No Bombs Are Dropping, But the US and Israel Are At War With Iran
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The United States is also suspected of being behind the Flame virus, a spyware program able to record keystrokes, eavesdrop on conversations near an infected computer, and tap into screen images. Besides Iran, Flame has been found in computers in the Palestinian West Bank, Lebanon, Hungary, Austria, Russia, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates. Because “malware” seeks out undefended computers no matter where they are, it has a habit of spreading beyond its initial target.
Most of the media is focused on whether the failure of the talks will lead to an Israeli or American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and there is certainly considerable smoke out there.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been threatening to attack Iran for the past two years. According to Gideon Rachman, a leading columnist for the Financial Times, some Israeli officials have told him Tel Aviv will attack sometime this summer or early fall. One source told him “Israel will wait until September or October because the weather is better and it’s closer to the U.S. elections.”
But the Independent’s (UK) Patrick Cockburn, one of the more reliable analysts on the Middle East, thinks the Israeli threats are “the bluff of the century.” Cockburn argues that there is simply no reason for Tel Aviv to go to war, since the Iranian economy is being effectively strangled by the sanctions. But the saber rattling is useful because it scares the EU into toughing up the siege of Tehran, while also shifting the Palestinian issue to a back burner.
There are serious divisions within Israel on whether to go to war, with the Israeli intelligence and military generally opposed. The latter’s reasons are simple: militarily Tel Aviv couldn’t pull it off, and politically an attack would garner worldwide sympathy for Iran. Recent statements downgrading the threat of Iran by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz suggest the Netanyahu government is finally feeling the pressure from divisions within its own ranks and may be backing off from a military confrontation.
And the United States?
According to Paul Rogers, a Department of Peace Studies professor at Bradford University and OpenDemocracy’s international security editor, the Pentagon has drawn up plans for a concentrated attack on Iran’s nuclear industry, using a combination of bombers and cruise missiles. The United States recently beefed up its military footprint in the region.
But while the possibility of such an attack is real—especially if congressional hawks get their way—the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence establishment are hardly enthusiastic about it. And in any case, the United States is carpet-bombing Iran’s economy without firing a shot or sending air crews into harm’s way.
Although Iran is generally depicted as the recalcitrant party in the current nuclear talks, it has already compromised extensively, even agreeing to ship some of its enriched uranium out of the country and to guarantee the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to all nuclear facilities. Tehran has also converted one-third of its 20-percent enriched uranium into plates, making it almost impossible to use the fuel for nuclear weapons. Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to 90 percent.
In return, Tehran is demanding the right to enrich to 3.5 percent—the level needed to power a civilian reactor—and an end to sanctions.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not ban enriching uranium—indeed, it is guaranteed by Articles III and IV—as long as the fuel is not weaponized. “Iran is raising eyebrows,” says Yousaf M. Butt of the American Federation of Scientists, “but what it is doing is a concern—not illegal.”