Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why Iran isn't backing down

One of the very few signs of sanity these days is that you can find excellent, well-written articles dealing with why making war on Iran is a terrible idea.  Because war-mongering is so easy and coming up with intelligent alternatives so hard, we need as many of these as possible.

Airstrikes on Iran an unlikely option for Israel

With no resolution in sight to the anxiety over Iran's nuclear program, Israel is keeping the option of military action open. The problem, say various experts, is that the models of the past won't work.

Israel has successfully destroyed what it considered to be hostile nuclear facilities before. On June 7, 1981, an Israeli warplane destroyed a nuclear reactor in Iraq, and on September 6, 2007, the Israeli air force carried out a similar mission in northern Syria.

But that was then, and this is now. Experts say Israel's chances for a successful operation of this kind against Iran are slim.

"There's a great big difference between the number of nuclear weapons sites and nuclear material processing plants in Iran versus the single above-ground nuclear reactor in Syria," David Deptula - former US Air Force Chief of Staff for Intelligence - told DW. "A military campaign would involve a very complex set of actions. Most of the public out there doesn't understand that an air campaign just does not involve flying from point A to point B, dropping the bomb and coming home."

One main problem is distance. Even if Israel chose the most direct route to Iran through Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, accepting the diplomatic consequences that would follow, the seven nuclear facilities that would be likely targets are still 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away.  That means that the eight Israeli refuelling planes that would support the 125 fighter jets thought needed for such an operation would themselves have to land for re-tanking.

Better defenses

Moreover, Iran's air defenses may be outmoded, but they still could pose a challenge for any Israeli mission.

"I think the issue that is the most challenging is simply the range which means that they won't have a very long period over target in Iran," Martin Chalmers - an expert at the military think-tank Royal United Services Institute in London - told DW. "There is a lot of complexity in that, and the limited size of the Israeli air force means that margins for error will not be that great."

Others say the real problems lie elsewhere.

"I think the Israeli air force has the capabilities, the refuelling capacities for example, to bring sufficient numbers of aircraft to the targets," Shlomo Brom, a military expert at the Institute for National Security at Tel Aviv University, told DW. "That's not my concern. What I don't know is whether when they reach the targets they can cause enough damage."

That's because Iran's two uranium-enrichment plants are very well-defended. The facility at Natanz is located underground, as is the one at Fordo. It was built inside a mountain, some 70 meters below the earth's surface.

Not even the most powerful Israeli bomb, the GBU-28, is capable of penetrating that far underground. more
Attacking Iran is a monumentally stupid idea—never mind the ethics of it.  So why does anyone even suggest it?  Well, for one thing, peace in the middle east would act to depress oil prices.  Peace AND lower oil prices?—can't have that!

Defusing the Middle East Would Lower Gas Prices

by Sheldon Richman, March 23, 2012

Republicans see rising oil and gasoline prices as an opportunity to score political points on President Obama. To be sure, Obama is partly responsible for the rise in world prices and could do something about it. The irony is that Republicans would emphatically oppose the one measure that would be most effective in easing the pressure on prices right now: defusing tension in the Middle East by taking the war threat against Iran off the table.

Tension in the Middle East tends to push prices up, because the threat of war puts this major oil region under a darkening cloud of uncertainty. With Iran the tension is even greater because it is located on the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, 21 nautical miles at its narrowest point. Roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil moves through the strait, which is key for getting oil from the gulf countries to the rest of the world.

Iran has threatened to mine or close the strait in retaliation for an attack by Israel or the United States. The danger to oil tankers traversing the strait would shoot insurance prices through the roof, and the price of oil would follow as the supply diminished.

Since American and Israeli war talk directed at Iran is undoubtedly responsible for much of the recent price rise, it stands to reason that ceasing that talk convincingly would take the pressure off and would allow prices to fall again.

So why aren’t the Republicans calling on Obama to extend an olive branch to Iran? The answer is simple: Republicans (excepting Ron Paul) place American imperial bullying ahead of everything else. They may talk about the virtue of free markets and private property, but clearly their priority is American hegemony, no matter the cost in taxpayer money and freedom.

They would rather risk cripplingly high gasoline and oil prices — not to mention crippling American military personnel and Iranian children — than pass up an opportunity to rattle their sabers in defense of the American empire and to show how fierce these chicken hawks are. (Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich spent no time in the military, much less in a war zone. Such politicians are often the most eager to send men and women to war.)

To hear them tell it, the very existence of the United States and Israel is at stake in the confrontation with Iran over its alleged nuclear-weapons program. Nonsense. American and Israeli intelligence say that the Iranian government has not decided to build a nuclear weapon. Every pound of uranium in Iran’s possession is under an International Atomic Energy Agency seal. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons years ago, and repeated this prohibition as recently as February. Furthermore, no American or Israeli official seriously believes that Iran would use a nuclear warhead to attack, even if it did build one. Why not? A nuclear strike on Israel or the United States would summon a devastating second strike that would destroy Iran and its government — and no one believes the Iranian regime is suicidal. Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, himself says survival is the regime’s top priority.

So why the loose war talk? Why does Obama menace Iran without provocation by declaring that “all options are on the table,” including “all elements of American power” (emphasis added)? Why has he imposed harsh economic sanctions, which inflict pain on the Iranian people and which constitute an act of war under international law?

The reason is that America’s top politicians, Republican and Democrat, are locked into the imperial mindset. In their view, this country — more precisely, the man who presides over the national government — is the policeman of the world. They embrace President George H.W. Bush’s decree from 1990: “What we say goes.” If the president doesn’t like something, he reserves the authority to do something about it — militarily if “necessary.” more

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