MER: Onward Toward World War III

2005-02-19

Richard Moore

Friends,

MER provides a good summary of various signs pointing toward
nuclear confrontation. I'd put  the article in the "must read"
category. And yet, some important elements are left out. One
is the increasingly close connections between China and other
parts of the world, in particular Iran. Iran is becoming a
major supplier of petroleum to China, and a US invasion of
Iran could be seen by China as an attempt to get a
stranglehold on China's energy supplies, which would in fact
be the case. Might they respond in some way? Have they already
supplied Iran with nuclear-armed Sunburn missiles? How would
Russia respond? I read one report, which may only be an
Internet legend, that Russia has privately told Western
officials that an attack on Syria or Iran would lead to
Russian retaliation against Israel.

rkm

--------------------------------------------------------
From: "MER - Mid-East Realities - MiddleEast.Org"
Subject: Onward Toward World War III
Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2005 08:20:36 -0500

<http://www.MiddleEast.Org> 
News, Views, & Analysis Governments, Lobbies, & the
Corporate Media Don't Want You To Know




Closer and closer to
World War III


MIDDLEEAST.ORG - MER - Washington - 19 February:    Some kind
of World War III seems to get closer and closer by the crisis,
by the fear, and by the new high-tech as well as low-tech
weapons.    If and when it fully erupts it won't necessarily
be a take-off on previous wars; the world has changed
considerably since World War II and the Cold War with all of
its sub-hot-wars that came close but never did result in
nuclear war.  It's only 60 years since the fire-bombings of
Dresden and the atomic bombings of Japan.  It's only 43 years
since the Cuban Missile Crisis and only 33 since the Middle
East War that brought about the 'nuclear alert'.

It was just two years ago that no less than Walter Cronkite,
long known as the most credible man in America and for those
too young to remember long-time anchor of the CBS Evening
News, publicly warned that World War III was approaching.  
Not long thereafter one of the most senior Generals
long-associated with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
warned a synagogue audience in off-the-record remarks that he
was sure World War III was coming and everyone better prepare.
  Both of these warnings  were featured and explained by MER
at the time; neither was seriously reported in the Washington
Post or New York Times or PBS News Hour.

The evangelical American President is off to Europe declaring
he will seek support for his policies toward Iran, Syria, and
in fact against all who are not with the U.S. and Israel in
what is their New World Order crusade.   While they try to
mask this imperial NWO with simple-minded trademark rhetorical
excuses --  'the war on terrorism' and 'democracy and freedom'
-- much of the world isn't buying, no matter how much 'shock
and awe' propaganda the Americans finance and the Israelis
push.

It didn't take long at all after the Bush/Cheney/Neocon
election (some would say selection) for the tensions with Iran
and Syria to be considerably escalated and a new pre-war
climate established.   The Americans and the Israelis are
determined that only they will have a monopoly on weapons of
mass destruction in the Middle East; that on top of course of
overwhelming advantages when it comes to spying and
propanganda, as well as massive economic and political
power.  

In rapid successor of late, the Iranians have been quite
publicly targeted, Rafik Hariri was so visibly assassinated
after Arafat's 'stealth assasination, the Americans are close
to breaking diplomatic relations with Syria, another false
'peace process roadmap' has been temporarily resuscitated in
the Holy Land, and Damascus and Tehran have declared a 'Common
Front' appealing to others to come to their assistance. 
Meanwhile as well arms sales from the U.S. and Europe to
Israel and other American allies continue to escalate while
pressures and calculated threats against all potential
opponents, including China, are growing.


When it comes to what is still called by some American
'journalism' -- even as it continually escalates to more naked
jingoism and propaganda -- it's bad enough what comes these
days from The Washington Post, the New York Times, and the TV
networks especially still ascending FOX.   But when it comes
to war-mongering and whipping up fears The Washington Times --
closely aligned as it is with the neocons, the Evangelicals,
and the Zionists -- is always out there on top of things as
the first two articles that follow demonstrate.  After that
The Guardian as usual puts things in greater perspective.



<http://insider.washtimes.com/articles/normal.php?storyid=
20050217-101518-3750r>Iran urges Islamic vigilance against
'plots'

By Nasser Karimi - AP

Washington Times - February 18, 2005


TEHRAN -- Iran yesterday urged Islamic states in the Middle
East to create a powerful alliance and remain vigilant in the
face of "U.S. and Israeli plots," a call coming a day after
Syria and Iran declared they would form a "united front"
against any threats.

The United States has escalated its criticism of both Syria
and Iran, demanding that Syria withdraw its troops from
Lebanon and accusing Tehran of running a covert nuclear
weapons program.

The United States also has said both countries, which are
under U.S. economic sanctions, need to do more to prevent
insurgents from using their territory to cross into Iraq.

The United States has accused Iran of seeking to produce
nuclear weapons. President Bush has labeled Iran part of an
"axis of evil" with North Korea and prewar Iraq, and Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice last month labeled Tehran an
"outpost of tyranny." Yesterday, Mr. Bush said Syria was "out
of step" with other nations in the Middle East, and the United
States would work with other countries to pressure Damascus to
remove its troops from Lebanon.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa told CNN earlier this
month that Syria has 15,000 to 16,000 troops in Lebanon.

U.S. relations with Syria have deteriorated, especially since
the attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik
Hariri. Many Lebanese blamed Monday's car bombing in Beirut on
Syria, but the Syrian government denied responsibility.
Washington withdrew its ambassador from Syria in response to
the assassination.

Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaking after a
meeting with Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otari,
said it was important to strengthen relations among Iran,
Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and other Islamic states in the region,
the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.

The relationships between Shi'ite Iran and Arab countries have
been rocky for some time. They were strained after the 1979
revolution in Iran and worsened during the eight-year war
against Iran launched by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

All Arab countries except Syria supported Iraq in the war out
of fear that Iran's revolution would spread.

Mr. Rafsanjani, who is widely expected to run in Iran's June
presidential election, said the United States and Israel were
trying to create divisions among the region's countries, which
he said must "stay completely vigilant vis-a-vis the U.S. and
Israeli plots in this regard." Mr. al-Otari was quoted by IRNA
as saying Israel was "the source of instability" in the Middle
East, and Syria would continue supporting the Palestinians and
Lebanese in their struggle.

Both Syria and Iran back Hezbollah, which Washington considers
a terrorist group in part because it sponsors Palestinian
violence and funds suicide bombings that have killed dozens of
Israelis. Hezbollah operates mostly in southern Lebanon and
has carried out a cross-border war with Israel for years.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said Hezbollah was
responsible for about 80 percent of terror attacks on Israel.

On Wednesday, Syria and Iran said they would form a "united
front" to confront any threats against them. But the Syrian
ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, later said in
a television interview that "we don't need an alliance against
the United States."


<http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20050217-114812-3737r.htm>
Chinese military buildup assessed as threat to U.S.

By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published February 18, 2005


China's military buildup is "tilting the balance of power in
the Taiwan Strait" in ways threatening to the United States,
say U.S. intelligence officials, whose blunt comments contrast
sharply to past intelligence assessments of the communist
country's capabilities.

"Improved Chinese capabilities threaten U.S. forces in the
region," CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence Wednesday.

"China continues to develop more robust, survivable
nuclear-armed missiles, as well as conventional capabilities
for use in regional conflict," he said.

Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence
Agency, said in prepared testimony to the panel that China is
adding numbers and more capable ballistic missiles to its
arsenal to "improve their survivability and war-fighting
capabilities, enhance their coercion and deterrence value, and
overcome ballistic missile defense systems."

"This effort is commensurate with its growing power and more
assertive policies, especially with respect to Taiwan," Adm.
Jacoby said.

The officials' testimony shows an apparent effort to define
the dangers posed by China's rising military power, which
critics said have been minimized in the past, in part so as
not to offend the country with markets coveted by U.S.
businesses. The CIA, in particular, has been criticized in the
past for underestimating Chinese military and security
developments.

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, yesterday asked Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at a Senate Appropriations
Committee hearing about Mr. Goss' testimony that "sounded the
alarm about China's modernization of its navy."

Mr. Rumsfeld said China is boosting defense spending by
"double-digit" rates and most of the buildup is being carried
out in secret.

"They're purchasing a great deal of relatively modern
equipment from Russia," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "And as you point
out, they have been expanding their navy and expanding the
distances from the People's Republic of China that their navy
ventures."

Mr. Rumsfeld said "we hope and pray" China enters the
civilized world "without the grinding of gears."

"We don't know that, how they're going to shake out," he said.

The communist government faces internal tension caused by
"competing pressures between the desire to grow, which takes a
free economy as opposed to a command economy, and their
dictatorial system, which is not a free system," Mr. Rumsfeld
said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Goss said China increased the number of
missiles deployed opposite Taiwan last year and deployed
several new submarines.

The Washington Times first reported in December that China
rolled out the first of its 094-class ballistic missile
submarines, and in July China revealed a new class of attack
submarine that took U.S. intelligence agencies by surprise.

"If Beijing decides that Taiwan is taking steps toward
permanent separation that exceed Beijing's tolerance, we
assess China is prepared to respond with varying levels of
force," Mr. Goss said.

Adm. Jacoby identified three new missile systems, the DF-31,
DF-31A mobile intermediate range ballistic missiles (ICBMs)
and JL-2 submarine launched missile, noting that by 2015 China
will have increased its nuclear warhead arsenal to several
times the current level.

The DIA estimated in 2000 that China had a total of 157
nuclear warheads for long- and short-range missiles, and will
have 464 warheads for its missiles by 2020.




'Great Satan' warned of a burning hell

The US is making threatening noises towards Iran, but, says
Ian Black, any military action would have dire consequences


The Guardian - 16 Feb 2005  -   No one knows whether the US is
serious about attacking Iran to destroy its alleged nuclear
weapons programmes, and today's assertion from Tehran that US
spy planes have been overflying the country will have done
nothing to calm the jitters.

But everyone is perfectly clear that if that should happen, it
will be a very big deal indeed - and one which might make the
invasion of Iraq look like quite a minor incident.

It takes two to create a sense of crisis, and George Bush
deliberately used his state of the union address on February 2
to depict Iran as "the world's primary state sponsor of
terror", as well as accusing it of secretly developing an
atomic arsenal.

In Washington's eyes, one of the central members of the "axis
of evil" of 2002 has now graduated to become an "outpost of
tyranny".

Lest anyone imagined that Iran would take such charges lying
down, tens of thousands of people braved snowstorms a few days
later to turn out in central Tehran to mark the anniversary of
the 1979 revolution, and to hear a stern warning from
President Mohammed Khatami that anyone who dared attack his
country would face a "burning hell".

Decades of mutual animosity means that is no empty threat. For
some, memories go back to the CIA's overthrow of the
nationalist prime minister Mossadegh in 1953, and while many
Iranians admire the US, it is still known, as Ayatollah
Khomeini famously dubbed it, as the "Great Satan".

<>Americans remember the 444-day hostage drama at their
embassy in Tehran. Nor have Iranians forgotten US support for
Khomeini's bitter foe Saddam Hussein during the eight bloody
years of war with Iraq.

Israel, physically far closer to Iran - and equipped with its
own undeclared nuclear arsenal - is banging the drum even
louder.

Its foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, warned on a visit to
London on Wednesday that Iran, supporter of groups like
Lebanon's Hizbullah and the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic
Jihad, was now only six months away from acquiring the
knowledge to join the nuclear club.

"This kind of extreme regime with a nuclear bomb is a
nightmare, not only for us," he said.

So far, so bad. And if the rhetoric is to be believed, things
may be about to get worse.

For the moment the US is grudgingly acquiescing in diplomatic
efforts by the EU3 - Britain, France and Germany - to persuade
Iran to permanently abandon its programme of enriching
uranium, which can be used to make bomb-grade material. So
far, this has only been suspended "temporarily", with more
talks due next month.

That was the conciliatory-sounding message conveyed by
Condoleezza Rice, the new US secretary of state, on her maiden
visit to Europe, though she left no doubt about basic US
hostility, criticising "the loathed" Tehran regime of
"unelected mullahs" and urging "those of us who happen to be
on the right side of freedom's divide" to encourage Iranians
to win democracy.

Whether this amounted to a call for regime change, as seen in
Baghdad, was tantalisingly unclear.

President Bush will be closely monitored on this subject when
he arrives for his first second-term visit to the old
continent next week - taking in Brussels, the German city of
Mainz, and the Slovak capital Bratislava.

Europeans are increasingly worried that options are being
closed off, with the distinct possibility that the issue will
end up being referred, as the Americans would like, to the UN
security council - the beginning of a path that could lead to
sanctions, and, in the worst case, military action.

Joschka Fischer, Germany's foreign minister, has suggested
that sanctions could strengthen hardline elements in Tehran.

"Iran is not Saddam Hussein," he argued. "We have there a
contradictory mixture of very dark elements and democratic
elements."

International divisions, however, mean sanctions are unlikely,
as Russia and China, permanent members of the security
council, would be loath to agree.

Alarmingly, there are signs that military options are being
explored by the US, with reports of unmanned drones, special
forces identifying targets (Seymour Hersh's recent New Yorker
article on this was reprinted in its entirety in the Iran
News), as well as carefully-publicised nods, winks and
briefings that Israel might attack Iran's nuclear sites, as it
did Iraq's in 1981.

None of this, however, is entirely convincing. With US forces
bogged down in Iraq and hunting al-Qaida and Taliban remnants
in Afghanistan, it requires a huge leap of the imagination to
see the 82nd airborne heading for Tehran and Qom.

Thus the dismissive comment by Ali Yunesi, Iran's powerful
intelligence minister, that the very idea of US military
action was "psychological warfare".

"The Americans," he insisted, "would not dare to implement
their threats."

Still, Iran is playing hardball, robustly defending its right
to develop civilian nuclear energy under the terms of the
nuclear non-proliferation treaty and denying - though
unconvincingly in the light of well-documented concealment and
evasion in the past - that it has any plans to produce
weapons.

Its motivation may well be the same search for national
prestige and modernity that drove the shah - then backed by
the US - to build the country's first nuclear reactor at
Bushehr, on the Gulf, back in 1974. But it is no secret that
the military option is an attractive one.

Experts warn of the danger of miscalculation and error as
Iran, cut off from the international community in so many ways
since the revolution, does not have a sophisticated nuclear or
strategic community.

Shahram Chubin, a veteran observer of Iranian nuclear policy,
argues that Tehran simply does not understand the complex
doctrines of deterrence developed and refined between east and
west during the cold war.

Clearly, an Iranian nuclear capability would not pose a threat
to overwhelming US nuclear dominance, but it might force it to
keep large forces in the region. It could also encourage other
countries - Saudi Arabia and perhaps Egypt - to go down the
nuclear path. That would leave the non-proliferation treaty in
tatters.

Ironically, this crisis is deepening just as Iraq's elections
ended in clear victory for the Shia Muslim groups which were
supported by Iran during Ba'athist days. US officials have
been quizzing them about their current relationship with
Tehran, and especially about the implications of a
confrontation over Iranian nuclear weapons.

Iraq's painful and violent march towards democracy, for all
its shortcomings, holds some discomforting lessons for the
Iranian regime, dominated by conservatives and clerics whose
record on human rights is regularly lambasted.

It is hard for them to say so publicly, but some frustrated
Iranian reformists - who lost their majority in the majlis
last year - agree with Joschka Fischer that a hardline US
approach, combined with Israeli sabre-rattling, will
strengthen the hardliners and divert attention from their
failure to tackle a stagnating economy and high unemployment.

Part of this riveting and volatile story is that American
credibility is in very short supply - at home as well as
abroad. Is the Bush administration, many wonder, likely to be
more right about Iran than it was about Iraq?

"There is an eerie similarity to the events preceding the Iraq
war," commented David Kay, who led the search for banned
weapons of mass destruction in postwar Iraq, in a Washington
Post article.

"Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran would be a grave danger
to the world. That is not what is in doubt. What is in doubt
is the ability of the US government to honestly assess Iran's
nuclear status and to craft a set of measures that will cope
with that threat short of military action by the United States
or Israel."

If you don't get MER, you just don't get it!

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