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U.S. Backers of Israel Pressure Obama Over Policy on Iran

WASHINGTON — On the eve of a crucial visit to the White House by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, that country’s most powerful American advocates are mounting an extraordinary public campaign to pressure President Obama into hardening American policy toward Iran over its nuclear program.

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Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, at a news conference last month.

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From the corridors of Congress to a gathering of nearly 14,000 American Jews and other supporters of Israel here this weekend, Mr. Obama is being buffeted by demands that the United States be more aggressive toward Iran and more forthright in supporting Israel in its own confrontation with Tehran.

While defenders of Israel rally every year at the meeting of the pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, this year’s gathering has been supercharged by a convergence of election-year politics, a deepening nuclear showdown and the often-fraught relationship between the president and the Israeli prime minister.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu will both speak to the group, known as Aipac, as will the three leading Republican presidential candidates, who will appear via satellite from the campaign trail on the morning of Super Tuesday. Republicans have seized on Iran’s nuclear ambitions to accuse Mr. Obama of being weak in backing a staunch ally and in confronting a bitter foe.

The pressure from an often-hostile Congress is also mounting. A group of influential senators, fresh from a meeting with Mr. Netanyahu in Jerusalem, has called on Mr. Obama to lay down sharper criteria, known as “red lines,” about when to act against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“We’re saying to the administration, ‘You’ve got a problem; let’s fix it, let’s get back on message,’ ” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who took part in the meeting with Mr. Netanyahu and said the Israeli leader vented frustration at what he viewed as mixed messages from Washington.

“It’s not just about the Jewish vote and 2012,” Mr. Graham added. “It’s about reassuring people who want to avoid war that the United States will do what’s necessary.”

To give teeth to the deterrent threat against Iran, Israel and its backers want Mr. Obama to stop urging restraint on Israel and to be more explicit about the circumstances under which the United States itself would carry out a strike.

Specifically, Israeli officials are demanding that Iran agree to halt all its enrichment of uranium in the country, and that the suspension be verified by United Nations inspectors, before the West resumes negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program.

The White House has rejected that demand, Israeli and American officials said on Friday, arguing that Iran would never agree to a blanket ban upfront, and to insist on it would doom negotiations before they even began. The administration insists that Mr. Obama will stick to his policy, which is focused on using economic sanctions to force the Iranian government to give up its nuclear ambitions, with military action as a last resort.

Despite the position of the Israelis and Aipac, the American intelligence agencies continue to say that there is no evidence that Iran has made a final decision to pursue a nuclear weapon. Recent assessments by American spy agencies have reaffirmed intelligence findings in 2007 and 2010 that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weaponsprogram.

In his tone, at least, Mr. Obama is working to reassure Israel. In an interview published on Friday, Mr. Obama reiterated his pledge to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon — with force, if necessary — and ruled out a policy of accepting but seeking to contain a nuclear-armed Iran. The Israeli government, he said, recognizes that “as president of the United States, I don’t bluff.”

The White House’s choice of interviewer — Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for the magazine The Atlantic — was carefully calculated. Mr. Goldberg is closely read among Jews in America; in 2010, he wrote an article exploring the situations under which Israel would attack Iran.

American Jews are anything but monolithic. More dovish groups, like J Street, are trying to make a case against a pre-emptive Israeli strike. But for the next few days, Aipac will set the tone for an intense debate over the Iranian nuclear threat.

Mr. Obama will not lay down new red lines on Iran, even if he discusses them with Mr. Netanyahu, administration officials said. And he is not ready to accept a central part of Israel’s strategic calculation: that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be warranted to stop it from gaining the capability to build a nuclear weapon, rather than later, to stop it from actually manufacturing one.

In the interview, Mr. Obama warned Israel of the consequences of a strike and said that it would delay but not prevent Iran from acquiring a weapon. He also said he did not know how the American public would react.

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Israel’s supporters said they believed that a majority of Americans would support an Israeli military strike against Iran. But polling data paints a murkier picture: while close to 50 percent of Americans say in several polls that they would support Israel, a slightly larger number say they would stay neutral. In some surveys, there is strong support for continuing diplomacy.

Supporters of Israel argue that in the American news media, Iran’s nuclear program has been wrongly framed as Israel’s problem, rather than as a threat to the security of the whole world.

“This is about the devastating impact on U.S. and Western security of a nuclear-armed Iran bent on bullying the region into submission,” said Josh Block, a former spokesman for Aipac.

Turnout for this year’s Aipac conference is expected to surpass all previous records. And the roster of speakers attests to the group’s drawing power. In addition to Mr. Obama, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will speak, as will Congressional leaders including Senator Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s Republican leader, and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House.

On Tuesday, the screens in the Washington convention center will light up with the Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, who are likely to fault Mr. Obama as not doing enough to prevent Iran from getting a weapon.

“Aipac is the spearhead of the pro-Israel community’s efforts to move the American government’s red lines closer to Israel’s red lines,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former American envoy to Israel.

Officials at Aipac declined to comment about the conference or their strategy. But Mr. Block and other former Aipac officials said that, as in previous years, the group would blanket Capitol Hill with its members — all of whom will carry a message about the Iranian nuclear threat.

They will be pushing on an open door. Democrats and Republicans, divided on so much, are remarkably united in supporting Israel and in ratcheting up pressure on Iran. The Senate voted 100 to 0 last year to pass legislation isolating Iran’s central bank, over the objections of the White House.

There are four bills in the House and Senate that call for tougher action against Iran or closer military cooperation between Israel and the United States. Mr. Graham is one of 32 Republican and Democratic sponsors of a resolution that calls on the president to reject a policy of containing Iran.

“The Senate can’t agree to cross the street,” Mr. Graham said. “Iran has done more to bring us together than anything in the world.”

To counter Aipac’s message, J Street has circulated a video on Capitol Hill, highlighting American and Israeli military experts who have voiced doubts about the efficacy of a strike on Iran.

“We are saying there needs to be time for enhanced sanctions and diplomacy to work,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street. “We’re trying to calm down the drumbeat of war.”

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Iran dismisses reports of imminent Israeli attack

Masood Haider | Back Page | From the Newspaper
Iranian Ambassador to the UN told: “Iran is so strong,” and “the consequences would be devastating for (Israel) and maybe for whoever helped them.”— Photo by Reuters

NEW YORK: US President Barack Obama has imposed more economic sanctions on Iran, including freezing Iranian assets owned by its Central Bank in US, amid fears that the Obama Administration may be preparing for an attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

However, Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazee dismissed such reports, saying, “I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Mr Khazee told National Public Radio in an interview: “Iran is so strong,” and “the consequences would be devastating for (Israel) and maybe for whoever helped them.”

“There are wise enough people around the world to tell them not to do such a crazy thing.”

The US and other nations have been tightening sanctions on Iran and have been warning that it needs to be more transparent about its nuclear ambitions. Iran says it is not pursuing development of nuclear weapons.

Another media report here said the world leaders were genuinely concerned that an Israeli military attack on the Islamic Republic could be imminent — “an action that many fear might trigger a wider war, terrorism and global economic havoc”.

High-level foreign dignitaries, including the UN secretary general and the head of the American military, have stopped in Israel in recent weeks, urging leaders to give the diplomatic process more time to work.

Israel seems unmoved, and US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has reportedly concluded that an Israeli attack on Iran is likely in the coming months.

Shortly after the Europeans enacted their embargo, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi told reporters, “We will not abandon our just nuclear course, even if we cannot sell one drop of oil.”

A report said on Wednesday that in a move to bypass the sanctions, India had reportedly agreed to pay for Iranian oil with gold, with China expected to follow suit. Instead of isolating Iran, it appears that the sanctions are pushing the state closer to her top trading partners.

To make its embargo more effective against India’s and China’s dodge, will Washington next move to simply blockade all oil shipments out of Iran? And what are the likely consequences of these actions?

In an interview with China’s NTDTV.com, Chinese General Zhang Zhaozhong was quoted as saying that “China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third world war.” Not very surprising. In the Iran-Iraq war, Iran purchased Chinese weapons.

The Obama Administration has also accused Chinese firms of lending a hand to developing Iran’s purported nuclear weapons programme.

A senior Russian foreign ministry official lashed out at Israel for “inventing” allegations about Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme and warned that such fabrications could entail “catastrophic consequences”. On Wednesday, Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of Security and Disarmament Department at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denounced Tel Aviv’s hawkish rhetoric on Iran over its nuclear programme as “inventions” that “are increasing the tension and could encourage moves towards a military solution with catastrophic consequences”.

He also described the speculations over Iran’s nuclear programme as “noise” and reiterated that such allegations “have political and propaganda objectives, which are far from being inoffensive”.

Iran threatens to hit US targets worldwide in case of war

Seyed Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi, Ambassador  of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Russia (RIA Novosti / Alexander Natruskin)

Seyed Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Russia (RIA Novosti / Alexander Natruskin)

TAGS: MilitaryNATONuclear BS, IranUSAWar

 

On Wednesday the Iranian ambassador to Moscow, Seyed Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi declared that Iran has the capabilities to carry out military strikes on US interests around the globe.

This comes after President Obama announced the United States would freeze all Iranian assets held in the US. The executive order which was signed on Monday was in reaction to what the US is calling deceptive practices by Iran.
The issue of a military attack from America on the Islamic Republic of Iran has been on the agenda for several years,” said Sajjadi.
The building provocation by Washington has been cornering Tehran and Sajjadi has stated that a US-led attack on Iran would be like committing suicide. Sajjadi went on to say Iran would by no means attack first.
According to Sajjadi, “Even if it (US) attacks, we have a list of counter actions.”
Sajjadi’s words don’t seem to be empty words. Last Thursday, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Moshe Yaalon, disclosed that, according to his sources, the big blast at the Iranian missile base near Tehran in November of last year blew up a new missile system with a range of 10,000 kilometers, one capable of targeting the United States.
Iran has warned the US and its allies that a military strike would be “painful” and Iran would be forced to aim their aggression on Israel and US bases in the Gulf. In addition a closure of the Strait of Hormuz would quickly follow. The US and its allies have attempted to force Iran to shut down their nuclear programs for fear of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and at the same time the US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, has gone public admitting Iran does not have nuclear weapons. Iran has stated their nuclear program is not for military purposes and insists a nuclear bomb is not in the works.
Despite Panetta’s statements Washington has not disregarded the military option. Additionally, Panetta has announced that Israel may launch a military strike on Iran within the next 90 days. However, the Iranians remain defiant in the face of such threats.
The Americans know what kind of country Iran is. They are well aware of our people’s unity,” said Sajjadi.

Newt repeats ‘second Holocaust’ warning!

By ALEXANDER BURNS |

1/27/12 11:40 AM EST

Newt Gingrich is standing by his warning that an Iranian nuclear weapon could cause a “second Holocaust.”

At a press conference here in Miami, a reporter noted to Gingrich that he was on the cover of casino mogul and Gingrich super PAC backer Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom. The headline declared that President Barack Obama’s policies could lead to another genocide against the Jews.

Asked if he would disavow that kind of rhetoric, Gingrich shrugged: “It’s probably my rhetoric.”

“I have said allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons … runs the direct risk of a second Holocaust. That is a fact,” Gingrich said.

However Jewish voters in Florida respond to his rhetoric, Gingrich’s most important audience for this kind of question is almost certainly Adelson, who has directed $10 million to the pro-Gingrich group Winning Our Future.

Gingrich is scheduled to address a rally of the Republican Jewish Coalition — another organization Adelson supports — elsewhere in Florida this afternoon.

The Consequences of a Strike on Iran: The IRGC Navy

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC-N) is an integral component of Iranian defensive strategy and its forces are expected to be key players in any Iranian retaliatory strategy should the US attack Iranian nuclear facilities. IRGC-N doctrine is based on “access-denial” of the strategically vital Straits of Hormuz through which almost a third of all seaborne oil passes and could include directly targeting US warships, attacking merchant shipping, mining and attempting to close the Straits of Hormuz, as well as attacking various energy and strategic installations in and around the Persian Gulf. The net effort of IRGC-N forces is likely to impact global energy security but Iran is unlikely to be able to close the Straits of Hormuz, particularly for any extended period of time.

Iran has two navies – the Shah-era conventional Iranian Navy (IRIN) – and the IRGC-N, which emerged as an independent entity in the 1980s and came of age during the Iran-Iraq War with successful amphibious operations in southern Iraq. Following post-Revolution mistrust of all Shah-era military formations, the IRGC-N was promoted and today wields substantial influence with the Supreme Leader as well as with influential defense, government and clerical figures, as a result of which it has primacy in resource and funding allocations, and has acquired several new platforms and capabilities even as the IRIN fleet ages. Especially after the Tanker Wars of the late 1980s, Iranian strategic planners appear to have concluded that in the event of large-scale hostilities, Iran’s larger conventional fleet would be of limited use (during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988, US forces destroyed over 25 percent of Iran’s larger naval ships in one day) and as such have restructured their forces to wage asymmetric naval guerrilla warfare. This fleet is expected to be far more lethal than IRIN could hope to be and is now entrusted with “full responsibility” for operations in the critical Persian Gulf. The IRIN is now relegated to the Gulf of Oman and the Caspian Sea.

The IRGC-N seeks to operate at the lower end of the conflict spectrum and exploit vulnerabilities in the larger conventional forces of its US and Gulf Arab enemies. IRGC commander Brigadier General Jafaari explicitly stated, “The enemy is far more advanced technologically than we are, we have been using what is called asymmetric warfare methods… our forces are now well prepared for it.” The IRGC-N operates a sizable fleet of small boats, small submarines, mine-laying units, anti-ship missiles, and naval infantry units to conduct naval guerilla war. It will likely rely upon its “mosaic defense” strategy to decentralize its command and control apparatuses and allow operational zones to operate autonomously. IRGC soldiers and sailors are also generally expected to be more ideologically committed than regular forces and could even be used to conduct suicide attacks.

Iran is generally believed to be a rational player that recognizes the consequences of full-scale engagement with the US – not least of which is the effect on Iran’s 87 percent of imports and 99 percent of exports that transit by sea, most through the Straits of Hormuz. Iran has also generally abstained from escalating conflict in the Gulf beyond limited engagements, although has shown a willingness to engage in brinksmanship. In March 2007, IRGC-N forces captured 15 British marines for several days for ‘entering sovereign Iranian waters’ and Iranian small boats have occasionally harassed and provoked US warships. One such incident in 2008 may have been designed to test US rules of engagement and involved IRGC-N boats making threatening maneuvers as well as a radio transmission that stated, “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes.” It remains difficult to distinguish between Iranian rhetoric and reality, but the IRGC-N has carried out several wargames in recent years, and Iranian officials have sometimes threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz in the aftermath of tensions with the US.

Organizational Structure
The IRGC-N is under the command of Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, who was appointed by Supreme Leader Khamenei in May 2010, to replace Rear Admiral Morteza Saffari. The Persian Gulf is divided into four main areas of responsibility.

District
Key Base, Location
Area of Responsibility
Commanding Officer
1st Naval District
Shahid Bahonar, Bandar Abbas
Straits of Hormuz
Reza Torabi
2nd Naval District
Shahid Mahalati, Bandar Bushehr
Central Persian Gulf
Ali Razmjou
3rd Naval District
N/A, Mahshahr
Northern Persian Gulf
Taghipour-Rezaei
4th Naval District
N/A, Babolsar
Caspian Sea
Seifolah Bakhtiarvand

Operating Bases
Click on the placemarks in the map for information on each base

The IRGC-N maintains operational control over the Persian Gulf and maintains several bases along the Persian Gulf as seen in the map below. The IRGC-N has also expanded its bases along the Sea of Oman towards the Pakistani border, moving outside its regional competency to potentially extend its “layered defense strategy” outside the Straits of Hormuz.

View IRGC Naval Bases in a larger map

Small Boat “Swarming” Attacks

The IRGC-N has prioritized the use of small missile-equipped craft to implement “swarming” tactics against warships and merchant shipping in the narrow Persian Gulf. Given US conventional superiority and air dominance, the IRGC-N is likely to have dispensed with ‘mass swarming’ tactics in favor of ‘dispersed swarming’ where highly agile small craft converge from various concealed bases to surprise and attack targets. Swarming is a crude but potentially effective asymmetric tactic to overwhelm superior conventional forces, particularly if coupled with effective anti-ship missiles. In a 2002 US Navy simulation “sunk” 16 ships including an aircraft carrier while copying Iranian asymmetric capabilities. Since then, obviously this need has been recognized, and amongst other changes, the US’s new Littoral Combat Ships are designed for precisely such encounters. In naval wargames, Iran often highlights its small-boat capacity.

The IRGCN operates a sizable fleet of small but heavily armed boats. These include the Azaraksh (China Cat) and Thondar (Hudong) fast-attack missile craft armed with the Kowsar and C-802 anti-ship missiles (ASM), the North-Korean acquired Peykaap I and II (IPS-16/IPS-16 modified) and Tir (IPS-18) missile boats, as well as patrol craft the Ashura, Tareq and Boghammer speedboats. The C-802 ASM is the same missile used to destroy an Israeli corvette during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. Iran is also unveiling new lines of high-speed and “stealth” boats including the Ya Mahdi, Seraj and Zolfaghar craft and in a daring international scheme Iran acquired and intends to mass produce the Bladerunner-51, the world’s fastest speedboat.

Iranian small boats have obvious disadvantages and on their own are highly vulnerable to US firepower. Surprise will be their most important asset for any successful confrontation, a requirement acknowledged by the IRGCN. Many vessels are designed to be capable of being “launched discreetly…off the back of a flatbed truck under cover of darkness, during high tide without any special accommodations.” Many are dispersed along “small inlets, small fishing ports and hardened sites,” and the IRGC is believed to have a presence on many islands and coastal villages along the Persian Gulf.

Mining Operations

Iranian mine-laying craft Iran Ajr captured by US Navy in Sep. 1987
Iran operates multiple platforms capable of mining the Straits of Hormuz including at least three ships with dedicated mine-laying capabilities, three RH-53D Sea Stallion mine-laying helicopters, as well as the option of adapting virtually any other small boat, disguised fishing trawler or larger missile craft for the purpose of deploying mines. Submarines, particularly the Ghadir midget-class submarines are also ideal for mine-laying operations in the shallow coastal waters of the Persian Gulf. The Iranian stockpile is believed to consist of between 3,000-5,000 mines acquired from Russian, Chinese and North Korean sources, as well as developed indigenously notably the Chinese EM-11 and EM-52 and the Russian-made M-08, M-26 and MDM-6.

US and Gulf surveillance and naval capabilities make prolonged mine-laying operations exceeding difficult, but the possibility of mine-laying boats escaping undetected is not unlikely. Iran operates dhows disguised as fishing vessels in addition to regular craft, making detection difficult, and during the Tanker Wars of 1987-98, IRGC-N boats were able to lay 12 mines right in the path of Kuwaiti supertanker MV Bridgeton, while in visual range of escorting US navy warships.

Additionally, even a limited mine-laying operation would be economically costly. STRATFOR notes that even a 10 percent chance of a mine strike would entail the need to clear a Q-route, which could take a week or more, a substantial amount of time and disruption to energy flows and maritime insurance costs. Moreover, given the density of traffic transiting the Straits, it is possible that even a cleared route would restrict normal tanker traffic.

Amphibious Raiding

Iran’s amphibious raiding strategy would seek to replicate its successful operations in the southern Iraqi marshlands during the Iran-Iraq War to attack oil terminals, merchant ships and other strategic targets. Amphibious assaults would be highly vulnerable to US/Gulf military superiority, but Iran has made concerted efforts to deploy frogmen far out into the Gulf. The IRGC-N now maintains a brigade strength contingent of about 5,000 Iranian Marines, a large underwater training center at Bandar Abbas and the largest amphibious fleet amongst its Arab neighbors, barring the U.A.E. The IRGCN has modified logistics ships to deploy frogmen and sought to disguise its ships to resemble normal commercial traffic. Iran has also experimented with submersible-delivery vehicles including the Ghadir midget submarine, which contains provisions for mounting a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV).

Iranian Admiral Sajjad Kouchaki claimed that Iran has “1,500 special operation teams” with 23 landing ships and vessels, which all told could in theory transport a few thousands troops and tens of tanks. Iran also operates about 5 M-171 helicopters and could utilize civilian craft to move troops. In general, however, aside from intercepting merchant ships or attacking lightly defended areas in surprise attacks, Iran naval infantry forces are ill-equipped to move amphibious forces across the Gulf in combined operations.

“Static Warships” and Coastal Missile Batteries

The IRGC-N has geography to its advantage and is able to use the many islands dotting the Persian Gulf to create a crescent of shore-based missile batteries that ring the Straits of Hormuz. On these islands, a variety of anti-ship and ballistic missiles platforms are located using extensive networks of tunnels and underground missile bunkers that create “static warships” with which to attack enemy forces. In theory, the US could face a formidable threat with “several dozen batteries and several hundred anti-ship cruise missiles spread across an area roughly the size of Kosovo.” In reality, however, the IRGC-N may suffer from maintenance and training deficiencies, whereas US surveillance and countermeasure capabilities continue to improve.

Iranian coastal defense systems are armed with a variety of anti-ship missiles of varying sources and capabilities including but not limited to variants of the Chinese-made Silkworm (the HY-2 and HY-2G Seersucker), and the C-801 Sardine (Raad) and C-802 Saccade (Noor) missile based off the French Exocet missile. Iranian missiles have been adapted to several platforms including truck-mounted batteries, and it is not always easily apparent which service branch maintains operational control over specific coastal batteries. Some missiles are capable of hitting Gulf Arab ports, especially if forward-deployed on island chains.

US stations 15,000 troops in Kuwait

Published: 13 January, 2012, 22:25

U.S. Army soldiers (AFP Photo / Joe Raedle)

U.S. Army soldiers (AFP Photo / Joe Raedle)

TAGS: MilitaryAsiaIranUSAWar

 

The United States is not at war with Iran yet, but just in case,the Pentagon says they want to be prepared. To do so, the Department of Defense has dispatched 15,000 troops to the neighboring nation of Kuwait.

Gen. James Mattis, the Marine Corps head that rules over the US Central Command, won approval late last year from the White House to deploy the massive surge to the tiny West Asian country Kuwait, which is separated from Iran by only a narrow span of the Persian Gulf.

The latest deployment, which was ushered in without much presentation to the public, adds a huge number of troops aligned with America’s arsenal that are now surrounding Iran on literally every front. In late 2011, the US equipped neighboring United Arab Emirates with advanced weaponry created to disrupt underground nuclear operations. In adjacent Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, American military presence has long been all but enormous.

While the US has not placed any boots on the ground in Iran, an unauthorized surveillance mission of a US steal drone in December prompted Tehran to become enraged at Washington. US officials insist that Iran is on the verge of a nuclear weaponry program, despite lacking sufficient evidence or confirmation. During the drone mission, Iran authorities intercepted the craft and forced it into a safe landing. Tensions have only worsened between the two nations in the month since, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that stealth missions into Iran will continue “absolutely,” despite ongoing opposition from overseas.

In calling for the latest surge to Kuwait, Gen.Mattis said the deployment was necessary to keep Iran in check and keep America prepared for any other threats in the area. It comes only weeks after the last American troops vacated nearby Iraq, where the US still in actuality has an advance presence — the American embassy in Baghdad employs thousands of armed military contractors.

The move to build up military presence in Kuwait comes at a time when the foreign government is at odds to a degree with a US. While protesters in America this week have demonstrated against the ten year anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, the Kuwait government has increased efforts to have two of their own men transferred out of Gitmo and sent back home. Both Fawzi al-Odah and Fayiz al-Kandari have been detained at Guantanamo since 2002, although only one of the two Kuwaiti citizens has ever been charged.

US military operation against Iran would be a grave mistake

Published: 14 January, 2012, 02:04

Satirical mural of Statue of Liberty on the wall of the former US Embassy in Tehran

Satirical mural of Statue of Liberty on the wall of the former US Embassy in Tehran

 

The Iran controversy is heating up. Writer and political analyst Igor Panarin believes the US should heed the reasoning of Russia, China and Turkey and refrain from going to war with Iran.

In the article below, Panarin explains his view.­­

The government of Iran has already accused Israel of being behind the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist who was killed in Tehran earlier this month. Iran has also announced that Roshan’s death will not hinder its nuclear program.

Roshan’s assassination came at the height of the renewed tension between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program. Threatened with ramped-up economic sanctions by the United States, Iran has declared that it may respond by sealing the Strait of Hormuz with its navy. This brings the longstanding stand-off between the US and Iran to a probable theater of operations for first time in many years in the Strait of Hormuz.

Following Tehran’s warning, the US Navy promptly sent its Fifth Fleet aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf, with British naval elements hurrying to join their American allies.

Meanwhile, Iran held a naval exercise titled Velayat-90 (Supremacy-90) between 24 December 2011 and 2 January 2012. The war game covered a vast area from the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. The scale of the exercise served to display Iran’s readiness to engage in naval warfare outside the Persian Gulf. The Iranian Navy also used the war game to test-fire its new long-range cruise missiles, demonstrating its capability to hit US Gulf bases, Israel, and America’s Arab allies in the region.

Tehran declared the drill a huge success, announcing that Stage Two of the naval exercise will follow in February. The situation is obviously developing very fast.

The Iranian exercise was promptly followed by an exchange in media assaults and aggressive rhetoric between Washington and Tehran. The two latest developments – Roshan’s murder and Iran’s announcement regarding its 20 per cent uranium enrichment capabilities – have propelled their already heated stand-off to the point of highly flammable. Threats of new sanctions by the West merely contribute to aggravating the situation. As the European Union stated its intention to decide on banning crude-oil imports from Iran during its coming Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on 23 January this year, Tehran announced it would respond by shutting down marine traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, which accommodates almost 40 per cent of global seaborne oil shipments, putting through some 15-17 million barrels a day. This would effectively bar about 90 per cent of aggregate oil exports by all Gulf nations from the global market.

The Iranian naval forces, which consist of the regular navy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Navy, have always been a vital stakeholder for seaborne trade through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has allowed international commercial traffic through its territorial waters voluntarily, based on the UN Law of the Sea Convention III, which stipulates the right of “innocent passage” through any territorial waters for vessels to ensure fast and unimpeded transit between open ports and the high sea. Although Iran has not ratified the convention and is therefore not bound to comply with it, it has nonetheless abided by its provisions in good faith for the most part.

Russia expressed its attitude on the issue on 12 January through a public statement by deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, who called upon both Iran and the West to abstain from any action that may aggravate the situation in the Strait of Hormuz.

China maintains a largely similar stance, having just rejected US secretary of the treasury Timothy Geithner’s call for a significant reduction in Iranian oil imports by China. Geithner addressed the People’s Republic with this appeal during his visit to Beijing last week.

Russia’s National Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev also made an appearance to address the issue on 12 January this year. He warned of a possible military escalation of the conflict, claiming that Israel was egging on Washington for aggressive military action.

Despite the US Navy’s formidable power, the Persian Gulf’s narrow inlet makes it highly vulnerable for a ground-to-ship missile strike from Iran. Even Iranian speedboats can pose a serious threat to American carriers and destroyers due to their small size coupled with their high speed, which makes them difficult to spot before they get within killing range of large US battleships. Iran can also target the Fifth Fleet with its cruise missiles from the Gulf’s northern shore. Its other military assets include midget submarines, aerial drones, air-cushion vehicles, frogman squads and floating mines. Therefore, even though a military showdown between the US Navy and Iranian armed forces is likely to be a case of asymmetric warfare, Iran would have both a variety of lethal military capabilities and geography on its side.

In the words of Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabko, “a military operation against Iran would be a most grave mistake, a very crude miscalculation. The consequences of such a hypothetical development of events would be most far-reaching for regional and global security.” 

Russia’s opposition to a Western military operation against Iran was made most explicit recently as Moscow sent its own aircraft carrier group to the port of Tartus in Syria. China has been similarly opposed to any military action against either Syria or Iran, warning that an armed conflict in the Gulf would be disastrous for the global economy and result in a humanitarian crisis.

Turkey’s reluctance to back a war on Iran also poses a significant constraint for a Western military gamble. Ankara has insisted on staying within diplomatic boundaries in addressing the Iranian nuclear controversy. Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently tabled Turkey’s proposal to host an international conference on the Iranian nuclear issue.

The attitude of powerful regional and global actors such as Russia, China and Turkey suggests that it would be rather prudent of Washington to follow their advice and resort to renewed diplomatic effort vis-à-vis Iran rather than enter into yet another Middle-Eastern quagmire with a highly unpredictable outcome.

Prof. Igor Panarin, Doctor of Political Sciences, specially for RT

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

U.S. wants to ‘close down the Central Bank of Iran’ over nuclear concerns

WASHINGTON — The latest round of American sanctions are aimed at shutting down Iran’s central bank, a senior U.S. official said Thursday, spelling out that intention directly for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We do need to close down the Central Bank of Iran (CBI),” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity, while adding that the United States is moving quickly to implement the sanctions, signed into law last month.

The sanctions, broadly aimed at forcing Tehran to shift course on its nuclear program, targeted Iran’s crucial oil sector and required foreign firms to make a choice between doing business with Iran or the United States.

 

Foreign central banks that deal with the Iranian central bank on oil transactions could also face similar restrictions under the new law, which has sparked fears of damage to U.S. ties with nations like Russia and China.

“If a correspondent bank of a U.S. bank wants to do business with us and they’re doing business with CBI or other designated Iranian banks… then they’re going to get in trouble with us,” the US official said.

The measures were contained in a mammoth $662-billion defence bill, which President Barak Obama signed on December 31 at a time of rising tension with Tehran, which has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz — through which more than a third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes.

The United States has warned it will “not tolerate” such an interruption.

There are fears that increased sanctions on Iran’s central bank could force the global price of oil to suddenly soar, and actually give Tehran a financial windfall on its existing oil sales.

Rising oil prices could also crimp the fragile economic recovery in the United States and inflict pain on American voters in gas stations — at a time when Obama is running for reelection next year.

AFP

Former Intelligence Analysts Urging Obama to Stop Rush to Iran War

A torrent of war propaganda against Iran is flooding the American political scene as U.S. neocons and Israeli hardliners see an opening for another war in the Middle East, a momentum that ex-CIA analysts Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray urge President Obama to stop.

 

By Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray

 

President Obama needs to put an abrupt halt to the game of Persian Roulette about to spin out of control in the Persian Gulf. If we were still on active duty at the CIA, this is what we would tell him:

This informal memorandum addresses the escalating game of chicken playing out in the waters off Iran and the more general issue of what can be done to put the exaggerated threat from Iran in some kind of perspective In keeping with the informality of this memo and our ethos of speaking truth to power, we may at times be rather blunt. If we bring you up short, consider it a measure of the seriousness with which we view the unfolding of yet another tragic mistake.

The stakes are quite high, and as former intelligence analysts with no axes to grind, we want to make sure you understand how fragile and volatile the situation in the Gulf has become.

We know you are briefed regularly on the play by play, and we will not attempt to replicate that. Your repeated use of the bromide that “everything is on the table,” however, gives us pause and makes us wonder whether you and your advisers fully recognize the implications, if hostilities with Iran spin out of control.

You have the power to stop the madness, and we give you some recommendations on how to lessen the likelihood of a war that would be to the advantage of no one but the arms merchants.

If your advisers have persuaded you that hostilities with Iran would bring benefit to Israel, they are badly mistaken. In our view, war with Iran is just as likely in the longer term to bring the destruction of Israel, as well as vast areas of Iran — not even to mention the disastrous consequences for the world economy, of which you must be aware.

Incendiary (but false) claims about how near Iran is to having a nuclear weapon are coming “fast and furious,” (and are as irresponsible as that ill-fated project of giving weapons to Mexican drug dealers).

In our view, the endless string of such claims now threaten to migrate from rhetoric to armed clashes to attempted “regime change,” as was the case nine years ago on Iraq. You know, we hope, that influential — but myopic — forces abound who are willing to take great risk because they believe such events would rebound to the benefit of Israel.  We make reference, of course, to the reckless Likud government in Israel and its equally reckless single-issue supporters here at home.

Inept Advisers

Judging by recent performance, your foreign policy and military advisers, including the top generals now in place, appear unable to act as sensible counterweights to those who think that, by beginning hostilities with Iran, they will help Israel do away with a key regional rival.

You are not stuck with such advisers. You’re the President; you deserve better. You need some people close to you who know a lot more about the outside world.

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY

You may wish to think also about how the recent remarks of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, during an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe, reflect on the chairman’s acumen in the strategic matters in which he has been immersed for decades.

In the interview with Jaffe, Dempsey referred to his 20-year involvement with Iraq (where he made his mark) and, according to Jaffe, Dempsey acknowledged that “he and his Army did not fully understand the nature of the conflict they were fighting.”

Jaffe quotes a particularly telling lament by Dempsey: “People say, ‘For God’s sakes, you were a two-star general. How could you say you didn’t understand?’ … I don’t know how I can say it, but I lived it.  And I mean it.”

Suffice it to say that there are serious questions as to how much Gen. Dempsey understands about Iran and whether his meteoric rise to Chairman of the JCS is due more to the crisp salute with which he greets any idea voiced by those above him.

Discussing last week the possibility of military action against Iran, Dempsey said, “The options we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable, if necessary.” He added that his “biggest worry is that (Iranians) will miscalculate our resolve.”

That’s not our biggest worry. Rather it is that Dempsey and you will miscalculate Iran’s resolve. We haven’t a clue as to what, if anything, the Chairman is telling you on that key issue. Our distinct impression, however, is that you cannot look to him for the kind of stand-up advice you got from his predecessor, Adm. Mike Mullen.

The consummate military professional, Mullen pointed to the military and strategic realities — and the immense costs — associated with a war with Iran, which in turn buttressed those who successfully withstood pressure from President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for war with Iran.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs

During the Bush administration, Mullen argued strongly that there would be no way a “preventive war” against Iran would be worth the horrendous cost. He did all he could to scuttle the idea.

Mullen was among those senior officials who forced Bush and Cheney to publish the unclassified Key Judgments of the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program — the NIE that judged “with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

As Bush and Vice President Cheney have since acknowledged, that drove an iron rod through the wheels of the juggernaut then rolling off to war with Iran. And, as you know, that judgment still stands despite Herculean efforts to fudge it.

In his memoir, Decision Points, Bush, complains bitterly that, rather than being relieved by the surprising news that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in late 2003, he was angry that the news “tied my hands on the military side.”

In January 2008, Bush flew to Israel to commiserate with senior Israeli officials who were similarly bitter at the abrupt removal of a casus belli. Tellingly, in his book Bush added this lament:

“But after the NIE, how could I possible explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

Israel’s Last Chance, Until Now

The new estimate on Iran did not stop the Israelis from trying. And in mid-2008, they seemed to be contemplating one more try at provoking hostilities with Iran before Bush and Cheney left office.

This time, with Bush’s (but not Cheney’s) support, Mullen flew to Israel to tell Israeli leaders to disabuse themselves of the notion that U.S. military support would be knee-jerk automatic if they somehow provoked open hostilities with Iran.

According to the Israeli press, Mullen went so far as to warn the Israelis not to even think about another incident at sea like the deliberate Israeli attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, which left 34 American crew killed and more than 170 wounded.

Never before had a senior U.S. official braced Israel so blatantly about the Liberty incident, which was covered up by the Johnson administration, the Congress, and Mullen’s Navy itself. The lesson the Israelis had taken away from the Liberty incident was that they could get away with murder, literally, and walk free because of political realities in the United States. Not this time, said Mullen. He could not have raised a more neuralgic issue.

Unintended Consequences

An Anxious Adm. Mike Mullen…

As long as he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mike Mullen kept worrying, often publicly, over what he termed “the unintended consequences of any sort of military action against Iran.”

We assume that before he retired last fall he shared that concern with you, just as we tried to warn your predecessor of “the unintended consequences” that could flow from an attack on Iraq.

The Israelis, for their part, would not relent. In February of this year, Mullen returned with sweaty palms from a visit to Israel. On arrival there, he had warned publicly that an attack on Iran would be “a big, big, big problem for all of us.”

When Mullen got back to Washington, he lacked the confident tone he had after reading the Israelis the riot act in mid-2008. It became quickly clear that Mullen feared that, this time, Israel’s leaders did not seem to take his warnings seriously.

Lest he leave a trace of ambiguity regarding his professional view, upon his return Mullen drove it home at a Pentagon press conference on Feb. 22, 2011: “For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive.”

In 2008, right after Mullen was able, in late June, to get the Israelis to put aside, for the nonce, their pre-emptive plans vis-à-vis Iran, he moved to put a structure in place that could short-circuit military escalation. Specifically, he thought through ways to prevent unintended (or, for that matter, deliberately provoked) incidents in the crowded Persian Gulf that could lead to wider hostilities.

In a widely unnoticed remark, Adm. Mullen conceded to the press that Iran could shut down the Strait of Hormuz, but quickly added de rigueur assurance that the U.S. could open it up again (whereas the Admiral knows better than virtually anyone that this would be no easy task).

“These deployments of Carrier Strike Group are required to maintain the continuity and operational support missions.” –Pentagon spokesman George Little

Mullen sent up an interesting trial balloon at a July 2, 2008, press conference, when he suggested that military-to-military dialogue could “add to a better understanding” between the U.S. and Iran. But nothing more was heard of this overture, probably because Cheney ordered him to drop it. We think it is high time to give this excellent idea new life.  (See below under Recommendations.)

The dangers in and around the Strait of Hormuz were still on Mullen’s mind as he prepared to retire on Sept. 30, 2011. Ten days before, he told the Armed Force Press Service of his deep concern over the fact that the United States and Iran have had no formal communications since 1979:

“Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union. … We are not talking to Iran. So we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right, that there will be miscalculations.”

Playing with fire: With the macho game of chicken currently under way between Iranian and U.S. naval forces in the area of the Strait of Hormuz, the potential for an incident has increased markedly.

An accident, or provocation, could spiral out of control quickly, with all sides — Iran, the U.S. and Israel making hurried decisions with, you guessed it, “unintended consequences.”

… or Intended Consequences?

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh

With your campaign for the presidency in full swing during the summer of 2008, you may have missed a troubling disclosure in July by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

He reported that Bush administration officials had held a meeting in the Vice President’s office in the wake of the January 2008 incident between Iranian patrol boats and U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The reported purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to provoke war with Iran.

HERSH: There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build in our shipyard four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.

And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation.

Silly? Maybe. But potentially very lethal. Because one of the things they learned in the [January] incident was the American public, if you get the right incident, the American public will support bang-bang-kiss-kiss. You know, we’re into it.

Look, is it high school? Yeah. Are we playing high school with you know 5,000 nuclear warheads in our arsenal? Yeah we are. We’re playing, you know, who’s the first guy to run off the highway with us and Iran.

… and Now Iran’s Responsibility for 9/11!

On the chance you missed it, this time your government is getting “incriminating” information from Iranian, not Iraqi, “defectors.” Iranian “defectors” have persuaded Manhattan Federal Judge George Daniels to sign an order accusing Iran and Hezbollah – along with al-Qaeda – of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

On Dec. 15, in response to a lawsuit brought by family members of 9/11 victims, Daniels claimed that Iran provided material support to al-Qaeda and has assessed Iran $100 billion in damages

Watching the blackening of Iranians on virtually all parts of the U.S. body politic, it is no surprise that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes he holds the high cards, enjoying the strong support of our Congress, our largely pro-Israel media, and our courts as well. He sees himself in the catbird seat — particularly during the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election.

We know that you have said you have to deal with Netanyahu every day. But for those of us who have not had the pleasure, never did his attitude toward Washington come through so clearly as in a video taped nine years ago and shown on Israeli TV.

In it Netanyahu brags about how he deceived President Bill Clinton into believing he (Netanyahu) was helping implement the Oslo accords when he was actually destroying them. The tape displays a contemptuous attitude toward — and wonderment at — a malleable America so easily influenced by Israel.

Netanyahu says it right out: “America is something that can be easily moved. Moved in the right direction. … They won’t get in our way … Eighty percent of the Americans support us. It’s absurd.”

Israeli columnist Gideon Levy has written that the video shows Netanyahu to be “a con artist … who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes,” adding that such behavior “does not change over the years.”

On Dec. 29, the strongly pro-Israel Washington Times ran an unsigned editorial, “Tehran’s moment of truth: The mullahs are playing with fire in Strait of Hormuz.” After a fulsome paragraph of bragging about how the U.S. Navy capabilities dwarf those of Iran’s, the Washington Times editors inadvertently give the game away:

“A theater-wide response to the strait closure would involve air strikes on military and leadership targets throughout the country, and the crisis could be a useful pretext for international action against Iran’s nuclear program.”

Hopefully, pointing out Israel’s overarching objective will strike you as gratuitous. No doubt your advisers have told you that “regime change” (what we used to call overthrowing a government) is Israel’s ultimate goal. Just so you know.

Recommendations

We hope that, when we assume you wish to thwart Israel and any other party who might want to get the U.S. involved in hostilities with Iran, we are not assuming too much. With that as our premise, we recommend that you:

1- Make public, as soon as possible, a declassified version of the key judgments of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear development program, with whatever updating is necessary. You know that the Herculean efforts of U.S. intelligence to find evidence of an active nuclear weapons program in Iran have found nothing.

Do not insult Americans with Rumsfeldian nostrums like: “The absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence.” Rather, be up-front with the American people. Tell them the truth about the conclusions of our intelligence community.

Bush was helped to launch the aggressive war on Iraq by a deliberately dishonest National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction there. Let yourself be fortified by an honest NIE on Iran, and stand up to the inevitable criticism from Israelis and their influential surrogates.

2- Pick up on Adm. Mike Mullen’s suggestion at his press conference on July 2, 2008, that military-to-military dialogue could “add to a better understanding” between the U.S. and Iran. If there were ever a time when our navies need to be able to communicate with each other, it is now.

It was a good idea in 2008; it is an even better idea now. Indeed, it seems likely that a kind of vestigial Cheneyism, as well as pressure from the Likud Lobby, account for the fact that the danger of a U.S.-Iranian confrontation in the crowded Persian Gulf has still not been addressed in direct talks.

Cheney and those of his mini-National Security Staff who actually looked forward to such confrontations are gone from the scene. If the ones who remain persist in thwarting time-tested structural ways of preventing accidents, miscalculation and covert false-flag attacks, please consider suggesting that they retire early.

Order the negotiation of the kind of bilateral “incidents-at-sea” agreement concluded with the Russians in May 1972, which, together with direct communications, played an essential role in heading off escalation neither side wanted, when surface or submarine ships go bump in the night.

3- Get yourself some advisers who know more about the real world than the ones you have now, and make sure they owe allegiance solely to the United States.

4- Issue a formal statement that your administration will not support an Israeli military attack on Iran. Make it clear that even though, after Dec. 31, the U.S. may not be technically responsible for defending Iraqi airspace, you have ordered U.S. Air Force units in the area to down any intruders.

5- Sit back and look toward a New Year with a reasonable prospect of less, not more, tension in the Persian Gulf.

Happy New Year.

Breaking.Nuclear scientist killed in blast in Tehran

Iran accuses Western powers and Israel of being behind the recent assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist

A university professor and nuclear scientist was killed by a bomb placed on his car by a motorcyclist in Tehran on Wednesday morning, Iranian fars news reported.

Iran’s TV identified the victim as nuclear expert Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a professor at Tehran’s technical university. Roshan, 32, was a graduate of oil industry university and supervised a department at Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan province.

Wednesday’s blast was similar to the 2010 bomb attacks against the then university professor, Fereidoun Abbassi Davani who is now the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. He survived the attack. However, his colleague Majid Shahriari was assassinated in separate terrorist bomb attack in Tehran with the latter killed immediately after the blast.

Another Iranian university professor and nuclear scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, was assassinated in a bomb attack in Tehran in January 2010.

The Tehran deputy governor said that Israel was behind the “assassination” that occurred in Tehran today.He added that it was aimed at “militarizing” situation, disrupting Iranian elections the Fars news agency reported.