Is an Attack on Iran Imminent?
by Dan Hamburg
George W. Bush is poised to order a massive aerial bombardment — possibly including tactical nuclear weapons - of up to 10,000 targets in Iran. The attack would be justified on grounds that Iran is interfering with U.S. efforts in Iraq and that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, a charge that was debunked last fall in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).
According to international experts, the U.S. declared economic war against Iran on March 20. On that day, the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) called on the world’s financial institutions to stop doing business with Iran, making it much more difficult for Iran to engage in global commerce.
Now the Bush administration is preparing to drop the other shoe. Below are some of the indications that a U.S. military attack on Iran is imminent:
The March 11 resignation of CENTCOM Commander Admiral William Fallon who, according to a well-publicized Esquire magazine article, “openly opposed Bush’s Iran policy and was a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”
The recent removal of Vice Admiral John Stufflebeem, Commander of the 6th Fleet (Mediterranean Sea), also known to be a critic of the administration’s war plans.
Two U.S. warships took up positions off Lebanon last month. According to US News & World Report, “The United States would want its warships in the eastern Mediterranean in the event of a military action against Iran.”
The Israeli air strike against Syria last September was advertised as an attack on a nuclear facility. Current speculation is that the real purpose of the raid was to “force Syria to switch on the targeting electronics for newly received Russian anti-aircraft defenses.” Knowing the electronic signatures of these systems would reduce the risks for U.S. and Israeli warplanes heading to Iranian targets.
Israel conducted its largest military exercises ever beginning the week of April 6. This exercise simulated missile strikes from Iran, Lebanon, and Syria. (Note: Both 9/11 and the London subway bombing of 7/7/07 occurred simultaneous by with military and/or civil defense exercises.)
One day after a March visit from Vice President Cheney, the Saudi government announced “national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom.” This announcement came following warnings of possible attacks on Iran’s nearby Bushehr nuclear reactors.
According to former U.N. chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter, the Pentagon has contracted for additional bunker-buster bombs and planes that carry them. Delivery is due this month.
The oncoming monsoon season, which would carry radioactive fallout by wind and rain to countries east of Iran (including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India), narrows the window for the optimal launch of an air attack.
Over the past six months, two major incidents have demonstrated the inadequate security of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. On August 30, 2007, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber carrying 6 AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missiles, each armed with a W-80-1 nuclear warhead, flew an unauthorized mission from Minot AFB in North Dakota to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. (Barksdale is the major disembarkation point for personnel and materiel going to the Middle East.) This “Bent Spear” incident marked the first time in more than 40 years that nuclear weapons had been flown across the continental United States. A spate of up to eight accidental deaths and suicides of personnel from these two bases adds an ominous twist to this story.
Recently, it was revealed that intercontinental ballistic missile fuses had been sent to Taiwan instead of the helicopter batteries they had ordered. Sharp protests from China forced President Bush to acknowledge the error personally to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao.
As a result of these incidents, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a series of investigations, including a recent order for a complete physical inventory of the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The Bush administration is hypocritical in its claims that Iran cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. Given the Minot/Barksdale incident and the mix-up between ballistic missile fuses and helicopter batteries, the question that should to be asked is: “Can the U.S. be trusted with nuclear weapons?”
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a “limited” nuclear attack on the main Iranian underground site in Esfahan would result in three million people killed by radiation within two weeks and 35 million people exposed to dangerous levels of radiation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
Yet another preemptive attack and the devastation of another civilian population would be grossly immoral and in violation of all international codes of conduct. No one can predict how such an attack would end, especially in the tinderbox that is the Middle East. Every patriotic American, and especially every member of Congress, should do whatever is in their power to stop the Bush-Cheney cabal before they drag us into World War III.
Dan Hamburg is a former Democratic US congressperson from northern California. He is currently executive director of Voice of the Environment, a San Francisco based nonprofit.
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