More Signs of Iran Detente …From Petraeus

In a new blow to the neo-conservative hard-liners at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), their hero, Gen. David Petraeus, has apparently concluded that Iran is indeed following through on its reported pledge earlier this fall to the Iraqi government to cut its alleged supply of weapons to Shi’a militias in Iraq. That assessment comes from none other than the far-right Washington Times which featured a front-page article by Sara Carter Thursday, entitled “Iran No Longer Aids Iraq Militants.”


The article quotes Petraeus’ spokesman, Col. Steven Boylan, as praising Tehran’s recent performance in words that must upset Iran hawk Michael Ledeen, in particular: “We are ready to confirm the excellence of the senior Iranian leadership in the pledge to stop the funding, training, equipment and resourcing of the militia special groups,” Boylan is quoting as telling the Times. “We have seen a downward trend in the signature-type attacks using weapons provided by Iran.” He said that the decline began in October, although he went on to say that his command remains in a “wait and see mode,” as well.


Ledeen, among other neo-con hawks, had seized on a Pentagon report that was released December 18 that assserted that was “no identified decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal Shi’a militias in Iraq” and complained that, “Tehran’s support for Shi’a militant groups who attack Coalition and Iraq forces remains a significant impediment to stabilization.” In an article published last week in the New York Sun, Ledeen cited that report — and subsequent statements by the State Department’s top Iraq coordinator, David Satterfield to the effect that Iran had decided “at the most senior levels” to rein in the Shi’a groups — as evidence of a major bureaucratic struggle between the Pentagon and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who was determined “to negotiate a happy ending to our longstanding troubles with Iran.”


“It won’t work,” declared Ledeen. “And it’s no accident that the soldiers — who have begun to bring decent security to most of Iraq — understand the stiuation far better than the diplomats and spooks who have nothing to show for years of negotiations.”


But now the Pentagon — and Petraeus — appears to be aligning its views with those of Satterfield and the State Department. The Times article quotes Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros as affirming Boylan’s assessment and insisting that it did not contradict the conclusions of last month’s report, on which Ledeen relies so heavily, ”[it] was meant to be retrospective in nature,” said Ballesteros about the report. “It is meant to cover the last 90 days of data and provides a snapshot of that period on the ground.”


That Petraeus’ office, which has consistently been harsher in describing Tehran’s role in Iraq than the Pentagon brass back in Washington, is now agreeing with Satterfield’s assessment is obviously highly significant on the eve of renewed talks between the two nations’ ambassadors in Baghdad. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the release of some or all of the remaining 10 or so Iranians in U.S. custody in Iraq follow shortly.


Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.




    January 3, 2008 — IRAN turned up the heat this week on still-sim mering concerns about its atomic aspirations. It crowed that its 1,000-megawatt Bushehr nuclear-power plant would be “online” as early as this spring, putting in place another important building block of its nuclear program.
    That sort of news can’t help but rattle the steadiest of nerves, no matter what the (narrowly focused) US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program said about the current state of affairs.

    Seemingly not swayed one iota by the NIE’s conclusions, you have to wonder if Israel – the country most threatened by an Iranian nuclear (weapons) breakout – might take matters into its own hands.

    It has done so twice before – and the time may be here again.

    In a 1981 dawn raid lasting less than 90 seconds, Israeli Defense Force fighters attacked the nearly completed 40-megawatt Iraqi Osirak nuclear-reactor complex, setting back Saddam’s ability to produce fissile material for nukes.

    And again last September, the IDF allegedly struck a nascent Syrian nuclear program, which possibly was benefiting from outside help, in a preventive airstrike that may have also been meant as a warning to Iran of unpleasant things to come.

    But why strike now?

    Well, within about a year of Bushehr becoming operational, some of its spent nuclear fuel could be stripped of enough plutonium to produce a handful of nuclear weapons if the rods aren’t returned to their owner/provider, Russia.

    Because the production of fissile material is the long pole in the nuclear-weapons tent, the diversion of material at Bushehr is potentially as big a problem as the 3,000 centrifuges that Iran has whirring at supersonic speeds, enriching uranium.

    Attacking Bushehr – like Osirak – before it comes online would not only stop it from being used to produce bomb material, but would also prevent radiation from the reactor being spewed into the atmosphere after a strike.

    Also possibly spurring Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to put the IDF into action is other recent news: Iran is reportedly buying the highly capable Russian S-300 air-defense system to bolster the Tor-M1 surface-air missile systems Moscow supplied last year.

    The Iranians purchased the Tor-M1 to prevent a modern-day Iranian version of Israel’s successful Osirak strike. The lethal S-300s – likely a response to the Syrian strike – will enhance Iran’s ability to protect its nuclear sites scattered around the country.

    (Curious the extent to which Iran is willing to go to protect its so-called “peaceful” nuclear program, isn’t it?)

    But despite these reasons for giving a go-ahead for an attack on Bushehr before it’s up and running, dealing militarily with Iran’s nuclear program is a lot more complex than just that.

    While Bushehr is a key element of the program because of its ability to produce large amounts of bomb-worthy fissile material (i.e., plutonium) for weapons use, it isn’t the be-all and end-all of that program.

    To cripple Iran’s nuclear program, the IDF would have to hit other major nuclear sites: The Natanz uranium-enrichment plant, the Arak heavy-water facility and the Isfahan uranium-conversion complex – plus possibly tens of other nuclear-related sites.

    But while some facilities like Natanz are “hardened,” well-protected by air defenses and often buried as deep as 70 feet down, IDF fighters could hammer them using GPS/laser-guided and penetration weapons such as the American JDAM.

    There’s also the tyranny of distance. Iran is a lot farther from Israel than Iraq – and the targets aren’t clustered like they were at Osirak. They’re spread across Iran – a country nearly four times California’s size.

    Even a surprise IDF air raid would likely be known to others such as the United States, which “owns” the airspace in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf with its vast array of land, sea and air sensors.

    (Of course, it is always possible Israel’s small fleet of cruise-missile-capable, Dolphin-class diesel submarines, deployed to the Persian Gulf, could play a role in a strike, especially against Bushehr in southern Iran.)

    A strike would bring Iranian retaliation, including terrorist attacks by Tehran’s allies, such as Hezbollah, as well as missile strikes against large Israeli cities. By association, US interests could come into Iran’s crosshairs.

    The new year will likely bring more unwelcome news about Iran’s nuclear program as it cascades toward a weapons option. It will also be a fateful year for Israel, one that may require action – no matter what the latest NIE says.

    Heritage Foundation senior fellow Peter Brookes is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

    [email protected]

  2. “(Curious the extent to which Iran is willing to go to protect its so-called “peaceful” nuclear program, isn’t it?)…”

    Hmmm perhaps the Iranians realize how dangerous the Oil Trust conisiders alternative energy sources to be.

    It’s also heartening to read that the US “owns” the air space over the Middle East. You’d think 3 Trillion dollars a year would buy some protection for major American cities on the East coast.

    And how considerate of the foks at the Hertitage Foundation to spread their unique, billionare financed point of view on Independent blogs. It’s mighty white of them to condescend to enlighten the rest of us. Thanks Guys! Yer doin’ a heckofa job!

    pee dubya

  3. Peter Brookes and similar “analysts” either keep lieing, or are so ill-informed that it is truly astonishing how they get to be where they are.
    But, then again, it is Hoover Institute. What can one expect from it, other than such “analyses” and “analysts?”

    A long time ago Iran signed an agreement with Russia according to which Iran is obligated to return the spent fuel rods, obtained from its Bushehr reactor, to Russia. The IAEA knows exactly how much fuel Russia will be supplying Iran with, and based on that, one can easily calculate how much spent fuel and, threrefore, how much plutonium will be produced. Given that the Bushehr reactor is safeguarded by the IAEA, and given the Iran/Russia agreement regarding the spent fuel, there is absolutely no possibility of diversion on Iran’s part.

    Yet, Peter Brookes and similar prejudiced or uniformed analysts keep their campaign of disinformation. The goal is to either start a war with Iran at any cost or, at the minimum, create the environment for imposition of tough sanction on a nation that, unlike many of the US allies and the US itself, has lived up to its NPT and Safeguards Agreement obligations, aside from a few minor breaches.

    People like Brookes have no shame in advancing such absurd “analyses.”
    People like him settle for nothing short of keeping Iran a backward country. The Bushehr reactor was supposed to be complete by 1980. Germany was paid, it never finished the work, and it did not return the funds or the parts that Iran had purchased. yet, completion of the Bushehr reactor after 28 years of delay “unnerves” Brookes. I guess he has no nerves at all.

    People like Brookes have no respect for international treaties. Such treaties are good only to the extend that they serve the goals and agenda of people like Peter Brookes. According to Article IV of the NPT Iran is entitled to having access to the full nuclear technology, yet, the start up of reactor after nearly 30 years of delay is viewed as a “dangerous game” by this so-called analyst.

    Aside from Brookes and people like him, nobody was “unnerved” hearing the news about the Bushehr reactor. Even Geroge
    “God told me to demonize Iran” Bush said that he supports Russia’s delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran, but for Peter Brookes and people like him even that is unnerving!!

  4. So I just finished reading Brooks’ resume on the web; he was advising Pentagon and Langley on security issues?! The shame is not on him; our
    system of governemt is so screwed up to hire such an ignorant “Israeli apologist” for these key positions. I suggest as part of your doctoral dissertation, if you are still working on it, write a paper on NPT and the safeguard regime, and read all the recent reports from the IAEA. I repeat the caveat here for you..”there are no processing activities in Iran,” even the latest NIE supports that. This so called “long pole” does not exist, even if irradiated rods from Bushehr go missing. But Israel illegaly has a 40 MW French reactor that accumulates PU for bomb making.

  5. Peter Brookes believes that Iran defending its nuclear structure is “curious”. In other words, he expects a nation that has spent billions of dollars to set up an indigeneous enrichment facility leave it defenceless, just to “prove” to people like Brookes that the facility is for useful purposes.

    It is like saying, for the US to prove that it has no bad intention towards other nations, it should abadon its defence capabilities for defending the mainland US, or its industrial zones, or its 104 operating nuclear reactor. Arguments like that cannot possibly be more ridiculous, and these coming from a “scholar” at Hoover Institute.

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