I'm really hoping for some discussion of the increasing likelihood that the U.S. and/or Israel will attack Iran and/or Syria in the near future; I'm also hoping to be persuaded that Iran and Syria can be convinced to abandon their nuclear weapons programs short of another war that includes, according to a piece by Daniel Ellsberg in the October 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine, a first U.S. nuclear strike against Iran. Thanks!
Well, looks like it's official:
The Sunday Times (UK) is reporting in their 23 September edition that "sources in Washington and Jerusalem" have confirmed that "Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month" with U.S. approval. The article's ("Snatched: Israeli commandos ‘nuclear’ raid") author, Sarah Baxter, also notes that "Diplomats in North Korea and China said they believed a number of North Koreans were killed in the raid, noting that ballistic missile technicians and military scientists had been working for some time with the Syrians."
The air raid occurred in the wee small hours of Thursday, 6 September: what has given this story legs is the unwonted reticence of Syria, Israel, and even the United States ("Dubya" tersely replied "I'm not going to comment on the matter" no less than three times when asked about the raid at his news conference about the State Children's Health Insurance Program [SCHIP] on Thursday, 20 September) about the affair; and while The Washington Post in an uncredited op-ed on Thursday, 20 September opined that "It nevertheless is beginning to look as if Israel may have carried out the boldest act of nuclear preemption since its own 1981 raid against Iraq's Osirak nuclear complex," nothing even semi-definitive has been published about this story until now.
EDITED: ..because cema pointed out in pro_war_liberal that Jerusalem is indeed the capital of Israel, not Tel Aviv. Duhhh.
(The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler reported on Thursday, 13 September that "North Korea may be cooperating with Syria on some sort of nuclear facility in Syria" and that "The new information, particularly images received in the past 30 days, has been restricted to a few senior officials under the instructions of national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, leaving many in the intelligence community unaware of it or uncertain of its existence." Hmmm: special, break-out intelligence groups operating at the direction of the president or vice president and outside the loop of the rest of the intelligence community; doesn't sound familiar, does it..?)
Possibly the reason that Israel and Syria's Arab neighbors have also been quiet is due to the fact that Syria tends to be seen as the little brother of Iran, and there is precious little love lost between the Arab countries and Iran. (Interestingly enough, Syria is continuing its winnowing of anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon: Antoine Ghanem, a Christian parliamentarian, was slain in a car bomb explosion on Wednesday, 19 September.)
And while French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's warning last Sunday, 16 September, that France (and the West in general) should prepare for war with Iran has since been down-played by Kouchner himself and treated with a soupçon of skepticism by the world community and the media because everybody suddenly remembered that he made his remarks in advance of "key international meetings in Washington and Vienna."
The Sunday Times has two other articles about the U.S.'s plans to attack Iran by air, one by the same author of the article confirming the Israeli seizure of North Korean nuclear materials from the Syrian base, Sarah Baxter, and the other by Eric Margolis (although this article states that it is from the Sunday edition, it is dated Saturday, 22 September). Both pieces cover the top secret U.S. Air Force planning group, Project Checkmate, that is tasked to plan America's future wars; while neither article references the Cheney-directed plans for a first use of nuclear weapons by the U.S. against Iran, Margolis's piece does contain some information to give one pause:
"I asked when the Bush administration's widely expected air war against Iran would begin. This was not a subject my hosts cared to discuss. Smiles vanished. Dr Lani Kass, Checkmate's formidable senior civilian official, a former Israeli military officer who had somehow morphed into a senior Pentagon advisor, dismissed my question, insisting no decision to attack Iran had been made. She called a possible air war 'unlikely'. But I was ready to bet plans to blitz Iran were being drawn up in an adjoining office. One could feel a buzz of excitement among Checkmate's hard-eyed officers who wore combat flight suits and tensed up every time I mentioned Iran. Pentagon sources say the air force has selected 3,000 -- 4,000 targets in Iran, and that some US and British special forces are already operating there. However, Washington sources also report strong opposition to war against Iran among the Pentagon's brass, and high-ranking officials in the CIA, Treasury, and state department. They view war with Iran as unpredictable, unwise and dangerous at a time when US ground and air forces are stretched to breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan. 'We can defeat Iran,' insisted Dr Kass, `but are Americans willing to pay the price?'"
Deborah Campbell has an interesting, related article in the September 2007 issue of The Walrus (Vol. 4, Issue 7) -- "Magic Kingdom or Glass House?" -- about the economic surge in Dubai, and what is probably putting Iran in this administration's gun sights at least as much as their purported nuclear weapons program: its oil reserves.
"Jasper, the scion of an oil family that has worked in the Middle East for three generations, is the first of his lineage to break with Shell and take a job with the petroleum sector of the Dubai government. Though not yet thirty, he’s a veteran of the international oil business. Saudi Arabia is running out, he declares. The Saudis have damaged their oil fields by extracting too much too fast, and everyone knows they’re lying about how much is left.
"Jasper isn’t alone in that opinion. Saudi oil reserves have been shrouded in secrecy ever since the national oil company, Saudi Aramco (the world’s largest), bought out its partners in 1980. Saudi Arabia is the third-largest foreign oil supplier to the US, after Canada and Mexico, and the only nation considered capable of increasing production to meet a rapidly growing global energy appetite — particularly as the next-largest easily accessible oil reserves are in Iraq. Yet a detailed study of technical surveys by Matthew Simmons (in his 2005 book, Twilight in the Desert) suggests that all is not what Saudi officials publicly claim: overproduction is indeed harming existing fields, and Aramco has found no major new reserves in more than thirty years. Like Jasper, Simmons predicts a sharp decline in Saudi production in the near future (it fell 8 percent in 2006). Meanwhile, US dependency on foreign oil is expected to increase by one-third in the next two decades.
"Iran is the real oil power, Jasper argues. With nearly 10 percent of the world’s oil, Iran’s reserves are smaller than Saudi’s, but its vast untapped fields make it the 'jewel' of the 'IOCs,' as Jasper calls the international oil companies. Long-standing US sanctions have barred American oil companies from the Iranian game, leaving the fields open to Chinese, Japanese, and European companies [emphasis added] (though Halliburton was secretly working in Iran until 2004) that have recently come under stiff US pressure to stop signing new Iranian contracts.
"Almost as mysterious as the true extent of Aramco’s reserves was Dick Cheney’s visit to Saudi Arabia in November, the same month a Saudi security adviser floated the idea of raising production to lower oil prices in order to strike an economic blow to Iran. Still, even if Jasper and analysts like Simmons are right, the Saudi secret weapon may prove as illusory as Iraqi WMDs."
Incidentally, Campbell also notes that, "according to The 9/11 Commission Report, 'The vast majority of the money funding the September 11 attacks flowed through the UAE [United Arab Emirates].' The Emirates has cracked down on money laundering, but there remains an undeniable link between the towers going up in Dubai and the ones that went down in New York [emphasis added]. Campbell reports a Canadian real estate developer, Blair Hagkull, saying, "'At one time the US was the gateway to opportunity, attracting the best and brightest...Now they come here. And whenever there's an unfortunate event in the region, Dubai prospers.'"
Sooo, let's review: we have an eminently reasonable desire to keep Iran, Syria and North Korea from becoming "Nukes 'R' Us," or from acquiring nuclear weapons (or, in North Korea's case, more nuclear weapons...) on their own behalf; we have Iran sitting on boo-coo oil and natural gas, while Iraq's oil is effectively untouchable; we have Israel and the U.S. egging each other on and sharing intelligence with an eye to sidelining Iran and Syria, hoping to regain national prestige (in Israel's case, due to its vaunted military being unable to do more than fight Hezbollah to a draw during last year's 34-day war) through mutually-supported military action; and a branch of the U.S. military, the Air Force, left noticeably on the sidelines in the ongoing Iraq War, eager to reap some glory (and career-boosting promotions) for itself. (It probably doesn't help the cause of cooler heads that the Air Force Academy has been a hotbed of far-right Christian bellicosity over the last few years.) Oh, and politicians and neo-conservative advisers in the U.S. anxious to regain/retain the undisputed power and prestige that they had just a few short years ago, and an oil-poor, cash-rich kingdom with one of the best ports in the Middle East that will soon be able to boast the world's tallest skyscraper and the world's first underwater hotel, among other tourist-attracting marvels, whose fortunes seem to rise concomitantly with regional tensions. Did I leave anything out?
Nah, there's no chance in hell that "Bush 43" will start something in Iran before he leaves office in January '09.
And I've got some prime Florida beachfront property I'd like you to pop a squint at.