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Romney, Santorum, Gingrich lie about Iran, would start another Bushoid war

Who's going to die or become disabled in your war, Mitt? None of these.


Juan Cole:

All [of the GOP candidates] but Paul virtually promised the US public that they would go to war with Iran if elected. As Paul pointed out, the US has no money for such a war and it would be illegal and unconstitutional for the President just to launch it.

Newt Gingrich was the first to take the Iran question. He criticized Gen. Martin Dempsey for saying that the Iranian regime is “rational actors.”

Gingrich said, “The fact is, this is a dictator, Ahmadinejad….

One problem is that Ahmadinejad is not a dictator. The presidency in the Iranian system is like the vice presidency in the United States. Ahmadinejad has lost fights with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and even with parliament over appointments. The Wikileaks cables say that a Revolutionary Guard officer even slapped him.


Gingrich continues, calling Ahmadinejad a dictator yet again, and accuses him of saying that he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth.
…. he makes a false assertion. Ahmadinejad once quoted an old speech of Ayatollah Khomeini’s from the 1980s, in which Khomeini said, “this occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” “mahv shavad” or vanish is intransitive, so transitive verb like “eliminate” is incorrect as a translation. It was not a threat to destroy Israel through military action, but a prediction that the occupation regime would collapse rather as the Soviet Union had. The occupation regime over Gaza, after all, has in fact collapsed.

Gingrich says that Ahmadinejad wants to “drive the United States” out of the Middle East. While Ahmadinejad is an anti-imperialist, he has not threatened to attack the United States, as Gingrich implied. Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has repeatedly said that Iran has a “no first strike policy” and will not be the first to initiate hostilities.

….

In fact, Gingrich cannot refute Gen. Dempsey’s assertion that Iran is a rational actor by reference to Ahmadinejad, who does not make military policy.

Gingrich also errs in not taking account of Iran’s military weakness and inability to attack or destroy Israel. Iran has no air force to speak of, whereas Israel has the best air force in the region. Iran does not have a big tank army. It is far from Israel and could not send tank columns through Turkey or Iraq or Jordan. Besides, the Israelis would just destroy the tanks. And Israel has 400 nuclear bombs, which would deter Iran from attacking it even if Iran had that capacity, which it does not.
….
Romney said, “Ahmadinejad having fissile material that he can give to Hezbollah and Hamas and that they can bring into Latin America and potentially bring across the border into the United States to let off dirty bombs here. I mean — or — or more sophisticated bombs here, this — we simply cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weaponry.”

This is Propaganda with a capital ‘p’. Romney is appealing to an argument that stacks the cards. No nuclear country has ever given bombs to terrorist groups and there is no reason to think Iran would either. Iran does not, of course, even have such a bomb. Hizbullah and Hamas could not in fact carry a nuclear bomb (they are heavy, complicated and dangerous) around Latin America and up through Mexico to the US because Mexican authorities would detain them. Assuming there were Hamas in “Latin America,” which there mostly are not. Romney is just making sh*t up with which to scare us.

He has to do this because Iran is far away from the US, is militarily weak, and poses no threat to the American mainland. By inventing radical Muslim fundamentalist Mexicans with a nuclear bomb miraculously supplied by an Iran that doesn’t have one, Romney brings a sense of danger to an American audience.

Santorum brings up the rear arguing that US funding for anti-regime elements in Iran would have allowed the overthrow of the Khamenei government. But a few tens of millions of dollars cannot bring down a government, and open association with the United States is the kiss of death in Iranian politics.

This squalid performance by three of the leading lights of the GOP is a very troubling development. All seem reckless and willing to risk war with Iran. None seems terribly interested in the outcome. It is almost as though they were working for big munitions corporations.

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GOP, Iran, Obama and gas prices.

Juan Cole:

As prices in February hit a historic high for this time of year, presaging perhaps $5 a gallon gasoline this summer in the US, Iran is still sitting pretty. The fragile European and US economies, however, may take a hit from higher transportation costs (the US will likely see a fall in summer travel and internal tourism). The same Republicans who complain that President Obama hasn’t been hard enough on Iran are cynically planning to campaign against him on his having caused higher petroleum prices, ignoring the role of sanctions on Iran and tensions with that country in the price run-up! I hate to say it but I told you so.

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Countdown to US attack on Iran: It’s Day Zero.

[Yesterday’s post in this series was updated; if you didn’t see the updates, go here.]

Well, the great day is here. Zero hour. x minus zero. Whatever. No war. What happened? Was I a Chicken Little? Perhaps. Should we engage in cognitive dissonance and just set back the date a few weeks or months? Let’s backtrack to how I got into this….

When I first started paying attention to this issue of an attack on Iran, Sy Hersh had written about it, and Scott Ritter was on board as well. I actually believe that there was a time last summer when this attack was being planned as a real deal. But, as they say, elections have consequences.

There is no way to justify a US attack on Iran. In the case of Iraq in 2003, that didn’t matter. But since then, even with tight secretive control of the White House and the Congress, even with a popular cable “news” channel pumping the propaganda 24/7, the lies have been exposed, the paranoid fantasies of Dick Cheney have been published for the world to see, and the utter destruction of Iraq has become plain for all but the looniest denier. Then we had an election, and the American people took back the House and Senate.

Even the early congressional investigations of malfeasance during the last six years have exposed even more partisanship, scandal and incompetence than were previously apparent. The Republican Party’s standing in the eyes of Americans is plummeting. The idea of successfully stringing together a bunch of lies today, to justify an attack, is ludicrous.

More importantly, though, Bush lost the raw power to declare war.

Yes, he has the power to bomb Iran on some “defense of troops under attack” excuse, but he should fear for his office and his liberty if he does so on some manufactured crisis, or if he extends such an attack to include, for example, nuclear research facilities.

But he will never again be able to indulge his (or Dick Cheney’s) fantasies of conquest, because the Congress will not only not vote him the power, it will also investigate his every attempt to defraud the public on this issue.

And is not just Congress that Bush has lost. He has lost many military leaders, as well as the crazy Donald Rumsfeld. Robert Gates is a very different and much more responsible person. Bush has also lost a few Congressional Republicans, particularly those up for reelection in 2008. And he has lost the support of the public. Anybody seen a W bumper sticker lately? What would happen if gas went to $5 a gallon as a result of an attack on Iran?

Just as importantly, Bush has lost foreign support. Blair will be leaving, and even he has been flagging a little. The “coalition of the willing” has become a “no more attrition coalition” which is on the way out of Iraq. Condi Rice’s diplomatic “efforts” in the Middle East are a joke at home, but not at all funny in the region; we have lost our influence even with the Saudis, as unbelievable as that seems. The US is viewed as being inseparable from Israel, yet, by successfully setting Arab against Arab, more destructive than Israel.

What else? The Iraq Study Group may well have had an impact. This formidable bipartisan group recommended negotiations with Iran, not war. Further, the NY Times published an account of how the US had refused a very promising offer from Iran in 2003.

Whatever the mix, I think that Bush had never really committed to an attack on Iran, and permanently lost his enthusiasm for an attack on Iran back in November and December. Nonetheless, the ISOG began pumping out warmongering propaganda. This was confusing; but it was a substitution of the war of words for actual war. The goal was either regime change or more sanctions, or both.

The group responsible for propaganda, as we have shown, is the ISOG. This is where we get to what prompted this series. The ISOG really went overboard, to the point where not only did I get concerned, but so did the Congress, and a lot of other people….to the point that there were rumors of a revolt among the military, and Sec. Gates had to actually deny that war was being planned. As Gates’ credibility later climbed over the Walter Reed scandal, his statements have become an even more meaningful denial of the chance of an attack on Iran.

In summary, the actual crisis was over by the time everybody got worried about it.

So it is only right that the “countdown” is over as well. Following the propaganda effort closely has been a fascinating learning experience. I think I could give a class in how to read a news story. A couple of points:

  • Most news stories are commercials for somebody’s point of view.
  • Most news stories have a small germ of “news.” Often it’s just one sentence out of a whole story.
  • The identity of the reporter and the source are of paramount importance.
  • You can’t understand what’s going in the world from news stories or from your government, and help (history, analysis, etc) is easy to find on the internet.

So I will continue to post on US-Iran relations. And the ISOG will continue to pump out the stories. Every day. Like this feeble TIME story of some ancient border encounter. But I don’t think Bush is gonna bomb.

The big story continues to be the British hostages. Iran is threatening to put them on trial, a real no no.

“The legal phase concerning these British soldiers has started and if charges against them are proven, they will be punished,” said Ansari. IRNA said he spoke on Friday evening.

link

And, of course, a second sailor has been shown on television giving an apology. Also a no no.

Yet there is some evidence that diplomatic exchanges are not as strident:

Iran’s Foreign Ministry delivered a letter to Britain’s embassy in Teheran on Thursday, the first written communication between the two capitals since the crisis erupted March 23.

Iran’s IRNA news agency said the Iranian message asked for ”necessary guarantees that violations against Iranian waters would not be repeated”. But it did not appear to demand an apology from Britain as several officials have called for.

link

The UN Security Council did not give the UK all that it wanted:

the UN Security Council agreed a statement voicing “grave concern” at Iran’s actions.

The statement also calls on Tehran to allow the UK consular access to the personnel and urges an “early resolution”, including release of the crew, but stops short of “deploring” Iran’s action, as requested by the UK.

Iran’s UN mission said Britain’s attempt to involve other nations in the crisis was “not helpful”

link

The Independent suggests that the UK has little credibility over legal issues in the region, after violating the UN resolution in its invasion (with the US) of Iraq.

The US has acknowledged what has been apparent:

The State Department repeated Washington’s position on Friday that the Britons were seized in violation of international law and should be freed immediately. But officials declined to discuss diplomatic or other options for what might be done if Iran does not comply.

“This is an issue between the U.K. and Iran,” spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, adding that the United States had been “outspoken” in urging Iran to free the sailors.

The United States, along with Britain, has come to the conclusion that Washington should remain an uninvolved third party in the current crisis, officials said.

Until Thursday, U.S. officials had refrained from uttering the word “hostage” in connection to the sailors and then it was only when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice picked up on an interviewer’s reference that it was used.
link

Hardly the talk of an administration looking to go to war. Rather, I’d say, the Bush bluff has been called. To be trapped like the inept Jimmie Carter in a hostage situation with Iran would be the ultimate humiliation for Bush.

[to view the 41 installments in this series, click on “countdown…” in the list of categories in the far right hand column.]

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Countdown to US attack on Iran: x minus 3 days; hostage situation; US not excited

There was a false report of Iranians firing on a US ship yesterday, during the provocative naval exercises, adding to the spike in oil prices.
The Brits outlined their case in the Iran hostage situation. In the first place, the boundary is “in dispute” and the Iranians may have a different idea than the Brits about where it is. However, the Iranians apparently altered their intial estimate of the Iranian ship, suggesting that they think the boundary used by the Brits may have some meaning. The Brits claimed to have the authority to search for smugglers and claim to have seen cars being loaded, but they clearly used bad judgment here. Iran suggested it would release the one Brit who is a woman.

“It is now time to ratchet up international and diplomatic pressure” on Iran to demonstrate its “total isolation,” Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament after the Royal Navy made public details of what it said was the sailors’ position when they were apprehended.

Meanwhile, the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, told a Turkish television station today that Iran would release “today or tomorrow” the only woman among the 15 captives.The Royal Navy took the highly unusual step of making public charts, photographs and previously secret navigational coordinates purportedly proving that the sailors were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters, and not in Iranian waters, when they were seized.

Iran responded by insisting that the British sailors were inside Iranian waters when they were seized. At the same time, though, a Turkish television station, CNN-Turk, quoted the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as saying that Iran may allow Turkish diplomats to visit the captured Britons.

CNN-Turk also quoted the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who was speaking on the sidelines of an Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as saying that one of the sailors, Faye Turney, 26, would be released soon. “Today or tomorrow, the lady will be released,” he said.The Royal Navy rejected two sets of coordinates provided by Iran as evidence of its claim that the British sailors had strayed into Iranian territorial waters.

He said that, in secret diplomatic contacts, Iran had produced two conflicting sets of coordinates to bolster its case, the first placing the British soldiers in Iraqi waters.

link

Meanwhile, Robert Gates, the most reliable spokesman of what’s in store, said:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday said the United States was open to high-level talks with Tehran, but warned against “illusions” about Iran’s government and its intentions.

“We should have no illusions about the nature of this regime or about their designs for their nuclear program, their intentions for Iraq or their ambitions in the Gulf region,” Gates said at a speech to the American-Turkish Council in Washington.

link

I just don’t think that Bush has still got the heart for another war. I am not sure of the relationship between Gates, Cheney and Bush; but Gates is clearly not looking to go to war, and the tenor is definitely different than that of the pre-Iraq war period. There is no coalition, no international or national consensus for war. See this.

”I think the discussion has really shifted,” says M. J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum, a group that favors diplomatic efforts to resolve the Middle East’s problems.

”The conventional wisdom in Washington has changed,” says Rosenberg.

There were influential people who thought that military action could be possible this year, he says. ”Now, hardly anyone does.”

In yesterday’s New York Times, reliable Bush stenographer Michael Gordon, who collaborated with Judith Miller on the selling of the Iraq War, does more yeoman duty in the propaganda war against Iran. Gordon writes again about the EFPs alleged to be produced in Iran and shipped to Iraq. In this piece Gordon gives some background on the supposed origins of the US concerns about the explosive devices. If you read the piece closely, you will notice the usual anonymous sources, statistical fallacies, logical flaws, Pentagon talking points, etc. Gordon tries to appear unconvinced, but does nothing to find the weak links in the Pentagon’s propaganda or even publish those points which have been made by others. Gordon is a war monger and Pentagon/Bush administration “go to” guy when they want to plant some charges against a Middle East country. I find him repulsive.

link

The Saudis, frustrated by the lack of any US effort on the Palestinian issue, came out very strongly against the Israeli blockade and called for Israel to accept the Saudi peace proposal, which would require Israel to go back to the pre 1967 borders. The Saudi king also termed the US occupation of Iraq illegal. The US may think it can string along the Sunnis with fancy footwork over the Palestinian question. I’m not so sure they can. The emergence of the Saudis creates even more problems for Bush. But the Saudis are correct. Finding a solution to the Palestinian situation will achieve much more for regional and world peace than all of Bush’s bombs and torture.

link

I don’t think we are looking at an attack at the moment. The US naval air exercises may “accidentally” overfly Iranian territory, which would evoke some angry words from Tehran, but hopefully nothing else.

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Countdown to US attack on Iran: x-6 days; hostage situation escalates; US throws head fake towards Palestinians

The handwriting, unfortunately, is appearing on the wall.

Britain, which successfully negotiated a similar episode with Iran 3 years ago (before Bush launched on his “let’s hate Iran” campaign), is taking a hard line this time; Germany, representing the EU, has jumped in where it had no place to do so, and demanded the release of the sailors. That Blair showed no evidence of the position of the British sailors means that Iran may well have had at least the semblance of a valid complaint. The Iranians, for their part, are claiming they have the evidence:

Navigational equipment on the seized British boats “show that they (sailors) were aware that they were operating in Iranian waters and Iranian border guards fulfilled their responsibility,” Fars quoted an unidentified official as saying.

This, in turn, means that Iran will not back down, ie they would like an apology.

The US, of course, is now butting in, but notably with no evidence, and not getting support from Iraq:

Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain also said it was “very clear” they were in Iraqi waters.

“We’ve been on operations there for several years,” Aandahl said. He said coalition vessels respect a 1975 treaty between Iran and Iraq that sets the boundary between the two countries as running down the middle of the Shatt al-Arab.

But the boundary has long been in dispute around the 200-kilometre-long channel Shatt al-Arab — known in Iran as Arvandrud, Farsi for the Arvand River. Saddam Hussein cancelled the 1975 treaty five years later and invaded Iran, triggering an eight-year war. Virtually all of Iraq’s oil is exported through an oil terminal near the mouth of the channel.

The Iraqi military commander of the country’s territorial waters cast doubt on claims the Britons were in Iraqi waters.

“We were informed by Iraqi fishermen after they had returned from sea that there were British gunboats in an area that is out of Iraqi control,” Brig. Gen. Hakim Jassim told AP Television News in the southern city of Basra.

“We don’t know why they were there. And these British troops were besieged by unknown gunboats, I don’t know from where,” he said.

This situation is similar enough to the Lebanon-Israel situation to be notable. Hopefully that disaster would be a lesson to Blair, Bush and the neocons, but I doubt very much that the latter are open to rational thinking. This is the real last chance for launching permanent war between Christianity and Islam, the West and the near East, between Israel/America and the dark-skinned peoples, between Sunni and Shiite. The British press is trying to whip the country into a frenzy.

Now that a US officer on the scene has provided a cover, and after inducing both Britain and Germany to get all puffed, Bush (or possibly Rice) will appear tomorrow or the next day, announcing some sort of crisis. I doubt that he could get anyone else to do it; Gates certainly won’t. Rice would be the logical one, and it will be interesting to see if she consents to carry Bush’s war-water. If she does, I would say that the chances of an attack on Iran are much higher, because she has essentially caved. That would leave Gates as the sole holdout against war.

Bush’s domestic political situation could not be more conducive to an attack on Iran, unfortunately. He has been backed into a corner on funding his war on the dark forces “terror”, and he knows that the sentiment for war on Iran is more favorable than that for the Iraq war. He may well decide that he can discredit his critics by igniting a new war, for which he has carefully laid the groundwork. As we have previously discussed, he knows the Dems will not resist an attack on Iran; the Dem presidential front-runners have all taken a hard line, and the Congress has rejected a provision in the supplemental appropriation bill which would have proscribed an attack on Iran.

I would say that this is a dark day.

Look for the Sunday talk shows to feature neocon views, and for oil prices to spike in the morning. It only takes a small incident to start a war when there is really no one trying to stop it. The entire decision, the power to create more mass havoc, at this moment rests with a man who is totally incompetent to make it, and 2/3 of Americans probably know that. That is why impeachment of the president and the vice president are needed, regardless of proof of some crime. And that should be done without apology. Impeachment is NOT a criminal procedure. It is a political step. Unfortunately, it is probably too late for that.  Realistically, only Tony Blair stands between Bush and a regional conflagration.

———————-

In other news, the US makes a head feint toward trying to make progress on the Palestinian question. This feeble pretense has been anticipated, since it is clear that the Saudis are now running the show, and they have a peace plan they would like to see implemented. Unfortunately, the conditions of this plan are totally and completely unacceptable to Israeli hardliners, and if there is one thing certain besides death and taxes, it is that Bush is never going to even consider crossing those folks.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Egypt that an about-face by the Bush administration the creation of a Palestinian state is not out of the realm of possibility, reports the New York Times.”I don’t rule out at some point that might be a useful thing to do,” she said.

“Trying to impose an American-made solution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has, for years, been the very thing that Bush administration officials have steadfastly said they would not do,” says the Times.

But the Iraq war has now significantly eroded the standing of the United States in the Arab world. Many administration officials now feel that the only way to restore that standing is to push the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the direction of the creation of a Palestinian state.

“Several State Department officials say that there is now an acknowledgment within the administration that the hands-off policy has caused prospects for peace to deteriorate,” writes the NYT.

link

[Previous posts in this series can be seen by clicking on “countdown….” in the list of categories in the far righthand column.]

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Countdown to US attack on Iran: x minus 8 days: Iranian-British incident in Gulf; US increases whisper campaign against al-Maliki

Just when it seems like it’s time to shut down this series, things heat up again.

A sign of how dangerous things are in the Gulf; had these been American sailors, we might be in pretty hot water right now. On the other hand, Iran would probably not have tried this if the sailors were American. It is unclear on what basis the Brits are searching ships for car smugglers. Apparently two boats were taken, in addition to the 15 sailors.

link
Fifteen British Navy personnel have been captured at gunpoint by Iranian forces, the Ministry of Defence says.

The men were seized at 1030 local time when they boarded a boat in the Gulf, off the coast of Iraq, which they suspected was smuggling cars.

The Royal Navy said the men, who were on a routine patrol in Iraqi waters, were understood to be unharmed.

The Foreign Office has demanded the immediate and safe return of the men, who are based on HMS Cornwall.

The frigate’s commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, said he was hoping there had been a “simple mistake” over territorial waters.

Bloomberg
Crude oil for May delivery rose 62 cents, or 1 percent, to $62.31 a barrel at 10:04 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
British forces in the southern Iraqi city of Basra say that Iran is probably still involved in cross-border violence.

“Iranian agents are paying up to $500 dollars a month for young Basrawi men to attack us,” Lieutenant Colonel Justin Maciejewski said today in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio’s “Today” program, citing local sheikhs and community leaders in Basra. “We haven’t found any smoking gun, so to speak, but certainly all the circumstantial evidence points to Iranian involvement in the violence here in Basra.”

The US continues to try to attack Iran economically:

The U.S. is opposed to a pipeline project that would bring Iranian gas to India as it could further Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said.

“There has been conversation between India and other nations and Iran about finding ways of developing oil and gas assets and if that is allowed to go forward, in our judgment, this will contribute to development of nuclear weapons,” Bodman told reporters here.

link

In Iraq, the US is slowly turning up the whisper campaign against the al-Maliki goverment, using the usual “anonymous for no good reason” sources:

Bush administration officials are starting to detect cracks in the bloc of parliament members who support Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

If the current offensive in greater Baghdad stalls, the officials said, the slackening support could grow into a rebellion within the majority United Iraqi Alliance and result in al-Maliki’s removal.

One official cautioned these are only “very early signs” that the U.S. embassy and military command in Baghdad have picked up during talks with Iraqi politicians.

“Some of the unity is dissipating within the Maliki government because of dissatisfaction,” said the defense official, who has held discussion on the matter at the Pentagon. The source asked not to be named for fear of retaliation for talking to a reporter.

However, the realities on the ground are not supporting the US anti-Shiite, anti-Iran propaganda. Al-Sadr continues to keep his head down, while the casualties, both US and Iraq, continue. I hope the US media are not so ignorant as to believe that Shiites are responsible for the killing of US Marines in al Anbar province, for example.

In a related vein, there was a letter in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, from the makers of the Austrian sniper rifles which were supposedly sold to the Iranian government and then found by the US in Iraq; you remember, the US was gonna check the serial numbers? That was over a month ago. Well, according to the letter, the US has still not provided the numbers to the company. Just another stinky US propaganda stunt against Iran, it seems.
There is considerable tension in the north, as the time for the vote on Kirkuk approaches. This traditionally Kurd city was forcibly populated with Arabs by Saddam, but the Kurds have now returned, and expect to win the referendum which will determine which group has control of the city and quite possibly the rich oil fields there. At the same time, Turkey is demanding that the US take action against militant Kurds who are crossing the border. The US is certainly trying to blackmail the Kurds into overthrowing al Maliki, by threatening to leave Iraq, but the situation is quite complex and volatile at present.

As I mentioned yesterday, we may be in for an explosion if Maliki falls to the ex-Baathist Allawi, and the entire region may be involved, in spite of US efforts to intimidate Iran. Whatever Iraqi government emerges will be essentially a US puppet regime, and the subsequent naked grab of the Iraqi oil by an occupying power will be illegitimate.

[to view the previous posts in this series, click “countdown…” in the categories list in the far right column.]

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Countdown to US attack on Iran: x minus 11 days; US, Israeli “sniping” countered by Saudis, Cordesman

Of minor concern is a US-planted story that Russians are leaving the Bushehr nuclear plant. The obvious fear would be that the stated financial reasons for abandoning the project are just covering for a pre-attack evacuation by Russian nationals; an excerpt is shown at the bottom of the post. I don’t think this is any more than an attempt by the US to keep up the general pressure.

Overall, as noted yesterday, I think “fire danger” continues to fall. The Israelis keep up their clamor against Iranian aid to Hamas, but that story has pretty well lost traction. Iran’s president will get his visa to speak to the UN, and South Africa has indicated some support for going easy on Iran at this point. Both the Saudis and influential American military analyst Anthony Cordesman throw some water on the idea that Iran is much of a regional threat:

Refuting earlier UPI analysis that stated Saudi Arabia would be dependent on the U.S. military to guarantee its independence, the Saudi source said: “Saudi Arabia does not need to be supported by anyone to deal directly with Iran.”

Saudi Arabia’s lack of fear of Iran has been proven “over and over again over the past several weeks,” added the source, referencing a “dressing down” of Ahmadinejad during his recent visit to the kingdom by King Abdullah as “the most recent and visible example of this.”

Iran is more focused on national defense than using military power to boost its influence in the region,” he said. Iran represents “a force that has to be taken seriously in the defense of its country, but it has very little capacity to project outside the country,” Cordesman said.

He maintained that Iran’s nuclear program could someday pose a danger but that “any serious threat lies a decade or so away.”

————

link

VIENNA, Austria — Russia is pulling out its experts from the Iranian nuclear reactor site they were helping build, U.S. and European officials said Tuesday. The move reflected a growing rift between Iran and Russia that could lead to harsher U.N. sanctions on the Islamic republic for its refusal to stop uranium enrichment.

The representatives — a European diplomat and a U.S. official — said a large number of Russian technicians, engineers and other specialists have returned to Moscow in the past week, at about the same time senior Russian and Iranian officials tried unsuccessfully to resolve financial differences over the Bushehr nuclear reactor. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because their information was confidential.

“A good number of them have left recently,” said the U.S. official, of the approximately 2,000 Russian workers on site of the nearly completed reactor outside the southern city of Bushehr. The European diplomat, who is accredited to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said a large number had left as recently as last week.

Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Rosatom, Russia’s Federal Nuclear Power Agency, confirmed that the number of Russian workers at the Bushehr plant had dwindled because of what he said were Iranian payment delays. He would not say how many had left.

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