US Military Option on Iran Is Back on the Table
“Iran has got to be very high on that list,” said a senior aide ahead of the talks US Vice President Dick Cheney will hold during his 10-day tour of the Middle East and Turkey, which began Monday, March 17 in Iraq.
Singling out Oman, the aide noted that the US and Oman are co-guardians of the strategic Strait of Hormuz. “The Omanis, like a lot of other people,” he said “are concerned by the escalating tensions between the rest of the world community and Iran and by some of Iran’s activities, particularly in the nuclear field, but outside its borders as well.”
According to debkafile, the official was referring to Tehran’s meddling in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Our military, Washington and Gulf sources report that US Vice President Dick Cheney is again talking about possible US military action to shut down Iran’s covert nuclear program.
Cheney stopped over in Oman Wednesday, Wed. March 19, after two days in Iraq. He will travel next to Saudi Arabia, is due in Jerusalem next Saturday and will also visit Ramallah and Turkey.
Our sources report exclusively that his talks are focusing on two aspects of the Iranian nuclear threat:
1. The Bush administration’s decision to distance itself from the National Intelligence Estimate released last December. Its conclusion that Iran’s nuclear arms program was shelved in 2003, which rendered America’s military option superfluous, is now deemed a mistake.
2. The administration now buys British, German, French and Israeli intelligence estimates that Iran is indeed pressing forward with programs for building nuclear weapons, warheads and ballistic missiles for their delivery.
The vice president will listen closely to his hosts’ ideas about joint efforts for containing Iran’s aggressive expansionist thrusts across the Persian Gulf and Middle East and halting its progress towards nuclear armaments.
The vice president’s choice of capitals for his tour is a pointer to the fact that the military option, off since December, may be on again. American will need the cooperation of all four – Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey – to mount a military attack on Iran.
Oman hosts the big American air bases which are the core of the defense shield for the Strait of Hormuz and for the US Navy, Marine and Air Force units deployed in the Persian Gulf.
Saudi Arabia is the senior Gulf and Arabian trendsetter and the key to pan-Arab endorsement for a US offensive against Tehran. Riyadh has opposed military action until now.
Israel is the only regional nation willing to actively participate in an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites; its military has been putting together plans for going it alone.
Last week, our sources report, Jerusalem was notified by the White House that the Iranian issue had been added to Cheney’s regional agenda at the last minute; his hosts were requested to prepare themselves for exhaustive and lengthy discussions on Iran with the vice president and his aides.
Israel’s defense cabinet was accordingly convened last Wednesday – officially to scrutinize the armed forces’ forward planning and applications of the Lebanon war inquiry panel’s recommendations. But, our military sources report, the ministers were convened to decide which of Israel’s military plans of action were to be presented to Cheney.
Turkey is a pivotal element in any war plan because American warplanes and missiles heading for Iran will have to transit its airspace and take off from air bases on its soil. The US and Turkey have improved their military relations since they worked together against PKK havens in northern Iraq last February.
The vice president’s Iraq visit marked the fifth anniversary of the US invasion.
While there, he made it clear that the US was in no hurry to pull out of the country before its mission was completed and would not allow the country to become a staging ground for terrorist attacks on Americans.
In his talks with Iraq leaders, he hammered out military and political plans to bridge the 10 months remaining until a new president takes office in Washington. After talking to prime minister Nouri al Maliki, the US leader flew north to meet with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani in the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
In particular, he sought progress on Iraq’s oil law which is held up by disagreements between Kurds and Arab Sunni leaders.