Analysis‎ > ‎01.12.2011‎ > ‎

Tension Round Iran

Artashes Ter-Harutyunyan

On November 4, 2011 the president of Israel Shimon Peres made a statement that in the solution of the Iranian issue the Jewish state was tending towards the military option.

Over the recent few years, against the background of escalation and easing of international tension round Iran, there have been numerous statements and publications about the military way of solution of the Iranian issue. But the statement of Peres differs from others because it was for the first time when the military way of solution of the Iranian issue was sounded on such a high official level and it is sounded by the president of the country which is well-known for its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities.

The statement of the president of Israel, of course, comes to prove that in Tel Aviv they tend to enhance pressure on Tehran. But if there was a decision that the head of the state should make that statement, it means that the situation round the Iranian issue is changing, and not only for Israel. Taking into consideration the ties of the Jewish state with the United States and the leading European states on the one hand, and the importance of the issue for the Middle East in general on the other, hardly Peres’ statement was not coordinated with the allies and partners of Israel.

Situational survey

The situation round Iran has began changing and it has changed drastically since this October.

On October 12, the US vice-president Joe Biden stated that the American security services staved off the murder of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US Adel al-Juberia planned by two agents of the Iranian Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution – Mansur Arbarsiyar and Gholam Shokur1.

Though the official Tehran denied the claims, two days later the US president Barak Obama made a statement: he, after having a conversation with the king of Saudi Arabia Abdullah, stated that the US with its allies and partners would exert efforts to make Iran “pay a price” for planning the murder of the Saudi ambassador.

A number of events that has happened in the weeks to come allow supposing that the United States and its allies exert serious diplomatic, information and psychological pressure on Iran.

Firstly, scandalous publications appeared in two authoritative British periodicals which are well-known for their ties with intelligence and military circles of the United Kingdom.

On November 2, The Guardian making reference to its sources in the Ministry of Defence of the UK wrote that Britain's armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran after receiving new intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programme. The international sanctions could not essentially influence the Iranian nuclear programme and Tehran’s progress in creating nuclear weapons could oblige the US to initiate military actions against Iran. In this case, according to The Guardian’s sources, Washington would turn for the help of London. So the British decided to step up their contingency planning for military campaign against Iran, expecting that the naval forces, air forces and "a small number of special forces" will be involved in the campaign (“Libyan scenario”).

In approximately a week after that publication another London periodical – The Daily Mail, published none the less remarkable material. On November 10 the newspaper wrote that, according to the sources in the Foreign Office, Israel will attempt to strike Iran with logistical support from the U.S as early as Christmas, or very early in the new year to prevent the development of the Iranian nuclear programme.

It is remarkable that a day before the publication of The Daily Mail the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom William Hague stated in the British parliament that the development of the nuclear weapon by Iran would trigger the race of armaments in the Middle East and it would be impossible to stop Saudi Arabia and Turkey from developing their own weapons.

On November 11 the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta who was the director of the CIA, made a statement which draw an attention. According to that statement the military strike against Iran would only set back the development of the nuclear programme but not stop it, and that such a strike may have “unintended consequences”. As for this statement of the US Defence Secretary let us mention that, of course, the point is not his assessment but the fact that Panetta’s words attached seriousness to the publications against Iran which appeared in the Western media.

But the words of Hague and Panetta were not the only things that “accompanied” the publications of the British newspapers.

Israeli sources wrote that at the end of October British chief of staff, Gen. Sir David Richards paid a secret visit to Israel and had talks with his Israeli partner Beni Gants. And on November 2 Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak visited London for talks with British Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs, as well as the chiefs of the British intelligence services. In regard to those visits Israeli “Maariv” newspaper wrote on November 3 that London and Tel Aviv were discussing the possible circumstances of the possible military actions against Iran.

Alongside with the aforementioned publications, at the end of October Israeli Air Force together with the air forces of some NATO member countries conducted manoeuvres near the Italian island of Sardinia. During the drill the military and technical possibilities of the Israelis were tested in terms of delivering air strikes at long ranges (about 2500km) from the bases in Israel2.

On November 2 at the Israeli “Palmachi” air force base “Jerico-3” intercontinental missile was tested which, according to publications, can bear a charge with total weight of 750kg (multiple) and its missile range is up to 10 thousand kilometres. At the same time anti-missile defence manoeuvres were conducted in Israel on November 2-3.

The next was the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) submitted to the UN Security Council. According to the report issued on November 8, since 2008 Iran has achieved considerable success in the computer modelling of the nuclear explosions, thus continuing works on the creation of the nuclear weapon, According to the estimations of the experts of the agency some of the experiments carried out in some Iranian nuclear centres may serve only for the creation of the nuclear weapon, and finally, Iranian engineers developed nuclear war heads for Iranian “Shahab-3” missiles.

Tehran stated that the IAEA report was politicized. Another statement was made in the US – on November 12 US State Secretary Hilary Clinton mentioned that the international community was expecting explanation of Iran concerning the issues raised in the IAEA report. Clinton’s words clearly prove that Washington tends to use this report for exerting more pressure on Iran.

And, finally, in the tension round Iran two events occupied their own special position.

On November 12 on one of the Iranian missile bases, which is located about 45km south-west of Tehran, a massive explosion took place in consequence of which, according to different data, 17-35 people were killed. Among the victims was General Major Hassan Moghadam who had headed the Iranian missile forces since 1984. Though the Iranian sources write that the explosion took place in consequence of “Shahab-3” missile testing3, but according to the American and Israeli mass media the explosion was a diversion organized by “Mossad”.

On November 14 the Iranian special services stated that they managed to identify and neutralize new computer worm – Duqu, which, being based on Stuxnet virus, aimed to collect data about the computer programmes of different Iranian organizations which can be used in future in the cyber attacks against those organizations4.

The majority of the international and, first of all, authoritative western research centres believe it is unlikely that in the near future and in 2012 the US and its allies will embark on military campaign against the Islamic Republic. They bring the following substantiations:

1. On the next November the presidential election are to be held in the US and the condition of the American and European economies does not allow spending big sums on a large-scale military campaign against Iran.
2. On the other hand, “Libyan scenario” is supposed to be improbable to be used to destroy the Iranian nuclear programme as it is rather vast and the Iranian armed forces are incomparably more battle-worthy.
3. The implementation of such a scenario in regard to Tehran will justify the creation of the nuclear weapon and counteractions (the consequences of which cannot be fully forecasted).
4. In case of the counteractions the US and its allies may suffer the losses which will be unacceptable from the political point of view for the current administration in Washington on the eve of the elections.
5. The counteractions of Iran will cause the upsurge of the international oil prices which may have heaviest consequences for the American and European economies which suffer hard times and cause hardest aftermaths and again on the eve of the elections.

But at the same time there is serious diplomatic and information pressure exerted on Iran and it must have reasons and aims.

This may really be conditioned by the progress in the nuclear programme of Iran. But most probably the actions of the US and its allies are based on the situation round Syria. It is not a secret that Iran is a guarantor of the Damascus security and the Syrian issue today has appeared on the top of the political agenda of the West.

1 It is informed that Arbabsiyar was arrested in September 29 and Shukur was in run.

2 Periodically Israeli air force conduct such manoeuvres thus modelling strikes on Iran. Here the point is that the Israeli planes must refuel with the help of aerial tankers, reach appropriate Iranian objects, deliver strikes and return home. The distance is 2500km, i.e. the same as to the Iranian-Afghani or Iranian-Pakistani borders. I.e. the Israeli air force can cover the whole territory of Iran.

3 All the presented looks suspicious as “Shahad-3 (the missile range about 2000km) has been on combat duty since 2003. Taking into consideration the fact that during the test general-major Hassan Moghadam, who was considered to be the “father” of Iranian missile programme, was present there, one should not exclude the possibility that in reality new missile was tested.

4 Let us remind you that in the second half of 2010 Iranian nuclear objects were under the attack of Stuxnet computer worm, and in consequence, according to different data, about 3000 Iranian centrifuges were forced out of action.

Source: Noravank Analytic Agency, 01 December 2011