The drumbeats of war are on the rise this week as the United States and Israel exchanged threats with Iran and prepared for joint 'wargames' - used to simulate future wars.
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UPDATE: 8:30 AM ET 1/6/2012 the Guardian/UK reports:
Another flashpoint could come in June, when US sanctions on the trade in Iranian oil come into effect. Gary Sick, an Iran expert and former White House policy adviser now at Columbia University, said such measures were "the equivalent of a military blockade of Iran's oil ports, arguably an act of war".
"The main reason why Iran's putative threat to close the strait of Hormuz was dismissed is because Iran also relies on the strait to export its own oil," Sick wrote in his blog. "But if Iran's oil revenue – 50% of its budget – is cut off, they would have little to lose by striking out at those they hold responsible, including passage through the strait of Hormuz.
"Iran cannot defeat the US navy, but the swarms of cruise missiles they could fire, both from shore and from their fleet of speedboats, could create havoc, as could the flood of mines they could put into the fast-moving waters of the strait."
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UPDATE: At 12:53 PM ET the Associated Press filed a new story reporting on the major joint US-Israel missile defense exercise:
The drill is called “Austere Challenge 12” and is designed to improve defense systems and cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli forces. It follows a 10-day Iranian naval exercise near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The Israeli military spokesman did not give a date for the drill Thursday, but a senior military official said it would be in the next few weeks. He said it would be the biggest missile defense drill ever held. He was speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The Israeli official said thousands of American and Israeli soldiers from different units would take part. He said the drill would test multiple Israeli and U.S. air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets. Israel has deployed the “Arrow” system, jointly developed and funded with the U.S., designed to intercept Iranian missiles in the stratosphere, far from Israel.
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UPDATE: Adrian Hamilton writing in The Independent this afternoon cuts to the chase:
The really frightening thing about the situation is not so much the military preparations but that so many are ready to discuss war as if it was a perfectly rational, and indeed likely, possibility. The pressures for war are there and growing. The right-wing governing coalition in Israel is publicly in favor of it. The military are advising that now is the time, before Iran progresses any further with its nuclear enrichment facilities. At the same time, the US administration of President Obama – which had been acting as a restraint on Israel – now appears weaker and weaker against the voices demanding confrontation with Iran.
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The Jerusalem Post reported on December 20 that Washington and Tel Aviv have planned to hold what they call the largest-ever joint military exercise in Israel in the coming months, a development the US media have failed to cover.
Iran's PressTV headlines today:
'US Deploys Troops in Israel for Iran War'
The US military is preparing a massive military campaign against Iran, sending thousands of American troops, warships and weaponry to Israel. An unnamed source said the military deployment of US anti-missile ships and accompanying support personnel will occur in January and later this spring...
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Iran Rails Against West's 'Economic War'
Iran on Thursday said the West was waging "an economic war" through sanctions, after European diplomats said there was a preliminary agreement for an EU ban of oil from the Islamic republic.
"The enemies of the Islamic republic's regime, with all their tricks, have not been able to chain the nation and now they want to chain the economy," Economy Minister Shamseddin Hosseini said, in comments carried by the official IRNA news agency.
"These sanctions are an economic war against us," he said, urging Iranians to defeat them.
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Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse also reports today that US neocons are actively promoting a US attack on Iran:
WASHINGTON -- Fed by diplomatic tensions and election-year politics, talk about a coming conflict with Iran has reached a fever pitch in the US capital.
Speculation of a possible war with Iran ebbs and flows, but a confluence of events has served to fuel dire predictions among politicians and pundits that war may be on the horizon — either by necessity or by accident.
Some of the same hawkish voices that portrayed Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq as a dire threat requiring urgent military action are now warning that the United States must be prepared for war with Iran, while accusing President Barack Obama of lacking backbone.
John Yoo, a former Justice Department official under ex-president George W. Bush, has called on Republican presidential candidates to “begin preparing the case for a military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear program.”
Calling it an “unavoidable challenge,” Yoo wrote last week in the National Review that the United States would have legal grounds to strike at Iran’s nuclear sites — similar to the arguments made before the invasion of Iraq.
AFP added that poor communications between the US and Iran could turn a minor incident into all-out war:
Shortly before retiring, the former top-ranking US officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, worried a lack of communication between the two countries' militaries could turn an incident into a potential conflict. "We are not talking to Iran. So we don't understand each other," Mullen said in September. "If something happens, it's virtually assured that we won't get it right, that there will be miscalculations."