NEWS & ANALYSIS: Confronting Iran

War is peace, sanctions are diplomacy

The White House is pressing ahead with its stated goal of persuading the UN Security Council to pass far-reaching sanctions to punish Iran for refusing to suspend its nuclear research program. Sanctions are what President George W. Bush is referring to when he pledges to nervous US allies that he intends to “continue to work together to solve this problem diplomatically.” The non-diplomatic solution in this framing of the “problem,” presumably, would be airstrikes on nuclear facilities in the Islamic Republic.

With its portrayal of UN and unilateral US sanctions as part of a diplomatic effort, the Bush administration has successfully confused much media coverage of the Iranian-Western confrontation over Iran’s enrichment of uranium. Sanctions are punitive measures, not serious diplomacy, and the Bush administration has never undertaken a sustained diplomatic initiative aimed either at inducing Iran to cease enriching uranium or at soothing broader US-Iranian tensions. Meanwhile, the Bush administration’s persistent refusal to take military options “off the table,” combined with its intensified rhetoric against Iran, has made sanctions palatable to allies, as well as to some of the most dovish members of Congress and the American public — but without addressing the political disputes that keep the US and Iran on a collision course. Congress, by and large, has merely greased the skids. [complete article]

U.S. electronic surveillance monitored Israeli attack on Syria

The U.S. provided Israel with information about Syrian air defenses before Israel attacked a suspected nuclear site in Syria, Aviation Week & Space Technology is reporting in its Nov. 26 edition.

The U.S. was monitoring the electronic emissions coming from Syria during Israel’s Sept. 6 attack, and while there was no active American engagement in the operation, there was advice provided, according to military and aerospace industry officials.

The first event in the raid involved Israel’s strike aircraft flying into Syria without alerting Syrian air defenses. The ultimate target was a suspected nuclear reactor being developed at Dayr az-Zawr. But the main attack was preceded by an engagement with a single Syrian radar site at Tall al-Abuad near the Turkish border.

The radar site was struck with a combination of electronic attack and precision bombs to allow the Israeli force to enter and exit Syrian airspace unobserved. Subsequently all of Syria’s air-defense radar system went off the air for a period of time that encompassed the raid, U.S. intelligence analysts told Aviation Week. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — This report presents further evidence that, as Gareth Porter suggested earlier this week, “a more plausible explanation for the strike [than its being aimed at destroying a purported Syrian nuclear facility, is] that it was a calculated effort by Israel and the United States to convince Iran that its nuclear facilities could be attacked as well.”

A plan to attack Iran swiftly and from above

Massive, devastating air strikes, a full dose of “shock and awe” with hundreds of bunker-busting bombs slicing through concrete at more than a dozen nuclear sites across Iran is no longer just the idle musing of military planners and uber-hawks.

Although air strikes don’t seem imminent as the U.S.-Iranian drama unfolds, planning for a bombing campaign and preparing for the geopolitical blowback has preoccupied military and political councils for months.

No one is predicting a full-blown ground war with Iran. The likeliest scenario, a blistering air war that could last as little as one night or as long as two weeks, would be designed to avoid the quagmire of invasion and regime change that now characterizes Iraq. But skepticism remains about whether any amount of bombing can substantially delay Iran’s entry into the nuclear-weapons club. [complete article]

Iran warns of domino effect of nuclear attack

Iran warned today that an attack on its nuclear facilities would trigger a “domino” effect across the Middle East as deeply divided world powers met to review Teheran’s co-operation with United Nations resolutions.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has endorsed Iranian promises that access to suspected nuclear facilities will increase in the months ahead. At a meeting of the body’s 35-country board of governors in Vienna today, battle lines were drawn both over Mr ElBaradei’s faith in an Iranian blueprint and the text of the IAEA’s latest report which said Iran had cleared up several key questions about its past research.

America and Britain are pushing for the UN to quickly impose a third round of sanctions on Iran to reinforce the drive to close the Islamic Republic’s secret programme of atomic research, which appears to be slowly yielding the capability to make a nuclear weapon.

China and Russia, which have not yet swung behind new sanctions, appear poised to back Mr ElBaradei’s calls for negotiators to be given more time. [complete article]

Iran’s Ahmadinejad slammed for accusing rivals

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is facing increasing criticism for his virulent personal attacks on rivals and acting as both “plaintiff and judge” in legal cases, media reported on Thursday.

He has drastically upped the stakes ahead of March parliamentary elections by accusing opponents of being “traitors” for not supporting the government’s confrontational stance in the nuclear crisis.

“The general climate of the country has been overwhelmed by propaganda against individuals,” complained an angry editorial in the hardline Jomhouri Eslami newspaper, close to Iran’s clerical establishment. [complete article]

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