Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Iran on gunsights

INTERNATIONAL speculation is rife over when the US and Israel or either on its own would strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. It is no longer a question of whether such action is planned but of the right timing and conditions for the planned strikes, which could include the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
That is the net picture that emerges from behind-the-scenes in the US, Israel and Europe as well as some parts of the Middle East even as the international community is watching the diplomatic drama being played out in the name of UN Security Council action against Iran for insisting on pursuing its nuclear programme, writes PV Vivekanand.

Many analysts, in the Middle East, Europe and the US, see it as a two-track process. On the first track, the US and Israel are already far ahead in planning military action against Iran and are waiting for movement on the second track, which is preparing the ground and justification for such action. The US and Israel would move in with the planned action as soon as they perceive that there are enough points to be argued against Iran and enough "evidence" is produced to insist that the Iranians pose a threat to the region and international community.
Seasoned observers are convinced that military action is coming, and they cite the Iraq example. "It would not be an exaggeration that there is little the Iranian leadership could do to avert military action just as Saddam Hussein did not have any option at all since it was decided that Iraq should be hit no matter what," asserts an Arab analyst.
Others agree with the view that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's rejection on Wednesday of suggestions about a possible resumption of negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme supports this theory.
"Of course Iran could deflate the American/Israeli war machine by meeting all demands and complying with all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands linked to its nuclear programme through one compromise or nother," adds the analyst. "However, even that deflation — humiliating as it indeed would be for Iran — would be shortlived since there is no way that Israel and the US would trust the Iranians to give up their nuclear programme."
Therefore, the argument goes, the only solution acceptable to the US and Israel is to reshape Iran itself through destabilising the country and eventually installing an American-friendly regime in Tehran, a la Baghdad.
That means confronting Iran with demands that are designed in a way that Tehran would never be able to meet, and thus continuing the "diplomatic" build-up to military action.

Timed for March?

Certain reports have suggested that Israel — with backing from the US —  has set a March deadline for military strikes against Iranian nuclear installations as well as attacks on Iranian military facilities and equipment which could be used for retaliation against American forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The American Conservative magazine reported in August last year that Vice-President Dick Cheney, the most prominent figure in the Bush administration in orchestrating the invasion and occupation of Iraq, had already ordered the US Air Force to begin preparing plans for a full-scale air war against Iran's "suspected" nuclear weapons sites.
"The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-programme development sites," according to former military intelligence and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) counter-terrorism officer Philip Giraldi. "Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option."
It means, according to experts, that the US would use nuclear weapons of much a smaller scale that those used in the strikes at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The weapons would plunge themselves into the earth and explode from within, thus, hopefully, limiting the attack's impact to the target and reducing human casualties.
Military manuals certify that this new generation of nuclear weapons are "safe" for use in the battlefield. "They are no longer a weapon of last resort. There are no impediments or political obstacles to their use. In this context, Senator Edward Kennedy has accused the Bush Administration for having developed a generation of more useable nuclear weapons," says Michel Chossudovsky in an article headlined Nuclear War against Iran  and appearing on