U.S. provides no funding of the Jundullah group. Pakistani government sources say the secret campaign against Iran by Jundullah was on the agenda when Vice President Dick Cheney met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February.

A senior U.S. government official said groups such as Jundullah have been helpful in tracking al Qaeda figures and that it was appropriate for the U.S. to deal with such groups in that context. Some former CIA officers say the arrangement is reminiscent of how the U.S. government used proxy armies, funded by other countries including Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.

News source:

Iran to Build Permanent Naval Base in Syria

Just two days after two Iranian warships reached the Syrian port of Latakia via the Suez Canal, Friday, Feb. 25, an Iranian-Syrian naval cooperation accord was signed providing for Iran to build its first Mediterranean naval base at the Syrian port, debkafile's military and Iranian sources reveal. The base will include a large Iranian Revolutionary Guards weapons depot stocked with hardware chosen by the IRGC subject to prior notification to Damascus. Latakia harbor will be deepened, widened and provided with new "coastal installations" to accommodate the large warships and submarines destined to use these facilities.

Iran has much to celebrate, debkafile's military sources report. It has acquired its first military foothold on a Mediterranean shore and its first permanent military presence on Syrian soil. Tehran will be setting in place the logistical infrastructure for accommodating incoming Iranian troops to fight in a potential Middle East war. According to our sources, the "cadets" the Kharg cruiser, one of the two Iranian warships allowed to transit the Suez Canal, was said to be carrying were in fact the first construction crews for building the new port facilities. Two more events were carefully synchronized to take place in the same week.

On Feb. 24, as the Iranian warships headed from the Suez Canal to Syria, Hamas fired long-range made-in-Iran Grade missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israel, one hitting the main Negev city of Beersheba for the first time since Israel's Gaza campaign two years ago - as debkafile reported on that day. Tehran was using its Palestinian surrogate to flaunt its success in getting its first warships through the Suez Canal in the face of Israeli protests. The Iranians were also parading their offensive agenda in deploying warships on the Mediterranean just 287 kilometers north of Israel's northernmost coastal town of Nahariya.

The second occurrence was a contract announced by Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov for the sale of advanced Russian shore-to-sea cruise missiles to Syria. The Yakhont missile system has a range of 300 kilometers and skims the waves low enough to be undetected by radar. debkafile's military sources take this sale as representing Moscow's nod in favor of the new Iranian base at Latakia, 72 kilometers from the permanent naval base Russia is building at the Syrian port of Tartous.

The Russians are willing to contribute towards the Iranian port's defenses and looking forward to cooperation between the Russian, Iranian and Syrian fleets in the eastern Mediterranean opposite the US Sixth Fleet's regular beat.

This unfolding proximity presents the United States with a serious strategic challenge and Israel with a new peril, which was nonetheless dismissed out of hand by Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak. In a radio interview Monday, Feb. 28, he brushed aside the Iranian warships' passage through the Suez as "an outing for cadets" which did not require an Israeli response. He added, "For now, there is no operational threat to Israel."

According to Barak, the Suez Canal is open to all of the world's warships and the two Iranian vessels' transit could not have been prevented. He omitted to explain how Egypt did prevent it for 30 years and why it was permitted now. The defense minister went on to speak of "fresh signs that President Bashar Assad is willing to resume peace talks with Israel."

Both Barak's assessments were knocked down by Damascus on the same day. Syrian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Ali Mohammad Habib soon put him right on the "cadets' outing." At a ceremony in honor of the Iranian Navy Commander Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Habib said: "Iranian warships' presence in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time after 32 years is a great move that is going to cripple Israel."


Iran's covert war with Israel in Caspian

A senior Iranian general has warned zerbaijan about getting too close to Israel, underlining fears in Tehran that the Jewish state could use Iran's northern neighbor to launch pre-emptive strikes against Iran's nuclear program. Israel has been quietly building intelligence and military links with oil rich Azerbaijan, a largely secular Muslim state, since the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago.

The Israelis sell significant amounts of weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles to the government in Baku, on the Caspian Sea, as its intelligence services dig in along the border with Iran. That gives Israel a forward operating base to monitor Iran, particularly its contentious nuclear program, which Jerusalem views as a major existential threat.

Over the last two years, tensions have escalated as Azerbaijan has become part of the shadowy intelligence war between Iran and Israel. It has become even more important to Israel since its May 2010 rift with former ally Turkey, which also borders Iran. Even so, the unusually aggressive outburst by Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of Iran's armed forces Joint Staff Command, Aug. 9 struck a particularly jarring note and brought into sharp focus a little-known aspect of Israel's deepening intelligence war with Iran.

It also reflected Tehran's growing alarm at Israel's penetration of Iran's northern neighbor. In what was perceived as thinly veiled threat, Firouzabadi accused Baku of mistreating religious Shiites in southern Azerbaijan who lean toward the Islamic Republic and allowing "Zionists" access to Azerbaijani territory right on Iran's doorstep. "If this policy continues, it will end in darkness and it will not be possible to suppress a revolt by the people of Aran," or Azerbaijan, the general declared in an interview with Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency.

Relations between Iran and Azerbaijan have been under strain in recent years, largely through Iranian covert operations. In 2007, Azerbaijan convicted 15 Iranians and Azeris for spying on Israeli, U.S. and British interests, including oil facilities, for Tehran and plotting to seize power.

In 2008, Azeri authorities, aided by Israel's Mossad spy agency, thwarted a plot involving operatives of Hezbollah, Iran's powerful Lebanese proxy, to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Baku. That plot was intended to avenge the assassination of Hezbollah's iconic security chief, Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus earlier that year. Tehran blamed Mossad for that killing. Firouzabadi's statement jolted the Iranian leadership as much as it did the Azeri government. Senior Iranian figures publicly chastised the general and sought to distance Tehran from his remarks.

"It is important to note that the ongoing power struggle in Iran" between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the clerical establishment led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, "has been having the unintended effect of creating more political space for the military leadership to assert its views," the U.S. global security consultancy Stratfor observed.

It said "the tense exchange between Tehran and Baku Â… underscores the growing conflict of interests between the two neighbors as Azerbaijan works on strengthening its relationship with the West." Around 85 percent of the population of Azerbaijan, ringed by key regional players Iran, Turkey and Russia, is Shiite. That gives Tehran the opportunity to make sectarian mischief in the Caucasus and the energy-rich Caspian Basin.

However, Azerbaijan is overwhelmingly secular, except for the religious conservatives on its southern flank. The government of President Ilham Aliyev suspects Tehran is them to bolster its claims to Azerbaijan's Caspian energy reserves. Iran fears Aliyev, backed by Israel and even the United States, could support a revolt by its Azeris, who comprise about one-quarter of the population.

So it supports Azerbaijan's regional rival, Armenia, in its deadlocked dispute with Baku over Nagorno-Karabakh, currently held by Armenia. "Given that Azerbaijan's relations with Iran have long been fraught, the Azerbaijani government has not had any qualms in developing a strategic relationship with Israel," Stratfor noted. Expanding that military and intelligence relationship to upgrade Azerbaijan's capabilities and develop a military industrial complex there is one of Tehran's greatest concerns.

Aliyev is looking toward Israel and NATO to help modernize its forces, despite a U.S. arms embargo in place since 1992. Israel is Azerbaijan's fourth largest trading partner. The Jewish state has also been making inroads into the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. It's negotiating with Kazakhstan to upgrade its military.


The Pipeline Paradox

Despite the harsh sanctions imposed on it by the United States and United Nations, Iran continues to steadily accumulate geopolitical clout. Many commentators point to the fact that the cascading series of revolutions in the Middle East has given the region's Shiite communities, which are allied with Iran, greater influence. But even more important is Tehran's recent success in strengthening its role as an indispensable international energy supplier. By focusing on financial sanctions rather than the Islamic Republic's plans to become a global energy superpower, Washington policymakers have enabled Iran's rise.

Hundreds of millions of people are dependent on Iran for their energy. But while the West tends to associate Iran with oil, of which it is the world's fourth-largest producer, Iran's real power derives from its vast natural gas reserves, which are second only to Russia's. Driven by technological breakthroughs in the United States and demand in China and elsewhere, natural gas is already ascendant as a source of energy for power generation that is substantially cleaner than the old standby coal; in a post-Fukushima world, it is likely to be second to none.

The international natural gas trade is different from those in oil and coal in that natural gas is for the most part delivered by an expensive pipeline infrastructure, rather than by more malleable sea routes or rail lines. This means that once an importer enters a long-term contract with an exporter, the relationship becomes all but unbreakable -- if Western Europe gets sick of dealing with Russia, for instance, it can't just pick up its pipeline and drag it over to North Africa. This is a big advantage for politically unpopular exporters, which explains why in recent months Iran inked gas deals with all of its seven neighbors, except Afghanistan. In doing so, it hopes not only to become a critical transit country for Central Asia's energy, but also to ensure that Europe and South Asia are beholden to its gas for many years to come.

In June 2010, Iran and Pakistan signed the final deal for a connecting pipeline that would carry 21.5 million cubic meters per day of natural gas. Both countries hope to extend the pipeline into either India or China, enticed by the prospect of millions of dollars in transit fees. If this happens, Iran would gain an economic lifeline -- and enjoy diplomatic protection from three Asian giants. If New Delhi refuses to extend the Iran-Pakistan pipeline into its territory, Tehran has a backup passage to India, via Oman. In 2008, Iran and Oman agreed to develop jointly Iran's offshore Kish field. Meanwhile, Oman and India are negotiating a deep-water pipeline that would bring Persian Gulf gas to India across the Arabian Sea. Should this project come to fruition, Iran's gas will undoubtedly provide the lion's share of the piped product.

No less important for Iran is the European market. Here, Iran is trying to position itself as an alternative to Russia -- which supplies a quarter of Europe's natural gas -- as a major exporter to the European Union. Europeans have been acutely aware of their vulnerability: Five years ago, a spat between Russia and Ukraine -- through which 80 percent of Russia's natural gas exports to Europe travel -- disrupted supplies to Hungary and Poland. Ever since, they have tried to establish a range of Plan Bs for gas delivery. Chief among them is Nabucco, a pipeline that aims to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to the heart of Europe by way of Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. Iran wants to ensure that no matter which new corridor to Europe is chosen, its gas will be fed into it. For this, Iran needs to be fully integrated into the gas pipelines of its relevant neighbors: Azerbaijan, Syria, Turkey, and Turkmenistan.

This is exactly what Tehran is doing. In January, Iran and Syria signed an agreement to build the so-called Islamic pipeline, which would carry gas from Iran to Europe via Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Mediterranean basin. That same month, Iran signed a long-term contract with Azerbaijan to import Azerbaijani gas to Iran in exchange for exporting Iranian gas to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, the Azerbaijani exclave between Iran and Armenia. Iran has also built a pipeline to Armenia itself, which opened in 2008. In February, Iran and Turkey announced that they are planning to increase the amount of gas flowing through the Tabriz-Ankara pipeline from 18 million to 23 million cubic meters per day. Last November, Iran inaugurated a new pipeline with Turkmenistan, the world's fourth-largest gas reserve.

These deals will determine the contours of the new geopolitics of energy -- and it is Iran, not the United States or its allies, that is drawing them. In fact, U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, like George W. Bush's before him, is holding the easel for Tehran.

For example, Washington has long believed that for the sake of European energy security, Europe needs an alternative to Russian gas, and accordingly it has been extremely supportive of the idea of a southern natural gas corridor. U.S. policymakers have reassured themselves that such a corridor would exclude Iranian gas and were gratified by Turkmenistan's announcement in November that the country would commit 40 billion cubic meters of gas annually to Europe through the pipeline. But this wishful thinking ignores market realities. Once Nabucco, or any other southern corridor, is constructed, who will prevent Iranian gas from flowing into Europe?

Fortunately, there is a regional alternative. U.S. interests would be better served if Turkmenistan's gas were instead directed south to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) which would -- if built -- extend from Turkmenistan, through Herat and Kandahar in Afghanistan, to Quetta in Pakistan, and on to India. TAPI, which is also supported by the United States, would contribute to the economies of all four countries, particularly Afghanistan's, which desperately needs it. More importantly, TAPI would effectively kill the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline as it would allow India to meet its energy needs without Iran. But the pipeline faces many challenges, mostly to do with lack of security in Afghanistan. If Washington is serious in its support for TAPI, it should help secure the funding for the pipeline and work with the Afghan government on creating a safe environment for the project -- as the U.S. military did in recent years in Iraq and Colombia, two similarly war-torn countries. It should also encourage Turkmenistan to direct its gas southward rather than westward.

Instead, by supporting Nabucco and by giving a nod to Turkmenistan to divert its gas to Europe, the United States is not only facilitating the creation of two new economic lifelines for Iran, but also compromising its relations with Russia -- outcomes that run contrary to Washington's declared positions toward both Tehran and Moscow. Alternatively, by joining forces with Russia, which has expressed interest in financing TAPI, the United States can help shape the geopolitics of energy in South and Central Asia in a way that helps the economic development of its allies in the region while undermining Iran. Washington's current course, however, will only make Tehran richer and more geopolitically indispensable.


Iran’s First Great Satan Was England

IF there is one country on earth where the cry “Death to England” still carries weight — where people still harbor the white-hot hatred of British colonialism that once inflamed millions from South Africa to China — that country would be Iran. And that is what the leaders of Iran must have been counting on when screaming militiamen, unhindered by the police, poured into the British Embassy in Tehran to vandalize it on Tuesday.

Most Iranians, like most people anywhere, would deplore the idea of thugs storming into a foreign embassy. Nonetheless, some may have felt a flicker of satisfaction. Even an outrage like this, they might have said, is a trifle compared with the generations of torment Britain inflicted on their country.

So Iran’s mullahs — they, not President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are reported to have been behind the attack — were not gambling in ordering, or at least tolerating, it. They presumably realized that the world would denounce their flagrant violation of international law. But they also knew it would resonate with the narrative Iranians have heard for so long about their own history.

The spark for the embassy invasion was Britain’s imposition of new economic sanctions on Iran. Pressure for those sanctions came not so much from Britain as from the United States and Israel, but those countries could not be targets for a similar attack because they do not have embassies in Tehran. Besides, Iranians these days can be surprisingly besotted with the United States; in my own visits I am often surrounded by people who compete to proclaim their love for America, and whose anger at Israel seems more political than emotional.
Those Iranians, however, feel quite differently about Britain.

Britain first cast its imperial eye on Iran in the 19th century. Its appeal was location; it straddled the land route to India. Once established in Iran, the British quickly began investing — or looting, as some Iranians would say. British companies bought exclusive rights to establish banks, print currency, explore for minerals, run transit lines and even grow tobacco.

In 1913, the British government maneuvered its way to a contract under which all Iranian oil became its property. Six years later it imposed an “agreement” that gave it control of Iran’s army and treasury. These actions set off a wave of anti-British outrage that has barely subsided. Britain’s occupation of Iran during World War II, when it was a critical source of oil and a transit route for supplies to keep Soviet Russia fighting, was harsh. Famine and disease spread as the British requisitioned food for their troops.

One of the most popular Iranian novels, “Savushun,” is set in this period. It tells of two brothers who take roles every Iranian can recognize: The elder is ambitious and panders to the occupiers; the younger refuses to sell his grain to them and pays a tragic price for his integrity. During their occupation, the British decided that Reza Shah Pahlavi, whom they had helped place in power, was no longer reliable. They deposed him and chose his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, as the new shah.

Once the war ended, Iran resumed its efforts to install democracy, under the leadership of Mohammed Mossadegh. He had campaigned against the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919 and had written a book denouncing “capitulation” agreements, under which foreigners were granted immunity from Iranian law. After he was elected prime minister in 1951, Mr. Mossadegh asked Parliament to take the unimaginable step of nationalizing Iran’s oil industry. It agreed unanimously. That sparked a historic confrontation.

Mr. Mossadegh embodied the anti-British emotion that still roils the Iranian soul. The special envoy President Harry S. Truman sent to Tehran to seek a compromise in the oil dispute, W. Averell Harriman, reported that the British held a “completely 19th-century colonial attitude toward Iran,” but found Mr. Mossadegh just as intransigent. When Mr. Harriman assured Mr. Mossadegh that there were good people in Britain, Mr. Mossadegh gave him a classically Iranian reply.

“You do not know how crafty they are,” he said. “You do not know how evil they are. You do not know how they sully everything they touch.”

Desperate to regain control of Iran’s oil, the British sought to crush Mr. Mossadegh with measures that included harsh economic sanctions — sanctions comparable to the ones they are now imposing. When that failed, they asked President Dwight D. Eisenhower to join in a plot to overthrow him. He agreed, not because he wished to help the British recover their oil but because he had been persuaded that otherwise, Iran might fall to Communism. Iran, after all, was on the southern flank of the Soviet Union, standing between it and the oil fields and warm-water ports of the Persian Gulf.

The coup, staged in August 1953, ended Iranian democracy and allowed Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to build a dictatorship that remained a staunch cold war ally of both Britain and the United States. But the alliance backfired on both countries when his repression set off the 1979 revolution that brought the mullahs to power. Today, many Iranians who loathe the mullahs nevertheless look for Britain’s hand behind any dark plot; some even accuse it of organizing the 1979 revolution, and imposing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

More than half a century ago, Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote that Mr. Mossadegh was “inspired by a fanatical hate of the British and a desire to expel them and their works from the country regardless of the cost.” Many Iranians still feel that way, as their country falls into ever deeper isolation. In Iran, the words “anger” and “Britain” fit easily together.

Outside interference is a central fact of modern Iranian history. And for most of the 20th century, Britain was at the center of most of it. Nonetheless, a spark of admiration has long been buried within Iranians’ anger, as it was in many other places across the British Empire. Mr. Harriman noticed it in his talks with Mr. Mossadegh. The old man liked to tell stories about his favorite grandson, and Mr. Harriman asked where the boy was attending school.
“Why, in England, of course,” was the reply. “Where else?”


Iran's Act of War


There is still much to learn about the Iranian-directed plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador in a Washington, D.C., restaurant. But if the Justice Department's information is correct, the conspiracy confirms a lethal fact about Iran's regime: It is becoming more dangerous, not less, as it ages.

Since the 1989 death of Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Western observers have hunted for signs of the end of the revolution's implacable hostility toward the United States. Signs have been abundant outside the ruling elite: Virtually the entire lay and much of the clerical intellectual class have damned theocracy as illegitimate, and college-educated youth (Iran has the best-educated public of any big Middle Eastern state) overwhelmingly threw themselves into the pro-democracy Green Movement that shook the regime in the summer of 2009.

But at the regime's apex—Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, his praetorian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the clergy who've remained committed to theocracy—religious ideology and anti-Americanism have intensified. The planned assassination in Washington was a bold act: The Islamic Republic's terrorism has struck all over the globe, and repeatedly in Europe, but it has spared the U.S. homeland because even under Khomeini Iran feared outraged American power. What did Iran's top officials know about the Washington assassination plan? Was it just another in a series of half-baked plots by U.S. radicals led on by the FBI, or a bigger international incident? Evan Perez has details on The News Hub.

Iran truck-bombed the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon during Reagan's presidency, calculating correctly that the Lebanese operational cover deployed in that attack would be sufficient to confuse U.S. retaliation. But the accidental shoot-down of Iran-Air flight 655 in July 1988 by the USS Vincennes unquestionably contributed to Tehran's determination that the White House had allied itself with Saddam Hussein and therefore the Iran-Iraq war was lost. The perception of American power proved decisive.

One of the unintended benefits of America being at the center of Iran's conspiracies is that the U.S. is often depicted as devilishly powerful. Running against that fear, however, is another theme of the revolution: America's inability to stop faithful Iranians from liberating their homeland—the entire Muslim world—from Western hegemony and cultural debasement. American strength versus American weakness is a dangerous dance that plays out in the Islamist mind.

Within Iran, this interplay has led to cycles of terrorism of varying directness against the U.S. Khamenei, who many analysts have depicted as a cautious man in foreign affairs, has been a party—probably the decisive party—to every single terrorist operation Iran has conducted overseas since Khomeini's death. The once-humble, unremarkable Khamenei—who was given the office of supreme leader in 1989 by the once-great Don Corleone of clerical politics, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (who assumed Iran's presidency that same year)—has become the undisputed ruler of Iran.

It was Khamenei who massively increased the military and economic power of the Revolutionary Guards Corps while often playing musical chairs with its leadership. The supreme leader has turned a fairly consensual theocracy into an autocracy where all fear the Guards and the Intelligence Ministry, which is also now under the supreme leader's control. He has squashed Rafsanjani, his vastly more intelligent, erstwhile ally. He has brutalized the pro-democracy Green Movement into quiescence. And he has so far outplayed his independent and stubborn president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose populist-nationalist-Islamist pretensions annoy the supreme leader and outrage many religious conservatives.

Khamenei's growing power and sense of mission have manifested themselves abroad. He has unleashed the Guards Corps against the U.S. and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the Treasury Department recently revealed, Tehran has ongoing ties to al Qaeda. These date back at least a decade, as the 9/11 Commission Report depicted Iranian complicity in the safe travel of al Qaeda operatives and chronicled al Qaeda contact with the Lebanese Hezbollah and Tehran's éminence grise to Arab Islamic radicals, the late Imad Mughniyeh.

Matt Kaminski on Iranian plots to bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington D.C. Many in Washington and Europe would like to believe that the assassination plot in Washington came from a "faction" within the Iranian government—that is, that Khamenei didn't order the killing and Washington should therefore be cautious in its response. But neither this analysis nor the policy recommendation is compelling.

Lord help Qasim Soleimani—the man who likely has control over the Revolutionary Guards' elite dark-arts Qods Force, which apparently orchestrated this assassination scheme—if he didn't clear the operation with Khamenei. He will lose his job and perhaps his life. For 20 years, Khamenei has been constructing a political system that is now more submissive to him than revolutionary Iran was to Khomeini.

And for 20 years the U.S. has sent mixed messages to the supreme leader. Under both Democratic and Republican presidents, the U.S. has tried to reach out to Iran, to engage it in dialogue that would lead away from confrontation. For Khamenei such attempts at engagement have been poisonous, feeding his profound fear of a Western cultural invasion and the destruction of Islamic values. This deeply offensive message of peace has alternated with American-led wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars spooked Tehran, radiating American strength for a time, but such visions ebbed.

Khamenei probably approved a strike in Washington because he no longer fears American military might. Iran's advancing nuclear-weapons program has undoubtedly fortified his spine, as American presidents have called it "unacceptable" yet done nothing about it. And neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama retaliated against Iran's murderous missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Obama has clearly shown he wants no part—or any Israeli part—in a preventive military strike against Iran's nuclear sites. And Mr. Obama has pulled almost all U.S. troops out of Iraq and clearly wants to do the same in Afghanistan. Many Americans may view that as a blessing, but it is also clearly a sign that Washington no longer has the desire to maintain hegemony in the Middle East.

That's an invitation to someone like Khamenei to push further, to attack both America and Iran's most detested Middle Eastern rival, the virulently anti-Shiite Saudi Arabia. In the Islamic Republic's conspiracy-laden world, the Saudis are part of the anti-Iranian American Arab realm, which is currently trying to down Iran's close ally, Bashar al-Assad's Syria, and squash the Shiites of Bahrain. Blowing up the Saudi ambassador in Washington would be an appealing counterstroke against the two foreign forces that Khamenei detests most.

The Obama administration will be tempted to respond against Iran with further unilateral and multilateral sanctions. More sanctions aren't a bad idea—targeted sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and the sale of gasoline made from Iranian crude can hurt Tehran financially. But they will not scare it. The White House needs to respond militarily to this outrage. If we don't, we are asking for it.

In the 1980s and '90s, the U.S. failed to take Secretary of State George Shultz's wise counsel after Khomeini's minions bombed us in Lebanon. We didn't make terrorism a casus belli, instead treating it as a crime, only lobbing a few missiles at Afghan rock huts and a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant. But we should treat it as a casus belli. The price we will pay now will surely be less than the price we will pay later.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Iran Says Saudi Plot Defendant Belongs to Exile Group

Iran injected a new twist on Tuesday into the week-old American accusation of an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, asserting that one of the defendants really belongs to an outlawed and exiled opposition group. The defendant, Gholam Shakuri, identified by the Justice Department as an operative of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, is actually a “key member” of the Mujahedeen Khalq, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported.

The agency did not explain the group’s possible motive but left the implication that the plot was a bogus scheme meant to frame and ostracize Iran. It said Mr. Shakuri, who is at large, had last been seen in Washington and in Camp Ashraf, the group’s enclave in Iraq. “The person in question has been traveling to different countries under the names of Ali Shakuri/Gholam Shakuri/Gholam-Hussein Shakuri by using fake passports including forged Iranian passports,” Mehr said.

American officials did not immediately comment on the Mehr report. Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, reiterated the American view in a daily press briefing in Washington that “this was a serious breach of international law and that Iran needs to be held accountable.” The opposition group itself dismissed the Mehr report as nonsense. Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman, said in an e-mailed response that “this is a well-known tactic that has been used by the mullahs in the past 30 years where they blame their crimes on their opposition for double gains.”

The group, also known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is regarded by Iran as a violent insurgent organization with a history of assassinations and sabotage aimed at overthrowing the Islamic government that took power in 1979. While the group claims to have renounced violence a decade ago, it is still classified as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department, but not by Britain or the European Union. It maintains a headquarters in Paris.

Mehr said it had learned what it called the new information about Mr. Shakuri from Interpol but was not more specific. Calls and e-mailed queries to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, were not immediately returned. If Mr. Shakuri were in fact a member of the opposition group, it would be an embarrassing turn for the United States, which announced the suspected plot with some fanfare a week ago in a televised news conference by Attorney General Eric. H. Holder Jr., who said American investigators believed high officials in Iran’s government were responsible.

The Justice Department has accused Mr. Shakuri and Mansour J. Arbabsiar, a naturalized Iranian-American citizen from Corpus Christi, Tex., of conspiring to hire assassins from a Mexican drug gang for $1.5 million to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. American officials have acknowledged the suspected plot sounds hard to believe but asserted they have the evidence to back it up. Saudi Arabia, apparently accepting the accusation as fact, has accused Iran of a “dastardly” scheme, and other American allies say they regard the accusation seriously.

Britain has gone farther than others, announcing on Tuesday it had ordered British banks to impound any assets of the two defendants as well as three other Iranian officials in the Quds Force suspected of running the plot. Since Mr. Holder’s news conference, Iran has sought to counter the accusation with a mix of verbal counterattacks, accusing the Obama administration of concocting the plot to divert attention from other problems, conspiring with Israel to malign Iran and driving a wedge into Iran’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Iran scholars in the United States have said the suspected plot, while sounding far-fetched and amateurish, is not implausible. Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said it could reflect an attempt by Iran’s security forces to retaliate for what they view as American-hatched plots carried out within Iran. “It is suggesting, if true, that they’re trying to meet pressure with pressure,” he said. “From their perspective, the United States is involved in Iran’s internal affairs.”


Court Filings Assert Iran Had Link to 9/11 Attacks
Two defectors from Iran’s intelligence service have testified that Iranian officials had “foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks,” according to a court filing Thursday in a federal lawsuit in Manhattan that seeks damages for Iran’s “direct support for, and sponsorship of, the most deadly act of terrorism in American history.” One of the defectors also claimed that Iran was involved in planning the attacks, the filing said. The defectors’ identities and testimony were not revealed in the filing but were being submitted to a judge under seal, said lawyers who brought the original suit against Iran on behalf of families of dozens of 9/11 victims.

The suit’s allegation that Iran had foreknowledge of the attacks is hard to assess fully, given that the defectors’ testimony is being filed under seal. The suit contends that Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organization with close ties to Tehran, helped Al Qaeda in planning the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and in facilitating the hijackers’ training and travel. After the attacks, the suit contends, Iran and Hezbollah helped Qaeda operatives escape, providing some with a safe haven in Iran.

The question of an Iranian connection to 9/11 was raised by the national 9/11 commission and has long been debated. Al Qaeda, which adheres to a radical Sunni theology, routinely denounces the Shiite sect that holds power in Iran, and the terrorist network’s branch in Iraq has often made Shiites targets of bombings. But intelligence officials have long believed there has been limited, wary cooperation between Al Qaeda and Iran against the United States as a common enemy.

The lawsuit also names as defendants Iranian officials and ministries, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, among others. The families’ lawyers have asked for a default judgment against the defendants, which have not mounted a defense. Even if there were such a judgment, legal experts say it would not be easy to collect monetary damages. In their court papers, the lawyers assert that Imad Mugniyah, as the military chief of Hezbollah, was a terrorist agent for Iran, and that he traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2000 to help with preparations for the 9/11 attacks.

Mr. Mugniyah, who was killed in 2008, had been accused by American officials of planning a series of major terrorist attacks and kidnappings, including the 1983 bombings of the United States Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The 9/11 commission report said there was “strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of Al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.” The report also said there was circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbollah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of the hijackers into Iran in November 2000.

But the commission said that it had “found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack,” and that the “topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government.” Thomas E. Mellon Jr., a lawyer for the families, said the suit, first brought in Washington in 2002 and later moved to Manhattan, sought to do that investigation.

Ellen Saracini, whose husband, the United Airlines pilot Victor J. Saracini, was killed when his plane was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center, said she became involved with the suit because she wanted answers. “We now know,” she said, “who assisted Al Qaeda — Iran did — and we want our American justice system to find Iran accountable.”

The lawyers’ filing included reports of 10 specialists on Iran and terrorism, including former 9/11 commission staff members and ex-C.I.A. officers. “These experts make it clear that 9/11 depended upon Iranian assistance to Al Qaeda in acquiring clean passports and visas to enter the United States,” Mr. Mellon said.

But the expert reports do not in most cases seem to go as far as the defectors in contending Iran had foreknowledge of the attacks.The filing says the defectors worked in Iran’s Ministry of Information and Security “in positions that gave them access to sensitive information regarding Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism.” It says they have reason to fear for the safety of themselves and their families “should their identities and the content of their testimony be revealed publicly.”


Tehran’s Foes, Unfairly Maligned

AS the United States tries to halt Iran’s nuclear program and prepares to withdraw troops from Iraq, American voters should ask why the Obama administration has bent to the will of Tehran’s mullahs and their Iraqi allies on a key issue: the fate of 3,400 unarmed members of the exiled Iranian opposition group, Mujahedeen Khalq, who are living in Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad. The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, has brazenly murdered members of the Mujahedeen Khalq. Mr. Maliki justifies his attacks by noting that the group is on the United States’ official list of foreign terrorist organizations.

In April, Iraqi forces entered Camp Ashraf and fatally shot or ran over 34 residents and wounded hundreds more. Mr. Maliki has now given the Mujahedeen Khalq until Dec. 31 to close the camp and disperse its residents throughout Iraq. Without forceful American and United Nations intervention to protect the camp’s residents and a decision by the State Department to remove Mujahedeen Khalq’s official designation as a terrorist group, an even larger attack on the camp or a massacre of its residents elsewhere in Iraq is likely.

This situation is the direct result of the State Department’s misconceived attempt to cripple the Mujahedeen Khalq by labeling it a terrorist organization, beginning in 1997. At the time, I was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I concluded that this was part of a fruitless political ploy to encourage a dialogue with Tehran. There was no credible evidence then, nor has there been since, that the group poses any threat to the United States. Tragically, the State Department’s unjustified terrorist label makes the Mujahedeen Khalq’s enemies in Tehran and Baghdad feel as if they have a license to kill and to trample on the written guarantees of protection given to the Ashraf residents by the United States. And Tehran’s kangaroo courts also delight in the terrorist designation as an excuse to arrest, torture and murder anyone who threatens the mullahs’ regime.

For better or worse, the State Department often makes politically motivated designations, which is why the Irish Republican Army was never put on the list (despite the F.B.I.’s recommendation). Similarly, Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq and the Haqqani terrorist network in Pakistan — both of which have murdered many Americans — have successfully avoided being listed. During my tenure as F.B.I. director, I refused to allocate bureau resources to investigating the Mujahedeen Khalq, because I concluded, based on the evidence, that the designation was unfounded and that the group posed no threat to American security.

I did, however, object to the State Department’s politically motivated insistence that the F.B.I. stop fingerprinting Iranian wrestlers, and intelligence operatives posing as athletes, when the wrestlers were first invited to the United States in a good-will gesture. And the F.B.I. did try, unsuccessfully, to focus the Clinton administration on the threat posed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which exported terrorism and committed or orchestrated acts of war against America, including the 1996 Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 American airmen. We learned from prosecutors on Tuesday that a unit of the corps plotted to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

Some critics call the Mujahedeen Khalq a dangerous cult. But since leaving office, I have carefully reviewed the facts and stand by the conclusion that the Mujahedeen Khalq is not a terrorist organization and should be removed from the State Department’s list immediately. Many of the most knowledgeable and respected terrorism experts in the world have come to the same conclusion. (Though I have on some occasions received speaker’s fees or travel expenses from sympathizers of the Mujahedeen Khalq, my objective analysis as a career law enforcement officer is the only basis for my conclusions.)

Britain and the European Union have already acted on the evidence, removing the Mujahedeen Khalq from their sanctions lists in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The British court reviewing the Mujahedeen Khalq dossier went so far as to call the terrorist designation “perverse.” The Mujahedeen Khalq is now led by a charismatic and articulate woman, Maryam Rajavi, who enjoys significant support in European governments. In 2001, the Mujahedeen Khalq renounced violence and ceased military action against the Iranian regime. And in 2003, the group voluntarily handed over its weapons to American forces in Iraq and has since provided the United States with valuable intelligence regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program. By the State Department’s own guidelines, Mujahedeen Khalq should be delisted.

Yet Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the White House have balked at delisting the group and protecting its members at Camp Ashraf, despite bipartisan calls for action. Incredibly, as our duty to protect the camp’s residents reaches a critical stage, the State Department offers only silence and delay. The secretary is still “reviewing” the designation nearly 15 months after the United States Court of Appeals in Washington ruled that the department had broken the law by failing to accord the Mujahedeen Khalq due process when listing it as a terrorist group. Mrs. Clinton has not complied with the court’s order to indicate “which sources she regards as sufficiently credible” to justify this life-threatening designation. The reason is clear: there is no evidence.
Louis J. Freeh was director of the F.B.I. from 1993 to 2001.


How Iran Acquired A Stealth Drone

It seems that Iran has acquired a U.S. stealth drone which was illegally flying within its airspace. A secret U.S. surveillance drone that went missing last week in western Afghanistan appears to have crashed in Iran, in what may be the first case of such an aircraft ending up in the hands of an adversary. Iran’s news agencies asserted that the nation’s defense forces brought down the drone, which the Iranian reports said was an RQ-170 stealth aircraft. It is designed to penetrate enemy air defenses that could see and possibly shoot down less-sophisticated Predator and Reaper drones.

U.S. officials acknowledged Sunday that a drone had been lost near the Iranian border, but they declined to say what kind of aircraft was missing. The first reports of the drone crash came from Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency. “Iran’s army has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran,” the Arabic-language al-Alam state television network quoted an unnamed source as saying. “The spy drone, which has been downed with little damage, was seized by the armed forces.” Reuters wrote that U.S. official says no sign Iran shot down drone. Of course Iran never claimed that it shot down the drone so this is a non-denial. Iran just "downed" the drone by some electronic warfare means.

The question now is "How did they do it?" Here are my speculative ideas on that. As this is a stealth drone detecting it is the first problem. A usual monostatic radar where the emitter of the radar beam and the receiver which catches the echo from the airplane are in the same place would not find the drone. The drone's form and its echo reducing coating would scatter the beam too much. But by using bistatic radar where the emitter is separated from the receiver(s) by a distance that is comparable to the expected target distance even stealthy flying objects can be detected.

Detection by electronic means is also be possible if the drone is receiving and sending information via its satellite link and not just silently following a preprogrammed flightpath. While the signal from the drone to the satellite is send in a highly directional beam a plane equipped with the necessary radios flying above the drone and near the line of sight between the satellite and the drone should be able to locate it. If the drone used its own radar to "look around" Iran the recently delivered Russian Avtobaza "anti-stealth" system will likely have detected it.

The Iranians says it did not shoot the drone down but "downed" it with little damage. I think they may have actually landed it. This RQ-170 drone type became known as the "Beast of Kandahar" when it first observed there four years ago. Flying U.S. stealth drones in Afghanistan is obvioulsy necessary to escape the Taliban's radars (not). The drone is quite big with an estimated wingspan of 65 feet (20m) to 90 feet (27m) and a takeoff weight of some 10,000 lbs.

When the drone is in the air it is controlled via a satellite link from a remote operating station. But during start and landing the drone is piloted via line-of-sight radio by an operator near the start or landing field. This is necessary because the remote satellite link has a delay of several hundred milliseconds which is just too much latency to correct wind sheer and other problems during takeoff and landing.

What the Iranians seem to have done is to take over the drone's line-of-sight control. This after electronically disrupting its satellite link. Disrupting the satellite link alone would not be enough as the drone would then have followed some preprogrammed action like simply flying back to where it came from. With the line-of-sight control active a satellite link disruption would not lead to a preprogrammed abort.

We can reasonably assume that the Iranians have some station near Kandahar Airport that is listening to all military radio traffic there. They had four years to analyze the radio signaling between the ground operator and such drones. Even if that control signal is encrypted pattern recognition during many flights over four years would have given them enough information to break the code.

Iran will take care to hide the drone well as the U.S. would likely try to destroy it if its location would be known. When the Chinese collected parts of a stealth F-117 stealth plane that was downed in Yugoslavia the U.S. bombed their embassy in Belgrade.

Having acquired an only slightly damaged state of the art stealth drone Iran will be able to copy a lot of its technology as well as to find new measures against such drones. There will also bee a lot of interests from other sides into this technology. We can bet that the military attaches from the Russian, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and other embassies are already queuing up in the Iranian Defense Ministry and ready to make some very lucrative offers.

China, Russia Want to Inspect Downed U.S. Drone

An informed source in the Iranian military has said that Russian and Chinese officials have asked for permission to inspect the U.S. spy drone that was recently downed by the Iranian Armed Forces, reported on Wednesday. On Sunday, an unidentified Iranian military source said that the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic had downed an advanced RQ-170 unmanned U.S. spy plane, which had violated the country’s airspace along the eastern border. There are unconfirmed reports that Iran may put the drone on public display.

According to the Washington Post, the RQ-170 drone has been used by the CIA for highly sensitive missions into other nations’ airspace, including months of surveillance of the compound in Pakistan in which Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was allegedly hiding before he was killed in an attack by Special Operations forces on May 1, 2011. On Monday, U.S. military officials said that they are concerned that Tehran may now have an opportunity to acquire information about the classified surveillance drone program, AP reported.

U.S. officials considered conducting a covert mission inside Iran to retrieve or destroy the stealth drone but ultimately concluded such a secret operation wasn’t worth the risk of provoking a more explosive clash with Tehran, a U.S. official said, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.


Meet The Russian Avtobaza — Iran's Possible Drone Killer

Speculation is running rampant after Iran claimed to have shot down a US RQ-170 surveillance drone Sunday, and while Tehran has yet to show proof, it appears their announcement coincides with the delivery of this piece of equipment. Stephen Trimble from Flight Global reports Russia delivered the Avtobaza ground-based electronic intelligence and jamming system to Iran six-weeks ago. While most weapons deliveries to Iran are blocked, a jamming system like the Avtobaza is allowed because it's a passively defensive machine "designed to jam side-looking and fire control radars on aircraft and manipulate the guidance and control systems of incoming enemy missiles." Possibly what NATO regulators didn't plan on was the jammer's potential as a communications link allowing UAVs to be controlled remotely. Whether that's how it was used Sunday is another matter.


Russia, Iran: Brothers in Arms

With the Iran-Iraq War winding down in 1987, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini reportedly told a roomful of ambassadors: “Today Iran is so isolated that we can count the number of our friends on one hand.” Two decades later, with the UN Security Council weighing punitive options against it, Iran remains isolated but can count on at least one supporter among its neighbors: Russia.

The burgeoning partnership between Iran and Russia threatens to unravel UN efforts to squeeze Tehran to forego its nuclear ambitions. A veto-wielding member of the Security Council, Russia has thus far resisted efforts to punish the Iranians for forging ahead with their enrichment activities and ignoring a raft of UN resolutions. Of course, Moscow is motivated by fears of losing lucrative business opportunities, not to mention an important ally in the region. Bilateral trade eclipsed $2 billion in 2005, and as this new Backgrounder explains, Russia now supplies the bulk of Iran’s conventional arms. That includes a proposed air-defense system that would give Iran a credible deterrent against any American or Israeli move to strike its nuclear installations. Russia also built a light-water nuclear power plant at Bushehr, an $8 billion project set to go online as early as next year (

Brenda Shaffer of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy calls Russia and Iran “partners in need,” motivated mainly by three ends: curbing U.S. influence, maintaining a multipolar world, and undermining U.S. efforts to sideline both states (take, for example, the new Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which skirts both Iran and Russia). Yet Michael Eisenstadt, writing in Arms Control Today, says cooperation between the two countries “is driven as much by fear and mistrust as it is by opportunism and shared interests.” Regardless, closer Russia-Iran ties pose challenges to peace in the Middle East, analysts say, especially if Iran goes nuclear over the next decade.

Russia maintains Tehran’s nuclear program is peaceful and poses no threat to Iran’s neighbors (Reuters), much less to the United States. Yet Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, says his agency is still “unable to confirm the peaceful nature of Iran´s nuclear program.” Moscow continues to voice its opposition to sanctions not only out of economic interest but also on the grounds that, as an instrument of diplomacy, their track record is suspect.

The most recent draft proposal before the Security Council calls for a ban on Iranian students of nuclear physics from studying abroad and denies visas to Iranian nuclear scientists (IANS). Yet Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, calls these efforts “feeble” (NYSun). Mohsen Sazegara, a U.S.-based Iranian dissident, suggests tough talk and smart sanctions are in order. “The most important thing for the international community is to talk to the regime of Iran firmly and strongly,” he told Meanwhile, CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot says only sanctions against Iranian exports of crude would cripple the regime in Tehran but that “would require a concerted international effort. Don’t hold your breath” (LAT). Instead, he proposes a “soft” approach that includes, among other things, reestablishing an American embassy in Tehran in exchange for a suspension of Iran’s nuclear program.


Russia and the Development of the Iranian Missile Program

Military-technological cooperation between Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran constitutes a qualitative leap from the previous occasional military liaisons between the USSR and Iran during the era of the Shah, which started at the end of 1967. Shortly after the Islamic revolution in Iran (February 1979), the USSR tried to arrange military cooperation between the countries. However Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini undermined these attempts in every possible way, as they opposed his concept of an Islamic regime in the country, which affirmed the necessity of struggling against "the Big Satan" (the USA) and "the Small Satan" (the USSR).

In the 1980s and 1990s, the imposition of an embargo on deliveries of arms for the Iranian army by Europe and America compelled Teheran to intensively pursue military purchases from the Soviet Union, and later from Russia. In 1988 – 1992, Iran procured $2.2 billion worth of Russian weapons and combat equipment. Iran is the only state in the Middle East today whose cooperation in the military sphere allows Russia both to satisfy its economic interests and to strengthen its influence in the region. As for Iran's interests - military cooperation with Russia gives it access to modern arms, outflanking the Western embargo.

Russian Secrets from Pyongyang

Interaction in the spheres of the design, creation and delivery of equipment related to rocket technology is one of the priorities of the military-technological cooperation between Russia and Iran. The military doctrine of the Islamic republic is based on usage of precision missiles such as the "Shahab" and "Fateh" as vehicles for the delivery of chemical, biological and - prospectively - nuclear strikes.

Experts from North Korea, Libya and Russia have cooperated from time to time with Iranian missile scientists on the creation of warhead parts. Creation of the Iranian ballistic missiles began after the start of batch production of artillery rockets such as the "Ogab" and "Mushak" (having a small radius - from 50 to 160 km respectively). With assistance of North Korean experts, in 1988 Iranians started to modernize "Scud" missiles according to the engineering specifications provided to Pyongyang by Russia. However, in 1993 Teheran stopped manufacturing "Scuds" and started creation of its own "Shahab," the main components of which are based on the Russian analogues.

In Spite of Washington

In parallel with establishing its own ability to manufacture missiles, Iran attempted to import missile equipment from Russia. The first contract for delivery of such Russian equipment to Tehran was signed in November 1989 (a half year after Khomeini`s death). Iran received two anti-aircraft S-200VE "Vega" missile systems. The following military agreements signed in the nineties, which included various kinds of missile technologies and equipment, were not fulfilled because of Tehran`s financial difficulties. The next roadblock to the promotion of the Iran-Russia military cooperation was the signing of the Russian-American Memorandum of Gore – Chernomirdin in June 1995. Moscow committed to cease all military deliveries to Teheran by the end of 1999 and also to curtail any cooperation with Islamic Republic in this sphere.

However, it took Russia less than a year to go back on its word and to abandon the Memorandum unilaterally. "Common Russian and Iranian geopolitical interests" – such was the thesis explaining the Kremlin's reasoning for the decision. Contracts and agreements on military deliveries, including missile technologies, totaling more than $4 billion, were signed during Russian Minister of Defense Igor Sergeev`s visit to Iran in December 2000.

Missiles for Ayatollas

Russia is considered to be the main partner in the modernization program of the Iranian armed forces. Consequently, the Islamic republic is the world's third largest client of the Russian arms industry, after China and India. Recently, Iran purchased Russian-made anti-aircraft missile complexes of a large radius, S-300PMY and S-300PMY-2 (SA-10 Grumble), and anti-aircraft complexes of a small radius, Tor - Ì1 (SA-15 Gauntlet). Iran has declared readiness to purchase both anti-aircraft complexes Buk- Ì1 (SA-11 Gadfly) and tactical short-range ballistic missiles Iskander-E. Representatives of the Islamic Republic have shown interest also in the surface-to-air gun/missile systems Tunguska-M and Pantsyr (modifications of SA-19 Grison) produced by the Russian military-industrial complex.

The "Shahab" Project

According to the Tehran newspaper "Aftabe Yazd," in May, 2002 Iran began batch production of the "Shahab -3" missile. This missile is capable of reaching any target in Israel and in most countries of the Middle East, having a range of 1500 km and carrying a warhead of up to one ton. Since its completion, Iranians have been modernizing it to increase its range. The " Shahab -3" was publicly shown for the first time during the military parade in honor of the Day of the Iranian Army on April 18, 2003. The fourth generation of "Shahab" entered the final testing stage in 2000, having a range of 2000-2200 km. This missile already constitutes a threat to European targets.

In 2001, the Western military periodical press noted that Iranian missile developers had received an order for the fifth - intercontinental – "Shahab" model, with a range of up to 10 thousand km., capable of hitting the American East Coast.

The sudden unexplained death in July 2003 of the leading Iranian engineer behind the "Shahab" missiles, A. M. Mehmand, hampered the development of the project. The same year Tehran officially announced its suspension of this missile program to demonstrate its "defensive character". However, in April, 2005 the chief of Israeli military intelligence, Aharon Zeevi Farkash, claimed that Iran continues development of the fourth and fifth generations of the "Shahab" ("Ediot Ahronot", 29.04.05).

The CIA has repeatedly produced reports on the full-scale Russian assistance in all stages of the Iranian missile program. Under US pressure, Russia has promised more than once to minimize its involvement. Nevertheless, western and Israeli sources claim that such statements are just empty promises.

Targeting Washington?

The Iranian missile program is considered, first and foremost, to be threatening Israel. This opinion is based on Tehran's proclaimed strategic goal - destruction of the Jewish state. It was literally confirmed most recently by one of the closet colleagues of the religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenai - his personal representative at the "Shahids Fund" – Mohammad Hassan Rahimiyan. He declared that Iranian Shahids are ready to continue the struggle for destruction of Israel and America (Iranian news agency " Fars ", April 20, 2005).

At the same time, the head of Israeli military intelligence is convinced that the USA is the main target of the Iranian missiles., This is obvious, in his opinion, because to attack Israel Iran does not need to develop missiles with a range of 10 thousand km. since the distance between the two countries is hardly more than 1000 km. Thus, participation of Moscow in the Iranian missile program poses the greatest threat not to Israel, but to Russia's traditional geopolitical opponent - the United States of America.

The Russian Shield of Tehran

Iran recently purchased modern anti-aircraft defense complexes in Russia, which are intended for protection of the major Iranian nuclear objects from the American or Israeli attack. Islamic Republic has received several upgraded S-300 complexes and that became a reason for serious American diplomatic demarches. To soften the disagreements, Moscow refused to sell a large batch of portable anti-aircraft missiles "Igla - 1Ì" (SA-18 Grouse) to Tehran. Iran had to buy Chinese "Tzianvay" - made by the Russian license on the basis of the "Igla".

Iranian Future Purchase List

Tehran mulls the procurement in 2005-2006 of several Russian military products:

- anti-ship missiles "Mosquito" of ground and air basing,
- anti-ship missile complexes "Yahont-E" (according to the Russian laws the export variant of both missiles it is not capable to carry nuclear warheads),
- Cruise missiles "Club",
- anti-radar missiles with extended range,
- Guided missiles to increase the efficiency of the Russian-made Sy-24 ÌÊ bombers constituting the basis of the Iranian Air Forces,
- Modern air-to-air missiles for Russian-made MiG-29 delivered to the Iranian Army.


Iran's Sunburn Missile System

Iran's Awesome Nuclear Anti-Ship Missile The Weapon That Could Defeat The US In The Gulf

A word to the reader: The following paper is so shocking that, after preparing the initial draft, I didn't want to believe it myself, and resolved to disprove it with more research. However, I only succeeded in turning up more evidence in support of my thesis. And I repeated this cycle of discovery and denial several more times before finally deciding to go with the article. I believe that a serious writer must follow the trail of evidence, no matter where it leads, and report back. So here is my story. Don't be surprised if it causes you to squirm. Its purpose is not to make predictions history makes fools of those who claim to know the future but simply to describe the peril that awaits us in the Persian Gulf. By awakening to the extent of that danger, perhaps we can still find a way to save our nation and the world from disaster. If we are very lucky, we might even create an alternative future that holds some promise of resolving the monumental conflicts of our time. --MG

Last July, they dubbed it operation Summer Pulse: a simultaneous mustering of US Naval forces, world wide, that was unprecedented. According to the Navy, it was the first exercise of its new Fleet Response Plan (FRP), the purpose of which was to enable the Navy to respond quickly to an international crisis. The Navy wanted to show its increased force readiness, that is, its capacity to rapidly move combat power to any global hot spot. Never in the history of the US Navy had so many carrier battle groups been involved in a single operation. Even the US fleet massed in the Gulf and eastern Mediterranean during operation Desert Storm in 1991, and in the recent invasion of Iraq, never exceeded six battle groups. But last July and August there were seven of them on the move, each battle group consisting of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier with its full complement of 7-8 supporting ships, and 70 or more assorted aircraft. Most of the activity, according to various reports, was in the Pacific, where the fleet participated in joint exercises with the Taiwanese navy.

But why so much naval power underway at the same time? What potential world crisis could possibly require more battle groups than were deployed during the recent invasion of Iraq? In past years, when the US has seen fit to "show the flag" or flex its naval muscle, one or two carrier groups have sufficed. Why this global show of power? The news headlines about the joint-maneuvers in the South China Sea read: "Saber Rattling Unnerves China", and: "Huge Show of Force Worries Chinese." But the reality was quite different, and, as we shall see, has grave ramifications for the continuing US military presence in the Persian Gulf; because operation Summer Pulse reflected a high-level Pentagon decision that an unprecedented show of strength was needed to counter what is viewed as a growing threat in the particular case of China, because of Peking's newest Sovremenny-class destroyers recently acquired from Russia.

"Nonsense!" you are probably thinking. That's impossible. How could a few picayune destroyers threaten the US Pacific fleet?" Here is where the story thickens: Summer Pulse amounted to a tacit acknowledgement, obvious to anyone paying attention, that the United States has been eclipsed in an important area of military technology, and that this qualitative edge is now being wielded by others, including the Chinese; because those otherwise very ordinary destroyers were, in fact, launching platforms for Russian-made 3M-82 Moskit anti-ship cruise missiles (NATO designation: SS-N-22 Sunburn), a weapon for which the US Navy currently has no defense. Here I am not suggesting that the US status of lone world Superpower has been surpassed. I am simply saying that a new global balance of power is emerging, in which other individual states may, on occasion, achieve "an asymmetric advantage" over the US. And this, in my view, explains the immense scale of Summer Pulse. The US show last summer of overwhelming strength was calculated to send a message.

The Sunburn Missile

I was shocked when I learned the facts about these Russian-made cruise missiles. The problem is that so many of us suffer from two common misperceptions. The first follows from our assumption that Russia is militarily weak, as a result of the breakup of the old Soviet system. Actually, this is accurate, but it does not reflect the complexities. Although the Russian navy continues to rust in port, and the Russian army is in disarray, in certain key areas Russian technology is actually superior to our own. And nowhere is this truer than in the vital area of anti-ship cruise missile technology, where the Russians hold at least a ten-year lead over the US. The second misperception has to do with our complacency in general about missiles-as-weapons probably attributable to the pathetic performance of Saddam Hussein's Scuds during the first Gulf war: a dangerous illusion that I will now attempt to rectify.

Many years ago, Soviet planners gave up trying to match the US Navy ship for ship, gun for gun, and dollar for dollar. The Soviets simply could not compete with the high levels of US spending required to build up and maintain a huge naval armada. They shrewdly adopted an alternative approach based on strategic defense. They searched for weaknesses, and sought relatively inexpensive ways to exploit those weaknesses. The Soviets succeeded: by developing several supersonic anti-ship missiles, one of which, the SS-N-22 Sunburn, has been called "the most lethal missile in the world today."

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the old military establishment fell upon hard times. But in the late1990s Moscow awakened to the under-utilized potential of its missile technology to generate desperately needed foreign exchange. A decision was made to resuscitate selected programs, and, very soon, Russian missile technology became a hot export commodity. Today, Russian missiles are a growth industry generating much-needed cash for Russia, with many billions in combined sales to India, China, Viet Nam, Cuba, and also Iran. In the near future this dissemination of advanced technology is likely to present serious challenges to the US. Some have even warned that the US Navy's largest ships, the massive carriers, have now become floating death traps, and should for this reason be mothballed.

The Sunburn missile has never seen use in combat, to my knowledge, which probably explains why its fearsome capabilities are not more widely recognized. Other cruise missiles have been used, of course, on several occasions, and with devastating results. During the Falklands War, French-made Exocet missiles, fired from Argentine fighters, sunk the HMS Sheffield and another ship. And, in 1987, during the Iran-Iraq war, the USS Stark was nearly cut in half by a pair of Exocets while on patrol in the Persian Gulf. On that occasion US Aegis radar picked up the incoming Iraqi fighter (a French-made Mirage), and tracked its approach to within 50 miles. The radar also "saw" the Iraqi plane turn about and return to its base. But radar never detected the pilot launch his weapons. The sea-skimming Exocets came smoking in under radar and were only sighted by human eyes moments before they ripped into the Stark, crippling the ship and killing 37 US sailors.

The 1987 surprise attack on the Stark exemplifies the dangers posed by anti-ship cruise missiles. And the dangers are much more serious in the case of the Sunburn, whose specs leave the sub-sonic Exocet in the dust. Not only is the Sunburn much larger and faster, it has far greater range and a superior guidance system. Those who have witnessed its performance trials invariably come away stunned. According to one report, when the Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani visited Moscow in October 2001 he requested a test firing of the Sunburn, which the Russians were only too happy to arrange. So impressed was Ali Shamkhani that he placed an order for an undisclosed number of the missiles.

The Sunburn can deliver a 200-kiloton nuclear payload, or: a 750-pound conventional warhead, within a range of 100 miles, more than twice the range of the Exocet. The Sunburn combines a Mach 2.1 speed (two times the speed of sound) with a flight pattern that hugs the deck and includes "violent end maneuvers" to elude enemy defenses. The missile was specifically designed to defeat the US Aegis radar defense system. Should a US Navy Phalanx point defense somehow manage to detect an incoming Sunburn missile, the system has only seconds to calculate a fire solution not enough time to take out the intruding missile. The US Phalanx defense employs a six-barreled gun that fires 3,000 depleted-uranium rounds a minute, but the gun must have precise coordinates to destroy an intruder "just in time."

The Sunburn's combined supersonic speed and payload size produce tremendous kinetic energy on impact, with devastating consequences for ship and crew. A single one of these missiles can sink a large warship, yet costs considerably less than a fighter jet. Although the Navy has been phasing out the older Phalanx defense system, its replacement, known as the Rolling Action Missile (RAM) has never been tested against the weapon it seems destined to one day face in combat. Implications For US Forces in the Gulf

The US Navy's only plausible defense against a robust weapon like the Sunburn missile is to detect the enemy's approach well ahead of time, whether destroyers, subs, or fighter-bombers, and defeat them before they can get in range and launch their deadly cargo. For this purpose US AWACs radar planes assigned to each naval battle group are kept aloft on a rotating schedule. The planes "see" everything within two hundred miles of the fleet, and are complemented with intelligence from orbiting satellites.

But US naval commanders operating in the Persian Gulf face serious challenges that are unique to the littoral, i.e., coastal, environment. A glance at a map shows why: The Gulf is nothing but a large lake, with one narrow outlet, and most of its northern shore, i.e., Iran, consists of mountainous terrain that affords a commanding tactical advantage over ships operating in Gulf waters. The rugged northern shore makes for easy concealment of coastal defenses, such as mobile missile launchers, and also makes their detection problematic. Although it was not widely reported, the US actually lost the battle of the Scuds in the first Gulf War termed "the great Scud hunt" and for similar reasons.


Iran - a Threat to the Petrodollar?

Iran's decision to set up an oil and associated derivatives market next year has generated a great deal of interest. This is primarily because of Iran's reported intention to invoice energy contracts in euros rather than dollars. The contention that this could unseat the dollar's dominance as the de facto currency for oil transactions may be overstated, but this has not stopped many commentators from linking America's current political disquiet with Iran to the proposed Iranian Oil Bourse (IOB). The proposal to set up the IOB was first put forward in Iran's Third Development Plan (2000-2005). Mohammad Javad Assemipour, who heads the project, has said that the exchange will strive to make Iran the main hub for oil deals in the region and that it should be operational by March 2006.

Geographically Iran is ideally located as it is in close proximity to major oil importers such as China, Europe and India. It is unlikely, in the short term at least, that large numbers of energy traders will decamp and set up shop in Iran; a country which happens to be categorised as a member of the "axis of evil" by the president of the world's largest oil-importing country; the United States. But over time, Iran could take some business away from the two incumbent energy exchanges, the International Petroleum Exchange and the New York Mercantile Exchange who both invoice sales solely in dollars.

Economic motives

If successful, the IOB will provide Iran with concrete economic benefits especially if it invoices at least some of its energy contracts in euros. Iran has around 126 billion barrels of proven oil reserves about 10% of the world's total, and has the world's second largest proven natural gas reserves.

From an economic perspective, invoicing oil in euros would be logical for Iran as trade with the euro zone countries accounts for 45% of its total trade. More than a third of Iran's oil exports are destined for Europe, while oil exports to the United States are non existent. The IOB could create a new euro denominated crude oil marker, which in turn would enable GCC nations to sell some of their oil for euros. The bourse should lead to greater levels of foreign direct investment in Iran's hydrocarbon sector and if it facilitates futures trading it will give regional investors an alternative to investing in their somewhat overvalued stock markets.

Euro zone countries alone account for almost a third of Iran's imports and currently Iran must exchange dollars earned from hydrocarbon exports into euros which involves exchange rate risk and transaction costs. The decline in the dollar against the euro since 2002 - some 26% to date - has substantially reduced Iran's purchasing power against its main importing partner. If the decline continues, more states will increase the percentage of euros vis-à-vis the dollar they hold in reserve and in turn this will increase calls both in Iran and the GCC to invoice at least some of their oil exports in euros.

A move away from the dollar and a strengthening of the euro would further benefit Iran as according to a member of Iran's Parliament Development Commission, Mohammad Abasspour, more than half of the country's assets in the Forex Reserve Fund are now euros. It is primarily the US which stands to lose out from any move away from the petrodollar status quo, it is the world's largest importer of oil and a move away from invoicing oil in dollars to euros will undoubtedly have a negative effect on its economy. Fewer nations would be willing to hold the dollar in reserve which would cause a significant devaluation and result in the loss seigniorage revenues. In addition, US energy-related companies stand to lose out as they will be unable to participate in the bourse due to the longstanding American trade embargo on Iran.

Political considerations

In the 1970s, not long after the collapse of the gold standard, the US agreed with Saudi Arabia that Opec oil should be traded in dollars in effect replacing the gold standard with the oil standard. Since then, consecutive US governments have been able to print dollar bills and treasury bonds in order to paper over huge current account and budgetary deficits, last year's US current account deficit was $646 billion.

Needless to say, the current petrodollar system greatly benefits the US; it enables it to effectively control the world oil market as the dollar has become the fiat currency for international trade. In terms of its own oil imports, the US can print dollar bills without exporting commodities or manufactured goods as these can be paid for by issuing yet more dollars and T-bills. George Perkovich, of the Washington based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has argued that Iran's decision to consider invoicing oil sales in euros is "part of a very intelligent strategy to go on the offense in every way possible and mobilise other actors against the US."

This viewpoint however, ignores Iran's economic motives, just because the decision, if eventually taken, displeases the US does not mean that the rationale is purely political. In light of such sentiments and the US's current insistence that Iran be referred to the UN Security Council Iran must consider and weigh carefully the economic benefits against the potential political costs. Although a matter of conjecture, some observers consider Iran's threat to the petrodollar system so great that it could provoke a US military attack on Iran, most likely under the cover of a preemptive attack on its nuclear facilities, much like the cover of WMD America used against Iraq.

In November 2000, Iraq began selling its oil in euros, its Oil For Food account at the UN was also transferred into euros and later it converted its $10 billion UN held reserve fund into euros. At the time of the switch many analysts were surprised and saw it as nothing more than a political statement, which in essence it may have been, but the euro has gained roughly 17% over the dollar between then and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Perhaps unsurprisingly, since the US led occupation of Iraq its oil sales are once again being invoiced in dollars.

The best policy choice for Iran would be to proceed with the IOB as planned as the economic advantages of such a bourse are clear, but in order to mitigate against the potentially greater political "threat" should provide customers with flexibility. It would make it much harder for America to object to the new bourse, overtly or covertly, if Iran allows customers to decide for themselves which currency to use when purchasing oil, such an approach would facilitate for euro purchases without explicitly ruling out the dollar.


Iran and Syria to Form a New anti-American-Israeli Axis

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and his Syrian host Bashar Asad discussed best ways and means to form a new anti-American-Israeli axis to take off pressures Washington and Tel Aviv are putting on them. The embattled Iranian President confirmed on Friday that the two countries would expand their cooperation in the face of mounting pressures from the United States and Israel as well as foster peace in the troubled region of Middle East.

The Iranian embattled President arrived in Damascus early Thursday morning at the end of an official visit to the neighbouring kingdom of Muscat and Oman, the last leg of a weeklong trip to African Arab nations of Algeria and Sudan. The unscheduled visit came at a time that both countries, staunch opponents of the United States and Israel, are under increased international pressures, accused of derailing peace efforts by providing military, logistic and financial assistance to Palestinian and Arab radical groups opposed to peace with the Jewish State.

A new high command is taking shape, formed by the Hezbollah, HAMAS, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the Iranian ruling ayatollahs are suspected of leaving no stone unturned in order to become a nuclear power, Syria, for its part, is under international pressure because of its “satellisation” of Lebanon.

"These pressures have always existed and we have to neutralize them through our cooperation", the official news agencies of both countries reported Khatami as saying in Damascus at the start of his visit to Syria.

Both Tehran and Damascus are also suspected by Washington of being behind Iraq’s insurgency by leaving their porous borders open to Arab and Muslim fighters, known as “jihadis” the remnants of Osama Ben Laden’s “Al-Qa’eda” network that masterminded the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington D.C. According to Mr. Patrick Seale, a well-known British journalist based in Paris, under the auspices of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a new and “much dangerous” alliance is taking shape uniting for the first time Sunni and Shi’a Muslims in the one hand and Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah with hard line Palestinian groups assisted by Damascus.

“A new high command is taking shape, formed by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’a movement that booted out Israel from southern Lebanon, HAMAS, the Palestinian resistance movement that has overshadowed the Palestinian Authority of Yaser Arafat as a spearhead of resistance to Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood, represented in the occupied territories by the Islamic Jihad and last but not least, the Islamic Republic of Iran”, Mr. Seale, author of a biography of the former Syrian strongman Hafez Asad wrote in the last edition of “Jeune Afrique-L’Intelligent” dated 3 to 9 October 2004.

“The particularity of this new alliance is that first of all, it abolishes the Shi’a-Sunni division among Muslims and also reunites Arab nationalists and islamists under one common flag. There is no more differences between resistance and jihadis”, he added, quoting one western intelligence source. Khatami-Bashar talks also focused on ways of maintaining stability in the Middle East in view of escalated Israeli violence and developments in neighbouring Iraq, where both Syria and Iran strongly oppose the presence of American forces.

"In our meetings we will try to cooperate toward ensuring calm and stability in the crisis-ridden Middle East region", Khatami said. "The situation is getting more perilous because of the inhuman and violent actions of the Zionist regime", he added.

“The visit took place at a time when great pressure is being exerted on Syria, as a significant regional country, by the US, Zionist regime and some Western countries”, the official Iranian news agency IRNA commented, referring to a recent UN-based measure, sponsored by Washington and Paris, urging Syria to pull its 40.000 strong troops out of neighbouring Lebanon.

Khatam-Bashar talks also focused on ways of maintaining stability in view of escalated Israeli violence and developments in neighbouring Iraq. Bowing to the move, Syria returned around 10.000 soldiers from around Beirut. Syria's support for Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups and allegations Damascus was pursuing weapons of mass destruction were among key reasons behind U.S. economic sanctions in May.

“Political experts call Khatami’s visit to Syria as being “important”, believing that it would consolidate Syrian position in this critical situation”, the agency added, failing to mention Iran’s growing troubles with the United States, European Union’s so-called Big trio of Britain, France and Germany and the the International Atomic Energy Agency over its nuclear projects as well as Iran’s isolation in both the international community and the Arab and Muslim worlds.

In the past two decades, Iran and Syria have been enjoying close strategic relations based on their bilateral interests, as Damascus ruled by a rival faction of the Ba'th Party, was the only Arab nation that sided with non Arab Iran when the now toppled Saddam Hussein attacked it on September 1980.This is Khatami’s fourth trip to Syria. Both presidents condemned the massacre of innocent Muslims in the occupied Palestine and called on the international community to react against the Zionist regime’s crimes, IRNA reported, as Mr. Khatami returned to Tehran on Friday. This was Khatami's fourth official visit to Syria. The younger Asad came to Tehran three times.

According to Mr. Seale, American unilateral and systematic backing of Israel’s hard line Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in crushing the Palestinians in the one hand and American-Israeli’s menaces against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear ambitions are among major factors “explaining” the new mobilisation, “better organised and more determined.

Iran Threatens to Stop Gulf Oil if Sanctions Widened

Iran threatened on Tuesday to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if foreign sanctions were imposed on its crude exports over its nuclear ambitions, a move that could trigger military conflict with economies dependent on Gulf oil. Western tensions with Iran have increased since a November 8 report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog saying Tehran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end. Iran strongly denies this and says it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Iran has defiantly expanded nuclear activity despite four rounds of U.N. sanctions meted out since 2006 over its refusal to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment and open up to U.N. nuclear inspectors and investigators. Many diplomats and analysts believe only sanctions targeting Iran's lifeblood oil sector might be painful enough to make it change course, but Russia and China - big trade partners of Tehran - have blocked such a move at the United Nations. Iran's warning on Tuesday came three weeks after EU foreign ministers decided to tighten sanctions over the U.N. watchdog report and laid out plans for a possible embargo of oil from the world's No. 5 crude exporter.

"If they (the West) impose sanctions on Iran's oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz," the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi as saying.

The U.S. State Department said it saw "an element of bluster" in the threat but underscored that the United States would support the free flow of oil. "It's another attempt to distract attention away from the real issue, which is their continued non-compliance with their international nuclear obligations," spokesman Mark Toner said. Rahimi's remarks coincided with a 10-day Iranian naval exercise in the Strait and nearby waters, a show of military force that began on Saturday. "Our enemies will give up on their plots against Iran only if we give them a firm and strong lesson," Rahimi said.


Countries in the 27-member European Union take 450,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil, about 18 percent of the Islamic Republic's exports, much of which go to China and India. EU officials declined to comment on Tuesday. About a third of all sea-borne oil was shipped through the Strait of Hormuz in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and U.S. warships patrol the area to ensure safe passage.

Most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq - together with nearly all the liquefied natural gas from lead exporter Qatar - must slip through the Strait of Hormuz, a 4-mile wide shipping channel between Oman and Iran. Iran has also hinted it could hit Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf in response to any military strike on its nuclear installations - a last resort option hinted at by Washington and the Jewish state.

However, some analysts say Iran would think hard about sealing off the Strait since it could suffer just as much economically as Western crude importers, and could kindle war with militarily superior big powers. "To me, if Iran did that it would be a suicidal act by the regime. Even its friends would be its enemies," said Phil Flynn, analyst at PFG Best Research in Chicago.


Industry sources said on Tuesday No. 1 oil exporter Saudi Arabia and other Gulf OPEC states were ready to replace Iranian oil if further sanctions halt Iranian crude exports to Europe. Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi had said that Saudi Arabia had promised not to replace Iranian crude if sanctions were imposed. "No promise was made to Iran, it's very unlikely that Saudi Arabia would not fill a demand gap if sanctions are placed," an industry source familiar with the matter said.

Gulf delegates from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said an Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz would harm Tehran as well as the major regional producers that also use the world's most vital oil export channel. Oil prices spiked on Tuesday, fuelled by fears of supply disruptions and Iranian naval exercises in a crucial oil shipping route, with gains capped by simmering euro zone debt concerns.

Brent crude oil futures jumped more than a dollar to over $109 a barrel after the Iranian threat, but a Gulf OPEC delegate said the effect could be temporary. "For now, any move in the oil price is short-term, as I don't see Iran actually going ahead with the threat," the delegate told Reuters. The industry source said that in the case of EU sanctions, Iran would most likely export more of its crude to Asia, while Gulf states would divert their exports to Europe to fill the gap until the market is balanced again.

A prominent analyst said that if Iran did manage to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, the ensuing spike in oil prices could wreck the global economy, so the United States was likely to intervene to foil such a blockade in the first place. "First, the U.S. will probably not allow Iran to close the Strait. That's a major economic thoroughfare and not just for oil. You shut that Strait and we are talking a major hit on many Middle East economies," said Carl Larry, president of Oil Outlooks in New York.

"Second, there is no way that the Saudis (alone) have enough oil or quality of oil to replace Iranian crude. Figure Saudi spare capacity is 2 to 4 million at best. Of that spare, about 1-2 million is real oil that is comparable out of Iran. Lose Iran, lose 3.5 million barrels per day of imports. No way."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed hitting Iran with an oil embargo and won support from Britain, but resistance to the idea persists within and outside the European Union. An import ban might raise global oil prices during hard economic times and debt-strapped Greece has been relying on attractively financed Iranian oil. Iran's seaborne trade is already suffering from existing trade sanctions, with shipping companies scaling down or pulling out as the Islamic Republic faces more hurdles in transporting its oil.


U.S. Fifth Fleet Says Won't Allow Hormuz Disruption

The U.S. Fifth Fleet said on Wednesday it would not allow any disruption of traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, after Iran threatened to stop ships moving through the world's most important oil route. "Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated," the Bahrain-based fleet said in an e-mail.

Iran, at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear program, said on Tuesday it would stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if sanctions were imposed on its crude exports. "Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran's armed forces is really easy ... or as Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water," Iran's navy chief Habibollah Sayyari told Iran's English-language Press TV on Wednesday. "But right now, we don't need to shut it ...," said Sayyari, who is leading 10 days of exercises in the Strait.

Analysts say that Iran could potentially cause havoc in the Strait of Hormuz, a strip of water separating Oman and Iran, which connects the biggest Gulf oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. At its narrowest point, it is 21 miles across. But its navy would be no match for the firepower of the Fifth Fleet which consists of 20-plus ships supported by combat aircraft, with 15,000 people afloat and another 1,000 ashore.

A spokesperson for the Fifth Fleet said in response to queries from Reuters that, it "maintains a robust presence in the region to deter or counter destabilizing activities," without providing further details. A British Foreign Office spokesman called the Iranian threat "rhetoric," saying: "Iranian politicians regularly use this type of rhetoric to distract attention from the real issue, which is the nature of their nuclear program."


Tension has increased between Iran and the West after EU foreign ministers decided three weeks ago to tighten sanctions on the world's No. 5 crude exporter, but left open the idea of an embargo on Iranian oil. The West accuses Iran of seeking a nuclear bomb; Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. The Iranian threat pushed up international oil prices on Tuesday although they slipped back on Wednesday in thin trade.

"The threat by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz supported the oil market yesterday, but the effect is fading today as it will probably be empty threats as they cannot stop the flow for a longer period due to the amount of U.S. hardware in the area," said Thorbjoern bak Jensen, an oil analyst with Global Risk Management.

The Strait of Hormuz is "the world's most important oil chokepoint," according to the U.S. Department of Energy. About 40 percent of all traded oil leaves the Gulf region through the strategic waterway. The State Department said there was an "element of bluster" in the threat, but underscored that the United States, whose warships patrol in the area, would support the free flow of oil. France urged Iran on Wednesday to adhere to international law that allows all ships freedom of transit in the Strait.

Iran's international isolation over its defiant nuclear stance is hurting the country's oil-dependent economy, but Iranian officials have shown no sign of willingness to compromise. Iran dismisses the impact of sanctions, saying trade and other measures imposed since the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the U.S.-backed shah have made the country stronger.

During a public speech in Iran's western province of Ilam on Wednesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad implied Tehran had no intention of changing course. "We will not yield to pressure to abandon our rights ... The Iranian nation will not withdraw from its right (to nuclear technology) even one iota because of the pressures," said Ahmadinejad, whose firm nuclear stance has stoked many ordinary Iranians' sense of national dignity.

Some Iranian oil officials have admitted that foreign sanctions were hurting the key energy sector that was in desperate need of foreign investment. Though four rounds of the U.N. sanctions do not forbid the purchase of Iranian oil, many international oil firms and trading companies have stopped trading with Iran.


The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if sanctions fail to rein in Iran's nuclear work. An Iranian analyst who declined to be named said the leadership could not reach a compromise with the West over its nuclear activities as it "would harm its prestige among its core supporters." As a result, he said, "Iranian officials are showing their teeth to prevent a military strike."

But he added that closing the Strait of Hormuz would harm Iran's economy, undermining the Iranian leadership ahead of a parliamentary election in March. The election will be the first litmus test of the clerical establishment's popularity since the 2009 disputed presidential vote, that the opposition says was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad's re-election. The vote was followed by eight months of anti-government street protests and created a deepening political rift among the hardline rulers.

With the opposition leaders under house arrest since February and the main reformist political parties banned since the vote, Iranian hardline rulers are concerned a low turnout would question the establishment's legitimacy. Frustration is simmering among lower- and middle-class Iranians over Ahmadinejad's economic policies. Prices of most consumer goods have risen substantially and many Iranians struggle to make ends meet.