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US Limited In Iran War Options

Inside the nuclear factory, Isfahan, Iran.
by Katherine Gypson
Washington (UPI) Mar 28, 2006
The Iranian nuclear crisis has become a hot and cold guessing game of hysteria and euphoria, experts say.

In the past two weeks, President George W. Bush has said that the United States would show Iran "what's right or wrong about their activities in Iraq," prompting Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to approve of the talks but warn that Iran will not be "bullied" into backing down on the development of nuclear materials.

The latest issue of The National Interest, from the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank, looks at the concurrent euphoria and hysteria of the Iranian crisis from several different perspectives and asks how the United States can develop an effective strategy in response.

Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations and author of the upcoming book "Hidden Iran; Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic," told a Nixon Center panel Thursday that Iran viewed relations with the United States just as it would approach "any other pernicious, intrusive imperial country." He attributed this attitude to the rise to power of the war generation, those who grew up during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and who now view the United States with a mixture of distrust and passivity.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "curious" approach to diplomacy must be viewed in the context of the United States' central position in Iranian political narratives and the national imagination, Takeyh said.

The 1953 CIA coup which overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq was the starting point for a system of beliefs that continued until the 1980s, when the stalemate of the Iraq-Iran war led many Iranians to believe that "outside superpowers were propping up Saddam (Hussein)'s regime."

There is a certain "stylistic formation" to many of Ahmadinejad's public statements, giving the sense that the issue of uranium enrichment is merely a vehicle for asserting Iran's regional ambitions in opposition to the European powers and the United States, Takeyh said.

"There are issues where they will negotiate but not acquiesce. If the purpose of the Security Council negotiations is to stop the fuel cycle, then you are not going to get it," he said.

Col. Patrick Lang, former director of Middle East Intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency, agreed. "Unless there a lot of bargaining carrots, Iran will feel as though they are abandoning an essential part of themselves," he said.

Such an attitude has left the United States bereft of bargaining options for use with Iranians. The Bush administration has bet millions of dollars on overseas broadcasting, hoping to foment a regime change from within Iran.

"There is opposition sentiment within Iran but no viable opposition force," Takeyh said. "There is this assumption that the Iranian public is apathetic because it is information starved. It's not -- it's just apathetic." Takeyh mentioned a variety of factors for Iranian public sentiment, among them economic factors and lack of political freedoms. "More broadcasting pumped into the country may give them more information but it will not lead to revolution," he said.

Lang analyzed the United States' military options by laying out several scenarios. The insertion of a major ground force invasion of Iran, he said, was made "unthinkable," due to domestic American political considerations and the strain on an overburdened U.S. military. It was also ruled out because the geographic reality of Iran would make it a logistical nightmare. "No real army can be sustained on air transportation," Lang said.

The idea of a large commando operation has been floated as a military option but Lang dismissed "the idea that a bunch of guys with machine guns and a bunch of planes" could affect the desired degree of damage on the Iranian nuclear program as "just silly."

Lang said that the Israelis lacked the military equipment needed to undertake the best of the options -- an air campaign against possible uranium enrichment sites. "The United States is the only country in the world that has capability of carrying out the estimated thousand strike sorties needed to destroy the Iran's nuclear program," he said.

"The objective has to be not to destroy the program, but to set it back a desired number of years," Lang said.

Redundancy programs and decoys were cost-prohibitive and the United States must assume that Iran was assuming that there would be an air strike and is taking these precautions, he said.

Lang said that even if the air strikes were successful, the attacks would become a galvanizing force for both Shia and Sunni terrorist groups. "Iran is the world's largest state sponsor of terror," he said. "There is no reason to think that they would not respond."

Takeyh said the negotiations over nuclear enrichments had worked to Ahmadinejad's advantage, changing an issue of contention with the West into a matter of Iranian nationalistic pride.

"If the nuclear threat becomes even more serious then I think you will see U.S. and Israeli diplomacy get even more creative," he said.

"I don't think that this is a program that they are developing in order to give it up for deals," he said.

Source: United Press International

Related Links

US Confirms Major Powers To Meet On Iran In Berlin
Washington (AFP) Mar 28, 2006
The United States confirmed Monday the five permament members of the UN Security Council plus Germany would meet in Berlin on Thursday as efforts continued to hammer out a statement on Iran's nuclear program.

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