GENEVA - The U.S., Israel and Iran are playing a very dangerous game of chicken that soon could result in a new Mideast war.
U.S. intelligence has concluded that Iran is not working on nuclear weapons. But the Bush administration and Israel, recently joined by France, are issuing increasingly loud threats of military action to frighten Iran into halting its nuclear enrichment program.
Iran insists its nuclear program is entirely for civilian use. Tehran is alternating between conciliatory statements and threats to retaliate against any attack by inflicting economic chaos on the global economy. Europe fears the economic damage a war against Iran would bring far more than Iran's nuclear program.
Senior Israeli officials are openly threatening to attack Iran's nuclear installations before President George W. Bush's term expires. Early, this month Israel staged a large, U.S.-approved exercise using F-15s and F-16s to rehearse an attack over 900 miles - precisely the distance to Iran's nuclear facilities.
The highly regarded American journalist Seymour Hersh just confirmed that the U.S. Congress authorized a $400-million plan to overthrow Iran's government and incite ethnic unrest. This column reported a year ago that U.S. and British special forces were operating in Iran, preparing for a massive air campaign. Israel's destruction of an alleged Syrian reactor last fall was a warning to Iran.
This week a Pentagon official claimed an Israeli attack on Iran was coming before year end.
Other Pentagon and CIA sources say a U.S. attack on Iran is imminent, with or without Israel. The Bush administration is even considering using small tactical nuclear weapons against deeply buried Iranian targets.
Senior American officers Admiral William Fallon and Air Force Chief Michael Mosley recently were fired for opposing war against Iran. According to Israel's media, President Bush even told Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he could not trust America's intelligence community and preferred to rely on Israeli intelligence.
Intensifying activity is evident at U.S. bases in Europe and the Gulf, aimed at preparing a massive air blitz that may include repeated attacks on 3,100 targets in Iran. Other sources say Iranian Revolutionary Guard installations will be barraged by cruise missiles.
In Washington, Congress, under intense pressure from the Israel lobby, is about to adopt a resolution calling for a naval blockade of Iran, an overt act of war.
Pro-Israel groups have been airing TV commercials claiming Iran is attacking American troops in Iraq and threatens the U.S.
The Bush administration's last desperate act, its Gotterdammerung, could be war with Iran. UN weapons inspectors concur with U.S. intelligence that there is no proof Iran is working on nuclear arms, but the neocon war party in Washington is determined to loosen a final Parthian shaft by striking Iran.
Israel asserts the right to maintain its Mideast nuclear monopoly by destroying all fissile-producing reactors in the region. Iran vows to retaliate against Israel with its inaccurate Shahab missiles, shut the Strait of Hormuz and mine the Gulf, producing worldwide financial panic, severe fuel shortages, and $400-$500 per barrel oil. Iran likely will attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, and strike Saudi and Kuwaiti oil facilities. Canadians in Afghanistan could also become targets.
The embattled Bush administration's bunker mentality is leading to war that will gravely damage long-term U.S. Mideast interests. A single Iranian missile hit on Israel's reactor would do more damage to the Jewish state than all its previous wars. Besides, Israel cannot destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure. A U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran will guarantee Tehran decides to build nuclear weapons. Israel and Iran have turned their regional rivalry into a confrontation that threatens all.
Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, not its bombastic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, controls that nation's military and insists Iran will not produce nuclear weapons. Israel claims it faces a second holocaust. Iran says Israel's nuclear forces threaten its existence.
The dogs of war are being unleashed.
Eric Margolis is a columnist for The Toronto Sun.
© 2008, Canoe Inc