Friday, July 20, 2012

Distant Drummer

You Might Want To Pay Attention

Over the previous several months, two separate meetings between representatives of the current Iranian government and UN officials over the status of their nuclear 'energy' program came to nothing. The Iranians continued to play Lucy, and the UN the part of Charlie Brown, in a game of pull-away-the-football-at-the-last-moment. They've perfected this delaying tactic, over this specific issue, for nearly a decade.

I've mentioned before a cascade of events that have occurred since President Obama took office in January of 2009: Discovery of a secret uranium enrichment facility, which the Iranians tried to hide from the UN; the Stuxnet virus attack; assassinations of Iranian physicists; even a possible commando raid on an Iranian military site.

Iran's intransigence bought them a new round of economic sanctions, which went into effect on July 1st. The Iranian government is already being pressured by previous sanctions, but this latest round included a ban on banking or funds transfers related to the sale of oil, a state enterprise that costs the Iranians millions.

In the week before the fourth of July, a friend who tracks these things mentioned to me that every single aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy which had been in port suddenly put to sea; I haven't been able to confirm that.

On July 3, the New York Times reported that our Navy had "increased its presence" in the Straits of Hormuz, through which roughly 20% of the world's oil is transported. The Iranians made bellicose statements in response -- that they would turn the Persian Gulf into a graveyard for American ships, etc., etc.

The Israelis have said they will not tolerate a nuclear Iran to their north. The Iranian president, Little Mahmood, five years old, said again a few weeks ago that if Iran were attacked that Israel would be "wiped off the map" -- this, with a rising Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government in Egypt, right next door.

Then, in case it escaped your attention, Iran's proxy in the Arab world, Hezbollah, carried out a suicide bombing in Bulgaria, targeting busloads of Israeli tourists. Both Israeli and U.S. officials name Hezbollah, specifically, as responsible. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack was the work of “Hezbollah, the long arm of Iran,” and promised there would be a response.
The attacks, the [U.S.] official said, were in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, for which Iran has blamed Israeli agents ... “This was tit for tat,” said the American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way.

The bombing comes amid heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes but Israel and the West say is a cover for developing weapons...

A senior Israeli official said on Thursday that the Burgas attack was part of an intensive wave of terrorist attacks around the world carried out by two different organizations, the Iranian Quds Force, an elite international operations unit within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as well as by Hezbollah.
Today, an article appeared in Bloomberg News online ("New York police link nine 2012 plots to Iran, proxies") state that reports prepared by "intelligence analysts for the New York Police Department... say three [terrorist] plots were foiled" in January of this year, three in February and three more since the end of June and the newest round of sanctions.
The reports detail two plots in Bangkok and one each in New Delhi, Tbilisi, Baku, Mombasa and Cyprus. Each plot was attributed to Iran or its Lebanese Hezbollah militant allies, said the reports, which were produced following the bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria of a bus carrying Israeli tourists.

Iran on Thursday dismissed "unfounded statements" by Israel linking Tehran to the Burgas blast, saying they were politically motivated accusations...
The reports were issued in the aftermath of the attack on the tourists in Bulgaria, and tie together a string of terrorist actions or incidents since the beginning of the year -- which the NYPD analysts indicate are ultimately the responsibility of Iran.

Intelligence analysis doesn't take place in a vacuum; information and assumptions are often shared, even down to the level of a large metropolitan police department. It's probable that the NYPD report reflects the consensus of a broader intelligence community -- including the CIA -- this is the way the wind's blowing, fellas.

Earlier this week, a fishing boat apparently approached an American support vessel operating in international waters in the Straits of Hormuz; its captain did not heed calls to turn away, and the U.S. ship opened fire. The incident was apparently an accident; an Indian fisherman was killed.

Tensions over possible attacks on U.S. Navy ships by small, high-speed boats -- which the Iranians have in force in the Straits -- are high. And so is the possibility that another, similar incident could trigger a response on either side out of proportion to a given situation.

I'd like to point out that yesterday, July 19, was the Dark Of The Moon -- tonight, the first sliver of a New Moon appears, ramping up through waxing phases to the next Full Moon. The next Dark Of The Moon will not occur until August 17th.

I can't imagine what it would be like to live in a neighborhood where the occupants of others houses tell you to your face that they want to blow up your house with rocket-launched, tactical nuclear weapons and turn your wives and daughters out to Turkish bikers. I'm not in favor of war, or violence; but given everything, I think the Israelis have a point. If they attacked Iran's nuclear facilities, just to buy another few years of security, I'd understand completely.

Meanwhile, are all these relatively low-key news reports proof that the U.S. and other Western nations are just staking out their positions, backing them up with military force? Or is something else about to happen in the aftermath of the tragedy in Bulgaria -- an indication that we keep hearing A.E. Houseman's Distant Drummer for a reason?

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