|Southwest Asia News Digest
Russia Committed To Deliver Air Defense to Iran
Following his meeting in Moscow with NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Gen. James Jones, Russian Army General Yury Baluyevsky told reporters Russia would honor its commitment to supply military equipment to Iran, RIA Novosti reported April 21. "We discussed supplies of military equipment to Iran, including the Tor M1, in the framework of bilateral cooperation, but it does not fall in the category of strategic weapons," Baluyevsky noted. The Tor M1 is a fifth-generation integrated mobile air defense system designed for operation at medium, low, and very low altitudes against fixed/rotary wing aircraft; drones; and guided missiles and other high-precision weapons.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told the press during a visit to Minsk the week of April 17 that Russia sees an attack on Iran as endangering its own security.
Retired Colonel: Decision To Attack Iran Already Made
"I think the decision to attack Iran has already been made and military operations are under way," retired U.S. Air Force Col. Sam Gardner said in an appearance on CNN April 14. "The Iranians have been saying American military troops are in there, ... for almost a year. I was in Berlin two weeks ago, sat next to the Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA. And I said, 'Hey, I hear you're accusing Americans of being in there operating with some of the units that have shot up Revolutionary Guard units.'
"He said, quite frankly, 'Yes, we know they are. We've captured some of the units, and they've confessed to working with the Americans.'
"The evidence is mounting that that decision has already been made, and I don't know ... that there has been any Congressional approval. My view of the plan is, there is this period in which some kinds of ground troops will operate inside Iran, and then what we're talking about is the second part, which is this air strike."
Asked about the plan's chance of success, Gardiner replied: "The chance of getting [attacking] the facilities and setting back the [nuclear] program, I think the chances go from maybe [a setback of] two years to actually accelerating the programwe could cause them to redouble their efforts. The other side is horizontal escalation by the Iranians. My assessment is ... that if we strike, they're likely to want to blame Israel ... because that sells well at home. Blaming Israel means that there's a chance that we could see Hezbollah, Hamas targetting Israel. We could very easily see this thing escalate into a broader Middle East war, particularly when you add Muslim rage."
Analyst Details Planning for Attacks on Iran
William Arkin, a military analyst who writes the Early Warning blog for the Washington Post, detailed the Pentagon's war planning against Iran in the Post April 16. The U.S. Army is already working out details for a full-scale war against Iran, in a plan called Theater Iran Near Term (TIRANNT), and has been doing so since early 2002, according to Arkin. The U.S. and UK have conducted a Caspian Sea wargame, and the U.S. Marine Corps has devised an invasion plan. Rumsfeld ordered Strategic Command in June 2004 to reach a readiness level for launching a global strike within 12 hours of a Presidential order. Arkin writes, "The new task force, sources have told me, mostly worries that if it were called upon to deliver 'prompt' global strikes against certain targets in Iran under some emergency circumstances, the President might have to be told that the only option is a nuclear one." (For more on the Iran crisis, see "Will Cheney's 'Strangelove' Bush Go for Nuclear War Against Iran?" by Nancy Spannaus, in this week's InDepth.)
Iraq Descending into Civil War
Sa'id Isma'il Haqqi, the President of Iraq's Red Crescentthe Islamic counterpart of the Red Crosssaid that in the three weeks from March 22 to April 15, the number of people displaced from Baghdad had tripled from 23,000 to 69,000. By April 19, the number was above 80,000, and camps have been set up in 14 provinces. Threats of death and torture from gangs and militias are forcing large numbers to flee. The gangs and militias "are highly organized," said Haqqi. Reuters reported that "the first example of large scale open sectarian street fighting," with over 50 men shooting, occurred in the Adhamiya district of Baghdad April 19. The district was cordoned off by American troops, who apparently just watched.
Private Security Force in Iraq Out of Control
Facilities Protection Services (FPS), which began in 2003 as a small, private group of security personnel, and was originally hired to protect public buildings and facilities, has grown to a staggering 146,000 men. Its members are uniformed and armed with AK-47s. FPS has become a "large, amorphous force that seems to lack any centralized control," according to Newsweek April 24. Ostensibly under the Interior Ministry, sections of the force have "become beholden" to different facilities, with different controllers.
Rogue FPS units are now suspected in some of the worst incidents of sectarian violence in Baghdad. "The FPS has the same uniforms, weapons, and vehicles as the regular police," says one government official, leading Iraqis to lose trust in any uniformed officials, according to Newsweek.
Iran Seeks Talks with U.S. on Iraq
Iran will have talks with the U.S. on Iraq, said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi on April 18. "The Iranian authorities have decided to establish a dialogue with the United States taking into account all possible negative consequences," he said, "aimed at ensuring security in Iraq and withdrawing the force of occupation from that country." An Iranian source confirmed that Dr. Mohammad Nahavandian, economic aide to Ali Larijani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, is in Washington for "unofficial" contacts with Congressmen.
At White House, Lebanese PM Stresses Good Relations with Syria
In an April 18 meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora at the White House, President Bush recited the usual litany of support for Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution," and for bringing the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to justice. Siniora, however, while thanking the President for his support, stressed that he gives priority to good relations with Syria.
Hamas Promised Millions in Aid
Several countries have promised the Hamas-led Palestinian National Authority (PNA) $200 million in aid, according to the Jerusalem Post April 19. Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, who met with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, was promised $92 million from Saudi Arabia. Qatar and Iran have promised $50 million each. Palestinian Finance Minister Amar Abad al-Razek met with Russian Foreign Ministry officials and was promised $10 million.
French President Jacques Chirac, on his seventh official trip to Egypt, discussed Iran and Hamas with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and said, "We must find a way for aid to be distributed to all the Palestinian population under terms agreed upon with the PNA."
Egyptian Gov't Daily Does Not Denounce Suicide Bombing
An Egyptian government-controlled daily, Al Gomhuria, refused to denounce a Palestinian suicide bombing April 17 that killed nine Israelis at the central bus station in Tel Aviv. This step is unprecedented. Al Gomhuria called it a "sacrificial and martyrdom attack" April 18, and wrote that such attacks should be expected if Israel and the international community punish the entire Palestinian people for voting for Hamas in a free election. Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack, warning that others would follow. The Hamas government did not denounce the attack, but Palestinian President Abu Mazen and Palestine Liberation Organization representatives did.