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Plans for Attack: US Plans for Striking Iran

The world of the terrifying hypothetical is programmatically standard in the Trump White House. Periods of tense calm are followed by careless flights of fury, digs and remonstrations. Mortal enemies become amenable comrades; reliable allies turn into irresponsible skinflints who ought to fork our more for their defence.

For all that swirling chaos, the one constant since the 2016 election campaign for President Donald Trump is the Iranian bogey, that defender of the Shiites, the theocratic Republic. The fear of Iran’s aspirations is an endless quarry for domestic consumption, tied, as it were with propitiating the ever-hungry Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On July 23, Trump gave a Twitter offering to Iranian President Rouhani, written in all-caps promising singular, untold of consequences of suffering should Iran ever threaten the United States again. “We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence and death. Be cautious!”

This shout of indignation was the less than measured response to remarks made by Rouhani to Iranian diplomats: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

After the outburst came the milder reflection. Before a convention in Kansas City, a cooling breeze was blowing. “I withdrew the United States from the horrible one-sided Iran nuclear deal, and Iran is not the same country anymore,” came Trump’s explanation. The United States was “ready to make a deal.”

This picture of dysfunctional play was further clouded by last week’s ominous revelations from Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC. The network had received some troubling titbits of information suggesting that the United States is intending to launch strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities next month. This has also prompted concerns about how broad the remit will be. Which allies will be called upon to be engaged in an endeavour that seems more than mildly suicidal?

One unnamed security source described in exasperating fashion by the ABC as “senior” suggests that Australia is supplying aspects of the skeletal outline for such a strike, specifically in the realm of identifying targets: “Providing intelligence and understanding as to what is happening on the ground so that the Government and allied governments are fully informed to make decisions is different to active targeting.”

This willing source within the Turnbull government was adamant to draw distinctions between the actual strike itself (described as the “kinetic” mission), and sketching the picture itself. “Developing a picture is very different to actually participating in a strike.”

But Australia would be implicated in such a mission, should it ever get off the ground, given the role played by the misnamed joint-defence facility at Pine Gap, located in central Australia. The virtually unknown Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation would also do its bit.

As with any such reports emerging either within the White House, or from its imperial periphery, signals vary. The US Defence Secretary John Mattis, just to make things a touch more interesting, described the reports as lacings of fantasy. “I have no idea where the Australian news people got that information. I’m confident it is not something that’s being considered right now and I think it’s a complete, frankly, it’s fiction.”

The subsequent response from the Australian Prime Minister was an unsurprising, vassal phrased echo. “President Trump has made his views very clear to the whole word, but this story,” noted Malcolm Turnbull, “has not benefited from any consultation with me, the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister or the Chief of the Defence force”. This, on paper, looks like a decidedly appropriate Trump formula: avoid consultation; it might just cloud your judgment.

The detail supplied to the ABC over the strike plans should not be sneezed at. Given Trump’s belligerent inner circle (Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton) steaming with the anticipation of a first strike against irreverent states, and the promptings of Israel, the issue retains an air of solemn seriousness. Even a more moderate Mattis is ever keen to run a grocer’s list of sins perpetrated by Teheran: bolstering Bashar al-Assad in Syria, “fomenting more violence” in Yemen, Iran as regional bully.

The prospect of strikes on Iranian facilities has been further complicated by public enunciations from Netanyahu reiterating the Begin Doctrine, stressing that, “Israel will not allow regimes that seek our annihilation to acquire nuclear weapons”. The danger here, as ever, is that Israel will go rogue and initiate such an attack, though the spread of Iran’s facilities complicates any such enterprise.

Clio is a cruelly dogged taskmaster and a refusal to listen to the echoes of warnings she inspires imperils states and their citizens. Invading, interfering and altering the trajectory of development in the Middle East tends to have global repercussions. Western states have shown a pigheadedly dangerous tendency to meddle and destroy. Death inevitably follows; vacuums are created. These latest slivers of information from Canberra on US intentions is a salutary reminder that much has not changed.

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  1. New England Cocky

    The only constant is that the USA (United States of Apartheid) policy makers cannot be trusted to use commonsense. Remember the Vietnam War was started for the benefit of US arms manufacturers, as was the Iran Iraq War where the US supplied both sides of the conflict for get profits.

  2. guest

    Iran is of course the bogey-man. It is common political practice to have at least one “enemy” to rouse up national feeling at home. How did it happen?

    “The discovery of oil made the piece of paper signed by the Shah in 1901 one of the most important documents of the twentieth century. For while it laid the basis for a multi-billion-dollar business to grow – the the Anglo-Persian Oil Company eventually became British Petroleum – it also paved the way for political turmoil. That the terms of the agreement handed control of Persia’s crown jewels to foreign investors led to a deep and festering hatred of the outside world, which in turn led to nationalism and, ultimately, to a more profound suspicion and rejection of the west best epitomised in modern Islam fundamentalism.” (Peter Francopan, ‘The Silk Roads’, p.331)

    When Iranian PM Mossadegh nationalised Anglo-Iranian in 1951, Britain put an embargo on Iranian oil, but in 1952 was not confident sanctions would work.

    “An approach was therefore made to the recently established Central Intelligence Agency to support a plan “of joint political action to remove [Iran’s] Prime Minister Mossadegh’ – in other words, to stage a coup. Not for the last time, regime change in this part of the world seemed to be the answer to the problem.’ (Frankopan, p414)

    Besides, Russia was threatening an invasion.

    Enter the Shah.

    “Keen to cement the relationship, the US began shipping weapons to Iran in contravention of its own embargo and despite pressuring foreign governments not to sell arms to Teheran.” (1985) (Frankopan, p482)

    Back in the 70s, the Shah had sought nuclear power because he realised oil would not last for ever.

    “The first port of call was the Americans. In 1974, an initial agreement was reached by which the US agreed to sell two rectors, as well as enriched uranium, to Iran…The following year, President Ford approved a deal that allowed Iran to buy and operate a US-built system that included a reprocessing facility that could extract plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel, and therefore enable Teheran to operate a “nuclear fuel cycle’. (Frankopan, p. 451-2)

    And so it goes on and on – this duplicitous involvement of the US and other partners such as the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ in the Middle East continues. Trump wants to continue this involvement, and will take no threats, or there will be consequences. Perhaps the consequences will be more than he envisages – and he could well be the victim. But even worse is the chance that the world will suffer for Trump’s erratic lunacy. What a bullying buffoon!

  3. Zathras


    A bit more historical perspective –

    It took only 3 weeks for the democratically elected Mossadegh government to be overthrown by the CIA.

    Their nominated replacement – the Shah – literally killed off all the moderate opposition during his reign, leaving Ayatollah Khomeini as the only viable authority to take control, thus paving the way for militant Islam to gain a foothold in the region, spreading to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    The adoption of nuclear power by the Iranians is a significant part of their economy, exporting electricity to 8 neighbouring countries.
    Once you have more than two nuclear reactors it becomes more economical to refine your own fuel, rather than remain captive to external sources and potential embargoes.

    The 2010 US/Israeli cyber-attack on their enrichment centrifuges released the Stuxnet worm onto the world, setting the stage for potential global cyber-warfare.

    Therefore, the rise of militant Islam, regional instability and the origins of cyber-attacks can be considered the legacy of US meddling in the region. Rather than being the victims, they have predominantly been the instigators and we have become complicit and also suffering the results, along with countless refugees flooding the world.

    Does Trump really believe he can solve anything by potentially making everything worse?

  4. guest

    Thank you, Zathras, for your information. I am not very familiar with the history of the Middle East over the past 50 years. It just happens I have been reading Frankopan’s book because I am interested in the Silk Route which he uses to explain Central Asian history.

    But the book made clear for me what I had suspected about events in the Middle East, and that is the self interest of all who have intervened in the Middle East.

    Your comments about the involvement of the USA – the kind of things it has been doing for a very long time – confirm that Trump just seems to make things worse.

    Lurking in the background is the US fear of the expansion of Russia.

  5. Phil

    I’d not be surprised if the information from the unnamed source reported by the ABC turns out to be a government false news plot to set up the ABC. I don’t see this federal government working to the betterment of Australia – what I do see is a rogue administration in Canberra operating like a CIA black ops to undermine and overthrow the Victorian Labor government, and to turn the ABC over to Murdoch.

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