6 Signs The
US May Be Headed for War in Iran
by Terry Atlas
Is the United States moving toward military action with
The resignation of the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East is
setting off alarms that the Bush administration is intent on using military
force to stop Iran's
moves toward gaining nuclear weapons. In announcing his sudden resignation
today following a report on his views in Esquire, Adm. William Fallon didn't
directly deny that he differs with President Bush over at least aspects of the
president's policy on Iran.
For his part, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it is "ridiculous"
to think that the departure of Fallon — whose Central
Command has been working on contingency plans for strikes on Iran as well as overseeing Iraq — signals that the United States is planning to go to war with Iran.
Fallon's resignation, ending
a 41-year Navy career, has reignited the buzz of speculation over what the Bush
administration intends to do given that its troubled, sluggish diplomatic
effort has failed to slow Iran's
nuclear advances. Those activities include the advancing process of uranium
enrichment, a key step to producing the material necessary to fuel a bomb,
though the Iranians assert the work is to produce nuclear fuel for civilian
power reactors not weapons.
Here are six developments
that may have Iran
as a common thread. And, if it comes to war, they may be seen as clues as to
what was planned.
None of them is conclusive,
and each has a credible non-Iran related
1. Fallon's resignation:
With the Army fully engaged in Iraq,
much of the contingency planning for possible military action has fallen to the
Navy, which has looked at the use of carrier-based warplanes and sea-launched
missiles as the weapons to destroy Iran's air defenses and nuclear
infrastructure. Centcom commands the U.S. naval forces in and near the Persian Gulf. In the aftermath of the problems with the Iraq war, there
has been much discussion within the military that senior military officers
should have resigned at the time when they disagreed with the White House.
2. Vice President Cheney's
peace trip: Cheney, who is seen as a leading hawk on Iran,
is going on what is described as a Mideast
trip to try to give a boost to stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But he
has also scheduled two other stops: One, Oman, is a key military ally and logistics hub
for military operations in the Persian Gulf.
It also faces Iran across
the narrow, vital Strait of Hormuz, the vulnerable
oil transit chokepoint into and out of the Persian Gulf that Iran has
threatened to blockade in the event of war. Cheney is also going to Saudi Arabia, whose support would be sought
before any military action given its ability to increase oil supplies if Iran's oil is
cutoff. Back in March 2002, Cheney made a high-profile Mideast
trip to Saudi Arabia and
other nations that officials said at the time was about diplomacy toward Iraq and not
war, which began a year later.
3. Israeli airstrike on Syria:
deep in Syria last October
was reported to have targeted a nuclear-related facility, but details have
remained sketchy and some experts have been skeptical that Syria had a
covert nuclear program. An alternative scenario floating in Israel and Lebanon
is that the real purpose of the strike was to force Syria to switch on the targeting electronics
for newly received Russian anti-aircraft defenses. The location of the strike
is seen as on a likely flight path to Iran
(also crossing the friendly Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq), and knowing the
electronic signatures of the defensive systems is necessary to reduce the risks
for warplanes heading to targets in Iran.
4. Warships off Lebanon: Two U.S. warships took up positions off
earlier this month, replacing the USS Cole. The deployment was said to signal U.S. concern over the political stalemate in Lebanon and the influence of Syria in that
country. But the United States
also would want its warships in the eastern Mediterranean in the event of
military action against Iran
to keep Iranian ally Syria
in check and to help provide air cover to Israel against Iranian missile
One of the newly deployed
ships, the USS Ross, is an Aegis guided missile destroyer, a top system to
defense against air attacks.
5. Israeli comments: Israeli
President Shimon Peres said earlier this month that Israel
will not consider unilateral action to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.
In the past, though, Israeli officials have quite consistently said they were
prepared to act alone — if that becomes necessary — to ensure that Iran does not
cross a nuclear weapons threshold. Was Peres speaking for himself, or has
President Bush given the Israeli an assurance that they won't have to act
6.Israel's war with Hezbollah: While this seems a bit
old, Israel's July 2006 war
in Lebanon against Iranian-backed
Hezbollah forces was seen at the time as a step that Israel
would want to take if it anticipated a clash with Iran. The radical Shiite group is
seen not only as a threat on it own but also as a possible Iranian surrogate
force in the event of war with Iran.
So it was important for Israel
to push Hezbollah forces back from their positions on Lebanon's border with Israel and to do enough damage to
Hezbollah's Iranian-supplied arsenals to reduce its capabilities. Since then,
Hezbollah has been able to rearm, though a United Nations force polices a
border area buffer zone in southern Lebanon.
Defense Secretary Gates said
that Fallon, 63, asked for permission to retire. Gates said the decision,
effective March 31, was entirely Fallon's and that Gates believed it was
"the right thing to do." In Esquire, an article on Fallon portrayed
him as opposed to President Bush's Iran policy and said he was a lone
voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program. In
his statement, Fallon said he agreed with the president's "policy
objectives" but was silent on whether he opposed aspects of the
president's plans. "Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between
my views and the president's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical
time and hamper efforts in the Centcom region,"
Fallon, said in the statement issued by Centcom
headquarters in Tampa, Fla. "And although I don't believe there have ever
been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command
area of responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult
for me to effectively serve America's interests there," he said. Gates
announced that Fallon's top deputy, Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, will take
over temporarily when Fallon leaves. A permanent successor, requiring
nomination by the president and confirmation by the Senate, might not be
designated in the near term.
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