Saturday, March 31, 2007
Reports from the Israeli website Debka.com, which reports on intelligence matters, say that the United States is planning to launch air strikes on Iran targets on Good Friday, April 6 at 4:00 a.m. local time (UTC+3:30), citing unnamed Russian intelligence officials.
The Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the United States State Department, Nicholas Burns, however, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that diplomacy was the "best and preferred" course of action in dealing with Iran, adding "I do not believe a military confrontation with Iran is either desirable or inevitable."
Another newspaper, the Russian weekly "Argoumenty Nedeli" (Week Arguments) is quoted by the Russian Information Agency (RIA) Novosti as saying that the attack is planned for a single continuous attack of 12 hours from 4am to 4pm, with the choice of the Easter holidays in many Western countries likely since "Western opinion" will be "on holidays". Friday 6 April is cited by Novosti as a likely, though not definite, date. Another RIA Novosti report written in French and dated March 30 states that the US military command is ready to make an attack during the first fortnight of April, but that any final decision will be made by US political leaders.
The targets will be "Iranian nuclear installations" that will be "designed to be devastating enough to set Tehran’s nuclear program several years back," said the website quoting unnamed Russian intelligence officials.
United States forces completed a large-scale series of military exercises in the Persian gulf off the Iranian coastline this week, involving 15 ships, 125 aircraft and 13,000 sailors. Naval commanders said the exercises were meant to demonstrate United States' commitment to security in the region, including keeping sea-lanes open for oil shipment and were defensive in nature.
Despite the claims by the Russian official, Iran does not think that the U.S. can "pressure" the U.S. tax payers into another war.
"U.S. officials are under pressure from Americans. I don't think the U.S. is in a position to mount its pressure on the U.S. taxpayers," said Manuchehr Mottaki, Iran's Foreign Minister.
The Gulf Cooperation Council has called on its member nations - Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, all home to U.S. forces in the region, to not take part in an attack on Iran. Qatar and the Emirates have already said that they would not.
"Russian intelligence has information that the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in the Persian Gulf have nearly completed preparations for a missile strike against Iranian territory. The Pentagon has drafted a highly effective plan that will allow the Americans to bring Iran to its knees at minimal cost," said the unnamed Russian intelligence official as reported by RIA Novosti a Russian based news agency.
The strike force is allegedly going to be composed of the "USS Nimitz and its support ships" which will join forces with the John C. Stennis strike group when it leaves the U.S. on April 2.
Although the Nimitz is scheduled to relieve the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, all three ships will remain in the Persian Gulf if the 15 British sailors and marines being detained by Iran are not released and will also remain if any armed conflict begins between the two nations.
The USS Bataan and USS Boxer will also be part of the strike force.
The Nimitz strike force will be "composed of the USS Princeton guided-missile cruiser, four guided missile destroyers – the USS Higgins, USS Chafee, USS John Paul Jones and the USS Pinckney. The strike force is armed with two helicopter squadrons and a special unit for dismantling sea mines and other explosive devices," said Debka according to Russian intelligence officials.
Despite the claim, Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov says that the situation will be resolved "peacefully."
"We are constantly working on how to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program and other conflicts peacefully. This policy is unchanged and we will pursue it in the future," said Lavrov.
Russian intelligence officials also say that the recent U.S. military exercise in the Gulf on March 27 was "practice" for the strike in April and that it will be up the U.S. "leadership" to give the go ahead as by April, the military is expected to be ready for the strike.
Different sources agree that the attack is allegedly only going to take place by air and will last 12 hours. No attack by land is expected. The attack is allegedly going to be called "Operation Bite."
Russia's Defense Ministry refuses to comment on the reports.
== Sources ==
"Mottaki: U.S. attack, improbable" — PRESS TV, March 30, 2007
"Defense Ministry refuses to comment on alleged U.S. plans to strike Iran" — Interfax-Religion, March 30, 2007
"U.S. ready to strike Iran in early April - intelligence source" — RIA Novosti, March 30, 2007
"US possibly to attack Iran on April 6" — Azeri Press Agency, March 30, 2007
Julie Stahl. "Middle East Pondering Possible US Attack on Iran" — CNSNews.com, March 30, 2007
Sakthy Edamaruku. "US may attack Iran on Good Friday" — CNN-IBN, March 30, 2007
"US financial sources in Bahrain report American investors in Bahrain advised to pack up business operations and leave" — Debka.com, March 30, 2007
Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs,. "United States Policy Toward Iran" — US State Department, March 29, 2007
James Calderwood, ASSOCIATED PRESS. "Gulf allies say they won't allow U.S. attack on Iran from their territories" — San Diego Union-Tribune, March 28, 2007
"L'Iran serait attaqué début avril (experts militaires russes)" — Novosti, March 19, 2007
"Les États-Unis ont presque achevé la préparation d'une frappe contre l'Iran (services secrets russes)" — Novosti, March 30, 2007