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Presence of U.S. bombers in England seen as advance signals
Ohmy News (S. Korea)
April 10, 2006
By Bhuwan Thapaliya
Most observers are expecting the developing U.S.-Iran crisis to end with a diplomatic settlement, especially because the post-war American occupation of Iraq is seen as a failure and that the war will be averted. But unfortunately, the concerned authorities aren't considering this view.
The views of experienced analysts formed before the start of the Iraq war in March 2003 pointing out the difficulties of an insurgency fighting occupying troops in Iraq was neglected and sidelined by the Bush administration. As a result of that negligence, American troops are facing hazardous consequences.
But ironically, it seems the Bush administration is on the verge of making the same mistake yet again. This time the mistake could be made in Iran, as it has been reported by The New Yorker magazine in its April 17 issue that the Bush administration is planning a massive bombing campaign against Iran, including use of bunker-buster nuclear bombs used to destroy key Iranian suspected nuclear weapons facilities.
The article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said Bush and others in the White House have come to view Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a potential Adolf Hitler. A senior unnamed Pentagon adviser was quoted as saying, "this White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war," Hersh writes.
One former defense official said the military planning was premised on a belief that, "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government," The New Yorker reported.
In recent weeks, the president has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of the House of Representatives, including at least one Democrat, the report said. One of the options under consideration involves the possible use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, to insure the destruction of Iran's main centrifuge plant at Natanz, Hersh writes.
Sources said the attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the military, and some officers have talked about resigning after an attempt to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans in Iran failed, according to the New Yorker report.
Meanwhile, several studies suggest Iran has enough military capability to create problems for the United States if war breaks out.
"Iran's ability to react, especially in terms of asymmetric warfare undertaken at a distance, is likely to be far more potent than that of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, with recent reports from the United States supporting the view that paramilitary attacks would extend beyond the Middle East," writes Dana Priest, in a recent Washington Post article titled "Attacking Iraq May Trigger Terrorism." .
But according to observers, this fails to recognize the concern of Iran as a threat to the United States' security stretches beyond the neo-conservatives.
It has also been reported a much wider swathe of foreign-policy opinion, often termed the "assertive nationalists," sees Iran as a consistent threat to U.S. interests in the immensely important, oil-bearing Persian Gulf region.
"This outlook includes significant figures within the Democratic Party such as Hillary Clinton, and it links up with the pro-Israel lobby whose interest-base encompasses millions of evangelical Christians," according to the media reports.
This means the current defensiveness of the neo-conservative position should not be confused with a decline in the willingness of the Bush administration to take on Iran.
Moreover, the importance of separating them is underlined in a perceptive commentary in the journal Foreign Policy by Joseph Cirincione.
He says the uncanny similarities between the pre-Iraq war period and the increasing tension over Iran have forced him to change his mind about the likelihood of war, after months of telling interviewers, "that no senior or military official was seriously considering a military attack on Iran."
He notes the way in which the U.S. administration is increasingly presenting Iran as the key threat to the region can no longer be dismissed as posturing, but may rather "be a coordinated campaign to prepare the way for a military strike on Iran."
However, the Sunday Telegraph reported that British military chiefs were meeting to consider the consequences of a U.S. strike on Iran. The paper presenting a detailed assessment, including striking graphics, of what an attack would entail. (Sean Rayment, "Government in secret talks about strike against Iran," Sunday Telegraph, April 2).
In Iran, local TV stations reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards carried out a series of military exercises in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea under the operating name "Great Prophet."
Also, Iranian sources claim two new weapons have been tested during the week-long project: the Fajr-3 multiple warhead missiles and an underwater anti-ship weapon said to be capable of traveling at more than 300 kilometers per hour underwater - more than three times as fast as a conventional torpedo.
None of this means that war with Iran is imminent. But if it happens, some forms of resistance is certain as it is hard to nullify Iranian anger.
America's dilemma is how to exploit strong Iranian feelings into something that will strengthen rather than sink the diplomatic peace process, because a diplomatic solution is the only way out from this impasse.
Moreover, the steady escalation of tension may in the long run even mislead Iran and the opponents of war as any U.S. attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would be far more likely to be sudden and unexpected.
"This is because the assault would be conducted almost entirely by aircraft and stand-off missiles rather than ground troops, and any extra U.S. units needed to supplement the extensive forces already in the region could be unobtrusively moved there. The huge advantage of surprise is needed in order to cripple Iranian air defenses as any advance warning to Iran would enable the Iranians to disperse these people and indeed key equipment in advance," writes Paul Rodgers in his article, "The countdown to war."
To avoid aircrew casualties or prisoners would mean a key component of U.S. action would be a strong dependence on the B-2 long-range stealth-bomber, according to Rodgers.
"This plane can carry sixteen individually-targeted, highly accurate bombs; thus, a single aircraft can attack sixteen separate targets in just one operation," he wrote.
The basing of the B-2 far from the region would be useful in preserving secrecy. But the plane's dependence on specialized servicing equipment to maintain its "stealth" radar-avoidance ability puts the only four bases worldwide where these are available at an absolute premium, he added.
These four bases are in the United States, Guam, Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean) and RAF Fairford (Gloucestershire, England). The stealth support facilities already available in the first three locations were joined by Fairford, a major United States Air Force standby base, in December 2004. This serves as a forward operating facility, especially for heavy bombers such as the B-1B, the B-2 and the B-52. In the approach to the Iraq war, the Air Force's 457th air expeditionary wing was based at Fairford; 14 B-52s flew in from Minot, North Dakota and deployed there for seven weeks while conducting more than 100 bombing sorties over Iraq, according to Rodgers.
Fairford underwent a major two-year development and reconstruction program, completed in May 2002. Another building project was started a year later to equip the base with a specialized hangar to accommodate the B-2; the 15 months since it came into operation have seen occasional visits by individual planes. The B-2s' immense costs and specialized facilities means that only 21 are finished and about 15 can be deployed at any one time, according to Rodgers.
"The need for an element of surprise in any attack on Iran makes it difficult to gage exactly when it might be imminent," he wrote.
Fairford offers two possible advance signals. The first is a more coordinated presence of B-2s at the base. Training for an attack may involve deployments of B-2 aircraft there for a few days to familiarize air and ground crew with the details of combat operations from a new base, according to Rodgers.
"It is likely that the first such exercise took place last week when three B-2s flew into Fairford within a few days in what appears to be the first orchestrated deployment of this kind. This may well be an indicator of training now underway," Rodgers wrote.
The second signal is a sudden increase in base security at Fairford, including the policing of an extended cordon and closure of local roads to minimize any external observation of activities there. If and when that happens, the countdown to war with Iran will almost certainly be well underway. The moment may arrive at any time in the next year or more, quite possibly when it is least expected, according to Rodgers.
There are elements of inconsistency, even hypocrisy, in the United States' attempts to foster the cause of the Iran war around the world as it did so prior the Iraq war. So what?
That is an inevitable consequence of the fact that war is also one of many Americans' foreign-policy concerns. Keeping the peace and encouraging trade are also important concerns.
America should accept and proclaim that war may prove to be not just a bad policy, but bad politics in the long run, if it is too enjoy the position in the world it has now.
How that objective should be pursued will depend on circumstances. Some government are more brutal than others; some are more susceptible to pressure than others. Depending on the egregiousness of the offense and the other interests at stake, America must take a step further -- a step that would build trust and confidence.
America's efforts might not succeed as Iran's government is stubborn, but it is unlikely to be wholly ignored. Beyond that, a more dramatic step may be necessary. One would be to abandon the elusive dream of war. So far, there has been little progress.
America doesn't want to prescribe new procedures, and Iran has not been willing to take the lead in reaching a voluntary agreement.
No matter which party wins, if war begins, the victory will be hollow because ultimately peace will lose.
(c) 2006 Ohmynews
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