Rumors of a war with Iran
Rumors of a war with Iran
Oct 27 2007, 05:00 PM
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We must bomb Iran, says US Republican guru
By Toby Harnden in New York
Last Updated: 2:14am BST 27/10/2007
A senior foreign policy adviser to the Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani has urged that Iran be bombed using cruise missiles and "bunker busters" to set back Teheran’s nuclear programme by at least five years.
The tough message at a time of crisis between the United States and Iraq was delivered by Norman Podhoretz, one of the founders of neoconservatism, who has also imparted his stark advice personally to a receptive President George W. Bush.
"None of the alternatives to military action - negotiations, sanctions, provoking an internal insurrection - can possibly work," said Mr Podhoretz.
"They’re all ways of evading the terrible choice we have to make which is to either let them get the bomb or to bomb them."
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Podhoretz said he was certain that bombing raids could be successful.
"People I’ve talked to have no doubt we could set it back five or 10 years. There are those who believe we can get the underground facilities as well with these highly sophisticated bunker-busting munitions."
Although Mr Podhoretz said he did not speak for Mr Giuliani, the former New York mayor whom he briefs daily appears to have embraced at least the logic of his hard-line views.
During a visit to London last month, Mr Giuliani said Iran should be given "an absolute assurance that, if they get to the point that they are going to become a nuclear power, we will prevent them or we will set them back five or 10 years".
Mr Podhoretz said: "I was very pleased to see him say that. I was even surprised he went that far. I’m sure some of his political people were telling him to go slow ... I wouldn’t advise any candidate to come out and say we have to bomb - it’s not a prudent thing to say at this stage of the campaign."
But Mr Podhoretz’s 77 years and his position as a pre-eminent conservative foreign policy intellectual means he can not only think the unthinkable but say the unsayable.
"My role has simply been to say what I think," he said, explaining that he takes part in weekly conference calls and is in daily email contact with the Giuliani campaign.
He is the most eminent of a clutch of uncompromisingly hawkish aides assembled by Mr Giuliani. They include Daniel Pipes, who opposes a Palestinian state and believes America should "inspire fear, not affection", and Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official who has argued that Condoleezza Rice’s diplomacy is "dangerous" and signals American "weakness" to Teheran.
"Does Rudy agree with me?" Mr Podhoretz asked rhetorically. "I don’t know and I don’t wish to know." But he added that "Rudy’s view of the war is very similar to mine."
Mr Podhoretz’s thesis is that the war on terror is in fact World War Four and that the 42-year-long Cold War should be more properly described as World War Three.
Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest honour, by President George W. Bush in 2004, Mr Podhoretz later sought a rare one-on-on audience with the US commander-in-chief. They met in New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel in the spring.
The author of the recent World War IV: the Long Struggle Against Islamofacsism spent about 35 minutes outlining his case for air strikes against Iran as Mr Bush’s then chief adviser Karl Rove took notes.
"Whether I had any effect on him I truly don’t know but I sure tried my best to persuade him," he said.
"He was very cordial. He was warm. He listened. He occasionally asked a question as I made the case but he was truly poker faced."
Mr Podhoretz left the meeting unshaken in his belief that Mr Bush would attack Iran before he leaves office.
"The spirit of the questions was not to try to refute or contradict what I was saying. I didn’t get any negative vibes."
He said that now "the debate [over Iran] is secretly over and the people who are against military action are now preparing to make the case that we can live with an Iranian bomb".
Neither Mr Bush nor Mr Giuliani, however, would countenance Teheran acquiring a nuclear weapon and either one would authorise military action once they were convinced Iran had passed the point of no return with its uranium enrichment programme.
"Unlike a ground invasion where you’ve got to mass hundreds of thousands of troops, it takes six months and everybody knows you’re mobilising, with air strikes, we’ve got three carriers in the region and a lot of submarines," Mr Podhoretz said.
"I would say it would take five minutes. You’d wake up one morning and the strikes would have been ordered and carried out during the night. All the president has to do is say go."
Oct 29 2007, 09:59 AM
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From The Sunday Times
October 28, 2007
Will Bush really bomb Iran?
The rhetoric is getting stronger, the sanctions tougher and military planning more detailed. Iran is now the focus of attention in Washington
In the white desert sands of New Mexico, close to where the first atom bomb was detonated, America’s biggest conventional weapon was tested last spring. A 30,000lb massive ordnance penetrator, known as the Big Blu or the Mother of All Bombs, was placed inside a tunnel to test its explosive power against hard, deeply buried bunkers and tunnels designed to conceal weapons of mass destruction.
The monster bunker-buster was so heavy, it could not fly. But the blast was a huge success, rippling through the tunnels and destroying everything in its wake.
Today the Big Blu might as well have “Tehran” written on its side in the same way that the Iranians love to parade missiles marked “Tel Aviv”. Tucked away in an emergency defence spending request, the US air force has just asked Congress for $88m to equip B2 stealth bombers, the black warriors of the skies, with racks strong enough carry the huge bomb.
This was no casual request, but an “urgent operational need from theatre commanders”, according to the air force. Even a Republican congressman fretted: “This whole thing . . . reminds me of the movie Dr Strangelove.”
In the 1964 film starring Peter Sellers, a demented general launches a unilateral strike on the Soviet Union, convinced it is already stealthily undermining America. Global nuclear destruction ensues. THE end result might not be so grave, but are America’s B2s being readied for an attack on Iran? It would fit in neatly with President George W Bush’s recent warning about the dangers of a third world war, should Iran be allowed to obtain the “knowledge to make a nuclear weapon”.
Iran-watchers noted with interest the use of the word knowledge. Bush, it appeared, was determined to act well before the mullahs got anywhere close to an actual bomb.
Dick Cheney, the vice-president, piled on the pressure last week, calling Iran a “growing obstacle to peace in the Middle East” and vowing “serious consequences” if it persisted with its nuclear programme.
A senior Pentagon source, who remembers the growing drumbeat of war before the invasion of Iraq, believes Bush is preparing for military action before he leaves office in January 2009. “This is for real now. I think he is signalling he is going to do it,” he said.
But nobody is sure whether the president really will add a risky third front to the Afghan and Iraq wars that are already overstretching US forces.
“If you’d asked me a year ago, I’d have said yes,” said John Bolton, the hawkish former US ambassador to the United Nations. “Today I’d say, I don’t know.”
It is clear the military machinery for an attack is being put into place. More than 1,000 targets have been identified for a potential air blitz against Iran’s nuclear facilities, air defences and Revolutionary Guard bases, despite claims last week by Robert Gates, the defence secretary, that the planning was merely “routine”.
As for the urgent request for the Big Blu, it has “bombing Iran written all over it”, said John Pike, a defence expert at the think tank Globalsecurity.org.
Iran’s uranium enrichment halls at Natanz, about 150 miles south of Tehran, are buried 75ft deep, while there are believed to be nuclear sites buried under granite mountains in tunnels that are like the long roots of a tree. It is not enough to drop a smart bomb down a shaft – it has to have the capacity to blast sideways with massive force.
The question of timing is becoming ever more urgent, now that Bush has fewer than 15 months left in the White House. Confidants say he is determined not to bequeath the problem of a nuclear Iran to his successor and regards it as an important part of his legacy.
Although intelligence estimates vary as to when Iran will achieve the know-how for a bomb, the French government recently received a memo from the International Atomic Energy Agency stating that Iran will be ready to run almost 3,000 cen-trifuges in 18 cascades by the end of this month, in defiance of a UN ban on uranium enrichment. It is enough, say scientists, to produce one bomb within a year. If that is the case, the hour for action may soon be upon us.
Against this backdrop, the US public is growing acclimatised to the threat of war. As the saying in Washington goes, “Iran is the new Iraq”. While controversy over the Iraq war is fading in intensity – even for the 2008 presidential candidates – the problem of a nuclear Iran is rapidly moving up the political agenda.
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, was in Washington last week for talks with Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state. Shortly before heading back to Britain, he declared that, for the first time, Iraq was not “the top item” for discussion, a sign of the growing stability and success of the American troop surge.
According to a spokesman for US armed forces chiefs, there was not a single military casualty last week – Iraqi or American – in Anbar, formerly a hotbed of trouble.
In so far as Iraq is presented as a threat to international security, it is increasingly in connection to growing friction with Iran.
General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, stated baldly last month that America was already fighting a proxy war with Iran, which is arming the sectarian militias and smuggling in weapons and sophisticated roadside bombs designed to kill American soldiers.
The US is building a forward base in Iraq called Combat Outpost Shocker just five miles from the Iranian border as a sign of its new aggressiveness against interference from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime.
Bush’s decision to approve tough unilateral sanctions against Iran last week and to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organisation and proliferator of weapons of mass destruction marks a further escalation of the war of words and deeds with Tehran.
After Miliband was briefed on the move during his visit to Washington, Gordon Brown batted for America in the House of Commons by promising Britain would lead the effort to secure a tough sanctions resolution against Iran at the United Nations security council.
All the evidence appears to point in the direction of increasing diplomatic and military hostilities. As Robert Byrd, a Democrat member of the Senate armed services committee, put it, the action by the Bush administration “not only echoes the chest-pounding rhetoric” which preceded the invasion of Iraq in 2003, “but also raises the spectre of an intensified effort to make the case for an invasion of Iran”.
Yet a Downing street source said: “They are not at that stage.”
Could it all be an elaborate game of “chicken”, using the growing threat of an attack to force Ahmadinejad to back down on his nuclear ambitions?
Nick Burns, the State Department’s leading negotiator on Iran, said last week the imposition of new sanctions merely “supports the diplomacy and in no way, shape or form does it anticipate the use of force”.
Even the urgent request to fund the Big Blu may not be all that it seems. “We could be trying to turn up the volume to get the ayatollahs to pay attention,” said Pike. “It could be part of the diplomatic pressure to see if the Iranians will move voluntarily.”
If Ahmadinejad is to be believed, nothing will deter Iran from pursuing its nuclear programme, which he claims is for peaceful energy purposes while at the same time boasting that Israel will one day be wiped off the map.
In a surprise announcement, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, was replaced by Saeed Jalili, a hardliner close to the president. Confusingly, however, Larijani still appeared to lead last week’s talks in Rome with Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
“I found the same Larijani and he had the role of chief negotiator,” said Solana. It suggests a power struggle over the extent to which Iran can continue to thwart the West.
Until recently, most Iranians discounted the threat of an attack on the grounds that America had its hands full with Iraq, but their mood is altering. At gatherings in Tehran, the talk has turned to possible American bombing raids.
Ali Nazeri, 35, a shopkeeper in the Iranian capital, said: “The government says the Americans cannot do a damn thing, but they are also changing the leadership of the Revolutionary Guard and saying they will fire thousands of missiles at US targets within the first few minutes of a confrontation. I think it is a matter of putting two and two together and coming to the conclusion that war is very likely.”
In the wider Middle East, the conviction is growing that America is determined to launch an attack. Some well-placed Israeli and Palestinian sources suggest that next month’s Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, near Washington, could be the catapult for an ambitious plan to establish a Palestinian state and disarm Iran.
“The idea is to tie Palestine to Iran,” said an Israeli Middle East expert. “Israel will be obliged to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state within a short and firm timetable and the US administration will guarantee that the Iranian nuclear issue will be solved before Bush leaves office.”
If Israel is prepared to move towards the creation of a Palestinian state, the hope is that Sunni Arab regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt will not protest too loudly about a US attack on Iran, given their own private fears about the impact of a nuclear Iran on the balance of power in the region.
As with the Israeli bombing of a suspected Syrian nuclear site last month, they could simply stay mum. In theory, Bush could thus broker a settlement in the Middle East, while denuclearising Iran – a tempting legacy.
But such a “grand bargain” is far too delicate and complicated to be attempted, according to Washington sources, even if it provides a subtext for some of the negotiations. “We’re not smart enough for that,” Bolton said bluntly.
The most convincing explanation for the sabre-rattling is that Bush has embarked on a course of action that may lead to war, but there are many stages to pass, including the imposition of tougher sanctions, before he concludes a military strike on Iran is worth the risk. As his generals have warned, it could unleash a new round of terrorism, destabilise Iraq and send oil prices way above the $100-a-barrel mark.
If muscular diplomacy can stop the mullahs, so much the better. If it cannot, Bush may decide to launch an attack as one of the final acts of his presidency. The preparations are under way, but only he knows if he will make that fateful decision.
Additional reporting: Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv
The pros and cons of launching an attack on Iran
The arguments for
- Protects Israel from a potential nuclear holocaust. President Ahmadinejad has stated that Israel will be wiped off the map
- Reduces the risk to the West of a “dirty” bomb in big cities. Iran is a sponsor of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah
- Forestalls the development of Iranian long-range nuclear missiles aimed at Europe and America
- Prevents Iran from intimidating or attacking its Sunni Arab neighbours
- Creates the space for potential regime change and installation of a pro-western government in Tehran
The arguments against
- Sets back Iran’s nuclear ambitions by only a few years. US intelligence has not mapped out all the potential Iranian nuclear sites
- Unleashes a wave of attacks on Israel and the West by Hezbollah and other terrorist proxy groups Closes the Strait of Hormuz, sending oil prices soaring above $100 a barrel and possibly creating a global economic crisis
- Destabilises Iraq, plunging the country into a new round of terror, creating further regional instability
- Creates a global public relations disaster. Intensifies antiAmericanism which critics argue that President Bush has made worse. Fosters a new generation of fundamentalist militants and terrorists
Oct 30 2007, 08:38 AM
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Bush Budget Plans for Iran Attack
Monday, October 29, 2007 8:29 AM
By: Newsmax Staff
An item buried in President Bush’s latest request for $190 billion in emergency war funding offers telling evidence that the U.S. could be preparing an attack on Iran.
The Defense Department has asked for $88 million to retrofit B-2 Stealth bombers so they can carry a 30,000-pound “bunker buster” bomb called the massive ordnance penetrator (MOP), which has the capacity to destroy deep underground targets.
The Administration says the request is in response to an “urgent operational need from theater commanders.”
Some observers might conclude that the Pentagon is seeking weaponry to strike Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida in their caves in Afghanistan.
But as Gerard Baker, U.S. editor of the Times of London, points out in the New York Post, that would not require Stealth bombers.
“The Americans own the skies over Afghanistan and Iraq and could, if they wished, blanket the two countries with all manner of bombardment from a few thousand feet in broad daylight,” Baker notes.
Instead, the more likely targets are the subterranean nuclear enrichment facilities in Iran, according to Baker, who writes:
“The debate in Washington about what to do with the increasingly recalcitrant and self-confident Iranian regime has taken a significant turn in the past few weeks. And the decision to upgrade the bombing capacity of the military is perhaps the most powerful indication yet that the debate is reaching a climax.”
The Pentagon request confirms an earlier report that first ran on Newsmax.com in July, which disclosed that the Pentagon was planning to modify the B-2 Stealth bombers so they could carry the bunker buster bombs – “a move that could be a prelude to an attack on Iran and its nuclear facilities.”
The Newsmax report revealed that Northrop Grumman, the Air Force’s prime contractor on the B-2, would retrofit the bomber to carry the new 30,000-pound MOP.
“The U.S. Air Force’s B-2 Stealth bomber would be able to attack and destroy an expanded set of hardened, deeply buried military targets” using the MOP, the company said at the time.
Regarding the likelihood of an American attack on Iran, Baker observes that the U.S. now “thinks it has the intelligence and the military capacity to undermine the Iranian threat seriously…
“The only real question about the next phase in this war is whether an escalation by the U.S., in a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, would further American – and Western – objectives, or impede them. The evidence is increasingly suggesting that the costs of not acting are equal to or larger than the costs of acting.”
© 2007 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
Oct 30 2007, 05:59 PM
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Zogby: Majority Favor Strikes on Iran
Monday, October 29, 2007 9:47 PM
A majority of likely voters - 52 percent - would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53 percent believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows.
The survey results come at a time of increasing U.S. scrutiny of Iran. According to reports from the Associated Press, earlier this month Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran of "lying" about the aim of its nuclear program and Vice President Dick Cheney has raised the prospect of "serious consequences" if the U.S. were to discover Iran was attempting to devolop a nuclear weapon. Last week, the Bush administration also announced new sanctions against Iran.
Democrats (63 percent) are most likely to believe a U.S. military strike against Iran could take place in the relatively near future, but independents (51 percent) and Republicans (44 percent) are less likely to agree. Republicans, however, are much more likely to be supportive of a strike (71 percent), than Democrats (41 percent) or independents (44 percent). Younger likely voters are more likely than those who are older to say a strike is likely to happen before the election and women (58 percent) are more likely than men (48 percent) to say the same – but there is little difference in support for a U.S. strike against Iran among these groups.
When asked which presidential candidate would be best equipped to deal with Iran – regardless of whether or not they expected the U.S. to attack Iran – 21 percent would most like to see New York U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton leading the country, while 15 percent would prefer former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and 14 percent would want Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain in charge. Another 10 percent said Illinois Sen. Barack Obama would be best equipped to deal with Iran, while Republican Fred Thompson (5 percent), Democrat John Edwards (4 percent) and Republican Mitt Romney (3 percent) were less likely to be viewed as the best leaders to help the U.S. deal with Iran. The telephone poll of 1,028 likely voters nationwide was conducted Oct. 24-27, 2007 and carries a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
Clinton leads strongly among Democrats on the issue, with 35 percent saying she is best equipped to deal with Iran, while 17 percent would prefer Obama and 7 percent view John Edwards as the best choice. Giuliani is the top choice of Republicans (28 percent), followed by McCain (21 percent) and Fred Thompson (9 percent). One in five independents chose Clinton (21 percent) over McCain (16 percent) and Giuliani (11 percent). Clinton was the top choice among women (24 percent), while 14 percent would be more confident with Giuliani in the White House and 11 percent would prefer McCain. Men slightly prefer McCain (18 percent) to Clinton (17 percent) on this issue, while 15 percent said Giuliani is best equipped to deal with Iran. The survey also shows there is a significant amount of uncertainty if any of the long list of declared candidates would be best equipped to deal the Iran – 19 percent overall said they weren’t sure which candidate to choose.
There is considerable division about when a strike on Iran should take place – if at all. Twenty-eight percent believe the U.S. should wait to strike until after the next president is in office while 23 percent would favor a strike before the end of President Bush’s term. Another 29 percent said the U.S. should not attack Iran, and 20 percent were unsure. The view that Iran should not be attacked by the U.S. is strongest among Democrats (37 percent) and independents, but fewer than half as many Republicans (15 percent) feel the same. But Republicans are also more likely to be uncertain on the issue (28 percent).
As the possibility the U.S. my strike Iran captures headlines around the world, many have given thought to the possibility of an attack at home. Two in three (68 percent) believe it is likely that the U.S. will suffer another significant terrorist attack on U.S. soil comparable to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – of those, 27 percent believe such an attack is very likely. Nearly one in three (31 percent) believe the next significant attack will occur between one and three years from now, 22 percent said they believe the next attack is between three and five years away, and 15 percent said they don’t think the U.S. will be attacked on U.S. soil for at least five years or longer. Just 9 percent believe a significant terrorist attack will take place in the U.S. before the next presidential election.
© 2007 All Rights Reserved.
Nov 7 2007, 06:12 PM
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'Military is viable way to counter Iran'
Yaakov Katz, Mark Weiss, and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 7, 2007
A military operation is a viable option for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday night, hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his country has 3,000 centrifuges at work enriching uranium.
"We cannot take any option off the table and we need to study operational aspects," Barak said at a Labor Party meeting in Beersheba, adding that he could not go into detail. "This is not just for the coming months but also for the coming two years," he said.
The new developments in Iran meant Israel had to hold a serious debate on the issue, Barak said. "We need to have a comprehensive discussion and to act when it comes to thwarting, gathering intelligence and [imposing] sanctions," he added.
Barak reminded his audience of Military Intelligence's assessment that Iran, if not stopped, could obtain a nuclear weapons by the end of the decade.
"Intelligence officials gave us an estimate that things are moving forward, and the assessment is that it will take between three and four years," he said. "That goes by very quickly."
Barak said the world needed to take additional diplomatic action against Iran as well as economic steps that would cut off funding for the country's nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad announced that Iran has achieved a landmark, with 3,000 centrifuges fully operational in its uranium enrichment program.
"We have now reached 3,000 machines," Ahmadinejad told thousands of Iranians gathered in Birjand, eastern Iran, in a show of defiance of international demands to halt the program believed to be masking the country's nuclear arms efforts.
Ahmadinejad has previously said Iran had succeeded in installing the 3,000 centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. But Wednesday's claim was his first official statement that the plant is now operating all those centrifuges.
When Iran first announced launching the 3,000 centrifuges in April, the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Teheran had only 328 centrifuges up and running at Natanz's underground facility.
In a recent report, drawn up by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, the agency put the number of centrifuges working in Natanz at close to 2,000, with another 650 being tested.
Although Ahmadinejad was not totally precise, the tone and setting of his Wednesday speech reflected he clearly meant the 3,000 were fully operational.
Uranium gas, spun in linked centrifuges, can result in either low-enriched fuel suitable to generate power in a nuclear reactor, or the weapons-grade material that forms the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
US experts say 3,000 centrifuges are enough to produce a nuclear weapon, perhaps as soon as within a year.
Iran says it plans to expand its enrichment program to up to 54,000 centrifuges at Natanz in central Iran - which would amount to industrial-scale uranium enrichment.
Ahmadinejad on Wednesday reiterated his rejection of any suspension of Iran's enrichment activities, or even a compromise over how Teheran will proceed beyond the 3,000 centrifuges.
"They say they've swallowed these 3,000 and want to reach an agreement with us on what to do, at what speed, how many [centrifuges] a day or week," Ahmadinejad said of latest Western pressures.
"Our response is: 'Who are you to make comments about the Iranian nation... Do we ask you how many machines you have?'"
He also said he had bluntly refused a recent offer to negotiate with the United States over Iran's nuclear activities.
"I, as your representative, told those who brought the message that we didn't ask for talks... If talks are to be held, it is the Iranian nation that has to set conditions, not the arrogant and the criminals," Ahmadinejad said.
"The world must know that this nation will not give up one iota of its nuclear rights... if they think they can get concessions from this nation, they are badly mistaken," he concluded.
Israeli officials said they did not believe Ahmadinejad's claims about the 3,000 centrifuges.
Jerusalem believes the Iranian president is lying in an effort to create the impression that Teheran already has a nuclear bomb and has passed the point of no return. Teheran hopes that this will deter international resolve for tougher sanctions, according to this view. But according to the Israeli officials, not only does Israel not believe Ahmadinejad - the international community has also not been fooled.
The security cabinet convened in Jerusalem on Wednesday to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and six other cabinet ministers who make up the "Iran forum" were briefed by representatives of the Mossad and IDF Military Intelligence on Teheran's drive to acquire a nuclear potential.
Forum member Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz was absent, as he is in Washington heading the Israeli team at the Strategic Dialogue talks with the US.
No statement was issued after the security cabinet meeting.
On Tuesday, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's Research Bureau, predicted that Iran could have a nuclear bomb by the end of 2009.
Earlier this week, Foreign Ministry director-general Aharon Abramovitch publicly criticized International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed Elbaradei for calling for more time for nuclear inspectors to work in Iran and for praising Teheran's cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.
Nov 8 2007, 11:32 AM
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Special to World Tribune
Monday, November 5, 2007
U.S. Fifth Fleet in Gulf exercise for possible war in Iran
ABU DHABI — The U.S. Navy launched a series of exercises in the Gulf to enhance skills required in any war with Iran which, according to British press reports, could occur in early 2008.
The U.S. Fifth Fleet conducted a crisis response exercise that included amphibious, air and medical forces. The five-day exercise by the USS Wasp, led by Commander Task Force 59, was scheduled to end on Nov. 5.
The U.S. Fifth Fleet has been operating two strike groups in the Gulf. The USS Enterprise and USS Kearsarge have also been training in the region.
Britain plans to send an aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, to the region in early 2008. Illustrious would be accompanied by the Type 42 destroyer HMS Edinburgh and the Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster.
A British Defense Ministry spokesman said the Royal Navy deployment was not linked to the emerging Western crisis with Iran. But the London-based Daily Telegraph asserted that the ships might be preparing for war with Teheran in the first half of 2008.
"The purpose of the exercise is to continually improve the Fifth Fleet skills in completing complex missions that require capabilities broader than one ship or unit," U.S. Fifth Fleet commander Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff said. "Naval forces deployed here contribute to building stronger relationships that in turn help underwrite security and stability."
Officials said the exercise would evaluate the capability of the USS Wasp to respond to oil spills or damage to a coalition ship in the Gulf. Under the scenario, the Wasp, an assault vessel, would rush personnel and supplies to a targeted area within 72 hours.
"The scenario is challenging but prepares us for a real-world event," CTF planning officer Cmdr. Jay Chambers said. "From the table-top discussions, which drew up plans for how our forces will assist, to turning those plans into action, this exercise allowed us to examine the best way to proceed, and to proceed quickly, with providing assistance to any requesting nation."
The U.S. Navy also said it would deploy the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group in the Middle East. The navy said the Truman would be accompanied by the guided missile destroyers Oscar Austin and Winston S. Churchill as well as the guided missile cruiser San Jacinto and the submarine Montpelier.
Britain and Canada would also join the U.S. strike group, the navy said.
"Observers believe that the spring is the last possible moment for President George W Bush to order military strikes against Iran's nuclear programme," the Telegraph said. "The imminence of America's presidential election may make it impossible for Washington to carry out an attack any later."
Nov 9 2007, 07:21 AM
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Defense: Iran attack plans current
Military leaders say they aren’t pushing for strikes over nuke weapons crisis
The Associated Press
updated 5:47 p.m. MT, Thurs., Nov. 8, 2007
The showdown between the United States and Iran is growing more intense. This is the first story in an occasional series examining the confrontation and what it could mean for the region and the world.
WASHINGTON - U.S. defense officials have signaled that up-to-date attack plans are available if needed in the escalating crisis over Iran’s nuclear aims, although no strike appears imminent.
The Army and Marine Corps are under enormous strain from years of heavy ground fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, the United States has ample air and naval power to strike Iran if President Bush decided to target nuclear sites or to retaliate for alleged Iranian meddling in neighboring Iraq.
Among the possible targets, in addition to nuclear installations like the centrifuge plant at Natanz: Iran’s ballistic missile sites, Republican Guard bases, and naval warfare assets that Tehran could use in a retaliatory closure of the Straits of Hormuz, a vital artery for the flow of Persian Gulf oil.
The Navy has an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf area with about 60 fighters and other aircraft that likely would feature prominently in a bombing campaign. And a contingent of about 2,200 Marines are on a standard deployment to the gulf region aboard ships led by the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship. Air Force fighters and bombers are available elsewhere in the gulf area, including a variety of warplanes in Iraq and at a regional air operations center in Qatar.
But there has been no new buildup of U.S. firepower in the region. In fact there has been some shrinkage in recent months. After adding a second aircraft carrier in the gulf early this year — a move that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said was designed to underscore U.S. long-term stakes in the region — the Navy has quietly returned to a one-carrier presence.
Cheney warns Iran against nukes
Talk of a possible U.S. attack on Iran has surfaced frequently this year, prompted in some cases by hard-line statements by White House officials. Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, stated on Oct. 21 that the United States would “not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” and that Iran would face “serious consequences” if it continued in that direction. Gates, on the other hand, has emphasized diplomacy.
Bush suggested on Oct. 17 that Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear arms could lead to “World War III.” Yet on Wednesday, in discussing Iran at a joint press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Bush made no reference to the military option.
“The idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is dangerous, and, therefore, now is the time for us to work together to diplomatically solve this problem,” Bush said, adding that Sarkozy also wants a peaceful solution.
Iran’s conventional military forces are generally viewed as limited, not among the strongest in the Middle East. But a leading expert on the subject, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says it would be a mistake to view the Islamic republic as a military weakling.
“Its strengths in overt conflict are more defensive than offensive, but Iran has already shown it has great capability to resist outside pressure and any form of invasion and done so under far more adverse and divisive conditions than exist in Iran today,” Cordesman wrote earlier this year.
Cordesman estimates that Iran’s army has an active strength of around 350,000 men.
Gates: Focus on diplomacy
At the moment, there are few indications of U.S. military leaders either advising offensive action against Iran or taking new steps to prepare for that possibility. Gates has repeatedly emphasized that while military action cannot be ruled out, the focus is on diplomacy and tougher economic sanctions.
Asked in late October whether war planning had been ramped up or was simply undergoing routine updates, Gates replied, “I would characterize it as routine.” His description of new U.S. sanctions announced on Oct. 25 suggested they are not a harbinger of war, but an alternative.
A long-standing responsibility of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is to maintain and update what are called contingency plans for potential military action that a president might order against any conceivable foe. The secret plans, with a range of timelines and troop numbers, are based on a variety of potential scenarios — from an all-out invasion like the March 2003 march on Baghdad to less demanding missions.
Another military option for Washington would be limited, clandestine action by U.S. special operations commandos, such as Delta Force soldiers, against a small number of key nuclear installations.
'Drumbeat of conflict ... not helpful'
The man whose responsibility it would be to design any conventional military action against Iran — and execute it if ordered by Bush — is Adm. William Fallon, the Central Command chief. He is playing down prospects of conflict, saying in a late September interview that there is too much talk of war.
“This constant drumbeat of conflict is what strikes me, which is not helpful and not useful,” Fallon told Al-Jazeera television, adding that he does not expect a war against Iran. During a recent tour of the gulf region, Fallon made a point of telling U.S. allies that Iran is not as strong as it portrays itself.
“Not militarily, economically or politically,” he said.
Fallon’s immediate predecessor, retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, raised eyebrows in September when he suggested that initiating a war against Iran would be a mistake. He urged vigorous efforts to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but failing that, he said, “There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran.” He also said he believed Iran’s leaders could be dissuaded from using nuclear arms, once acquired.
The possibility of U.S. military action raises many tough questions, beginning perhaps with the practical issue of whether the United States knows enough about Iran’s network of nuclear sites — declared sites as well as possible clandestine ones — to sufficiently set back or destroy their program.
Among other unknowns: Iran’s capacity to retaliate by unleashing terrorist strikes against U.S. targets.
Nonmilitary specialists who have studied Iran’s nuclear program are doubtful of U.S. military action.
“There is a nontrivial chance that there will be an attack, but it’s not likely,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of a nuclear strategy project at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy group.
Nov 12 2007, 01:06 PM
Group: Root Admin
Joined: 8-November 05
Member No.: 1
IAF Train Intensively for Iran Strike with Mini-Nukes
10/11/2007 The Israel Air Force is training for a tactical nuclear strike on Iranian nuclear production facilities. The IAF is practicing for a mission to destroy key Iranian facilities, at least one with low-yield nuclear munitions, the Times of London reported. Citing "several Israeli sources," the Times said that two IAF squadrons are training to blow up an Iranian facility using a combination of precision laser bombs and low-yield nuclear "bunker-busters". The Times report was supplemented by one from Fox News.
The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Israeli weapons would each have a force equivalent to one-fifteenth of the Hiroshima bomb, the Times said. Under the plans, the report said, conventional laser-guided bombs would open shafts into the targets. Then the "mini-nukes" would then be fired into a plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce the risk of radioactive fallout.
"As soon as the green light is given, it will be one mission, one strike and the Iranian nuclear project will be demolished," said one of the sources. Israeli intelligence recently announced that Iran is on the verge of producing enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons by 2009. Meir Dagan, head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, told the Knesset, Israel's parliament, also believes that the Iranians will have a complete nuclear device by 2009. Israel has identified three prime targets south of Tehran believed to be central to Iran's nuclear program, the Times reported: Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges are being installed for uranium enrichment; A uranium conversion facility near Isfahan, and a heavy water reactor at Arak.
Ephraim Sneh, the former deputy Israeli defense minister, said last month: "The time is approaching when Israel and the international community will have to decide whether to take military action against Iran." But he lamented that "At the end of the day it is always down to the Jews to deal with the problem." The United States has described a strike against Iranian targets as a "last resort", leading Israelis to believe that it will be left to the IAF to strike.
The Times, citing Israeli sources, said Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to the Iranian targets. The report said that the air force squadrons are based at Hatzerim in the Negev desert and Tel Nof, south of Tel Aviv, under the personal supervision of Major General Eliezer Shkedy, commander of the Israeli Air Force, training to use Israel's arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons on the mission.
The Israelis believe that Iran's expected retaliation "would be constrained by fear of an Israeli second strike." The leak of a possible nuclear option by Israel may be intentional, US analysts have said. "In the cold war, we made it clear to the Russians that it was a virtual certainty that nukes would fly and fly early," said an American defense source. "Israel may be adopting the same tactics: 'You produce a weapon; you die'."
Nov 16 2007, 08:39 AM
Group: Root Admin
Joined: 8-November 05
Member No.: 1
Decision time for US over Iran threat
UN nuclear report heightens tension
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
Friday November 16, 2007
Photo- A construction worker assembles part of Iran's nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr. Photograph: Mehr News Agency/EPA
Iran has installed 3,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium - enough to begin industrial-scale production of nuclear fuel and build a warhead within a year, the UN's nuclear watchdog reported last night.
The report by Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will intensify US and European pressure for tighter sanctions and increase speculation of a potential military conflict.
The installation of 3,000 fully-functioning centrifuges at Iran's enrichment plant at Natanz is a "red line" drawn by the US across which Washington had said it would not let Iran pass. When spinning at full speed they are capable of producing sufficient weapons-grade uranium (enriched to over 90% purity) for a nuclear weapon within a year.
The IAEA says the uranium being produced is only fuel grade (enriched to 4%) but the confirmation that Iran has reached the 3,000 centrifuge benchmark brings closer a moment of truth for the Bush administration, when it will have to choose between taking military action or abandoning its red line, and accepting Iran's technical mastery of uranium enrichment.
US generals are reported to have warned the White House that military action would trigger a devastating Iranian backlash in the Middle East and beyond.
Russian officials yesterday called for patience, insisting Iran could still clinch a deal with the international community in the next few weeks. They pointed to other parts of the IAEA report showing Tehran had been cooperating with the agency's inspectors on other nuclear issues.
"We are most concerned to prevent Iran being cornered so that they walk out of the Non Proliferation Treaty, and break relations with the IAEA," one Russian source said. He said Chinese officials were stepping up diplomatic pressure on Iran, with Moscow, to avert a collision.
"They are on high alert that something has to be done quickly," the source said.
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also seized on positive parts of the IAEA report, noting increased Iranian cooperation with inspectors, as vindication for Tehran. He said: "The world will see that the Iranian nation has been right and the resistance of our nation has been correct."
Last night, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "If Iran wants to restore trust in its programme it must come clean on all outstanding issues without delay."
Gordon Brown has called for increased pressure on Tehran, including an international ban on investment in the Iranian oil and gas industry. But UK officials are nervous about pressure from the US vice president Dick Cheney and other hawks for military action against Iran before a new administration takes office in January 2009. They emphasise that Iranian scientists could be months if not years away from getting the 3,000 centrifuges to function properly, at top speed, for a sustained period, and insist there is no imminent pressure for military intervention.
However, they also point out that Israel's red lines for military action are unclear.
Against the fraught backdrop, a meeting of senior officials from the UN security council's five permanent members and Germany to decide on sanctions, planned for Monday, was put off after the Chinese delegation said it could not attend.
The critical meeting has been pushed back to later this month, giving time for the six-nation group's negotiator, Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, to hold last-ditch talks with Iranian officials.
The ElBaradei report gave a mixed account of Iran's cooperation with inspectors looking into Tehran's nuclear activity in the two decades before it declared its enrichment programme. "Iran has provided sufficient access to individuals and has responded in a timely manner to questions," it said, but added that "cooperation has been reactive rather than proactive".
David Albright, a former UN inspector and now an independent nuclear expert in Washington, said ElBaradei appeared to be trying to put "a happy face" on a worsening situation. "The main issue is that Iran now has 3,000 centrifuges," he said. "The report doesn't even judge the quality of the information being offered, but it's clear it is giving minimal answers."
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