Monday, June 23, 2008

Cranking Up the Heat on Iran

No, this isn't deja vu. We just keep doing it. I'll keep this short:

Israel launched well over 100 fighters over the Mediterranean in what it openly publicized as a dress rehearsal for a possible strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran claimed that it was just psychological warfare, and probably is (as Stratfor notes, one does not publicize surprise attacks just before performing them), but this nonetheless means that Israel is happy to show a militarily aggressive posture towards Iran. Further, the Israelis noted that a nuclear "threshold" in Iran is likely to be crossed in late 2008 rather than 2009, as earlier predicted. We're not sure exactly what that threshold is, but the Israelis seem to have an idea that Iran is tumbling towards a nuclear weapons capability of some sort by the end of the year.

This all comes amid evidence found on a Swiss computer that the former A.Q. Khan weapons ring (that brought the Bomb to Pakistan and missiles to other countries) dealt with advanced missile-mounted nuclear technology (the blueprints appeared on the Swiss computer, though it's not clear how).

In addition, the EU has approved new sanctions against Iran, freezing bank accounts. France and Germany in particular have hardened their rhetoric against Iran.

And again, the US has called Iran out for shipping weapons to Iraq and training Shiite insurgent groups. The US is even publicizing a case of two of its own; two men that allegedly helped the Iranians acquire weapons.

It seems that a grand coalition of Western powers is in a quiet, unofficial agreement that Iran is a meance and must be dealt with. Bust most of the leaders of these countries have at least been aware of it for years. A clear media campaign is being waged by most of them--from military exercises to news stories to high-level meetings (and a strangely warm reception of Israel by a usually-cool EU). The UN is not a military option for the West--the Russians would clearly veto any military action in Iran. But the West seems to be preparing for something... and it is possible that they are not preparing for anything, but only trying to make it so clear that they are preparing for something that the Iranian government would crack. In the last parliamentary elections in Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's party lost seats not only to the few moderate candidates that were able to run, but also to the more religiously conservative party (that aligns with the Supreme Council). Clearly, much of Iran worries over the brinksmanship being played by Ahmadinejad's executive... including the Supreme Council. If the West can emphasize this and try to worry the Council over imminent action, then it's possible a wedge might be successfully lodged into the Iranian government that Ahmadinejad's power to act will be dramatically reduced.

That, or the West is really sitting down and deciding that an airstrike needs to be launched against Iran. This seems so unwise that it is unlikely, but Iran's continued support of Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Sadr, and its defiance of UN nuclear restrictions and sanctions shows a country that is risk-accepting, dangerous, and revisionist, with plans for domination of the region (through Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon). Most schools of International Relations (particularly the realist varieties) would agree that defiant states exhibiting such behavior, especially as they grow in size and strength, are the most dangerous.
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