In a commentary published Tuesday in the Guardian (UK), Dan Plesch reviews the evidence that indicates that the U.S., with the support of the U.K. and Israel, is intent on going to war with Iran, a danger that has long been forecast by Scott Ritter, Seymour Hersh, and others.  --  Although many have concluded that the Bush administration's difficulties in Iraq and elsewhere preclude this possibility, Plesch concludes that "A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe."[1]  --  Plesch's Oct. 18 article is in most respects a reprise of what he said in a similar Guardian piece, published on Aug. 15, in which he remarked:  "War with Iran next spring can enable them to win the mid-term elections and retain control of the Republican party, now in partial rebellion over Iraq."  --  Speaking in advance of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (where he was joined by Dan Plesch), former Labor MP Tony Benn on Thursday also sounded a warning about an upcoming war on Iran:  "[Bush] will bomb installations in Iran where nuclear work is going on.  Just imagine an American bomb landing on a nuclear power station.  --  He is planning an atomic attack with a release of radioactivity and consequences that would make previous wars shrink into insignificance. . . . The same line is being used, that Iran might have weapons of mass destruction, just as was said about Iraq.  It was a lie -- we know it was a lie. It was because [Bush] wanted the oil and the attack of Iran will be for a similar reason." ...

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Special report

Iran

ARE WE GOING TO WAR WITH IRAN?
By Dan Plesch

** Dan Plesch evaluates the evidence pointing towards a new conflict in the Middle East **

Guardian (UK)
October 18, 2005

http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,1594977,00.html

The Sunday Telegraph warned last weekend that the U.N. had a last chance to avert war with Iran and, at a meeting in London last week, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, expressed his regret that any failure by the U.N. security council to deal with Iran would damage the security council's relevance, implying that the U.S. would solve the problem on its own.

Only days before, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had dismissed military action as "inconceivable" while both the American president and his secretary of state had insisted war talk was not on the agenda. The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have found that Iran has not, so far, broken its commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, although it has concealed activities before.

It appears that the U.K. and U.S. have decided to raise the stakes in the confrontation with Iran. The two countries persuaded the IAEA board -- including India -- to overrule its inspectors, declare Iran in breach of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), and say that Iran's activities could be examined by the UN Security Council. Critics of this political process point to the fact that India itself has developed nuclear weapons and refused to join the NPT, but has still voted that Iran is acting illegitimately. On the Iranian side there is also much belligerent talk and pop music now proudly speaks of the nuclear contribution to Iranian security.

The timing of the recent allegations about Iranian intervention in Iraq also appears to be significant. Ever since the U.S. refused to control Iraq's borders in April 2003, Iranian-backed militia have dominated the south and, with under 10,000 soldiers amongst a population of millions, the British army had little option but to go along. No fuss was made until now. As for the bombings of British soldiers, some sources familiar with the U.S. army engineers report that these supposedly sophisticated devices have been manufactured inside Iraq for many months and do not need to be imported.

But is the war talk for real or is it just saber rattling? The conventional wisdom is that for both military and political reasons it would be impossible for Israel and the U.K./U.S. to attack and that, in any event, after the politically damaging Iraq war, neither Tony Blair nor George Bush would be able to gather political support for another attack.

But in Washington, Tel Aviv, and Downing Street, if not the Foreign Office, Iran is regarded as a critical threat. The regime in Tehran continues to demand the destruction of the state of Israel and to support anti-Israeli forces. In what appeared to be coordinated releases of intelligence assessments, Israeli and U.S. intelligence briefed earlier this year that, while Iran was years from a nuclear weapons capability, the technological point of no return was now imminent.

Shortly after the U.S. elections, the vice president, Dick Cheney, warned that Israel might attack Iran. Israel has the capability to attack Iranian targets with aircraft and long-range cruise missiles launched from submarines, while Iranian air defences are still mostly based on 25-year-old equipment purchased in the time of the Shah. A U.S. attack might be portrayed as a more reasonable option than a renewed Israeli-Islamic confrontation.

The U.S. Army and Marines are heavily committed in Iraq, but soldiers could be found if the Bush administration were intent on invasion. Donald Rumsfeld has been reorganizing the army to increase front-line forces by a third. More importantly, naval and air force firepower has barely been used in Iraq. Just 120 B-52 and stealth bombers could target 5,000 points in Iran with satellite-guided bombs in just one mission. It is for this reason that John Pike of globalsecurity.org thinks that a U.S. attack could come with no warning at all. U.S. action is often portrayed as impossible, not only because of the alleged lack of firepower, but because Iranian facilities are too hard to target. In a strategic logic not lost on Washington, the conclusion then is that if you cannot guarantee to destroy all the alleged weapons, then it must be necessary to remove the regime that wants them, and regime change has been the official policy in Washington for many years.

For political-military planners, precision strikes on a few facilities have drawbacks beyond leaving the regime intact. They allow the regime too many retaliatory options. Certainly, Iran's neighbors in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf who are worried about the growth of Iranian Shia influence in Iraq would want any attack to be decisive. From this logic grows the idea of destroying the political-military infrastructure of the clerical regime and perhaps encouraging separatist Kurdish and Azeri risings in the north-west. Some Washington planners have hopes of the Sunnis of oil-rich Khuzestan breaking away too.

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe. Scott Ritter, the whistle-blowing former U.N. weapons inspector, points out that few in the Democratic Party will stand in the way of the destruction of those who conducted the infamous Tehran embassy siege that ended Jimmy Carter's presidency. Mr. Ritter is one of the U.S. analysts, along with Seymour Hersh, who have led the allegations that Washington is going to war with Iran.

For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican Party prior to next year's Congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr. Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr. Cheney would doubtless point out that U.S. military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr. Blair's position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb "come what may" as he did with Iraq.

-- Dan Plesch is the author of The Beauty Queen's Guide to World Peace.

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TONY BENN CALLS ON SCOTS TO OPPOSE GROWING U.S. THREAT TOWARDS IRAN
By Paul Dalgarno

Big Issue Scotland
October 20, 2005

http://www.bigissuescotland.com/latest_news/2005_08/tony_benn_calls_on_scots_to/index.cfm
or
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=DAL20051020&articleId=1121

Labor firebrand Tony Benn has called on Scots to stand up against a possible atomic attack on Iran by British and American forces.

The former MP and cabinet minister, known for his independence from the official party line, spoke out in Edinburgh after President Bush last week refused to rule out military action against Iran.

"He's not going to invade Iran because he hasn't got enough troops," said Benn. "Instead, he will bomb installations in Iran where nuclear work is going on. Just imagine an American bomb landing on a nuclear power station.

"He is planning an atomic attack with a release of radioactivity and consequences that would make previous wars shrink into insignificance."

While tensions over Iran have escalated since the country resumed its uranium enrichment program -- believed to be geared towards developing nuclear weapons -- Benn drew comparisons with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"The same line is being used, that Iran might have weapons of mass destruction, just as was said about Iraq. It was a lie -- we know it was a lie. It was because [Bush] wanted the oil and the attack of Iran will be for a similar reason."

Benn, as president of the Stop the War Coalition, was speaking in Edinburgh ahead of an appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He famously resigned from the House of Commons in 2001 to "devote more time to politics."

Glasgow-based human rights lawyer Aamar Anwar joined Benn in calling for an urgent rethink on Britain's Middle Eastern policy. He said: "If we carry on doing as George Bush and Tony Blair say then we are in real trouble in this country.

"We're in real trouble right across this planet because there will indeed be a war without end and a war throughout the world."

Dan Plesch of European think tank the Foreign Policy Center said: "It is hard to see Britain uninvolved in U.S. actions. The prime minister is clearly of a mind to no more countenance Iran's WMD than he did Iraq's.

"In Iran's case the evidence is more substantial. The Iranians do have a nuclear energy program and have lied about it."

He added: "In any event, Blair is probably aware that the U.S. is unlikely to supply him with the prized successor to the Trident submarine if Britain refuses to continue to pay the blood sacrifice of standing with the U.S."

The Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition is backing a major demonstration in London next month, where the build up of military tension against Iran likely to be a key issue.

"Our immediate task is to see there's no support in this country for a war against Iran," said Benn. "It is a policy which could have consequences that go far beyond this generation. I see this war lasting as far ahead as the human race."

Having spent 50 years in parliament, Benn is the longest serving Labor MP in the history of the party.

A Labor spokesperson said:  "Fortunately, Mr. Benn does not speak for the government."