|Behind the hoopla on Iraq lies the US's REAL target: Iran. (after all, these two have an old score to settle, eh?)|
Iran: threat or victim?
A US strike against Iraq seems imminent, but who's next? Galal Nassar argues it will be Iran
Indeed, confidential reports reveal that Israeli pilots are currently in central Anatolia training in case plans to bombard Iranian nuclear reactors and missiles bases are implemented. Increased flights over the Turkish-Iranian border have also been reported. The reports suggest that one of Israel's objectives in its military cooperation with Turkey is to obtain permission to use Turkish air bases for assaults against Iranian targets. Already the Israeli-Turkish agreement allows for eight Israeli war planes to be stationed permanently on Turkish territory.
Operation Babel-2, the code name for the Israeli offensive to destroy Iranian missile plants and storehouses, will go into effect if the US 'diplomatic deterrent' fails, according to the report. Iranian military authorities are currently studying two scenarios, the first is a possible Israeli bombardment of missile plants in Shiraz, Khorramabad, Farahin and Shahman, the second involves targeting foreign experts working on the missile and nuclear development programmes.
The authorities believe that Israel procured 45 F-15s, capable of flying distances of over 1,500 kilometres and returning to base without refueling, expressly to carry out raids against Iran. Consequently, Iranian authorities have been taking precautions to ensure that their facilities are protected. Measures include, dispersing laboratories and facilities to diverse parts of the country. Iranian officials also fear that a traditional war in the region could easily escalate into a nuclear war in which the US and Israel would seek to use small tactical atomic bombs.
Tehran is contemplating a possible counter strike. Iran has obtained highly detailed Russian satellite pictures pinpointing the locations of Israeli missile silos. Apparently, Israel's main silo is located 20 km west of Jerusalem near the Tel Nouf air base. The silo, which is surrounded by caves and fortified bunkers, is located to the south of missile manufacturing plants at Bir Ya'qub. Tehran has also deployed Shahab missiles to target other Israeli installations, such as the Zakheriya base southeast of Tel Aviv, which houses long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The satellite photographs indicate that the missiles are not stored in fortified shelters that could withstand a nuclear attack. Unlike their Israeli counterparts the Iranian missile shelters are fortified against attacks.
Tehran has further warned Israel and the US that, in the event of an attack, it would counter, using suicide bombers in speed-boats, to attack US ships stationed in the Gulf. It also threatened to mine the Hormuz Straits, halting international shipping in the Persian Gulf, and to mount terrorist strikes against US interests in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The common feeling among Iranians is that they are surrounded on all sides, with NATO-allied Turkey to the northwest, US bases in Uzbekistan to the northeast, US forces in Afghanistan, US bases in Pakistan, and the US navy in the Gulf and Indian Ocean. All that remains is for Washington to succeed in toppling Saddam Hussein, install a pro-US regime in Iraq, and the encirclement will be complete.
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