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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2006

January 30, 2006

NEW YORK - According to US and European intelligence sources, the US and Israel are getting ready to attack Iran if the current round of diplomacy designed to stop Iran from advancing its nuclear program fails.

The US and EU are exerting maximum diplomatic and psychological pressure on Iran to prevent it from enriching uranium in spite of its legal right to do so under international accords. The western powers accuse Iran of concealing some key nuclear activities and being committed to secretly producing nuclear weapons.

Western experts, however, say Iran is 5-10 years away from actually building a nuclear warhead.

Tehran remains defiant, but may yet compromise by shipping uranium to Russia for enrichment. Such an agreement would likely spare Iran facing hostile action in the UN Security Council - provided, of course, China and Russia would agree to sanctions. Having Russia process Iranís uranium would also remove the threat of a US-Israeli attack on Iranís nuclear infrastructure.

President George Bush, with his usual bombastic exaggeration, claims Iranís limited but growing nuclear program poses `a grave threat to the security of the world.í What he really means is that Iran could one day challenge Israelís Mideast nuclear monopoly and pose a threat to the Jewish state.

These are the same kind of falsehoods we heard before the US invasion of Iraq Ė another nation that posed no threat to anyone save its own wretched people. Like Iraq, Iran has almost no ability to project military power beyond its borders. It certainly has no means of threatening the US.

Today, Iranís handful of inaccurate, 1,200km range Shahab-3 missiles can barely reach Israel, and have only non-nuclear conventional warheads. To say Iran somehow threatens the world is a gross lie.

Even if Iran did have nuclear warheads, it has no means of delivering them. Nuclear weapons without delivery systems are useless. Yet most Americans Ė from Colin Powell on down Ė failed to understand this obvious point.

Many of Israelís estimated 200 nuclear warheads are targeted on Iran, including Jericho II missiles and new, nuclear armed US-supplied Tomahawk land-attack missiles on its Dolphin-class submarines in the Indian Ocean off Iran.

Iran has sought nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them since the days of the late Shah. No one should be surprised that Iran seeks nuclear weapons. It is surrounded by states armed with nuclear weapons: Israel, Pakistan, India, Russia and, most lately, US forces based in the Mideast and Central Asia. Officially, Iran strongly denies an intent to acquire nuclear arms, insisting its nuclear program is only to generate power.

US and British special forces, and US drones, have been probing Iranís defenses for a year, and setting up ground beacons to vector air attacks on Iranian nuclear sites.

A major land invasion of Iran by US and British forces is unlikely, however, since they are overstretched in Iraq and struggling to merely secure their own bases and vulnerable supply lines. The US lacks sufficient troops and money to invade a nation of 68 million.

Certain anti-American Mideast groups are actually hoping Washington will invade Iran, believing US forces will be destroyed in the immensity of Iran just as the Germans were defeated in the expanses of the Soviet Union.

The US and Israel would likely use air and missile strikes to destroy Iranís nuclear industry and cripple its military. The US has supplied Israel with 2,500-km ranged F-16C/Dís and F-15Iís, and 500 GBU-28 deep penetrating bombs. These new bombs may contain depleted uranium. Much of Iranís critical nuclear facilities are far underground or dug into hillsides.

Israelís hawkish defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, while calling for diplomacy, warned last weekend his nation `would not tolerateí a nuclear-armed Iran. Israelís Mossad has been claiming this March is the absolute deadline to stop Iranís nuclear program. On cue, Israelís many supporters in the US Congress are loudly calling for war against Iran.

German intelligence leaks claim last December CIA chief Porter Goss briefed Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan about US plans to attack Iraq.

Israeli warplanes would overfly Jordan and Iraq to strike central and southern Iran. US air and missile strikes could come from Diego Garcia, Qatar, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and from carriers, surface warships and subs in the Indian Ocean. B-2 Stealth bombers and F-117ís would lead the attack. Commando raids are also planned.

Iranís air defenses are minimal, largely obsolete, and incapable of protecting its nuclear centers from enemy air and missile attack.

The Persian Gulf nuclear reactor complex at Busher would be struck. Iranís enrichment and conversion plants at Nantaz and Isfahan, the Arak heavy water plant, and uranium mines at Saghand are primary targets. Second priority: missile-assembly plants, air and naval bases, power stations, telecom systems, arms plants, and military HQís.

Iran vows to retaliate against an Israeli attack by firing conventionally armed Shahab-3 missiles against Israelís nuclear weapons complex at Dimona. Iranís dilapidated air force is barely airworthy, never mind threatening distant Israel. Even an improbable Shahab missile hit on Dimona would probably do little damage.

Still, Europeans are fretting over the risk of radiation releases from Dimona and, more likely, Iranís bombed nuclear plants. Pakistanis and Indians should also be concerned.

The Iranians could retaliate more effectively by attacking US forces in neighboring Iraq and getting their Iraqi Shia allies to join in. Iran could mine the Gulf, interrupt oil exports, launch raids against US bases in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Central Asia, and get Lebanonís Hizbullah to harass Israel with rockets.

Iran is the worldís fourth largest oil exporter; any shutoff of its oil exports Ė voluntary or involuntary - would inflict enormous disruption on western economies.

Mass air and missile attacks would badly damage Iranís nuclear capability, but probably not put it out of business for good, as did Israelís 1981 attack on Iraqís sole reactor.

The beleaguered Bush administration may try to escapes mounting woes by launching an air campaign against Iran to whip up war fever among Americans before mid-term elections, thus boosting Republican fortunes.

But this is dangerous business because, like the supposed jolly little colonial adventure in Iraq, a war with Iran could be dangerously unpredictable and go terribly wrong.


  • The amazing hysteria in the US over Hamasí totally predictable win in last weekís Palestinian elections shows just how biased and distorted is our media when reporting on the Mideast. We see and believe what we want to, not what is. The propaganda terms `terroristsí and `terrorismí have prevented rational discussion of Mideast affairs and preclude honest reporting. Not predicting a Hamas win is the latest policy bungle by that most inept of all secretaries of state, Miss Condoleeza Rice.

    As for George Bushís latest crusade to bring democracy to the Muslim World, the Hamas landslide shows that if real democracy were ever allowed there, Islamic parties would sweep to victory and the US would end up paying more for oil.

  • Where are the bodies of those supposed `al-Qaida ringleadersí killed in Pakistan by a US air strike? Nowhere, of course, since there were most likely never any such visitors to begin with. Itís sickening watching the Pakistani regime of Gen. Musharraf lie like crazy to justify a US attack on its soil and gross violation of its sovereignty. Someone should remind the general he is supposed to work for Pakistan, not Washington. Just when you think the Paks canít abase themselves any lower, they do.

  • This column can now confirm that Gen. Jonas Savimbi, the late leader of the UNITA movement in Angola, with whom I spent much time in the 1980ís bush war against the communists, was assassinated in a joint murder operation conducted by the US, Israelís Mossad, and the Angolan communist regime. Savimbi was standing in the way of US domination of Angolaís oil and a deal between its Marxist regime and the US.

  • Happy Chinese New Year!

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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