By Ryan McGreal
Published February 20, 2007
Just like late 2002 and early 2003, we're learning about "contingency plans" for the US to launch air strikes against Iran - you know, just on the off-chance that war cannot be avoided.
The BBC reports:
The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.
The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions.
But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.
That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.
Frankly, this sounds like a friendly leak. In its typical fashion, the US believes that bullying, aggression and force are the best tools for strong-arming the world into conforming to its interests. Part of the bullying process is an ever-escalating series of threats that the US has the means and the willingness to go all the way.
The BBC's "diplomatic sources" have stated that "triggers" for such an attack include confirmation that Iran is building a nuclear weapon or that Iran directs "a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq".
With the former, the Bush administration could probably wring authorization to use force from Congress. With the latter, the Bush administration could argue that it already has authorization as part of the war in Iraq.
Of course, the relentless campaign of propaganda, military escalation, threats, taunts, unfounded accusations, and flat-out refusal to engage Iran diplomatically are the most compelling reason I can think of why Iran might actually want to acquire nuclear weapons - as a deterrent against US aggression.
The difference between the US diplomatic stance toward Iran and North Korea couldn't be more stark. With North Korea, the US was willing to negotiate even though that country had already detonated a nuclear weapon.
If anything, North Korea's decision to demonstrate the advancement of its program strengthened its bargaining position with the group of countries - the US, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea - most interested in seeking a resolution.
North Korea and the group of five have tentatively agreed to a commitment in which North Korea agrees to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic and diplomatic concessions.
By contrast, the US refuses to engage Iran diplomatically at all until Iran agrees to cease its nuclear enrichment activities, even though it is legally entitled to do this to develop civil nuclear power and has cooperated fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), even voluntarily signing an Additional Protocol that granted IAEA officials unrestricted access to investigate anywhere they wanted.
The US could not get the condemnation it wanted from the IAEA, so it twisted some arms and forced the matter into the UN Security Council.
On December 23, 2006, bowing to US pressure, the Security Council passed Resolution 1737, which demands that Iran suspend its nuclear activities and imposes some weak sanctions (the US had to soften its original demands to prevent a Russian veto).
The Resolution gave Iran 60 days to suspend its nuclear enrichment. Those 60 days are nearly up and Iran shows no sign of relenting, so the US will certainly seek a tougher resolution with graver consequences for non-conformance.
There's just one problem: UNSCR 1737 has no basis in international law. There is simply no evidence that Iran is doing anything illegal. The Resolution itself violates international law.It's not entirely clear why Russia agreed to UNSCR 1737, but its support may well have to do with the IAEA proposal to take uranium enrichment out of the hands of individual countries and manage it multilaterally, a proposal that has the support of some groups in the US government.
Major nuclear powers like Russia would be big winners under the IAEA proposal, which would leave smaller nuclear powers beholden to the so-called "nuclear filling stations" to deliver their fuel already processed.