Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes: VIEWS FROM MOSCOW AND JERUSALEM: THE US AND IRAN (PLUS)
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Friday, September 7, 2007

VIEWS FROM MOSCOW AND JERUSALEM: THE US AND IRAN (PLUS)


LET’S SEE WHAT OTHER ARE SAYING ABOUT THE US AND THE MIDDLE EAST AND IRAN IN PARTICULAR!

06/09/2007 Moscow News,№35 2007
Former Official Says U.S. Aiming at Iran


WASHINGTON (RIA Novosti) - The United States is confidentially preparing for a military strike against Iran, which will include several days worth of aviation strikes on several targets at once, a former CIA official told Harper's magazine.

"It looks like there's preparations for a military strikes, and I base this on two things: on facts that we can observer, and on the rhetoric coming out of the White House," said the former CIA official, who worked in the Persian Gulf during the first U.S. war there and served in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

"A massive deployment of troops and equipment in the region is taking place, and the U.S. can't hide that. Sending the U.S. Navy to the Persian Gulf is very expensive, but we have three such units there."

There is a deployment of ships, an increase of supplies, shipments of military supplies, and the general activity level is very high, said the former U.S. intelligence agent. "There is only one region in the world where this is all being deployed to.

"Moreover, everyone that I know - pilots and other aviation units - have all disappeared. Usually someone remains, but now all of them have gone at once." Besides unusual activity in the U.S. military, "other evidence of a possible strikes are harsh statements from the White House."

According to the source, "the only part of U.S. military forces that isn't strained to the fullest extent is aviation," that is why if there is a military strike on Iran "it will be days-long, multi-target air campaign," which will aim a "brutal strike on President Ahmadinejad."

"We should strike not the Iranian Aviation or naval bases, but its nuclear objects and the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps," the former CIA official believes. He thinks that an "un-proportionally" massive strike on these targets will undermine Ahmadinejad's position inside the country.

Comments and rumors about possible preparations of a military strike on Iran have been circulating in Washington and the American media for several weeks, and during a Tuesday briefing State Department spokesman Tom Casey was once again forced to make an official denial.

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But does this half-hearted recognition reflect the real picture? Let us look at the facts. On August 23, the director of National Intelligence released a paper entitled National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq [full title: "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: Some Security Progress but Political Reconciliation Elusive Update to NIE, Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead. August 2007." - Ed.]

The most optimistic passage in the report is this: "We assess, to the extent that Coalition forces continue to conduct robust counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), that Iraq's security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance."

So, what is the situation now? "Political and security trajectories in Iraq," the report says, "continue to be driven primarily by Shia insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists such as AQI and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia that try to fuel sectarian violence."

The authors of the report should be given credit for objectivity: many Iraq watchers reduce the ongoing events to the standoff between the Shiites and Sunnis. That assessment is clearly insufficient. There is no unity among the Shiites, not even within the large Shia coalition that defines the government policy. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is not in a position to say that he has the complete and unstinting support of the Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, let alone followers of the young Shia leader Sadr with his al Mahdi militia. Nor is there unity among the Sunnis.

A substantial part of them support the Baathists, who are steadily building up their influence. Some [analysts] lump all members of the underground Baath party together as Saddam Hussein followers, but this view is simplistic. A new leadership is emerging within the Baath party, which is concerned by how the country will be run following the pullout of the occupation force, understanding that restoration of the Saddam regime is impossible, nor does it respond to Iraq's national interests.

In their rejection of the occupation and the Shia dominance in the government and parliament, a part of the Sunnis maintain contacts with terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, which apparently regards Iraq as its main base of operations.

The Kurds are another unsettled problem. There is a growing separatist mood in the north of Iraq. But even assuming that it will be possible to restrain the Kurds from creating an independent state, the question about Kirkuk's formal integration into the Kurdish autonomy is bound to arise.

Washington voiced its dissatisfaction with the Nouri al Maliki government. It was first criticized by President Bush. A number of senators, including Republicans, stated bluntly that the Iraqi prime minister should step down before the situation in the country becomes even more dangerous.

All of that is happening in the lead-up to mid-September, when the US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and US Iraq commander Gen. David H. Petraeus will present a report to Congress and respond to lawmakers' questions about the situation in that country. There is every reason to expect that the report will contain criticism of the government of al Maliki, who was appointed to that post by the Americans, despite the fact that (and probably exactly because) he headed a commission that had been set up shortly after the introduction of U.S. forces to purge Baathists from the government apparatus, the Armed Forces, and security services.

It took Washington a long time (amid an ongoing civil war in Iraq) to realize that the bet should be placed on the reconciliation of different political forces.

But as they say, the train has left the station. I do not think that the situation in Iraq will drastically improve after PM al Maliki, concerned by the US discontent, called a conference of Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurdish leaders, who were able to come to terms on a number of issues.

In one major development, Baathists, former associates of Saddam Hussein, were permitted to return to civilian and military agencies and organizations. Washington applauded the move, but only because it had to. After all, it is yet another indication of the US's reckless, unscrupulous course toward Iraq: when the allegations that Iraq had nuclear weapons collapsed dismally, the military strike against it was justified by the need to overthrow the "hateful, anti-democratic regime" of Saddam Hussein.

Incidentally, the Baath party rejected that agreement. The party press secretary said that the Baathists will have nothing to do with the Iraqi government as long as foreign troops remain in the country.

The US's room to maneuver in Iraq is shrinking. Will Washington be able to find a way out of the Iraqi deadlock without an international conference of all Iraqi political forces, as well as Iran, Syria, other Arab states, and permanent members of the UN Security Council? It should be recalled that this proposal has been repeatedly put forward by Russia.

Sep 6, 2007 21:41 Updated Sep 6, 2007 21:41 Counter Terrorism: 'Iran can be set back'

By AMIR MIZROCH

THE JERUSALEM POST

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=3&cid=1188392557184&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

From the beginning of Teheran's march towards a nuclear capability, Israel has attempted to convince the world of the danger posed by a nuclear Iran. According to a former Mossad director, should Israel remain alone in its efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, it has only one viable option before Iran achieves its goal: to strike its most important nuclear facilities and set its program back by several years - this, instead of attempting to wipe out its program entirely, which may be beyond Israel's ability. And once the Iranians recover and begin advancing - which they will - strike them again and again, until they decide to pursue a different path.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post ahead of next week's Seventh Annual International Institute of Counter-Terrorism (ICT) Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, former Mossad chief and current ICT chairman Shabtai Shavit says only military force can stop an Iran bent on achieving nuclear capability.

Looking across the Middle East, Shavit argues that the US cannot afford to retreat from Iraq to "Fortress America"; decries the Israeli government's lack of a pro-active strategy against Hamas in Gaza; and says an open conflict between Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank is not far down the road.

It hasn't always been easy to convince partners that Iran was developing nuclear weapons, says Shavit, who directed the Mossad from 1989 to 1996. Even today, there are people who still believe the Iranians are enriching uranium for energy purposes.

"When the first Gulf War ended in 1991, we raised the red flag: The Iranians were taking steps to achieve unconventional weapons capability. People looked at us like aliens who landed here from outer space. Nobody believed us. And when nobody believes you, what can you do? You carry on monitoring and collecting intelligence, analyzing and accompanying processes. Along this road you eventually manage to convince people of your assessment, and you win over supporters, both at home and in America.

One morning they wake up and say, 'Oh, that's right, the Iranians really are working to produce a nuclear bomb, as well as surface-to-surface missiles with warheads that can carry nuclear bombs.' At that stage the issue becomes very relevant, very acute and very pressing," he says.

Nothing short of military intervention will stop the Iranians from obtaining a nuclear weapons program, says Shavit, careful with his choice of words: military intervention, not war - as war carries with it connotations of land, sea and air forces. He is equally cautious with his use of the word "stop" - as in stop the Iranian nuclear march. He prefers "set it back."

"Through the use of force, Iran can be set back. I am taking the example of our aerial assault on the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak [in 1981]. We did not eliminate their capability entirely. I even remember Saddam Hussein saying after our attack, 'OK, they managed to destroy our metal bars, but they will never be able to destroy what our scientists have in their heads.' And he was correct.

You cannot root out the intellectual knowledge and scientific expertise that they have developed over time. So, in any case you're not talking about a strike that is designed to completely obliterate all their capabilities. You're talking about a strike that is designed to set them back - to throw them back a good few years - and to hope this will lead the rulers, and the public, to the realization that it is not in their interest to continue down this path," says Shavit.

What distinguishes the Iranian case from Osirak, is that the Iraqi nuclear reactor was one target, which when hit, caused Saddam irreversible damage.

"The Iranians learned from the Iraqi case, in that they have gone for the centrifuge method of enriching uranium, whereas Saddam was creating weapons-grade plutonium only. These centrifuges you can hide in your chicken coop in your garden, and the Iranians are also developing along a dual track: the protogenic route [chemical reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel], as well as enriching uranium through centrifuges.

Iran is also a very large country, and they have used this to hide, disperse and protect their facilities. But still, with good intelligence - and there is good intelligence - it is possible to sift out, identify and strike targets whose destruction will be very significant, if the aim is really to set them back, and not completely destroy their capability," Shavit asserts.

"As far as my knowledge of the security-intelligence relationship between Israel and the US is concerned, America has always done what is in America's national interest. In those cases where their national interests coincided with ours, it was good. And when their national interest did not coincide with ours, they continued doing what was in their own national interest.

They never asked us for advice about what do in Iraq, and to the best of my knowledge, we never offered our services, nor did we offer to be involved in their Iraq campaign," Shavit says, jumping into the debate stoked once again by the publication of "The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy," a study by US academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.

The pair argue that the Israel lobby in DC [AIPAC] pushed America into toppling Saddam Hussein, and is now pushing the US to attack Iran.

REGARDING THIS week's British pullout from the southern Iraqi city of Basra, Shavit says it was inevitable that newly instated UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown would disassociate himself from his predecessor's tight support for American policy in Iraq, which is highly unpopular in Britain.

"Brown is not [Tony] Blair. He won't be Bush's poodle. From the word 'go,' he worked to insert daylight into the relationship between the UK and the US, thus widening his support base and gaining popularity at home, and the Basra withdrawal is one of the outcomes of that," Shavit says, adding that he does not see the Basra withdrawal as indicative of a major strategic coalition change.

The British force leaving Basra numbers around 5,000. If you are there with 5,000, your presence is hardly felt, and if you withdraw with 5,000, your absence will hardly be felt," Shavit says.

America, on the other hand, cannot leave Iraq now and hope to maintain its status as the world's policeman, Shavit argues.

"The US cannot afford the luxury of getting out of Iraq now.

It is too energy dependent on the Middle East and the Gulf ... and it cannot leave the region until its dependency is reduced.

Iraq has oil, and is surrounded by oil, and if 170,000 American troops leave Iraq the way it is now, the whole region is headed for a tailspin.

EVERY NIGHTMARE YOU CAN IMAGINE WILL MATERIALIZE: The Sunni-Shi'ite war spins out of control and becomes even more bloody; Iran gains in strength and deepens its involvement everywhere; Turkey enters northern Iraq and takes control of Kirkuk, mostly for the region's oil; the destruction of the new Kurdish revival; serious destabilization of Saudi Arabia; the Gulf economies, which are among the fastest growing on the planet, are wiped out; the Chinese and Russians increase their strength and become superpowers challenging America," Shavit explains, adding that Israel will be affected by all of the above situations, and, he hopes, has started planning for "a series of responses" to these challenges.

"I don't see the Americans withdrawing any time soon, even if there is a Democratic president in the next administration. Some forces may be reduced, and they may take some actions that, to the outside observer may seem like America is preparing to carry out a withdrawal strategy cooked up by the Democrats, but the US cannot withdraw its army from Iraq."

SPEAKING TO The Jerusalem Post on Monday, hours after rockets struck the courtyard of a Sderot kindergarten, Shavit said that if, as he feared, the government was essentially adopting a strategy of "waiting for babies to die" before sending IDF divisions into the Gaza Strip, it would show that "Israeli deterrence is in the dregs. Our strategy should be one of offense, not defense," Shavit elaborated. " There is no need to send three battalions into Gaza. There are varied means of achieving a pro-active strategy, as we have done in the past.

And when we did take a pro-active approach, largely through targeted assassinations, Hamas called for a period of calm [tahadiyeh]. When we were hitting their political leadership, military leadership, and weapons experts, Hamas looked for a cease-fire.

We need to change the equation from one of 'They fire at us and we respond,' to 'We attack them and they go into defensive mode,'" Shavit urged. "The Gaza Strip is a thorn in the side of the Mideast as a whole.

For the Egyptians, Saudis and Jordanians, Hamas represents a real threat, because it is part of the idea of radical, fundamentalist Islam threatening the stability of moderate regimes in the whole region. Israel needs to maintain a long-term dialogue with these moderate states, but it should not talk to Hamas.

You don't talk to Hamas; you wage a war to the finish with Hamas. Hamas needs to send envoys to us to beg us to talk to them, saying they agree to live by our demands."

AS FOR the West Bank, Shavit notices a certain dynamic taking place there. The radical Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements are trying to expand their military and political power with the support of Hizbullah, Syria and Iran; the balance of forces, in the meantime, is tipped in favor of the Palestinian Authority; Israel is helping the PA contain the radical groups with its presence there and through its continual arrest raids; America is helping with money and training of the PA security services.

"Down the line, it is quite possible that this dynamic will lead to open conflict between the PA and the terror groups in the West Bank," Shavit said.

This open conflict could be set in motion by a deal between Israel and the PA, hammered out at the international peace conference set for November, in which an IDF withdrawal from West Bank cities would render PA security forces ineffectual in dealing with a resurgent Hamas.

What happened in Gaza could happen in the West Bank, too. Marwan Barghouti hinted as much when he said this week that Hamas could orchestrate an armed takeover in the West Bank. "It would be a mistake if the Palestinian Authority doesn't take this possibility seriously, especially as the security services are so weak," the jailed Fatah leader said in a statement released through his lawyer.

THEN THERE'S Egypt. Recent reports on the possibly deteriorating health of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have reminded Israeli security experts that their large neighbor finds itself at the tail end of the Mubarak era, and that the future course of that country and its relations with the Jewish state may enter a period of relative uncertainty.

Shavit does not see any signs of a takeover by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, as the army and security services are loyal to the current administration. Incessant media reports to the contrary, much focus within IDF training and planning is on the Southwest (Egypt), and not solely the Northeast (Syria and the Hizbullah in Lebanon).

While Egypt remains an important strategic ally both to Israel and the US, growing frustration at Cairo's inability/unwillingness to clamp down on arms-smuggling from the Sinai into Gaza has been registered in Jerusalem and Washington. Egypt's answer is twofold: It is limited by the number and type of forces it is allowed to introduce into the Sinai by its peace accord with Israel; and, "Well, if the mighty IDF can't stop the smuggling, what do you expect from us?"

Shavit thinks Egypt will eventually come to realize the danger posed by "Hamastan" and the larger movement it represents - not to Israel, but to Egypt and the region as a whole. When that realization happens, Cairo will act. But it cannot operate too aggressively against Hamas without tacit support from a coalition of other Arab states.

"If Mubarak acts against Hamas alone, he will be deeply unpopular in the Middle East," Shavit added.

LOOKING AT the results of the Second Lebanon War, Shavit said:"Hizbullah is in a much worse situation than it was before last year's war, on many parameters. The Lebanese government is managing to function with massive outside help from America and France. We see also that the Lebanese Army, which was always thought to be a caricature army, has been able to defeat the insurgents in the Palestinian refugee camp of Naher el-Bared. What is important to watch now is the upcoming presidential elections to see if a pro-Syrian or pro-independent Lebanon president is chosen."

JPost.com » Features » Article

Sep 6, 2007 21:41 Updated Sep 6, 2007 21:41 Counter Terrorism: 'Iran can be set back'

By AMIR MIZROCH

He also claimed that this year's hype of possible war with Syria was just that.

"All the talk of war, no war, negotiations, no negotiations, is one big exercise in media spin. My assessment is that there won't be a war this summer," he said in a derisive tone.

But what of the Syria-Iran alliance? According to Shavit, Damascus will not break its ties with Teheran without undergoing an arduous process in which it is offered something really big in return.

Which brings us to global terrorism. "Some are trying to characterize it as an octopus, with a big head and many tentacles, and paint it as a very, very large threat," Shavit said. "But if you examine this threat with regard to its results, [the terrorists] haven't managed to pull off an attack similar to that of 9/11. The attacks they have managed to execute since then have been limited in scope, reach, impact and frequency, and are continuing to decrease.

The world, by and large, has made a huge jump since 9/11 in the defensive and offensive areas. The motivation exists; the decisions to carry out attacks are taken; but the implementation is lacking. The last major attacks executed were those on the train in Spain and the nightclub in Bali. The rest have been much smaller."

After the US defeat

Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.

Israeli analysts are working round the clock to formulate the best strategy for surviving the fallout of America's inevitable withdrawal from Iraq, writes Saleh Al-Naami

The midnight oil in Ehud Barak's office in the Harkiyah district of Tel Aviv is burning nearly to the crack of dawn these days. The Israeli defence minister and his team have been working 19-hour shifts, pouring over what has been described as an "extremely vital" document. The document in question is a compilation of the findings of five study groups from the Ministry of Defence, Military Intelligence, the Israeli Defence Force Planning Department and the National Security Council on the question of how the eventual US withdrawal from Iraq will affect Israel's strategic interests.

Piles of cigarette butts cleared from relevant offices are said to testify to the bustle of work and intensity of concentration that went into this study, which, according to reports in the Israeli press this week, predicts "a new Middle East" in the fullest sense of the term.

To the analysts who began their study in total secrecy three months ago, the forthcoming version of the region will be worse than anything Israel ever expected.

The American withdrawal from Iraq, they claim, will set into motion a "tsunami" that will rock all of America's allies in the region, with Israel the hardest hit. They anticipate actual troop withdrawals to begin as early as September, which is when congressional hearings will be held over the report to be submitted by US Commander in Iraq General David Petraeus.

The hearings will compound present pressures on the White House, as they are certain to bring President George W Bush to the centre of domestic controversy over Iraq and to aggravate already tense relations between his administration and the current Iraqi government.

In the opinion of the Israeli study, the proof that the Bush administration has made up its mind on an early withdrawal from Iraq is to be found in its decision to boost US military aid to Israel by a hefty 25 per cent up to $30 billion over the next 10 years, and in Washington's huge $20 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

The military aid package and the arms deal are intended to pre-empt the Israeli and Saudi shock from the US's decision to withdraw from Iraq and give them a sense that they will be able to handle the fallout from this decision, the study claims. It adds that this was the reason for which King Abdullah, as a form of protest, called off a visit to Washington and instead made overtures to strengthen communications with Iran.

The Israeli analysts fear that the US withdrawal will usher in three threats.

First, what will be hailed throughout the Arab and Islamic world as a stunning defeat for the US will come as an enormous boon to radical Islamist movements, which will step up their drive to destabilise moderate regimes in the region, and it will strengthen the regimes that are hostile to the US. To Israel, the gravest consequence of this would be the destabilisation of the regime in Jordan, which, the study claims, "is Israel's most important strategic asset in the region because it forms a buffer between Israel and the Shia crescent that will coalesce following the US withdrawal from Iraq.

In addition, the Jordanian regime is a staunch opponent of radical Islamist movements and it performs the vital security task of preventing the infiltration of terrorists into Israel across the long border it shares with that country." The Israeli study believes that Iraq, after the US leaves, will become a staging post for terrorist activities aimed at inciting Jordanian opposition movements to rise up against the regime.

Syria, of course, will lend a hand, permitting anti-Jordanian activity from its territory. The fall of the Jordanian regime, the report continues, would transform that country into an enemy zone, bringing Israel back to the very first years of its existence. To avert this peril, the report advises, all efforts must be made to support the Jordanian regime by rallying US and international aid to solve the water shortage problem and by furnishing Jordanian security forces with as much military technology as possible.

Second, the US withdrawal from Iraq would give additional incentive to Arab resistance movements, notably Hizbullah, to lash out at Israel and Iraq would become, again, a potential source of missile fire against Israel. Indeed, certain parties there might be interested in supplying jihadist elements with long-range missiles precisely for this purpose initially, and later in the hope that the missiles would be directed against Jordan.

Threat three, according to the report, would be an Iran free of the pressures that it is currently under and hence unencumbered in its drive to develop its nuclear programme and produce its own nuclear bomb. Iran, moreover, would be able to work in coordination with Syria, which would have eluded American attempts to tighten the stranglehold on the regime in Damascus.

By 2009, the analysts warn, Syria will have completed the process of modernising its army. That year, the report adds, will coincide with the end of Bush's second term of office, after which America would change its policy towards Iraq and leave in earnest.

Obviously, the document in question represents the point of view of most of the experts in Tel Aviv who participated in drafting it. But a minority among the study groups suggested that the US withdrawal from Iraq might bring one good thing for Israel. US Command in Iraq has been vehemently opposed to an American assault against Iranian nuclear installations for fear that Iran would retaliate against US forces in Iraq. US withdrawal would remove that obstacle, paving the way for a potential US strike against Iran.

Well before news of this study was released, strategic experts in Israel urged decision makers in Tel Aviv not to count on a continued American presence in Iraq and to take the initiative, independently, to halt Iran's nuclear programme. Uzi Arad, former director of intelligence for Mossad and currently president of the Interdisciplinary Centre, Herzliya, said that Israel had to invest all its energies into thwarting the Iranian nuclear programme even at the cost of going against Washington.

Echoing this opinion, the former deputy minister of defence, Ephraim Sneh, held that all signs indicate that the US is about to leave Iraq before dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat and that Israel should proceed on its own to remedy this problem. "President Ahmadinejad doesn't have to use the nuclear weapon against us or even threaten to use it. Most Israelis will leave Israel the moment they hear that Iran has developed a nuclear weapon," he said on Israeli radio.

Still, one does hear the occasional dissenting voice in Israel. Shlomo Avineri, former director of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cautioned Israeli leaders against being eager for the US to remain in Iraq. "For the Americans in Iraq, the story's over. They are looking at nothing but failure, however they might try to give the impression that the situation is changing for the better. They are going to withdraw from Iraq sooner or later, and the sooner the better, because the longer they remain there the worse is the damage to the US's international standing." Avineri goes on to argue that if the US's international standing were severely damaged it would have dangerous repercussions because America's prestige is one of Israel's most important pillars of strength.

Israeli writer Yaakov Ahmeir cautions Israel's Jewish American supporters of casting Israel as the reason to send more American troops to Iraq and to use greater force at a time when all signs point to the inevitable and dismal failure of that venture. He adds that Israel's standing in the US has been severely damaged by the fact that there are people there who claim that the US went to war in Iraq in order to defend Israel. Israel must not portray the situation "as though it is in Israel's interests for the Americans to sustain their deadly and futile presence in Iraq."

WHAT THE REST OF THE WORLD CAN DO TO STOP AMERICA AND IRAN FROM TALKING THEMSELVES INTO A FIGHT

http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9767656

Reuters

MOST Americans and much of the world is fixated on what General David Petraeus, the American ground commander in Iraq, intends to say when he reports to Congress next week (see article). But in the meantime American relations with Iran appear to be going from bad to worse.

The two countries are used to trading insults, but they have now become explosive. The more George Bush flounders in Iraq, the greater his temptation to blame Iran. On August 28th he called Iran the world's leading supporter of terrorism, claimed that its nuclear programme had put the Middle East “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust” and authorised his commanders to confront Iran's “murderous activities”. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, sounds almost as if he is goading Mr Bush to attack. As a “master of tabulation and calculation”, he told Iranian students this week, he had concluded that the country's enemies “dare not fight us”.

Whatever the master of tabulation may think, there is however a danger that America will at some point dare to strike Iran, either as part of its battle against Iranian-supported Shia militias inside Iraq, or in order to cripple its nuclear programme.

Here, too, Mr Ahmadinejad is no help. No sooner had the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported at the end of August that Iran was going slow on uranium enrichment than he popped up to say the opposite. Iran, he said, had achieved its aim of running 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges and would add a new cascade every week.

If America and Iran are really intent on talking each other into a fight, the rest of the world can do little to prevent it. But there are ways to reduce the chances of a war by accident.

The most urgent is to persuade America that it does not have to deal with Iran's nuclear delinquency on its own. Since July 2006 the UN Security Council has passed three binding resolutions ordering Iran to stop enriching uranium until it shows that, in spite of a history of fibbing, its nuclear intentions are peaceful. To their credit, Russia and China supported these resolutions—including two imposing mild economic sanctions—despite both countries' commercial interests in Iran.

But as Mr Ahmadinejad boasts, Iran has ignored the UN. If the Russians and Chinese are serious about preventing proliferation and shoring up the authority of the Security Council, they should now be more willing to help the Americans and Europeans produce a new resolution with sharper teeth.

The rest of the world should also inject more backbone into the IAEA.

Mohamed ElBaradei, its director-general, is anxious to keep Iran in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and inspectors in the country—and to ward off an American military strike. These are honourable aims: an attack on Iran's nuclear sites might not succeed and could well start a war. But he is now falling into the trap of letting Iran earn a spurious seal of approval for activities his agency cannot properly monitor.

Iran and the IAEA have just announced a new understanding on future co-operation. It is a dreadful one. Though it lists several areas where inspectors have outstanding questions, it allows Iran to drip-feed information. The questions have to be in writing by the middle of this month. There is no real deadline for Iran's answers.

Unless inspectors accept Iran's version of events and “close the file” on each successive subject, the Iranians won't provide the next set of answers, and so on. This leaves inspectors hard put to raise new questions when new information comes to hand. Iran has accredited a new list of inspectors—but only after barring those it found too intrusive.

MISSING THE POINT

The point of the recent succession of IAEA and UN resolutions, given Iran's history of lies and cover-ups, was to halt all enrichment and plutonium work. Yet the work is continuing. Mr ElBaradei has said it is pointless asking Iran to stop all enrichment work, since it has already mastered many of the skills. But others have these skills and do not use them.

Mr ElBaradei's argument is that it is better to let Iran continue limited work under close supervision. The trouble is that his agency has no idea where else Iran is doing nuclear work, and so no idea where else these skills may be applied.

Mr Bush's approach to Iran has long been flawed.

By appearing to threaten its regime after it had helped America to unseat the Taliban in Afghanistan, he may have confirmed it in its hostility and reinforced its desire for a bomb.

More recently America and Iran have come to see each other as rivals for mastery of the post-Saddam Gulf. Their own interest, and the interests of the Middle East, would probably be better served if they explored the possibility of some sort of grand bargain. But that seems impossible if the Iranians think they have a clear run to a nuclear bomb. The region would be a good deal safer if the rest of the world did more to disabuse them.

WAS A COVERT ATTEMPT TO BOMB IRAN WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS FOILED BY A MILITARY LEAK?

Michael E. Salla, M.A., Ph.D.

Critically exploring whether or not there was a covert attempt to instigate a catastrophic nuclear war against Iran is illuminated through an introduction using the recent B-52 Incident.

On August 30, a B-52 bomber armed with five nuclear-tipped Advanced Cruise missiles travelled from Minot Air Force base, North Dakota, to Barksdale Air Force base, Louisiana, in the United States. Each missile had an adjustable yield between five and 150 kilotons of TNT which is at the lower end of the destructive capacities of U.S. nuclear weapons.

For example, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 13 kilotons, while the Bravo Hydrogen bomb test of 1954 had a yield of 15,000 kilotons. The B-52 story was first covered in the Army Times on 5 September after the nuclear armed aircraft was discovered by Airmen. LINK

What made this a very significant event was that it was a violation of U.S. Air Force regulations concerning the transportation of nuclear weapons by air. Nuclear weapons are normally transported by air in specially constructed planes designed to prevent radioactive pollution in case of a crash. Such transport planes are not equipped to launch the nuclear weapons they routinely carry around the U.S. and the world for servicing or positioning.

The discovery of the nuclear armed B-52 was, according to Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, the first time in 40 years that a nuclear armed plane had been allowed to fly in the U.S. LINK. Since 1968, after a SAC bomber crashed in Greenland, all nuclear armed aircraft have been grounded but were kept on a constant state of alert. After the end of the Cold War, President George H. Bush ordered in 1991 that nuclear weapons were to be removed from all aircraft and stored in nearby facilities.

Recently, the Air Force began decommissioning its stockpile of Advanced Cruise missiles. The five nuclear weapons on the B-52 were to be decommissioned, and were to be taken to another Air Force base. An Air Force press statement issued on 6 September 2007, claimed that there "was an error which occurred during a regularly scheduled transfer of weapons between two bases."

Furthermore, the statement declared: "The Air Force maintains the highest standards of safety and precision so any deviation from these well established munitions procedures is considered very serious." The issue concerning how a nuclear armed B-52 bomber was allowed to take off and fly in U.S. air space after an 'error' in a routine transfer process, is now subject to an official Air Force inquiry which is due to be completed by September 14.

Three key questions emerge over the B-52 incident. First, did Air Force personnel at Minot AFB not spot the 'error' earlier given the elaborate security procedures in place to prevent such mistakes from occurring? Many military analysts have commented on the stringent security procedures in place to prevent this sort of mistake from occurring. Multiple officers are routinely involved in the transportation and loading of nuclear weapons to prevent the kind of 'error' that allegedly occurred in the B-52 incident.

According to the U.S. Air Force statement, the commanding officer in charge of military munitions personnel and additional munitions airmen were relieved of duties pending the completion of the investigation. According to Kristensen, the error could not have come from confusing the Advanced Cruise Missile with a conventional weapons since no conventional form exists. So the munitions Airmen should have been easily able to spot the mistake. Other routine procedures were violated which suggests a rather obvious explanation for the error. The military munitions personnel were acting under direct orders, though not through the regular chain of military command.

This takes me to the second question

Who was in Charge of the B-52 Incident?

Who ordered the loading of Advanced Cruise missiles on to a B-52 in violation of Air Force regulations? The quick reaction of the Air Force and the issuing of a public statement describing the seriousness of the issue and the launch of an immediate investigation, suggests that whatever occurred, was outside the regular chain of military command. If the regular chain of command was violated, then we have to inquire as to whether the B-52 incident was part of a covert project whose classification level exceeded that held by officers in charge of nuclear weapons at Minot AFB.

The most obvious governmental entity that may have ordered the nuclear arming of the B-52 outside the regular chain of military command is the last remaining bastion of neo-conservative activism in the Bush administration.

Vice President Cheney has taken a very prominent role in covert military operations and training exercises designed for the "seamless integration" of different national security and military authorities to possible terrorist attacks. On May 8, 2001, President Bush placed Mr. Cheney in charge of "[A]ll federal programs dealing with weapons of mass destruction, consequence management within the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies". LINK. Mr. Cheney subsequently played a direct role in supervising training exercises that simultaneously occurred during the 911 attacks.

According to former Los Angeles Police Officer Michael Ruppelt, Mr. Cheney had a parallel chain of command that he used to override Air Force objections to stand down orders that grounded the USAF during the 911 attacks, LINK.

Mr. Ruppelt learned that the Secret Service had the authority to directly communicate presidential and vice presidential orders to fighter pilots in the air thereby circumventing the normal chain of command. (Crossing the Rubicon, pp. 428 - 429). Furthermore: "It is the Secret Service who has the legal mandate to take supreme command in case of a scheduled major event - or an unplanned major emergency - on American soil; these are designated "National Special Security Events".LINK.

Mr. Ruppelt and others have subsequently claimed that 911 was an "inside job;" and alleges Mr. Cheney through the Secret Service, played a direct leadership role in what occurred over 911. Consequently, it is very possible that Mr. Cheney could have played a similar role in circumventing the regular chain of military command in ordering the B-52 incident. The B-52 incident could be part of a contrived "National Special Security Event" directly controlled by Cheney by virtue of the alleged authority granted to him by President Bush, and through the Secret Service which at least theoretically, has the technological means to by pass the regular chain of military command. I now move to my third key question.

Why was the nuclear armed B-52 sent to Barksdale AFB?

If initial reports that the weapons were being decommissioned, but were mistakenly transported by a B-52 bomber, then the weapons should have been taken to Kirtland Air Force Base. According to Kristensen, this is "where the warheads are separated from the rest of the weapon and shipped to the Energy Department's Pantex dismantlement facility near Amarillo, Texas". LINK.

However, it has been revealed that Barksdale AFB is used as a staging base for operations in the Middle East, LINK.

This is circumstantial evidence that the weapons were being deployed for possible use in the Middle East.

There has been recent speculation concerning a possible attack against Iran given reports that the Pentagon has completed plans for a three day bombing blitz of Iran according to a Sunday Times report, LINK. The Report claims that 1200 targets have been selected and this will destroy much of Iran's military infrastructure. Such an attack will devastate Iran's economy, create greater political instability in the region, and stop the oil supply. A disruption of the oil supply from the Persian Gulf could trigger a global economic recession and lead to the collapse of financial markets.

In a rather disturbing synchronistic development, there have been reports of billion dollar investments in high risk stock options in both Europe and the U.S. that would only be profitable if a dramatic collapse of the stock market were to occur before September 21. Similar stock options were purchased weeks before the 911 attack in 2001, and investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible insider trading. The combination of the Sunday Times report and the Stock market option purchases is circumstantial evidence that plans for a concerted military attack against Iran have been secretly approved and covert operations have begun, LINK.

Seymour Hersh in May 2006 reported the opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the use of nuclear weapons against Iran.

In late April, the military leadership, headed by General Pace, achieved a major victory when the White House dropped its insistence that the plan for a bombing campaign include the possible use of a nuclear device to destroy Iran's uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran. .. "Bush and Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning," the former senior intelligence official told me. "And Pace stood up to them.

Then the world came back: 'O.K., the nuclear option is politically unacceptable.' LINK.

Given earlier opposition by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is likely that the present attack plans for Iraq drawn up by the Pentagon don't involve the use of nuclear weapons. In order to circumvent the regular chain of command, opposed to a nuclear attack, it is very likely that Vice President Cheney contrived a "National Special Security Event" that involved a nuclear armed B-52. This would have given him the legal authority to place orders directly through the Secret Service to the Air Force officers responsible for the B-52 incident.

CONCLUSION: EXPOSING THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE B-52 INCIDENT

Consequently, there is considerable circumstantial evidence to argue that the nuclear armed B-52 was part of an apparent covert operation, outside the regular chain of constitutional military command. The alleged authority responsible for this was Vice President Cheney. He very likely used the Secret Service to take charge of a contrived National Special Security Event involving a nuclear armed B-52 that would be flown from Minot AFB. The B-52 was directed to Barksdale Air Force base where it would have conducted a covert mission to the Middle East involving the detonation of one or more nuclear weapons most likely in or in the vicinity of Iran. This could either have occurred during a conventional military strike against Iran, or a False Flag operation in the Persian Gulf region.

Apparently, the leaking and discovery of the nuclear armed B-52 at Barksdale was not part of the script. According to a confidential source of Larry Johnson, a former counter-terrorism official from the State Department and CIA, the discovery of the nuclear armed B-52 was leaked. Johnson concludes: "Did someone at Barksdale try to indirectly warn the American people that the Bush Administration is staging nukes for Iran? I don't know, but it is a question worth asking." LINK.

While the general public is likely to be given a watered down declassified report by the Air Force over the B-52 incident on September 14, the real investigation will reveal that it was part of a covert operation that intended to bypass the regular chain of command in using nuclear weapons in the Middle East. This will likely result in a furious backlash by key figures in the regular military chain of Command such as Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and the Commander of Central Command, Admiral William Fallon, who have direct responsibility for the conduct of military operations in the Middle East. The US. Air Force, the Secretary of Defense and Commander of Central Command, is now aware of what was likely going to be the true use of the B-52 and the responsibility of the Office of the Vice President.

It is very likely that the exposure of the B-52 incident will lead to an indefinite hold on plans to attack Iran given uncertainty whether other nuclear weapons have been covertly positioned for use in the Middle East. Significantly, public officials briefed about the true circumstances of the B-52 incident will almost certainly place enormous pressure on Vice President Cheney to immediately resign if it is found that he played the role identified above. It is therefore anticipated that in a very short time, the public will learn that Cheney has resigned for health resigns.

The forthcoming September 14 U.S. Air Force report will likely describe the B-52 incident as an "error" and an "isolated incident" as foreshadowed in the September 6 Press Statement. This will create some difficulty in exposing the actual role played by Cheney and any other government figures that supported him. There will be a need for continued public awareness of the true events behind the B-52 incident in order to expose the actual role of Mr. Cheney. Only in that way can Cheney be held accountable for his actions, and other government figures that supported his neo-conservative agenda be exposed.

Regardless of whether Cheney's role as the prime architect of the B-52 incident is exposed to the public, the official backlash against his covert operation should force his resignation. In either case, a very dangerous public official would be removed from a powerful position of influence. More importantly, the world has been spared a devastating nuclear war by courageous American airmen who revealed the true contents of an otherwise routine B-52 landing at Barksdale, AFB headed for a covert nuclear mission to the Middle East.

About the author:

Michael E. Salla, M.A. Ph.D., is a former Assistant Professor in the School of International Service, American University, Washington D.C. He is the author of five books and founder of the Exopolitics Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Kona, Hawaii.

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