Iran Moves On Iraq, Bush Sounds Warning, US Democrats Open Negotiations With Maliki Government
UN, Russia, China Calls For "Time Out" Over Iran Nuclear Energy Controversy
February 21 is the deadline imposed by the United Nations Security Council for Iran to stop enriching uranium.
Iran currently gives no indication that it is going to adhere to that deadline. The United Nations, and Russia separately, are both sounding out the United States about a "time out" over pressuring the Iranians to wind back the growth of their nuclear energy cycle.
From Israel, and the Israel lobby in the United States, comes a seemingly endless sheeting of bog-standard warnings about what Iran will do with its nuclear weapons, and how much of a threat Iran armed with nuclear weapons will be, despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly states there is no proof, nor indication, that Iran is building nuclear weapons, or is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
But Israel's anti-Iran PR offensive has already worked.
Discussions can be heard all across newspapers, TV, radio from New York City to York, England, and all across Australia, where debates roll on how The West should react to a nuclear-armed Iran, not whether or not they actually have nuclear weapons in the first place.
Or will at any time in the next decade.
February 21 is now the date to watch.
The United States already has enough water-based firepower in the Persian Gulf to strike hundreds of targets inside Iran, and another aircraft carrier on the way.
Likewise, Israel's air force remains on a virtual two-minute-warning, ready to act on its own, or as part of an air strike offensive launched by President Bush, without the consent of the US Congress.
From the Sunday Herald :
President Bush is preparing to attack Iran's nuclear facilities before the end of April and the US Air Force's new bases in Bulgaria and Romania would be used as back-up in the onslaught, according to an official report from Sofia.
"American forces could be using their two USAF bases in Bulgaria and one at Romania's Black Sea coast to launch an attack on Iran in April," the Bulgarian news agency Novinite said.
The American build-up alongthe Black Sea, coupled with the recent positioning of two US aircraft carrier battle groups off the Straits of Hormuz, appears to indicate president Bush has run out of patience with Tehran's nuclear misrepresentation and non-compliance with the UN Security Council's resolution.
President Ahmeninejad of Iran has further ratcheted up tension in the region by putting on show his newly purchased state of the art Russian TOR-Ml anti-missile defence system.
Israel, according to the Washington Times, has its own plans for taking out Iran's nuclear facilities :
A military source tells us the talk among Israeli military officials is how and when to counter Iran's nuclear weapons program, most likely in a pre-emptive attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
The Israelis know that any attack will require overflying U.S.-dominated Iraq, but one solution would be to set up a secret base in another area between Iran and Israel to refuel Israel's bombers.
The Israelis in recent months have purchased large numbers of U.S. precision-guided joint direct attack munitions, or JDAM, kits for their bombs and special bunker-buster explosives that could be used to destroy underground Iranian nuclear facilities.
Our source said the Israelis know that their attack on Iran would be far bloodier and much more difficult than the daring 1981 bombing attack against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.
"They will have to strike during the day to make sure they get the technicians and scientists," the source told us.
Also, an anti-nuclear military strike will cause collateral damage because many of the Iranian nuclear facilities are located close to civilian population centers.
At least 13 Iranian nuclear facilities are known and can be located publicly on Google Earth mapping software. They include facilities at Tehran, Natanz, Arak, Lashkar-Abad, Isfahan, Ardekan, Bushehr and Gachin. Most are underground and have advanced air defense missiles for protection.
Key targets: the Natanz nuclear facility, a military plant about 200 miles south of Tehran that is the location of at least one centrifuge cascade that is thought to be where nuclear fuel for weapons is being developed.
The Bushehr nuclear reactor on the Persian Gulf coast also will be a key target, and any bombing there risks killing scores of Russians who are part of construction crews for the reactor facility.
The Bush administration is hardening its position on Iran but is holding Israel in check from attacking. That said, in 1981, the United States had no warning of the Osirak raid until after the F-16s and F-15s were in the air.
Iran isn't waiting for the United States/Coalition retreat from Iraq before they set up the financial infrastructure they need to gradually absorb the now Shiite dominated country into their own, if that's what they're actually planning to do. It begins with the founding of banks and solid financial infrastructure.
From the New York Times :
Iran's ambassador to Baghdad outlined an ambitious plan on Sunday to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iraq — including an Iranian national bank branch in the heart of the capital — just as the Bush administration has been warning the Iranians to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs.
Iran’s plan, as outlined by the ambassador, carries the potential to bring Iran into further conflict here with the United States, which has detained a number of Iranian operatives in recent weeks and says it has proof of Iranian complicity in attacks on American and Iraqi forces.
The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called “the security fight.”
In the economic area, Mr. Qumi said, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for Iraq reconstruction...
“We have experience of reconstruction after war,” Mr. Qumi said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. “We are ready to transfer this experience in terms of reconstruction to the Iraqis.”
Mr. Qumi also acknowledged, for the first time, that two Iranians seized and later released by American forces last month were security officials, as the United States had claimed. But he said that they were engaged in legitimate discussions with the Iraqi government and should not have been detained.
He ridiculed the evidence that the American military has said it collected, including maps of Baghdad delineating Sunni, Shiite and mixed neighborhoods — the kind of maps, American officials have said, that would be useful for militias engaged in ethnic slaughter. Mr. Qumi said the maps were so common and easily obtainable that they proved nothing.
“They worked in the security sector in the Islamic Republic, that’s clear,” Mr. Qumi said, referring to Iran. But he said that the Iranians were in Iraq because “the two countries agreed to solve the security problems.” The Iranians “went to meet with the Iraqi side,” he said.
In a surprise announcement, Mr. Qumi said Iran would soon open a national bank in Iraq, in effect creating a new Iranian financial institution right under the Americans’ noses. A senior Iraqi banking official, Hussein al-Uzri, confirmed that Iran had received a license to open the bank, which he said would apparently be the first “wholly owned subsidiary bank” of a foreign country in Iraq.
“This will enhance trade between the two countries,” Mr. Uzri said.
Any Iranian military assistance to Iraq would be fraught with potential difficulties. Aside from provoking American objections, such assistance could further alienate Sunni Arabs, many of whom already suspect that Iran, overwhelmingly Shiite, is encouraging Iraq’s Shiite-led government in persecuting them.
A number of American and Iraqi officials said Sunday that it was difficult to respond to Mr. Qumi’s statements until they had been communicated through official routes. A spokesman for the American Embassy in Baghdad, Lou Fintor, declined to address the statements.“We are welcoming all the initiatives to participate in the process of reconstruction,” said Qasim Daoud, a former national security adviser who is now a secular Shiite member of Parliament. “My belief is that our strategic alliance is with the Americans, but at the same time we are looking for the participation of any country that would like to participate,” Mr. Daoud said.
Mr. Qumi also warned the United States against playing out tensions in what he called “the nuclear file” in Iraq. “We don’t need Iraq to pay the cost of our animosity with the Americans,” Mr. Qumi said.
As the interview was breaking up, Mr. Qumi made one last stab at the Americans. If Iran is allowed to undertake reconstruction activities in Iraq, he said, all international construction companies would be welcome. “Urge the American companies to come here,” he said.
The Response from President Bush
From Raw Story :
In a lengthy National Public Radio interview with Juan Williams today, President George W. Bush warned Iran, one of the nations in Bush's so-called "axis of evil," over its nuclear ambitions and threatened potential retaliation for Iran's doings in war-torn Iraq.
"If Iran escalates its military action in Iraq to the detriment of our troops and/or innocent Iraqi people, we will respond firmly," said the President, who also remarked, "I take the Iranian nuclear threat very seriously, even though the intel on Iraq was not what it was thought to be."
Yet Bush also insisted, in response to rumors of a pre-emptive U.S. attack on Teheran, "I have no intent upon going into Iran..."
Going into Iran is not the same as bombing Iran from the sky, or the Gulf.
Only crazed right wing war pigs seriously discuss the merits of deploying US troops on the ground in Iran. The debate as it now stands is over whether the US will launch air strikes at Iran's nuclear energy facilities, or whether Israel will do it.
And as Bush made clear, "I have no intent upon going into Iran..." He didn't say anything about "going over Iran".
While the relationship between President Bush and Iraq's Maliki government continues to descend into something akin to an emotional scratching post, with the US as the cat, the Democrats, under Nancy Pelosi, now in control of the US Congress, have entered into their own negotiations with Maliki to bring the war to a close.
From the LA Times :
Representatives of Iraq's government are hedging their bets on America's political future, hoping to keep U.S. support for their country strong by building ties with a Democratic Party that now controls Congress and is closely scrutinizing President Bush's Iraq policy.
"There's a decision to be in contact, find out what they want, what their concerns are and to tell them of our concerns as well," said Ali Adeeb, a Shiite lawmaker and close associate of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
Republicans have dominated Iraq policy since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Many of the first U.S. officials in Iraq were handpicked party activists.
In one sense, the Nov. 7 election that handed Democrats control of Congress changed little, even though it was largely viewed as a repudiation of the White House's Iraq policy. The State and Defense departments are still the primary instruments of policy in Iraq.
A top government official close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who ended a brief visit to Iraq on Saturday, said the Bush administration remains the final arbiter of decisions on how much continued U.S. military and financial support the Iraqis receive.
But the election that changed the political dynamic in Washington also altered the rules of the game here.
Iraqi leaders studied and discussed the possibility of a Democratic takeover for months before the vote. They concluded early that even the most staunchly antiwar Democrats would not abandon Iraq. In heated discussions, lawmakers reminded one another that it was Democratic President Clinton who signed the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which funded the opposition movements now in power.
The Shiite Muslim leadership has informally recommended to ministerial and parliamentary delegations heading to Washington that they cultivate closer relationships with Democrats as well as Republicans.
Many pointed out advantages to the Democrats' increased sway over Iraq policy. Government officials said they had generally found the Democratic position on handing over security to Iraqi forces sooner rather than later closer to theirs.
"I see that the Democratic ideas are more related to reality," said Ammar Tuma, a lawmaker who serves in Maliki's ruling Shiite coalition. "They talk about the real problems that the Iraqis are facing every day."
To date, government officials said, they've also found Democratic visitors such as Pelosi, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois less parochial, more culturally sensitive and more willing to listen to Iraqi concerns than Republicans.
"Before, Bush used to order Iraqi officials to do this and that," said one member of Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The Republicans were dictating the political process in Iraq. With the Democrats in control of Congress, the Republicans are now less influential than before. It helps us in a sense to breathe a bit more and to have more freedom."
Many of the Shiites around Maliki still harbor bitterness about the Bush administration's push to remove then-interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari from his post last year. They considered the pressure inappropriate interference in Iraq's domestic affairs. They were also angered by recent remarks by Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice questioning whether Maliki was up to the job of leading Iraq.
The United Nations has called on the US, and its allies, to sound "a timeout" over the rising confrontation with Iran over its nuclear energy programs :
A key to resolving the issue is a direct engagement between Iran and the United States similar to that with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei stressed in several interviews over the weekend in Davos, Switzerland, where he attended the World Economic Forum.
“I call on all parties to take a simultaneous timeout. Iran should take a timeout from its enrichment activity, the international community a timeout from the application of sanctions, and parties should go immediately to the negotiating table,” he said. “The right track is dialogue, negotiation.”
The US has roundly rejected any and all calls for "a timeout".
But now Russia and China are backing up the United Nations, against the United States.
Everyone, it seems, now wants a "time out", except the United States, Israel, and more quietly, Australia.
But any idea that China or Russia would tolerate any kind of military action by the United States and/or Israel on Iran should be dismissed from the mind. They've made it clear. No-one strikes Iran, without serious consequences.
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