Independent experts believe U.S. military action against Iran's nuclear program would involve extensive use of B-2 bomber aircraft to hit hardened uranium enrichment and warhead development sites and cruise missiles to neutralize air defenses and other relevant locations, the Washington Times reported yesterday.
The United States and its allies have for years sought to end elements of Iran's nuclear program that could support nuclear weapons development; Tehran has defended its ambitions as strictly peaceful while steadfastly refusing to curb its atomic activities.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Sunday confirmed the Defense Department's possession of a plan for use of force against Iran. However, he expressed strong reservations about taking military action against the Middle Eastern nation.
An attack on Iran would probably extend over a number of days and incorporate missiles fired from vessels stationed off the country's coast, former Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said.
"It will be primarily an air attack with covert work to start a 'velvet' revolution so (the) Iranian people can take back their country," he said.
"It's pretty well known if we were going to go after the sites, we would have to go after underground facilities, and we could probably do that. The B-2s could do that," former Air Force Gen. Charles Horner said. "It would be the key system."
"Almost all" of Iran's estimated half-dozen high-importance nuclear sites "are in isolated areas where civilian casualties would not be much of a problem," said defense analyst John Pike, who heads GlobalSecurity.org. "Most of them have co-located staff housing. Bomb the housing, kill the staff, set back the program by a generation."
"American airstrikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osirak nuclear center in Iraq, and would more resemble the opening days of the 2003 air campaign against Iraq. Using the full force of operational B-2 stealth bombers, staging from Diego Garcia or flying direct from the United States … two-dozen suspect nuclear sites would be targeted," Pike's Web site states.
An attack could also incorporate F-22 fighter aircraft, which are capable of evading heavy air defenses, according to the Times (Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, Aug. 2).
Iran today cautioned the United States against launching a strike, Agence France-Presse reported.
"In case of an attack against Iran, their destiny will be worse than their pitiable destiny in Iraq and Afghanistan," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, according to state media.
"They said they would go to some places and they went," Mottaki said. "But we have seen what happened to them. We think there are still rational people in America … who will not put the American dignity on sale."
Ahead of Mottaki's remarks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast attributed Mullen's "inappropriate" comments to "consecutive (U.S.) defeats in the region and [Washington's] military adventurism which has resulted in deaths of innocent citizens and of their own forces."
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi denounced Mullen's statement as "fascistic."
"Such remarks are in contradiction to their claims of change that [U.S. leaders] are after dialogue and peace," Iranian media quoted Vahidi as saying. "They show that they are unable to stand against the will of Iran. Having plans to attack an independent nation … in the third millennium is a clear violation of the U.N. charter" (Agence France-Presse I/Google News, Aug. 3).
Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano yesterday said he received a "positive reaction" from world powers over potential talks on a plan brokered in May for exchanging Iranian uranium, Reuters reported.
The plan — negotiated by Iran, Brazil and Turkey — calls for Iran to store 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium in Turkey for one year; other countries would be expected within that period to provide nuclear material refined for use at a Tehran medical research reactor in exchange for the Iranian material.
The arrangement appeared similar to another proposal, formulated in October by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that was intended to defer the Middle Eastern state's enrichment activities long enough to more fully address U.S. and European concerns about its potential nuclear bomb-making capability. Tehran ultimately rejected the IAEA proposal worked out with France, Russia and the United States. Those nations, known as the "Vienna group," subsequently expressed concerns about the later agreement.
Asked if he was seeking to begin new talks on the proposal next month, Amano said, "I am working on that. I have a positive reaction from member states … and why not."
Still, it was uncertain that further dialogue would lead to an agreement, he warned. "What will be the outcome, there may be not, I don't know. But starting a dialogue is very important … If we can have a discussion on this issue, that will be positive progress," he said (Nopporn Wong-Anan, Reuters I, Aug. 2).
"So far the channel for dialogue was very weak or nonexistent," Kyodo News quoted Amano as saying. "If we can have a discussion on this issue that is a positive progress forward" (Kyodo News I/Breitbart.com, Aug. 2).
The United States is willing to discuss additional issues with Iran at separate multilateral negotiations on Tehran's broader nuclear program, U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Glyn Davies said yesterday. The five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany would participate in the potential talks.
"The interest of the P-5+1 in holding discussions with Iran first and foremost is to try to resolve — diplomatically, peacefully, in a spirit of mutual respect — these questions about Iran's nuclear program and nuclear intentions. In that connection, we have said to Iran — it was said on Oct. 1 in Geneva — we are also open to discuss other issues," Davies told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
"So it's not exclusively about nuclear issues, but for us that's the most important issue. And we believe that needs to be discussed first, because that's the issue that is viewed as really very threatening to the rest of the world," he said (Shahran Tabari, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Aug. 2).
Elsewhere, Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi is slated to travel to China tomorrow in a bid for further funding of his nation's power industry, AFP reported (Agence France-Presse II/Straits Times, Aug. 3). The United States, the European Union and various other governments in recent weeks have adopted new measures aimed at pressuring Iran to curb its disputed nuclear work, in part by isolating its energy sector.
China, though, has suggested it could help build up Iran's petroleum refinement capacity. The Middle Eastern nation must import a large portion of its gasoline and other refined oil products; other nations have sought to exploit the vulnerability by attempting to hinder Tehran's ability to purchase such products from abroad.
The Obama administration yesterday urged Beijing to help isolate Iran's energy sector.
“We want China to be a responsible stakeholder in the international system and that means cooperating with U.N. Security Council resolutions,” U.S. State Department special adviser on nonproliferation and arms control Robert Einhorn said. The Security Council has adopted four sanctions resolutions against Iran to date.
“It means not backfilling, not taking advantage of the responsible self-restraint of other countries,” the Financial Times quoted him as saying.
Einhorn noted China's "large and genuine" need for a reliable power supply, but said he would still seek the country's help in pressuring Iran during a trip to Beijing planned later this month.
“One concern that a number of countries expressed when approached to take measures against Iran is that “˜if we practice restraint, China will fill in behind, China will take advantage of our restraint’,” the official said (Christian Oliver, Financial Times, Aug. 2).
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) yesterday called for the prompt imposition of penalties against Russia and China over their support for Iran's energy industry, AFP reported.
"It's time to implement our sanctions laws and demonstrate to Russia and China that there are consequences for abetting Tehran and flouting U.S. sanctions," said Ros-Lehtinen, the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee's top Republican.
State-controlled firms in both nations have backed Iranian power operations with "huge sums," she said, accusing such companies of "effectively bankrolling" Tehran's nuclear work.
"Russia and China appear determined to continue to facilitate Iran's dangerous policies. This must not be allowed to continue without serious repercussions," the lawmaker said (Agence France-Presse III/Google News, Aug. 2).
Japan today adopted Iran sanctions in compliance with a Security Council sanctions resolution approved in June. The penalties would freeze Japan-based assets belonging to 40 Iranian firms and one person with alleged ties to Iran's nuclear and missile work (Agence France-Presse IV/Spacewar.com, Aug. 3).
Targeted firms included First East Export Bank — a branch of Iran's Bank Mellat — and the head of Iran's Isfahan uranium conversion facility, Kyodo News reported.
In addition, the penalties seek to cut off nuclear-related dealings with Iran and halt the flow of funds for the country to acquire heavy conventional armaments (Kyodo News II/Breitbart.com, Aug. 3).
Japan "will push ahead with studying [additional unilateral] measures our country should take so that we will have a conclusion as soon as possible, by the end of August," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku said.
"We believe we need to address the issue sternly to reach a diplomatic, peaceful solution," the official said (AFP IV).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could receive recommendations for further penalties against 10 firms, and billions of dollars in targeted funds could have "a tidal wave effect," Mark Dubowitz, head of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the New York Times (John Vinocur, New York Times, Aug. 2).
The United Arab Emirates has stepped up enforcement of international penalties against Iran, forcing Tehran to seek other conduits for goods, Reuters reported today (Saul/Kasolowsky, Reuters II, Aug. 3).
Iran's stock market yesterday hit what state media said was an all-time high since its founding 43 years ago, AFP reported (Siavosh Ghazi, Agence France-Presse V/Google News, Aug. 2).