Is Iran gearing for war?
Claude Salhani, The Washington Times:
Is Iran preparing for war with the United States? It sounds inconceivable, but the U.S. invasion of Iraq has spooked Tehran's mullahs to prepare for the unthinkable. READ MORE
In the Sept. 17 Arab News, Iranian columnist Amir Taheri says, "Incredible though it may sound, there are signs that Tehran may be preparing for a military confrontation with the United States, and has convinced itself that it could win."
This may explain, partially, why Iran's mullahs are emulating the Viet Cong by going underground, at least so far as their nuclear program and missile construction structures are concerned.
Iranian opposition officials, citing intelligence reports from sources inside Iran, claim the Islamic republic is building a vast network of tunnels and secret centers across the country, to hide its nuclear processing facilities and missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The tunnels and underground endeavors have been code-named "Development Projects." Tehran classifies them "top secret." The Iranian government has forbidden referring to the tunnels and centers by name, instead designating each by a specified code. The tunnels and processing sites are under "very strict and tight security and intelligence system," maintained by the military, say intelligence reports from Iranian opposition.
"Iran is increasingly moving its nuclear facilities to military sites," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, an Iranian dissident in Washington. Backing up his claims with a detailed blueprint of what seemed an industrial plant of some sort, Mr. Jafarzadeh, explained to a press conference last week in great detail the perils of Iran going nuclear.
Other opposition groups also decry dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in New York last week to address the U.N. General Assembly, received a tumultuous welcome from tens of thousands of protesters objecting to his visit and calling attention to Iran's nuclear pursuits.
Iran's Gachin uranium ore mine produces about 21 tons of ore annually, enough to manufacture perhaps four nuclear bombs yearly, said a U.S. government report first made public by ABC News. "Seven of Iran's 13 nuclear-related facilities were kept secret until 2002, including enrichment plants at Lashkar-Abad, Tehran, Natanz and uranium-processing at Adrekan and Gachin," the report said.
Iran has hidden its nuclear programs for the good part of 18 years, noted Paul Leventhal, president of the Nuclear Control Institute and co-founder of the Iran Policy Committee, an ad-hoc group mostly of former U.S. government officials lobbying the Bush administration to empower Iranian resistance inside the country. The IPC sees as key player the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MeK, a cultlike group accused of Marxist-Islamist tendencies, if ever the twain could meet.
"When one also considers Iran's concealment and deception activities, it's difficult to escape the conclusion that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons," the U.S. government report added.
"It is reaching the point which is beyond critical," warned Mr. Leventhal, urging the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to "promptly investigate" Iran's nuclear infractions, adding the IAEA ignored much "evidence."
Commenting on "evidence that Tehran is building a nuclear bomb," a Tehran commentator on Sahar TV asked, "Why should we believe the United States now when it lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?"
The danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, as explained by Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is it would instigate a Middle East nuclear arms race. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for example, would find it hard to allow Iran to remain the only country in the region (besides Israel) to go nuclear.
It would create "a snowball effect," says Mr. Clawson. "The world would not be better off if more countries were armed with nuclear weapons," said Mr. Clawson. "Iran talks of its rights without mentioning its obligations. Iran has a right if it cooperates with the IAEA," pointed out Mr. Clawson.
But Iran, so far, has refused to cooperate, playing a cat-and-mouse game with both IAEA and the Euro-3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- who have been trying to negotiate a peaceful and adequate solution to Iran's nuclear quest.
Mr. Jafarzadeh, president of Strategic Policy Consulting, who represented the Mujahideen-e-Khalq until the Iranian resistance group found its way onto the U.S. terror list, warned of the "speed with which Iran is proceeding" with its nuclear program.
Mr. Ahmadinejad's election to the presidency of the Islamic republic consolidated Iran's power base, bringing the army and the Revolutionary Guards under the mandate of the mullahs.
Mr. Taheri, the columnist, says, "Another sign that Tehran may be preparing for war is the appointment of military officers to posts normally held by civilians, such as governors, mayors and directors of major public corporations."
Following in the footsteps of the Viet Cong and its wartime leader Ho Chi Minh, Iranian supreme guide Ali Khamenei is reported to be building a "bunker-like structure" near his house in the city of Mashhad in the vicinity of the holy shrine of Reza, the eighth imam, reports Mr. Taheri. The bunker is reportedly able to house the entire Iranian government.
Speaking to CNN during his New York visit President Ahmadinejad said Iran is absolutely determined to pursue a nuclear energy program and "will use every resource" it has to battle the United States and European nations trying to prevent it. Stay tuned.
Claude Salhani is international editor of United Press International.