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April 16, 2006
Op-Ed Contributors

Bombs That Would Backfire


WHITE HOUSE spokesmen have played down press reports that the Pentagon has
accelerated planning to bomb Iran. We would like to believe that the
administration is not intent on starting another war, because a conflict with
Iran could be even more damaging to our interests than the current struggle
in Iraq has been. A brief look at history shows why.

Reports by the journalist Seymour Hersh and others suggest that the United
States is contemplating bombing a dozen or more nuclear sites, many of them
buried, around Iran. In the event, scores of air bases, radar installations
and land missiles would also be hit to suppress air defenses. Navy bases and
coastal missile sites would be struck to prevent Iranian retaliation against
the American fleet and Persian Gulf shipping. Iran's long-range missile
installations could also be targets of the initial American air campaign.

These contingencies seem familiar to us because we faced a similar situation
as National Security Council staff members in the mid-1990's. American
frustrations with Iran were growing, and in early 1996 the House speaker,
Newt Gingrich, publicly called for the overthrow of the Iranian government.
He and the C.I.A. put together an $18 million package to undertake it.

The Iranian legislature responded with a $20 million initiative for its
intelligence organizations to counter American influence in the region.
Iranian agents began casing American embassies and other targets around the
world. In June 1996, the Qods Force, the covert-action arm of Iran's Islamic
Revolutionary Guards Corps, arranged the bombing of an apartment building
used by our Air Force in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Americans.

At that point, the Clinton administration and the Pentagon considered a
bombing campaign. But after long debate, the highest levels of the military
could not forecast a way in which things would end favorably for the United

While the full scope of what America did do remains classified, published
reports suggest that the United States responded with a chilling threat to
the Tehran government and conducted a global operation that immobilized
Iran's intelligence service. Iranian terrorism against the United States

In essence, both sides looked down the road of conflict and chose to avoid
further hostilities. And then the election of the reformist Mohammad Khatami
as president of Iran in 1997 gave Washington and Tehran the cover they needed
to walk back from the precipice.

Now, as in the mid-90's, any United States bombing campaign would simply begin
a multi-move, escalatory process. Iran could respond three ways. First, it
could attack Persian Gulf oil facilities and tankers — as it did in the
mid-1980's — which could cause oil prices to spike above $80 dollars a

Second and more likely, Iran could use its terrorist network to strike
American targets around the world, including inside the United States. Iran
has forces at its command that are far superior to anything Al Qaeda was ever
able to field. The Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah has a global
reach, and has served in the past as an instrument of Iran. We might hope
that Hezbollah, now a political party, would decide that it has too much to
lose by joining a war against the United States. But this would be a
dangerous bet.

Third, Iran is in a position to make our situation in Iraq far more difficult
than it already is. The Badr Brigade and other Shiite militias in Iraq could
launch a more deadly campaign against British and American troops. There is
every reason to believe that Iran has such a retaliatory shock wave planned
and ready.

No matter how Iran responded, the question that would face American planners
would be, "What's our next move?" How do we achieve so-called escalation
dominance, the condition in which the other side fears responding because
they know that the next round of American attacks would be too lethal for the
regime to survive?

Bloodied by Iranian retaliation, President Bush would most likely authorize
wider and more intensive bombing. Non-military Iranian government targets
would probably be struck in a vain hope that the Iranian people would seize
the opportunity to overthrow the government. More likely, the American war
against Iran would guarantee the regime decades more of control.

So how would bombing Iran serve American interests? In over a decade of
looking at the question, no one has ever been able to provide a persuasive
answer. The president assures us he will seek a diplomatic solution to the
Iranian crisis. And there is a role for threats of force to back up diplomacy
and help concentrate the minds of our allies. But the current level of
activity in the Pentagon suggests more than just standard contingency
planning or tactical saber-rattling.

The parallels to the run-up to to war with Iraq are all too striking: remember
that in May 2002 President Bush declared that there was "no war plan on my
desk" despite having actually spent months working on detailed plans for the
Iraq invasion. Congress did not ask the hard questions then. It must not
permit the administration to launch another war whose outcome cannot be
known, or worse, known all too well.

Richard Clarke and Steven Simon were, respectively, national coordinator for
security and counterterrorism and senior director for counterterrorism at the
National Security Council.

The US, Iran and the End of the International Order

By Jussi Sinnemaa

04/17/06 "ICH" -- -- According to a recent article by Seymour Hersh in the New
Yorker, the US military has moved from contingency to operational planning to
prepare for an attack on Iran. Former US intelligence operative William Arkin
has revealed in the Washington Post that the Bush Administration actually
started preparing for a war against Iran as early as 2002. While the
Administration officially claims to be looking for a diplomatic solution to
the crisis, it is feared the decision to go to war was made a long time ago
and will not be reconsidered. What are the real reasons behind this

As the IAEA has repeatedly acknowledged, Iran is not in violation of any of
her legal obligations as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
(NPT). In fact, Iran has allowed far more intrusive international inspections
of her nuclear facilities than required by the NPT. Iran remains the only
country to have done so. Iran has repeatedly stated that she does not wish to
develop nuclear weapons, even though many Western and Israeli analysts,
including the leading Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld, have
accepted it would clearly be in Iran’s strategic interest to possess such
weapons as deterrence. There is, however, simply no evidence whatsoever that
Iran is, or intends to be, developing nuclear weapons.

Iran has repeatedly, at least from the year 2002 onwards, expressed her
willingness to engage in bilateral negotiations with the US, with the
ultimate goal of normalizing the two countries´ relations. Reportedly Iran
could even consider recognising Israel in exchange for security guarantees
from the US. All such overtures by Iran have hitherto been ignored by the
Bush Administration, although it is noteworthy that senior Republican senator
Richard Lugar recently called for direct US-Iranian negotiations. Meanwhile
the Bush Administration and the media that support its belligerent stance
have made an effort to demonize Iran and, in particular, President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad. This sort of demonization is a familiar phenomenon to all those
who followed the countdown to the attack on and invasion of Iraq. According
to this logic, one simply cannot negotiate with “madmen”, one can only issue
one ultimatum after another and thus show that the “madmen” will not
compromise and therefore must be “taken out”.

While some in the Bush Administration undoubtedly believe Iran’s nuclear
energy programme may ultimately threaten Israel, and perhaps even the US, it
seems clear that, what is really at stake here is American geopolitical
hegemony over the vast oil and gas reserves of the Middle East. By invading
Iraq and removing the Baathist dictatorship the US actually helped religious
Shi´ite parties, closely allied with Iran, seize power in Baghdad. In other
words, Iran’s regional prestige grew enormously as a result of the invasion
of Iraq. Now Iran has good relations with practically all her neighbours and
can be considered the most powerful country in the Middle East (perhaps apart
from nuclear-armed Israel). It is remarkable that none of Iran’s neighbours
regard the Iranian nuclear energy programme as a threat: even Saudi Arabia
has said so repeatedly, and according to recent reports, Saudi
representatives have visited Moscow to plead with the Russian leaders that
they do everything in their power to stop an American attack on Iran.

Ultimately the whole crisis is most likely caused by Peak Oil. The US wants to
use her military superiority, perhaps including her massive nuclear arsenal,
to assert control of the largest remaining fossil fuel reserves in the world.
Iran is such a big problem because, while the US has – for ideological
reasons – refused to do business with the Islamic Republic, China, Japan,
Russia and India have stepped in and secured lucrative deals with the
Iranians. This is quite worrying: any attack on Iran can be seen as an
indirect attack on China and Russia, among others. China could conceivably
retaliate, for instance, by collapsing the dollar (her dollar reserves are
the largest of any country), and that would be a serious escalation,
potentially leading to catastrophic consequences. Similarly, any attack on
Iran’s nuclear facilities would probably kill many Russian engineers and
technicians working in them; Russia’s response could be unpredictable. One
must also not forget that an attack would surely infuriate the whole Muslim
world and, in particular, Iran’s Shi´ite brethren in Iraq, Saudi Arabia,
Bahrain, Pakistan, Lebanon etc. and markedly increase the risk of Islamic
terrorism worldwide.

Should the US attack Iran with nuclear weapons, as reportedly planned, a
60-year-old taboo against these weapons would be instantly abolished and all
nuclear powers would be ready to use similar weapons too. Non-nuclear
countries would undoubtedly hasten to produce their own doomsday arsenals,
and the likelihood of an all-out nuclear war would grow significantly. It is
ominous that the semi-official Foreign Affairs recently published an article
which speculated that the US could possibly take out Russian nuclear arsenal
with Russia incapable to retaliate; reportedly the article was read with
extreme alarm in Moscow.

To conclude, if the US does attack Iran, she will surely be “crossing the
Rubicon”: the established international order will be gone forever, and the
whole Middle East may go up in flames. It remains to be seen whether a
desperate attempt to control the Middle Eastern oil and gas, by a country on
the verge of bankruptcy, will be considered worthwhile by that country’s
leaders in Washington.

Jussi Sinnemaa, <> is an