US Giving a “Yellow Light” to an Israeli Strike

March 6, 2012

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.

Economical aspect?

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 اکثریتSāzmān-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)

international-relations@fadai.org

To the President of the United States of America

Mr. Barack Obama

Mr. President,

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.

Mr. President,

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.

Mr. President,

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.

Yours respectfully,

Organisation of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority)

Political and Executive Committee

March 3, 2012

My related articles:


End Game Approaches on Nuclear Iran

January 11, 2012

From the start of 2012 the spotlight on Iran and for good reason. Today the entire region is now on tenterhooks for the next move, with US, Iranian and Gulf armies on the highest war alert. Earlier the main scenario was that Israel would make an preventive limited air strike to Iran’s nuclear facilities, now it seems that U.S is going to war with Iran.

The decision point for applying a military option, before too late, is getting nearer. Ehud Barak, Israel’s minister of defense, implied that this critical point would be reached in less than a year, in a recent CNN interview. U.S has changed radically its earlier position, now both the U.S. and Israel say also officially that they have not ruled out military action against Iran. This in case if diplomacy fails to resolve a dispute over the nuclear program, which Tehran says is peaceful but the West believes is a cover for trying to build atomic bombs. The use of military option is now well on the way.

Latest developments

Thousands of US troops began descending on Israel this week as part of the US-IDF deployment in readiness for a military engagement with Iran and its possible escalation into a regional conflict. The 9,000 US servicemen gathering in Israel in the coming weeks are mostly airmen, missile interceptor teams, marines, seamen, technicians and intelligence officers. Officially this maneuver is part in sc Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint US-Israeli war game ever held. The joint US-Israeli drill will test multiple Israeli and US air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets, according to the official communique; they will also practice intercepting missiles and rockets coming in from Syria, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In fact the joint force will now be in place ready for a decision to attack Iran’s nuclear installations or any war emergency. Washington and Jerusalem are doing their utmost to present a perfectly synchronized military front against Iran: American officers are stationed at IDF command centers and Israeli officers posted at the US European Command-EUCOM.

British Defense Minister Phillip Hammond, on a visit to Washington, affirmed unofficially that Britain stands ready to strike Iran if the Strait of Hormuz is closed. Officially this was not said as the Obama administration tries keep a low profile on plans for attacking Iran.

Tehran is staging military’s maneuvers every few days to assuring the Iranian people that its leaders are fully prepared to defend the country against an American or Israeli strike on its national nuclear program. By this strategy, Iran’s ground, sea and air forces are maintained constantly at top war readiness to thwart any surprise attack. The next Iranian naval exercise at the Strait of Hormuz to take place in February, although its 10-day drill in the same arena only ended Monday, 2. Jan. 2012. Iranian marine commandos were preparing to sow mines in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Other – last week tested – possibility was using Shahab-3 ballistic missiles which have a range of 1,600 kilometers and other missiles, such as the Nasr1 cruise marine missile, are capable of reaching Hormuz from central Iran. Tehran has also redistributed the Shahab missiles to secret sites ready to launch retaliatory strikes.

Iran itself has reported that the new Fordow nuclear enrichment plant will be operational in the near future to refine uranium to a fissile purity of 20% – far more than the 3.5% level usually required to power nuclear energy plants. 20 % uranium can be turned more easily into fissile warhead material. Based to information of the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection 348 machines are operating at Fordow. Operations at the bunker-like Fordow facility south of Tehran are small in comparison to Iran’s main enrichment site in Natanz in central Iran, where nearly 8,000 centrifuges are operating. The centrifuges at the underground labs are considered more efficient than others and are shielded from aerial surveillance and protected against airstrikes by up to 300 feet (90 meters) of mountain rock. Iran has also announced that it had succeeded in producing and testing its own uranium fuel rods for use in its nuclear power plants. If true, this claim would constitute a significant advance in Iran’s efforts to attain the capability of powering its nuclear reactors without international assistance.

Military option on the table

The starting point with today’s tensions could be the interview in a CBS Tuesday, Dec. 20 where US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said following: “Despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, they have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less”. This is a radical change in US administration policy. “That’s a red line for us and that’s a red line, obviously, for the Israelis,” Panetta noted. Instead of warning Israel against striking Iran, he said: “If we have to do it we will deal with it.”A nuclear weapon in Iran is unacceptable”.

From Tehran’s standpoint, the American military departure from Iraq has removed a formidable obstacle in Israel’s path to an attack on its nuclear installations: the shield of the US Air Force’s control of Iraqi skies.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, issued a warning: “Iran is playing a dangerous game that could ensnare the Middle East, the Middle East and others into conflict and a renewed arms race.Don’t push it.” He was described as quietly leading the ongoing military planning for an attack against Iran’s nuclear weapons if the president gives the order to do so. Gen. Dempsey went on to say: “My biggest worry is they (Iran) will miscalculate our resolve. One factor is also Israel which destroyed Iraq’s nuclear plant in Osirak on 1981 without warning US beforehand. ”There is no guarantee that Israel will give the United States warning if it decides to attack Iran,” Dempsey said. “We are trying to establish some confidence on the part of the Israelis that we recognize their concerns and are collaborating with them on addressing them.”

Covert activities

Covert activities against Iran have included the use of computer worms to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, including the Stuxnet virus that in 2010 was thought to have destroyed more than a thousand of Iran’s uranium-enriching centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control. Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated, and in November explosions ripped through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ ballistic missile base near Tehran. Seventeen people were killed, including one of the IRGC’s top officers in the missile development program.

The covert activity is designed to slow Iran’s nuclear progress but they are not stopping Iran’s enrichment activity permanently. Iran is thought to have many more nuclear scientists and missile designers than Western intelligence services could ever eliminate.

In October, the Obama administration accused Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, an alleged plot that some Iran analysts see as an Iranian effort to hit back. The storming of Britain’s Embassy in Tehran in late November and a December explosion outside Britain’s Embassy in Bahrain may be other signals of Iran’s intention to respond to covert fire.

The Strike

According to reports in Haaretz and Ynetnews 29.12.11, Israel and the United States have recently been discussing ‘red lines’ which would necessitate a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. US administration is keen to avoid Israel surprising the US by taking unexpected military action against Iran in the coming year. Scenarios, in which Washington might find a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities necessary, include e.g. if Iran were to expel IAEA observers, if it were to enrich uranium to weapons grade, and if it were to install advanced centrifuges in its newly constructed underground uranium enrichment facility in Qom or Iran making progress on new secret enrichment facilities.

Illustration by IISS

The U.S. Air Force has unveiled the Massive Ordnance Penetrator – dubbed the Big Blu – and speculation is already mounting that it may be used in airstrikes on Iran (as well on North Korea if needed). B-2 Stealth Bombers will use the six metre long GPS guided rocket, fitted with 2.5 tons of explosives, to smash open underground bunkers and tunnels suspected of containing weapons of mass destruction.

To be a successful military strike, Iran must be deterred and prevented from rebuilding its programme. Is this possible is the question and will define the scope of attack.

Counter acts?

In response to mounting Western pressure over its nuclear ambitions, Iran started a naval drill in the Gulf last week , responded with belligerent rhetoric, spooking oil markets by warning that it could shut the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions were imposed on its oil exports, the country’s main revenue source. However if Hormuz will be closed by mines, the U.S using mine countermeasures can reopen Hormuz within 24-48 hours.

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most important waterways. Some 40% of all seaborne oil passes through this narrow passageway, which is equivalent to about 20% of total oil traded worldwide. This amounts to 16.5 to 17 million barrels per day (other significant choke-points for the transit of oil include the Suez Canal – 4.5 million barrels per day and the Strait of Malacca – 15 million barrels per day).

Israel has no influence over internal events in Syria or Lebanon. Its interest is in a quiet northern border. For as long as Hezbollah is able to maintain its independent military infrastructure in Lebanon, the threat of an attack on Israel remains. Hezbollah has extensively rearmed after the losses it incurred in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. It is now estimated to have an arsenal of 40,000 rockets, including precision guided missiles that can reach all parts of Israel. It has also deliberately deployed its weapons in villages to make them harder for Israel to target in any future conflict due civilian/collateral damages which would damage Israel’s image even more if possible.

On 7 July, Israel Defense Forces revealed, in unprecedented detail, previously classified information about Hezbollah’s deployment in south Lebanon. The information released focused on El Khiam, a Shia town in south east Lebanon a few miles from the border with Israel. El Khiam was the scene of fighting during the 2006 war; the surrounding area was used by Hezbollah to launch Katyusha rockets at Israel. The IDF material included maps and a 3D simulated video of the village, showing that weaponry and rockets were being stored close to schools, hospitals and residential buildings.

A military strike can have serious strategic consequences too. Iran will surely respond violently, both directly and through proxies such as Hezbollah. Iran has long-range missile systems including the Shahab-3, which could reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East. The conflict could escalate into a regional war. Iran may take aggressive action in the straits of Hormuz, leading to a spike in oil prices, even though disrupting the flow of oil would be self-defeating.

Preparations for counter strike

The Magic Wand by Rafael

Israeli defense technology developer Rafael last week unveiled its medium-range missile interceptor, the Magic Wand, designed to shoot incoming missiles and rockets out of the sky with its own guided projectile. The Magic Wand is seen as a possible defense against Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah’s stockpile of medium-range missiles. Magic Wand’s first operational test is expected to take place this Spring. Israel has – after Magic Wand – three different kinds of interceptors to provide a shield against a multitude of missile threats. Iron Dome to shoot down short-range rockets such as the Qassams fired by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, older Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile provides defenses against larger ballistic missiles, such as Scuds or Iran’s long-range Shahab missiles. Testing full operational capacity of newer Arrow 3 interceptor is ongoing. ( More about Israeli missile defence in article Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror? . )

Risks?

War games are a puzzle not only with tactical alternatives, timing, more or less accurate intelligence and means available but also with known and un-known risks. One event on 4th Dec 2011 brought one new piece to this puzzle.

US stealth drone RQ-170

On Dec 8th 2011 Iran exhibited the top-secret US stealth drone RQ-170 Sentinel captured on Sunday, Dec. 4. Its almost perfect condition confirmed Tehran’s claim that the UAV was downed by a cyber attack, meaning it was not shot down but brought in undamaged by an electronic warfare ambush. This is a major debacle for the stealth technology the US uses in its warplanes and the drone technology developed by the US and Israel. The state of the lost UAV refutes the US military contention that the Sentinel’s systems malfunctioned. If this had happened, it would have crashed and either been wrecked or damaged. The condition of the RQ-170 intact obliges the US and Israel to make major changes in plans for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program.

There is also some other risks than Iran’s counter strike such as

  • Air strike would not eliminate the knowledge about how to build a nuclear weapon that Iran already has.
  • Bombing would pass those nuclear sites that foreign intelligence services do not know about.
  • Attack could create unneeded tensions between US and China and Russia, who are needed to successfully resolve this issue via non-military means
  • Israel might have best available missile defense.  However the capacity can not absorb 40.000 missiles by Hizbollah in short period of time and some % will cause serious damage.

The newest Iranian nuclear facilities are nearly 100 meter deep in hard rock. The consequence is that to destroy this plant the most effective bunker busters are needed maybe even a nuclear bomb some 1 megaton size. Using so heavy methods can have their effect also outside Iran’s borders e.g in form of radioactive dust.

Position of Iran

Israel is unique in that it perceives a nuclear Iran as a potentially existential threat. The Iranian leadership has continuously threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” and with nuclear weapons they could also implement this aim. Given their collective memory of the Holocaust and the hostile surrounding in which they have had to defend themselves, Israelis take this threat especially seriously. A nuclear Iran would change radically regional or even geopolitical balance. It would increase the danger of miscalculation towards a nuclear crisis. Iran could take bolder position threatening Israel and moderate Arab regimes, undermining any Israeli-Arab peace process and manipulating the energy markets.

Dore Gold hits the core of the problem in his column published in IsraelHayom by asking Is Iran rational? One of the most difficult questions that the West needs to answer in the year ahead is whether Iranian behavior will be influenced mostly by rational considerations or by ideological beliefs. Some analysts say that the possession of nuclear weapons might encourage moderation in the Iranian regime ( Reuven Pedatzur in Haaretz on Dec. 20, 2011). The leading commentator on international affairs in the U.S., Fareed Zakaria, also believes that a nuclear Iran would act rationally and could be deterred. He notes that the Revolutionary Guard has become the center of power in Iranian decision-making taking, displacing the religious leadership.

Western intelligence has assessed that if Iran wanted to develop atomic bombs, it has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to do so. There might be not yet a consensus in Tehran that they actually want build a bomb, it is seen more like an open option for the future. So far the aim of in fact covert war has been to give Iran’s leaders a reason not to go nuclear weapons. However Iran might see this current policy opposite way, it could give Iran a reason to weaponise. So far the aim of in fact covert war has been to give Iran’s leaders a reason not to go nuclear weapons. However Iran might see this current policy opposite way, it could give Iran a reason to weaponise.

The registration of candidates for the Majles elections slated for March 2, 2012 ended last weekend. Meanwhile, power struggles are still being waged between the two major bodies affiliated with the conservative bloc: the United Conservative Front, affiliated with President Ahmadinejad’s political opponents, and the Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution (Jebhe-ye Paydari), which consists of activists considered to be the president’s allies. The Khabar Online website reported this week that from among more than 1,000 candidates who registered for the elections in Tehran Province, only about 60 are well-known political personalities; and that 46% of the candidates are affiliated with the United Conservative Front, 21% with the Stability Front, and 7% with the reformist camp.

Will there be anything else than negative and more negative outcomes?

An alternative way to military option from my point of view – which might be too optimistic – is to boost of diplomacy and sanctions. After years of measures that had little impact, the new sanctions are the first that could have a serious effect on Iran’s oil trade, which is 60 percent of its economy. Sanctions signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve would cut financial institutions that work with Iran’s central bank off from the U.S. financial system, blocking the main path for Iran to receive payments for its crude.

Following the announcement by the European Union that its member states will cease imports of Iranian crude oil, Japan said yesterday that it would also consider cutbacks in its purchases of Iranian oil. Also China has cut its purchases of Iranian oil by half this month, and is set to extend its cuts into February. The EU, China and Japan account for about half of the totality of Iranian exports of 2.6 billion barrels of oil per day. These new sanctions will have some economic effect in Iran but other sanctions might be needed.

Diplomacy must be done with various interests in mind. Iran has recently signaled that it is willing to restart talks with UN lead international community based 5+1 composition (=UNSC+Germany). The hope is that Iran will come around and allow IAEA inspectors to resume inspections. However, there always exists the possibility that Iran may use IAEA inspections as a way to buy time at sites unknown to the IAEA. If sanctions and diplomacy fail and proof of a nuclear weapons program is established, should the military option be seriously considered.

If all non-military pressures fail there are clearly no “good” options available. In my opinion it is hard to believe either side wants a war to start because all sides are aware about risks. Today’s preparations for strike might be aimed to be means of pressure to get non-military solution. However, when emotions are high, domestic political interests differ in different key player states and massive destruction weaponery is on the theatre the situation can escalate anytime.