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Cause for Alarm: Regime Change Redux

February 11, 2005
By Ken Sanders

Having declared the elections in Iraq a resounding success and that freedom is on the march, it now appears that the Administration's focus is increasingly honing in on Iran. The hairs on America's collective neck should be standing on end.

Iran, a member of Bush's infamous axis of evil, is known to have improperly concealed its nuclear activities from the International Atomic Energy Agency for 18 years. According to Iran, it is intent on developing a peaceful nuclear energy program and has no designs on nuclear weapons. To date, the IAEA has not found any conclusive evidence to contradict Iran's claims.

Nonetheless, the U.S. adamantly insists that Iran is lying and is using civilian programs as a cover for its nuclear weapons programs. Is the U.S. correct in its assessment of Iran's true intent? Perhaps. Trouble is, U.S. credibility on such matters is in tatters following the revelation that U.S. claims regarding Iraq's WMD were almost all wrong. Perhaps as a result of that terribly public humiliation of U.S. intelligence, the U.S., while refusing to directly participate, sanctions and supports Old Europe's efforts at a diplomatic resolution of the Iran situation.

Currently, Iran is in discussions with the European Union regarding Western demands that it abandon its plans to make nuclear fuel. On Wednesday, February 9, 2005, there were ominous signs that the discussions were faltering. Iran declared that it would never give up its efforts to master peaceful nuclear technology, including uranium enrichment. Additionally, Iran expressed its impatience with the slow progress of its discussions with the EU, demanding "tangible, objective progress" as a condition for continued negotiations.

Simultaneously, British Prime Minister Tony Blair again aligned himself with the more hawkish faction of the Administration when he said there was "no doubt" that Iran supported international terrorism. Not surprisingly, Reuters reported that the U.S., anticipating a collapse in the talks, was preparing alternative solutions.

Blair's "no doubt" comment echoes those of Vice President Cheney on inauguration day when he put Iran "right at the top of the list" of potential trouble spots. More troubling was Cheney's "concern" that since Iran was committed to the destruction of Israel, Israel would act unilaterally against Iran. In fact, Israel is fully prepared to do so and in a recent press conference in London, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused to answer whether the U.S. would deter an Israeli strike on Iran. Indeed, Rice later complained that the EU was not being tough enough in its discussions with Iran.

Concerns about a possible Israeli preemptive strike against Iran are not idle. First, as demonstrated by its preemptive attack on Iraq's nuclear facility in the 1980's, Israel is fully capable of carrying out such attacks. Moreover, in July of 2004, members of Israel's Likud and Labor Knesset parties called for preemptive strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities. Thereafter, on September 8, 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accused the international community of failing to take adequate steps to prevent Iran's development of nuclear technology and warned that Israel would unilaterally defend itself.

As of July 2004, according to the Sunday Times of London, the Israeli Air Force had finalized plans for striking Iran's Bushehr reactor and even practiced attacks on a scale model. According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, as of October 2004 Israel had completed plans for simultaneous preemptive strikes against six Iranian nuclear facilities.

Since 1998, Israel has purchased from the U.S. dozens of F-15 and F-16 aircraft, each with an attack radius sufficient to strike known nuclear facilities in Iran. Likewise, on September 21, 2004, Israel acknowledged purchasing from the U.S. 500 "bunker-buster" bombs, which could be used to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities.

The only way Israel could conduct air strikes against Iran would be by flying through Iraqi air space. Inasmuch as Iraq is currently under U.S. occupation, even without actively participating in such strikes, the U.S. would clearly be complicit by virtue of granting Israeli aircraft unhindered passage to Iran.

Regardless, it is becoming increasingly clear that U.S. involvement in strikes against Iran is not strictly passive. In late December 2004, Iran reported sightings of "unidentified flying objects" in Iranian airspace. Such sightings were reported in provinces where nuclear facilities either already existed or were being built. On December 29 and 30, 2004, U.S. combat aircraft were reportedly sighted flying in Iranian airspace near the Iraq border. A U.S. warplane reportedly violated Iraqi airspace again, this time near the Afghanistan border, on January 1, 2005.

As reported by Richard Sale of UPI on January 26, 2005, the U.S. is flying combat aircraft into Iranian airspace to lure Iran into activating its air defense radars, providing U.S. pilots with valuable targeting data. As reported by Seymour Hersh on January 24, 2005, and confirmed by Sale, the U.S. has long been conducting and directing covert operations within Iran in order to locate Iranian nuclear facilities for future targeting purposes.

While the Pentagon resorted to personal attacks in deriding Hersh, it did not deny the covert operations and failed to even address the report by Sale. Similarly, during her confirmation hearings for Secretary of State, Rice declined to admit or deny either Hersh's or Sale's allegations of U.S. covert operations in Iran.

Furthermore, despite current public statements by U.S. officials advocating diplomacy with Iran, it is the manifest position of the U.S. that there must be regime change in Iran. For instance, back on July 12, 2002, President Bush issued a statement supporting those Iranians advocating reform of the Iranian government. More recently, on February 12, 2004, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 304, stating that U.S. policy should be to advocate a democratic government in Iran.

On May 6, 2004, the House passed Concurrent Resolution 398, which called upon the United States to use "all appropriate means" to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The resolution also called for additional and stricter sanctions against Iran. Vice President Cheney's inauguration-day remarks clearly advocated a U.S. policy of nothing less than regime change. Finally, on January 18, 2005, President Bush refused to rule out military action against Iran, while on February 4, 2005, Secretary of State Rice described the Iranian regime as loathsome.

Is war with Iran a foregone conclusion? Of course not. However, in light of the Administration's declared policy of preemption (not to mention Israel's), there are sufficient signs to warrant concern.

Visit Ken Sanders' blog at www.politicsofdissent.blogspot.com.

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