Leaders of Iran

Monday, December 20, 2004

Shamkhani: Iran is prepared for war with the US

Commentary: Iran's war threat is very real - (United Press International): "Commentary: Iran's war threat is very real


By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst


Washington, DC, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Forget an October Surprise, a much worse one could come in September: Full-scale war between the United States and Iran may be far closer than the American public might imagine.

For Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani Wednesday warned frankly and openly that if his military commanders believed the United States was serious about attacking his country to destroy its nuclear power facility at Bushehr, or to topple its Islamic theocratic form of government, they would not sit back passively and wait for the U.S. armed forces to strike the first blow, as President Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq did in March 2003. They would strike first.

"We will not sit to wait for what others will do to us," Shamkhani told an interviewer on the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite television news network, which is widely watched throughout the Middle East.

"Some military commanders in Iran are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly."

The Iranian defense minister was speaking in response to an increasing barrage of tough, even ominous statements from senior U.S. officials that Iranian leaders and many Middle East diplomats believe parallel the drumbeat of rhetoric that prepared the American public for the war in Iraq a year and a half ago.

On Aug. 8, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the world was "worried and suspicious" about Iran's nuclear program and she made clear the Bush administration was determined not to let the Iranians develop nuclear weapons from their new Russian-built reactor. So seriously did Rice intend the message to be taken that she repeated it twice in the same day in separate interviews to different network news shows.

Just this Tuesday, one of the hottest hawks in the Bush administration, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton told a sympathetic audience at the right-wing Hudson Institute in Washington that the Iranian nuclear program had to be taken up by the U.N. Security Council. "To fail to do so would risk sending a signal to would-be proliferators that there are no serious consequences for pursuing a secret nuclear weapons programs," he said. "We cannot let Iran, a leading sponsor of international terrorism, acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to Europe, most of central Asia and the Middle East, or beyond," Bolton said. "Without serious, concerted, immediate intervention by the international community, Iran will be well on the road to doing so."

Bolton's tough talk came after reports that the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna appears unlikely to announce next month that Iran's nuclear program contains military elements. Nor, according to these published reports, is the IAEA expected to recommend referring the Iranian nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council as Bolton and his administration colleagues clearly want.

The comments from Bolton and Rice come within weeks of leading neo-conservative pundits and activists in Washington proclaiming that Iran's nuclear program had to be destroyed, even if waging war was the only way to do it.

Influential neo-conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote July 23 column in The Washington Post: "The long awaited revolution (in Iran) is not happening. Which (makes) the question of pre-emptive attack all the more urgent. If nothing is done, a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of 'the Great Satan' will have both nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution or pre-emptive attack."

Krauthammer's column was widely discussed in the Tehran press, further fueling the fears there that the United States may act in cahoots with Israel to launch a pre-emptive strike on the Iranian reactor. Iranians also remember that President George W. Bush included Iran with Iraq as fellow members of the "axis of evil" in his 2002 State of the Union speech. Just over a year after that, he unleashed the U.S. armed forces to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Iranians therefore fear that the goal of Bush and his Pentagon hawks is now exactly what Krauthammer advocated in his July 23 column: to use the new, "strong fortress" of pro-American Iraq as the launch point to destabilize and topple the Islamic Republic of Iran. Both the desired counter-revolution in Iran and a U.S.-delivered or U.S.-backed pre-emptive strike "are far more likely to succeed with 146,000 American troops and highly sophisticated aircraft standing by just a few miles away in Iraq," Krauthammer wrote.

In reality, however, Iraq is anything but a "strong fortress." The embattled U.S. troops there are hunkered down, on the defensive, an undermanned, over-stretched, over-worked exhausted force isolated in a nation that has almost universally rejected them and about which they were deceived and given no adequate preparation whatsoever.

Indeed, if a full-scale war broke out with Iran, the United States might even have to send in hundreds of thousands of more troops to relieve and rescue its current over-extended force in Iraq, or go nuclear, or implement both extreme options in order to prevent current U.S. forces there from being cut off and even possibly over-run.

Shamkhani Wednesday made clear that this possibility had already occurred to his own military planners in Tehran. "The U.S. military presence will not become an element of strength at our expense," he said. "The opposite is true because their forces would turn into a hostage."

Shamkhani also made very clear that his country would regard any pre-emptive strike against the Bushehr reactor as a casus belli: sufficient cause to unleash full-scale, unrestricted war against the United States. "We will consider any strike against our nuclear installations as an attack on Iran as a whole and we will retaliate with all our strength," he said.

Some political leaderships specialize in using tough talk that they never seriously mean to back up with equally ruthless actions. But the Iranians are not like that. They lost around a half-million dead to repel Saddam in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988. So when Shamkhani threatens the prospect of a major war against the United States: Believe him."

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