Painting on the Wall of Former U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
U.S. Reportedly Planning 2006 Attack on Iran
Is the United States planning to launch a missile strike on targets in Iran? News agencies are reporting that Washington is holding talks with allies, preparing them for such an eventuality in 2006. According to this article from Germany's Der Spiegel, the speculation about an attack against Iranian nuclear sites is particularly rife in NATO-member Turkey.
By Jurgen Gottschlich
Translated By Carl Bergquist
December 23, 2005
Istanbul/Berlin: The news item put a major damper on the pre-holiday (Christmas) spirit: Washington is preparing its closest allies for the likelihood of an air assault on Iran. This was reported by DDP (Deutsche Depeschendienst, Germany's second leading news agency after DPA), which put out an article to this effect written by Udo Ulfkotte, a former editor for one of Germany's main dailies Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and an intelligence service expert. However, considerable doubt about this claim is warranted.
Ulfkotte's controversial sources are named as "Western security circles," and he never gets more specific. According to him, CIA Director Porter Goss, on a visit to Istanbul, asked Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to support the air strikes against Iranian nuclear and military installations by stepping up the exchange of intelligence. As it stands, the strikes are planned to occur in 2006.
Furthermore, DDP reports that during the past few weeks the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman and Pakistan have also been approached regarding the military plans. Air strikes were characterized as "an option" in these discussions, but a time frame was not mentioned.
CIA Director Porter Goss Meets Turkish Police Officials in Ankara, Dec. 13.
On his Istanbul visit, Goss is alleged to have given Turkish security services three dossiers that prove Iranian cooperation with al-Qaeda. In addition, there was a fourth dossier focusing on the current state of Iran's nuclear weapons program. According to information from German intelligence sources, the CIA director assured the Turkish government that it would be informed several hours ahead of any attack, and also green-lighted almost simultaneous Turkish attacks on camps in Iran run by the PKK, the Kurdish separatist organization. This go-ahead appears rather strange since the PKK runs its camps out of northern Iraq and has no such installations in Iran.
The apparent escalation, as DDP reports it, is above all the outcome of the latest anti-Semitic outbursts by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His verbal attacks on Israel have supposedly convinced the U.S. government that Teheran will not back down in the nuclear stand-off, and that Iran is simply dragging its feet.
A high-ranking German military officer, wishing to remain anonymous, is quoted as saying: "It would surprise me enormously if the Americans did not use this pretext supplied by Teheran. The Americans must attack Iran before it develops nuclear weapons. Afterwards, it would be too late."
It is indeed difficult to assess whether or not there are U.S. plans to attack Iranian nuclear facilities; and if there are, just how concrete these may be. In January 2005, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker reported that American commandos were on reconnaissance missions inside Iran, selecting military targets.
FBI Chief Robert Mueller Leaves Turkish Ploce Headquarters in Ankara on Dec. 9.
At the time, the Pentagon did not refute Hersh's story. Instead, it downplayed the allegations and stated that the article was riddled with "errors of fundamental fact." The thrust of Hersh's feature was not refuted, and President Bush himself added to the speculation when he refused to rule out the "war option."
AIR STRIKE IN THE NEW YEAR?
So is a military strike, or even a war, in the region now imminent? In Berlin, the notion is seemingly not part of the discourse. A German Defense Ministry spokesman told Spiegel Online that during new Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung's inaugural visit to Washington, the subject was 'not an issue' in his talks with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
However, the speculation surrounding an American strike against Iran centers more on developments in Turkey. There has been a definite surge in visits to Ankara by high-ranking National Security personnel from the U.S. and by NATO officials. Within the space of just a few days, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director Goss and then NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Turkey. Following her Berlin trip, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also dropped in on Turkey.
NATO's Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (R) and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Dec. 19.
In connection with all these visits, Turkish newspapers have been speculating about preparations for an attack on Iran. These speculations are, however, not based on any hard facts. After Director Goss' discussion with Prime Minister Erdogan, the leftist nationalist paper Cumhuriyet ran a front page story with this headline: "Now It's Iran's Turn." Their proof? There was none.
The newspaper did remark that the meeting was unusually long, especially considering the fact that Goss had already met with the head of the Turkish Intelligence Services (MIT). For the general public, this fueled the theory that the meeting must have been extremely important - proving a negative requires no specifics. Anyway, the media was actually more interested in speculation regarding a joint U.S.-Turkish initiative against the PKK in northern Iraq. In exchange, it is possible that Goss requested information on Iran from Turkish intelligence. While any air strike on Iran would definitely not originate from the Turkish air base at Incirlik, it is naturally conceivable that the U.S. informed Turkey simply to gauge its reaction.
ANKARA IS SKEPTICAL
To date, the government in Ankara has remained skeptical or even openly hostile concerning any American military activity in the region. An offensive by U.S. ground troops into Northern Iraq during the 2003 invasion was spurned by Turkey – and the absence of this second front has subsequently often been declared by Secretary Rumsfeld as the source of many military problems.
Turkish Army Chief, General Buyukanit.
Two weeks ago, the current head of the Turkish Army and likely future military Chief of Staff, Yasar Buyukanit, was himself in Washington. Afterwards, he declared that relations between the Turkish and U.S. Armies are once again excellent. This is noteworthy, since General Buyukanit is one of the hawks in the struggle against the PKK, and in the past he has often spoken on the record about the necessity of marching into northern Iraq. That is, unless the U.S. and the Iraqi Kurds prevent the Kurdish separatists from planning and carrying out attacks on Turkey.
Turkish-Iranian relations have been in a deep freeze for some time now. Teheran has long been critical of Turkey's close ties to Israel, which even entail cooperation with the Israeli military. President Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli rhetoric has not been reported as heavily in Turkey as in Germany - instead people have simply tended to shake their heads.
Prime Minister Erdogan did call his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon to congratulate him on his recovery from a minor stroke, and Erdogan's longtime aloof stance toward Sharon has recently been replaced with a more intimate one. The Israeli Prime Minister also just declared that if push comes to shove, Israel will act unilaterally against the nuclear- obsessed Mullahs.
Regardless, the Turkish government has consistently spoken out against any military action versus Iran as well as against Syria. For on the Kurdish question these three governments form a united front, and refuse to countenance the idea of an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Thus, here there appears to be no convergence of interests between Washington and Ankara. However, if the U.S. is planning a missile attack on Iran, then Turkey needs to be either actively or tacitly on board.
Erdogan and the Turkish military are, however, extremely apprehensive about the consequences for the entire region should the U.S. actually act against Iran. Western experts are also loath to guarantee that any strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would be successful. On the contrary, an attack would likely not achieve its goal of stopping the nuclear program, and also wind up strengthening support for President Ahmadinejad.
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