Iran, West Up the Ante
Rachelle Kliger – The Media Line June 29, 2008
Tension between Iran and the West is reaching a climax, with a heightened exchange of verbal threats and what appear to be preparations in Iran, Israel and the United States for a military showdown.
Reports of a large recent Israeli air drill over Greece was thought to be a simulation of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, given that the distance between Israel and Greece is similar to the distance between Israel and Iran.
A visit of the chief of the U.S. Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead to Israel last week, followed by a visit of the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen also prompted speculation that Jerusalem and Washington were planning a joint military strike against Iran.
Earlier this month Israeli Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel might have no choice but to attack Iran.
Iran is threatening that any military strike on its soil would prompt it to shut down strategic waterways in the Gulf, consequently cutting off major supplies of oil and energy from the Gulf to the West. Around 60 percent of the world’s oil supply goes through these waterways.
Iran also threatened that attacks on its soil would be met with missile attacks against Israel.
It appears Iran is also preparing for this eventuality. It has deployed its long-range Shihab missiles to launching position, with Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona among its possible targets, the Sunday Times reported over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Washington is escalating its covert operations against Iran in order to destabilize the country’s leadership and undermine the current leadership in Tehran through regime change and strengthening the opposition, according to the New Yorker.
The recent upgrade of threats and apparent preparations for a military showdown have prompted speculation that a standoff is near.
But non-military means of pressure can and should be exhausted before any military solution is implemented, Ephraim Asculai, a senior research fellow with Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies told The Media Line.
“There are plenty of non-military options, but they need to be carried out and there needs to be much heavier pressures [applied] than those that have been applied until now,” he said. “If China and Russia do not want to be in the picture, then so be it.”
Iran has been under international pressure over its controversial nuclear program since 2002 and has refused to bow to international demands to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and abandon the program.
The carrot and stick approach towards Iran, in the form of incentives and sanctions, has so far failed to bring positive results for the West, which fears the Islamic republic is covertly manufacturing a nuclear bomb.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for the peaceful purpose of creating energy only and upholds its right to possess nuclear technology.
The fact there are presidential elections in the U.S. this year is likely to impact the decision of whether to attack Iran or not.
This can work in both directions, Asculai said.
“On the one hand people don’t want confrontations in an election year, and on the other hand the president is leaving office this year and he might want to make his mark.
“In any case, time is pressing. Today, leaders in the U.S. on all sides realize that the timetable is getting significantly tight until Iran passes the threshold and will have enough material for a bomb.”
Last updated 02/07/2008