The U.S.-Israel Covert War against Iran

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Nasser Sagahfi-Ameri
04 February 2012

A series of covert operations against Iran in order to stall its nuclear program has turned into very ugly terrorist attacks against Iranian scientists. The latest case was last week that has created broad uproar not only in Iran but in the international community.
In the past years, the Americans and Israelis, in what they term it as 'covert operations', have been engaged in a secret war against Iran, including assassinations of scientists who may have worked in Iran’s nuclear program. They have also attempted to damage nuclear power plant in Bushehr and the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz with computer Stuxnet viruses.
A new thrust in the covert war against Iran culminated when Congress in the U.S. took a tough stance on Iran and approved measures aimed at depriving Iran of exporting its oil in the international markets. Iran was quick to respond by declaring that if Iran would be denied to export its oil it would not allow a drop of oil to pass through the strategic Strait of Hormuz through which nearly 20 percent of world's oil consumption passes.
With that, Iran has tried to make it clear to any party that is taking part in the new round of sanctions that their actions will not be tolerated as before and defiantly it would not be cost free. The Russia's foreign minister in reference to the sanctions has pointed out that "It has nothing to do with a desire to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation." Meanwhile he has warned a military attack on Iran would trigger a "chain reaction" that destabilizes the world.
What has led to the present standoff between Iran and the U.S. has to be traced back to the policies of the past two years by the Obama administration that allegedly after its failure in its policy of engagement with Iran resorted to intimidation tactics that according to some experts could be considered as an act of war. 
In pursuing those policies a wide range of tactics were devised; including cyber attack against Iran's nuclear power plant in Bushehr and other nuclear sites, terrorist attacks by insurgent groups such as Jondallah, assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, and espionage. Of course, that covert war was set in a pattern of an open threat of military attacks by top officials in Washington.
The Americans repeatedly used their infamous rhetoric that "all options are on the table". Nobody cared to remind those people in Washington that Article 2 of the UN Charter “prohibits both the threat and the use of force except in cases of legitimate self-defense. Ironically, the U.S. and Israel, both armed with nuclear weapons, having a history of military attacks and the occupation of other sovereign states in their records, are now planning to attack Iran to deprive it of nuclear capability. 
According to the experts of international law, in the absence of an Iranian act of aggression and without a UNSC resolution that authorizes the use of force, talking about attacking a country or starting war against it may be considered as a war crime.
There is little doubt that with the paranoia created by the Netanyahu government and the Israeli lobby in the U.S. against Iran's nuclear program the U.S. is inching toward war with Iran. Iran is once again a major issue in the U.S. presidential campaigns. The republican presidential candidates are trying to score points on the campaign trail. They look to Iran as an easy target considering it politically profitable to portray Iran as the most dangerous foreign policy issue facing the U.S.
All republican candidates except Ron Paul, while attacking Obama's policies, advocate a harder stance on Iran and naively encourage a war with Iran that they think it would be quick and easy. Alas, a militaristic approach prevails in the U.S. decision making circles while forgetting the disastrous consequences of their  past military adventurism in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the U.S was not only disgraced but is deemed to  be entangled there for some years to come.
In the Middle East we are now witnessing a period of transformation. Indeed this is a long awaited event. The former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice heralded this when she talked about “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.” Of course she longed for a Pax- Americana in the region which did not occurred. As the shape of the new Middle East comes into focus, we are likely to face an array of countries eager to assert their individuality and independence. Political Islam is moving from being the dominant opposition voice in the Arab countries to being a dominant voice of governments.
While this precarious situation calls for crisis management and prevention of war, some politicians in Washington are beating the drums of war apparently to show their loyalty to Israel. It is indeed a critical moment of history for the U.S. and not to fall into a trap to a clash with Iran. If the nuclear weapons are the main concern- which to all evidence are not – a technical solution can be found through diplomatic solution.
Imposition of sanctions in an attempt to cripple Iran's economy in the name of nuclear non proliferation has no logic any more when Iran has according to many experts already crossed the point of no return and has entered a "safe zone", where no outside power would dare to attack it without risking a wide regional war or world conflagration.
 Iran has been accused for many years for seeking nuclear weapons. That accusation was the main drive for imposing wide range of sanctions on this country during the past 16 years. The U.S. has utilized all the levers to pressure the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to deny Iran from its legitimate right enshrined in the NPT for peaceful nuclear activities including the enrichment of uranium that is essential for the production of fuel for reactors.
While all of Iran's 15 nuclear sites have been under constant (24/7) monitoring of the IAEA, diversion of Iran's nuclear material to nuclear weapons has been practically impossible and it was duly reflected in every IAEA report on Iran. In a nutshell, there are no proofs, whether from the IAEA or the U.S., that Iran is building a bomb. Thus there is a growing consensus among experts that in the present standoff between the U.S. and Iran the main issue is political.
Thus, the ongoing arguments in the West on Iran's nuclear program, and recently about its missile program, are seen from a different perspective in Iran.  Iran considers its peaceful nuclear program as a legitimate activity within the bounds of the NPT. Iran has declared it has no intention to seek nuclear weapons and the reports of the IAEA attests to the fact that there have been no diversions into weapons in Iran's nuclear program.
The IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program last November that has been issued under the pressure and influence of the U.S., and now is used to trigger new sanctions against Iran has been criticized by many nuclear arms control experts. For instance it is pointed out that while the main accusation against Iran is the claim that Iran is studying the physics of nuclear explosive devices. These kinds of studies, when nuclear material is not involved and when the information does not come from other states, are possibly not prohibited by the NPT. 
Also it is said that the NPT forbids the manufacturing of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear weapons states and the transfer of design information, but not necessarily the "theoretical" studies of nuclear explosive devices. With the current approach of the U.S. for manipulating the IAEA, it has become more convincing for the Iranian elites that the entire nuclear standoff with Iran is only a pretext for a regime change by the U.S.           
Some other experts in the field of geopolitics see the latest attempts by the U.S. and its allies for increasing pressure on Iran more in relevance to the regional changes and growing influence of Iran in the region. They point to the Arab uprisings in the region and most importantly the withdrawal of the U.S. military forces from Iraq.
Watching what is happening in Syria, one observer commented that, "while the U.S. has lost Iraq to Iran, it is now endeavoring to get Syria from Iran." According to same perception, the power play in the region becomes more intense when it is focused on the strategic and very sensitive region of the Persian Gulf. The uprising in Bahrain indeed heralds awaiting extensive changes in the GCC.  Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have justified their brutal crackdown of Bahrain's pro-democracy movement by falsely claiming Iranian meddling.
Ironically, American policymakers who claim to support democratic transitions in the Arab world are not yet willing to confront violent forces of counterrevolution by the Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in an apparent preference for preserving the political status quo in the Persian Gulf.                  
Similarly, countries in the GCC such as Qatar, who are silent about the events that is taking place in their neighboring country, Bahrain, have become active and vocal for democracy in other Arab countries like Libya and Syria. Of course their initiative enjoys wide and unequivocal support of some Western powers that prefer to hide behind Arab states for interfering in the affairs of other Arab regimes that they dislike.
 Viewed from this angle, the new confrontation with Iran takes a new meaning in which the nuclear issue would become a side show to distract the world attention from the precarious changes in the geopolitical scene. The stakes are high and complex for major powers. Russia who feels that has been out maneuvered in the episode of NATO intervention in Libya, is taking a hard stance against Western intervention in Syria. Russia apparently Angered by the U.S. arrogance to address its concerns about the European missile defense shield, but perhaps also regretful of its policy of ganging with the West against Iran, has declared it would not support additional sanctions against Iran at the UN.
With the United States reducing its military presence in the Persian Gulf region, Iran stands as the region’s pre-eminent conventional military power with large, ideologically committed and self-sufficient army. Despite many challenges imposed on Iran to abandon the idea of using nuclear energy, Iran was able to launch its first nuclear power plant in Bushehr.
Meanwhile, Iran has achieved advancement in all fields of nuclear technology. The country now masters the full cycle of nuclear energy production, from mining to manufacturing the nuclear fuel for the reactors. Thus, Iran has proven that its real intention as it has declared in every occasion is solely to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Some opponents of Iran's nuclear program say despite lack of evidence that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, but given its security environment and presence of nuclear weapons in its regional neighborhood that compels it to seek nuclear weapons for deterrence. Iran consistently has refuted those allegations stressing that nuclear weapons have no place in its military doctrines.
Iran has openly exhibited the origins of its might that is derived from its soft power, booming indigenous conventional military power, blue water navy for power projection and advanced missile systems for deterrence and to compensate for a powerful air force, and cyber capability. Those power projection platforms are enshrined in an asymmetric military doctrine. The manpower consists of thousands of young educated and most importantly dedicated Iranians.
The policy of increasing pressure on Iran through choking sanctions is considered by some as an act of war. There is no doubt that abusing the card of the NPT has its limits, and would cause an adverse effect on the credibility of this fragile international treaty. Thus, it is not inconceivable that at some point Iran as a fateful member of the NPT would chose to release itself from biased and unorthodox behavior by those holding the strings of the IAEA in Vienna. 
Huge changes have occurred and more are expected to happen in the future in the very volatile region of the Middle East and North Africa. That calls for regional cooperation especially between Iran and the U.S., both having vested interests in the stability of the region and in particular in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
The fact that seems necessary to be realized by the U.S. and its allies is that Iran is part of a solution, not part of a problem in this turbulent and the most strategic region of the world.   It seems that once the U.S. accepts to come to terms with new realities of the region and abandons its commitment to preserve the status quo, a dialogue aimed at a "grand bargain" with Iran becomes possible.