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Filed under: Iran — Rick Moran @ 8:55 am

In diplomacy, this is called “sending a message.” Or, if you are President of a country that is seeking to build nuclear weapons, it is called “The Voice of Doom:”

According to Ulfkotte’s report, “western security sources” claim that during CIA Director Porter Goss’ Dec. 12 visit to Ankara, he asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to provide support for a possibile 2006 air strike against Iranian nuclear and military facilities. More specifically, Goss is said to have asked Turkey to provide unfettered exchange of intelligence that could help with a mission.

DDP also reported that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman and Pakistan have been informed in recent weeks of Washington’s military plans. The countries, apparently, were told that air strikes were a “possible option,” but they were given no specific timeframe for the operations.

(HT: Ed Morrissey)

Gee…I wonder how Der Spiegel got a hold of that little tidbit of information? So does Misha:

So it all comes down to a leak (intentional, no doubt) to Der Spiegel which is high on innuendo and low on actual useful facts. Yep, it’s a plant alright.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t planning an attack, since it should be pretty damn obvious to anybody with a functioning brain that negotiations aren’t working one little bit and time is running out — FAST. If we don’t, the Israelis will do it alone, because they have no choice.

In his book The White House Years, Henry Kissinger relates several anecdotes about how this leaking occurs. The subtlty varies from case to case, but it basically comes down to a little game that’s played by the US government and the media. The media knows the story is a plant but plays along because the news is just too juicy to pass up. It is also not uncommon to use foreign media to break the story. In Nixon’s case, I’m sure the enmity of the American press towards his administration had something to do with that. But it also reflects a need on the part of government to get the story maximum impact. If the Iran story had appeared first in the American press, it would have been interpreted through the prism of partisan politics and media bias. This way, the “first draft” of the story comes out raw so that the impact on the target nation - Iran - isn’t cushioned by the Washington Post or New York Times running stories with opposing viewpoints from Democratic party politicians.

This leak is not very subtle in its implications. The reason for that is simple; the United States government feels it absolutely vital that Iran get the message clearly and unmistakably. Also, it is hard to match the subtley of Ahmadinejad whose diplomatic tip toeing resembles an elephant walking across a field of eggshells. Saying you will “wipe Israel off the map” is not very subtle and hence, the response “we will bomb the crap out of you” is entirely appropriate.

The question is, are we serious about attacking Iran? And what will be Iran’s response both to the threats and any actual attack?

The answer is we are dead serious about bombing Iran’s nuclear infrastructure even at the risk of starting a general war in the Middle East and an Arab oil boycott. Any sustained bombing campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities - and estimates range from 10 days to 2 weeks with hundreds of sorties - will roil the “Arab street” and force even moderates like King Abdullah II of Jordan into opposition. Then there’s that other King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who would be committing suicide if he didn’t condemn any American military action against Iran. Where Saudi Arabia goes, so goes most of the other Gulf states. Even Kuwait would be hard pressed to say anything nice about us if we attacked Iran.

What all this adds up to is trouble in the form of a potential oil boycott by many producing states - not just in the Middle East - against the United States. I daresay that President Goatface (Hugo Chavez of Venezuala) would be in full throated anti-American howl and would join any effort by Arab states to choke off the flow of oil to the US. And has anyone been listening to what Mexico’s President Fox has been saying lately about the US government’s idea to build a fence along the border to try and control immigration? Mexico may exact a heavy price for continuing to supply us with oil in the event of a boycott by OPEC.

The short of it is that the countries that supply the United States with most of its imported (and refined) oil would probably participate in a boycott which would be absolutely catostrophic for the US economy. This is the reason for the leak at this time. While Ahmadinejad will bluster like a schooyard bully, he knows full well that while we probably wouldn’t be able to destroy his nuclear program completely, we could set it back several years. This is a prospect that Ahmadinejad and his master, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, would find worrying. They are counting on an atomic bomb the same way that President Musharraf counted on the Pakistani device; as a domestic political ploy to generate patriotic pride and boost the popularity of the government. In Musharraf’s case, it worked pretty well. What worked even better was American assistance following 9/11 in tamping down fanatical jihadists who seek to make Pakistan another Islamic “republic.”

Iran will have no such assistance in dealing with its restless minorites nor the growing opposition of secularlists who chafe at the restrictions imposed by the mullahs and their Revolutionary Guard enforcers. For this reason, they see the bomb as a domestic unifying factor that would ease pressure on the government to reform. And of course, they see the bomb primarily as a guarantor of the Islamic state. The US will not invade if there is the prospect that their invasion force would be incinerated.

Could an attack on Iran by American forces precipitate a general Middle East war? During Gulf War I, Saddam launched missles at Israel to try and provoke the Jewish state into becoming involved in the fighting which would have destroyed the fragile coalition built by Bush #41 as Arab armies would melt away less they be tainted by being seen as fighting on Israel’s side against Saddam.

The problem with Israel sitting on the sidelines during an American attack would be different but could cause just as many headaches for Washington. Syria (or their proxies in Lebanon) could launch a massive series of attacks against the Jewish state that could provoke Tel Aviv into responding directly against Damascus. The resulting shockwave of Syrian and Israeli forces exchanging blows would be felt all the way to Bahgdad. Hatred of Israel would unite the Arab world and could precipitate a situation that would even cause Egypt’s Mubarak to re-evaluate his relationship with Israel.

In short, all bets would be off and things could get very bloody very quickly. And don’t expect Israel to wait around to see if any of their potential foes would attack. The IDF would strike first and strike very hard. All things considered, an American attack on Iran would create a tinderbox situation in the Middle East where one wrong move, one miscalculation by any of the major players would result in a million men going off to war.

Some analysts have put the likelihood of a general war in the Middle East as a result of an American attack as a 50-50 proposition.

And if, as some military strategests have speculated, Special Forces troops would be necessary to complete the destruction of some of these sites, the question would arise from where would they take off? It is generally assumed that the US would use long range bombers based in the states for most of the sorties against Iranian nuclear facilities (it is unlikely that the Navy would send a carrier battle group into the Gulf what with the Iranians armed with sophisticated anti-ship missiles supplied by France and China.) But Special Ops would need to be based closer to the target which would probably mean that they would take off from Iraq.

Would the newly minted Iraqi government defy the will of its own people not to mention risk the wrath of the Iranians by allowing the US military overflight permission or okay the basing of Special Forces on the Iranian border?

I hope you can see now why this leak of our military plans is so important. The Iranians are counting on their friends Russia and China in the United Nations to veto any sanctions regime the US and its European allies can come up with to force Ahmadinejad to give up his nuclear ambitions. Therefore, it becomes imperative for the Iranians to be assured that our military response will be initiated even without the consent of the United Nations Security Council. Despite all the terrible ramifications to the United States of an attack on Iran - ramifications the Iranians know as well as we do - the mad mullahs must be convinced that we will attack regardless of the consequences to our economy or our allies.

Will it work? It may buy us a little time. But the nuclear clock is ticking and unless the Iranians back down, it appears that the Middle East could endure a savage spring and summer that will test the resolve of the United States in the War on Terror as never before.


  1. Thanks for the link and, may I add, excellent analysis too.

    Yes, it is indeed deliberate as I said. You bring up an excellent point that I forgot to cover, the point being that it was the foreign press that it was leaked to for all of the reasons you so correctly mention. Add to that that the leaker was a NATO official and the distancing from the U.S. becomes so obvious that it’s hard to even pretend that it’s not deliberate.

    Again, I love these mind games :-)

    The core question is, of course, “would we do it?” as you point out and I agree with you that yes, we would and we will.

    We have to.

    If we choose to sit this one out, the Israelis will have no choice but to go it alone with predictable consequences for the political and military situation over there. Faced with a Jooo “solo”, the Arabs will most definitely close ranks and descend on Israel like locusts again. This we will be unable to stay out of so we’ll end up with a 100% probability of a major military confrontation in the Middle East and all of the consequences to our oil supply that you mention, not to mention the fact that the war will become very hot, very fast.

    On top of that, the Israelis will have a very tough time of succeeding on their own. This isn’t Osiraq where the target was a single one with a nice bullseye painted on it. So we’ll end up with a certain major war on our hands and not even be sure that we got the Iranian program for our troubles.

    Clearly, doing nothing is not an option for us here. We can’t ask the Israelis to sit idly by while a nation that has declared its intentions to wipe them off the map gets nukes.

    That leaves us with door #2, doing it before the Israelis do.

    I don’t worry too much about the Syrians piling on to create a diversion. Babyface Assad is too much of a pussy to risk being wiped out (and wiped out he will be if he tries anything) simply to prove a point, so if we can talk the Izzies into playing possum for a bit, we have a fair chance of avoiding a conflagration in the Levant. It’s not a cert, nothing is, but it’s better odds than the “let the Izzies do the bombing for us” option, much better.

    Nor are the Egyptians likely to give up their massive U.S. Aid and lucrative arrangements with us unless provoked to the point where they have to respond.

    Furthermore, we have a very high probability of being able to do it effectively, based on our available bases, materiel and personnel.

    Staging it from Iraq would be the easiest way, I agree, but we won’t have to. The SpecOps team can stage from numerous other locations close to the action, including a carrier group. Close enough for SpecOps, yet far enough away to be safe from Iranian countermeasures. Of course, given the nature of SpecOps, there’s always the possibility that we COULD stage it from Iraq without anybody knowing it until after the shooting stopped.

    Doing it ourselves would still carry a risk of a major conflagration, but the speed and force with which we can project a shock and awe campaign on the targets, it may well be too late for anybody to do anything once they wake up from their stupor. At any rate, worst case we’ll end up in the same situation that we’d end up with for CERTAIN if we do nothing and force the Israelis to act.

    So yes, 2006 promises to be interesting. We’ll know for sure before April.

    Comment by Misha I — 1/3/2006 @ 1:22 am

  2. An oil boycott is not in the cards under any circumstances. Least of all from the Saudis.

    First, because the MidEast regimes who would supposedly be participating need the money. Many are indebted (quite a feat, that), and/or have social welfare schemes that help to keep their powderkegs stable, and the flow of booze, women, and gold-plated bathtubs coming. Cut your dollar intake, and bad things start to happen. This isn’t 1973. Venezuela is, I might add, in an even more precarious position. Which is why El Caudillo Chavez is America’s #5 oil source, and will continue to be.

    Second, because there is no way to cut the USA off. The only option that’s feasible is to ratchet back production as a whole, and in that event you’d hit not just the USA but also Europe (bet that would make for a watchable new set of riots), China (uh-oh), India… many more players than there used to be. Not wise to piss them all off at once.

    I’ll add that the Saudis in particular would quietly (and maybe even not so quietly) cheer an attack on Iran. They still talk about “The Arabian Gulf” there, you know…

    Comment by Joe Katzman — 1/5/2006 @ 2:21 am

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