MER: IRAN on Guard as PALESTINANS Face Civil War

2005-01-19

Richard Moore

--------------------------------------------------------
To: "mer" <•••@••.•••>
From: "MER - Mid-East Realities - MiddleEast.Org" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: IRAN on Guard as PALESTINANS Face Civil War
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2005 16:59:29 -0500

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IRAN on GUARD
Palestinian Civil War Looms

MER - Washington - 18 January:  In Palestine the Israelis --
with still increasing American help and support and having
successfully assassinated the senior credible leaders
including Ahmed Yassin and Yasser Arafat -- are now quite
literally forcing Abu Mazen to end the Intifada and acquiesce
to Israeli dictate.  The likely result if Abu Mazen attempts
to fully comply is the Palestinian Civil War the Israelis have
been manuevering for some time to bring about, regardless of
all the verbal smokescreens designed to obfuscate the actual
realities of the situation.

13 Palestinians killed this weekend

17 January 2005 - The Palestine Monitor:    Thirteen
Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip this weekend in a
rash of Israeli violence, including a Palestinian mother and
her son who were shot by snipers while on their roof. 
According to an eyewitness, Israeli soldiers attacked
Palestinian homes in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the
southern Gaza Strip on Sunday.  Shells were fired at a
family's home, and its roof began to burn.  The family and
fire brigade managed to put out the fire, and then Feda Aram,
50, her husband Suleiman, 54, their son Abdullah, and other
relatives went to the roof to see what damage had been done. 
They were surprised by a hail of Israeli sniper fire, which
killed Feda and her son, severely injured Suleiman, and
moderately injured other family members.  These Israeli
offensives come at a time when prospects for peace are hopeful
but tenuous.  Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced on
Sunday that he was authorizing his forces to hit Gaza, a
mostly civilian area, "with no restrictions," i.e. without the
restraints imposed by national or international law.

The Palestinian leadership has called for a halt to attacks on
Israel by Palestinian militants.  But government-sanctioned
Israeli attacks against Palestinian non-combatants make
newly-elected Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's task of
negotiating with and reigning in Palestinian militants much
more difficult.

But in a sense Palestine is now a sideshow, for no real
two-state solution is any longer possible west of the Jordan
and most certainly Ariel Sharon has not spent a lifetime
vanquishing and killing the Palestinians only to turn around
now when he has them everywhere surrounded, cowering, and
bleeding.

Now, in the aftermath of 9/11 and the new American/Israeli
crusade to remake the Middle East as they want it, the whole
region is in play and at stake.   

On one side are the forces aligned with the American Empire,
technologically and militarily vastly superior to their
opponents.   Much of Europe and other U.S. clients in the
world remain in uneasy alliance with the Americans despite
stylistic and policy differences.

On the other side is now an uneasy but extraordinarily
determined coalition of Muslim-inspired fighters hardened by
religious zeal coupled with Arab nationalists together
fighting desperately to throw off the new shackles of what
they see as re-imposed colonialism and imperialism -- now
constantly  termed 'freedom' and 'democracy' by the American
President who continues to assert God choose him and guides
him. 

The firepower plus the huge technological and financial
advantage available to the Americans is far beyond anything
the world has ever seen. Yet already, rather amazing to many
observers, is how much opposition the 'insurgents' have been
able to muster against the colonial invading armies regardless
of all their disadvantages.

With the Arab world still largely co-opted and in the ruling
hands of American-backed 'client regimes' and CIA-taught
police states, regional power has shifted to Iran whose 1979
revolution continues to shake the very foundations of Western
control of the vast and rich region.  

While the much in the news Palestinian situation is
manipulated by Washington largely for public relations reasons
in coordination with the Israelis, the growing power of Iran
-- in a new embryonic alliance with China as well as with
Russia -- is what the U.S. and Israel have decided they must
suppress and cripple one way or another.

Indeed the situation with Iran is getting more and more
dangerous by the week with an explosion possible now at any
time.    Top Iranian political and military leaders have
already gone public with threats to devastatingly
counter-attack against Israel or even 'pre-empt' against
American troops in the region.    They have vowed not to let
happen to them what has been done to Iraq.    Already the
public threatening -- not to even mention all that is going on
behind-the-scenes out of view -- is of a very unusual and
extraordinarily dangerous kind.

Think back just a few years now.  For quite some time the U.S.
insisted that the 'decision to attack' Iraq had not yet been
taken.  The U.S. went loudly to the Security Council with that
message in 2002, then again with Colin Powell in 2003 --
though all the while preparations for invading and occupying
Iraq were covertly underway.   Then, shortly after the Iraq
invasion began, non other than Ariel Sharon in Israel publicly
and loudly proclaimed that after Iraq must soon come Iran.

Whether the Iranians have sufficiently secret and hardened
weapons facilities, and whether or not they have at this time
sufficient deterrent weapons capabilities of the chemical and
biological kind, is unknown.   The betting in Washington and
in Israel seems to be that now is the time to strike and take
control, before they do.

They may be right about that.   But even so the kind of
military attack that would be needed to neutralize and disarm
Iran would be like none other before.   And the possible
tsunami-like wave of political, economic, and military
ramifications that might flow from such an expansion of the
American/Israeli crusade might also be like none other before;
potentially sweeping the world into a real World War III if
not "just" a lingering lower-grade world-wide conflagation
with no end in sight.   

Beyond devasting more of the Middle East such a wave of
aftershocks could very well further drain the U.S. of its
resources, it's energies, and it's remaining credibility; and
further isolate Israel until some day in the future when Arab
and Muslim revenge would become possible.    Bottom line: 
There are substantial unforseen ramifications likely to what
the American Neocons and their Israeli allies have planned;
far far greater and more dangerous than what has so far
resulted from the Invasion of Iraq and the defeat of the
Palestinians.

_______________________________________

Now US ponders attack on Iran

Hardliners in Pentagon ready to neutralise 'nuclear threat' posed by Tehran


Julian Borger in Washington and Ian Traynor

<http://www.guardian.co.uk/>The Guardian Tuesday January 18,
2005 -   President Bush's second inauguration on Thursday will
provide the signal for an intense and urgent debate in
Washington over whether or when to extend the "global war on
terror" to Iran, according to officials and foreign policy
analysts in Washington.

That debate is being driven by "neo-conservatives" at the
Pentagon who emerged from the post-election Bush reshuffle
unscathed, despite their involvement in collecting misleading
intelligence on Iraq's weapons in the run-up to the 2003
invasion.

Washington has stood aside from recent European negotiations
with Iran and Pentagon hardliners are convinced that the
current European-brokered deal suspending nuclear enrichment
and intensifying weapons inspections is unenforceable and will
collapse in months.

Only the credible threat, and if necessary the use, of air and
special operations attacks against Iran's suspected nuclear
facilities will stop the ruling clerics in Tehran acquiring
warheads, many in the administration argue.

Moderates, who are far fewer in the second Bush administration
than the first, insist that if Iran does have a secret weapons
programme, it is likely to be dispersed and buried in places
almost certainly unknown to US intelligence. The potential for
Iranian retaliation inside Iraq and elsewhere is so great, the
argument runs, that there is in effect no military option.

A senior administration official involved in developing Iran
policy rejected that argument. "It is not as simple as that,"
he told the Guardian at a recent foreign policy forum in
Washington. "It is not a straightforward problem but at some
point the costs of doing nothing may just become too high. In
Iran you have the intersection of nuclear weapons and proven
ties to terrorism. That is what we are looking at now."

The New Yorker reported this week that the Pentagon has
already sent special operations teams into Iran to locate
possible nuclear weapons sites. The report by Seymour Hersh, a
veteran investigative journalist, was played down by the White
House and the Pentagon, with comments that stopped short of an
outright denial.

"The Iranian regime's apparent nuclear ambitions and its
demonstrated support for terrorist organisations is a global
challenge that deserves much more serious treatment than
Seymour Hersh provides," Lawrence DiRita, the chief Pentagon
spokesman, said yesterday: "Mr Hersh's article is so riddled
with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his
entire piece is destroyed."

However, the Guardian has learned the Pentagon was recently
contemplating the infiltration of members of the Iranian rebel
group, Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) over the Iraq-Iran border, to
collect intelligence. The group, based at Camp Ashraf, near
Baghdad, was under the protection of Saddam Hussein, and is
under US guard while Washington decides on its strategy.

The MEK has been declared a terrorist group by the state
department, but a former Farsi-speaking CIA officer said he
had been asked by neo-conservatives in the Pentagon to travel
to Iraq to oversee "MEK cross-border operations". He refused,
and does not know if those operations have begun.

"They are bringing a lot of the old war-horses from the Reagan
and Iran-contra days into a sort of kitchen cabinet outside
the government to write up policy papers on Iran," the former
officer said.

He said the policy discussion was being overseen by Douglas
Feith, the under secretary of defence for policy who was one
of the principal advocates of the Iraq war. The Pentagon did
not return calls for comment on the issue yesterday. In the
run-up to the Iraq invasion, Mr Feith's Office of Special
Plans also used like-minded experts on contract from outside
the government, to serve as consultants helping the Pentagon
counter the more cautious positions of the state department
and the CIA.

Crazy

"They think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities
and destabilise the government. They believe they can get rid
of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like
Gap jeans, all the world's problems are solved. I think it's
delusional," the former CIA officer said.

However, others believe that at a minimum military strikes
could set back Iran's nuclear programme several years. Reuel
Marc Gerecht, another former CIA officer who is now a leading
neo-conservative voice on Iran at the American Enterprise
Institute, said: "It would certainly delay [the programme] and
it can be done again. It's not a one-time affair. I would be
shocked if a military strike could not delay the programme."
Mr Gerecht said the internal debate in the administration was
only just beginning.

"This administration does not really have an Iran policy," he
said. "Iraq has been a fairly consuming endeavour, but it's
getting now towards the point where people are going to focus
on [Iran] hard and have a great debate."

That debate could be brought to a head in the next few months.
Diplomats and officials in Vienna following the Iranian
nuclear saga at the International Atomic Energy Agency expect
the Iran dispute to re-erupt by the middle of this year,
predicting a breakdown of the diplomatic track the EU troika
of Britain, Germany and France are pursuing with Tehran. The
Iran-EU agreement, reached in November, was aimed at getting
Iran to abandon the manufacture of nuclear fuel which can be
further refined to bomb-grade.

Now the Iranians are feeding suspicion by continuing to
process uranium concentrate into gaseous form, a breach "not
of the letter but of the spirit of the agreement," said one
European diplomat.

Opinions differ widely over how long it would take Iran to
produce a deliverable nuclear warhead, and some analysts
believe that Iranian scientists have encountered serious
technical difficulties.

"The Israelis believe that by 2007, the Iranians could enrich
enough uranium for a bomb. Some of us believe it could be the
end of this decade," said David Albright, a nuclear weapons
expert at the Institute for Science and International
Security. A recent war-game carried out by retired military
officers, intelligence officials and diplomats for the
Atlantic Monthly, came to the conclusion that there were no
feasible military options and if negotiations and the threat
of sanctions fail, the US might have to accept Iran as a
nuclear power.

However, Sam Gardiner, a retired air force colonel who led the
war-game, acknowledged that the Bush administration might not
come to the same conclusion.

"Everything you hear about the planning for Iraq suggests
logic may not be the basis for the decision," he said.

Mr Gerecht, who took part in the war-game but dissented from
the conclusion, believes the Bush White House, still mired in
Iraq, has yet to make up its mind.

"The bureaucracy will come down on the side of doing nothing.
The real issue is: will the president and the vice president
disagree with them? If I were a betting man, I'd bet the US
will not use pre-emptive force. However, I would not want to
bet a lot."
_______________________________________

U.S. Is Punishing 8 Chinese Firms for Aiding Iran

By DAVID E. SANGER

NYTimes - 18 January  -- WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 - The Bush
administration imposed penalties this month against some of
China's largest companies for aiding Iran's efforts to improve
its ballistic missiles. The move is part of an effort by the
White House and American intelligence agencies to identify and
slow important elements of Iran's weapons programs.

The White House made no public announcement of the penalties,
and the State Department placed a one-page notice on page 133
of The Federal Register early this month listing eight Chinese
companies affected. The notice kept classified the nature of
the technology they had exported.

Since the Federal Register announcement, the penalties have
been noted on some Web sites that concentrate on China and
proliferation issues.

President Bush has repeatedly praised China for its help in
seeking a diplomatic end to the North Korean nuclear standoff.
Some officials in the administration speculated in the past
week that the decision not to publicize the penalties might
have been part of an effort not to jeopardize Chinese
cooperation at a critical moment in the administration's
effort to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

China has repeatedly vowed to curb its sales of missile
technology, starting with an agreement with the first Bush
administration in 1992, and expanded with the Clinton
administration in 2000.

But two of the largest companies cited in the State
Department's list, China Great Wall Industry Corporation and
China North Industry Corporation, known as Norinco, have been
repeatedly penalized for more than a decade; each is closely
linked to the Chinese military.

A third company on the penalties list, the China
Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation, or Catic, is
one of the country's largest producers of military aircraft
and was accused of diverting to military use sophisticated
machine tools bought from McDonnell Douglas. Eighteen months
ago, a senior State Department official, Paula A. DeSutter,
referred to several of the companies as part of China's
"serial proliferator problem," and told a Congressional
commission on relations between the United States and China
that although the Chinese government had often repeated its
opposition to missile proliferation, "the reality has been
quite different."

In the 1990's, Republicans in Congress began a series of
investigations into China's efforts to obtain American nuclear
technology and to export missile and nuclear expertise to
Pakistan, Iran and possibly other nations. At the time, they
sharply criticized the Clinton administration, accusing it of
playing down Chinese offenses. Bush administration officials,
when asked about the penalties over the past week, said
nothing was particularly notable about the latest violations
and that no evidence suggested that China's leadership was
aware of the sales.

One senior American official said the transactions took place
"within the past year or 18 months," or well after the last
American penalties were announced on Chinese sales to Iran, in
July 2003.

American officials said the list of exports to Iran was
classified, but they described them as high-performance metals
and components that are banned under the Iran Nonproliferation
Act of 2000 because they could aid the country's efforts to
extend the range of its missile fleet. It was unclear whether
some of the technology was "dual use," meaning that it could
be used for civilian or military purposes.

Iran's efforts to develop longer-distance missiles that are
capable of ever larger payloads are increasingly of concern
among intelligence officials. American officials have charged
that Iran is trying to develop nuclear warheads, which its
leadership denies.

"We suspect that the Iranians also have the Chinese bomb
design," a former senior American official said several months
ago, referring to a design that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the
Pakistani nuclear scientist, acquired from China, sold to
Libya and was suspected of peddling elsewhere. "What everyone
is looking for is the missile that matches up with the
design."

American intelligence agencies are focusing much energy,
officials say, on identifying major sites for Iran's nuclear
and missile programs. That information is collected, in part,
to plan for possible military strikes, though President Bush
has repeatedly said he is focusing on diplomacy to disarm
Iran.

Still, Mr. Bush has also repeatedly said he would never
summarily rule out any option in a crisis. In an interview
broadcast Monday night by NBC News, when asked about using
military action in Iran, he said, "I hope we can solve it
diplomatically, but I will never take any option off the
table."

<http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?050124fa_fact>In an
article in The New Yorker this week, titled "The Coming Wars,"
Seymour M. Hersh reports that "the administration has been
conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least
since last summer."

He continued: "Much of the focus is on the accumulation of
intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear,
chemical and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The
goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more,
such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and
short-term commando raids."

Administration officials said intelligence agencies had long
worked to identify those sites, but they denied that more
consideration was being given to striking those sites.

"That's not the plan," a senior official said. "In fact, a lot
of energy is going into trying to keep the Israelis from
getting ideas along those lines."

For now, some of the American intelligence is being provided
to the International Atomic Energy Agency to spur it to
conduct investigations in Iran. Last week, inspectors visited
one such military site, called Parchin, where the United
States says work may be under way to develop a nuclear
warhead.

Although the agency took soil samples to determine whether
nuclear materials had been present at the site, it has no
jurisdiction over missile work, or any authority to enforce
the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary
international agreement that regulates the sale of missile
components and designs. Many of Iran's missiles are based on
North Korean designs, and one North Korean company, Paeksan
Associated Corporation, was penalized, with the eight Chinese
companies. The penalties bar the companies from doing business
with the United States government, and prevent them from
obtaining export licenses allowing them to buy controlled
technologies from American companies. Some of the penalized
Chinese companies do little or no business with the United
States, but Norinco, a maker of handguns and assault weapons,
does millions of dollars of business here, and other companies
are constantly in search of American technology.

Some American businesses have argued that the penalties are
often self-defeating, contributing to the huge trade gap with
China but doing little to deter Chinese companies from
exporting nuclear, chemical or missile technology to nuclear
aspirants like Iran.

A senior administration official, asked about the penalties,
said Monday in an interview that the Chinese "are moving in
the right direction generally" on proliferation and have
stopped some exports to North Korea, including a chemical that
could be used in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel into weapons.

But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity
because the subject included intelligence matters, said that
"while they are helping us on North Korea, they have not been
as helpful on Iran," perhaps because of China's ever expanding
need for oil and other energy sources.

President Bush, the official said, was trying to make the
point to Chinese officials that their companies "are not going
to be able to sustain the patterns of trade needed for strong
economic growth and continued inward investment" in China if
they are repeatedly penalized for aiding Iran.

But evidence is slight that previous penalties have seriously
impeded the growth of the Chinese companies. In her testimony
to the China commission, Ms. DeSutter, the senior State
Department official, argued that Beijing's nonproliferation
commitments of 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000 and, most recently, a
specific set of export control rules issued by China in 2002
"occurred only under the imminent threat, or in response to
the actual imposition, of sanctions."

MID-EAST REALITIES  -  www.MiddleEast.Org
Phone: (202) 362-5266     Fax: (815) 366-0800   
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