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Approaching High Noon in the Showdown With Iran
Iran’s Nuclear Claims Saeed Jalili, Chief Iranian Nuclear Negotiator Iran is simply developing alternative energy sources in anticipation of its petroleum supplies’ being depleted. To be energy self sufficient, the nuclear program relies on indigenous sources of radioactive materials. Iran has rejected proposals to end enrichment in return for the West providing reactor fuel and economic aid.
The Path to Nuclear Capability Access to uranium ore, concentration into “yellow cake. ” Conversion of yellow cake into gaseous form, metal form for weapons core Enrichment of gaseous material via centrifuges or production of plutonium from spent reactor fuel (requires heavy water) Weaponization of enriched uranium product or plutonium; metal shaping tools, electronic triggers Delivery device, aircraft, missile. . . shipping container
How Close Are They to Having the Bomb? The evidence assembled by United Nations inspectors in the past two years indicates that the Iran has assembled an impressive network of suppliers, built the basic facilities it needs, and identified the critical technologies it must master to have a viable nuclear weapons program. Yet John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, told Congress’ Joint Committee on Intelligence last fall that the Iranians still have several years of work ahead of them and a U. S. National Intelligence Estimate released in December 2007 claims that Iran suspended its effort to produce a nuclear weapon in 2003 – an assessment rejected by President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and other administration officials.
Indicators of Intent to Strike Iran 1. Several high profile military exercises have been conducted in recent months, involving military deployment and the testing of weapons systems. 2. Military planning meetings have been held between the various parties involved. There has been a shuttle of military and government officials between Washington, Tel Aviv and Ankara. 3. A significant change in the military command structure in Israel has occurred, with the appointment of a new Chief of Staff. 4. Intense diplomatic exchanges have been carried out at the international level with a view to securing areas of military cooperation and/or support for a US-Israeli led military operation directed against Iran. 5. Ongoing intelligence operations inside Iran have been stepped up. 6. Consensus Building: Media propaganda on the need to intervene in Iran has been stepped up, with daily reports on how Iran constitutes a threat to peace and global security.
U. S. Special Forces Already Operating Inside Iraq According to a 7 July 2008 New York Times magazine article by Seymour Hersch, President Bush has already issued a Presidential Finding that covert intelligence operations should be initiated inside Iran. Under federal law, this finding and the details of the operation planned must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees. The covert activities include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program. They also involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but who also have links to al Qaeda. Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11 th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.
If the U. S. Strikes Iran Nuclear Facilities Military planners could tailor their target list to reflect the preferences of the Administration by having limited air strikes that would target only the most crucial facilities in an effort to delay or obstruct the Iranian program or the United States could opt for a far more comprehensive set of strikes against a comprehensive range of WMD related targets, as well as conventional and unconventional forces that might be used to counterattack against US forces in Iraq. Using B-2 stealth bombers, staging from Diego Garcia or flying directly from the United States, possibly supplemented by F-117 stealth fighters staging from al Udeid in Qatar or other Air Force and Navy aircraft located in theater, all suspect nuclear sites could be targeted.
U. S. Military Reluctant to Strike The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, and at least ten senior flag and general officers, are reportedly “pushing back very hard” against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran. On 4 July 2008, Admiral Mullen publicly said that a third mid-east war in Iran would be “extremely stressful” on the U. S. military, adding, “this is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable. "
Ground War Difficult How many troops would be needed for successful occupation of Iran? Military analysts at the RAND Corporation have analyzed historical data on the numbers of foreign troops in various occupations after a war. They found that all the successful missions involved troop levels totaling at least 2 percent of the occupied country's population. Based on Iran’s 75 million people, this would require about 1. 5 million troops. The Army, including the Guard and Reserves, has about one million soldiers, but fewer than 400, 000 are combat troops (the rest are support personnel). Occupying Iran while continuing to occupy Iraq would require resumption of the draft unless we are able to build a sizeable coalition of allies willing to join us.
Israel the Surrogate? "Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards. " Vice President Dick Cheney
Sunday London Times July 13, 2008 President George W. Bush backs Israeli plan for strike on Iran Despite the opposition of his own generals and widespread scepticism that America is ready to risk the military, political and economic consequences of an airborne strike on Iran, the president has given an “amber light” to an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s main nuclear sites with long-range bombing sorties, the official told The Sunday Times.
Israeli Capability Israel has around 500 combat-ready warplanes, including advanced U. S. -made F-15 and F-16 jets capable of reaching western Iran for a bombing run -- further, should aerial refueling be an option. Israel also is assumed to have dozens of longrange Jericho missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads as far as the Gulf. Conventional Jerichos could damage targets in Iran. Israel is widely believed to have the region's only atomic arsenal, but Israeli officials have hinted that any such capability would only be used in last-ditch national defense.
The Main Weapon Israel has recently taken delivery from the U. S. of some 5, 000 "smart air launched weapons" including some 500 BLU 109 and BLU 113 “Bunker Buster” Bombs. The uranium-coated munitions are said to be “more than adequate” to address the full range of Iranian targets.
Israeli Plan of Attack The attack would be carried out in three waves "with the radar and communications jamming protection being provided by U. S. Air Force AWACS and other U. S. aircraft in the area". Even if the United States did not actively participate with operations inside Iranian air space, the US would be a passive participant by virtue of allowing Israeli aircraft unhindered passage over Iraq. In the eyes of the world, it would generally appear to be a joint US-Israeli enterprise
BUSHEHR Nuclear Power Station
Arak Heavy Water Facility
Will The Strike End Iran’s Program? Iran is known to have scattered elements of its nuclear programme in underground facilities around the country. Neither US nor Israeli intelligence is certain that it knows where everything is. Some intelligence analysts have suggested that the above ground facilities are mere decoys and that Iran’s primary nuclear program is hidden deep underground, impervious to conventional munitions.
Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan
Tunnel Construction at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan
Fallout from 1 Kiloton Nuclear Weapon
Iranian Reaction to Strike "The Americans should know that if they assault Iran, their interests will be harmed anywhere in the world that is possible. The Iranian nation will respond to any blow with double the intensity. “ Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei
Iran’s Military Capability is Limited Most of Iran's military equipment is aging or second rate and much of it is worn. It has some 540, 000 men under arms and over 350, 000 reserves. They include 120, 000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards trained for land naval asymmetrical warfare. Iran's military also includes holdings of 1, 613 main battle tanks, 21, 600 other armored fighting vehicles, 3, 200 artillery weapons, 306 combat aircraft, 60 attack helicopters, 3 submarines, 59 surface combatants, and 10 amphibious ships. “ Even Admiral William Fallon, who publicly opposed a US strike on Iran before he resigned as CINC CENTCOM in April 2008, dismissed Iran as a military threat. "Get serious, " Adm. Fallon told Esquire in March. "These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them. "
Iran’s Oil Clout Abdalla Salem El-Badri, secretary-general of Opec said that a military conflict involving Iran would see an “unlimited” rise in prices because any loss of Iranian production — or constriction of shipments through the Strait of Hormuz — could not be replaced. Iran is Opec’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia. Some 4 million barrels of Iranian crude are shipped around the world each day, accounting for about 5 percent of global supply. OPEC has only about 1. 7 million barrels a day of excess capacity. Iran possesses 10% of the world's oil and ranks third after Saudi Arabia (25 %) and Iraq (11 %) in the size of its reserves. In comparison, the US possesses less than 2. 8 % of global oil reserves
The Strait of Hormuz The Strait is 34 miles wide but the tanker channel is only 2 -miles wide and has a a 2 mile wide buffer zone. Susceptible to mines and antishipping missiles.
A Way Out? In July 2008, the Bush administration said it was considering setting up a diplomatic outpost in Iran in what would mark a dramatic U. S. return to the country nearly 30 years after the two nations severed relations. This idea was re-iterated in October 2008. "We will receive favorably any action which will help to reinforce relations between the peoples. We have not received any official request but we think that the development of relations between the two peoples is something correct. We will hold talks with the United States if they come to us on equal footing. ” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 14 July 2008
US Diplomat Joins Iranian Talks On 16 July 2008, President Bush announced that William Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, would join European representatives in talks with the Iranian envoy, Saeed Jalili, in Switzerland on 19 July 2008 concerning the Iranian nuclear efforts.
Hardliners Oppose Any Change Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, said in early November 2008 that the conflicts between the two countries were deep-rooted and went beyond political differences. "This is because of the numerous conspiracies of the U. S. government against the Iranian country and nation throughout the last 50 years, and not only have they not apologized for this but they have continued their arrogant actions. ”
Next Step? American, European, Russian and Chinese officials meeting in Paris 14 November 2008 did not reach agreement on further steps to pressure Iran to halt uranium enrichment at its facility in Natanz. Moscow's Interfax news agency quoted Russian diplomat Sergei Ryabkov, who attended the meeting, as saying the parties had struck no deal on sanctions. "The Western countries are for the sanctions, " he was quoted as saying. "China, like Russia, did not back it. "
President-Elect Barak Obama on Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions “The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. ” “In the 21 st century, it is unacceptable that a member state of the United Nations would openly call for the elimination of another member state. Neither Israel nor the United States has the luxury of dismissing these outrages as mere rhetoric. ”