US Allies Told to Brace for War Contingency
Ten days ago, Washington began signaling allied governments in the Persian Gulf and Israel that a US military operation against Iran’s nuclear sites was in the works for a year hence. They were advised to start making their own preparations.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s exclusive Washington and Middle East military sources reveal that the Bush administration has for the first time translated its ambiguous statements – which never “ruled out any options, including the military,” into a clear decision to put preparations in train for likely action with a timeline for the second half of 2007.
The Iranians having made no bones about their refusal to backtrack on uranium enrichment and their nuclear ambitions, teams of officials have fanned out on highly confidential missions to capitals of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Turkey and Israel. They raised three issues related to possible American strike action:
1. The use of their bases for US naval and air force attacks on Iran.
2. The potential for backlash US attacks may provoke from Iran against supportive nations.
3. The supply of advanced American weaponry to arm the nations in the line of fire as deterrence against an Iranian counter-attack and as strategic counterweights to Iran’s missile arsenal.
From their discreet American visitors, the regional governments obtained an outline of the state of play:
US intelligence has finished mapping out the sites in Iran, whose destruction its experts estimate will terminate Iran’s nuclear program and its aims. The maps take into account American assessments that around 35% of Iran’s designated nuclear sites are dummies built to hoodwink American or Israeli attackers and cause them to throw away their logistic resources and ordinance for nothing.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources disclose that American intelligence experts are convinced of their ability to distinguish between the real sites and the empty buildings and tunnels constructed as decoys. Even if the Iranians build fresh decoys or relocate active sites, America’s network of spy satellites and planes have them all under close enough surveillance to discover their new locations, and determine which fake installations have covertly been made operational.
Washington‘s three-track strategy begins now
Washington’s Iran-watchers in Washington judge that Israel and the Gulf emirates overrate the pace of the Islamic Republic’s progress in uranium enrichment. In their view, the best the Iranians can attain at the moment is a 5-6% level of enrichment (far below the 90% required for weapons-grade fuel); they are expected to expand production and stockpile large quantities in subterranean storage bunkers ready and waiting in different parts of Iran. Meanwhile, Tehran will strive to improve its methods of enrichment or else go shopping for more advanced technology. Then, at the appropriate moment, the Islamic republic will embark on what US intelligence reports call a “mad crash” to raise the uranium to weapons level.
This is the intelligence thinking behind the “Bosnian Formula” the Bush administration is revealed here for the first time to have embraced.
This formula, borrowed from the Bosnia civil war of the 1990s, entails a three-track strategy:
Track One: US diplomats will first seek recourse from the UN Security Council and a resolution condemning the Iranian program, in the hope it invokes Chapter 7 which authorizes sanctions up to military action on the grounds of a threat to world peace. They will know by the end of summer 2006 if this track has any chance of getting anywhere. But they are not sanguine of bringing Russia and China into a consensual resolution before mid-2007, if at all.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources disclose that, privately, heads of the Bush administration are losing interest in economic sanctions since the discovery that the clerical regime of Tehran is sitting atop a mountainous reserve of $50 billion, which it does not touch. With a cushion of that size, specialists on Iran’s economy reckon that, even if oil prices remains stable, the Iranians can outlast economic penalties for two years or more quite painlessly.
Bunker busters for all
Track Two: Iran’s neighbors will dispose their military forces in an array to deter an Iranian attack. They will take military steps to bring home to the Islamic republic the full extent of its growing isolation – not only in the international arena but also in its immediate neighborhood.
In DEBKA-Net-Weekly 252 of May 5, we reported US preparations for a large-scale military exercise, the biggest the Americans have ever staged in the Persian Gulf. Now, notwithstanding the recent strain between Washington and Ankara (See DNW 253 of May 12, Iran and Turkey Hand in Hand), Washington is casting Ankara and the Turkish army in a central role in its war strategy for Iran.
Our London and Brussels sources report that US diplomats are trying to persuade London, Berlin and Paris to treat the Turkish government more benevolently instead of constantly carping about human rights. They are inviting public gestures to make the Turks feel like a welcome and potentially integral part of the European community.
Washington will also smile on Turkey as a favored NATO member, placing a high value on Turkey’s 600-km common border with Iran.
The Americans hope to persuade Ankara to permit a NATO exercise to be held in eastern Turkey by the end of 2006. It will be staged to show the Iranians on the other side of the border that their frontier with Turkey is not nearly as friendly as they thought. Washington believes the Tayyip Erdogan government, like other NATO members who oppose military action against Iran, will find it hard to refuse to take part in this war game.
As part of Track Two, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources add that the US government is planning to offer its regional allies the new American bunker buster bomb (Massive Ordnance Penetrator – MOP) known as BIG-BLU.
This mighty weapon, which weighs in at 13,600 kg, has a 2,700 kilo explosive charge that can penetrate 60 meters of 5,000 psi reinforced concrete and take out one quarter of deeply buried targets.
This super-bomb is designed to signal Tehran that not only the Americans, but its neighbors too have the means to hit Iran’s nuclear assets.
Track Three: After losing faith in international economic sanctions against the clerical rulers of Iran, the US government embarked on a unilateral campaign.
Three weeks ago, American emissaries began quietly visiting banks and financial institutions in West Europe and Asia. They showed the heads of these institutions lists of Iranian firms, industries and private tycoons associated in one way or another with Iran’s nuclear effort. They then indicated that American banking and corporate doors would slam shut against any financial bodies continuing to do business with the blacklisted Iranians. Our sources report that the Americans were pleasantly surprised by the success of this quiet campaign.
Many of the banking and financial bodies lobbied in this way were quick to cut their ties with the named Iranians, with immediate impact: A loud outcry arose in Tehran’s central bazaar where most business with foreigners is contracted.