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Iran next?


Chindie
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Britain's armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran's nuclear enrichment programme, the Guardian has learned.

The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.

In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.

They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East.

The Guardian has spoken to a number of Whitehall and defence officials over recent weeks who said Iran was once again becoming the focus of diplomatic concern after the revolution in Libya.

They made clear that Barack Obama, has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November's presidential election.

But they warned the calculations could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking.

Hawks in the US are likely to seize on next week's report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is expected to provide fresh evidence of a possible nuclear weapons programme in Iran.

The Guardian has been told that the IAEA's bulletin could be "a game changer" which will provide unprecedented details of the research and experiments being undertaken by the regime.

One senior Whitehall official said Iran had proved "surprisingly resilient" in the face of sanctions, and sophisticated attempts by the west to cripple its nuclear enrichment programme had been less successful than first thought.

He said Iran appeared to be "newly aggressive, and we are not quite sure why", citing three recent assassination plots on foreign soil that the intelligence agencies say were coordinated by elements in Tehran.

In addition to that, officials now believe Iran has restored all the capability it lost in a sophisticated cyber-attack last year.The Stuxnet computer worm, thought to have been engineered by the Americans and Israelis, sabotaged many of the centrifuges the Iranians were using to enrich uranium.

Up to half of Iran's centrifuges were disabled by Stuxnet or were thought too unreliable to work, but diplomats believe this capability has now been recovered, and the IAEA believes it may even be increasing.

Ministers have also been told that the Iranians have been moving some more efficient centrifuges into the heavily-fortified military base dug beneath a mountain near the city of Qom.

The concern is that the centrifuges, which can be used to enrich uranium for use in weapons, are now so well protected within the site that missile strikes may not be able to reach them. The senior Whitehall source said the Iranians appeared to be shielding "material and capability" inside the base.

Another Whitehall official, with knowledge of Britain's military planning, said that within the next 12 months Iran may have hidden all the material it needs to continue a covert weapons programme inside fortified bunkers. He said this had necessitated the UK's planning being taken to a new level.

"Beyond [12 months], we couldn't be sure our missiles could reach them," the source said. "So the window is closing, and the UK needs to do some sensible forward planning. The US could do this on their own but they won't.

"So we need to anticipate being asked to contribute. We had thought this would wait until after the US election next year, but now we are not so sure.

"President Obama has a big decision to make in the coming months because he won't want to do anything just before an election."

Another source added there was "no acceleration towards military action by the US, but that could change". Next spring could be a key decision-making period, the source said. The MoD has a specific team considering the military options against Iran.

The Guardian has been told that planners expect any campaign to be predominantly waged from the air, with some naval involvement, using missiles such as the Tomahawks, which have a range of 800 miles (1,287 km). There are no plans for a ground invasion, but "a small number of special forces" may be needed on the ground, too.

The RAF could also provide air-to-air refuelling and some surveillance capability, should they be required. British officials say any assistance would be cosmetic: the US could act on its own but would prefer not to.

An MoD spokesman said: "The British government believes that a dual track strategy of pressure and engagement is the best approach to address the threat from Iran's nuclear programme and avoid regional conflict. We want a negotiated solution – but all options should be kept on the table."

The MoD says there are no hard and fast blueprints for conflict but insiders concede that preparations there and at the Foreign Office have been under way for some time.

One official said: "I think that it is fair to say that the MoD is constantly making plans for all manner of international situations. Some areas are of more concern than others. "It is not beyond the realms of possibility that people at the MoD are thinking about what we might do should something happen on Iran. It is quite likely that there will be people in the building who have thought about what we would do if commanders came to us and asked us if we could support the US. The context for that is straightforward contingency planning."

Washington has been warned by Israel against leaving any military action until it is too late.

Western intelligence agencies say Israel will demand that the US act if it believes its own military cannot launch successful attacks to stall Iran's nuclear programme. A source said the "Israelis want to believe that they can take this stuff out", and will continue to agitate for military action if Iran continues to play hide and seek.

It is estimated that Iran, which has consistently said it is interested only in developing a civilian nuclear energy programme, already has enough enriched uranium for between two and four nuclear weapons.

Experts believe it could be another two years before Tehran has a ballistic missile delivery system.

British officials admit to being perplexed by what they regard as Iran's new aggressiveness, saying that they have been shown convincing evidence that Iran was behind the murder of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi in May, as well as the audacious plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, which was uncovered last month.

"There is a clear dotted line from Tehran to the plot in Washington," said one.

Earlier this year, the IAEA reported that it had evidence Tehran had conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that could only be used for setting off a nuclear device.

It also said it was "increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organisations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."

Last year, the UN security council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran to try to deter Tehran from pursuing any nuclear ambitions.

At the weekend, the New York Times reported that the US was looking to build up its military presence in the region, with one eye on Iran.

According to the paper, the US is considering sending more naval warships to the area, and is seeking to expand military ties with the six countries in the Gulf Co-operation Council: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

UK Military steps up plans for Iran attack amid new nuclear fears

Worrying. More conflict is no good thing, Iran's motives are certainly questionable (as might ours be, depending on your viewpoint), and even if it was a comparitive hit and run capability removal campaign ala Israel v Egypt's nuclear ambition, Iran's leadership will only be further driven to hatred and aggression.

A no win situtation, arguably.

EDIT - I was fairly sure we had an Iran thread, or at least one this fit into, but it appears to have been pruned.

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This is a prime example of the sway that Israel has over the US and the UK.

Everyone already knows that North Korea has nuclear weapons, and that they have been more openly aggressive towards it's neighbors than Iran...but they get a pass.

Iran MIGHT have the CAPABILITY of having nuclear weapons, and we are planning airstrikes....

This is Netanyahu pounding the drums, and the Israel lobby in the US turning the screws on the clowns in the White House and State Department.

Israel says jump and look at us asking how high....

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Well it's easier to bomb someone who doesn't have nukes yet in an attempt to stop them from getting the nukes.. If you bomb someone who HAS nukes, they're more likely to press the red button I suppose..

Was going to be my response. :thumb:

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North Korea isn't considered as much of a threat as Iran, despite possibly being further along the road to nuclear armament. North Korea are held in check by having one of the US military's largest foreign presences in the region, and having China having them by the balls. They occasionally do the international relations version of 'playing up' but have never represented that much of a threat otherwise. If ever they did decide to really go for it though, they represent a danger simply because theres the distinct chance that they already have or are approaching serious nuclear capability, something made all the worse for the fact that we don't really know what the N.Korean capability is. The situation could arise where we discover they have stockpiled a weapon, take out the facility it's stored in, and discover they actually have more elsewhere and have given them the excuse to use it. North Korea is a problem held in stasis by other factors, and nobody is keen to rock the boat and possibly cause something to happen.

Iran, on the other hand, is not in that position. They find themselves in a volatile region (not least volatile because of their own activities and positioning, and indeed of the US and other enemies), beholden to no master, really, with a distinctly aggressive posture and keen not to play the game by the rules others wish to impose on them. Their aggressive posture is possibly justified - Iran looks at a region it once was, arguably still is, a hegemon of, and sees nothing but the United States around it, and it's attack dog straining at the leash that Iran already does not like (and of course vice versa). That they also a reasonably well developed nation doesn't help, either.

The worry that Iran may be in the position to change the game in the Middle East in their favour plays on the minds of Washington, London and Tel Aviv more than the uneasy balance in East Asia and the Pacific, which while not happy about it the US at least feels is stable enough to be getting on with.

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North Korea was given a pass when it BEGAN it's nuclear program, even though it was a sworn enemy to two of the United States' biggest trade partners in SK and Japan, and has not been shy about making threats. If that's not provocation enough to warrant the kind of military action presently being debated in regards to Iran, I'm not sure what is.

I cannot believe this action is really being considered. Unless this is just another stage in a massive takeover. We control Iraq and can launch operations from there. We also are still in Afghanistan, so we can squeeze them from west AND east.

Crazy days...

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Not really maqroll

ask yourself this, how much oil does North Korea have compared to ....... say Iran.

As for Obama not considering a hugely popular (in the USA) military adventure before he's up fpr re-election, give us all a break puh lease

I suspect that the Americans are sick of wars and that getting into a new one, especially one as messy as Iran will be, it is unlikely to be a vote winner.

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Not really maqroll

ask yourself this, how much oil does North Korea have compared to ....... say Iran.

As for Obama not considering a hugely popular (in the USA) military adventure before he's up fpr re-election, give us all a break puh lease

I suspect that the Americans are sick of wars and that getting into a new one, especially one as messy as Iran will be, it is unlikely to be a vote winner.

A prolonged war with Iran will undoubtedly bring back the draft, not seen since Vietnam....and then you'll see huge social unrest. People are already taking to the streets in the US, but when young people are forced to choose between a war zone and prison, there will be riots in the streets.

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Apparently the Royal Navy have said that if we do invade Iran they want to get back the i-pod and mobile phone that were confiscated a couple of years back from one of their brave young jacks.

Can't see any major action on the horizon personally, probably just a cheeky punt that's supposed to prompt a bit of arab spring action.

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Israel is planning a strike on Iran. Not in vague, general terms, not a war of words, but an actual act of war using their latest missiles, now capable of reaching that far, in defiance of UN resolutions and under the protection of the US.

They have ordered an investigation into the leak of this news.

Our government no doubt thinks it's on a roll after Libya, and desperately wants something to take attention away from the horror story that is the economy.

It would be helpful to have a little more detail about the conversations between Mr Fox, Mr Werrity and Israel on this subject.

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is it not just the west doing what Saudi Arabia want?

I mean it's not like they were on the side of the iraqi's or afghans. as long as it's not in their back yard they will continue to spend billions on our weapons and fighters and let other arab countries around them get trashed.

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Do they really suspect Mossad leaked the infp?

Untangle that web.

What I took from the story was they thought that, and the reason for the leak was the idea was just so daft it would lead to serious reprisals, so better head it off at the pass. Mossad would be a willing tool in leaking/shaping stories, of course.

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Not really maqroll

ask yourself this, how much oil does North Korea have compared to ....... say Iran.

As for Obama not considering a hugely popular (in the USA) military adventure before he's up fpr re-election, give us all a break puh lease

I really don't think it's about the oil this time. It's about balance of power. The USA is Israel's closest ally (a fact which I dislike very much, btw) and Israel, given their surroundings and their agressive behaviour, desperatly need to be the strongest military force in the region. Iran has a long history of hostility towards Israel and would almost certainly use nuclear capability to bully Israel in the ongoing conflicts it has with Iran-backed Hezbollah and Hamas. This in turn could dramatically shift the whole balance of power in the region in disfavour of Israel. And as Israel is (chosen to be, against the best interest of the US I would add) one of the USA's main channels of influence in the Middle East it would also disfavour (perceived) US interests.

North Korea, on the other hand, are not considered to seriously threaten US interests at the moment. And, they are controlled by China anyway and China would never let them do anything so stupid as launching a nuclear attack to provoke chaos and destruction in a developing region where China has a lot to gain from stability.

Another factor is obviously that the US know that North Korea is run by a mad man who would not give a toss if his people suffered the consequences of a military strike against the country. Much can be said about Iran's leaders but they are not quite so reckless.

If US intentions were linked to oil, the US would have to have ambitions of regime change. Regime change was very clearly the motive of intervening in Iraq, which is why you could very plausibly link it to US oil interests. Regime change (unless it comes through internal revolution) requires a full-scale invation. I can not possibly imagine anyone seriously considering a full-scale invation of a country as large, populous and strong as Iran. Not at this stage and not given the heap of more pressing, domestic issues we in the Western world have to deal with at present. Which is why I think Obama and his strategists see, and quite rightly so imo, attacking Iran as a move they would very much like not to have to make.

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