"For months, there have been rumors of a strike by Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The propaganda build-up is very similar to that directed against Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 2002. In both cases, an isolated state with limited military and physical resources is depicted as a horror that threatens to end the survival of the world,...According to several US respected analysts on the Middle East like Vince Cannistraro, former CIA head of Couterterrorism and Judith Yaphe of National Defense University, the message emanating from Israel and its right-wing U.S. supporters, is that the road to Jerusalem and an Arab-Israeli peace leads through Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contends that since Iran’s support of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon means permanent hostility to Israel’s existence, the only way to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace, is to use brute force...In the past, the United States had lead in confronting Iran. For years, the United States Air Force has had “Project Checkmate,” a secret, strategic planning group tasked with running detailed contingency scenarios for a possible massive, 3-day US attack Iran. It is part of CENTCOM and consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defense and cyber experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA, DIA and other government agencies.Time changed this... all through the late spring and the summer, “Israel wanted to start something and drag us in.”This correspondent first heard of the threats of a preemptive Israeli strike as early as last May when DOD and CIA officials told me of classified DOD drills being conducted in support of an Israeli attack on Iran. All summer long, the drills continued supervised by teams of senior former and serving CIA and DIA officials who were personally opposed to any such attack.Last spring, then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, who had a fixed and determined will, resisted the very idea of such an attack. In August, after Gates retired, there were leaked rumors that Israel would attack after Adm. Mike Mullins, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired in September...After Mullins stepped down, President Obama sent the new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to Israel to argue that an attack would not succeed in its aims and attempted to get a commitment from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu not to strike Iran without warning. According to U.S. military ad intelligence sources Panetta failed to get that pledge.And Israeli attempts at intimidating kept on. Within the last two months, there appeared numerous accounts portraying Israel’s military capability as invincible...The boasts of Tel Aviv’s invincibility prompted Professor Paul Williams of the National Defense University, to comment to me, “The Israelis are not invincible. Pride goes before the fall.”Could Israel Do It?According to former U.S. military or intelligence sources, the war would begin without warning. Israel would fall silent, as it did before the Osirak strike in 1981. The attack would utilize three Israeli strike units: its aircraft, its missiles, and cruise missiles launched from its three diesel subs. However, the most important strategic element would be Israel’s Air Force.In the words of a former U.S. Middle East expert and intelligence official, an account verified by others, the most highly-regarded scenario would involve a strike package of 70-80 aircraft that would fly up to the corner of the Mediterranean, adjoining northern Syria and southeastern Turkey. There the strike planes would top off, then fly east over southern Turkey, infuriating the Turks, who nonetheless probably would not shoot the planes down. After hitting their targets in Iran, and realizing that hostile Turks would now be in the air, the Israeli planes would be in peril. With the need for fuel becoming more acute with each passing minute, Israel’s aircraft “would barrel straight through Iraqi and Jordanian airspace in a direct line for home.,”Thanks to US pressure, the Iraqis would not engage the aircraft either, and Jordan, much as it did back in June 1981 during the Osirak operation, would scramble its air force belatedly and without any real desire to engage,...What would Iran’s Reaction be?The 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah War (called the Second Lebanon War in Israel) was an attempt by Israel at eliminating the MAD counter-force in Lebanon. It was an attempt that failed. According to Lord Elgin in an article, a British weapons consultant for British Aerospace, Iran had purchased and supplied to Hezbollah, a large number of very nasty, relatively low cost Russian AT-14 Kornet solid fuel anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), and the Iranian-trained Hezbollah commandos dug in massive numbers of these in concrete bunkers and firing positions. According to a former, high-ranking DOD official, after over 50 Merkava main battle tanks were hit, and after Israel’s American-made warplanes and pinpoint weapons proved ineffective, failure stared Tel Aviv in the face. Either Israel had to use neutron bombs and deploy a large number of Israeli soldiers to remove the Hezbollah threat or it could declare peace. Israel declared peace.
In the case of an attack on Iran, Israel has a vast array of weapons including neutron bombs, nuclear weapons, and fuel air explosive (FAE) bombs. But if Israel used an FAE weapon in an attack, Iran and its allies in Lebanon would fire thousand upon thousands of scud missiles armed with high explosive (HE) warheads “at every Israeli population center down as far as Tel Aviv,” according to one former DOD intelligence official.The Syrians, using larger and more actively guided missiles, could shower Israel with high explosive warheads, while Israel would attempt to use its Green Pine radar system, and a combination of US and Israeli anti-missile missiles, to shoot down these salvos. Former CIA and DOD analysts told this reporter that Israel in the beginning would have good success in knocking down many incoming missiles, but the sheer number of incoming missiles would “totally overload all any defensive measures.”A former U.S. intelligence expert, with direct knowledge of Israel’s attack plans, emphasized: “The Israelis have no defense against this. Israel has a massive disincentive against the use of any kind of nuclear weapon. Israel has only two population centers and this attack would finish them.” ...There appear to be three major targets in Israel’s strike plan: the uranium-conversion facility at Esfahan, the fuel-enrichment plant at Natanz, and the heavy-water production plant and heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak. Even if Israel's Air Force reached those targets, their being deep underground would make them hard to hit. “It would take thousands of sorties,” said a former Pentagon official. And given the range, the Israeli planes couldn’t stay at the area for very long, adding "the Israelis have no idea of the scale and complexity of this kind of operation."Resolution?American resistance to any Israeli strike spiked recently when two senior US military leaders bridled at the scheme. Only a few days ago, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey and CENTCOM chief Gen. James Mattis (who commanded the battle of Falllujah in 2004) told President Obama about his seeming lack of firmness in letting Netanyahu know the “law of the land” – how deeply the US military was opposed to a strike by Tel Aviv. The president’s reply was not what the generals expected. Two U.S. officials close to the exchange, said that Obama said that he “had no say over Israel” because “it is a sovereign country.”One can understand the generals’ bluntness and anxiety. Any strike by Israel would place all US military personnel and assets spread throughout the Persian Gulf in peril. The Persian Gulf is the keystone of the world oil market and any instability could weaken the already-faltering world economy. US assets in the region are immense... ... ... A surprise attack by Israel would put all these assets in peril, and Generals Dempsey and Mattis warned Obama that it would take 45 to 90 days to ramp up a force to defend the region if Israel attacks.Even in Israel, the Begin doctrine no longer holds dominion...Perhaps the most disturbing aspect about the incessant calls for an Israeli strike was the fact that the most strident hawks, both US and Israeli, appeared to see war as something abstract, a pin in your opponent’s map. But any war gives license not only to the righteous but to the avid, the brutal and criminal and any war ignore the fact that war means the death of helpless and innocent people.Thankfully, this latter view seems to be seizing new ground and gaining new strength in both Israel and ZIOCONNED America's....elite power behind the power.....LOL "US moves for new sanctions on Iran; Tehran prods and pokes CIA and IsraHell drones....OVER IRAN and South LEBANON......
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
NEW YORK - The United States government is on the verge of taking its problems with the Islamic Republic of Iran to a whole new and ominous level that portends clashing interests with China and a number of other countries, including in Europe, which receives some half a million barrels of oil from Iran on a daily basis.
With about 4.2 million barrels a day, more than half of which is exported, Iran is the fourth-largest oil producer, after Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US, as well as the fourth-largest gas producer, following Russia, the US and Canada.
Last week, the US Senate unanimously adopted a new sanctions bill that calls for drastic measures against any foreign bank involved in transactions with Iran's central bank. That bill is now pending in the House of Representatives and will soon reach the Oval Office for final ratification by President Barack Obama. He has expressed some misgivings about the legislation's draconian measures, asking to (a) extend the grace period for compliance from 60 to 180 days, and (b) reduce the penalties.
Unwilling to compromise, hawkish lawmakers sponsoring the bill and their impressive army of pro-Israel lobbyists have mounted a counter-attack, arguing that the bill is sound and does not require any "watering down" that would weaken its impact on Iran - the hope being that this will bring Tehran to its knees over the nuclear issue.
The United Nations has already ratified four rounds of sanctions against Iran over its uranium-enrichment program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes only. These include a ban on the supply of heavy weaponry and nuclear-related technology to Iran, a block on Iranian arms exports, and an asset freeze on key individuals and companies, according to the BBC.
The European Union has also imposed its own restrictions on trade in equipment that could be used for uranium enrichment and has an asset freeze on individuals and organizations believed to be helping Iran's nuclear program.
Unilateral US sanctions also prohibit almost all trade with Iran and in November the US, the United Kingdom and Canada announced more bilateral sanctions in reaction to an International Atomic Energy Agency report which suggested Iran's nuclear program may have a military purpose.
This Wednesday, two major Jewish groups, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee, began a loud campaign in favor of the latest US sanctions bill, pressuring Obama to go along and reminding him of his "waiver authority", that is the power to make exemptions, just as it has been since the initial 1995 D'Amato Iran oil sanctions bill.
This argument traps the White House into difficult choices, for example, exempting China, which receives 13% of its imported oil from Iran, would ignite a bush fire of political criticism, and not doing so on the other hand would inevitably harm US-China relations. This is because the bill in effect asks Beijing to forego its energy ties with Iran and look elsewhere, clearly not something the Chinese are prepared to do in today's age of energy insecurity.
That insecurity would be exacerbated as a result of an oil embargo on Iran, which relies on its oil exports for some 80% of its foreign income. Oil prices would jack up, perhaps to about US$250 a barrel as warned by Tehran, but definitely more than what the cash-starved nations in Europe, such as Spain and Greece, which receive 14% of their oil from Iran, some on Iran credit, would be willing and or capable of paying.
No wonder, then, that the European Union recently backed away from a French-British initiative to impose a multilateral oil embargo on Iran, reflecting serious internal divisions that are unlikely to disappear no matter what line the US ultimately adopts vis-a-vis Iran's central bank.
Reports from Washington indicate that the administration is playing a delayed game, which is why the above-mentioned Jewish groups have upped the ante against Obama to force him to sign the pending bill. The question then becomes what will the US do with respect to European energy partners with Iran, including Italy, which has opposed the oil sanctions? Clearly, there is a risk of trans-Atlantic rifts emerging over this contentious issue.
What is more, new US sanctions affecting Iran's energy trade would instantly wipe out any goodwill generated rather discretely between Tehran and Washington over the situation in Afghanistan, as a result of Iran's participation at the recent Bonn summit on that country. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, participated in the event, much to the chagrin of the American Jewish Committee that publicly criticized Salehi's presence, perhaps smelling a new and unwanted US-Iran opportunity for dialogue that needed to be nipped in the bud.
A prudent US strategy would dictate reaching out to Iran and engaging it in regional security issues as the US is slowly but surely removing the bulk of its troops from the area. Such an approach could result in building confidence between the two sides and could conceivably be telescoped to the stalled nuclear talks.
However, the US's Iran policy has become an issue of political football in the long and arduous pre-election campaigns leading to the presidential elections next November, with candidates from both parties trying to outdo one anther in Iran-bashing, with Obama's contenders eyeing a potential to attack him as being soft on Iran.
As a result, one may expect harsher anti-Iran initiatives by Obama in the near future, geared principally to his re-election bid and despite this not being in the US national (security) interest.
A clue to this can be garnered from the way in which the US continues to accuse Iran of masterminding a terror conspiracy on US soil, irrespective of global skepticism. Thus, in his December 1 letter to the US Congress, David S Cohen, the US Under Secretary of Treasury, stated: "That the [Iranian] Qods Force is involved in terrorism has been highlighted most recently in the public allegations that the Qods Force was involved in the Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United states. This finding also explains Iran's use of its banks, such as Bank Saderat, to provide terrorist financing." 
Cohen is wrong, since there is no finding of Iranian banks' involvement in the alleged terror plot, as can be discerned from both the US complaint filed in a federal court in New York, as well as statements of US law-enforcement officials, repeatedly admitting that the funds allegedly wired for the terror plot came not from Iran but rather from a "foreign entity" in a "foreign country".
What is missing in Washington is the courage of an independent president who can prioritize the nation's interests and insulate himself from the interest-group politics that place the US on a collision course with Iran.
1. See here.
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here.Tehran prods and pokes CIA drones....
By Heather Maher
Iranian television has broadcast a video of a United States drone that Tehran claims to have brought down on its territory, and it's probably safe to say that the images are the stuff of US intelligence officials' nightmares.
In the video, two men dressed in Iranian military uniforms poke and prod at the small, bat-winged aircraft. One gestures to a wing and appears to be explaining something to a decorated superior.
But what? Possibly what until now were highly guarded US advances in covert intelligence gathering.
A banner at the foot of the aircraft in the video reads, "The US cannot do a damn thing," which is a direct quotation from Iran's late supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Iran's alleged capture of the drone represents more than just a huge propaganda prize for the regime, which has long been hostile to the United States. It also could be a bonanza of secret US military technology so sensitive that US officials briefly considered going into Iran to try and retrieve the downed aircraft, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The operation was rejected as too risky.
US officials have acknowledged the loss of the plane, but a Pentagon spokesman told reporters on December 8 that officials were "not going to talk about these kinds of missions and these kinds of capabilities."
But US and foreign officials briefed on the matter told the The New York Times that the RQ-170 Sentinel drone was at the center of a secret program to gather information on possible Iranian nuclear sites.
Top-secret treasure trove
The United States has used satellites for years to gather intelligence on Iran, which it believes is hiding a nuclear weapons program. But Jason Campbell, a military analyst with the RAND Corporation, says the RQ-170 possesses new and unique capabilities that take covert intelligence gathering to a new level.
"What makes this particular drone quite useful, from an intelligence perspective, is that it can fly at extremely high altitudes - reportedly up to 50,000 feet. It is capable of staying in the air for hours at a time, which is a luxury you don't have with satellite imagery. [It has] multiple sensors on it; it can intercept electronic communications, it can take air samples to detect whether or not there is any chemicals or other unusual things in the air that might lead one to believe that there is, in the case of Iran, a nuclear program that is active in the area," Campbell says.
"And it also takes what's called 'full-motion video' on the ground, where you're not just taking pictures of hardened targets, you're able to see the comings and goings of individuals and other movement on the ground, which is, again a capability that isn't offered by satellite."
The fear is that Iran, and its close allies China and Russia, will be able to learn and copy those capabilities.
Analysts say the most valuable technology on the drone is probably its ability to detect and gather a vast array of information as it hovers or flies undetected over targets. Its radar capability may also be much more advanced than either Beijing or Moscow has developed, they say.
Not everything about the RQ-170 Sentinel UAV, which stands for unmanned aerial vehicle, is secret. The first photos of it became public two years ago, and showed it sitting on a US air base in Afghanistan. Its shape is based on the B-2 stealth bomber, which has been in use by the US military since 1997, including during the war between Kosovo and Serbia in 1999 and in US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Did Iran shoot it down?
Unsurprisingly, there are competing versions of how the drone ended up on the ground. The chief of the air force of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, General Ami Ali Hajizadeh, said on December 8 that his forces had brought the aircraft down with an electronic ambush. US officials dismiss that scenario and blame an aircraft malfunction.
When something goes wrong during a drone flight, RAND's Campbell says it is programmed to automatically return to base. But in this instance, he says, something didn't go according to plan.
"We don't know at this point if there has been some sort of a self-destruct mechanism that kicked in, as it should have, but given that many of these drones, particularly this one, is programmed to automatically return to base should there be a satellite disruption - which is usually the cause of some of these missteps - the fact that that wasn't engaged, it may suggest that the self-destruct mechanism wasn't activated," Campbell says.
At least one military expert thinks the Iranians may be bluffing. John Pike, an analyst for the website GlobalSecurity.org, says the drone that was shown on Iranian TV looked like "a parade-float model" rather than the high-tech robotic surveillance aircraft itself, and speculated that it was "a mock-up."
Since the plane's downing this weekend, analysts and some US officials have said that they don't think it's possible to reverse-engineer the plane's systems and learn how to replicate it. They have also said that the data the drone collected before it crashed is probably irretrievable.
That's no doubt what US officials hope.
"Unfortunately," the RAND Corporation's Campbell says, "We'll probably never know the full story."