War Drums Becoming Deafening

The Americans and the Israelis are acting in concert vis-à-vis Iran. The unmistakable message they are putting out loud and clear is that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is on the cards in the event Tehran doesn’t cave into their demands. Are they bluffing as part of an arm-twisting strategy or are they seriously planning to transform this region into an inferno?

Pundits have been analyzing the probability of a US or Israeli attack on Iran for several years now. Some have even come up with likely dates but most of those have come and gone eroding the analysts’ credibility and dulling fears. There’s been so much chatter on the subject that we may reach the point when a “will they or won’t they?” discussion will turn into nothing more than an academic exercise on the basis it hasn’t happened so, therefore, it probably never will. The danger is Iran and the region could easily be lured into letting down its guard. Certainly, members of the Iranian leadership have indicated they don’t take the threat very seriously even though they are planning for every contingency and threatening to set the Middle East aflame if attacked.

In recent weeks, since the Israelis launched a supposed dry run in the eastern Mediterranean using 100 fighter planes and aerial tankers, the chatter has reached a crescendo. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed, “Iran will not be nuclear”. Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz has termed a strike on Iran “unavoidable”.

Retired Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit warned that if Israel doesn’t destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities within a year, Israel would be vulnerable to nuclear incineration. He says that even if Israel doesn’t receive a green light from the US, it should be prepared to go it alone. Shavit believes there is a window of opportunity before the upcoming US election when the deed should be done in case of a win by Barack Obama, who has advocated jaw-jaw before war-war.

ARCH neoconservative and former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton says he believes Israel is poised to strike in November once the ballot has taken place.

Knesset member and retired Maj. Gen. Dani Yotom, who isn’t known for his hawkish views, says sanctions against Iran aren’t working and so “a military operation is needed”. Even the normally moderate Israeli historian Benny Morris recently said, “If the issue is whether Israel or Iran should perish, then Iran should perish”.

Suspicions that an attack might be in the pipeline were heightened after leaks supposedly forced the Israeli prime minister to admit he had secretly met with Aviam Sela, a brilliant military tactician said to be the architect of Israel’s 1981 strike on Iraq’s Osirak reactor. It is believed that Sela was asked to give his opinion on the feasibility of similarly putting Iran’s nuclear facilities out of action.

There is no doubt that Israelis genuinely fear a nuclear-armed Iran, which they believe would constitute an existential threat, but why are Israelis being so upfront about their intentions when history tells us they normally strike first and answer questions later?

Given that Iran is not Iraq circa the 1980s as far as airpower, weaponry, technology and sophisticated communications go and in light of the fact Iran’s main nuclear facilities are buried under layers of steel and concrete as much as 100 feet underground, eradicating Tehran’s nuclear capability would be challenging for any military unless it was prepared to unleash nuclear bunker-busters. Moreover, unlike the Osirak surprise strike, an attack on Iran would trigger serious military repercussions that could involve Syria, Hezbollah and pro-Iranian Shiite Iraqi groups. Such a pre-emptive move would probably result in a massive loss of life on all sides and would have a devastating effect on the global economy with oil prices reaching hitherto unimaginable heights.

Further, since neither Israel nor the US are in any position to launch a ground invasion without the complicity of anti-government Iranian surrogates, strikes on Iranian nuclear plants would probably result in Tehran not only reconstructing but setting their sights on developing nuclear weapons even if they’ve no plans to do so now. It’s worth mentioning that the Osirak reactor was for peaceful purposes and it was only after it was hit that Saddam Hussein actively sought a bomb.

According to the New Yorker’s veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in an article titled “Preparing the Battlefield”, President George W. Bush has sanctioned covert operations and requested $400 million designed to destabilize Iran outside the sphere of the US military. These will largely be carried out by Iranian dissidents rather than Americans in the field, he says. But, once again, Iran is not Iraq. It’s a far more cohesive country and although not all of its citizens support the government, most identify themselves as proud Iranians who harbor a historical aversion to neoimperialist plots. There is no doubt that Israel and the US would like the Iranian government to be wiped off the face of the earth along with its nuclear ambitions but both countries are divided on what to do. So far their joint and separate belligerency isn’t working. If their bellicose words and provocative actions are, indeed, a giant bluff they are ineffective. They are simply causing the Iranian leadership to dig its heels in further and assert its right under the NPT to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. Even if this is a coordinated bluff, it could so easily reach the point of no return when to maintain strategic credibility, the players will have to make good on their threats. Certainly, one Iranian commander Brig. Gen. Mir-Faisal Baqerzadeh is taking these to heart already. According to Press TV, he has already got his troops digging more than 320,000 graves within Iran’s bordering provinces to provide any invading force with “the respect they deserve”

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