February 16, 2007

Has the Countdown Begun, Part I

A fine piece of analysis on the possibilities and consequences of attacking Iran

Has The Countdown Begun?
B. Raman

An Israeli air strike on Natanz and Isfahan is very likely soonerthan later. Things have started moving in that direction. Theaccumulation of US forces in the region is meant to deter anyIranian retaliation. ...

The US and Israel—acting separately and in tandem—have startedstepping up psychological pressure on Iran . This PSYWAR campaign isdirected at countering Iran's exploitation of the difficulties faced by the US in Iraq in order to advance its own agenda and to preventany US intervention in Iran and to convey a message to the Iranian public that Iran will pay a heavy price if President MahmoudAhmadinejad continues to defy the international community over its concerns regarding the real purpose of its acquiring an uraniumenrichment capability.

This PSYWAR campaign has so far taken the following forms:

* The recent US detention and questioning of two Iranian diplomats posted in Iraq on their role in assisting the Shiaextremist groups.

* The stepped-up US rhetoric on the devious game being played by the Iranian intelligence in Iraq by assisting the illegal Shia militias as well as pro-Al Qaeda Sunni extremist elements.

* The well-publicised authorisation by President George Bush of covert action against Iranians posing a threat to American lives and interests in Iraq.

* The beginning of an operation mounted by MOSSAD, the Israeliexternal intelligence agency, to eliminate senior Iranian nuclearscientists. The Sunday Times of London reported on February 4,2007 , as follows: "A prize-winning Iranian nuclear scientist has died in mysterious circumstances, according to Radio Farda, whichis funded by the US State Department and broadcasts to Iran. Anintelligence source suggested that Ardeshire Hassanpour, 44, anuclear physicist, had been assassinated by Mossad, the Israeli security service.

Hassanpour worked at a plant in Isfahan where uranium hexafluoride gas is produced. The gas is needed to enrichuranium in another plant at Natanz which has become the focus of concerns that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.

According to Radio Farda, Iranian reports of Hassanpour's death emerged on January 21 after a delay of six days, giving the cause as "gaspoisoning". The Iranian reports did not say how or where Hassanpourwas poisoned, but his death was said to have been announced at a conference on nuclear safety.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to announce next Sunday — the 28th anniversary of theIslamic revolution — that 3,000 centrifuges have been installed atNatanz, enabling Iran to move closer to industrial scale uranium enrichment. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency say that hundreds of technicians and labourers have been "workingfeverishly" to assemble equipment at the plant."

* Stepping up of broadcasts and telecasts to Iran by radio stations and TV channels funded by the US and run by Iranian exiles.

* The movement of additional US naval ships, including anotheraircraft-carrier, to the Gulf and the designation by Bush of asenior naval officer (Admiral William Fallon) to head the US Central Command, which is responsible for operations in West Asia.In the past, a US Army officer had headed the Central Command.

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