IRAN SAYS GULF OIL ROUTE AT RISK IF ATTACKED
June 28, 2008
TEHRAN -- The Revolutionary Guards said Iran would impose controls on shipping in the vital Gulf oil route if Iran was attacked and warned regional states of reprisals if they took part, a newspaper reported on Saturday.
Fear of an escalation in the standoff between the West and Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, have been one factor propping up sky-high oil prices. Crude hit a record level on international markets near $143 a barrel on Friday.
Speculation about a possible attack on Iran because of its disputed nuclear ambitions has risen since a report this month said Israel had practiced such a strike, prompting increasingly tough talk of retaliation, if pushed, from Tehran.
"Naturally every country under attack by an enemy uses all its capacity and opportunities to confront the enemy," Guards commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari told Jam-e Jam newspaper in some of the toughest language Iran has used so far.
Analysts say Iran may not match the firepower of U.S. forces but could still cause havoc in the region using unconventional tactics, such as deploying small craft to attack ships, or using allies in the area to strike at U.S. or Israeli interests.
"Regarding the main route for exiting energy, Iran will definitely act to impose control on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz," Jafari said of the Gulf waterway through which about two-fifths of all globally traded oil passes.
Iranian officials have in the past sent mixed signals about whether Iran would use oil as a weapon. But such threats, when made, have sent jitters through the crude market for fear of disrupting supplies from big OPEC producers in the Gulf.
The Islamic Republic insists its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity. But the West and Israel fear Iran is seeking to build atomic bombs. Israel is believed to be the only Middle East state with nuclear arms.
Washington has said it wants diplomacy to end the nuclear row but has not ruled out military action should that fail.
'RIGHT TO RESPOND'
"If there is a confrontation between us and the enemy from outside the region, definitely the scope (of the confrontation) will reach the oil issue," Jafari said.
The Revolutionary Guards are the ideologically driven wing of Iran's military with air, sea, and land capabilities, and a separate command structure to regular units.
"After this action (of Iran imposing controls on the Gulf waterway), the oil price will rise very considerably and this is among the factors deterring the enemies," Jafari said.
He said any military action might "be able to delay Iran's nuclear activities but this delay will certainly be very short."
Jafari warned neighbors not to let their territory be used.
"If the attack takes place from the soil of another country . . . the country attacked has the right to respond to the enemy's military action from where the operation started," he said.
Kuwait, the launchpad for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and Iraq itself, where U.S. troops are now stationed, have both said they would not let their land be used for a strike on Iran. The U.S. military has bases in other Gulf states and Afghanistan.
Jafari said U.S. forces were "more vulnerable than Israelis" because of their troops in the area. Iran's top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has in the past said Iran would target U.S. interests if attacked.
"Iran can in different ways harm American interests even far away," the Guards commander said.
Jafari suggested Iran's allies in the region, who include Lebanon's Shi'ite militia Hezbollah, could also retaliate. He referred to Iran's ties with those living in Lebanon's Shi'ite heartland of south Lebanon but did not refer to any group.
"Israelis know if they take military action against Iran . . . the abilities of the Islamic and Shi'ite world, especially in the region, will deliver fatal blows," Jafari said, adding that Israel was in range of Iranian missiles.
He also hinted that Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that receives Iranian funding and which has sent suicide bombers into Israel, might act. But, again, he did not name the group.
(Additional reporting by Hashem Kalantari, Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Charles Dick)
ISRAEL HAS A YEAR TO STOP IRAN BOMB, WARNS EX-SPY
By Carolynne Wheeler (Tel Aviv) and Tim Shipman (Washington)
** A former head of Mossad has warned that Israel has 12 months in which to destroy Iran's nuclear program or risk coming under nuclear attack itself. He also hinted that Israel might have to act sooner if Barack Obama wins the U.S. presidential election. **
Sunday Telegraph (London)
June 28, 2008
<> Shabtai Shavit, an influential adviser to the Israeli parliament's defense and foreign affairs committee, told the Sunday Telegraph that time was running out to prevent Iran's leaders getting the bomb.
Mr. Shavit, who retired from the Israeli intelligence agency in 1996, warned that he had no doubt Iran intended to use a nuclear weapon once it had the capability, and that Israel must conduct itself accordingly.
"The time that is left to be ready is getting shorter all the time," he said in an interview.
Mr. Shavit, 69, who was deputy director of Mossad when Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear facility in Iraq in 1981, added: "As an intelligence officer working with the worst-case scenario, I can tell you we should be prepared. We should do whatever necessary on the defensive side, on the offensive side, on the public opinion side for the West, in case sanctions don't work. What's left is a military action."
The "worst-case scenario, he said, is that Iran may have a nuclear weapon within "somewhere around a year."
As speculation grew that Israel was contemplating its own air strikes, Iran's military said it might hit the Jewish state with missiles and stop Gulf oil exports if it came under attack. Israel "is completely within the range of the Islamic republic's missiles," said Mohammed Ali Jafari, head of the feared Revolutionary Guard. "Our missile power and capability are such that the Zionist regime cannot confront it."
More than 40 per cent of all globally traded oil passes through the 35-mile-wide Strait of Hormuz, putting tankers entering or leaving the Gulf at risk from Iranian mines, rockets, and artillery, and Mr. Jafari's comments were the clearest signal yet that Iran intends to use this leverage in the nuclear dispute.
Despite offering incentives, the West has failed to persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium. Israeli officials believe the diplomatic process is useless and have been pressing President Bush to launch air strikes before he leaves office on January 20 next year.
They apparently fear that the chances of winning American approval for an air attack will be drastically reduced if the Democratic nominee wins the election. Mr. Obama advocates talks with the regime in Tehran rather than military action.
That view was echoed by Mr. Shavit, who said: "If [Republican candidate John] McCain gets elected, he could really easily make a decision to go for it. If it's Obama: no. My prediction is that he won't go for it, at least not in his first term in the White House."
He warned that while it would be preferable to have American support and participation in a strike on Iran, Israel will not be afraid to go it alone.
"When it comes to decisions that have to do with our national security and our own survival, at best we may update the Americans that we are intending or planning or going to do something. It's not a precondition, [getting] an American agreement," he said.
U.S. ESCALATING COVERT OPERATIONS AGAINST IRAN -- REPORT
June 29, 2008
NEW YORK -- U.S. congressional leaders agreed late last year to President George W. Bush's funding request for a major escalation of covert operations against Iran aimed at destabilizing its leadership, according to a report in the New Yorker magazine published online on Sunday.
The article by reporter Seymour Hersh, from the magazine's July 7 and 14 issue, centers around a highly classified Presidential Finding signed by Bush which by U.S. law must be made known to Democratic and Republican House and Senate leaders and ranking members of the intelligence committees.
"The Finding was focused on undermining Iran's nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change," the article cited a person familiar with its contents as saying, and involved "working with opposition groups and passing money."
Hersh has written previously about possible administration plans to go to war to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including an April 2006 article in the *New Yorker* that suggested regime change in Iran, whether by diplomatic or military means, was Bush's ultimate goal.
Funding for the covert escalation, for which Bush requested up to $400 million, was approved by congressional leaders, according to the article, citing current and former military, intelligence and congressional sources.
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. U.S. Special Operations Forces have been conducting crossborder operations from southern Iraq since last year, the article said.
These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of "high-value targets" in Bush's war on terrorism, who may be captured or killed, according to the article.
But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which include the Central Intelligence Agency, have now been significantly expanded, the article said, citing current and former officials.
Many of these activities are not specified in the new finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature, it said.
Among groups inside Iran benefiting from U.S. support is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People's Resistance Movement, according to former CIA officer Robert Baer. Council on Foreign Relations analyst Vali Nasr described it to Hersh as a vicious organization suspected of links to al Qaeda.
The article said U.S. support for the dissident groups could prompt a violent crackdown by Iran, which could give the Bush administration a reason to intervene.
None of the Democratic leaders in Congress would comment on the finding, the article said. The White House, which has repeatedly denied preparing for military action against Iran, and the CIA also declined comment.
The United States is leading international efforts to rein in Iran's suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, although Washington concedes Iran has the right to develop nuclear power for civilian uses.