NEW YORK ó The U.S. and Israel are preparing to attack Iranís nuclear infrastructure, according to U.S. and European intelligence sources.
The U.S. and EU are exerting maximum diplomatic and psychological pressure on Iran to prevent it from enriching uranium in spite of its legal right to do so. Tehran remains defiant, but may yet compromise by shipping uranium to Russia for enrichment.
President George Bush claims Iranís limited but growing nuclear program poses ďa grave threat to the security of the world.Ē What he really means is that Iran could one day challenge Israelís Mideast nuclear monopoly.
Today, Iranís handful of inaccurate, 1,200-km range Shahab-3 missiles can barely reach Israel, and have only non-nuclear conventional warheads. Many of Israelís estimated 200 nuclear warheads are targeted on Iran, including new, nuclear-armed, U.S.-supplied Tomahawk land-attack missiles on its Dolphin-class submarines in the Indian Ocean.
U.S. and British special forces, and U.S. drones, have been probing Iranís defences for a year. A major land invasion is unlikely, however, since they are overstretched in Iraq.
The U.S. and Israel would likely use air and missile strikes to destroy Iranís nuclear industry and cripple its military. Much of Iranís critical nuclear facilities are far underground or dug into hillsides.
Israelís hawkish defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, while calling for diplomacy, warned last weekend his nation ďwould not tolerateĒ a nuclear-armed Iran. Israelís Mossad has been claiming this March is the absolute deadline to stop Iranís nuclear program. Israelís many supporters in the U.S. Congress are loudly calling for war against Iran.
German intelligence leaks claim last December the CIA briefed Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan about U.S. plans to attack Iran. Israeli warplanes would overfly Jordan and Iraq to strike central and southern Iran. U.S. air and missile strikes could come from Diego Garcia, Qatar, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and from carriers, surface warships and subs in the Indian Ocean.
Iranís Persian Gulf nuclear reactor complex would be struck. Enrichment and heavy water plants and uranium mines are primary targets. Second priority: Missile-assembly plants, air and naval bases, power stations, etc.
Iran vows to retaliate against an Israeli attack by firing conventionally armed missiles against Israelís nuclear weapons complex at Dimona. Iranís dilapidated air force is barely airworthy, never mind a threat to Israel. Even an improbable missile hit would probably do little damage. Still, Europeans are fretting over the risk of radiation releases from Dimona and, more likely, Iranís bombed nuclear plants.
The Iranians could retaliate more effectively by attacking U.S. forces in neighbouring Iraq and getting their Iraqi Shia allies to join in. Iran could mine the Gulf, interrupt oil exports, launch raids against U.S. bases in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Iran is the worldís fourth-largest oil exporter; any shutoff would inflict enormous disruption on the West.
Mass air and missile attacks would badly damage Iranís nuclear capability, but probably not put it out of business for good, as did Israelís 1981 attack on Iraqís sole reactor.
The beleaguered Bush administration may try to escape mounting woes by launching an air campaign against Iran to whip up war fever among Americans before mid-term elections, boosting Republican fortunes. But this is dangerous business because, like the supposed jolly little colonial adventure in Iraq, a war with Iran could go terribly wrong.
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