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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chairman of US Joint Chiefs in Israel: Attack on Iran coming?

In yet another sign that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities may be in the offing, Tuesday's Jerusalem Post reports that Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen will be visiting Israel briefly at the end of the week for talks with IDF Chief of General Command Gabi Ashkenazi. While the official reason for the visit is that Mullen was in Europe anyway and had a free day in his schedule, in light of the disclosure of Israel's 'dry run' on Friday and other signals that have been made in the past couple of weeks, the conclusion that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities is being prepared is almost unavoidable.
Mullen last visited Israel in December - the first visit from a US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in over a decade. A second visit in such a short time, defense officials said Monday, was a demonstration of the close relationship Mullen had forged with Ashkenazi and the gravity with which he viewed the threats Israel was currently facing.
The Post also reports that Ashkenazi will fly to Washington for a visit "in a few weeks."

As it happens, US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead is also currently in Israel, and the Post caught up with him too.
US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, who is currently in Israel on an official visit, told the Post Monday that the US military knew about the reported massive aerial exercise. "There are many ways that we receive information," he said, adding that questions about the reported exercise's intent should be directed to the Israeli air force.

Referring to an incident in January when Iranian Revolutionary Guard gunboats provocatively approached American ships in the Strait of Hormuz, Roughead said "In recent months we have had a couple of encounters with IRG naval units that were irresponsible, provocative and not helpful to the stability and security in the Gulf... I do believe that unless the IRG begins to behave in a more responsible manner that encounters like that will perhaps continue to occur."

During his visit, Roughead met with Ashkenazi, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Navy commander Admiral Eliezer Marom, with whom he discussed the need for continued cooperation between the US and Israeli navies. Roughead and his Israeli counterparts also discussed missile defense systems - particularly the US Navy's Aegis system, which was successfully tested earlier this month.

Defense officials have said that in the event of a conflict with Iran, it was possible the US would deploy an Aegis system off Israel's coast to provide another layer of defense against Iranian ballistic missiles.

"I believe that the proliferation of ballistic missiles is something that will continue to occur [and] I believe that ballistic missiles in the future will become weapons of intimidation and blackmail," Roughead said.
Ballistic missiles are just one possible response from Iran to an attack on its facilities. The New York Sun's Eli Lake runs through several possible responses in Tuesday's edition (Hat Tip: Hot Air).
Possible scenarios include:

* A terrorist attack on the Saudi oil port of Ras Tanura, an export point for oil bound for Asia. Saudi and American officials have in the past disrupted Al Qaeda plots on the facility, such as an attack on the Abqaiq oil processing plant near Dammam, Saudi Arabia, that killed two guards.
* A naval assault on the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Iran still has warships equipped with Russian-designed Shkval torpedoes that it could fire at American vessels. Another possible attack would be suicide boat sorties similar to the one that bombed the USS Cole.
* The commencement of a new round in the war between Hezbollah and Israel, with Hezbollah firing its Shihab missiles into Haifa and possibly the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv.
* Hezbollah or Iranian intelligence terrorist operations on soft targets, such as shopping malls and community centers, in third countries and possibly even America.
* A renewed effort to stir an uprising in Iraq through Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army or the special groups controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

While Europe, America, and other allies increase economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran, Israel is privately making it clear that it seeks to prevent Iran from even testing a nuclear device, as North Korea did in 2006. Most Western intelligence agencies agree that Iran's enrichment tests at Natanz have increased the odds of Iran mastering the technology necessary to create a test explosion.
There are more possible 'nightmare scenarios,' many of them far from the Middle East. Read the whole thing.

Bottom line: If the world will not put an end to Iran's nuclear aspirations, Israel is going to. Hopefully the conflagration won't be too bad. Let's all pray that the World learns its lesson (unlikely) and doesn't let something like this get out of hand the next time.

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