Obama Proposes a US Military Supply Route to Afghanistan via… Iran
US president Barack Obama's diplomatic courtship of Iran is gaining the force of a “shock and awe” blitz.
He plans to transform the Khomeinist Islamic Republic's clenched fist against America into a helping hand by formally asking Tehran to permit the passage to Afghanistan of fresh US troops, weapons and supplies across Iranian territory.
This groundbreaking plan is revealed here for the first time by DEBKA-Net-Weekly.
It would be a follow-up step for the video address in which the US president greeted the Iranian people on its New Year.
If Tehran consents, Iran would take the place of Pakistan as the primary supply route for US-led NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan. The US would no longer have to depend on Russia and three Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, for getting supplies through to the embattled country. Remuneration for this service would provide the cash-strapped Iranian economy with a new source of revenue.
The service would also expedite the transfer to Afghanistan of parts of the US Iraq army pulling out of Iraq over the next two years with their equipment. The huge volume of US military Afghanistan-bound traffic transiting Iran would include tanks, helicopters, guns, ordnance, sensitive equipment, armored vehicles and armored personnel carriers, along with food, water, clothing and personal kits.
Our sources report that in February, Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, head of the U.S. Transport Command, was instructed to draw up the requisite plans for this project.
American forces to be ferried by air, sea, truck and rail
His plans almost complete, McNabb envisions the bulk of this traffic being airborne from the US Air Force base at Al Udeid, Qatar, which will be converted into the Afghan war's main warehouse.
US air transports taking off there will head east across the Persian Gulf , fly over the Iranian border and southern and central Iran and land at the US Air Force base near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
(See attached map for all routes)
Troops and provisions will also be ferried to Afghanistan by a separate combined sea-and-land route. They will unload at the Iranian Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea ports of Bandar Abbas and Jask and transfer to trains heading north to the Iranian city of Zabol and the Afghan border.
This will bring reinforcements close to the heaviest fighting in southern Afghanistan opposite Kandahar.
A third route will bring men and equipment by train and truck to the Iranian city of Qaen, which sits opposite the big American bases in Western Afghanistan's Herat Province. From there, Iranian and American truck convoys will distribute the freights and personnel to the various American bases in Afghanistan.
To facilitate the relocation of US forces from Iraq to Afghanistan, McNabb has marked two military border crossings on the Iraq-Iran border opposite the Iranian city of Ilam and north of the Iraqi city of Halabja.
These contingents and their gear will travel by rail north from both crossings to the Tehran terminus, which will become the key hub of the US overland railway route to Afghanistan. Herat will be their next stop.
Iran will become respectable as a US strategic partner
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Washington sources report that administration policy-makers will present this project to Iran's rulers as a fulcrum for new relations of trust between them and the starting point for engagement on bilateral issues including Iran's controversial nuclear program.
The thinking in the US capital today is that even partial Tehran consent to this ambitious American logistical scheme will transform the relationship and offer Iran new international respectability as a military partner, like Pakistan, in a major US war on terror in South Asia.
Our military and Middle East experts note six more strategic-economic advantages Tehran stands to gain by this transformation:
A direct line to Washington to settle and defuse difficulties as they arise between the two countries.
The Obama administration will not formally lift the economic and financial sanctions imposed against Iran in the early stages of the project, but as American military transit through Iran takes off and develops into an efficient, regular route, sanctions will either be suspended or fade.
As the project shifts from covert to semi-open, The US will remove Iran from the list of state sponsors of terrorism by virtue of its role in America's war on the Taliban and al Qaeda.
By the same token, the administration hopes to enlist the support of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Middle-East countries for the plan.
The Obama administration believes that Iran's fears of a military attack by the US will be allayed by the sheer volume of their military cooperation; American and Iranian officers will have to work together to chart and control the traffic rolling through Iran as Washington becomes increasingly dependent on Iranian seaports, railways and transportation infrastructure to supply its forces in Afghanistan.
It will also lay to rest Tehran's fears of a unilateral Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, because Washington will hardly provide back-up or military hardware for attacking a country transformed into an American ally.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources report that Tehran received advance information about the new Obama proposal last weekend. It was the subject of two top-level conferences attended by Iran's spiritual ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former president Ali Akbar Hashem Rafsanjani, and commanders of the Revolutionary Guards and the armed forces.
Now decisions were reached.
Israel: Is America giving away too much?
This epic turnabout in Washington's policy on Iran also reached Israel's policy-makers as a new government prepares to take office in Jerusalem next week.
Prime minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, who stays on as defense minister, authorized the head of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, to disclose that Iran is only months away from the capacity to build a nuclear bomb.
He shared this information with the Knesset's Defense and Foreign Relations committee on March 25, so laying bare the gaping differences between Israel and US intelligence estimates. The latter speaks of one to five years or more.
Israel was sending a message to alert Washington that it was entering into a sweeping strategic partnership and commitments with Iran in return for which Tehran would expect the US to accept Iran's ballistic and nuclear capabilities which were nowhere as far in the distance as US intelligence postulates.
The launch of the Omid satellite into space demonstrated to Israel that Iran has acquired the ballistic ability to deliver nuclear warheads at any point on earth.