Sunday, November 6, 2011

Three Minutes To Midnight

Israeli Government Reportedly Closer To Attack On Iran

In case no one has noticed, recently there has been a rapid increase in the probability of a preemptive air strike on Iran's nuclear reactors and fuel (or weapons-grade material) processing facilities.

There have been plenty of precedents. The Israeli air force attacked Saadam Hussein's Iraqi reactor outside Baghdad in 1981; in September of 2007, they hit a suspected reactor site in Syria, allegedly constructed with North Korean personnel and assistance.

There have been plentiful warnings to the Iranians (in fact, if airstrikes occur, they will be one of the most 'telegraphed' military punches since the build-up to 'Operation Desert Storm' in 1991 and to 'Iraqi Freedom' in 2003). The UN has been in negotiations with the Iranian government about their attempt to develop nuclear power -- and nuclear weapons -- since the mid-2000's through their International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Wikipedia notes:
After public allegations about Iran's previously undeclared nuclear activities, the IAEA launched an investigation that concluded in November 2003 that Iran had systematically failed to meet its obligations under its [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] safeguards agreement to report those activities to the IAEA, although it also reported no evidence of links to a nuclear weapons program. The IAEA Board of Governors delayed a formal finding of non-compliance until September 2005, and (in a rare non-consensus decision) reported that non-compliance to the UN Security Council in February 2006.

After the IAEA Board of Governors reported Iran's noncompliance ... to the United Nations Security Council, the Council demanded that Iran suspend its enrichment programs. The Council imposed sanctions after Iran refused to do so.

The sanctions against trade and transfer of technology on Iran went ahead under "Lil' Boots" Bush. In 2004, U.S. intelligence was able to obtain a laptop taken out of Iran which allegedly held data about what has been called "The Green Salt Project", including a design for a missile warhead and information about the Iranian's enrichment program for Uranium.

The UN had asked to have access to this information, but were repeatedly rebuffed until 2008, and the "laptop documents" were provided to the IAEA -- which issued a report on Iran's nuclear activities that year. Still, there was no real smoking gun shown in their reports -- though nuclear physicists at IAEA were clear that Iran had increased its capability to ramp-up quickly to weapons-grade uranium production if they desired.
  • Days ahead of a planned meeting between IAEA and Iranian representatives in Geneva, on September 25, 2009, President Obama and Britain's then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown disclosed the existence of a secret, underground nuclear processing plant near the city of Quom, which the Iranian authorities had built and kept hidden from IAEA inspectors for years.

  • In early October, 2009, Iranian representatives rejected the IAEA's report at their meeting in Geneva. The UN, on a resolution sponsored by the United States and Great Britain, levied additional sanctions on trade and technology transfer against Iran.

  • Also In early October, following possibly fixed and controversial elections for Iran's president (resulting in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's continuing in power), massive protests erupted across Iran; it looked as if the regime of Iran's Revolutionary Council and Revolutionary Guard was in jeopardy, but the Iranian government brutally suppressed the protests and rejected any complaints that the elections were rigged.

  • In December of 2009, the Saban Center For Middle East Policy (part of the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution) conducted a war game exercise -- one of three simulations held that month (the others were held at Tel Aviv and Harvard universities). The scenario assumed Israel hit and destroyed six out of nine nuclear sites in Iran, and only showed more clearly that there was no way to predict where such a crisis would lead.

  • In June, 2010, a new computer worm called 'Stuxnet' was released and caused some havoc in businesses worldwide -- at the same time, it hit computer networks controlling an unknown number of centrifuges in Iran's nuclear fuel processing facilities, and the centrifuges spun out of control. Iran accused the United States and Israel of developing and delivering the worm. Though there is no conclusive proof (and there may never be), circumstantial evidence about its origins suggests they may be right.

  • On November 29, 2010, Majid Shahriari, an Iranian physicist involved with his country's nuclear program, was killed and his wife injured while on his way to work at a University in Tehran; his attackers rode motorcycles and placed a magnetic bomb on his car. Another Iranian nuclear scientist, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, and his wife, survived an identical and almost simultaneous attack.

  • In February, 2011, as the 'Arab Spring' began, demonstrations in Iranian cities, similar to those of the previous Fall, continued into April but were also stepped on heavily by the Iranian authorities.

  • In May, 2011, the New York Times reported that the IAEA, "frustrated by Iran’s refusal to answer questions, revealed that it possesses evidence that Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon."

  • On July 23, 2011, another physicist in the Iranian nuclear program, Daryoush Rezaie, was shot dead in front of his home in Tehran by gunmen on motorcycles.

  • In August, 2011, U.S. (and presumably, Israeli) intelligence learned that the Iranians were moving the bulk of their nuclear materials processing into the underground facility near the city of Quom, which the U.S. and UK had revealed in 2009.

  • On October 11, the Department Of Justice announced arrests had been made in an alleged plot by high-ranking members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and members of the 'Los Zetas' Mexican drug gang, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

Obligatory Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant: The Rock Hyrax, Sitting On Your Car

This coming Tuesday, November 8, the IAEA will deliver a report -- something it does quarterly -- about Iran's nuclear efforts (it's hard to believe they haven't already read it), and rumors in the British press indicate the report's contents will be "a game-changer" in negotiations with the Iranian government.

However, this past Tuesday, November 2, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported that for weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressing his cabinet to agree to an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Huffington Post UK reported that:
Recent weeks have witnessed an on-going debate within Israel as to the possibility of a unilateral military strike against the Iranian regime, however Haaretz reported that the doves currently hold sway within the cabinet, including interior minister Eli Yishai and finance minister Yuval Steinitz.

On Monday, Netanyahu told the Knesset: "One of those regional powers is Iran, which is continuing its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran would constitute a grave threat to the Middle East and the entire world, and of course it is a direct and grave threat on us."

One day later, defense minister Ehud Barak, struck a similar tone. "A situation could be created in the Middle East in which Israel must defend its vital interests in an independent fashion, without necessarily having to reply on other forces, regional or otherwise,” he said.

In Great Britain, the Guardian UK also reported on Tuesday that the MoD (Ministry of Defense) has reportedly begun to examine "where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign".

Remember that during the same ten years we've been discussing, Iran's government -- principally Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- has denied any efforts to produce a nuclear weapon. This same line has been taken by Iran's representatives with the IAEA.

However, Ahmadinejad has also made a name for himself through public statements such as "[Ayatollah Khomeini] said that the occupying regime [i.e., Israel] must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement... I have no doubt that the new wave that has started in Palestine, and we witness it in the Islamic world too, will eliminate this disgraceful stain from the Islamic world" (October, 2005).

His remarks denying the Holocaust (2006), and claiming the massacre of European Jewry was blown out of proportion as a tool for manipulation by 'Zionists' (2009) have been widely reported (though Ahmadinejad continually claims he was mistranslated); and saying if the UN levied additional sanctions against Iran after its secret nuclear processing facility was discovered, it would be a mistake "they would regret making".

Israel has made it absolutely clear that it would not permit Iran's having the ability to create nuclear weapons. Iran already has a missile delivery system.

An attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would have to be a full assault on that nation's air defenses and major command and control facilities. Any attack by Israel would be answered by Iran, and any regional players -- Russia, India, possibly even China -- might get involved. It's a foregone conclusion that the United States would be.

Iran has the ability to close the Straits of Hormuz, through which roughly a quarter of the world's crude oil moves. The Iranians have Chinese-manufactured anti-ship missiles, which can travel at supersonic speeds -- faster than the Exocets used by Argentina against the British navy during the Falkland Islands war.

If our navy guarantees the security of the Straits in the aftermath of an Israeli attack, the Iranians may decide to turn the Persian Gulf into a graveyard for supertankers and U.S. vessels.

An escalating series of confrontations and tragedies, with large loss of American lives, might allow the U.S. to force a resolution in the UN's Security Council allowing serious military action against Iran -- and only preparations for all-out war in the Middle East would allow it. The last time the Security Council approved such a resolution, it was shown to be based on lies created by "Lil' Boots" Bush and his people about the existence of WMD's in order to provide the 'legal' umbrella of authority to invade Iraq. The UN isn't anxious to lose more credibility with a similar mistake.

Remember where we are. America and Western Europe is shuddering under the weight of the greed and avarice of a tiny sliver of its populations. No one down here in the street, among The People, is anxious to begin fighting another war. We can't afford it.

And, there hasn't been any time to prepare the country for the possibility of a conflict. Even an argument about the threat to the existence of the nation of Israel (which I personally agree with) might not be enough to convince a majority of Americans to support another war. We've already had ten years of it -- and the 5,000-plus lives lost in Afghanistan and Iraq, the thousands of wounded, might be the death toll in a single day of combat in the Gulf. Are we prepared for that?

Shiite Iran would like to be the premiere player in the Islamic world, kicking the Sunni Saudis to the curb and ending their influence -- and being a nuclear power would allow it to project its political power in the Middle East; other Islamic nations would be crawling to Tehran to be seen kissing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ass shoulder. However, the Iranians are Persians, not Arabs, and they might not get as much support as they believe, particularly if they were losing.

Given even the public evidence, a large number of Israel's leaders don't believe they have any other choice but to try and kill the snake in its nest. Given the public positions taken by Iran's leaders about the continuing existence of Israel, they may not. If Israel does go in, our government will be there with intelligence and logistics, technical and realtime support. And it will paint an even bigger target on the United States in the mind of every Islamist on the planet, who will begin -- as they are in Africa, today -- trying to tie us down in asymmetrical warfare, fifty places across the world at once.

What do you think -- do we have anything to be concerned about?

MEHR: The New York Times: "U.S. Hangs Back as Inspectors Prepare Report on Iran’s Nuclear Program":
An imminent report by United Nations weapons inspectors includes the strongest evidence yet that Iran has worked in recent years on a kind of sophisticated explosives technology that is primarily used to trigger a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials who have been briefed on the intelligence.

But the case is hardly conclusive. Iran’s restrictions on inspectors have muddied the picture. And however suggestive the evidence about what the International Atomic Energy Agency calls “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s program turns out to be, the only sure bet is that the mix of sleuthing, logic and intuition by nuclear investigators will be endlessly compared with the American intelligence agencies’ huge mistakes in Iraq in 2003...

For its part, the Obama administration, acutely aware of how what happened in Iraq undercut American credibility, is deliberately taking a back seat, eager to make the conclusions entirely the I.A.E.A.’s, even as it continues to press for more international sanctions against Iran. When the director of the agency, Yukia Amano, came to the White House 11 days ago to meet top officials of the National Security Council about the coming report, the administration declined to even confirm he had ever walked into the building.

Oh; in much more important news, Heidi Klum appeared at a Halloween party in London this past week, also attended by erstwhile briber Princess Fergie, and showed off her nipples.

Good night, and Good Luck.

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