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Iran's Nukes

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America Deploys Weapons in Gulf as Iran Sanctions Near and Tensions Mount

February 1st 2010

Military - Patriot Missile

Washington has ordered the Pentagon to rapidly ramp up its approach to defending its Persian Gulf allies against potential Iranian missile strikes, increasing the capability of 8 land-based Patriot defensive missile batteries in four Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. These four are: Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar.  In addition, the U.S. Navy is increasing its presence in the region and now says it has the capacity of shoot down hostile missiles in mid-air as effectively as Patriot batteries do.

At the same time, the U.S. Air Force is continuing to fast-track modifications of a Super Bunker Buster--formally known as the GBU-57A/B at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Modifications would allow it to be carried in the bay of a radar-evading B2a Stealth Bomber, according to Eglin base sources. The B2a is one of only two airplanes that can carry the 30,000 pound bomb which is designed to cause massive concussions more than 200 feet below the earth where Iran is thought to have burrowed its nuclear program. Details of the accelerated project were reported by The Cutting Edge News last September.

Israel, which has been the subject of verbal threats from Iran’s leaders just as it has been subjected to attacks by Islamist militants in the pay of Iran, is likely to welcome the military buildup if it signals a hardening of U.S. policy. An undeclared nuclear power, Israel attacked an Iraqi nuclear facility in 1981 and the U.S. and its allies fear a reprise in Iran. The Israeli leadership has been calling for tougher sanctions against Iran even while a burgeoning democratic movement is proving to be a challenge to the Islamic Republic and may offer the possibility of an eventual change in the country’s posture towards Israel.

Gen. David Petraeus, the US Central Command chief overseeing all American military operations in the Middle East, told a Georgetown Law School gathering on January 21, that the US now has eight Patriot missile batteries stationed in the Gulf region – two each in four countries. He did not identify the countries. Kuwait, however, has hosted Patriots since the first Gulf war. At about the same time, CIA director Leon Panetta traveled to Israel to with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and with Mossad chief Meir Dagan. Media reports stated that the consultations focused mainly on the Iran threat.

On January 30, Israeli president Shimon Peres met with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Switzerland, and asked him to work "in a serious and steadfast manner against Iran's nuclear armament." Peres reaffirmed Israeli concerns that "A nuclear weapon in the hands of a fanatical regime such as the one in Iran poses a threat not only to Israel but also to the entire world." Israel appears unconvinced by the Obama Administration’s heretofore diplomatic approach. Retired Israeli general Shlomo Brom  of the Israeli Institute for National Strategic Studies has said the current Israeli government is unlikely to be satisfied with the Obama administration's policies and said he too believed a stronger line was necessary.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in December that Iran is Israel's greatest security threat. He called for the world to take action before Iran develops a capability to build nuclear warheads. "The time for tough sanctions is now," said Netanyahu. "If this moment is allowed to pass, what good will sanctions do afterwards?"

Unresolved for now is whether  the new US deployments might change Israel's thinking about the possibility of a military strike against Iran, perhaps discouraging it from taking any action. While the 1981 aerial bombardment by Israel of Iraqi was successful, it is far from clear whether it can be as successful against Iran. Even so, in 2008 Israel conducted military exercises over Greek airspace that sought to simulate an attack on Iran, which has a Russian-made radar defense system similar to that in Greece. The Israel exercise on the S-300 missile defense system was first reported in The Cutting Edge News in July 2008.

An attack on Iran could result in a significant retaliation by Iran’s partners Hezbollah and Hamas from their redoubts in Palestine. The U.S. apparently remains assured that Israel will not make a pre-eminent strike on Iran. On January 29, National Security Adviser James Jones said that the US and Israel have a very close working relationship and called his Israeli interlocutors “very responsible” in their approach to Iran’s nuclear threat. “We have very good dialog with Israel, continual dialog.”

Indeed, Iran is already making feints against Israel through its Arab surrogates. Gen. Jones has warned that he predicts Hezbollah and Hamas will escalate hostilities against Israel from Lebanon and Gaza, respectively. Already, Israel has marked heightened tension along its northern border in recent weeks, with both Hezbollah and its Syrian allies mobilizing forces while telling the Arab world that the Jewish state will attack Lebanon shortly.

The Obama administration continues to weigh its options, having sent both Secretary of state Hillary Clinton and CIA Director Leon Panetta on diplomatic junkets to Europe and the Mideast within a week’s time. Complicating the scenario is the Senate bill that passed on January 28 that would create unilateral sanctions on companies doing business in Iran. The measure aims to bar foreign firms from doing business with Iran’s energy sector, by cutting off their access to the US market and American loans or other financial assistance. The Senate’s unanimous voice vote follows the passage last month of its own measure by the US House of Representatives, and the two versions will need to be reconciled before being sent President Obama for signature. The measure aims to bar foreign firms from doing business with Iran’s energy sector, by cutting off their access to the US market and American loans or other financial assistance.

The Obama Administration is seeking multilateral sanctions and has been pushing hard with its European interlocutors. It is also seeking to perhaps modify the legislation on Iran to allow for “flexibility” in dealing with U.S. allies and therefore bolster a multilateral approach to the Islamic Republic. The Obama Administration is apparently concerned that unilateral U.S. sanctions on foreign companies would scotch cooperation with international partners, Europe especially, with whom it hopes to achieve a multilateral sanctions regime. Therefore, the U.S. is looking to get a UN Security Council sanctions resolution: a process that is expected to begin when France takes over the leadership of the council on February 1. The congressional legislation coming before President Obama is seen as possibly derailing U.S. diplomatic efforts within its European allies.

“As pressure on the regime in Teheran builds over its nuclear program, there is a heightened risk of further attacks against Israel or with efforts to promote renewed violence in the West Bank,” said National Security Adviser Jones, who urged a re-start of peace talks between Israel and Palestine, “to show that progress cannot be derailed or denied.” For her part, Secretary Clinton said in Paris on January 29 of the Iranian threat, “It will produce an arms race.” Clinton repeated what she had told Chinese representatives, saying “Israel will feel an existential threat. All of that is incredibly dangerous.”

Cutting Edge senior correspondent Martin Barillas is the editor of www.SperoForum.com.

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