Monday, December 19, 2011

Post #120 - Pushing Back Against the Tide of War

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said on March 27, 2007, “Nothing can substitute for the importance of the parties sitting down together regularly talking about the issues before them.” In this statement, she was referring to Israel and Palestine, but why should the same policy not have applied to the United States and Iran? In fact, the strange “dance” over negotiations seems to reflect the ongoing power struggle within each administration -- at that time between the (relative) doves (such as Gen. Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice) and the hawks (such as Vice President Cheney and various lower-level policy figures). Sometimes one of these groups seems to be in ascendancy, sometimes the other. Vice President Cheney said, bluntly, "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon;" in that context, one could easily read "preemptive strike." President Obama, though, is still saying "all options are on the table."

According to a New York Times/ CBS poll of March 7-11, 2007, over half those polled favored requesting support from Iran and Syria in our attempt to stabilize Iraq; only 10% (less than 20% of Republicans) felt that Iran was a threat which required a military response. Significantly, only 14% (and only a third of President Bush's own party) thought the administration was “telling the entire truth” in its charges of Iranian aid to groups in Iraq. But, as Carl Bloice wrote in The Black Commentator in August of that year:

Iran "hawk" Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
"One thing is certain. Should the White House decide to take such a dangerous step, it is unlikely, at this point, to be constrained by domestic opposition. There is no widespread sentiment for war against Iran...However, there is practically no opposition in Congress. A Democratic Party majority, already too cowed to end the carnage in Iraq, doesn’t even want to talk about Iran. Earlier this year there was talk about a resolution requiring the President to “consult” with Congress before attacking Iran. The House Democratic Party leadership dropped the idea."

Since that time, the Democrats have lost the majority in the House. The vocal lambasting of Iranian leaders and policies has once again intensified. A recent posting from the National Iranian American Council asked "Has War with Iran Already Started?" Now, as then, millions of ordinary people are holding their breath to see whether life will get much, much more difficult, whether they must send a son to fight, whether their town will be obliterated, whether their children will ever see tomorrow, or if, somehow, the idea of peace will find its way into the thinking of those who hold power.

An August 16, 2007 report in the Washington Post cited the concern of America's allies about U.S. moves to escalate the tensions, and the "potential for spillover in a region reeling with multiple conflicts." The article quoted an Arab envoy as saying, "There's a fear that they will all merge into a super-emergency bigger than any one country can deal with." (Remember that this was written when the economy in Europe and elsewhere seemed to be quite healthy -- now it is on life-support.)

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded US forces in Iraq during the first year of the war, had said,
Adm. William Fallon (USN, Ret.)
“I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time.” Press reports in late May, 2007, said that Admiral William Fallon, then President George W. Bush's nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed strong opposition in February 2007 to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf and “vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM." An American serving aboard a US ship in the Middle East said:

"I know this will sound crazy coming from a Naval officer. But we're all just waiting for this administration to end. Things that happen at the senior officer level seem more and more to happen outside of the purview of XOs [executive officers] and other officers who typically have a say-so in daily combat and flight operations. Today, orders just come down from the mountaintop and there's no questioning. In fact, there is no discussing it. I have seen more than one senior commander disappear and then three weeks later we find out that he has been replaced. That's really weird. It's also really weird because everyone who has disappeared has questioned whether or not we should be staging a massive attack on Iran."

Then, General Pace was replaced as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, possibly because of his misgivings about an Iran strike. Admiral William Fallon, the new Commander, U.S. Central Command, was credited with being one of the military voices opposing Bush's plan to intimidate and confront Tehran. The government of Kuwait announced in early June of the same year that it was opposed to such an attack. By that mid-July, the U.S. intelligence community had released a National Intelligence Estimate that included, among other things, the following judgment: "We assess Lebanese Hizbollah, which has conducted anti-U.S. outside the United States in the past, may be more likely to consider attacking the Homeland…if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran."

Around the same time, then-IAEA director general Mohammed ElBaradei, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 and is now a key figure in post-revolution Egypt, told his colleagues that a military strike against Iran would be “an act of madness ... [that] would not resolve the issue.” An IAEA delegation, headed by Mr. Olli Heinonen, Deputy Director General for Safeguards, visited Iran in July 2007, to draw up a work plan for resolving the outstanding issues related to Iran´s past nuclear program and to clarify some safeguards implementation issues. Agreement was reached on: the designation of new IAEA inspectors; a visit of inspectors to the Heavy Water Research Reactor at Arak by the end of July (later rescheduled for August); and the finalization of the safeguards approach at the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz during early August. At the end of August, IAEA reported on these communications, praising Iran's "significant step forward." IAEA deputy director, Olli Heinonen, remarked that the workplan agreement was "an important milestone." The agreement was immediately attacked by U.S. representatives. A Washington Post article noted: "If the IAEA concludes that Iran has not engaged in a covert program to develop nuclear weapons, it could raise new questions about the quality of U.S. intelligence in the Middle East."

Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic cautioned that the U.S. move in 2007 to list Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group "erodes the possibility of a diplomatic resolution." "What [the Bush administration] is trying to do is further isolate Iran." This policy has accelerated during the waning months of President Obama's first term. Carah Ong, the Iran policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said in an interview. "But really what we're doing is further isolating ourselves. What we'll end up seeing is a backlash against proponents of reform and moderation inside of Iran." Karim Sadjadpour, who directs the Iran program at the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, says, "The guard certainly has many unsavory characteristics, but unlike al-Qaeda, it is not a monolith of Islamist radicals. Polls conducted at Guard barracks in 1997 and 2001 found that about three-quarters...supported...[reformist] Khatami...Mohsen Rezai, who was a longtime head of the Guard and is still influential among its members, has advocated U.S.-Iranian reconciliation for years...The conventional wisdom that the Guard is closely aligned with Iran's president [Ahmadinezhad] is mistaken."
The Jerusalem Post reported on June 22, 2007, “The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has been training on long-range flights, including refueling in mid-flight, in preparation for potential strikes against Iranian nuclear targets...The training program has been taking place for some time but has only been released for publication Friday.” Ian Bremmer, Founder and President of Eurasia Group, was quoted in a July 16, 2007 Barron's magazine article called: “Global Markets, Local Risks,” by Vito J. Racanelli, as estimating, “There’s a 60% chance of military strikes [against Iran] happening by the end of the third quarter of 2008.” One wonders where the same observer would place the hands of the doomsday clock today...

In our country, "Plan B" -- in the event that the military and the Congress could not be sold on the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons -- was in the works, per a military analyst now out of government:

"Northrop Grumman announced in a little noticed July 19 press release, that the company had begun refitting B-2's with new bomb racks to hold and deliver a new 30,000-pound penetrator bomb or "bunker buster." Using the monster bunker buster, the company said in its release, the U.S. Air Force's B-2 Stealth bomber would be able to attack and destroy an expanded set of hardened, deeply buried military targets.

Bunker Buster Bomb
"The new Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which is being developed by the Boeing Co., is a Global Positioning System (GPS)-guided weapon containing more than 5,300 pounds of conventional explosives inside a 20.5-foot-long enclosure of hardened steel. It is designed to penetrate dirt, rock and reinforced concrete to reach enemy bunker or tunnel installations.
"Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Dallas was developing a similar super-bomb for the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The Design would build on the Navy's work on high-speed torpedoes that reduces friction by creating a gas bubble called a super cavity. The design goal of the Lockheed Martin supercavitating bomb is that will break through 25 feet of concrete or nearly 100 feet of earth, ten times the penetration of the 4,000 pound GBU-28, the bunker buster currently in the USAF inventory"

Once a decision to strike was made, the only remaining question would be whether such a strike would be done by the United States directly, or farmed out to its Middle Eastern ally, Israel.

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