“Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation”
(then – 2008 – candidate Obama)
In my previous article – End Game Approaches on Nuclear Iran – I described how US has changed radically its earlier position so that both the U.S. and Israel say also officially that they have not ruled out military action against Iran. During last weeks Israeli and US officials have been coordinated implementation and timing of air strike, U.N. nuclear agency (IAEA) is more concerned about Iran’s nuclear program than earlier and finally recent elections in Iran are not making other alternatives easier. Previous red light for airstrike has changed to yellow and attack is ready to start anytime when so decided.
During his key-note speech on March 4th 2012 at the pro-Israel campaign group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Conference this approach was again confirmed when President Barack Obama issued a stern warning to Iran if it continues to develop nuclear weapons. “When it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say…That includes all elements of American power,” he added. “A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian programme is monitored; an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”(Source: Bicom )
Earlier Israel has launched numerous preemptive military strikes against its enemies. In 1981 and 2007, it destroyed the nuclear reactors of Iraq and Syria, operations that did not lead to war. But this time there is serious possibility that an attack against Iran might result in a wider conflict. Earlier Israel has made its strikes even without informing US beforehand, now during last months US and Israel have been intensive contacts to coordinate their actions.
Some recent findings
“The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.” (candidate Obama 2008)
Pentagon officials disclosed Thursday, March 1, that “military options being prepared start with providing refueling for Israeli planes and include attacking the pillars of the clerical regime. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in Washington’s first public reference to possible joint military action with Israel against Iran.
Iran conducted at least one nuclear warhead test in North Korea in 2010, the German newspaper Die Welt reported on Sunday citing Western intelligence sources. According to the report, the sources said they identified two nuclear weapons tests conducted by Pyongyang in 2010, and that at least one of them was done for Iran. If true, the report, written by Hans Ruhle, a well-known German analyst and a former official in Germany’s Defense Ministry, would affirm Western suspicions that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, and with North Korea’s help. Evidence of the nuclear tests was first published early last month in Nature magazine, citing the work of Swedish nuclear physicist Lars-Erik de Geer. (Source: Israel Hayom )
The head of the U.N. nuclear agency – Yukiya Amano – expressed (on March 5th 2012) growing concern about investigating an Iranian site suspected of links to nuclear weapons development, saying there are indications of new activity there. Referring to his most recent report on Iran circulated late last month, Amano noted that Tehran had tripled higher monthly enrichment to 20 percent at Fordo over the past four months, as well as significantly expanding lower-level enrichment at another facility. Both lower enriched uranium below 5 percent and 20 percent enriched material can be processed further to 90 percent — the level used to arm nuclear warheads. But 20-percent enrichment is of particular concern because it can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly and easily that lower-enriched uranium.
WikiLeaks has started publishing more than five million emails hacked by Anonymous from the servers of Stratfor, a US intelligence gathering company.
An email sent by Chris Farnham, senior officer for Stratfor, to an internal unnamed source inside the company titled “Israel/Iran Barak Hails Munitions Blast in Iran” provides details about who would benefit from an Israeli attack on Iran, and say such a plan would be motivated by economic factors. According to the email, sent on November 13, 2011, supporters of an Israeli-led attack are Russia, India and Saudi Arabia, while the EU and China stand against such plans, mainly for economic reasons. “Not many people know that Russia is one of Israel’s largest military partners and India is Israel’s largest client. If a direct conflict between Iran and Israel erupts, Russia and Saudi Arabia will gain the advantages on oil increasing prices. On the other hand, China and Europe are expected to lose from an oil crisis as a result of a conflict,” the email says. Farnham said an attack would be motivated by economic factors rather than Iran’s nuclear programme. “If a massive attack on Iran happens soon, then the attack will have political and oil reasons and not nuclear. It is also very hard to believe that the Israelis will initiate an attack unless they act as a contractor for other nations or if Iran or its proxies attack first,”the email concludes. (Source: Transcend Media Service )
According Meir Javedanfar, a leading independent expert on Iran it’s very important for sanctions to continue because the Islamic Republic can’t live without its economy. It can live without its nuclear programme… Sanctions could make the regime bankrupt and sanctions are an existential threat to the regime. If you bomb the Iranian nuclear installations that’s not going to be a threat to the regime. But if the regime runs out of money it’s going to lose loyalty. The reason why the Revolutionary Guard are loyal to the regime is because they get contracts. It’s because they see Ayatollah Khamenei as a cash machine. The second that cash machine stops giving out cash the loyalty s going to disappear.“ (Source: Bicom ) In my opinion the question then is if the sanctions have time to push Iran’s theocratic regime out before it has a nuclear weapon ready.
The Iranian elections
It could be fair estimation that the elections were not democratic nor the results represent the will of population – the choice was merely between different hard-liners, conservatives or ultra-conservatives so the contest was waged solely between the current ruling elite. The Interior Ministry announced a national turnout of 64 percent, however opposition has questioned this figure. Opposition noted in particular that many reformist supporters had stayed home, protesting the continued house arrest of leaders of the pro-democracy Green movement.
Anyway loyalists of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei got a landslide victory with some 75 percent of seats in parliamentary elections at the expense of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This of course in the absence of major reformist parties, which have been prevented from organizing since the 2009 post-election unrest. Probably this outcome of Friday’s vote will have no impact on Iranian foreign policy and its nuclear program, more effect it will have to next year’s presidential election, then the supreme leader Khamenei will get more cooperative President. It is also possible that there will not be next presidential election at all, but instead president the Parliament will chose only a prime minister. Whatever Khamenei decides the defeat of Ahmadinejad will hamper his power over the next one and half years that he has left before next scheduled elections.
The outcome reflects well the ”Islamist Winter” after the ”Arab Spring” in MENA region. In case of Iran the rise of political Islam represents conservative values and this might make a compromise solution with West more challenging if possible.
An appendix: A view from Iranian opposition
One should remember that possible military attack on Iran is mostly against Iranian regime and as last elections have showed this regime represents only one part of population; indeed it is estimated that the real support for Iranian hard-liners is only some 20 percent. One of the opposition groups is The Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority) – Persian: سازمان فدائیان خلق ایران اکثریت Sāzmān-e fedaiyān-e khalq-e Irān (aksariat) – which is the largest socialist party in Iran and advocates the overthrow of the Islamic regime there. The group is banned from open activity inside the Islamic Republic, and works clandestinely inside Iran and openly abroad. This group send a letter to President Obama and as their wise words in my opinion are reflecting good the grass-root attitude in Iranian opposition I publish the copy as such here below:
سازمان فدائیان خلق ایران(اکثریت)
Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority)
To the President of the United States of America
Mr. Barack Obama
As a part of the Iranian opposition, we address you in the hope that decisions of your administration in relations with our country will be made taking the voice of the Iranian community into account.
We belong to those freedom-loving Iranians who fight for the implementation of human rights and democracy in our country, for friendly and tension-free relationships with all nations and who are, while being in favour of all countries’ right to utilise nuclear science and to use it peacefully within the framework of international regulations, in disapproval of the policies of the current Iranian regime in the fields of the nuclear programme, in favour of a solution for the Middle East conflict and in opposition to some other issues in which the current Iranian leadership disagrees with the majority of the international community. Among other freedom-loving citizens of Iran, we struggle for human rights and democracy in our country. We argue that criticising the policies of any state, including the United States of America, should not preclude peaceful relations with that country. We oppose the construction of hatred against other nations, including the United States and Israel. We are advocates of recognising Israel’s and an independent Palestinian state’s right to live within secure borders, advocates of the peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict, involving all countries in the region and based on mutual respect and adherence to the national interests of every country.
We mention these positions of our organisation with the aim of attracting your attention to the voice of another Iran, a nation in desire to live in peace, freedom and prosperity, a people who, despite more than a century of efforts, has still not achieved these demands.
And still, let us express some of our concerns about your administration’s policies on Iran.
In a great moment of history, the American people elected a president who promised change and the turning away from the principle that anybody who disagreed with American policies was an enemy of the United States. Your presidency began with the splendid gesture of reaching out for the hands of the Iranian leaders, a move not understood and appreciated by the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He argued that within your velvet glove, an iron fist was hidden.
Unfortunately, with the historical background of a chain of two-way actions and reactions, again anxiety is arising that a jargon of threat will replace the hopeful signs of the first years of your presidency. Repeated statements by your administration’s officials that “all options are on the table”, thereby implicitly or even clearly saying that these would also include the military option, have not been helpful in moving away from a war of words. History tells us that nearly all wars begin with a war of words. An escalation of language can produce a situation sliding out of control, a situation in which responsible politicians, even if they are determined to do so and even if they are powerful in times of peace, cannot prevent a catastrophe.
As Iranians familiar with our country, the world region in which Iran lies and our history, we strongly believe that a military conflict between the United States and Iran would have a devastating impact on the international stability. A military action against Iran will fail to reach the objectives some proponents of the military solution claim to be achievable through the use of force. Even if some military and nuclear facilities in Iran can be destroyed in raids, there is absolutely no guarantee that such raids would terminate the nuclear programme of the Islamic Republic of Iran. For a most probably temporary delay in this programme, the United States would risk decades of acute instability and military tension in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, decades in which America may be forced to continue a military engagement with high costs. The use of force against Iran would certainly harm the perspectives of Iran’s transition to democracy. In the long term, only a democratic government responsible to the Iranian people would guarantee that our country gets a factor of peace and stability in the Middle East. There is no doubt that the Iranian civil society’s standing will take damage from the proliferation of a jargon of war.
Your administration condemned the assassinations of Iranian citizens who are described by the Iranian authorities as contributors to the Iranian nuclear programme, and clearly denied American involvement in such crimes. We appreciate this principal and humanitarian position. But you are certainly aware that repeating the statement about “all options on the table” have incited doubts, even among some U.S. citizens, about the seriousness in the rejection of the use of force. This is also the case for some Iranian citizens. Our conclusion is that accentuating “all options on the table” cannot be the formulation for a responsible and humanitarian policy.
We believe that your recent statement in the U.S. Congress in which you underlined that peaceful solutions for the Iranian-American issues continue to exist, is realistic, responsible and indicating a policy not giving in to the difficulties on the way to a settlement. We are sure that such an attitude will always find ways to avoid a war of words and open or covert use of force.
Without any compromise in the struggle against the Iranian regime and without recommending a policy of appeasement towards it, we will continue to criticise the nuclear programme of the Islamic Republic. Among others, we struggle for responsible policies towards the international community and have no doubts that the Iranian people’s strive for peace and cooperation with the international community will be strengthened by its resonance in the international community, not by a martial language.
It is the desire of the Iranian people that the nuclear conflict will find a peaceful settlement, and in atmosphere far from the danger of war, the Iranian’s voice for their rights, for democracy and good governance, will be heard by the world. Iranians do not expect anything else from the international community than moral and political support for their fight for freedom. Use of military action and war is not the kind of support the majority of the Iranian people will embrace.
Organisation of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority)
Political and Executive Committee
March 3, 2012
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