Currents are shifting in the shoals of the Iran-P5+1 stand-off.  --  "[D]ebate over stronger measures [against Iran] -- from a sanctions-enforcing blockade to military strikes -- is hotting up," Jim Lobe commented on Wednesday in an IPS piece.[1]  --  Promoted by the Israeli government and "its supporters here," the drive for action against Iran has included a demand to "build up U.S. naval forces in the [Persian] Gulf both to demonstrate Washington's resolve and prepare to use them 'to prevent critical imports and exports from' Iran as part of any enhanced unilateral or multilateral sanctions regime, according to an Israeli member of Barak's delegation quoted in this week's Defense News."  --  Cooler heads like Michael O'Hanlon and Bruce Riedel said this week in a Financial Times Op-Ed that "Given Iran's ability to retaliate against the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is simply not credible that we would use force in the foreseeable future."  --  But out in the heart of the "homeland" the drums of war are pounding, with people publishing wild, rabid, meretricious pieces like "We must act on Iran," which appeared in Tuesday's *Independent Record* (Helena, MT).[2]  --  Despite the fact that no concrete evidence of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is known, the Big Lie campaign by U.S. media that we have followed for the past five years on this website has had its effect:  a CNN poll last week showed that 71% of Americans believe that Iran already has nuclear weapons.[3]  --  And "if economic and diplomatic efforts fail, support for military action rises to 59 percent, with only 39 percent opposing military action under those circumstances." ...


1.

U.S.-Iran

DEBATE OVER MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAN GAINS STEAM

By Jim Lobe

Inter Press Service
March 3, 2010

http://ipsnews.net/login.asp?redir=news.asp?idnews=50539


WASHINGTON -- While the ongoing U.S. military "surge" in Afghanistan continues to capture the headlines, Iran's nuclear program -- and how best to deal with it -- is rapidly emerging here as this year's biggest foreign policy challenge.

Although the administration of President Barack Obama remains hopeful that a combination of diplomacy and increasingly tougher sanctions will succeed in persuading Tehran to curb its nuclear efforts, the debate over stronger measures -- from a sanctions-enforcing blockade to military strikes -- is hotting up.

The debate appears to be driven chiefly by growing pressure on the administration by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and its supporters here to sharply ramp up pressure on Tehran through the urgent adoption of both "crippling sanctions" and the means to enforce them militarily.

"Time is growing short.  There must be forceful sanctions now," Netanyahu declared at a Jerusalem conference Feb. 17.

"Forceful sanctions must include steps to stop the importation of petroleum products to Iran and the export of energy," he added in what was widely interpreted as a call for a blockade, as well as an implicit rejection of narrower sanctions -- targeted chiefly at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) -- preferred by Obama at this point in the growing confrontation.

During a visit here last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak pressed his U.S. counterpart, Robert Gates, to build up U.S. naval forces in the Gulf both to demonstrate Washington's resolve and prepare to use them "to prevent critical imports and exports from" Iran as part of any enhanced unilateral or multilateral sanctions regime, according to an Israeli member of Barak's delegation quoted in this week's Defense News.

The same article, written by the newspaper's Israel-based correspondent, Barbara Opall-Rome, also quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying that Washington is considering ways to enforce any new sanctions that may soon be put before the U.N. Security Council.

The same official stressed, however, that Washington is not willing to consider "tripwire-type military challenges" to Iran "at least at this stage."

The debate comes as the administration and its European allies are pressing a major diplomatic offensive to persuade veto-wielding Russia and China, as well as several doubtful non-permanent members of the Security Council -- notably Brazil, Lebanon, and Turkey -- to back or at least abstain on a new sanctions resolution that would restrict or ban commercial transactions with IRGC-controlled companies in Iran's banking, shipping, and insurance sectors.

At the same time, the administration is resisting pressure from Congress to go along with pending legislation that, among other things, would impose sanctions against foreign companies that export gasoline to Iran or have major investments in Iran's energy sector.

The so-called "Israel Lobby" enjoys strong support on both sides of the aisle.  It sees the legislation as the first of a series of "crippling" sanctions -- preferably multilateral, but unilateral for now -- that would eventually be backed up with military force.

But the administration argues that unilateral sanctions at this point risk alienating countries whose support is essential for persuading the Security Council to take tougher action.

In addition, the burdens created by such sanctions would fall on the Iranian population as a whole, rather than on specific hard-line leaders and institutions.  That, in turn, could trigger a nationalistic reaction that would rally the citizenry behind the regime and thus weaken the opposition Green Movement, according to the administration and its backers.

But the Israelis, who believe that the opposition is too weak to seriously threaten the regime in the short term, argue that the nuclear situation requires harsher and more urgent action.

"It's clear to me that the clock toward the collapse of this regime works much slower than the clock which ticks toward Iran becoming (a) nuclear military power," Barak told an audience at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank closely tied to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading Israel Lobby organisation.

He also argued that Tehran's acquisition of a nuclear capability would constitute for Israel -- if not for the U.S. -- a "tipping point of the whole regional order."

Israel's call for stronger and more urgent action is strongly echoed by both hard-line neo-conservatives and some of their aggressive nationalist allies who played a major role in persuading the administration of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq.

Former U.N. Amb. John Bolton has been arguing for months that neither diplomacy nor sanctions would not succeed and that Obama should at least acquiesce in Israel's carrying out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, if not order a more massive assault by U.S. forces the sooner the better.  He was recently joined last year's Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

Bolton's conviction regarding the ineffectiveness of diplomacy or sanctions in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear capacity is also increasingly accepted by more establishment figures who are now debating whether the threat or use of military action to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capacity can succeed.

Last month, the president of the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Richard Haass, argued in a widely noted *Newsweek* column that "regime change" was the "only way to stop Iran" and followed it up in an interview with the magazine's Fareed Zakaria that Washington should consider taking unilateral military action to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The growing clamor for stronger action drew a sharp rebuttal this week from two key analysts at the Brooking Institution here.

In a Financial Times column entitled "Do Not Even Think About Bombing Iran," Michael O'Hanlon and Bruce Riedel argued that Washington should be careful about brandishing military threats lest it lead to a "self-fulfilling prophecy."

"The strike option . . . lacks credibility," wrote O'Hanlon, an Iraq War hawk, and Riedel, who led the Obama administration's review of Afghanistan-Pakistan policy one year ago.  "America is engaged in two massive and unpopular military campaigns in the region."

"Given Iran's ability to retaliate against the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is simply not credible that we would use force in the foreseeable future," they went on, adding that Washington should, among other steps, "structure a sanctions regime so that it could evolve into containment of a nuclear-armed Iran . . ."

2.

Opinion

WE MUST ACT ON IRAN

By David Smith

Independent Record
(Helena, MT)
March 2, 2010

http://www.helenair.com/news/opinion/readers_alley/article_f484b1de-25c7-11df-bf33-001cc4c03286.html


Iran moves ever faster and ever nearer to its goal of operational nuclear weapons.  Their leaders have concluded that the West, led by the U.S., will take no decisive action to stop them.  Diplomacy and sanctions have not worked, and will not in the short time remaining.

Iran’s plans are clear.  They openly declare that Israel must be destroyed.  They are planning the next Holocaust, the elimination of the next 6 million Jews.

But we have nothing to fear, right?  Consider that “Death to America” is an official government slogan in Iran.  And, yet, the U.S. president will take no action to stop them.  Excuses abound.  “We can’t be sure air strikes would be 100 percent effective.”  (Can any action be sure of total success?  And wouldn’t 75 percent, with the risk of repeat strikes, be good enough?)  “It would destabilize the region.”  (Is it stable now?)  “Oil prices would go through the roof.”  (So Jewish blood for oil is O.K.?)  Excuses are always plentiful when needed to justify inaction.

But it is still not too late.  The U.S. and Israel must act.  No regime change, no boots on the ground, just air strikes of the sort that took out Iraq’s nukes in 1981, and, more recently, Syria’s.

“Learning to live with a nuclear Iran” means learning to live with genocide.  If we fail to act, we will share the guilt.

David Smith
Helena

3.

CNN POLL: AMERICANS BELIEVE IRAN HAS NUCLEAR WEAPONS


CNN
February 19, 2010

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2010/02/19/cnn-poll-american-believe-iran-has-nuclear-weapons/?fbid=ySfM7Zq1Nm0


Seven in 10 Americans believe that Iran currently has nuclear weapons, according to a new national poll.

Friday's release of the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey comes just hours after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the Islamic Republic isn't seeking and doesn't believe in pursuing nuclear weapons.  Khamenei was responding to a draft United Nations report that said that Iran may be working to develop a nuclear weapon.

The poll indicates that 71 percent of the public says Iran has nuclear weapons, with just over one in four disagreeing.  More than six in ten think the U.S. should take economic and diplomatic efforts to get Iran to shut down their nuclear program, with only a quarter calling for immediate military action.

"But if economic and diplomatic efforts fail, support for military action rises to 59 percent, with only 39 percent opposing military action under those circumstances," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The survey also indicates that support is dropping for how President Obama handled the attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner landing in Detroit on Christmas Day, but the change seems unrelated to the controversy over reading the suspect his rights.  In early January, 57 percent of the public approved of how Obama reacted to that incident, but that figure has dropped 12 points, with 47 percent now saying they disapprove of how Obama handled the situation.

"Critics have asserted that the FBI should not have read Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab his Miranda rights.  But two-thirds think the FBI should have told AbdulMutallab that he had the right to remain silent, and 56 percent say that the FBI should do that with any terrorist suspect in custody," adds Holland.

But according to the poll, nearly six in ten continue to believe that the suspect should be tried in a military court, not a civilian court.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone.  The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

--CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.