A PLAN TO ATTACK IRAN SWIFTLY AND FROM ABOVE
By Paul Koring
** A bombing campaign has been in the works for months - a blistering air war that would last anywhere from one day to two weeks **
Globe and Mail (Canada)
November 22, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Massive, devastating air strikes, a full dose of "shock and awe" with hundreds of bunker-busting bombs slicing through concrete at more than a dozen nuclear sites across Iran is no longer just the idle musing of military planners and über-hawks.
Although air strikes don't seem imminent as the U.S.-Iranian drama unfolds, planning for a bombing campaign and preparing for the geopolitical blowback has preoccupied military and political councils for months.
No one is predicting a full-blown ground war with Iran. The likeliest scenario, a blistering air war that could last as little as one night or as long as two weeks, would be designed to avoid the quagmire of invasion and régime change that now characterizes Iraq. But skepticism remains about whether any amount of bombing can substantially delay Iran's entry into the nuclear-weapons club.
Attacking Iran has gone far beyond the twilight musings of a lame-duck president. Almost all of those jockeying to succeed U.S. President George W. Bush are similarly bellicose. Both front-runners, Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani, have said that Iran's ruling mullahs can't be allowed to go nuclear. "Iran would be very sure if I were president of the United States that I would not allow them to become nuclear," said Mr. Giuliani. Ms. Clinton is equally hard-line.
Nor does the threat come just from the United States. As hopes fade that sanctions and common sense might avert a military confrontation with Tehran -- as they appear to have done with North Korea -- other Western leaders are openly warning that bombing may be needed.
Unless Tehran scraps its clandestine and suspicious nuclear program and its quest for weapons-grade uranium (it already has the missiles capable of delivering an atomic warhead), the world will be "faced with an alternative that I call catastrophic: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran," French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned.
Bombing Iran would be relatively easy. Its antiquated air force and Russian air-defence missiles would be easy pickings for the U.S. warplanes.
But effectively destroying Iran's widely scattered and deeply buried nuclear facilities would be far harder, although achievable, according to air-power experts. But the fallout, especially the anger sown across much of the Muslim world by another U.S.-led attack in the Middle East, would be impossible to calculate.
Israel has twice launched pre-emptive air strikes ostensibly to cripple nuclear programs. In both instances, against Iraq in 1981 and Syria two months ago, the targeted regimes howled but did nothing.
The single-strike Israeli attacks would seem like pinpricks, compared with the rain of destruction U.S. warplanes would need to kneecap Iran's far larger nuclear network.
"American air strikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osirak nuclear center in Iraq, and would more resemble the opening days of the 2003 air campaign against Iraq," said John Pike, director at Globalsecurity.org, a leading defense and security group.
"Using the full force of operational B-2 stealth bombers, staging from Diego Garcia or flying direct from the United States," along with warplanes from land bases in the region and carriers at sea, at least two-dozen suspected nuclear sites would be targeted, he said.
Although U.S. ground forces are stretched thin with nearly 200,000 fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the firepower of the U.S. air force and the warplanes aboard aircraft carriers could easily overwhelm Iran's defenses, leaving U.S. warplanes in complete command of the skies and free to pound targets at will.
With air bases close by in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, including Kandahar, and naval-carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, hundreds of U.S. warplanes serviced by scores of airborne refuellers could deliver a near constant hail of high explosives.
Fighter-bombers and radar-jammers would spearhead any attack. B-2 bombers, each capable of delivering 20 four-ton bunker-busting bombs, along with smaller stealth bombers and streams of F-18s from the carriers could maintain an open-ended bombing campaign.
"They could keep it up until the end of time, which might be hastened by the bombing," Mr. Pike said. "They could make the rubble jump; there's plenty of stuff to bomb," he added, a reference to the now famous line from former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Afghanistan was a "target-poor" country.
Mr. Pike believes it could all be over in a single night. Others predict days, or even weeks, of sustained bombing.
Unidentified Pentagon planners have been cited talking of "1,500 aim points." What is clear is that a score or more known nuclear sites would be destroyed. Some, in remote deserts, would present little risk of "collateral damage," military jargon for unintended civilian causalities. Others, like laboratories at the University of Tehran, in the heart of a teeming capital city, would be hard to destroy without killing innocent Iranians.
What would likely unfold would be weeks of escalating tension, following a breakdown of diplomatic efforts.
The next crisis point may come later this month if the U.N. Security Council becomes deadlocked over further sanctions.
"China and Russia are more concerned about the prospect of the U.S. bombing Iran than of Iran getting a nuclear bomb," says Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Tehran remains defiant. Our enemies "must know that Iran will not give the slightest concession . . . to any power," Iran's fiery President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday. For his part, Mr. Bush has pointedly refused to rule out resorting to war. Last month, another U.S. naval battle group -- including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman with 100 warplanes on board and the Canadian frigate HMCS Charlottetown as one of its screen of smaller warships -- left for the Persian Gulf. At least one, and often two, carrier battle groups are always in the region.
Whether even weeks of bombing would cripple Iran's nuclear program cannot be known. Mr. Pike believes it would set back, by a decade or more, the time Tehran needs to develop a nuclear warhead. But Iran's clandestine program -- international inspectors were completely clueless as to the existence of several major sites until exiles ratted out the mullahs -- may be so extensive that even the longest target list will miss some.
"It's not a question of whether we can do a strike or not and whether the strike could be effective," retired Marine general Anthony Zinni told Time magazine. "It certainly would be, to some degree. But are you prepared for all that follows?"
Attacked and humiliated, Iran might be tempted, as Mr. Ahmadinejad has suggested, to strike back, although Iran has limited military options.
At least some Sunni governments in the region, not least Saudi Arabia, would be secretly delighted to see the Shia mullahs in Tehran bloodied. But the grave risk of any military action spiralling into a regional war, especially if Mr. Ahmadinejad tried to make good on his threat to attack Israel, remains.
"Arab leaders would like to see Iran taken down a notch," said Steven Cook, an analyst specializing in the Arab world at the Council on Foreign Relations, "but their citizens will see this as what they perceive to be America's ongoing war on Islam."
The confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program has been simmering for more than five years. These are some of the key flashpoints.
August 2002: Iranian exiles say that Tehran has built a vast uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak without informing the United Nations.
December 2002: The existence of the sites is confirmed by satellite photographs shown on U.S. television. The United States accuses Tehran of "across-the-board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction." Iran agrees to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
June 2003: IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei accuses Iran of not revealing the extent of its nuclear work and urges leaders to sign up for more intrusive inspections.
October 2003: After meeting French, German, and British foreign ministers, Tehran agrees to stop producing enriched uranium and formally decides to sign the Additional Protocol, a measure that extends the IAEA's ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities. No evidence is produced to confirm the end of enrichment.
November 2003: Mr. ElBaradei says there is "no evidence" that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. The United States disagrees.
February 2004: An IAEA report says Iran experimented with polonium-210, which can be used to trigger the chain reaction in a nuclear bomb. Iran did not explain the experiments. Iran again agrees to suspend enrichment, but again does not do so.
March 2004: Iran is urged to reveal its entire nuclear program to the IAEA by June 1, 2004.
September 2004: The IAEA orders Iran to stop preparations for large-scale uranium enrichment. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell labels Iran a growing danger and calls for the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions.
August 2005: Hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is installed as Iranian President as Tehran pledges an "irreversible" resumption of enrichment.
Jan. 10, 2006: Iran removes U.N. seals at the Natanz enrichment plant and resumes nuclear fuel research.
February 2006: The IAEA votes to report Iran to the UN Security Council. Iran ends snap U.N. nuclear inspections the next day.
July 31, 2006: The U.N. Security Council demands that Iran suspend its nuclear activities by Aug. 31.
Aug. 31, 2006: The U.N. Security Council deadline for Iran to halt its work on nuclear fuel passes. IAEA says Tehran has failed to suspend the program.
Dec. 23, 2006: The 15-member U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts a binding resolution that imposes some sanctions and calls on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and to comply with its IAEA obligations.
March 24, 2007: The Security Council unanimously approves a resolution broadening UN sanctions against Iran for its continuing failure to halt uranium enrichment. Iranian officials call the new measures "unnecessary and unjustified."
April 10, 2007: Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs says Iran will not accept any suspension of its uranium-enrichment activities and urges world powers to accept the "new reality" of the Islamic republic's nuclear program.
May 23, 2007: The IAEA says in a new report, issued to coincide with the expiration of a Security Council deadline for Tehran, that Iran continues to defy U.N. Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment and has expanded such work. The report adds that the U.N. nuclear agency's ability to monitor nuclear activities in Iran has declined due to lack of access to sites.
Oct. 24, 2007: The United States imposes new sanctions on Iran and accuses the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps of spreading weapons of mass destruction.
Sources: BBC, Reuters, Financial Times, Radio Free Europe
Despite continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has ample air and naval power to strike Iran. In addition to nuclear installations, other likely targets include ballistic missile sites, Revolutionary Guard bases, and naval assets.
Syria: Earlier this year, Israel bombed a site in Syria's Deir ez-Zor region that it suspected was part of a nascent nuclear program.
Osirak: Israel in 1981 had its aircraft bomb Iraq's nuclear reactor before it became operational.
Natanz: Believed to be Iran's primary uranium-enrichment site and a key target of any attack.
B1: A supersonic, intercontinental bomber, capable of penetrating deep into defended airspace and dropping more than 50-tons of conventional bombs on a single mission.
B2: America's biggest stealthy long-range bomber, capable of flying half-way around the globe to deliver up to 23 tons of bombs on multiple targets.
F-117: The original stealth fighter, almost invisible on radar, was used to drop the first bombs in both Iraq invasions.
F-18: Carrier-borne fighter-bomber capable of many roles from air combat to bombing missions.
EGBU-28: The newest of the U.S. "bunker busters," it uses a GPS guidance system and can penetrate six meters of concrete to deliver four tons of high explosives.
SOURCES: FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS, GLOBAL SECURITY.ORG, ASSOCIATED PRESS
SO, REALLY, WHO’S THE BUFFOON?
By Rick Salutin
Globe and Mail (Canada)
September 28, 2007
There was something way over the top in Western responses to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s U.N. visit this week : There seemed to be a bull’s eye painted on him as soon as he arrived in New York. Everyone was trying a bit too hard, as if they had something to prove.
Columbia University president Lee Bollinger introduced Iran’s leader by saying his school was showing the "courage to confront the mind of evil," a fairly brazen way to welcome a campus guest. David Letterman called him and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez by schoolyard names, for no particular reason. Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson, referring to his critique of invasions of privacy in the U.S., groaned : "Stop, you’re killing me."
Criticisms like those made against the Iranian leader can easily be made of the West, and George Bush, and often are : about Western hypocrisy regarding gays or women ; or science being subjected to religious standards ; or human-rights outrages such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib ; or state sponsorship of terror - for which the U.S. has been condemned by the World Court. But criticism of "our" side isn’t ever phrased as abusively. Columbia’s Lee Bollinger said, "Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator." You can’t imagine him saying anything like that to George Bush, along with, "I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do," though it would easily apply to the U.S. President. There’s more than hypocrisy or imbalance in this choice of language ; it implies a sense of entitlement, even privilege.
The Columbia president expressed that sense perfectly during his verbal assault. He said : "I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for." Why does he get to bear that weight, traditionally the white man’s or Western man’s burden ?
It’s not a question of which leader is the real buffoon. Both qualify. It’s about who gets to draw the line, make the judgment, bear the burden. For most of modern history, it is voices in the West who got to do so for both "sides." We sent out the explorers and anthropologists, "they" didn’t come to evaluate our strange ways ; just as we now send most of the tourists and they receive us. As part of the package, we get to decide who is evil, or a buffoon. It’s assumed that the standards reside on our side of the divide.
But the dawning change in the postcolonial world is that you don’t just get ex-colonies that are formally independent - or genuinely independent. What’s starting to happen is that customary Western ways of seeing reality can no longer be easily imposed. The dominating "gaze," as they say in cultural studies, is no longer solely that of former colonizers, even when it’s been implanted in the heads of ex-colonials.
There’s a new game. The gaze gets reversed. The West doesn’t just get to die laughing at the goofy Eastern despot ; the East can laugh at the inane Western bully. Think of Hugo Chavez gleefully waving a volume by Noam Chomsky at the UN last year while sniffing the lingering sulphurous odour of George Bush. It’s this matter of who gets to laugh at whom, who gets to classify whom as joke or toxin, that may have led to those panicky overreactions during the Ahmadinejad visit. It’s about who defines reality, a conflict far more important than some fictitious war of civilizations. The power of the West wasn’t based on its higher civilizational values - it was based on its ability to dominate economically, militarily and culturally, through its way of seeing the world, which included the notion that it represented a higher civilization.
That’s what Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad challenge when they come to the UN and strut their stuff. The issue isn’t whether they’re right or wrong, it’s whether the civilizational playing field is finally being levelled.