[Marxism] Iranian invasion\attack plans?

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Thu Jan 26 10:09:14 MST 2006

Here's a piece from last week by one of the editors of the Wall Street
Journal on the subject. It reflects the fears of US planners and politicians
that military action would provoke a wider Middle East war turning the Shias
(notably the Sadrists) against US forces in Iraq, with Israel left to
confront Hezbollah and Hamas on its borders. The article suggests the
Israelis don't have the capability to launch air strikes against Iran and
also guard against retaliation, which was surprising to me. The US and other
oil importers obviously are also deeply concerned, perhaps mainly concerned,
about the serious disruption war would cause to the oil supply, especially
through the Straits of Hormuz. So far, the Bush administration seems to be
desperately hoping European and UN pressure on the Iranian Supreme Council
will force it to enrich the country's uranium in Russia, and that meantime
it can continue trying to weaken the regime through political subversion and
economic and military sabotage.
The Iranian Tipping Point
By Fred Kempe
Wall Street Journal
January 17, 2006; Page A15

The operators of Iran's Natanz nuclear-enrichment plant called it the
"Yankee virus" even though they couldn't establish its source. What they did
know was that "the industrial accident" it spawned had shut them down and
done such serious damage to their facility that it would take months to

The software virus had triggered an irregular vibration of one of the 164
ultra-high-speed centrifuges used to separate out heavy uranium 238 for use
as nuclear fuel. The centrifuge malfunctioned, knocking out the others until
the whole system seized up.

The Iranians would never know how Natanz had been infiltrated or that the
specially trained, U.S.-paid agents behind the high-tech attack had escaped
the country without attracting notice.

* * *

This fictitious scenario of covert action against Iran's nuclear ambitions
isn't lifted from a spy novel. It is instead drawn from conversations with
Washington insiders who are part of a growing cottage industry gaming ways
to address what one senior Bush administration official says has the
potential of surpassing Iraq as the most explosive foreign-policy issue of
the president's final term.

On the ladder of escalating measures to use against Iran, these experts say
deniable sabotage within Iran comes far ahead of smart bombs raining down on
the country's nuclear facilities but a good distance after sanctions such as
banning Iran's national team from the soccer World Cup this June or
suspending nominally "peaceful" nuclear-fuel deliveries from Russia.

Iran's leadership last week prompted its most open confrontation with the
West yet over its nuclear program by removing special seals applied by the
International Atomic Energy Agency to the high-speed centrifuges at Natanz.
It thus is resuming "research" almost certainly aimed at bomb development.

That was followed last Thursday by Germany, France, Britain and the European
Union jointly declaring an end to their negotiations with Tehran and
calling, with U.S. support, for the matter to be referred to the United
Nations Security Council. To that end, the five permanent members of the
council plus Germany met Monday in London. Afterward, European diplomats
appeared confident that Moscow wouldn't block referral to the U.N. when the
IAEA's governor board meets Feb. 2-3. China's position remains unclear.

Their escalating debate over Iran swirls around several critical questions
and their evolving answers.

Q. What has motivated Tehran to defy the West now?

A. The U.S. remains distracted by Iraq, and Iran is calculating that
Washington neither has the stomach to strike it militarily nor the
international backing for meaningful economic sanctions, says Patrick
Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. He says President
Mahmound Ahmedinejad may also be calculating that conflict with the West can
be used to excite nationalism at home that would reignite an Iranian
revolution whose Islamic flames have waned.

Q. Do countries with deep ties to Iran -- particularly Russia and China --
consider the threat to Mideast and global security from a nuclear Iran
serious enough to warrant action that they have long opposed?

A. Though these countries will oppose military action, their suspicions of
Tehran have grown. The Russians have been building a $1 billion nuclear
plant for the Iranians, yet they also want to avoid an Islamic bomb on their
borders. Their failed negotiations to get Iran to enrich nuclear fuel for
their plants on Russian territory has soured them on Tehran. The Chinese,
who have signed a $100 billion, 25-year gas deal with Iran, likely fear that
a nuclear Iran can only increase North Korea's nuclear aspirations.

Q. Will they approve referral to the U.N. and sanctions with enough bite to
effectively stop Iranian nuclear-weapons development?

A. They appear ready to let the matter come to the Security Council, but
sanctions will likely fall short of anything that might stop Iran's nuclear
development in its tracks. That said, Western officials hope that
sufficiently tough measures can show Iran that the world community is
turning against it and thus strengthen the hand of "pragmatic conservatives"
who might convince hard-liners to rejoin negotiations and resume compliance
with international restrictions on Iran's nuclear program.

Fiery Rhetoric

The most important single factor galvanizing the world's powers behind a
tougher approach to Iran has been President Ahmadinejad, who was elected
last year. Western officials say it is Iran's Supreme Council and not the
president who controls nuclear strategy, yet his extreme pronouncements have
nevertheless increased concern about the danger of a nuclear Iran.

What's well-known is that he has called for Israel to be either wiped from
the map or relocated to Alaska or Bavaria. More troubling to nuclear
strategists is his religious pre-occupation with the coming of a Shiite
Islamic messiah, which he referred to last September during a U.N. speech in
New York to the befuddlement of delegates. He then described his role in a
November speech in Tehran as usher "for the glorious reappearance of the
Imam Mahdi, may Allah hasten his reappearance." According to Shiites, "the
Mahdi" is the 12th imam and disappeared as a child in 941. They believe a
final judgment and end of the world will follow after his seven-year reign.

Those who doubt President Ahmadinejad's religious convictions can watch a
widely distributed videotape of his meeting with one of Iran's religious
leaders during which he speaks of how he found himself bathed in a green
light throughout his U.N. address and that "for those 27 or 28 minutes all
of the leaders of the world did not blink." What U.S. and Israeli leaders
fear is that such a leader might welcome a global conflagration and might
not just talk but also execute an "eliminationist" strategy toward Israel.
His rhetoric has heightened fears that a nuclear Iran would be more
difficult to deter and willing to give nuclear materials to terrorists.

A U.S. official says Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, is
trying to moderate President Ahmadinejad's more extreme pronouncements,
which have provided an unwanted rallying point against nuclear ambitions
that are otherwise shared by all factions of Iran's leadership.

On final analysis, the best explanation of why Tehran is acting now to
resume its nuclear activities, says Mr. Clawson, is not Iran's president but
rather that Tehran "believes it can get away with it." Not only is the U.S.
tied up in Iraq, but when it comes to sanctions, Iran is betting the
Security Council will avoid coming down heavy on the world's fourth-largest
oil and second-largest natural gas producer at a time of rising energy

If Tehran doesn't call off its resumption of "research," it will be
abandoning a carefully calibrated approach, in sharp contrast to that of
North Korea, of staying within the Nonproliferation Treaty and working with
the West and the IAEA. Its approach has been to remain sufficiently
cooperative to avoid sanctions while patiently and often secretly advancing
work toward building a nuclear-arms capacity.

A study last fall by the International Institute of Strategic Studies
confirmed the consensus of Western intelligence agencies that Tehran isn't
after a quick nuke but rather has taken pains to construct a deep,
sustainable, scientifically rich weapons program that would make it more the
Middle Eastern India than a Persian Pyongyang. (The report concluded that
"even if Iran threw caution to the wind" it would only be able to produce
enough highly enriched uranium to produce a single nuclear weapon by 2010.)

However, another critical time line the Bush administration is watching is
Iran's progress toward mastering nuclear-weapons technology, says Gary
Samore, a proliferation expert at the MacArthur Foundation who edited the
report. On that score, he says, "they are very close, probably less than a

Pressuring Tehran

Western officials still hope that diplomatic sanctions can hold the line.
Europe and the U.S. believe they can ultimately convince the Russians and
Chinese not to block a limited list of U.N.-imposed sanctions, including
limits on travel, freezing specific bank accounts and banning Iranian
participation at international sporting events.

Most important, says Mr. Samore, would be a ban on peaceful nuclear
cooperation that would stop Russia from delivering the fuel necessary to run
Iran's light-water Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is due to come on
stream this year. Mr. Samore says the Russians thus far have delayed
delivery of the fuel and would comply to a Security Council resolution.

In the end, however, it may only be military action that will set back a
determined Iran. Pentagon planners are busy doing their computer
simulations. Most experts believe Israeli airpower lacks both the range and
numbers to hit the key targets and also prevent retaliation. The U.S.
military is more confident it can strike the Iranians with the firepower and
sorties to set them back many years, but at what cost?

Unlike Iraq, Iran has ample means to inflict pain on the U.S. and Israel
through indirect and, in the case of Israel, direct military attack. U.S.
experts worry about Tehran's ability to escalate violence in sensitive
regions through groups it backs such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad
among the Palestinians and insurgents in Iraq.

What concerns Mr. Clawson of the Washington Institute more is the Iranian
capability to disrupt shipping in the Straits of Hormuz or sponsor a
horrendous terrorist attack by al Qaeda, which is believed to have links
with Tehran. Iran has a history of backing terrorist attacks when it can
preserve plausible deniability - such as the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in
Lebanon and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

"Part of the risk of military attack is that the Iranian response is
incalculable," says Mr. Samore.

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