Could Iran be bracing for war?
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday that as of March 2012, Tehran will increase its military spending more than two-fold. Meanwhile, US strategic bombers have already been deployed in Qatar in a sign that a military operation of Western countries and Israel against Iran may be on cards. Its regional and global repercussions will be unpredictable, experts warn.
The United States and its allies continue to dispatch troops and military hardware to the Gulf region. More servicemen have been deployed to the Omani island of Masirah where a US military base is operating. Additionally, more than 10,000 US soldiers have been stationed in Israel to test this Middle Eastern country’s missile defense system. Another 15,000 US servicemen have been stationed in Kuwait.
Hundreds of concrete-piercing bombs have been delivered to a US military base on the Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and two US aircraft carrier battle groups are currently on a mission in the Gulf. They are expected to be strengthened by one more aircraft carrier, the Annapolis nuclear-powered submarine and a Momsen destroyer. A US military base in Qatar already sees the stationing of several bombers, cargo planes and long-range drones. In the meantime, France and Britain have also dispatched their troops to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
All this indicates the US’ and Israel’s readiness to use force against Iran, believes Professor Sergei Druzhilovsky of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
"A military conflict [in Iran] may well be on cards, Druzhilovsky says, referring to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya where the US military practiced military aspects of blitzkrieg and pinpoint attacks. The problem, however, is that unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has no fifth column, a group of people who are, along with America, ready to topple the regime. In this regard, pinpoint air strikes on Iran are irrelevant because there is nothing to bomb in the Islamic Republic, and because the main goal is to depose the regime which remains a major irritant both for America and the West. And the question is whether Iranian people are ready to fend off an aggression or not," Druzhilovsky concludes.
Meanwhile, Israeli intelligence agency has alleged that Iran has enough enriched uranium to make at least 4 atom bombs, and that Tehran’s statements on a peaceful nature of its nuclear program are little more than a bluff. Such misinformation is needed to tarnish Iran’s political image and justify a military operation against the Islamic Republic, believes Vladimir Sotnikov from the Moscow-based Institute for Oriental Studies. In an interview with the Voice of Russia aired on Friday, he also said that the military operation against Iran is likely.
"The situation is tense, and the beginning of a military operation of Israel or the United States against Iran may be in the offing, Sotnikov says. On the other hand, the start of an active phase of the pre-election campaign in the US may prompt President Obama to decide against getting involved in another military conflict now that such conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are yet to be resolved. As for Israel, it may well refer to the use of force against Iran which is believed to be Israel’s arch-foe. Meanwhile, harsh sanctions, which were earlier slapped on the Islamic Republic, have already damaged the Iranian economy. If these hotheads ignore warnings by Russia, China and other responsible members of the international community and decide on a military interference against Iran, the consequences will be serious. This is fraught with not only a regional conflict but a humanitarian catastrophe in the entire Middle East as well. This is a threat to international stability," Sotnikov warns.
Economic implications will also be unpredictable because global oil prices are all but sure to skyrocket, analysts say, adding that the EU embargo on Iranian oil will ride roughshod over the interests of both Iran and EU countries.
Although avoiding a new military conflict is still possible, hopes are fading with every passing day. On February 21, a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts is due to arrive in Tehran to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. Herman Nackaerts, head of the IAEA delegation, said that the IAEA wants Tehran to elaborate on all the contentious issues pertaining to its atomic program. Many remain downbeat about the possible outcome of the discussion given the recent report by the IAEA in which the UN nuclear watchdog alleged that Iran’s nuclear program aimed to develop nuclear weapons.