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Why there will be a war in the Middle East this year January 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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An Iranian woman walks past an anti-U.S. mural painted on the wall of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran on Nov. 19, 2011.An Iranian woman walks past an anti-U.S. mural painted on the wall of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran on Nov. 19, 2011. ATTA KENARE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

By Tony BurmanSpecial to the Star
There will be a war in the Middle East within the next several months, triggered by an Israeli attack on Iran, and this is how it will happen. Like the Iraq war, it will be a fatal blend of political arrogance and near criminal risk-taking, and this should come as no surprise to us because we know the political players. But we should also know that the time to prevent it is running out.

In Iran, the government is reeling from colossal economic and political pressures. There are signs of desperation. Western sanctions over its nuclear program are biting and there is an open power struggle among key government leaders. The murders since 2010 of four nuclear scientists — most certainly masterminded by agents of Israel’s Mossad — are deeply humiliating. With parliamentary elections in March regarded by many as the most important in the history of the Islamic republic, the pressure within Iran to hit back at Israel in some damaging way is inevitable — and this will happen soon.

In Israel, the calculation is also overwhelmingly political. The fractious government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is obsessed with the prospect of a nuclear Iran even if the evidence is still unclear how imminent that threat is. Netanyahu is also driven by his bitter rivalry with President Barack Obama. There is growing speculation the prime minister will trigger early Israeli elections in June to shore up his political position before Obama, as Netanyahu believes, is re-elected in November. He knows his best opportunity to attack Iran will be shortly before the U.S. election when he figures Obama would be politically cornered. But Netanyahu needs a pretext to act in “self-defence” and that is why Mossad is still covertly at work inside Iran. Iran will have to retaliate before Israel can act — and this will happen soon.

In the United States, Obama is caught up in the morass of election-year politics. His likely Republican presidential rival, Mitt Romney, is accusing the president of being weak on Iran: “If you elect me as president, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.” The U.S. and its European allies now have a deadline of July 1 to impose a full embargo of Iranian oil. Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, claimed on Wednesday that a decision to launch a pre-emptive strike is “very far off.” But U.S. defence officials, according to the Wall Street Journal, are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to strike Iran — and this will happen soon.

READ MORE: Burman’s columns

Can we be certain that events in the Middle East will unfold in this way? Of course not. But like a high-stakes poker game where each player slowly reveals his cards, there are increasing signs that this game is careening out of control.

There is no consensus within Israel in favour of an attack on Iran. In fact, a recent poll suggests that less than half of Israelis (43 per cent) support a strike even though 90 per cent of them believe Iran will eventually acquire nuclear weapons. But the drumbeats for action are growing louder inside of Israel and they are egged on in the U.S. by the shrill tone of the extremist Republican primary process.

In Israel, the political case in favour of a strike, led by Netanyahu, points to its limited attack in 2007 on a burgeoning Syrian nuclear facility. But there are crucial differences this time. Iran’s nuclear facilities are well-dispersed and well-defended, and most experts believe that such a strike would likely fail or, at best, only delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions for a year or two.

But even more significant are the potentially frightening consequences of such a strike. Iran has threatened to hit back with full fury if its nuclear facilities are attacked. It could place Israel in considerable peril and lead to a resurgence of anti-American fever. Such a strike would also strengthen Iran’s rulers internally at a time of its greatest weakness and would radicalize the Arab world.

Serious people are doing serious work to prevent this from happening. There are meetings later this month in Tehran with officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the move to stiffen sanctions against Iran is accelerating. However, this first decade of the 21st century serves as no model. Disastrous decisions were made by political leaders in an environment of arrogance and stupidity, and these disasters were condoned by a public which largely chose to look the other way and a news media which, at various times, was either complicit or incompetent.

Let’s hope that, in the handling of Iran, history is not repeating itself.

Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News, teaches journalism at Ryerson University. tony.burman@gmail.com

Report: US Preparing for an Israeli Strike on Iran January 14, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Published on Saturday, January 14, 2012 by Common Dreams

Iran: We have proof US behind assassination

  – Common Dreams staff

Iran is looking at “punishing” those behind the assassination of one of its nuclear scientists, a senior military official said, pointing the finger at the United States, Israel and Britain.

Thousands of mourners chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 as they carried the flag draped coffin of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan , a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, who was killed in a brazen daylight assassination on Wednesday in Tehran.

“We consider committing a terrorist act of killing a scientist to be a threat to the nation… We are looking at punishing those who were behind the scenes of the martyrdom (assassination) of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan,” the deputy chief of Iran’s joint armed forces, Masoud Jazayeri, was quoted as saying by several media.

Iran’s response will be “tormenting” for those responsible, he said, adding: “The enemies of the Iranian nation, such as the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime, should be made accountable for their actions.”

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today:

WASHINGTON—U.S. defense leaders are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran, over U.S. objections, and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard U.S. facilities in the region in case of a conflict.

President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top officials have delivered a string of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the dire consequences of a strike. The U.S. wants Israel to give more time for the effects of sanctions and other measures intended to force Iran to abandon its perceived efforts to build nuclear weapons.[...]

Despite the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel, U.S. officials have consistently puzzled over Israeli intentions. “It’s hard to know what’s bluster and what’s not with the Israelis,” said a former U.S. official.

Inside the Israeli security establishment, a sort of good cop, bad cop routine, in which Israeli officials rattle sabers amid a U.S. scramble to restrain them, has assumed its own name: “Hold Me Back.”

Some American intelligence officials complain that Israel represents a blind spot in U.S. intelligence, which devotes little resources to Israel. Some officials have long argued that, given the potential for Israel to drag the U.S. into potentially explosive situations, the U.S. should devote more resources to divining Israel’s true intentions.

* * *

Two US Aircraft Carriers Opposite Iran, 15,000 Troops in Kuwait

DEBKAfile, the Jerusalem-based English language Israeli military intelligence website, is reporting:

US President Barack Obama is busy aligning Middle East allies with the next US steps on Iran. Contributing to the mounting sense in Washington of an approaching US-Iranian confrontation, the Pentagon is substantially building up its combat power around Iran, stationing nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait – two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit – and keeping two aircraft carriers the region. The USS Carl Vinson, the USS John Stennis which was to have returned to home base and their strike groups will stay in the Arabian Sea.

* * *

Iran has Proof?

A worshipper holds an anti-U.S. President Barack Obama poster and portraits of killed Iranian nuclear scientists during the funeral for nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, who was killed in a bomb blast in Tehran on January 11, after Friday prayers January 13, 2012. (REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)

Meanwhile, Israel’s YNET news service is reporting that Iran has proof that the US was responsible for last week’s assassination:

Who’s behind the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist? According to an Iranian statement broadcasted on the Islamic Republic’s official TV Channel, Tehran has conclusive evidence that the United States plotted the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan last week.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country has obtained “credible documents that prove the terror attack was planned, supervised and supported by the CIA,” adding that he has filed an official complaint with the Swiss Embassy in Iran, which is also handles US affairs in the area.

A similar denunciation was addressed to Britain, claiming that the assassination took place shortly after the British themselves declared “the commencement of intelligence operations against Iran.”[...]

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the United States “had absolutely nothing to do” with Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan’s death. Vietor added that the US condemns “all acts of violence.”

(Israeli) President Shimon Peres also commented on the incident, telling CNN Spanish that ‘to the best of his knowledge’ Israel was not involved in the assassination.

DEBKAfile adds:

Friday, Ayatollah Khamenei accused the United States and Israel of a CIA-Mossad master plan, which Iranian sources claimed bore the title “Red Windows” and focused on training Iranian dissidents for hit and sabotage operations in Iran.

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