Daily Archives: February 19, 2007

Starting the countdown to the US attack on Iran: X minus 40 days

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It has been difficult to sort out to discern the intent of the Bush administration regarding Iran. Or more correctly, perhaps, it has been difficult for most of America to admit to the ugly truth, to believe that Bush will actually attack a country which is no real military threat to the US. It seems particularly hard to believe because such an attack would so closely resemble the now discredited 2003 invasion of Iraq. The American public justifiably but incorrectly seems to believe that Bush, the Congress, and the media would have learned their lesson. But, almost unbelievably, it is becoming clear that history will repeat itself. The lies, the secrecy, the dissembling, the cooperation of the mass media, the parsing of Bush and his spokespeople (many of whom remain anonymous) have followed the same pattern that we saw in 2002 and 2003, making a determined, daily, (though feeble) case for military action against Iran, while denying that such a strike is coming. Today’s “anonymous press release” from the Pentagon conjures up a distinct taste of the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin action used to justify our real entry into the Vietnam War.

Iranian patrol boats have increased attempts in the last week to assess defenses near Iraqi offshore oil terminals, U.S. military officials said Monday.

The officials — who said they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter –– said that the United States does not see the Iranian moves as aggressive or provocative. The assessment is that the probes are part of an Iranian effort to raise its military presence in the gulf.

….

On at least two days, Iranian patrol boats crossed into Iraqi waters at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, the officials said.

The boats stayed inside Iraqi waters for several minutes before Iraqi security forces told them to leave. The Iranian boats did not approach the oil terminals.

Iraqi security forces recently took over the main responsibility for guarding the terminals, although U.S. naval forces remain nearby.

A senior U.S. Navy officer said he thinks Iran is trying to see what response its actions get from Iraqi and U.S. naval forces. …

The U.S. Navy has encountered Iranian ships and small fishing vessels in several cases, but there have been no hostilities, the officer said.

The intelligence assessment is that in many cases the Iranians are watching the U.S. Navy to see how it operates. [??? this is intelligence?] The officer confirmed to CNN that the Navy has increased its security precautions when dealing with Iranian entities on the water to ensure there are no miscommunications or miscalculations.

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It’s time to pay attention. It’s time to realize that Bush is going to do it, that the United States is going to launch a massive air attack against another sovereign country, killing hundreds or thousands of innocent people, dragging our country through the mud again, condemning us and our children to more world wide hatred, under some flimsy excuse. He’s not trying to pressure Iran to act nice; quite the opposite; he’s drumming up excuses to attack. The evidence and credible sources can no longer be ignored/denied. I have posted several stories in this issue, here, and here, for example. Bush is not just trying to pressure Iran into some change of course on its nuclear program, nor is he acting to protect our troops in Iraq from some alleged Iranian sourced weapons.

From several sources, it appears that the attack will commence sometime between mid March and the end of April. I have arbitrarily decided to approximate the date as March 29, and have started a 40 day countdown to that date. Each day I will post a story on some aspect of this tragic and misguided adventure. I will begin with the evidence that has convinced me that the attack is going forward, and go on to discuss targets, methods, consequences both short and long-term, drawing on both previously published material and new developments.

It is my hope that this series might inform a few people and encourage others to take up the fight to stop this atrocity. I am not optimistic, but if enough Americans make their voices heard, the Congress may get the message that we elected them to stop this kind of thing. I will try to provide as much contact information as possible for legislators, newspapers, television, etc, so that anyone who shares my concerns can easily launch their own campaign. For example: you can use this to find contact information for your Senators.

I choose to begin this series with an account of a recent talk by Seymour Hersh, who first reported on this issue in the New Yorker, April 17, 2006.. He has been speaking around the country on the Bush administration’s plans to attack Iran.
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The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh closed out last week’s symposium “The ‘War on Terrorism’: Where Do We Stand” with a scathing critique of President George W. Bush and his foreign policy in the Middle East.”The fact of the matter is we have a government that will do what it wants to do for the next two years,” he said. “The worst is yet to come. It’s sort of like we’re essentially powerless [and] just play it out.”

One of the premier names in American investigative reporting, Hersh won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the 1968 My Lai massacre and helped break the story about U.S. prison abuses at Abu Ghraib in 2004. He previously spoke about Iraq at Tufts in 2004 and about the Iran-Contra Affair in 1988.

On Friday, Hersh spoke at length about the administration’s ambitions to cope with the threat of a nuclear Iran, drawing from his research for “The Iran Plans: Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb,” published in the New Yorker on April 17, 2006.

He said that Bush and top aides have largely ignored the military intelligence presented to them on Iran’s nuclear program.

“Whatever Iran has, they’ve shown us, they’ve showed the I.A.E.A. [International Atomic Energy Agency],” he said.

The article alleged – almost wholly through anonymous sources within the government – that the United States had begun formulating plans for an air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities and has even been considering a nuclear first strike, claims that the administration has denied.

“It may come down to the president making an order that the military will object to,” Hersh said. “It would be devastating, but it may come down to it. My fear is that he will do what he wants.”

At the same time, however, he said their belief in the mission is sincere.

“What [the White House is] doing now is not about the region, it’s about us, protecting America. They really believe it. They say, ‘We’re protecting you, we’re doing this for you,'” Hersh said.

He alleged that Bush sees his mission as timely and crucial even though international sources estimate that Iran is years away from developing a nuclear bomb.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the I.A.E.A., said on Friday that Iran is three to eight years away from being able to build an atomic bomb, according to the Agence France-Presse.

“He’s a total radical, probably the most radical president we’ve ever had in terms of his definition of the power of the presidency,” he said. “There’s nothing more dangerous than a radical who doesn’t have information, doesn’t learn from information and doesn’t learn from the past.”

This radicalism, he said, has dangerous implications. “This is a guy who wants to leave office with the Iranian books clean,” he said of Bush.

“None of this means it’s going to happen,” he told the hushed audience. “It could be better under [current Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Hersh said that not even negative press coverage has slowed the administration. “They couldn’t care less about what we write. They’re immune, inured to what The New York Times can write, what The New Yorker can write,” he said.

Still, with hindsight on the war, he said the fourth estate should have pushed the administration harder on the intelligence concerning Iraq. “We in the press really failed you,” he said. “We’ve missed the moral story. We all missed it.”

During his remarks, Hersh was careful to limit his critique to policy concerning the war, not to people or the capacity of the armed forces. “We’ve got guys who have really learned to fight guerilla wars,” he said.

“I’m completely sympathetic to our kids – the kids we send are as much victims as [civilians],” he said later in the speech.

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Explosive devices in Iraq definitely not hightech and not new.

from Alexander Cockburn:

Now, the people attacking and killing most American troops in Iraq are not Shi’a but Sunni, and are therefore unlikely to have been supplied by Iran. Some 1,190 US troops have been killed in Iraq since the start of the insurgency by roadside bombs, aka IEDs. 170 American soldiers have been killed by EFPs since June 2004, less than 8% of the total killed in action.

Explosively-formed penetrators are a not-so-recent variant on the 1885 Munroe Effect, the original idea behind the shaped charge. (My informant here is Pierre Sprey, a former weapons designer with the A-10 and F-16 planes on his CV.) 2) Conventional shaped charges are a copper (or other metal) funnel inside a cylindrical casing with the open end facing the target and with powder packed behind the narrow end. The powder is ignited behind the funnel and an explosive shock wave collapses the funnel, creating a hot gas blowtorch jet carrying with it a slug of molten metal. Such shaped charges are optimized to go off within a foot or less from the surface of the target–and to burn through thick armor by creating the most focused jet and deepest, smallest hole possible. To get a good effect from a shaped charge, you have to a) propel it with a rocket or cannon projectile so it’ll go off right on the surface of the target; or b) bury it as a mine in a road so that it’s very close to the belly armor of a vehicle when it goes off.

The EFD variation on this principle substitutes a bowl-like dish of copper for the funnel. This sacrifices the efficiency of the highly focused jet that drills the deepest possible hole in return for a slower, more cohesive slug of molten metal that will hang together even if the charge is detonated 20 to 100 feet from the target. Thus, the EFD warhead or bomb can be placed at or beyond the shoulder of a road (or on top of a concrete barrier or in the window of a house right on the road) aimed at the center of the road. When a vehicle or convoy comes along, it can be fired manually by a remote and concealed insurgent (or triggered automatically by a garage door opener infrared beam); in other words, the EFD can be used like a hidden short range armor piercing gun with little risk to the remote firer. This makes the EFP a tactical alternative to parking a sedan full of explosives by the side of the road and blowing it up when a Bradley or Humvee comes along. Casualties caused by an EFP will be smaller, but it’s more portable.

The US Defense Departnment started developing small, highly refined EFD warhead bomblets dropped on parachutes and fired by miniature IR or radar sensors in 1977 as part of the Assault Breaker program. There are both Army and Air Force spinoffs–all enormously and impractically expensive in production– of this program. The current USAF in-production EFP cluster bomb is called the CBU-97. From 1980 to today, the documented cheating during the testing of this weapon has been egregious, even by USAF testing standards (which are lax indeed). It’s certain that the EFD idea is substantially older than 1977.

The first terrorist use of an EFD was in the 1989 assassination of German banker Alfred Herrhausen in his armored limousine, attributed to the Red Army Faction. This was almost certainly a homemade device made by unsophisticated means.

The improvised EFPs used in Iraq don’t need to have Iranian-manufactured components. The necessary equipment consists of a copper bowl (a hand beaten one like they sell to tourists all over the Middle East is fine), a 6″ to 9″ diameter iron or steel sewer pipe or oil pipe (the oil pipe is excellent quality steel), a few pounds of explosive and a fuse. The 380 tons of US RDX explosive that went missing due to lax security would be ultra-high quality stuff for the job. All the insurgents need is one or two chalk talks or a video tape to learn how to make an EFP. That’s all it takes to transfer the technology.

The use of EFPs in Iraq is old news indeed. They were first used by insurgents in late 2003 and have been used steadily–in small numbers–since then.

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Movie review: Breach

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The story of the last days before the apprehension of double agent Robert Hanssen.

Starring Chris Cooper (who should win an award) and Ryan Phillippe.

An excellent film, for those who enjoy suspense, true crime, history, turns and twists. Better than fiction.

4/4.

Go see it.

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Today’s anonymous Iran/war news story: US forces arrayed v. Iran are massive

Virtually every day over the past three weeks we are confronted with some anonymously sourced story in which Iran is denounced or threatened by the US, directly or indirectly. Which are planted by the Bush administration, and which are true leaks???? The sniper rifle story is clearly a US plant, and it appeared in the British press, in a conservative publication. Today, however, we find an ominous sounding piece in a liberal UK publication, written by a liberal writer, and this sounds more like a real leak from a British source:

British military sources told the New Statesman, on condition of anonymity, that “the US military switched its whole focus to Iran” as soon as Saddam Hussein was kicked out of Baghdad. It continued this strategy, even though it had American infantry bogged down in fighting the insurgency in Iraq.
The US army, navy, air force and marines have all prepared battle plans and spent four years building bases and training for “Operation Iranian Freedom”. Admiral Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, has inherited computerised plans under the name TIRANNT (Theatre Iran Near Term).

The Bush administration has made much of sending a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf. But it is a tiny part of the preparations. Post 9/11, the US navy can put six carriers into battle at a month’s notice. Two carriers in the region, the USS John C Stennis and the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, could quickly be joined by three more now at sea: USS Ronald Reagan, USS Harry S Truman and USS Theodore Roosevelt, as well as by USS Nimitz. Each carrier force includes hundreds of cruise missiles.
Then there are the marines, who are not tied down fighting in Iraq. Several marine forces are assembling, each with its own aircraft carrier. These carrier forces can each conduct a version of the D-Day landings. They come with landing craft, tanks, jump-jets, thousands of troops and, yes, hundreds more cruise missiles. Their task is to destroy Iranian forces able to attack oil tankers and to secure oilfields and installations. They have trained for this mission since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

Today, marines have the USS Boxer and USS Bataan carrier forces in the Gulf and probably also the USS Kearsarge and USS Bonhomme Richard [Over the Line, Smokey!:the BHR is still in San Diego]. Three others, the USS Peleliu, USS Wasp and USS Iwo Jima, are ready to join them. Earlier this year, HQ staff to manage these forces was moved from Virginia to Bahrain.

Vice-President Dick Cheney has had something of a love affair with the US marines, and this may reach its culmination in the fishing villages along Iran’s Gulf coast. Marine generals hold the top jobs at Nato, in the Pentagon and are in charge of all nuclear weapons. No marine has held any of these posts before.

Traditionally, the top nuclear job went either to a commander of the navy’s Trident submarines or of the air force’s bombers and missiles. Today, all these forces follow the orders of a marine, General James Cartwright, and are integrated into a “Global Strike” plan which places strategic forces on permanent 12-hour readiness.

The only public discussion of this plan has been by the American analysts Bill Arkin and Hans Kristensen, who have focused on the possible use of atomic weapons. These concerns are justified, but ignore how forces can be used in conventional war.
Any US general planning to attack Iran can now assume that at least 10,000 targets can be hit in a single raid, with warplanes flying from the US or Diego Garcia. In the past year, unlimited funding for military technology has taken “smart bombs” to a new level.
New “bunker-busting” conventional bombs weigh only 250lb. According to Boeing, the GBU-39 small-diameter bomb “quadruples” the firepower of US warplanes, compared to those in use even as recently as 2003. A single stealth or B-52 bomber can now attack between 150 and 300 individual points to within a metre of accuracy using the global positioning system.
The Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) is half the weight of the smallest bomb the Air Force uses today, the 500-pound Mark 82. It uses a 250 pound-class warhead that has demonstrated penetration of more than 6 feet of reinforced concrete. Utilizing a smaller weapon improves aircraft load-out and mission effectiveness. The size and accuracy of small diameter bombs allows aircraft to carry more munitions to more targets and strike them more effectively with less collateral damage. Because of its capabilities, the Small Diameter Bomb system is an important element of the Air Force’s Global Strike Task Force.

The Small Diameter Bomb range is extended to 60 nautical miles by pop-out wings and the speed and altitude of the aircraft using it. A Phase 3 version may have the ability to loiter or autonomously seek out targets. The Small Diameter Bomb is considered one of the most significant programs on the books because it will dramatically increase the strike capability of every combat aircraft in the inventory.

The Small Smart Bomb is a 250 pound weapon that has the same penetration capabilities as a 2000lb BLU-109, but with only 50 pounds of explosive. The 250 pound-class warhead that has demonstrated penetration of more than 6 feet of reinforced concrete. With the INS/GPS guidance in conjunction with differential GPS (using all 12 channel receivers, instead of only 5) corrections provided by GPS SPO Accuracy Improvement Initiative (AII) and improved Target Location Error (TLE), it can achieve a 5-8m CEP (“accuracy”)…
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With little military effort, the US air force can hit the last-known position of Iranian military units, political leaders and supposed sites of weapons of mass destruction. One can be sure that, if war comes, George Bush will not want to stand accused of using too little force and allowing Iran to fight back.

“Global Strike” means that, without any obvious signal, what was done to Serbia and Lebanon can be done overnight to the whole of Iran. We, and probably the Iranians, would not know about it until after the bombs fell. Forces that hide will suffer the fate of Saddam’s armies, once their positions are known.

The whole of Iran is now less than an hour’s flying time from some American base or carrier. Sources in the region as well as trade journals confirm that the US has built three bases in Azerbaijan that could be transit points for troops and with facilities equal to its best in Europe.

the U.S. forces will be deployed in Kurdamir, Nasosnaya and Guyullah. Various types of aircraft will be deployed at all the three bases, which have runways modernized for U.S. military needs. (Interfax) May 21, 2005
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Most of the Iranian army is positioned along the border with Iraq, facing US army missiles that can reach 150km over the border. But it is in the flat, sandy oilfields east and south of Basra where the temptation will be to launch a tank attack and hope that a disaffected population will be grateful.

The regime in Tehran has already complained of US- and UK-inspired terror attacks in several Iranian regions where the population opposes the ayatollahs’ fanatical policies. Such reports corroborate the American journalist Seymour Hersh’s claim that the US military is already engaged in a low-level war with Iran. The fighting is most intense in the Kurdish north where Iran has been firing artillery into Iraq. The US and Iran are already engaged in a low-level proxy war across the Iran-Iraq border.

And, once again, the neo-cons at the American Enterprise Institute have a plan for a peaceful settlement: this time it is for a federal Iran. Officially, Michael Ledeen, the AEI plan’s sponsor, has been ostracised by the White House. However, two years ago, the Congress of Iranian Nationalities for a Federal Iran had its inaugural meeting in London.
We should not underestimate the Bush administration’s ability to convince itself that an “Iran of the regions” will emerge from a post-rubble Iran.

Editor’s note: Dan Plesch is a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Is Dan Plesch being used here? is all this stuff a bluff? or is the US going to attack Iran? How can we know? If more ships show up in the Gulf? if oil prices start to surge?

I am left with the impression that this report is a real leak. And that Bush and Cheney are going to try and level Iraq’s military and nuclear programs; it is still hard to believe that they will try to take the Iranian oil fields.

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