US President Barack Obama is busy aligning Middle East allies with the next US steps on Iran. Contributing to the mounting sense in Washington of an approaching US-Iranian confrontation, the Pentagon is substantially building up its combat power around Iran, stationing nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait – two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit – and keeping two aircraft carriers the region. The USS Carl Vinson, the USS John Stennis which was to have returned to home base and their strike groups will stay in the Arabian Sea.
Iran is caught up in the same pre-war swirl of activity. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani spent two days in Ankara this week. But Turkish leaders failed in their bid to sell their good offices as brokers for averting the expected collision between Tehran and the West. Before flying out of Ankara Friday, Jan. 13, Larijani commented: "We have different ways of doing things."
debkafile's Iranian sources quote the Iranian official as telling his hosts that his country is prepared to take on any military aggressors. One of the responses weighed in Tehran to meet the rising military pressure might be an open declaration of Iran as a nuclear power. By accepting a visit by IAEA inspectors on Jan. 28 – to investigate charges that Iran is running a clandestine nuclear bomb program – Tehran may be moving toward that irreversible admission – or possibly its first nuclear test.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly 528 disclosed exclusively on Nov. 25, 2011 that Iran may soon publicize its attainment of a nuclear weapon, a step still being debated intensely at the highest levels of the Islamic regime in Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will make the ultimate decision, is very much in favor of facing the world as a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic. He calculates that this fait accompli has a good change of warding off a Western and/or Israeli military attack.
Thursday night, Jan. 12, President Obama put in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss coordinating US and Israeli moves for a military operation against Iran, which many US media believe to be imminent.
The New York Times wrote Friday under the caption: Dangerous Tension with Iran, "Many officials, experts and commentators increasingly expect some kind of military confrontation."
Obama had similar conversations with other Middle East leaders this week. The and Saudi and Qatari foreign ministers, Prince Saud al-Faisal and Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, spent two days on Jan. 10-11 in Washington talking to the US president. The contents of their talks were kept under tight wraps. Friday, British premier David Cameron suddenly turned up in Riyadh for talks with Saudi King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef.
Discussions on military preparations centering on Iran inevitably concern the need for urgent action to halt the unending carnage in Syria, Iran's close ally.
Thursday, the Russian National Security Adviser Nikolai Patrushev, one of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's closest advisers, said ominously: "We are receiving information that NATO members and some Persian Gulf States working under the 'Libyan scenario' intend to move from indirect intervention in Syria to direct military intervention."
Moscow has consistently spoken out against any foreign intervention in the Syrian conflict – or even tough UN sanctions.
Russia's NATO ambassador Dmitry Rogozin has suggested more than once that the West would use a military adventure in Syria as the jumping-off point for an attack on Iran.
Another sign that Syria is under the military eye of the West came from an indiscreet comment Israel's Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz made Tuesday, Jan. 10 in a briefing to a Knesset panel. Israel, he said, is preparing to absorb members of Bashar Assad's Alawite sect after his downfall.
He later detracted his words. debkafile disclose that the context of the general's comment was Israeli preparations to establish a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the Golan border to shelter Alawites fleeing the vengeance of their compatriots.
Turkey too has gone back to talking about setting up in northern Syria a Turkish buffer zone for refugees and anti-Assad dissidents.
Further fueling the war scare, two helmeted bombers on a motorbike assassinated the Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, deputy director of the Natanz uranium enrichment center, in central Tehran Wednesday. Friday, Ayatollah Khamenei accused the United States and Israel of a CIA-Mossad master plan, which Iranian sources claimed bore the title "Red Windows" and focused on training Iranian dissidents for hit and sabotage operations in Iran.