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Pre-Empting Pre-Emption By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 23, 2004

On August 15th, The Revolutionary Brigades of the Iranian Army held a military parade in which they displayed the Shaab 3 missile that Israeli intelligence experts estimate has a range of 1300 kilometers, that even with a potential nuclear payload can reach any target in Israel. Not only can the Shaab missile hit Israel, but it could also hit U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf and other American bases throughout Turkey.

Meanwhile, Israel's chief of military intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash, told the Israeli government last July that Iran had supplied hundreds of Iranian-made missiles to Hezbollah that can hit all of northern Israel and territory as far south as Tel Aviv. In addition, another several dozen missiles can reach the southern city of Beersheba in southern Israel’s Negev desert.

Last September, the Iranians conducted a test launching of the Shaab 3 missile and thousands of Iranians cheered the banner and slogan which accompanied the test: "WE WILL WIPE ISRAEL OFF OF THE FACE OF THE EARTH."

Iran had pioneered the Shaab missile in 1992. Modeled after the North Korean "Nu-Ding 1" weapon, it was improved by German, Russian and Pakistani technologies.

Two weeks ago, a senior official of Israeli Air Force Intelligence testified at a closed session of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel’s Arrow missile defense capability could do little to stop any such barrage of this kind of missile. Israel’s Arrow missile is designed to intercept S.C.U.D. missiles or other lower grade potential missiles only.

This week, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton confirmed that Iran indeed told European representatives that it would be able to manufacture nuclear weapons within four years and that within a year it would be able to enrich uranium itself that can be used in such weapons of mass destruction. Bolton said that Iranian representatives made these statements in meetings with representatives from Britain, Germany and France. Bolton also said that the United States is consulting not only with officials from those three countries, but also with representatives from Russia and Japan and other governments regarding Iran's nuclear capability. He said that the consultations are taking place before a meeting of the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency next month.

Israeli nuclear expert Dr. Gerald M. Steinberg, writing in The Jerusalem Post on August 20th, 2004 agreed that International Atomic Energy Agency head, Dr. Mohamed El Baradei, is trying to find a "non-confrontational solution." However, Steinberg expressed skepticism about the need for dialogue and negotiations, since, in Steinberg’s words, "The evidence of Teheran's violations of commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is clearly presented in IAEA reports, but there is little willingness to do anything about it."

Israel responded to a comparable threat in 1981 by bombing the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, incurring the wrath and condemnation of the world, including the U.S. Today, the world understands Israel’s actions.

But asked if the United States would support a pre-emptive strike, such as Israel did against Iraq in 1981 to end Iran's nuclear program, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) said, "I'm not going to speculate for a moment on a pre-emptive strike or any specific action."

With mounting concern in the Bush administration that Israel might be planning to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland mentioned in his April column that "A grim warning from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to President Bush that Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than U.S. intelligence believes, has triggered concern here that Israel is seriously considering a pre-emptive strike against Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor." According to Hoagland, who quoted U.S. and Israeli sources, Sharon brought Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, his army liaison officer, "to shower a worried-looking Bush with photographs and charts from a thick dossier on Iran's covert program."

However, Israeli officials said that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not mention the possibility of an Israeli pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr when he met with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington last April.

Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA Director Robert Gates, co-authors of a new study on Iran, said it was unlikely such a strike would be effective and it would "damage" U.S. interests.

To carry out such a strike, Israel would almost certainly have to fly over airspace controlled by the United States, meaning America could be judged complicit with the Israeli action, Brzezinski said.

He added that military action would harm prospects for political change in Iran by galvanizing nationalistic fervor and this could further damage U.S. interests, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq (As if nationalistic fervor was not already existent in the Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship).

In a document issued in May, the Report of an Independent Task Force, written by former Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA Director Robert M. Gates, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, these experts posited that "Since Washington would be blamed for any unilateral Israeli military strike, the United States should, in any case, make it quite clear to Israel that U.S. interests would be adversely affected by such a move. In addition, any military effort to eliminate Iranian weapons capabilities runs the significant risk of reinforcing Tehran’s desire to acquire a nuclear deterrent and of provoking nationalist passions in defense of that very course. It would most likely generate also hostile Iranian initiatives in Iraq and Afghanistan."

In conclusion, these two experts write, "This time the stakes are higher, more complicated and the consequences could be graver. An Israeli strike on Iran would endanger the lives of the 138,000 American troops currently deployed in Iraq, who could fall prey to Iran's vengeance. Iran is unlikely to take the bombing of its nuclear facilities lying down. Iran would never buy into the belief that an Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities was not carried out with the approval, or at least an inferred green light, from Washington."

Since that report was written, Israeli intelligence sources report that American officials are demanding assurances that Jerusalem has no plans to launch a unilateral strike as reported in the Forward, an American-Jewish daily newspaper.

According to Israeli intelligence sources, Israel would prefer any way that the United States handle the problem through either diplomatic means or force and that Israel would like to maintain a low profile, letting the Americans lead the campaign against the Iranian program. To that end, Israeli officials are not commenting right now.

.The New York Sun reported on Aug. 5, that the United States would not rule out covert military action against Iranian nuclear installations.

Add this quote to the situation: "Israeli intelligence has intercepted senior Iranian military officers who have implored the Iranian defense ministry to take pre-emptive action against Israel and the U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. At a time when Iran sees itself surrounded on both sides by American military forces, Israeli intelligence has warned the U.S. that the Iranians may act sooner than expected." Will tiny Israel be called upon to once again save the world from a potential nuclear war as in 1981? Or will the U.S. allow a disaster to occur first?

The Bush administration is considering "many means" to prevent the Islamic republic from building a nuclear weapon, according to Condoleeza Rice, President Bush’s security adviser. Meanwhile, it is Israel that is under the gun if the President’s strategy fails, not to mention U.S. soldiers in Iraq and the rest of the western world. Is a cold war with a nuclear capable Iraq in store for the future like the one that the U.S. endured with the Soviet Union for over 40 years? Only time will tell.

David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.

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