Monday, December 26, 2011

Red Lines and Ticking Clocks: U.S. War Plans Against Iran

Wars don't just happen.

Before the first bomb falls disinformation specialists prepare the ground.

Leading media outlets, foreign policy journals and a plethora of think tanks funded by elite foundations, energy and weapons' conglomerates, "right," "left" or "center" take your pick, churn out war propaganda disguised as "analysis."

From the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to the neoliberal Center for American Progress (CAP), rhetorical skirmishes aside, the line is remarkably similar.

Indeed, for "conservative" and "liberal" elite bloviators alike, Iran poses an "existential threat" to Israel and America's regional "allies," a disparate crew of land-grabbing colonizers, murderous princes and profligate potentates.

Only U.S. intervention, in the form of an overt military attack now or crippling economic sanctions followed by military action later, can save the day and bring "democracy" to the benighted Iranian people.

If we're to believe neocon acolyte Thomas Donnelly, "The rapid ticking of the Iran nuclear clock also marks an increasingly dark hour for the United States and its closest allies and partners, because it coincides with a third clock ... the timetable of retreat set in motion by Barack Obama."

Meanwhile, liberal interventionists Rudy deLeon and Brian Katulis over at CAP tell us that "President Barack Obama and his administration are ratcheting up the pressure on the Iranian regime, building an international coalition that is increasingly isolating and weakening Iran--making it pay a price for not living up to its international responsibilities."

While AEI and their fellow-travelers claim that "in the after-midnight hour when the Obama retreat is complete, the United States would find itself with few options at the chiming of the nuclear clock," CAP's liberal hawks loudly proclaim that the "Obama administration has adopted a tough approach to Iran, centered on three main components: Unprecedented defense cooperation with regional allies that enhances their security and independence; An international coalition that holds Iran accountable for its actions; Smart, targeted economic sanctions."

In other words, while elite Washington factions may disagree over tactical issues, they are in full agreement on the wider strategic goals: undisputed American hegemony over energy corridors in Central Asia and the Middle East.

From the darkest days of the Cold War to the present moment, American policy is designed with one goal in mind: smash the competition, firstly China and Russia, but also the crisis-ridden European Union, whose main task is to keep quiet and fall in line.

Red Lines

Last week in an interview with the CBS Evening News, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that "despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less."

"So are you saying that Iran can have a nuclear weapon in 2012?," reporter Scott Pelley asked. Panetta replied, "It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less. But one proviso, Scott, is if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel."

Never mind that the U.S.-controlled International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not discovered a so-called "secret facility," or that two National Intelligence Estimates produced by all 16 U.S. secret state agencies, the latest one this year, reported there is not a shred of credible evidence supporting claims that Iran has diverted uranium towards the development of a bomb.

No matter; as we learned in the aftermath of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" and therefore, the march to war with Iran will continue, indeed accelerate in the near term.

"If the Israelis decide to launch a military strike to prevent that weapon from being built," Pelley asked, "what sort of complications does that raise for you?"

Panetta replied, "Well, we share the same common concern. The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it."

When Pelley asked what "it?" is, Panetta said: "If they proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it."

Pelley: "Including military steps?"

Panetta: "There are no options off the table."

Ticking Clocks

While the media have gone to great lengths to portray the Israelis as proverbial loose cannons who just might launch an Iran attack without first consulting their American partners, this is a smokescreen providing political cover for the Obama administration during an election year.

As analyst Michel Chossudovsky pointed out on Global Research, "In late December 2008, coinciding with the onslaught of Israel's 'Operation Cast Lead' directed against Gaza, the Pentagon dispatched some 100 military personnel to Israel from US European Command (EUCOM) to assist Israel in setting up a new sophisticated X-band early warning radar system as part of a new and integrated air defense system."

Chossudovsky observed this development indicates that there has been "a fundamental turning point in the structure of Israel's Air Defense system and its relationship to the US global missile detection system."

Although "casually heralded as 'military aid,'" Chossudovsky wrote, "the project consisted in strengthening the integration of Israel's air defense system into that of the US, with the Pentagon rather than Israel calling the shots." (emphasis added)

Since the Obama regime came to power, Chossudovsky noted there has "been a significant hike in US military aid to Israel," and "in fact much of this so-called military aid constitutes a veiled increase in the U.S. Defense budget."

This has been borne out by several reports in the Israeli press.

Last week, Israel National News disclosed that the "United States will double the special aid it gives Israel for the development and implementation of anti-missile systems, the Globes financial newspaper reported on Thursday."

Indeed, "the House and Senate's Committees on Appropriations approved the aid following a request by the U.S. Administration to approve aid totaling $106.1 million for the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic long-range air defense system, for the program to improve the basic capabilities of the Arrow systems, and for the David's Sling mid-range anti-missile system."

Significantly, both "Appropriations Committees went far beyond the request, the report noted, and raised the amount of aid from $129 million to $235.7 million in 2012," Israel National News reported.

These developments were underlined in a report last week by the right-wing Jerusalem Post.

According to the Post's defense correspondent Yaakov Katz, "Israel is moving forward with plans to hold the largest-ever missile defense exercise in its history this spring amid Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons."

"Last week," Katz wrote, "Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US's Third Air Force based in Germany, visited Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill, expected to see the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel."

The Jerusalem Post disclosed that "the drill, which is unprecedented in its size, will include the establishment of US command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany--with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East."

"The US," Katz noted, "will also bring its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and shipbased Aegis ballistic missile defense systems to Israel to simulate the interception of missile salvos against Israel," and that the "American system will work in conjunction with Israel's missile defense systems--the Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome."

Similar deployments are also underway in Turkey, the staging area for terrorist attacks targeting the Syrian government for "regime change" à la Libya.

As analyst Sibel Edmonds pointed out for Boiling Frogs Post, a "joint US-NATO secret training camp in the US air force base in Incirlik, Turkey, began operations in April-May 2011 to organize and expand the dissident base in Syria."

Edmonds noted that "weekly weapons smuggling operations have been carried out with full NATO-US participation since last May."

According to Edmonds' Turkish and Pentagon sources, "the HQ also includes an information warfare division where US-NATO crafted communications are directed to dissidents in Syria via the core group of Syrian military and Intelligence defectors."

It now appears that U.S.-NATO war plans against Iran will also rely heavily on Turkish participation.

The PanArmenian News Agency reported Saturday (h/t Stop NATO) "NATO's Malatya-based ballistic missile early warning radar system will begin functioning next week, a senior Turkish official said Dec 23, reiterating that the device 'is defensive and not directed at any particular country, especially Iran'."

However, with U.S.-NATO plans already underway to install so-called Ballistic Missile Defense systems in Eastern Europe which threaten Russia with a nuclear first-strike, the deployment of these systems in Turkey can only be viewed as a shot across the bow by both Iran and Russia.

After all, as The New York Times reported earlier this month, "the American commitment to work with NATO allies and deploy the missile shield is founded on a belief that Iran is accelerating its program to field missiles capable of reaching across NATO territory in Europe."

The American ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daadler, told the Times, "our estimate of the threat has gone up, not down. It is accelerating--this is the Iranian ballistic missile threat--and becoming more severe than even we thought two years ago."

Dismissing Russian concerns that "the alliance's system of radars and interceptors could blunt Moscow's own arsenal of missiles, and thus undermine Russia's strategic deterrent," Daadler proclaimed: "Whether Russia likes it or not, we are about defending NATO-European territory against a growing ballistic missile threat."

Despite claims by Turkey that the radar deployment is strictly "defensive" and not aimed at Iran, the PanArmenian News Agency informed us that "the agreement signed between Ankara and Washington calls for the deployment of a U.S. AN/TPY-2 (X-band) early warning radar system at a military installation at Kürecik in Malatya as part of NATO's missile defense project."

Remarkably similar to the accord signed with Tel Aviv, the Turkish agreement calls for the deployment of "around 50 U.S. soldiers" at the installations, "accompanied by a number of Turkish troops."

"In addition," the news agency disclosed, "a Turkish senior commander is to be posted at NATO's headquarters in Germany, where the intelligence gathered through the radar system will be processed, Hurriyet Daily News reported."

These reports indicate that the United States, with Israel and NATO as junior partners, are coordinating strategic deployments which the Iranians will undoubtedly view as preparations for a large scale attack.

Coming on the heels of a report earlier this month by Haaretz that the "Israel Defense Forces is forming a command to supervise 'depth' operations, actions undertaken by the military far from Israel's borders," military action by the U.S., Israeli and NATO forces are perhaps only a provocation away.

The New York Times reported last week that "Iran put neighbors on notice Thursday that it was about to conduct vast naval exercises in the Arabian Sea, including war games near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping lane for international oil traffic."

"The exercises," the Times reported, "to start Saturday and last 10 days, are Iran's first since May 2010 and were described by the official news media as the largest the country ever planned."

"The scale of the maneuvers, the Times disclosed, "appeared intended to demonstrate Iran's military capabilities as it faces increased isolation over its suspect nuclear energy program."

These exercises "are bound to put Iranian warships close to vessels of the United States Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, which patrols some of the same waters, including the Strait of Hormuz."

War threats are being taken seriously far beyond the Persian Gulf.

Earlier this month Russia Today disclosed that the "geopolitical situation unfolding around Syria and Iran is prompting Russia to make its military structures in the South Caucasus, on the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions more efficient."

RT's correspondent Sergey Konovalov wrote that "Defense Ministry sources are saying that the Kremlin has been informed about an upcoming US-supported Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. The strike will be sudden and take place on 'day X' in the near future. One could assume Iran's reaction will not be delayed. A full-scale war is possible, and its consequences could be unpredictable."

"Recently," RT reported, "the Northern Fleet's aircraft carrier group with the heavy aircraft carrier 'Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov', headed towards the Mediterranean with plans to ultimately enter the Syrian port of Tartus."

Russian Defense Ministry sources would neither confirm nor deny "that the surface warships are being accompanied by the Northern Fleet's nuclear submarines."

"The tasks that will be carried out by the army and the navy in the event of a war against Iran are, of course, not being disclosed," Konovalov wrote.

That an attack on Iran might set-off a global conflict with far-reaching, and deadly, consequences was underscored by Russia Today.

Analyst Col. Vladimir Popov said that "if in the midst [of an attack on Iran] Azerbaijan supported by Turkey, attacks Armenia, then, of course, all of the adversary's attacks against Armenia will be repelled by Russia in conjunction with Armenian anti-missile defense forces."

"The analyst does not exclude the possibility of Russia's military involvement in the Iranian conflict."

"'In the worst-case scenario'," Popov told RT, "'if Tehran is facing complete military defeat after a land invasion of the US and NATO troops, Russia will provide its military support--at least on a military-technical level."

As the United States, Israel and NATO prepare the ground for war against Iran, and with operations already underway by the U.S. and NATO to effect "regime change" in Syria, Iran's close regional ally, the pieces of a slow-motion global catastrophe are falling into place.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Empires Don't Apologize: Iran in the Imperial Crosshairs

After first denying that the Iranian military had captured the CIA's RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone, and then reluctantly acknowledging the fact only after PressTV aired footage of the killer bot, the Associated Press reported that "the Obama administration said Monday it has delivered a formal request to Iran" that they return it.

"We have asked for it back," Obama said. "We'll see how the Iranians respond."

A huge embarrassment to the CIA and the Pentagon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters during a State Department briefing: "We submitted a formal request for the return of our lost equipment as we would in any situation to any government around the world."

Cheekily, Clinton said although the U.S. government has little prospect of getting their $6 million toy back because of "recent Iranian behavior," she then threatened the Islamic Republic saying, "the path that Iran seems to be going down is a dangerous one for themselves and the region."

In Washington's bizarro world where war is peace the United States, which has Iran surrounded with a string of military bases and where nuclear-armed aircraft carrier battle groups and submarines ply the waters of the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, the aggressor is magically transformed into the aggrieved party.

The Secretary said, "given Iran's behavior to date we do not expect them to comply but we are dealing with all of these provocations and concerning actions taken by Iran in close concert with our closest allies and partners." (emphasis added)

Talk about chutzpah!

Firing back, the head of Iran's Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani told PressTV that "the US has violated our country's territory and has waged an intelligence war, and now expects us to return the aircraft."

Noting the absurdity of U.S. demands Larijani said, "Iran has the right to deal with this blatant crime in any way [it deems necessary] and the US should forget about getting the spy aircraft back."

By all accounts, the "intelligence war" is heating heating up. On Thursday, Haaretz reported that the "Israel Defense Forces is forming a command to supervise 'depth' operations, actions undertaken by the military far from Israel's borders."

In a follow-up piece published Sunday, Haaretz informed us that the new corps, "has already earned the somewhat overstated sobriquet 'the Iran Command'."

The newspaper's chief military correspondent, Amos Harel, wrote that the new unit "could, in the future, assist in mobilizing special forces in the Iranian context."

"More important," Harel averred, "it will have the job of planning and leading operations in areas far beyond the borders, operations that are connected to the covert war against terror organizations (and, indirectly, against Iran)."

Whether the IDF's newly-launched "Iran Command," will prove any more effective than the CIA or Mossad, which suffered major set-backs when their intelligence nets were rolled-up in Iran and Lebanon as Asia Times Online recently reported, is an open question.

War "by other means" however, will continue.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 283-136 the Iran Threat Reductions Act (H.R. 1905), a draconian piece of legislative detritus which hopes to crater Iran's Central Bank.

The following day, the U.S. Senate followed suit, approving the legislation by an 86-13 vote. President Obama has said he would sign the bill, cobbled-together by war hawks as part of the massive $670 billion 2012 Defense Authorization Act.

Spinning the Story

U.S. military and CIA operations today involve far more than simply "putting steel on the target." Increasingly, covert actions and clandestine operations rely on what the Pentagon has described as "information operations."

With few exceptions, corporate media in Europe and the U.S. have played accessory roles in ginning-up the so-called "Iranian threat," a decades' long program to secure hegemony over the energy-rich regions of Central Asia and the Middle East.

When initial reports surfaced that the drone had gone missing deep inside Iran, "CIA press officials declined to comment on the downed drone and reporters were directed toward a statement from the military," The Washington Post reported.

Indeed, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO-led alliance currently occupying Afghanistan, dismissed Iran's claims that the drone was operating over their territory. "The UAV to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week," the ISAF statement read.

Deep inside the media echo chamber, CNN informed us earlier this month that the drone had been "tasked to fly over western Afghanistan and look for insurgent activity, with no directive to either fly into Iran or spy on Iran from Afghan airspace."

"A U.S. satellite quickly pinpointed the downed drone, which apparently sustained significant damage," the "senior official" told the network.

CNN quoted the unnamed "senior official" as saying, "the Iranians have a pile of rubble and are trying to figure what they have and what to do with it." According to this reading, "the drone crashed solely because its guidance system failed, the official said."

While first claiming that the CIA drone had strayed off-course, CNN reported after the Sentinel was publicly displayed, that unnamed "U.S. military officials" re-calibrated their tale and now said that the drone "was on a surveillance mission of suspected nuclear sites" in Iran.

Anonymous officials told CNN that "the CIA had not informed the Defense Department of the drone's mission when reports first emerged that it had crashed," and that the U.S. military "'did not have a good understanding of what was going on because it was a CIA mission'."

As with their earlier reporting, CNN's latest explanation was a fabrication.

The Los Angeles Times reported two days after the incident, "though the drone flight was a CIA operation, U.S. military personnel were involved in flying the aircraft, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy involved."

In fact, as The Washington Post disclosed in September, the CIA and the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are thick as thieves.

"Their commingling at remote bases is so complete, the Post informed us, "that U.S. officials ranging from congressional staffers to high-ranking CIA officers said they often find it difficult to distinguish agency from military personnel."

"'You couldn't tell the difference between CIA officers, Special Forces guys and contractors'," an unnamed "senior U.S. official" told the Post. "'They're all three blended together. All under the command of the CIA."

"Their activities occupy an expanding netherworld between intelligence and military operations." One can presume that these "blended" units have been tasked by Washington with the "Iranian brief."

"Sometimes their missions are considered military 'preparation of the battlefield'," the Post reported, "and others fall under covert findings obtained by the CIA. As a result, congressional intelligence and armed services committees rarely get a comprehensive view," which of course is precisely what the Agency and Pentagon fully intend.

In light of recent statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to The New York Times, that "surveillance flights over Iran would continue despite the loss of the drone," reporting by U.S. media stenographers, are blatant misrepresentations of the basic facts surrounding the entire affair. (emphasis added)

Now sensing the jig was up and that a face-saving meme had to be injected into the news cycle, a "former intelligence official" continued to discount Iranian assertions that their armed forces had brought the drone down.

"It simply fell into their laps," he told CNN.

However, much to the consternation of American officials, Iranian spin doctors were running their own info op, one which cast U.S. claims in a most unflattering light.

The Associated Press reported that "Iran deliberately delayed its announcement that it had captured an American surveillance drone to test U.S. reaction, the country's foreign minister said Saturday."

"Ali Akbar Salehi said Tehran finally went public with its possession of the RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone to disprove contradictory statements from U.S. officials," AP reported.

"When our armed forces nicely brought down the stealth American surveillance drone, we didn't announce it for several days to see what the other party (U.S.) says and to test their reaction," Salehi told the official IRNA news agency. "Days after Americans made contradictory statements, our friends at the armed forces put this drone on display."

Unlike American and Israeli assertions that Iran is taking steps to "go nuclear," Iranian officials at least had hard evidence on their side that the United States was violating their territorial integrity--the captured U.S. drone.

Electronic Countermeasures

Although Western "defense experts" have ridiculed claims that Iran's electronic warfare specialists have captured the Sentinel rather than recovering the downed craft from a crash site, a report by The Christian Science Monitor shed new light on Iran's apparent capabilities.

Investigative journalists Scott Peterson and Payam Faramarzi disclosed that an Iranian engineer now working on the captured drone, said that the military "exploited a known vulnerability and tricked the US drone into landing in Iran."

According to the Monitor, "Iran guided the CIA's 'lost' stealth drone to an intact landing inside hostile territory by exploiting a navigational weakness long-known to the US military."

Earlier reports suggested that Iran, which had recently been supplied with the Russian-built Kvant 1L222 Avtobaza Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) systems, may have been a factor in the drone's capture.

The Israeli defense industry publication, Defense Update, informed us that the Avtobaza is "capable of intercepting weapon datalink communications operating on similar wavebands. The new gear may have helped the Iranians employ active deception/jamming to intercept and 'hijack' the Sentinel's control link."

The Monitor investigation however, suggests that the Iranians had accomplished this feat on their own.

Regardless of the means employed, statements by U.S. officials that all the Iranians had was "a pile of rubble" were blatant falsehoods.

According to the Monitor, Iran's military experts were able to do so by cutting off "communications links of the American bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel, says the engineer, who works for one of many Iranian military and civilian teams currently trying to unravel the drone's stealth and intelligence secrets, and who could not be named for his safety."

Armed with knowledge "gleaned from previous downed American drones and a technique proudly claimed by Iranian commanders in September, Peterson and Faramarzi disclosed that "the Iranian specialists then reconfigured the drone's GPS coordinates to make it land in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home base in Afghanistan."

It would seem then, if this account is accurate, that Iranian defense experts had already "figure[d] out what they have and what to do with it" from earlier captures.

"The GPS navigation is the weakest point," the Iranian engineer said. "By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain."

Once military engineers had "spoofed" the American drone, "which took into account precise landing altitudes, as well as latitudinal and longitudinal data," they were able to make "the drone 'land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications' from the US control center."

Peterson and Faramarzi reported that the techniques employed "were developed from reverse-engineering several less sophisticated American drones captured or shot down in recent years," as well as by taking advantage "of weak, easily manipulated GPS signals, which calculate location and speed from multiple satellites."

Former U.S. Navy electronic warfare specialist Robert Densmore told the Monitor that "'modern combat-grade GPS [is] very susceptible' to manipulation," saying it is "certainly possible" to "'recalibrate the GPS on a drone so that it flies on a different course'."

As Antifascist Calling reported in 2009, Iraqi insurgents battling the U.S. occupation had deployed $26 off-the-shelf spy kit which enabled them to intercept live video feeds from Predator drones.

What the Iranians claim to have done, according to defense experts, are orders of magnitude greater than simply capturing a video feed. Indeed, if this report is credible, it would have wide-reaching implications for other U.S., Israeli and NATO aircraft and missiles which similarly rely on GPS to guide them towards their targets.

Why is this the case? As WikiLeaks revealed in a 2009 report on the earlier Iraqi revelations that "it is theoretically possible to read off this [drone] mission control data both in the intercepted video feed and saved video data on harddisks."

In plain English, this means that the "control and command link to communicate from a control station to the drone" and the "data link that sends mission control data and video feeds back to the ground control station," for both "line-of-sight communication paths and beyond line-of-sight communication paths" are hackable by whomever might be listening.

Leaked Pentagon Document

On December 13, the secret-shredding web site Public Intelligence, published a leaked U.S. Air Force document, USAF Operating Next-Generation Remotely Piloted Aircraft for Irregular Warfare, SAB-TR-10-03, dated April 2011.

Classified "For Official Use Only," the 110-page report issued by the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), revealed that drones or "remotely piloted aircraft" (RPA) are subject to a number of vulnerabilities.

Air Force analysts averred that "in spite of current low RPA losses, inexpensive physical threats (e.g., MANPADS, low-end SAMs, air-to-air missiles) and electronic threats (e.g., acoustic detectors, low cost acquisition radars, jammers) threaten future operations."

Relevantly, "sensor/data downlinks for some RPAs have not been encrypted or obfuscated."

However, the RQ-170 Sentinel, which can operate at 50,000 feet would not have been vulnerable to "MANPADS" or "low-end SAMs," and was certainly not brought down by an Iranian air-to-air missile; therefore, a valid explanation of its capture would be the one offered by Iran: electronic countermeasures developed by the Islamic Republic.

Amongst the more salient findings of the Air Force report are the following:

Section 2.4.3 Threat to Communication Links

1. Jamming of commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) links is a widely available technology. It can provide an effective tool for adversaries against data links or as a way for command and control (C2) denial.
2. Operational needs may require the use of unencrypted data links to provide broadcast services to ground troops without security clearances. Eavesdropping on these links is a known exploit that is available to adversaries for extremely low cost.
3. Spoofing or hijacking links can lead to damaging missions, or even to platform loss.

Section 2.4.4 Threat to Position, Navigation, and Guidance

1. Small, simple GPS noise jammers can be easily constructed and employed by an unsophisticated adversary and would be effective over a limited RPA operating area.
2. GPS repeaters are also available for corrupting navigation capabilities of RPAs.
3. Cyber threats represent a major challenge for future RPA operations. Cyber attacks can affect both on-board and ground systems, and exploits may range from asymmetric CNO [computer network operation] attacks to highly sophisticated electronic systems and software attacks.

Jeffrey Carr, a U.S. cybersecurity expert who maintains the Digital Dao web site wrote that the timing of document's release to Public Intelligence was "very interesting."

"Clearly," Carr wrote, "someone with FOUO access wanted this information to be made public to inform the controversy surrounding the incident."

Commenting on the Air Force report, Carr averred that "the capture of the RQ-170 by Iranian forces needs to be evaluated fairly and not dismissed as some kind of Iranian scam for reasons that have more to do with embarrassment than a rational assessment of the facts."

"Theft of this technology via cyber attacks against the companies doing R&D and manufacture of the aircraft is ongoing," Carr noted.

"Whether or not the Iranians got lucky or have acquired the ability to attack the C2 of the drone in question, there's obviously some serious errors in judgment being made at very high levels and secrecy about it is only serving the ones guilty of making those bad decisions."

While Carr's observations are true as far as it goes, the "serious errors in judgement" begin with chest-thumping U.S. and Israeli politicians who believe they have a monopoly when it comes to dictating policies or invading other countries, killing people on an industrial scale, stealing their resources and reducing their cities to smoking ruins as was done in both Gaza and Fallujah.

To make matters worse for technophilic Western militaries hell-bent on attacking Iran, Tehran Times reported Thursday that "Iran plans to put foreign spy drones it has in its possession on display in the near future."

According to unnamed sources quoted by the newspaper, which reflects the views of the Iranian government, "the foreign unmanned aircraft that Iran has are four Israeli and three U.S. drones."

Back in September, The Christian Science Monitor disclosed, "Gen. Moharam Gholizadeh, the deputy for electronic warfare at the air defense headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), described to Fars News how Iran could alter the path of a GPS-guided missile--a tactic more easily applied to a slower-moving drone."

According to Peterson and Faramarzi, Gholizadeh told the news agency that "we have a project on hand that is one step ahead of jamming, meaning 'deception' of the aggressive systems," ... such that "we can define our own desired information for it so the path of the missile would change to our desired destination."

While it is not possible to verify these claims, indeed they may be nothing more than propaganda offerings from Iranian spinmeisters, if their assertions are accurate, a technological leap such as this would pose a serious threat to any attacking force.

As I wrote back in 2009, since cheap and readily-obtainable software packages were now part of the spy-kit of Iraqi insurgent forces, I wondered whether it was "only a matter of time before militant groups figure out how to hijack a drone and crash it, or even launch a Hellfire missile or two at a U.S. ground station?"

We were told by military experts this was not possible; however, who would have dreamed that the Achilles' heel of Pentagon robo-warriors, blinded by their own arrogance and racist presumptions about the "Arab" or "Persian mind" was something as simple as their own imperial hubris.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Slouching Towards Disaster: America's Covert War Against Iran

Legendary investigative journalist I.F. Stone famously observed: "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out."

Amongst Washington elites and the courtier press, it appears that more than a pipe or two has been passed around of late as the political and psychological ground is prepared for a military attack on Iran.

Do 'All Options' Mean Nukes?

During a White House press briefing Thursday, President Barack Obama said that "No options off the table means I am considering all options."

Many of those "options" are already in play. Ranging from a covert program of assassination and industrial sabotage to planting computer malware as "beacons" for future attacks on civilian and defense infrastructure, the United States, NATO and Israel are already engaged in a campaign of violent destabilization inside the Islamic Republic.

As former CIA officer Philip Giraldi pointed out on, "the White House has issued several findings to the intelligence community authorizing stepped-up covert action against both Damascus and Tehran."

"A 'finding,'" Giraldi noted, "is top-level approval for secret operations considered to be particularly politically sensitive. Taken together, the recent findings, combined with the evidence of major intelligence operations being run in Lebanon, amount to a secret war against Iran and its allies in the Mideast."

In 2007, President Bush "authorized attacks against Iranian nuclear scientists and other facilities in Tehran and elsewhere as well as coordination with the Israelis to develop computer viruses to disrupt the Iranian computer network, a program that led to the production of the Stuxnet worm."

"While the media credits 'the Israelis' in the assassination of Iranian scientists," Giraldi noted "the reality is that no Israeli (or American) intelligence officer could possibly operate effectively inside Iran to carry out a killing."

"The assassinations, which are acts of war, have actually been carried out by followers of the dissident Iranian Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), the separatist Baluch Jundallah, and the Kurdish PJAK, all acting under direction from American and Israeli intelligence officers," Giraldi grimly observed.

More ominously however, five years ago The New Yorker revealed that "One of the military's initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites," such as the one at Nantaz.

At the time, a "senior intelligence official" familiar with the plans told Seymour Hersh: "'Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout--we're talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don't have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out'--remove the nuclear option--'they're shouted down'."

As Global Research analyst Michel Chossudovsky warned in Towards a World War III Scenario: "Code named by US military planners as TIRANNT, 'Theater Iran Near Term', simulations of an attack on Iran were initiated in May 2003 'when modelers and intelligence specialists pulled together the data needed for theater-level (meaning large-scale) scenario analysis for Iran'."

"In 2004," Chossudovsky wrote, "drawing upon the initial war scenarios under TIRANNT, Vice President Dick Cheney instructed USSTRATCOM to draw up a 'contingency plan' of a large-scale military operation directed against Iran 'to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States' on the presumption that the government in Tehran would be behind the terrorist plot. The plan included the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state."

Writing on Iran war plans back in 2005, Philip Giraldi disclosed in The American Conservative magazine, "The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option."

"As in the case of Iraq," Giraldi wrote, "the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing--that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack--but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections."

While Israel is portrayed as an irrational actor which the United States is powerless to control, this manufactured reality is a smokescreen meant to conceal America's hidden hand.

According to Chossudovsky, "What we are dealing with is a joint US-NATO-Israel military operation to bomb Iran, which has been in the active planning stage since 2004. Officials in the Defense Department, under Bush and Obama, have been working assiduously with their Israeli military and intelligence counterparts, carefully identifying targets inside Iran."

"In practical military terms," Chossudovsky averred, "any action by Israel would have to be planned and coordinated at the highest levels of the US-led coalition."

With these disturbing facts in hand, and the chilling implications of policies which have been concealed from the American people, one can reasonably inquire: Is this what President Obama means when he says "no options off the table means I am considering all options"?

Given the heated rhetoric employed by the president and his national security team, moves towards economic- and other forms of warfare by Congress, as well as even-more bellicose threats by Republican presidential contenders angling for the Oval Office, the use of a nuclear weapon in any attack upon Iran cannot be ruled out.

'Sentinel Down'

Much to their consternation, Iran may not be the pushover claimed by the war hawks and their media acolytes.

After decades of regaling the public with lurid tales of U.S. technological prowess, replete with grandiose plans for "full-spectrum dominance," the Aerospace Division of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) released video Thursday of the captured RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone brought down last Sunday some 140 miles from the Afghan border, well into Iranian territory.

The incident has become a huge embarrassment to the Pentagon and chest-thumping American politicians who have oversold their oft-repeated claim that the United States is the world's "sole superpower."

According to PressTV, a Tehran-based English language media outlet which reflects the views of the Iranian government, Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said: "After the aircraft's entry into the country's eastern [air]space, it fell in the electronic ambush of the Iranian Armed Forces and was brought to the ground with minimum damage [caused to it]."

Also on Thursday, DebkaFile, a Jerusalem-based military intelligence web site with close ties to ultra-rightists in Israel and the United States, reported that the RQ-170 captured December 4 in "almost perfect condition confirmed Tehran's claim that the UAV was downed by a cyber attack, meaning it was not shot down but brought in undamaged by an electronic warfare ambush."

How did the Iranians bring the Sentinel down? While speculation is rife amongst aviation experts, a plausible theory has emerged.

According to the Israeli defense industry publication, Defense Update, "Russia has transferred a number of Kvant 1L222 Avtobaza Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) systems to Iran in October." Each "system includes an passive ELINT signals interception system and a jamming module capable of disrupting airborne radars including fire control radars, terrain following radars and ground mapping radars as well as weapon (missile) data links."

The Russian-supplied system, Defense Update analysts report, is also "capable of intercepting weapon datalink communications operating on similar wavebands. The new gear may have helped the Iranians employ active deception/jamming to intercept and 'hijack' the Sentinel's control link."

On Saturday, the AviationIntel web site, citing photographic documentation released by Iran that the "evidence is unbelievably conclusive" that Iranian cyberwarriors captured the U.S. spy craft.

In other words, AviationIntel analysts averred, "there is no reason why [that] system [Avtobaza] could not have detected the Sentinel's electronic trail and either jammed it and/or have alerted fighter aircraft and SAM [surface-to-air missile] installations as to its whereabouts."

While the RQ-170 "could have operated with limited electronic connectivity, making it less visible," AviationIntel reported that a "more likely scenario" would be that the Sentinel actively transmitted "live video, detailed radar maps, or electronic intelligence, in real-time," making detection all-the-more easier when "pinged" by the Russian-designed system.

However you care to spin this story, the Iranian military are no slouches; an attack on the Islamic Republic would hardly be the proverbial "cake-walk" touted by the neocons and other armchair warriors.

In a further sign that the Tehran government take ongoing terror attacks by London, Tel Aviv and Washington very seriously, The Daily Telegraph reported that IRGC commander, General Mohammed Ali Jaafari, "raised the operational readiness status of the country's forces, initiating preparations for potential external strikes and covert attacks."

The Telegraph disclosed, citing unnamed "Western intelligence officials," that Iran's armed forces "had initiated plans to disperse long-range missiles, high explosives, artillery and guards units to key defensive positions."

"The Iranian leadership fears the country is being subjected to a carefully co-ordinated attack by Western intelligence and security agencies to destroy key elements of its nuclear infrastructure," The Telegraph reported.

In response to bellicose threats emanating from Western capitals, a new round of crippling sanctions meant to crater the economy and attacks by intelligence agencies and terrorist assets operating inside Iran, orders were issued "to redistribute Iran's arsenal of long-range Shahab missiles to secret sites around the country where they would be safe from enemy attack and could be used to launch retaliatory attacks."

On Friday, The Christian Science Monitor reported that conservative lawmaker Mohammad Kossari warned that "'Iran will target all US military bases around the world,' in case of further violations ... [and that] Iran's response would be 'terrifying'."

Investigative journalist Scott Peterson, who has done yeoman's work exposing the propaganda blitz by current and former U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers to delist the bizarre Iranian political cult, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, disclosed that "the drone flights have apparently not yielded new evidence that would change conclusions by the United States and the United Nations that Iran stopped systematic nuclear weapons-related work in 2003."

This of course, confirm Iranian assertions that efforts by Western imperialists over Iran's alleged "nuclear weapons programs" is a pretext for "regime change."

Defense journalist Robert Densmore, a former Navy electronic countermeasures officer told Peterson that the capture of the RQ-170 drone is "very significant."

"Strategically," Densmore told the Monitor, "the US will suffer from the loss of this because ... it has radar, a fuselage, and coating that makes it low-observable, and the electronics inside are also very high-tech."

But perhaps the biggest loss to the Pentagon is not the drone's bat-wing design nor coatings which render the craft less visible to detection by radar--long known to America's capitalist rivals China and Russis--but the "cutting-edge cameras and sensors that can 'listen in' on cellphone conversations as it soars miles above the ground or 'smell' the air and sniff out chemical plumes emanating from a potential underground nuclear laboratory," as the Los Angeles Times disclosed.

Built by defense giant Lockheed Martin at a cost to taxpayers of some $6 million dollars per unit, the secret state's drone program, greatly expanded by the Obama regime, may be a boon to Washington's opaque Military-Industrial-Surveillance Complex but it is also something of an Achilles' heel.

"Ever since it was developed at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s famed Skunk Works facility in Palmdale," the Los Angeles Times averred, "the Sentinel drone has been cloaked in tight secrecy by the U.S. government. But now the drone that the Iranian military claims to have brought down for invading its airspace might be made far more public than the Pentagon or Lockheed ever intended."

On this count, along with many other assumptions underpinning the doctrinal constructs of Washington's technophilic military, they have no one to blame but themselves.

As Antifascist Calling reported back in 2009, Iraqi insurgents deployed $26 off-the-shelf spy kit that enabled them to intercept live video feeds from Predator drones.

According to The Wall Street Journal the Pentagon's "potential drone vulnerability lies in an unencrypted downlink between the unmanned craft and ground control." Although this flaw was known to the Pentagon since the 1990s during imperialism's campaign to dismember socialist Yugoslavia, nothing was done since it might prove too costly to the drone's prime contractor, General Atomics Inc.

The Journal noted "the stolen video feeds also indicate that U.S. adversaries continue to find simple ways of counteracting sophisticated American military technologies."

In fact, as the Journal disclosed in a subsequent report, the video feed wasn't encrypted "because military officials have long assumed no one would make the effort to try to intercept it."

Talk about imperial hubris!

"'It's bad--they'll have everything,' in terms of the secret technology in the aircraft," an unnamed U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times. "'And the Chinese or the Russians will have it too'."

The Associated Press reported that "Iran will not return a U.S. surveillance drone captured by its armed forces, a senior commander of the country's elite Revolutionary Guard said Sunday."

"Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy head of the Guard, said in remarks broadcast on state television that the violation of Iran's airspace by the U.S. drone was a 'hostile act' and warned of a 'bigger' response. He did not elaborate on what Tehran might do."

"'No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country'," Salami said.

On the diplomatic front, the drone's capture was a tactical boost for Tehran.

On Thursday, Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee complained in a letter to the UN Security Council that the "blatant and unprovoked air violation by the United States Government is tantamount to an act of hostility against the Islamic Republic of Iran in clear contravention of international law, in particular, the basic tenets of the United Nations." Khazaee demanded "condemnation of such aggressive acts." Needless to say, none will be forthcoming.

A One-Two Punch: Iran and China

As Washington seeks to impose a stranglehold over vital petrochemical resources in Central Asian and Middle Eastern energy corridors, efforts to overthrow the Tehran government, as with U.S. machinations against Libya and now Syria, are daggers aimed directly at Washington's largest creditor and geopolitical rival, China.

Writing in Asia Times Online, analyst Kaveh L. Afrasiabi warned that the "United States government is on the verge of taking its problems with the Islamic Republic of Iran to a whole new and ominous level that portends clashing interests with China and a number of other countries, including in Europe, which receives some half a million barrels of oil from Iran on a daily basis."

As previously reported, the 2012 Defense Authorization Act, wending its way through Congress will impose new crippling economic sanctions on Iran, and threaten any corporation or financial institution that does business with Iran's Central Bank with stiff punitive measures.

"Unwilling to compromise, hawkish lawmakers sponsoring the bill and their impressive army of pro-Israel lobbyists have mounted a counter-attack," Afrasiabi averred, "arguing that the bill is sound and does not require any 'watering down' that would weaken its impact on Iran--the hope being that this will bring Tehran to its knees over the nuclear issue."

Last week, pro-Israel lobby groups, including the the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee, "began a loud campaign in favor of the latest US sanctions bill, pressuring Obama to go along and reminding him of his 'waiver authority'" under terms of the draconian legislation.

"This argument traps the White House into difficult choices, for example, exempting China, which receives 13% of its imported oil from Iran, would ignite a bush fire of political criticism, and not doing so on the other hand would inevitably harm US-China relations," Afrasiabi wrote.

Indeed, the current legislation is a double-edged sword aimed at both Iran and China because "the bill in effect asks Beijing to forego its energy ties with Iran and look elsewhere, clearly not something the Chinese are prepared to do in today's age of energy insecurity."

"That insecurity," Asia Times reports, "would be exacerbated as a result of an oil embargo on Iran, which relies on its oil exports for some 80% of its foreign income. Oil prices would jack up, perhaps to about US$250 a barrel as warned by Tehran," and would have a deleterious effect on countries "such as Spain and Greece, which receive 14% of their oil from Iran, some on Iran credit," directly impacting their already troubled economies.

Reframing Western Propaganda

Underscoring Western unity regarding the terrorist campaign targeting Iran, the director of "Germany's Institute for Security and International Affairs (SWP), Volker Perthes, and their Iran expert Walter Posch" argued in a secret 2010 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks that "a policy of covert sabotage (unexplained explosions, accidents, computer hacking etc) would be more effective than a military strike whose effects in the region could be devastating."

As German Foreign Policy reported last month, the "German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) recently recalled the cause for the renewed escalation of tensions. 'Since the demise of British colonial rule and the announcement of the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine,' according to the think tank's recent analysis, the USA has been pursuing the objective of thwarting the rise of any Middle East country to become a regional predominating power--'if necessary by military means'."

"'The growth of power and influence of a regional player' would 'automatically be equated with loss of US power and influence in that region.' Washington has always sought, through 'alliances and inter-alliance policies, to create a regional balance of power' that guarantees western hegemony in this resource-rich region."

"Therefore," GFP's analyst concludes, "the conflict between the West and Iran--regardless of ideological wrappings--is simply a hegemonic conflict."

This has been borne out by recent statements by neoconservatives in the United States. Shifting gears, neocons in leading U.S. think tanks are busily manufacturing new reasons why the United States, Israel, or both, need to attack Iran--now.

As journalist MJ Rosenberg pointed out for Media Matters, "suddenly the struggle to stop Iran is not about saving Israel from nuclear annihilation."

Rosenberg reported that "after a decade of scare-mongering about the second coming of Nazi Germany, the Iran hawks are admitting that they have other reasons for wanting to take out Iran, and saving Israeli lives may not be one of them."

"Suddenly," Rosenberg wrote, "the neoconservatives have discovered the concept of truth-telling, although, no doubt, the shift will be ephemeral."

In late November Danielle Pletka, the head of the American Enterprise Institute's "foreign policy shop" explained: "The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it's Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don't do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, 'See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn't getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.' ... And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem."

Never mind the inconvenient fact that Iran has repeatedly stated their nuclear program is exclusively for civilian purposes, a point clearly established by two National Intelligence Estimates by American secret state agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Indeed, no evidence exists that Iran has diverted enriched uranium towards a secret military program to develop a weapon, despite howls of protest to the contrary by powerful pro-Israel lobby groups and their pets in Congress.

"Earlier this week," Rosenberg reported, "one of Pletka's colleagues at AEI said pretty much the same thing. Writing in the Weekly Standard, Thomas Donnelly explained that we've got the Iran problem all wrong and that we need to 'understand the nature of the conflict.'"

Donnelly continued: "'We're fixated on the Iranian nuclear program while the Tehran regime has its eyes on the real prize: the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East'."

In other words, warmongers on both sides of the rather narrow Washington "divide" view Iran not as a so-called "existential threat" to America's "stationary aircraft carrier in the Middle East," Israel, which possesses upwards of 200 nukes, but as a direct competitor for hegemony over the control of the vast petrochemical resources of Central Asia and the Middle East.

As Seumas Milne wrote last week in The Guardian, "a US or Israeli attack on Iran would turn that regional maelstrom into a global firestorm."

"Iran would certainly retaliate directly and through allies against Israel, the US and US Gulf client states, and block the 20% of global oil supplies shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. Quite apart from death and destruction, the global economic impact would be incalculable."

As Reuters reported, "the chance of a military strike on Iran has roughly tripled in the past year, the senior geopolitical risk analyst at Barclays Capital said on Thursday."

"New York-based analyst Helina Croft, writing in a note titled 'Blowback: Assessing the fallout from the Iranian sanctions', said even increased sanctions without an all-out military strike was increasing the risk of a spike in oil prices."

"We still contend that the risk of either an Israeli or US strike on the Iranian nuclear facilities remains low, but it has risen, in our view, from 5-10 percent last year to 25-30% now," Croft said.

Despite, or possibly because the severe economic fallout an attack on Iran would threaten their global competitors, the crisis-ridden U.S. Empire just might view the risks as "manageable."

But as the World Socialist Web Site warned, "what is being attempted is no less than redrawing the political map of the entire Middle East. It threatens not only region-wide conflict, but to involve those major powers Washington is trying to exclude from this area of vital geostrategic concern: Russia and China."

This dangerous and deadly game is fraught with peril. As Michel Chossudovsky warned on Global Research: "If such a war were to be launched, the entire Middle East-Central Asia region would flare up. Humanity would be precipitated into a World War III Scenario."

Such a scenario, as readers undoubtedly surmise, would be anything but "manageable."

In this light, it is hardly an accident that the same 2012 Defense Authorization Act which threatens to collapse Iran's economy also targets dissident Americans with loss of their constitutional rights and indefinite detention under a creeping martial law regime.

One crime begets another.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

War With Iran: A Provocation Away?

Amid conflicting reports that a huge explosion at Iran's uranium conversion facility in Isfahan occurred last week, speculation was rife that Israel and the United States were stepping-up covert attacks against defense and nuclear installations.

The Isfahan complex transforms mined uranium into uranium fluoride gas which is then "spun" by centrifuges that enrich it into usable products for medical research and for Iran's civilian nuclear energy program.

While Iranian officials sought to distance themselves from initial reporting by the semi-official Fars news agency that a "loud explosion" was heard across the city, but that "the sound of the explosion was from [a] military exercise," has been contradicted by several sources.

Indeed, some Iranian officials have denied that an explosion even took place.

On Tuesday however, The Times reported that "satellite imagery ... confirmed that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran."

"The images," Times reporter Sheera Frenkel averred, "clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction, negating Iranian claims yesterday that no such explosion had taken place. Israeli intelligence officials told The Times that there was 'no doubt' that the blast struck the nuclear facilities at Isfahan and that it was 'no accident'."

Despite clear evidence that Israel and the United States have stepped-up their shadow war against the Islamic Republic, Defense Minister Ehud Barak "played down speculation on Saturday that Israel and U.S.-led allies were waging clandestine war on Iran, saying sanctions and the threat of military strikes were still the way to curb its nuclear program," Reuters reported.

Proverbial "facts on the ground" however, tell a different tale.

The latest attack on Iran's civilian nuclear program followed a blast two weeks ago at the sprawling Bid Ganeh missile base 25 miles west of Tehran.

That blast killed upwards of 30 members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including Major General Hassan Moqqadam, a senior leader of Iran's missile program.

Satellite imagery shows much of the base in ruins. The attack was described by Time Magazine as the work "of Israel's external intelligence service, Mossad."

In a backhanded confirmation that Monday's blast was the handiwork of Mossad and their terrorist proxies, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), Frenkel wrote that "Dan Meridor, the Israeli Intelligence Minister, said: 'There are countries who impose economic sanctions and there are countries who act in other ways in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat'."

Frenkel reported that "Major-General Giora Eiland, Israel's former director of national security told Israel's army radio that the Isfahan blast was no accident. 'There aren't many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it's the hand of God'," Eiland said.

The Isfahan blast, as with other recent attacks, were allegedly in response to allegations made last month in a report filed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

However, while the "Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities," the ginned-up report relied on information provided by "Member states," presumably Israel and United States in the form of forged computer laptop documents and other "intelligence sources."

The Agency claims they were "unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

Black operations targeting the Islamic Republic aren't solely the province of America's "stationary aircraft carrier in the Middle East," Israel. As Seymour Hersh reported last spring in The New Yorker: "In the past six years, soldiers from the Joint Special Operations Force, working with Iranian intelligence assets, put in place cutting-edge surveillance techniques, according to two former intelligence officers."

In 2007, ABC News disclosed that "the CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert 'black' operation to destabilize the Iranian government."

Unnamed sources told ABC News that President Bush signed a presidential finding "that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions."

Congress has appropriated some $300 million for the CIA and the Pentagon's covert war.

In the intervening years, those programs have turned lethal. Widely applauded by "liberal" Democrats and "conservative" Republicans alike, these programs have continued, indeed expanded under Barack Obama's "progressive" Democratic administration.

Despite the fact that there "is also constant satellite coverage of major suspect areas in Iran," The New Yorker reported "that nothing significantly new had been learned to suggest that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon."

'Shadow War' Heating Up

Iran's intelligence services haven't been sitting idly by watching American, British, and Israeli terror operations.

On Sunday, Al Jazeera reported that the Iranian armed forces "brought down an unmanned US spy plane."

"Iran's military has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran," Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam state television network quoted an unnamed source as saying on Sunday."

"The semiofficial Fars news agency," Al Jazeera averred, said "that the plane is now in the possession of Iran's armed forces. The Fars news agency is close to the powerful Revolutionary Guard."

"Fars reported that the drone had been brought down through a combined effort by Iran's armed forces, air defence forces and its electronic warfare unit after the plane briefly violated the country's airspace at its eastern border."

An unnamed source, according to AFP, warned that Iran's armed response would "not be limited to our country's borders" for the "blatant territorial violation."

AFP also reported that in June, "Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Guards' aerospace unit, said Iran had shown Russian experts the US drones in its possession.

"'Russian experts requested to see these drones and they looked at both the downed drones and the models made by the Guards through reverse engineering,' he said."

In a further sign that the "shadow war" is heating up, last week's occupation of the British embassy in Tehran may have been a warning to the U.K. over sanctioned leaks by the British defense establishment to The Guardian which suggested that "Britain's armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran."

"In anticipation of a potential attack," The Guardian disclosed that "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.

The embassy occupation and subsequent downgrade of diplomatic relations between Britain and Iran mean these threats are being taken very seriously indeed.

Asia Times Online reported that Iran's claim "to have arrested 12 spies working for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is potentially a major blow to American intelligence-gathering efforts in Iran and to American intelligence generally."

Following closely on the heels of last month's arrest in Lebanon of some 30 CIA operatives by Hezbollah "is suggestive of a major American intelligence defeat, if not a full-blown disaster," Asia Times analyst Mahan Abedin wrote.

Far from being a high-quality intelligence operation, Abedin averred that the "CIA is operating a lower threshold of quality control in terms of agent recruitment and management" and that this reflects "a scatter-gun approach by the CIA inasmuch as the agency is targeting virtually any Iranian citizen it believes could potentially provide useful information on the CIA's target set."

According to Abedin's Iranian sources, the CIA's team of "operatives and analysts" appears to have been "embedded within numerous official and unofficial American organizations, including US embassies, multinational corporations, medium-sized commercial organizations, recruitment consultancies, immigration and wider legal services, academic and quasi-academic institutions and reputable (i.e. longstanding) as well as newly set up think tanks."

In other words, as many researchers have amply documented, efforts by the U.S. secret state to subvert a target nation's internal defenses prior to full-on "regime change" either through direct warfare (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, now Syria) or via an American-brokered "color revolution" (Yugoslavia, Venezuela, Ukraine, Georgia) are not about "freedom and democracy" but to achieve Washington's geopolitical goals: total economic and political domination.

"But despite clear improvements in counter-espionage capabilities and protective security measures," Abedin writes, "Iran is still some way away from making it prohibitively costly for Western agencies to operate inside the country. Indeed, all the major West European, North American and Israeli intelligence services are either active inside Iran or work closely with some elements of the Iranian diaspora."

Describing the "psychological warfare" dimensions of a looming confrontation, Abedin wrote in a subsequent Asia Times Online piece that the covert war operates on two fronts, "one visible and rhetorical and conducted through official and unofficial media and the other secret and centered on sabotage."

"In so far as the former is concerned Iran has risen to the challenge by superseding tough American and Israeli rhetoric with even tougher rhetoric."

"However," Abedin averred, "it is on the sabotage front--where Iran appears to be under attack from several directions--that the Islamic Republic is raising eyebrows even amongst its hardcore supporters by displaying remarkable tolerance in the face of intolerable provocations."

"More broadly, the Iranians are not paying sufficient attention to the long-term consequences of military confrontation with the United States and her allies."

That the "long-term consequences" of a Western-led attack will be an unmitigated disaster for the Iranian people, indeed for people across the entire region and for world peace and stability as a whole, doesn't mean that Washington won't gamble that a "limited war" could be "contained."

As analyst William Blum wrote in his Anti-Empire Report: "The secret to understanding US foreign policy is that there is no secret. Principally, one must come to the realization that the United States strives to dominate the world. Once one understands that, much of the apparent confusion, contradiction, and ambiguity surrounding Washington's policies fades away."

"Examine a map," Blum observed. "Iran sits directly between two of the United States' great obsessions--Iraq and Afghanistan ... directly between two of the world's greatest oil regions--the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea areas ... it's part of the encirclement of the two leading potential threats to American world domination--Russia and China ... Tehran will never be a client state or obedient poodle to Washington. How could any good, self-respecting Washington imperialist resist such a target? Bombs Away!"

Commenting on the Isfahan attack which described Israeli "black ops" as a "route to war," left-wing analyst Richard Silverstein wrote on the Tikun Olam web site, that "the tragedy of this black ops program is that it will not rattle or deter Iran, as Israeli intelligence believes."

"Contrary to what Israeli generals believe," Silverstein wrote, "the Iranians are not pushovers, they can't be intimidated. They're willing to die for their country even more than Israelis. They've fought defensive wars going back decades and lost millions in conflict. A few explosions, assassinations, and computer viruses will not spook them."

The drift towards war, which include moves to strangle Iran's economy prior to a strike, has gained traction on multiple fronts.

On Friday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation as part of the $644. 3 billion 2012 Defense Authorization Act that "would give the president the power starting July 1 to bar foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank from having correspondent bank accounts in the U.S.," Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported.

Coupled with reports that Germany and other EU member states will "considerably strengthen" sanctions against Iran, the leftist publication German Foreign Policy disclosed that "Berlin is participating in the intensification of western pressure on Teheran."

Rejecting NATO rhetoric that new punitive economic measures are over "the so-called nuclear dispute," GFP's analyst correctly states that the "conflict is, in fact, over hegemony, with the West seeking to defend at all costs its predominance in the Middle Eastern resource-rich regions."

While "Berlin's politicians are still divided over Iran ... Transatlantic oriented forces are preparing the public for possible military strikes."

Regarding the strengthening of the West's sanctions regime, the World Socialist Web Site reported that the EU has "agreed to sanction some 200 Iranian companies, individuals and organisations. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy met with Obama on Monday and issued a joint statement expressing 'deep concern' over Iran's nuclear program, raising the possibility of 'additional measures' against the Iranian regime."

"France," left-wing critic Oliver Campbell noted, "which is not a major importer of Iranian oil, issued a statement calling for 'new sanctions on an unprecedented scale,' including freezing the assets of the Iranian central bank and putting an embargo on Iranian oil."

"Russia, which has acquiesced in imposing previous sanctions on Iran, has bluntly opposed further punitive measures. Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich denounced the latest sanctions as 'unacceptable' and 'contradictory to international law.' China and Turkey have also opposed additional UN penalties."

There are new signs that this sharply escalating crisis is fraught with peril.

Last week, Russia Today reported that "Moscow is deploying warships at its base in the Syrian port of Tartus. The long-planned mission comes, providentially, at the very moment when it could help prevent a potential conflict in the strategically important Middle Eastern country.

­"The Russian battle group will consist of three vessels led by the heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser, Admiral Kuznetsov."

"Of course, the Russian naval forces in the Mediterranean will be incommensurate with those of the US 6th Fleet, which includes one or two aircraft carriers and several escort ships," former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Viktor Kravchenko told Russia Today.

Pointedly, Kravchenko warned, "today, no one talks about possible military clashes, since an attack on any Russian ship would be regarded as a declaration of war with all the consequences."

Richard Silverstein grimly observed "that Israel knows that black ops will turn Iran more intransigent. It welcomes such Iranian rigidity because it means the day is closer when it will be set loose on the Iranians. Israel's policy toward Iran is scorched earth."

The clock is ticking...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Target Iran: Washington's Countdown to War

The Iranian people know what it means to earn the enmity of the global godfather.

As William Blum documented in Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, 1953's CIA-organized coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, guilty of the "crime" of nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, may have "saved" Iran from a nonexistent "Red Menace," but it left that oil-rich nation in proverbial "safe hands"--those of the brutal dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

Similarly today, a nonexistent "nuclear threat" is the pretext being used by Washington to install a "friendly" regime in Tehran and undercut geopolitical rivals China and Russia in the process, thereby "securing" the country's vast petrochemical wealth for American multinationals.

As the U.S. and Israel ramp-up covert operations against Iran, the Pentagon "has laid out its most explicit cyberwarfare policy to date, stating that if directed by the president, it will launch 'offensive cyber operations' in response to hostile acts," according to The Washington Post.

Citing "a long-overdue report to Congress released late Monday," we're informed that "hostile acts may include 'significant cyber attacks directed against the U.S. economy, government or military'," unnamed Defense Department officials stated.

However, Air Force General Robert Kehler, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) told Reuters, "I do not believe that we need new explicit authorities to conduct offensive operations of any kind."

The Pentagon report, which is still not publicly available, asserts: "We reserve the right to use all necessary means--diplomatic, informational, military and economic--to defend our nation, our allies, our partners and our interests."

Washington's "interests," which first and foremost include "securing its hegemony over the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia" as the World Socialist Web Site observed, may lead the crisis-ridden U.S. Empire "to take another irresponsible gamble to shore up its interests in the Middle East ... as a means of diverting attention from the social devastation produced by its austerity agenda."

Recent media reports suggest however, that offensive cyber operations are only part of Washington's multipronged strategy to soften-up the Islamic Republic's defenses as a prelude to "regime change."

Terrorist Proxies

For the better part of six decades, terrorist proxies have done America's dirty work. Hardly relics of the Cold War past, U.S. and allied secret state agencies are using such forces to carry out attacks inside Iran today.

Asia Times Online reported that "deadly explosions at a military base about 60 kilometers southwest of Tehran, coinciding with the suspicious death of the son of a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, have triggered speculation in Iran on whether or not these are connected to recent United States threats to resort to extrajudicial executions of IRGC leaders."

And Time Magazine, a frequent outlet for sanctioned leaks from the Pentagon, reported that the blast at the Iranian missile base west of Tehran, which killed upwards of 40 people according to the latest estimates, including Major General Hassan Moqqadam, a senior leader of Iran's missile program, was described as the work "of Israel's external intelligence service, Mossad."

An unnamed "Western intelligence source" told reporter Karl Vick: "'Don't believe the Iranians that it was an accident,' adding that other sabotage is being planned to impede the Iranian ability to develop and deliver a nuclear weapon. 'There are more bullets in the magazine,' the official says."

While Iranian officials insist that the huge blast was an "accident," multiple accounts in the corporate press and among independent analysts provide strong evidence for the claim that Israel and their terrorist cat's paw, the bizarre political cult, Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) were responsible for the attack.

Richard Silverstein, a left-wing analyst who writes for the Tikun Olam web site, said that the blast was a sign that "the face of the Israeli terror machine may have reared its ugly head in the world."

Citing "an Israeli source with extensive senior political and military experience," Silverstein's correspondent provided "an exclusive report that it was the work of the Mossad in collaboration with the MEK."

Hardly a stranger to controversial reporting, Silverstein published excerpts of secret FBI transcripts leaked to him by the heroic whistleblower Shamai Leibowitz. Those wiretapped conversations of Israeli diplomats caught spying on the U.S., "described an Israeli diplomatic campaign in this country to create a hostile environment for relations with Iran."

In a Truthout piece, Silverstein wrote that Leibowitz, a former IDF soldier who refused to serve in the Occupied Territories, "explained that he was convinced from his work on these recordings that the Israel foreign ministry and its officials in this country were responsible for a perception management campaign directed against Iran. He worried that such an effort might end with either Israel or the US attacking Iran and that this would be a disaster for both countries."

Unfortunately, while Leibowitz sits in a U.S. prison his warnings are all but ignored.

According to Silverstein's latest account, "it is widely known within intelligence circles that the Israelis use the MEK for varied acts of espionage and terror ranging from fraudulent Iranian memos alleging work on nuclear trigger devices to assassinations of nuclear scientists and bombings of sensitive military installations."

Silverstein noted that "a similar act of sabotage happened a little more than a year ago at another IRG missile base which killed nearly 20."

Terrorist attacks targeting defense installations coupled with the murder of Iranian scientist, five "targeted killings" have occurred since 2010, aren't the only aggressive actions underway.

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that "a series of mysterious incidents involving explosions at natural gas transport facilities, oil refineries and military bases ... have caused dozens of deaths and damage to key infrastructure in the past two years."

According to the Post, "suspicions have been raised in Iran by what industry experts say is a fivefold increase in explosions at refineries and gas pipelines since 2010."

With Iran's oil industry under a strict sanctions regime by the West, maintenance of this critical industrial sector has undoubtedly suffered neglect due to the lack of spare parts.

However, "suspicions that covert action might already be underway were raised when four key gas pipelines exploded simultaneously in different locations in Qom Province in April," the Post disclosed.

"Lawmaker Parviz Sorouri told the semiofficial Mehr News Agency that the blasts were the work of 'terrorists' and were 'organized by the enemies of the Islamic Republic'," hardly an exaggerated charge given present tensions.

Whether or not these attacks were the handiwork of Mossad, their MEK proxies or even CIA paramilitary officers and Pentagon Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) commandos, as Seymour Hersh revealed more than three years ago in The New Yorker, it is clear that Washington and Tel Aviv are "preparing the battlespace" on multiple fronts.

'Collapse the Iranian Economy'

Along with covert operations and terrorist attacks inside the Islamic Republic, on the political front, a bipartisan consensus has clearly emerged in Washington in favor of strangling the Iranian economy.

Indeed, congressional grifters are threatening to crater Iran's Central Bank, an unvarnished act of war. IPS reported that neocon Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), "a key pro-Israel senator," has offered legislation "that would effectively ban international financial companies that do business with the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) from participating in the U.S. economy."

"Dubbed the 'nuclear option' by its critics," Jim Lobe reported that "the measure, which was introduced Thursday in the form of an amendment to the 2012 defence authorisation bill, is designed to 'collapse the Iranian economy'... by making it virtually impossible for Tehran to sell its oil."

However, "independent experts," Lobe wrote, "including some officials in the administration of President Barack Obama, say the impact of such legislation, if it became law, could spark a major spike in global oil prices that would push Washington's allies in Europe even deeper into recession and destroy the dwindling chances for economic recovery here."

That amendment was introduced as tensions were brought to a boil over allegations by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its latest report that Iran may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano claims the Agency has "identified outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme and actions required of Iran to resolve these."

"Since 2002," Amano averred, "the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the Agency has regularly received new information."

However, despite the fact that the "Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities," to whit, that such materials have not been covertly channeled towards military programs, Amano, reprising former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's famous gaff that "the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence," the IAEA "is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."

Far from being an independent "nuclear watchdog," the IAEA under Amano's stewardship has been transformed into highly-politicized and pliable organization eager to do Washington's bidding.

As a 2009 State Department cable released by WikiLeaks revealed, U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies cheerily reported: "Yukiya Amano thanked the U.S. for having supported his candidacy and took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77, which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program." (emphasis added)

Although the new report "offered little that was not already known by experts about Iran's nuclear programme" IPS averred, "it cited what it alleged was new evidence that 'Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device' since 2003--the date when most analysts believe it abandoned a centralised effort to build a nuclear bomb'."

But as the United States, with the connivance of corporate media, bury the conclusions of not one, but two National Intelligence Estimates issued by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, it is clear to any objective observer that "nonproliferation" is a cover for aggressive geopolitical machinations by Washington.

Both estimates, roundly denounced by U.S. neoconservatives and media commentators when they were published, insisted that "in fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program," a finding intelligence analysts judged with "high confidence."

In contrast, the highly-politicized IAEA report is a provocative document whose timing neatly corresponds with the imposition of a new round of economic sanctions meant to crater the Iranian economy. Never mind that even according to the IAEA's own biased reporting, they could find no evidence that Iran had diverted nuclear materials from civilian programs (power generation, medical isotopes) to alleged military initiatives.

Indeed, with sinister allusions that hint darkly at "undeclared nuclear materials," the agency fails to provide a single scrap of evidence that diverted stockpiles even exist.

Another key allegation made by the Agency that Iran had constructed an "explosives chamber to test components of a nuclear weapon and carry out a simulated nuclear explosion," was denounced by former IAEA inspector Robert Kelley as "highly misleading," according to an IPS report filed by investigative journalist Gareth Porter.

With "information provided by Member States," presumably Israel and the United States, the IAEA said it "had 'confirmed' that a 'large cylindrical object' housed at the same complex had been 'designed to contain the detonation of up to 70 kilograms of high explosives'. That amount of explosives, it said, would be 'appropriate' for testing a detonation system to trigger a nuclear weapon."

"Kelley rejected the IAEA claim that the alleged cylindrical chamber was new evidence of an Iranian weapons programme," Porter wrote. "We've been led by the nose to believe that this container is important, when in fact it's not important at all," the former nuclear inspector said.

But as Mark Twain famously wrote, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." This is certainly proving to be the case with the IAEA under Yukiya Amano.

Another player "solidly in the U.S. court" is David Albright, the director of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a Washington, D.C. "think tank" funded by the elitist Carnegie, Ford and Rockefeller Foundations.

In an earlier piece for IPS, Porter demolished Albright's "sensational claim previously reported by news media all over the world that a former Soviet nuclear weapons scientist had helped Iran construct a detonation system that could be used for a nuclear weapon."

"But it turns out that the foreign expert, who is not named in the IAEA report but was identified in news reports as Vyacheslav Danilenko, is not a nuclear weapons scientist but one of the top specialists in the world in the production of nanodiamonds by explosives," Porter wrote.

"In fact," Porter averred, "Danilenko, a Ukrainian, has worked solely on nanodiamonds from the beginning of his research career and is considered one of the pioneers in the development of nanodiamond technology, as published scientific papers confirm."

"It now appears that the IAEA and David Albright ... who was the source of the news reports about Danilenko, never bothered to check the accuracy of the original claim by an unnamed 'Member State' on which the IAEA based its assertion about his nuclear weapons background."

It is no small irony, that Albright, corporate media's go-to guy on all things nuclear, penned an alarmist screed in 2002 entitled, "Is the Activity at Al Qaim Related to Nuclear Efforts?", an article which lent "scientific" credence to false claims made by the Bush White House against Iraq.

As investigative journalist Robert Parry pointed out on the Consortium News web site, "Albright's nuclear warning about Iraq coincided with the start of the Bush administration's propaganda campaign to rally Congress and the American people to war with talk about 'the smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud'."

"Yet," Parry noted, "when the Washington Post cited Albright on Monday, as the key source of a front-page article about Iran's supposed progress toward reaching 'nuclear capability,' all the history of Albright's role in the Iraq fiasco disappeared."

History be damned. Congressional warmongers and corporate media who cite these fraudulent claims, are "spurred by Israel's whisper campaign to create a sense of urgency on Capitol Hill where the Israel lobby, acting mainly through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, exerts its greatest influence," as IPS noted, and punish Iran for the "crime" of opening its nuclear facilities to international inspection!

That "whisper campaign" has now bloomed into a full court press for war by "liberal" Democrats and "conservative" Republicans alike, even as public approval of Congress's work by the American people tracks only slightly higher than the popularity enjoyed by child molesters or serial killers.

As tensions are dialed up, the United States is spearheading a relentless drive to throttle Iran's economy. The New York Times reported that "major Western powers took significant steps on Monday to cut Iran off from the international financial system, announcing coordinated sanctions aimed at its central bank and commercial banks."

A strict sanctions regime was also imposed on Iran's "petrochemical and oil industries, adding to existing measures that seek to weaken the Iranian government by depriving it of its ability to refine gasoline or invest in its petroleum industry," the Times reported.

In a move which signals that even-more stringent sanctions are on the horizon, the U.S. Treasury Department "named the Central Bank of Iran and the entire Iranian banking system as a 'primary money laundering concern'."

That's rather rich coming from an administration which slapped Wachovia Bank on the wrist after that corrupt financial institution, now owned by Wells Fargo Bank, pleaded guilty to laundering as much as $378 billion for Mexico's notorious drug cartels as Bloomberg Markets Magazine reported last year!

Going a step further, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy called on the major imperialist powers "to freeze the assets of the central bank and suspend purchases of Iranian oil."

The Guardian reported that Britain "went the furthest by, for the first time, cutting an entire country's banking system off from London's financial sector."

Playing catch-up with war-hungry Democrats and Republicans, President Obama stated that the "new sanctions target for the first time Iran's petrochemical sector, prohibiting the provision of goods, services and technology to this sector and authorizing penalties against any person or entity that engages in such activity."

"They expand energy sanctions, making it more difficult for Iran to operate, maintain, and modernize its oil and gas sector," Obama said.

"As long as Iran continues down this dangerous path, the United States will continue to find ways, both in concert with our partners and through our own actions, to isolate and increase the pressure upon the Iranian regime."

Last summer, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), a strong backer of punishing sanctions, echoed Richard Nixon's vow to "make the economy scream" prior to the CIA's overthrow of Chile's democratically-elected socialist president, Salvador Allende, and wrote in The Hill that "critics ... argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that."

With a new round of crippling economic sanctions on tap from the West, "liberal" Democrat Sherman might just get his wish.

Targeting Civilian Infrastructure

While the Obama administration claims that their aggressive stance towards Iran is meant to promote "peace" and "help" the Iranian people achieve a "democratic transformation," ubiquitous facts on the ground betray a far different, and uglier, reality.

Anonymous U.S. "intelligence officials" told The Daily Beast "that any Israeli attack on hardened nuclear sites in Iran would go far beyond airstrikes from F-15 and F-16 fighter planes and likely include electronic warfare against Iran's electric grid, Internet, cellphone network, and emergency frequencies for firemen and police officers."

According to Newsweek national security correspondent Eli Lake, "Israel has developed a weapon capable of mimicking a maintenance cellphone signal that commands a cell network to 'sleep,' effectively stopping transmissions, officials confirmed. The Israelis also have jammers capable of creating interference within Iran's emergency frequencies for first responders."

But Israel isn't the only nation capable of launching high-tech attacks or, borrowing the Pentagon's euphemistic language, conduct "Information Operations" (IO).

The U.S. Air Force Cyberspace & Information Operations Study Center (CIOSC) describe IO as "The integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own."

In this light, The Daily Beast disclosed that "Israel also likely would exploit a vulnerability that U.S. officials detected two years ago in Iran's big-city electric grids, which are not 'air-gapped'--meaning they are connected to the Internet and therefore vulnerable to a Stuxnet-style cyberattack--officials say."

The anonymous officials cited by Lake informed us that "a highly secretive research lab attached to the U.S. joint staff and combatant commands, known as the Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC), discovered the weakness in Iran's electrical grid in 2009," the same period when Stuxnet was launched, and that Israeli and Pentagon cyberwarriors "have the capability to bring a denial-of-service attack to nodes of Iran's command and control system that rely on the Internet."

But as Ralph Langer, the industrial controls systems expert who first identified the Stuxnet virus warned in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, the deployment of military-grade malicious code is a "game changer" that has "opened Pandora's box."

Among a host of troubling questions posed by Stuxnet, Langer said: "It raises, for one, the question of how to apply cyberwar as a political decision. Is the US really willing to take down the power grid of another nation when that might mainly affect civilians?"

But as we have seen, most recently during the punishing air campaign that helped "liberate" Libya--from their petrochemical resources--the U.S. and their partners are capable of doing that and more.

Future targeting of Iran's civilian infrastructure may in fact have been one of the tasks of the recently-discovered Duqu Trojan, which Israeli and U.S. "boutique arms dealers" are suspected of designing for their respective governments.

And whom, pray tell, has the means, motives and expertise to design weaponized computer code?

As BusinessWeek disclosed in July, when one of America's cyber merchants of death, Endgame Systems, pitch their products they "bring up maps of airports, parliament buildings, and corporate offices. The executives then create a list of the computers running inside the facilities, including what software the computers run, and a menu of attacks that could work against those particular systems."

According to BusinessWeek, "Endgame weaponry comes customized by region--the Middle East, Russia, Latin America, and China--with manuals, testing software, and 'demo instructions'."

"A government or other entity," journalists Michael Riley and Ashlee Vance revealed, "could launch sophisticated attacks against just about any adversary anywhere in the world for a grand total of $6 million. Ease of use is a premium. It's cyber warfare in a box."

Kaspersky Lab analyst Ryan Naraine, writing on the Duqu FAQ blog averred that Duqu's "main purpose is to act as a backdoor into the system and facilitate the theft of private information. This is the main difference when compared to Stuxnet, which was created to conduct industrial sabotage."

In other words, unlike Stuxnet, Duqu is an espionage tool which can smooth the way for future attacks such as those described by The Daily Beast.

As The Washington Post disclosed last May, while the military "needs presidential authorization to penetrate a foreign computer network and leave a cyber-virus that can be activated later," it does not need such authorization "to penetrate foreign networks for a variety of other activities."

According to the Post, these activities include "studying the cyber-capabilities of adversaries or examining how power plants or other networks operate," and can "leave beacons to mark spots for later targeting by viruses."

Or more likely given escalating tensions, Iranian air defenses and that nation's power and electronic communications grid which include "emergency frequencies for firemen and police officers" who would respond to devastating air and missile attacks.

Countdown to War

We can conclude that Israel, NATO and the United States are doing far more than placing "all options on the table" with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Along with ratcheting-up bellicose rhetoric, moves to collapse the economy, an assassination and sabotage campaign targeting Iranian scientists and military installations, cyberwarriors are infecting computer networks with viruses and "beacons" that will be used to attack air defense systems and civilian infrastructure.

After all, as Dave Aitel, the founder of the computer security firm Immunity told BusinessWeek, "nothing says you've lost like a starving city."

As Global Research analyst Michel Chossudovsky warned last year, now confirmed by CIA and Pentagon leaks to corporate media: "It is highly unlikely that the bombings, if they were to be implemented, would be circumscribed to Iran's nuclear facilities as claimed by US-NATO official statements. What is more probable is an all out air attack on both military and civilian infrastructure, transport systems, factories, public buildings."

With the global economy in deep crisis as a result of capitalism's economic meltdown, and as the first, but certainly not the last political actions by the working class threaten the financial elite's stranglehold on power, the ruling class may very well gamble that a war with Iran is a risk worth taking.

As Chossudovsky warned in a subsequent Global Research report, "there are indications that Washington might envisage the option of an initial (US backed) attack by Israel rather than an outright US-led military operation directed against Iran."

"The Israeli attack--although led in close liaison with the Pentagon and NATO--would be presented to public opinion as a unilateral decision by Tel Aviv. It would then be used by Washington to justify, in the eyes of world opinion," Chossudovsky wrote, "a military intervention of the US and NATO with a view to 'defending Israel', rather than attacking Iran. Under existing military cooperation agreements, both the US and NATO would be 'obligated' to 'defend Israel' against Iran and Syria."

This prescient analysis has been borne out by events. As regional tensions escalate, the USS George H.W. Bush, "the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, has reportedly parked off the Syrian coast," The Daily Caller reported.

Earlier this week, the financial news service Zero Hedge disclosed that "the Arab League (with European and US support) are preparing to institute a no fly zone over Syria."

"But probably the most damning evidence that the 'western world' is about to do the unthinkable and invade Syria," analyst Tyler Durden wrote, "and in the process force Iran to retaliate, is the weekly naval update from Stratfor."

According to Zero Hedge, "CVN 77 George H.W. Bush has left its traditional theater of operations just off the Straits of Hormuz, a critical choke point, where it traditionally accompanies the Stennis, and has parked... right next to Syria."

In an earlier report, citing Kuwait's Al Rai daily, Zero Hedge warned that "Arab jet fighters, and possibly Turkish warplanes, backed by American logistic support will implement a no fly zone in Syria's skies, after the Arab League will issue a decision, under its Charter, calling for the protection of Syrian civilians."

The BBC reports that the Arab League "has warned Syria it has one day to sign a deal allowing the deployment of observers or it will face economic sanctions."

"Meanwhile," BBC averred, "France has suggested that some sort of humanitarian protection zones," à la Libya, "be created inside Syria."

American moves towards Syria are fraught with dangerous implications for international peace and stability. As analyst Pepe Escobar disclosed in Asia Times Online the Arab League, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia and repressive Gulf emirates, dances to Washington's tune.

"Syria is Iran's undisputed key ally in the Arab world--while Russia, alongside China, are the key geopolitical allies. China, for the moment, is making it clear that any solution for Syria must be negotiated," Escobar wrote.

"Russia's one and only naval base in the Mediterranean is at the Syrian port of Tartus. Not by accident," Escobar notes, "Russia has installed its S-300 air defense system--one of the best all-altitude surface-to-air missile systems in the world, comparable to the American Patriot--in Tartus. The update to the even more sophisticated S-400 system is imminent."

"From Moscow's--as well as Tehran's--perspective, regime change in Damascus is a no-no. It will mean virtual expulsion of the Russian and Iranian navies from the Mediterranean."

"In other words," Zero Hedge warned, "if indeed Europe and the Western world is dead set upon an aerial campaign above Syria, then all eyes turn to the East, and specifically Russia and China, which have made it very clear they will not tolerate any intervention. And naturally the biggest unknown of all is Iran, which has said than any invasion of Syria will be dealt with swiftly and severely."

Despite, or possibly because no credible evidence exists that Iran is building a nuclear bomb as a hedge against "regime change," belligerent rhetoric and regional military moves targeting Syria and Iran simultaneously are danger signs that imperialism's manufactured "nuclear crisis" is a cynical pretext for war.