By J. Parnell McCarter



A recent article in the Washington Times (see http://www.washtimes.com/world/20050929-114709-2065r.htm ) read thus:




Israelis urge U.S. to stop Iran's nuke goals

By David R. Sands


The United States and its allies must act to stop Iran's nuclear programs -- by force if necessary -- because conventional diplomacy will not work, three senior Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum warned yesterday.
    As a last resort, they said, Israel itself would act unilaterally to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms.
    Iran will not be deterred "by anything short of a threat of force," said Arieh Eldad, a member of Israel's right-wing National Union Party, part of a delegation of Knesset members visiting Washington this week.
    "They won't be stopped unless they are convinced their programs will be destroyed if they continue," he said.
    Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said the best hope was for the United States and other major powers to make it clear to Iranian leaders now there was "no chance they will ever see the fruits of a nuclear program."
    "Threats of sanctions and isolation alone will not do it," said Mr. Steinitz.
    Yosef Lapid, head of the centrist opposition Shinui Party in the Knesset, added that Israel "will not live under the threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb."
    "We feel we are obliged to warn our friends that Israel should not be pushed into a situation where we see no other solution but to act unilaterally" against Iran, he said.
    Mr. Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's ruling Likud Party, stopped just short of a direct threat to bomb suspect Iranian nuclear sites.
    Mr. Steinitz said Israeli officials estimate that Tehran is only two to three years away from developing a nuclear bomb and that time was running out for the world to act.
    "We see an Iranian bomb as a devastating, existential threat to Israel, to the entire Middle East, to all Western interests in the region," he said….



This call from Israel should come as no real surprise to those who have been following the progress of Middle East politics.  And it is highly unlikely that this call will go unheeded by the USA.  Indeed, it seems quite likely that the US invasion of Iraq was a strategic prelude to a likely future contest with Iran.  The US military now stands positioned on both sides of Iran, with forces in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.  An article at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/GC30Ag01.html sheds light on this US military strategy:



US scatters bases to control Eurasia
By Ramtanu Maitra

The United States is beefing up its military presence in Afghanistan, at the same time encircling Iran. Washington will set up nine new bases in Afghanistan in the provinces of Helmand, Herat, Nimrouz, Balkh, Khost and Paktia.

Reports also make it clear that the decision to set up new US military bases was made during Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Kabul last December. …


why are the bases needed?

A ray of light was shed on this question during the recent trip to Afghanistan by five US senators, led by John McCain. On February 22, McCain, accompanied by Senators Hillary Clinton, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Russ Feingold, held talks with Karzai.

After the talks, McCain, the No 2 Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was committed to a "strategic partnership that we believe must endure for many, many years". McCain told reporters in Kabul that America's strategic partnership with Afghanistan should include "permanent bases" for US military forces. A spokesman for the Afghan president told news reporters that establishing permanent US bases required approval from the yet-to-be-created Afghan parliament.

Later, perhaps realizing that the image that Washington would like to project of Afghanistan is that of a sovereign nation, McCain's office amended his comments with a clarification: "The US will need to remain in Afghanistan to help the country rid itself of the last vestiges of Taliban and al-Qaeda." His office also indicated that what McCain meant was that the US needs to make a long-term commitment, not necessarily "permanent" bases.

On March 16, General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no decision had been reached on whether to seek permanent bases on Afghan soil. "But clearly we've developed good relationships and good partnerships in this part of the world, not only in Afghanistan," he added, also mentioning existing US bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan….


Encircling Iran
On February 28, Asia Times Online pointed out that construction work had begun on a new NATO base in Herat, western Afghanistan (US digs in deeper in Afghanistan ). Another Asia Times Online article said US officials had confirmed that they would like more military bases in the country, in addition to the use of bases in Pakistan (see The remaking of al-Qaeda , February 25)….


Other key US-run logistical centers in Afghanistan include Kandahar Air Field, or "KAF", in southern Afghanistan and Shindand Air Field in the western province of Herat. Shindand is about 100 kilometers from the border with Iran, a location that makes it controversial. Moreover, according to the US-based think-tank Global Security, Shindand is the largest air base in Afghanistan.

The US is spending US$83 million to upgrade its bases at Bagram and Kandahar. Both are being equipped with new runways. US Brigadier General Jim Hunt, the commander of US air operations in Afghanistan, said at a news conference in Kabul Monday, "We are continuously improving runways, taxiways, navigation aids, airfield lighting, billeting and other facilities to support our demanding mission."

The proximity of Shindand to Iran could give Tehran cause for concern, says Paul Beaver, an independent defense analyst based in London. Beaver points out that with US ships in the Persian Gulf and Shindand sitting next to Iran, Tehran has a reason to claim that Washington is in the process of encircling Iran. But the US plays down the potential of Shindand, saying it will not remain with the US for long. Still, it has not been lost on Iranian strategists that the base in the province of Herat is a link in a formidable chain of new facilities the US is in the process of drawing around their country.

Shindand is not Tehran's only worry. In Pakistan, the Pervez Musharraf government has allowed the commercial airport at Jacobabad, about 420km north of Karachi and 420km southeast of Kandahar, as one of three Pakistani bases used by US and allied forces to support their campaign in Afghanistan. The other bases are at Dalbandin and Pasni. Under the terms of an agreement with Pakistan, the allied forces can use these bases for search and rescue missions, but are not permitted to use them to stage attacks on Taliban targets. Both Jacobabad and Pasni bases have been sealed off and a five-kilometer cordon set up around the bases by Pakistani security forces….




The US is currently working through diplomatic channels to address Iran’s nuclear program, but it is unlikely to succeed, given opposition to UN Security Council action by Russia and China.  For instance, see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9704277/ :



Rice fails to win Russia’s support on Iran nukes

Moscow remains opposed to threat of U.N. Security Council punishment


Updated: 10:18 a.m. ET Oct. 15, 2005

MOSCOW - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed Saturday to persuade Russia to offer new support for a hard line on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, despite making a hastily arranged trip to the Russian capital.

Rice wanted Russian cooperation as the United States and its European allies try either to draw Iran back to diplomatic talks or invoke the threat of punishment from the powerful U.N. Security Council.



This all comes within the context of bitter hatred between Israel and Iran:



Israel calls for Iran's expulsion from the U.N

Thu Oct 27, 2005 5:14 PM BST15


JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Thursday called for Iran's expulsion from the United Nations after its president said the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map".

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments at a Tehran conference on Wednesday drew international condemnation and underscored Western scrutiny on the Iranian nuclear programme.

"A country that calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member of the United Nations," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office quoted him as saying in a statement.





It is likely the Bush Administration believes these diplomatic efforts will fail, but wants to show the world it tried.  While it is certainly possible that war between the US and Iran can be averted, in my opinion it is unlikely.  While it is doubtful it would happen anytime soon, it seems quite likely in the years ahead.