The ‘Tide of War’ Is Not Receding

By IndepthAfrica
In Middle East
Feb 8th, 2012
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On January 29, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was interviewed on CBS news. When asked about the situation with Iran, Secretary Panetta responded: “[I]f they [Iran] decided to [build a nuclear device], it would probably take them about a year … [and] …if they proceed and [if] we get intelligence…then….there are no options that are off the table” for the US commitment to stop Iran from building a nuclear arsenal.

Sounds good, except for all the “ifs:” “if they produce” and “if we get intelligence” and “if they decide to do it”

Panetta’s “ifs” create the impression that there may in fact be no threat from Iran, that Iran may not be pursuing nuclear capacity, that there is as yet no actionable intelligence about Iranian WMDs, and that maybe Iran has not decided to pursue a nuclear option.

But facts of which Mr. Panetta must be aware tell us the opposite.

Back in the ‘60s the Shah tried to start a WMD program for Iran but it floundered and was abandoned. In the mid-1990s the Ayatollahs restarted the program. Iran said it wanted nuclear power for clean energy needs, but in 2002 an Iranian exile group shared with Western intelligence secret Iranian documents revealing a clandestine program to enrich weapons-grade uranium. The facility at Natanz was built with the assistance of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Under threat of sanctions, the government agreed in 2003 to halt work on uranium enrichment; but in 2006, less than a year after Akhmedi-Nejad took power, the Iranian government announced that it was going to restart its uranium enrichment. No “ifs” about that.

From 2005 onward US intelligence organizations and the Israeli Mossad worked together to locate and sabotage the financial underpinnings of the Iranian nuclear project. On September 9, 2009, American intelligence concluded that Iran had the nuclear fuel necessary to build an atomic bomb, thanks in part to a hitherto undocumented underground plant near the city of Qom. Most recently in January of this year, Iran announced defiantly that it was going to start an additional uranium enrichment site, fortified to withstand even the most powerful of America’s bunker-busting bombs. No “ifs” about that either.

In May 2011, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salehi addressed a regional economic summit in Tehran. He told his audience that he was optimistic that nuclear inspectors would not find anything amiss when they visited Iran. Of course he was optimistic. For the past 20 years Iran has done a great job of hiding those of their WMD sites that were devoted to the development of military uses for nuclear weapons.

American efforts to counteract the Iranian threat have been limited to sanctions and efforts to persuade EU allies to cease cooperation with Iranian financial institutions, the most significant of which were H.R. 1905, the Iranian Threat Reduction Act of (May) 2011, and the Senate’s decision in December 2011 to approve sanctions against Iran’s central bank. Although, as has recently become clear, President Obama does not support such actions, even though a nuclear Iran now threatens the American continents, he nonetheless signed these newest and most comprehensive sanctions on December 31, 2011. No “ifs” in the opinion of Congress nor in Obama’s acquiescence.

Throughout the past decade Iran has argued that it merely wants to generate clean, green electricity with its nuclear program; but a host of reports from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), thoroughly documented in a series of articles in the NY Times, create the more than merely credible case that Iran has been well on its way for over a decade to developing a nuclear device for military use. The New York Times offers no support for any “ifs.”

And Panetta’s “ifs” are further contradicted by the fact that the Pentagon (Panetta is the Secretary of Defense – he runs the Pentagon) is asking for funding to build even bigger bunker-buster bombs because the current 30,000-pound “Massive Ordnance Penetrator” (MOP) failed recent tests simulating attacks on underground installations. Is the Pentagon now seeking funding for bigger MOP bunker-busters to combat a threat that does not exist?

So why is Panetta implying that there might really be no danger of a nuclear Iran when the last twenty years of Iranian activity, documented by American and other Western intelligence, shows us the opposite? Perhaps because he is operating on the same wave-length as our president.

Over the past six months, President Obama has insisted that “the tide of war is receding.” He said it on June 22, 2011, and again on Sept. 21, 2011, in his address to the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, again on Nov. 11, 2011, at Arlington Cemetery, again on Jan. 5, 2012, while announcing cuts in the U.S. military, and most recently in his State of the Union address.

But wait! Does Obama not know that North Korea and Iran are still working on nuclear bombs? Iran continues to arm and support Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of which have networks well beyond the Middle East, including in Latin America and the USA; and even worse, Iran has doubled its defense budget for 2012 as it defiantly ratchets up its quest for WMD capacity. Iran and Syria supply arms to anti-American forces in Iraq, and Iran’s Shi’ite proxies in Iraq are maneuvering to gain greater influence as soon as all American forces are gone. The Taliban is alive and well and maneuvering to gain greater influence and control in Afghanistan. Russia is providing political support and weapons for Syria, and Bashir Assad’s continued control in Syria prolongs Iran’s ability to support and arm and direct Hezbollah. Obama’s decision to “reach out” to Assad with recognition and an embassy failed, as Syria became more violent thanks in part to Iranian support for its military’s slaughter of unarmed demonstrators. If Assad survives it is a great victory for Iran, and if he falls it is another great victory for the Muslim Brotherhood: either way it is a defeat for America and the free world. The Palestinians are now talking of a third intifada, and Hamas has support from the new Egyptian government which is doing nothing to limit the activities of al-Qaeda in the Sinai.

And perhaps worst of all, several Arab countries basking in the “Arab Spring” are now under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda or other Salafist parties of similar ilk, whose sworn goal is the destruction of Western civilization and its replacement with Islam. So instead of operating as clandestine covert terror organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunis, and al-Qaeda in Libya, are now in control of full-fledged nation-states, exponentially expanding their capacity for terrorism and aggression.

The “tide of war” is not receding. There are no “ifs” in the Iranian quest for nuclear military capacity. Quite the opposite; the USA is facing a tsunami of hostile forces from the Middle East and Asia and even on our very doorstep in South America.

Obama, with Panetta’s support, seeks re-election in 2012, so they both lie to the American public about threats to our nation and to the free world, in the hope that if they can hoodwink us about his massive and terrifyingly dangerous failures in foreign policy, Obama may get re-elected.

David Meir-Levi writes and lectures on Middle East topics, until recently in the History Department of San Jose State University

 

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