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Israel Tries to Sell U.S. on Iran Attack: Haviv Rettig Gur , Times of Israel, May 6, 2013— If American worries about the fallout could be assuaged, if the regime in Teheran could be shown to be militant in rhetoric but either incapable or unwilling to turn such an attack into a full-blown war, then the most significant barrier to an Israeli strike — the lack of American support — would be removed.
Ahmadinejad Shows no Signs of Going Quietly: Geneive Abdo, CNN, May 7th, 2013—As Iran’s election draws near, powerful figures within the ruling establishment seem more worried about the future of the incumbent than they are about the potential for violent protests. resident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is prevented from running for a third term.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Iran's Air Power : Michael Elleman, Iran Primer, March 11, 2013—Iran has the largest and most diverse inventory of long-range artillery rockets and ballistic missiles in the Middle East. It is estimated to have between 200 and 300 Scud-B and Scud-C missiles, which Iran has renamed the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2. It also owns hundreds of Zelzal rockets and Fateh-110 semi-guided rockets.
On Topic Links
Understanding the Current State of the Iranian Nuclear Challenge: Dore Gold, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, May-June 2013
High Stakes in Iranian Election: Ephraim Dardashti, Gatestone Institute, May 3, 2013
Tehran to Decide Who Can Run for President: Mehdi Khalaji, The Washington Institute, May 7, 2013
Libyan and Korean Examples Guide Iran's Nuclear Plan: Majid Rafizadeh, The National, Apr 19, 2013
Inflation Takes Its Toll on Iran: Bijan Khajehpour, Al-Monitor Iran Pulse, May 8, 2013
ISRAEL TRIES TO SELL U.S. ON IRAN ATTACK
Haviv Rettig Gur
Times of Israel, May 6, 2013
On a visit to the Pakistani capital Islamabad in 2006, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, then a Republican senator from Nebraska, warned that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” Hagel reiterated that view in November 2007 in a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “The answer to dealing with Iran will not be found in a military operation,” he cautioned. And it isn’t just then-senator Hagel.
“We’ve thought about military options against Iran off and on for the last 20 years,” former top White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke admitted that same year, “and they’re just not good, because you don’t know what the endgame is. You know what the first move of the game is, but you don’t know what the last move of the game is.”
That was six years ago, but it’s a view that hasn’t changed in much of Washington. American politicians regularly threaten Tehran with severe consequences for its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and habitually announce that “all options are on the table.” But privately, many concede there is little stomach in the US for yet another Middle Eastern war that could sink the country down a rabbit hole of unintended consequences and commitments.
It’s not that American leaders and planners, even the “realists” among them, disagree with Israel about the dangers posed by a nuclear Iran.
As Hagel himself noted in that 2007 speech, during what may have been his most skeptical and realist period, “In the Middle East of the 21st century, Iran will be a key center of gravity… and remain a significant regional power. The United States cannot change that reality….
“[But] to acknowledge that reality in no way confuses Iran’s dangerous, destabilizing and threatening behavior in the region. Our differences with Iran are real. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and continues to provide material support to Hezbollah and Hamas. The president of Iran publicly threatens Israel’s existence and is attempting to develop the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. Iran has not helped stabilize the current chaos in Iraq and is responsible for weapons and explosives being used against US military forces in Iraq.”
Iran is bad news, American leaders acknowledge. But so is the possible fallout from any military strike.
And they’re right. A military strike against Iran’s nuclear program could elicit a massive retaliation and drag the region into one of the uglier wars it has known in a while. If that happens, the US expects to face hundreds of Iranian rockets smashing into US naval vessels and bases in the Persian Gulf; terror attacks by Iran’s proxies, especially Hezbollah, on US and allied targets around the world; a costly disruption in the global oil supply, both because Iran’s oil would be knocked off the market and because Iran would likely try to target oil production around the Gulf; and massive efforts by Tehran to inflame and destabilize regional allies and governments, from the Gulf states to Iraq to Lebanon and Gaza.
That’s a worst-case scenario, to be sure, but American defence planners state openly that they do not know what Iran’s reaction might be, and a regime so attacked might feel both the need and the political opportunity — domestic opposition would likely evaporate in the face of an attack on the Iranian homeland — to respond forcefully.
Yet even that terrible scenario emphasizes to Israeli leaders — who largely believe that diplomatic efforts can delay but ultimately not replace the need for a military solution — that the roots of American resistance to a strike are not principled or strategic; they’re tactical. If American worries about the fallout could be assuaged, if the regime in Teheran could be shown to be militant in rhetoric but either incapable or unwilling to turn such an attack into a full-blown war, then the most significant barrier to an Israeli strike — the lack of American support — would be removed.
Over the past few years, Israel has planned, trained, and implemented – according to foreign sources, of course – audacious and sophisticated strikes against Iranian assets, from the “Karine A” weapons ship, to armaments convoys in Sudan (at a distance from Israel farther than many potential Iranian targets), to Syria’s nuclear reactor and the latest strikes against Syrian installations and weapons convoys. In Iran itself, Israel is widely credited with infiltrating and repeatedly sabotaging the nuclear program, with centrifuges breaking down, computer viruses disrupting operations on a vast scale, installations suffering damaging explosions, and key nuclear scientists being mysteriously assassinated.
After each alleged Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear program and weapons smuggling, global expert opinion declares in unison that besides the obvious military benefits, the operation carries a “message” for Iran. But these operations also carry a message for the uneasy West, and especially the United States: Iran is vulnerable to attack, and the consequences are minimal.
After a daring, 1,800-kilometer (1,100 mile) strike in Sudan in 2009, a few Arab states complained — quietly — about Israeli trespassing. After the 2007 strike against the Syrian reactor, the loudest condemnation came from North Korea, inadvertently drawing attention to itself as the source of the expertise and equipment for the Syrian installation.
Israel would be hard-pressed to carry out a strike on a target as distant, well-protected and widely scattered as the Iranian nuclear program without US knowledge and assistance. A successful operation might require not only American willingness to absorb the blowback, but active American help, or at least coordination.
For the Israel Air Force and special ground forces that conducted the long-range operations of recent years, a strike in Syria amounts to a 100-meter sprint. Iran’s nuclear program, 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) away and with several major and dozens of minor potential targets, is a marathon. As with a marathon, success will require special training, special logistical capabilities and an especially high tolerance for pain.
The strikes in Syria won’t be enough to convince the Americans that a viable military option exists for Iran. Iran’s failure to lash out over strikes on Syria or Sudan is not indicative of its response to attacks on its own soil. But as Israel continues to demonstrate it has the military capability, the intelligence and the will to carry out dramatic operations, American confidence in the potential success of such operations may grow, and American willingness to take the heavy risk of war may grow with it.
This weekend’s strikes on Syria, beyond their immediate military benefit and the obvious message to Assad, Hezbollah and Iran, are a message to Washington as well. To quote a different leader who once delivered a rather similar message to a sceptical American ally: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.”
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AHMADINEJAD SHOWS NO SIGNS OF GOING QUIETLY
CNN, May 7th, 2013
As Iran’s election draws near, powerful figures within the ruling establishment seem more worried about the future of the incumbent than they are about the potential for violent protests. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is prevented from running for a third term. But this does not appear to have diminished his ambitions to remain a political force after leaving office, a goal he hopes to achieve by hurting his political opponents and pushing his top aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, as the best candidate in next month’s poll.
Alarmed by both of these prospects, Ahmadinejad’s many influential foes are working to stop him – and they are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts (including, according to the Iran News Network site, the blocking of text messages containing the family name Mashaei – a filter that was reportedly removed once the story broke.)
Ahmadinejad has for his part been positioning Mashaei as a presidential candidate for years. The two are not only like minded in their nationalism and shared disdain for the clerical establishment, but they are also relatives – Ahmadinejad’s son is married to Mashaei’s daughter.
But despite the support of a popular incumbent, Mashaei is no shoo-in to the presidential palace. After all, the Guardian Council, which is under the control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vets candidates and decides who is allowed to run for president, and is not expected to allow anyone from the so-called “deviant faction” of Ahmadinejad supporters to run. Indeed, on April 12, Ayatollah Mohammad Momen – an influential member of the 12-member Guardian Council – reportedly warned: “Don’t have any doubt. If we just sense a little deviation from a [candidate], we will disqualify him.”
Yet despite the Council being seen as unlikely to approve Mashaei’s candidacy, opponents worry that he will somehow still find a way to become a serious contender. And his campaign, although not officially announced, looks in practical terms to be under way already anyway.
This will worry Iran’s leadership – and with good cause. Ahmadinejad has on more than one occasion indicated his willingness to publicize confidential documents that expose his opponents’ past indiscretions. And he is no doubt aware that most presidents under the Islamic Republic have been cast aside and politically marginalized after they have left the presidency, leaving them with no access to the state-controlled media.
Ultimately, Ahmadinejad appears keen not to let the same fate befall him that has his predecessors. Former reformist President Mohammad Khatami and his allies, for example, were deprived of continued national prominence due to Khatami’s calls for political reform and his criticism of the system. When he complained about violence and repression after the protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, he was marginalized even further. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani was for his part ousted from influential assemblies, while Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, former regime members and 2009 presidential election candidates, are still under house arrest.
But Ahmadinejad’s concerns likely extend past his future political influence – he also appears to fear being physically harmed after leaving office. He has already claimed to have been threatened, reportedly noting during a trip to Khuzestan Province last month that: “They have sent a message saying that if I become any bolder, they will try to hurt me. I will fight in the service of justice, revolution, people…”
Helping Mashaei become president might therefore be the only way Ahmadinejad can ensure his own survival – politically or otherwise. Yet it’s hard to gauge the potential success of his all-or-nothing strategy, an approach epitomized in his showdown on the floor of the parliament in February during a confrontation with Ali Larijani, the speaker of the parliament.
During the incident – unprecedented even in Iran’s sometimes rough and tumble politics – Ahmadinejad played a tape of what he claimed was a recording of a conversation between Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, and Fazel Larijani, the speaker’s brother. According to the tape, the Larijani family had used its prominence for economic gain (a claim disputed by Larijani, who described the tape as blackmail).
More recently, during a trip to Semnan Province last month, Ahmadinejad turned on Supreme Leader Khamenei and the ruling establishment. “Some say that the leader’s opinion dictates that this person should run and that person should not [campaign]. How is this any of your business? The people should decide. All [political] types should run,” Ahmadinejad reportedly announced in apparent reference to Mashaei.
Right now, despite his maneuvering, the odds seem stacked against Ahmadinejad remaining a political force post-election. But whatever his chances, no one seems likely to convince the president to go quietly into the political wilderness.
Geneive Abdo is a fellow in the Middle East Program at the Stimson Center and a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the recent paper The New Sectarianism.
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT IRAN'S AIR FORCE
Iran Primer, March 11, 2013
Iran has the largest and most diverse inventory of long-range artillery rockets and ballistic missiles in the Middle East. It is estimated to have between 200 and 300 Scud-B and Scud-C missiles, which Iran has renamed the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2. It also owns hundreds of Zelzal rockets and Fateh-110 semi-guided rockets.
These systems allow Iran to threaten targets throughout the Gulf littoral, but they are not accurate enough to be decisive militarily. Iran would need at least 100 missiles armed with 500-kg conventional warheads – and potentially many more – to destroy a specific target with a moderate level of confidence.
If fired in large numbers, Iranian missiles might be able to harass or disrupt operations at large U.S. or GCC military targets, such as airfields, naval ports or fuel depots. But such attacks are unlikely to not halt activities for a significantly long time. Iran is also unlikely to be able to improve the accuracy of its short-range missiles for at least the next five to ten years. The addition of more sophisticated inertial guidance units – or Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers – could improve accuracy by only 25 percent if properly incorporated into a Shahab or Fateh-110 missile, and then thoroughly tested.
To further enhance its accuracy, Iran would have to develop the capacity to terminate missile thrust precisely or add correction systems for the post-boost phase. But adding these mechanisms would also require flight testing likely to take four years or longer.
Iran's longer-range missiles – the Shahab-3 and Ghadr-1 – are capable of striking targets throughout the Middle East, including Israel, as well as portions of south-eastern Europe. But these missiles are highly inaccurate. And Iran's stockpile likely totals less than 100.
This could change once Iran completes development of the solid-fuelled Sajjil-2 missile. Iranian engineers are widely believed to have the capacity to manufacture this system, although they still rely on foreign sources for fuel-production ingredients. Development may have stalled, however, since Iran has conducted only one flight test since 2009.
The utility of Iran's ballistic missiles is likely to remain weak for years, yet they could be used effectively as a psychological weapon on population centers. The most vulnerable cities are Baghdad, Kuwait City and Dubai, since they are within range of the Zelzal rockets that Iran has in large quantity. Abu Dhabi, Manama, Doha and Saudi coastal cities are far enough to require the longer-range Shahab-1 and -2 missiles, which are in shorter supply.
What are Iran's air force capabilities? And how do they compare to the U.S. air forces in the Gulf? The Islamic Republic's air forces and ground-based air defence systems offer limited protection of Iranian air space. They are no match for the combined capacity of the United States and its six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies. In a prolonged and intensive conflict involving the United States, Iran would have difficulty protecting its strategic assets, including its nuclear facilities, air bases, and command-and-control centers.
An integrated U.S. air defence network would probably prevent Iranian pilots from reaching many military targets within GCC territory, although limited air raids might have some success in the opening days of a conflict. (The GCC includes six sheikhdoms – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman – that make up most of the Arabian Peninsula.)
Most of Iran's aircraft were purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and are widely considered obsolete. Even Iran's Russian-made MiG-29 and Su-24 fighter-jets, acquired more recently, lack the modern avionics and air-to-air missiles needed to compete with the U.S. and GCC air forces.
In January, Iran unveiled a new stealth fighter-jet. But the presented craft is clearly a model, or mock-up. It is quite small as well, judging from the size of the pilot seated at the controls. The Qaher F-313 appears to be an aspirational system, which is many years from reality. But it does indicate Iran's ambitions.
Iran also lacks sophisticated airborne command-and-warning assets, as well as the secure communications network needed to relay vital threat and targeting information. These deficiencies place Iranian pilots at a severe disadvantage when engaging hostile air forces armed with a complete picture of the airspace.
Perhaps Iran's most significant shortcoming is its limited capacity to maintain airplanes and generate anything beyond one sortie per day for each fighter jet. Iran has a very limited ability to surge its air forces. It would probably be quickly overwhelmed by a combined attack by U.S. and GCC forces.
Despite these and other shortcomings, Iran's air forces and air defenses can still inflict loses on allied air forces, albeit at a minimal rate. Tehran also claims to have mated C-701 and C-801 anti-ship cruise missiles to its F-4 aircraft. If true, these stand-off weapons would allow Iran to attack U.S. warships and commercial vessels in the Gulf with some success. If Iran modified anti-ship missiles for land attacks, it could target key infrastructure assets located along the Gulf littoral, although the small warheads carried by these missiles would limit the damage.
What are the defence options against Iran's missiles? Theatre missile defences flooding into the region could blunt the political and psychological effect of Iran's offensive-missile threat. The United States already deploys Patriot, SM-3 and other missile interceptors in the region. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have older-generation Patriot batteries. Both countries are in the process of upgrading their defenses with more capable systems. The United Arab Emirates leads in acquisition of missile and air defense; it is currently procuring a sophisticated suite of systems, including advanced Patriot and THAAD batteries.
No defensive system is leak-proof. But the anti-missile capabilities acquired by the United States and its GCC allies have proven their efficacy during development and testing. They should help minimize public fear. Iran might try to overwhelm these defences by firing missiles in large salvos, as it does during annual military exercises. This tactic might allow a few warheads to reach their destinations, but interceptor missiles would probably protect the most critical targets. An integrated missile defence architecture, if implemented across the GCC in a coherent way, would further reduce vulnerability to salvo tactics.
Iran is developing a wide-range of unmanned aerial vehicles. Most of the systems seen so far are slow, have limited manoeuvrability, and carry small payloads, so are used primarily as reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering platforms.
One notable exception is the Karrar, also known as the "ambassador of death." The Karrar is based on target-drone technology, which was originally used for training air-defence crews. Nonetheless, it carries 500-kg gravity bombs and presents yet another means of delivery that American and GCC forces must track and, if necessary, defeat.
The larger concern, however, is Iran's large arsenal of anti-ship cruise missiles acquired from China. These weapons pose a significant threat to Gulf shipping as well as navies operating near the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian use of anti-ship missiles would significantly escalate any conflict, so Tehran would probably use them only if the regime felt threatened. But their mere existence – and the threat they pose – offers Tehran an effective component for deterring attack by others.
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Understanding the Current State of the Iranian Nuclear Challenge: Dore Gold, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, May-June 2013—Over the last decade, a clear international consensus has slowly emerged that Iran was not just pursuing a civilian nuclear program, as Tehran argued, but rather was seeking nuclear weapons. True, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty guarantees the right of signatories, like Iran, to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but that did not include a right to enrich uranium in order to produce indigenous nuclear fuels that could be employed for nuclear weapons.
High Stakes in Iranian Election: Ephraim Dardashti, Gatestone Institute, May 3, 2013—In Iran almost nothing is what it seems to be. Iranian culture is formal; it places a premium on politeness and manners. By violating both principles, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been mesmerizing Iranians, to the delight of the masses and the embarrassment of the few.
Tehran to Decide Who Can Run for President: Mehdi Khalaji, The Washington Institute, May 7, 2013—On May 12, Iran's Guardian Council will begin deliberations on which candidates can participate in the June presidential election, perhaps the most important step in selecting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's successor.
Libyan And Korean Examples Guide Iran's Nuclear Plan: Majid Rafizadeh, The National, Apr 19, 2013—Two years of tumult, revolt and change in the Arab world have emboldened Iranian leaders, intensifying their determination to gain access to nuclear capabilities. This explains why Iran has resisted sanctions, failed to take recent western-led talks seriously and even threatened to pull out of the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, known as NPT.
Inflation Takes Its Toll on Iran: Bijan Khajehpour, Al-Monitor Iran Pulse, May 8, 2013—It is not easy to get a reliable figure for inflation in Iran. Two official sources are tasked with this issue and they have continuously produced confusing statistics. Based on the latest statistics of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), the annual inflation for the period ending on March 20, 2013, was 32.3%, whereas the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) puts the figure at 28.8%.
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