By Pepe Escobar
Persian Gulf? Khaleej-e-Fars? Forget it; time to call it the American Gulf - to the delight of the vultures, jackals and hyenas of war, Israeli and Anglo-American. The House of Saud wouldn't be too displeased either.
So much for the Pentagon's "pivoting" strategy from the Middle East to East Asia - recently announced by United States President Barack Obama. The confrontation against China starts in Southwest Asia - in the American Gulf; and goes way beyond Washington cheerleading the hardcore Sunni sectarian killers of Jundallah in Iran's Sistan-Balochistan province, Israeli Mossad agents posing as US Central Intelligence Agency operatives, serial assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, computer viruses, and ludicrous accusations of Tehran helping al-Qaeda and vice-versa.
MOP it all up
Time to review the evidence. In roughly one month, no less than three US aircraft carriers and their strike groups will be sloshing around the American Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea; the USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Carl Vinson and USS Enterprise, plus good ol' French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. And yet one more Pacific-based US aircraft carrier can be swiftly dispatched.
Apart from this naval hajj of US aircraft carrier groups, the 40-year-old USS Ponce is being retrofitted into a special ops amphibious hub - to be dispatched to the American Gulf.
The Pentagon's CENTCOM is fast upgrading the 14,000-kilogram Orwellian bunker-buster monster known as Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP), theoretically capable of taking out Iran's underground nuclear installations.
A certain Bipartisan Policy Center's National Security Project - one of those myriad revolving doors in Washington mixing politicians and military-complex types - wants to give Israel some 200 additional MOPs and three KC-135 aerial refueling tankers to "increase the credibility of a military strike" against Iran.
DEBKA-Net is a digital front for Israeli propaganda/disinformation - so it's essentially untrustworthy. But its latest bombast deserves scrutiny. DEBKA is peddling that the Pentagon is in fast and furious mode in two strategic islands; the paradisiacal Socotra, 380 kilometers southeast of Yemen (where the Pentagon has been building a giant base since 2010); and Camp Justice in Masirah, 70 km south of the Strait of Hormuz, in Oman.
Socotra thus joins key American Gulf nodes of the US Empire of Bases such as Jebel Ali and al-Dahfra in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), al-Udeid in Qatar and Arifjan in Kuwait. It's crucial to keep in mind the extra 15,000 US troops deployed to Kuwait only a few weeks ago. The Pentagon, predictably, is thunderously mum about the build up in both Socotra and Masirah, and Yemeni and Omani officials are not talking.
DEBKA claims that in two weeks, around 50,000 US troops, flown in from Diego Garcia, 3,000 km away, will be massed in both islands - plus the 50,000 troops already based in the American Gulf. Add to this air, naval and special forces from Britain and France constantly pouring into Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Not enough to launch a ground invasion of Iran - but more than enough for major logistical support in a "no options off the table" (copyright Obama) scenario.
Build up, and pray for war
DEBKA predictably spins all these developments - not independently confirmed - into Obama's "resolve to attack Iran's nuclear facilities in the course of 2012", which is absolute nonsense. This may mirror (hysterical) wishful thinking by the Benjamin Netanyahu government in Israel, but has nothing to do with the Obama administration's strategy, which essentially is to impose a "roll over and die" form of "diplomacy" on Iran (sanctions/oil embargo + Pentagon build up in the American Gulf) as a means of extracting an Iranian capitulation in the nuclear dossier.
Wishful thinking is also the weapon du jour for The New York Times, which now seems to be subcontracting the Iran dossier to Israeli writers, as in getting rid of the US middleman.
One Ronen Bergman writes that "after speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012". Gary Sick conclusively debunked this nonsense  stressing how "his conclusion is at odds with virtually everything he produces as evidence".
The only good thing among all this weaponized orgy is that Tehran and Washington are still talking - sort of - using the proverbial back channels; in Baghdad (via both ambassadors); via Turkey (with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as middleman); and in Vienna, the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (via diplomats). There's a five-month window for good sense to prevail until July 1 - when the US/European Union oil embargo on Iran kicks in.
And then there's the resurfacing of "Austere Challenge 12" - the massive joint Israel-US war games involving thousands of US soldiers and testing of a number of Israeli and US missile defense systems.
"Austere Challenge" is now rescheduled for October, less than a month before the US presidential election, when Mitt Romney, the neo-con gang and deranged evangelicals will be bombing Iran non-stop on cable TV. Until then, it's up to world public opinion, to quote Percy Bysshe Shelley in The Mask of Anarchy, to "rise like lions, after slumber, in unvanquishable number", and drive fear and loathing away from the American Gulf.
1. See here.
By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) General Martin Dempsey told Israeli leaders on January 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers.
Dempsey's warning, conveyed to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by President Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the US is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran.
But the Israeli government remains defiant about maintaining its freedom of action to make war on Iran, and it is counting on the influence of right-wing extremist views in US politics to bring pressure to bear on Obama to fall into line with a possible Israeli attack during the election campaign this autumn.
Obama still appears reluctant to break publicly and explicitly with Israel over its threat of military aggression against Iran, even in the absence of evidence Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon.
Dempsey's trip was highly unusual, in that there was neither a press conference by the chairman nor any public statement by either side about the substance of his meetings with Israeli leaders. Even more remarkable, no leak about what he said to the Israelis has appeared in either US or Israeli news media, indicating that both sides have regarded what Dempsey said as extremely sensitive.
The substance of Dempsey's warning to the Israelis has become known, however, to active and retired senior flag officers with connections to the JCS, according to a military source who got it from those officers.
A spokesman for the JCS, Commander Patrick McNally, offered no comment on Wednesday when Inter Press Service (IPS) asked him about the above account of Dempsey's warning to the Israelis.
The message carried by Dempsey was the first explicit statement to the Netanyahu government that the United States would not defend Israel if it attacked Iran unilaterally. But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had given a clear hint in an interview on "Face the Nation" on January 8 that the Obama administration would not help defend Israel in a war against Iran that Israel had initiated.
Asked how the United States would react if Israel were to launch a unilateral attack on Iran, Panetta first emphasized the need for a coordinated policy toward Iran with Israel. But when host Bob Schieffer repeated the question, Panetta said, "If the Israelis made that decision, we would have to be prepared to protect our forces in that situation. And that's what we'd be concerned about."
Defense Minister Barak had sought to dampen media speculation before Dempsey's arrival that the chairman was coming to put pressure on Israel over its threat to attack Iran, but then proceeded to reiterate the Netanyahu-Barak position that they cannot give up their responsibility for the security of Israel "for anyone, including our American friends".
There has been no evidence since the Dempsey visit of any change in the Netanyahu government's insistence on maintaining its freedom of action to attack Iran.
Dempsey's meetings with Netanyahu and Barak also failed to resolve the issue of the joint US-Israeli military exercise geared to simulate a missile attack, "Austere Challenge '12", which had been scheduled for April 2012 but had been postponed abruptly a few days before his arrival in Israel.
More than two weeks after Dempsey's meeting with Barak, the spokesman for the Pentagon, John Kirby, told IPS, "All I can say is that the exercise will be held later this year." That indicated that there has been no major change in the status of US-Israeli discussions of the issue since the postponement of the exercise was leaked on January 15.
The postponement has been the subject of conflicting and unconvincing explanations from the Israeli side, suggesting disarray in the Netanyahu government over how to handle the issue.
To add to the confusion, Israeli and US statements left it unclear whether the decision had been unilateral or joint as well as the reasons for the decision.
Panetta asserted in a news conference on January 18 that Barak himself had asked him to postpone the exercise.
It now clear that both sides had an interest in postponing the exercise and very possibly letting it expire by failing to reach a decision on it.
The Israelis appear to have two distinct reasons for putting the exercise off, which reflect differences between the interests of Netanyahu and his defense minister.
Netanyahu's primary interest in relation to the exercise was evidently to give the Republican candidate ammunition to fire at Obama during the fall campaign by insinuating that the postponement was decided at the behest of Obama to reduce tensions with Iran.
Thus Mark Regev, Netanyahu's spokesman, explained it as a "joint" decision with the United States, adding, "The thinking was it was not the right timing now to conduct such an exercise."
Barak, however, had an entirely different concern, which was related to the Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF's) readiness to carry out an operation that would involve both attacking Iran's nuclear facilities and minimizing the Iranian retaliatory response.
A former US intelligence analyst who followed the Israeli military closely told IPS he strongly suspects that the IDF has pressed Barak to insist that the Israeli force be at the peak of readiness if and when they are asked to attack Iran.
The analyst, who insisted on anonymity because of his continuing contacts with US military and intelligence personnel, said the 2006 Lebanon war debacle continues to haunt the thinking of IDF leaders.
In that war, it became clear that the IDF had not been ready to handle Hezbollah rocket attacks adequately, and the prestige of the Israeli military suffered a serious blow.
The insistence of IDF leaders that they never go to war before being fully prepared is a primary consideration for Barak, according to the analyst. "Austere Challenge '12" would inevitably involve a major consumption of military resources, he observes, which would reduce Israeli readiness for war in the short run.
The concern about a major military exercise actually reducing the IDF's readiness for war against Iran would explain why senior Israeli military officials were reported to have suggested that the reasons for the postponement were mostly "technical and logistical".
The Israeli military concern about expending scarce resources on the exercise would apply, of course, regardless of whether the exercise was planned for April or late 2012. That fact would help explain why the exercise has not been rescheduled, despite statements from the US side that it will be.
The US military, however, has its own reasons for being unenthusiastic about the exercise. IPS has learned from a knowledgeable source that, well before the Obama administration began distancing itself from Israel's Iran policy, US Central Command chief James N Mattis had expressed concern about the implications of an exercise so obviously based on a scenario involving Iranian retaliation for an Israeli attack.
United States officials have been quoted as suspecting that the Israeli request for a postponement of the exercise indicated that Israel wanted to leave its options open for conducting a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities in the spring. But a postponement to the fall would not change that problem.
For that reason, the former US intelligence analyst told IPS he doubted that "Austere Challenge '12" will ever be carried out.
But the White House has an obvious political interest in using the military exercise to demonstrate that the Obama administration had increased military cooperation with Israel to an unprecedented level.
The Defense Department wants the exercise to be held in October, according to the military source in touch with senior flag officers connected to the Joint Chiefs....lol