Countdown to next Middle East war

The prospects of a US and or Israeli attack on Iran are rising sharply as President George Bush's term nears an end and war fever grows in America and Israel. Intensifying threats of war by the US and Israel against Iran come in spite of conclusions by all US intelligence and UN arms inspectors that there is no evidence Iran is working on nuclear weapons and that its nuclear enrichment programme is, as Teheran claims, only so far for civilian use.

By Eric Margolis (America Angle)

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Published: Sun 6 Jul 2008, 10:35 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:21 PM

According to Israel's media, President George Bush recently told Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he distrusted the US intelligence community and preferred to rely on Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, which claims Iran is within 18 months of developing nuclear weapons. Mossad, however, has been claiming this for the past eight years. What could a US and/or Israel attack on Iran bring?

First, it is unlikely they could totally eliminate Iran's dispersed, deeply buried nuclear facilities without using nuclear weapons. The Bush administration has been reportedly considering use of new deep penetration nuclear weapons — called Muslim busters' around the Pentagon — against Iran.

If attacked, Iran would likely renounce the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and produce nuclear weapons. Teheran would rightly see any Israeli attack as having been mounted with US collusion. Israeli air strikes against Iran would depend on US satellite data and communications, and cross US-controlled airspace in Iraq, or those of US allies Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

My Pentagon sources say at least 3,100 targets in Iran would be attacked in successive waves of US bombing and cruise missile strikes. These include nuclear sites, government and military headquarters, airfields, naval bases, and ports, army barracks and depots, telecommunications, air defences, fuel depots, and oil terminals. An Israeli strike would be far more limited in scope. Israel recently received 100 American deep penetrating GBU-28 bombs.

If attacked, Iran vows to close the Gulf and 34-km wide Strait of Hormuz through which most of the Mideast's oil exports pass. Teheran would heavily mine the waterway and use its fairly new Chinese-model C-802 anti-ship missiles and older models to attack tankers and US warships near its coast.

Iran's air force can barely fly. Its navy, except for a few Russian Kilo-class subs, is feeble.

Teheran's 350,000-man regular army is immobile, poorly equipped, and without mobile air defence. Iran's offensive strength lies in its tough commando forces, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad served with distinction during the Iran-Iraq War.

These special forces and Revolutionary Guards units could assault US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and attack US bases in Kuwait, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. US supply lines in Iraq run north from Kuwait and would be particularly vulnerable to Iranian attack.

A few of Iran's Shehab missiles could hit Israel. They are inaccurate and carry only conventional warheads. But a lucky hit on Israel's Diamona reactor could inflict more casualties on the Jewish state than all its wars combined. Hezbollah in Lebanon would likely shower northern Israel with rockets as it did in 2006.

All wars are unpredictable and full of nasty surprises. The US military is already strained to the breaking point. Two of its most senior officers, Adm. William Fallon and Air Force chief T. Michael Mosely, were fired by Bush for opposing war against Iran.

While the US could seriously punish Iran, it could not destroy it from the air, nor end Iran's nuclear programme. A proposed US naval blockade of Iran, which pro-Israel groups are now rushing through Congress, could cut off Iran's oil exports and bring its economy to a standstill.

However, the biggest danger of a US and/or Israeli attack on Iran economic. Oil could soar to $400-500 per barrel if the Gulf is seriously interdicted by Iran. World financial markets would tumble, and gold will soar to new heights. Expect gas, diesel and aviation fuel shortages, worsened by Venezuela refusing to supply North America. Iran may also seek to damage Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti oil export terminals.

America, already waging two failed wars on money borrowed from Japan and China, will face paying for a third conflict that could drag on for years. Any hopes for the Middle East peace will vanish in the face of the ever more dangerous nuclear rivalry between Israel and Iran.

Eric S. Margolis is a veteran American journalist and contributing foreign editor of The Toronto Sun

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