30 October 2007

Why shouldn't Iran have nuclear weapons?

Israel has American warheads ready to fire
Iranians see only hypocrisy from the world's nuclear powers

By James C Moore

05/01/06 "The Independent" -- -- As international political powers seek Iran's capitulation on nuclear weapons development, little notice is given to what the Americans and the British have done to create this crisis nor what steps the Israelis might eventually take to make it profoundly more complicated.

Iran's antipathy toward the West did not spontaneously generate out of the crazed rhetoric of radical mullahs. It has been spurred by what Iranians see as hypocrisy on the part of members of the world's nuclear community, and the bumbled meddling of the US and UK in Iranian affairs for more than a half century.

Iran is dangerous, but the British and the Americans have helped to make it that way. And the situation is even more precarious than it appears.

Shortly after the Gulf War in 1991, Germany gave Israel two of its diesel-powered Dolphin-class submarines. The Israelis agreed to purchase a third at a greatly reduced price. In November 2005, Germany announced that it was selling two more subs to Israel for $1.2bn (£660m).

Defence analysts have suggested the Dolphin-class boats are a means for Israel to have a second-strike capability from the sea if any of its land-based defence systems are hit by enemy nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war is geopolitically afoot: Israel and the American president might not be willing to wait until after the first shot is fired.

Initially, Israel was expected to arm its submarine fleet with its own short-range Popeye missiles carrying conventional warheads. At least three mainstream publications in the US and Germany, however, have confirmed the vessels have been fitted with US-made Harpoon missiles with nuclear tips. Each Dolphin-class boat can carry 24 missiles.

Although Israel has not yet taken delivery of the two new submarines, the three presently in its fleet have the potential to launch 72 Harpoons. Stratfor, a Texas intelligence business, claims the Harpoons are designed to seek out ship-sized targets on the sea but could be retrofitted with a different guidance system.

According to independent military journalist Gordon Thomas, that has already happened. He has reported the Harpoons were equipped with "over the horizon" software from a US manufacturer to make them suitable for attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. Because the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf make the Israeli subs easily detectable, two of them are reported to be patrolling the deeper reaches of the Gulf of Oman, well within range of Iranian targets.

If Israel has US nuclear weaponry pointed at Iran, the position of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, becomes more politically supportable by his people. Despite the fact that Israel has been developing nuclear material since 1958, the country has never formally acknowledged it has a nuclear arsenal. Analysts have estimated, however, that Israel is the fifth-largest nuclear power on the planet with much of its delivery systems technology funded by US taxpayers. To complicate current diplomatic efforts, Israel, like Pakistan and India, has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty even as it insists in the international discourse that Iran be stopped from acquiring what Israel already has.

Before Ariel Sharon's health failed, Der Speigel reported that the then Israeli prime minister had ordered his country's Mossad intelligence service to go into Iran and identify nuclear facilities to be destroyed. Journalist Seymour Hersh has also written that the US military already has teams inside Iran picking targets and working to facilitate political unrest. It is precisely this same type of tactic by the US and the UK, used more than a half century ago, which has led us to the contemporary nuclear precipice.

In 1953, Kermit Roosevelt led the CIA overthrow of Mohamed Mossadeq, Iran's democratic- ally elected prime minister. Responding to a populace that had grown restive under imperialist British influence, Mossadeq had plans to nationalise the vast oil fields of his country.

At the prompting of British intelligence, the CIA executed strategic bombings and political harassments of religious leaders, which became the foundation of Mossadeq's overthrow. Shah Reza Pahlevi, whose strings were pulled from Downing Street and Washington, became a brutal dictator who gave the multinational oil companies access to Iranian reserves. Over a quarter of a century later, the Iranian masses revolted, tossed out the Shah, and empowered the radical Ayatollah Khomeini.

Iran has the strength needed to create its current stalemate with the West. Including reserves, the Iranian army has 850,000 troops - enough to deal with strained American forces in Iraq, even if US reserves were to be deployed. The Iranians also have North Korean surface-to-air missiles with a 1,550-mile range and able to carry a nuclear warhead.

America cannot invade and occupy. Iran's response would likely be an invasion of southern Iraq, populated, as is Iran, with Shias who could be enlisted to further destabilise Iraq. There are also reported to be thousands of underground nuclear facilities and uranium gas centrifuges in Iran, and it is impossible for all of them to be eliminated. But the Israelis might be willing to try. An Israeli attack on Iran would give Bush some political cover at home. The president could continue to argue that Israel has a right to protect itself.

But what if Israeli actions endanger America? Israel cannot attack without the US being complicit. Israeli jets would have to fly through Iraqi air space, which would require US permission. And America's Harpoon missiles would be delivering the warheads. These would blow up Iranian nuclear facilities and also launch an army of Iranian terrorists into the Western world.

But George Bush is still without a respectable presidential legacy. He might be willing to risk everything to mark his place in history as the man who stopped Iran from getting nukes. The greater fear, though, is that he becomes the first person to pull the nuclear trigger since Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and then his place in the history books will be assured.-(informationclearinghouse)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.