UPI International Editor
Washington DC (UPI) July 30, 2007
Diplomatic arm-wrestling between Iran and the West over the future of the Islamic republic's nuclear program has not prevented talk of the military option as a solution to the crisis, despite the tsunami-like reaction such a military adventure would generate in the Arab and Islamic world. Of late, there has been much speculation regarding the probability of U.S. and/or Israeli military strikes intended to destroy the Islamic republic's nuclear power sites before they become fully operational.
The Iranians say the plants are being built for peaceful purposes, but Western sources believe Iran's intention is to develop military-grade nuclear material.
In fact, President George W. Bush has reiterated on numerous occasions that "everything is still on the table" when it comes to discussing Iran's nuclear development and how to sanction Iran over its continuing refusal to abide by directives from the international community.
But a well-informed source tells United Press International that according to senior U.S. intelligence officials, President Bush has definitely decided not to strike any of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons production facilities this year.
The sources say the officials stressed the words "this year," meaning in 2007. That, however, does not rule out the possibility of military intervention in 2008, right until January 2009, when Bush's term in the White House comes to an end.
This information seems to back up a report published in the July 16 issue of the London Guardian that claims President Bush gave in to Vice President Dick Cheney, accepting to carry out military action against Iran before he leaves office.
According to the Guardian, a series of meetings held during June and July involving top White House, Pentagon and State Department officials was used by the vice president to stress the point that the diplomatic approach to solving the crisis had failed. The London newspaper went on to say that the vice president was able to convince the president by saying that no future U.S. administration would have the courage to act militarily against Tehran.
At the same time, sources familiar with the intelligence community report that there have been "a lot of stories about bunker buster bombs being moved to the region." The source says, however, that there is no basis for these reports, which, according to them, are being floated by Israeli intelligence.
"This is 'PSYOP' rubbish," a well-informed source told UPI. PSYOP stands for psychological operations; or in other words, playing mind games with the enemy.
The aim of PSYOP is to demoralize the enemy by inseminating doubt among his troops as well as the local population. Psychological operations play a vital role in military and political planning of most countries.
One prime example of PSYOPs was used during Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91, when the United States led an international coalition to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, which he had occupied in August 1990. By placing a Marine expeditionary force aboard Navy vessels anchored off the coast, U.S. military planners had Saddam believe that the U.S. Marines would launch a seaborne assault on Kuwait, therefore tying down large numbers of Iraqi forces and building massive defenses along Kuwait's beachfront for an attack that never materialized. Instead, the major thrust came across the desert from Saudi Arabia, a move the Iraqi leader did not expect.
Part of the task performed by PSYOPs includes developing and employing propaganda in a convincing manner.
Instead of a direct attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, Vice President Cheney has proposed a measure that would launch a very limited military strike at one or more known Iranian training centers whose forces are being deployed to Iraq.
Cheney's proposal has gotten no approval, so far, say the sources.
Indeed, the Bush administration accuses Iran of supporting terrorism, primarily groups in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories, groups Washington considers to engage in terrorist activities. A particular point of contention between Iran and the Bush administration are accusations from Washington over the nefarious role Iran continues to play in neighboring Iraq, while Iran accuses the United States of trying to implement regime change in Iran.
One of the primary culprits accused by the Bush administration of fomenting trouble in Iraq is Moqtada Sadr, the pro-Iranian firebrand young Shiite cleric, and his Mahdi Army. It is believed that Iran supplies Sadr and his fighters with logistic and financial support, as well as weapons and improvised explosive devices.
U.S. intelligence sources, however, say that the White House estimates of the assistance provided to the Iraqi Shiite community by Iran, as well as the amounts, "are exaggerated."
Launching a war against Iran in 2008 -- their last year in office -- the Bush administration would in fact be leaving a second war they started in the Middle East for the next administration to resolve.
earlier related report
Sanctions to date do appear to be working -- at least to slow Iran's nuclear activities, said Patrick Clawson, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Speaking Thursday during a conference on divestment from Iran at the American Enterprise Institute, Clawson pointed out that Iran has developed only a few more centrifuges than they had a few years ago.
"If we can slow down Iran's nuclear program, we can have some success," he said.
Even though sanctions may not have a detrimental impact, Clawson told United Press International that sanctions aim not to cripple Iran, but to convince the leaders to change their behavior.
Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a global political consulting firm, agrees, but, he told UPI in a phone interview: "We need to recognize that we don't have a lot of leverage."
The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2007, introduced in both the House and the Senate, would strengthen existing legislation by mandating a comprehensive federal list of companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector, directing states to divest such company holdings, and protecting pension-fund managers from lawsuits if purified pension funds have poor returns.
The Iran Sanctions Act, first passed as the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in 1996, forbids most business activity between American firms and Iran and threatens penalties for foreign firms that invest more than $20 million in one year in the energy sector. Enforcement has been weak, however, in part because the executive branch has utilized the waiver provision.
Foreign investment is critical for Iran's mismanaged economy and has totaled almost $100 billion since 1999. Clawson referred Thursday to the "stunningly poor" condition of Iran's economy in light of "the incredible opportunities of the last five years."
Oil revenues pay for social services and subsidies on imported gasoline, but experts predict Iran's declining oil exports may cease entirely by 2015. Otherwise, there's just a little industry and revenues from permitted exports: nuts, caviar and carpets.
Pension fund divestment could make a sizable dent in Iran's finances because the amount invested in Iran-invested companies is in the tens of billions of dollars. During the AEI conference, Missouri State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, a pioneer in state pension divestment, discounted the perceived lack of fiduciary responsibility, pointing to the high performance of Missouri's purified funds. Florida Democratic state senator Ted Deutsch emphasized that the outrage of pensioners outweighs the resistance of fund managers who'd rather not deal with divestment.
Several other states are close to passing divestment legislation.
Bremmer told UPI that state-driven pension divestment will be difficult to legislate since pension funds involve numerous companies and hedge funds.
"If that becomes more than a symbolic step by a couple of states, it's going to be hard."
Bremmer argues that sanctions overall are both unlikely to become very tough and unlikely to have the desired effects. Sanctions are a bad policy for nations on the left side of the J-curve, which means that they are highly authoritarian with very little openness, as his book "The J-Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall" describes, because they rally support around the regime.
While Bremmer pointed to ISA's successes in limiting the availability of foreign management skills and technology in the Iranian energy sector, he noted that sanctions led to the rapid expansion of Iran's nuclear program because Iran saw that it would have a problem getting oil and gas and wanted more leverage.
He said Iran's recently imposed gas rationing is a bad sign.
"The fact that they took a politically unpopular step says to me clearly that they are not exactly planning on sitting down and moving toward a diplomatic resolution."
Bremmer noted that only an embargo on Iranian oil and gas, which is very unlikely, would seriously harm Iran's economy, so sanctions probably won't prevent a nuclear program. Moreover, the Iranians are in a better geopolitical position than three years ago, given the violence in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. And with high oil prices, they don't think they need to back down.
Another unlikely scenario that could hurt Iran is if oil prices fell to $30 per gallon -- through increased production in other countries, he said.
Short of these unlikely scenarios, more pressure is needed and that has worked, particularly to persuade German and Swiss banks to comply.
At the conference, Clawson also emphasized the use of carrots, including advanced technology and inclusion in the world economy, such as through membership in the World Trade Organization.
Source: United Press International
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Can The Iranian Nuclear Complex Survive A Bad Earthquake
Washington (UPI) July 20, 2007
What do Japan and Iran have in common? Japan has nuclear power plants and Iran is on its way to acquiring nuclear technology. Japan is prone to powerful earthquakes, and so is Iran. This is where the similarities end. If a similar earthquake was to hit one of Iran's nuclear facilities, the consequences could be expected to be far worse, affecting oil production in the Gulf region and sending the price of a barrel of oil skyrocketing.
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