Friday, July 9, 2010

There Will Be War

Key Political Risks To Watch In Iran

By Fredrik Dahl | 1 July 2010

DUBAI (Reuters)— Iran's escalating nuclear dispute with the West and a plan to slash food and fuel subsidies will further test the nerve and authority of hardline leaders who dealt sternly with unrest after last year's disputed election. The Islamic Republic seems as determined as ever to press ahead with its atomic activities despite economic pain caused by a U.S.-led drive to isolate the major oil producer, including new U.N. measures targeting the powerful Revolutionary Guards. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government may have largely re-asserted political control at home with a crackdown on the opposition which challenged his 2009 re-election in the streets.

But a plan to phase out subsidies costing the state up to $100 billion annually may spark renewed public anger. The Oil Ministry faces the tough task of raising the $25 billion it says the energy sector needs in new investment each year to prevent crude exports from drying up. Economic growth and foreign exchange earnings will largely depend on the oil price, which fell almost 10 percent in the three months to the end of June.

Below is an outline of the main political risks for Iran:

  • Major powers, particularly those in the West, are piling economic and political pressure on Iran to persuade it to suspend nuclear work they suspect is aimed at making bombs.

  • Iran, which says it is only seeking to generate electricity, is showing no sign of bowing to such demands and has dismissed the impact of new U.N. and Western sanctions.

  • Analysts say the latest punitive measures— a fourth round of U.N. sanctions followed by additional steps by the United States and the European Union targeting Iran's energy sector— will cause further economic strain and deter foreign investors.

  • This was highlighted on June 28 when two large European oil companies announced they would halt key business with Iran, adding to a number of international firms that have stopped trading with the country this year.

  • But despite the prospect of growing economic costs, Iran's conservative political, clerical and military establishment looks unlikely to back down over a nuclear program it sees as a strategic priority and an "inalienable right."

  • The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, said the new sanctions could create serious economic problems and help weaken the Tehran government.

  • But, "Will it deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not," he said.

  • President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would return to long-frozen talks with world powers but on certain conditions only, and not before the end of August.

  • The West is likely to see his comments as another attempt to buy time while Iran presses ahead with uranium enrichment.

  • Reflecting such suspicions, Iranian concessions in May on a stalled nuclear fuel swap plan failed to derail the latest sanctions push, even though both sides may be willing to continue talks on the proposal.

  • The latest U.N. sanctions expand existing measures by further restricting Iran's banking sector, bans the sale of more types of heavy weapons and calls for setting up a cargo inspection regime similar to one in place for North Korea.

  • In addition, the U.S. Congress on June 24 approved a bill to penalize firms supplying gasoline to Iran, which lacks enough refining capacity for its own fuel needs. EU leaders have agreed measures to block oil and gas investment in the country.

  • More international firms withdrawing from Iran business

  • Could pressure influence internal Iranian debate?

  • Renewed talks on stalled nuclear fuel swap

  • The U.N. resolution, naming the force as linked to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, blacklists 15 firms belonging to the elite Revolutionary Guards.

  • Branded a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction by Washington, the Guards' influence appears to have increased since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, helping to quell last year's huge opposition protests.

  • Its economic role is also on the rise, with ties to firms controlling billions of dollars in business, construction, finance and commerce, the U.S. Treasury has said.

  • This could make it potentially vulnerable to any effective international moves aimed at its business dealings abroad.

  • The force has a "pretty good network" of companies in the Gulf and elsewhere believed to be set up to buy components for Iran's missile systems and other military purposes, said London— based defense analyst Paul Beaver.

  • "If you can neutralize the Revolutionary Guards economically the regime will wobble," Beaver said.

  • But Nicole Stracke of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai said the Guards had prepared itself for possible strong sanctions and it would be difficult to track down its activities.

  • Measures targeting financial transactions are hard to enforce and may be easy to circumvent, argued Ian Anthony at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

  • The banks will know their own customers, but how to scrutinize the party on the other end of the transaction effectively? It is unlikely to be Iranian Bombmaker Ltd.

  • Guards reaction to latest wave of sanctions

  • Further evidence of its growing economic role in Iran

  • The United States and Israel, Iran's main foes, do not rule out military action if diplomacy fails to end the nuclear row.

  • Israel, which is assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and attacked an alleged Syrian nuclear facility in 2007.

  • But some analysts have questioned its ability to strike Iran, saying the potential targets are too distant, dispersed, and well-defended for Israeli warplanes to take on alone.

  • "It would be extremely difficult…to destroy all relevant facilities to stop a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program," said SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman.

  • Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said military options available to the United States could delay Iran's nuclear progress but fail to set the country back long-term. [ID:nN27104874]

  • Iran threatens to hit back if attacked by targeting Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf, and by closing the Strait of Hormuz. About 40 percent of the world's traded oil leaves the Gulf region through the strategic waterway.

  • U.S. military firepower far exceeds that of Iran, but Tehran could retaliate by launching hit-and-run strikes in the Gulf and by using regional militant allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

  • Israeli statements on how the Jewish state's leadership sees the effectiveness of the latest sanctions, possibly influencing its thinking on possible military steps.

  • U.S. and Israeli naval movements in region

  • Signs of Saudi and other Gulf facilities offered for military action


There Will Be War.

By Reza Kahlili | July 2010

Last month, Iran's opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi canceled anti-government demonstrations timed to commemorate the anniversary of last year's disputed presidential election. Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton called the cancellation "regrettable," but missed the larger point. The 'reforms' these two men offer is not what the majority of Iranians want: The majority want an end to the current Islamic regime.

One year ago, the Obama administration missed an opportunity to support Iran's uprising. They mistakenly calculated that back-door negotiations with Iran's clerics and promises made by its rulers would bring cooperation on the nuclear issue. The Americans were duped and now find themselves grasping for another chance to support an Iranian uprising.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has ordered a massive buildup of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf starting with Carrier Strike Group 10, headed by the USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier. Just a few weeks ago, an armada of more than 12 U.S. and Israeli warships passed through the Suez canal amid extreme security provided by Egypt. The ships were headed for the Red Sea and from there to the Persian Gulf.

Another four U.S. warships will be making their way to the region to join the Strike Group. The Americans have also conducted joint air and naval strike practices with France and the U.K. under the command of American forces, while Germany is sending warships to the area, also under the command of American forces. Both Israel and the U.S. have positioned nuclear-armed submarines in the region. Israel has conducted multiple tests on its missile defense systems to protect its citizens once war breaks out.

U.S. and Israeli Special Forces have been deployed inside Iran to investigate potential targets and gauge the willingness of Iranians to overthrow the current regime. Russia— up to now a key backer of the regime— recently announced a freeze in sales of its S-300 missiles to Iran. Vladimir Putin confirmed this himself last week.

Iran, for its part, is also preparing for an all-out war in the Middle East. Before even a vote was cast at the U.N. on recent sanctions, Iranian leaders had ordered the Guards to build up. Reinforcement troops have been dispatched to the Iraqi and Afghanistan borders. Hezbollah has been armed to the teeth, and Syria was presented with missiles carrying larger payloads and longer range.

Meanwhile Iran is busy pursuing its nuclear bomb project and enriching its supply of uranium faster than ever before, with the hope of testing its first nuclear bomb. Accomplishing this will fulfill the prophecy sought by the radical members of the secretive society of Hojjatieh, particularly its leader Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the person responsible for the initial election and fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Hojjatieh movement impatiently seeks the End Of Times and the 'return' of Imam Mahdi, the last 'messiah'.


Israel Setting Up Saudi Base For Iran Raid?
Some Analysts Skeptical Of Iranian Claim About Preparation For Attack

By MSNBC News Services | 30 June 2010

An Iranian allegation that Saudi Arabia is allowing Israel to use its territory in preparation for attacking Iran nuclear sites has stirred a flurry of reports in the Israeli media. The allegation could not be independently confirmed, and the Saudis deny cooperating with the Israeli military. The Jerusalem Post website on Sunday said reports that the Israeli military had established a base in Saudi Arabia originated with Iranian and Israeli news outlets. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Ha'aretz were among Israeli media carrying the reports credited to Fars, the semi-official Iranian news agency. The Fars report was also picked up by international outlets such as UPI.

The reports said the Israeli base is about five miles from Tabuk in northwest Saudi Arabia (Tabuk, the closest Saudi city to Israel, is just south of Jordan). The Islam Times said Israeli airplanes landed at an 'international' airport and Israeli soldiers unloaded military equipment on June 18 and 19. Saudi officials canceled commercial air traffic and, one traveler told the Islam Times, paid to put up passengers in nearby four-star hotels to prevent them from expressing anger.

The claim follows a report two weeks ago in the London Times Magazine that Saudi Arabia had given Israel permission to fly through a narrow corridor of airspace in northern Saudi Arabia to shorten the flight time Israeli jets need to reach Iran.

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