India Intelligence Report

   US Pledge to Israel over Iran


The US pledged protecting Israel from Iran should diplomatic efforts to negotiate an acceptable end to that country’s controversial nuclear program fail and the situation escalated to a full fledged conflict. Israel needed that assurance because it was planning to repeat its 1981 operations that destroyed Iran’s nuclear power plant in Osiraq. However, things are very different from 1981.

For one, analysts say that Iran has a much more advanced missile arsenal armed with conventional, biological, chemical, and perhaps even nuclear weapons. Second, its long war with Iraq has hardened its armed forces and is expected to fight better. Third, the poor in the Islamic world sees Western pressure on Iran more of a Judaic-Christian vs. Islam thrust. Fourth, as demonstrated by the Dutch cartoons, Muslims are becoming increasingly suspicious of Western intentions and are looking for ways to band together although this unity has not come together to help Palestine.

Therefore, an Israeli action at this point in time is likely to trigger off a pan-Islamic call to arms although most countries would like to stay off such a conflict except through diplomatic channels. This may strengthen al Qaeda’s hand even more and bring more recruits to target Western, Israeli, and Indian targets. The ongoing war in Afghanistan and Iraq will be the primary casualties and if American forces are not augmented by other nations, increased body bags may trigger support in the US for the use of tactical or even full-fledged nuclear weapons on Iran. After all, the US does not want another Vietnam in its history.

Alternatively, if the US were to lead the attack against Iran, then the unifying factor—anti-Jewish sentiment will not come in to play. However, it is not clear if the US has the capacity to open another front in Iran which has to be large scale aerial and missile based bombing on nuclear installations, missile batteries, and Army targets. It is also not clear whether the European allies will back the US on Iran even though they are opposed to the unilateral war in Iraq. The major EU countries have been the most vocal against Iran’s nuclear program but it is anybody’s guess whether that will translate to call to arms. Although, there is at least one joint exercise between US and UK forces on invasion of Iran. More importantly, the effects of a new war on the US economy, which is already stuttering and only now beginning to recover, and the consequent collateral damage to world economy has to be colossal.

Although the impact on the rest of the world will be huge, there are strong indications that Iran is desperately looking for direct conversation with the US. The Washington Post quoted unnamed US Government sources that Iran has sent strong messages for dialogue through several prominent intermediaries. These include UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Direct El Baradei, and diplomatic channels of Indonesia and Kuwait. Tehran-based analysts conclude that the Iranians realize that the impact on Iran will be so immense that its whole civilization and populations may be decimated beyond recognition.

Prominent American leaders such as influential Senator John McCain have been urging the US to talk to Iran directly. Many analysts and policy makers are also talking about involving Iran to bring a reasonable conclusion to Iraq. It is important that the US actively engage Iran in conversation over its nuclear program and Iraq to reduce possibilities of war and global instability. It is also essential that Russia and China counsel Iran to exercise more restraint and engage the US in meaningful discussions.