Mon, January 24, 2005
Strike at Iran possible
By Peter Worthington -- For the Toronto Sun
A topic of concern around Washington in these days of post-inauguration and pre-State of the Union address, is what's next?
President George W. Bush's inauguration speech left some puzzled, others encouraged, many uneasy.
He talked a lot about freedom, without getting into specifics, and didn't mention Iraq. That got people buzzing.
What he seemed to be doing was giving a blueprint for the future -- a future that extended beyond his term in office, deep into the unforeseeable future.
To some it was a perilous approach, to others it was inspired. Thinking big, thinking beyond. An agenda for America.
No lame duck
What Bush did convey, was that he intends his final term to be no lame duck administration.
His fixation on freedom and democracy in the world conveyed to a growing number the likelihood that the next big target for his aggressive democracy is Iran -- not a war, not ultimatums or embargoes, but direct action. Something has to be done about Iran's already considerable nuclear ambitions.
There isn't much time.
It is an issue that also worries Europe.
In 1981 Israel did the world a favour when it bombed and destroyed Saddam Hussein's Osirak reactor which was intended for nuclear weapons, with a large assist from France.
That message was absorbed by Iran, which apparently has no single Osirak-like site, but diverse sites to develop various aspects of the program, with back-ups and duplication.
Some sites are underground, some in population centres, all of them widely distributed.
So air strikes alone are unreasonable and unlikely.
What seems possible in the future -- that is, during President Bush's watch - is sabotage on the ground. Perhaps a Special Forces style attack, with limited air co-ordination -- an aggressive raid to eliminate some or all key nuclear sites. Then get out.
While Western intelligence has some knowledge of where these sites are, the ones who know best are in Pakistan, which is believed to have helped Iran develop its nuclear potential in the days before Pakistan was an American ally, and when it backed the Taliban of Afghanistan and al-Qaida.
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf changed all that when he decided President Bush was serious and not one to be toyed with, and threw his future in with America's.
Some realists speculate that there already are Special Forces inside Iraq, and that at some point an un-admitted alliance of American, Pakistani and German commandoes, with a possible inclusion of British, will be tasked with eliminating Iran's nuclear sites. Or at least some of them, before it's too late.
The one thing that seems fairly certain (one can never be absolutely sure in such things) is that Israel will not be directly involved.
Iran has few friends in the Islamic world who look forward to the ayatollahs and mullahs wielding nuclear weapons.
Since in foreign affairs as in war (and love) success is the prime virtue and failure the cardinal sin, judgment awaits the outcome of this nuclear showdown. Will, or will not, Iran become the next nuclear world influence?
Regardless of what happens in Iraq (a Shiite win in the Iraq election seems assured), it won't affect what is viewed as necessary in Iran.
As for the third member of Bush's "axis of evil" trio -- North Korea -- little action is planned. Kim Jong Il is so obviously a fruitcake with no allies except Cuba, and is in questionable health anyway, that nature will likely settle that issue.
Maybe the future will become clearer at the State of the Union address on Feb. 2 -- probably more about America's self-decreed responsibility if not to make the whole world democratic, to at least make the world safer for democracies.
Not a bad legacyhttp://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/Columnists/Toronto/Peter_Worthington/2005/01/24/908194.html