Jewish World Review July 13, 2004 / 24 Tamuz, 5764

Jack Kelly

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Connecting the dots on an emerging Middle East menace — Iran?


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | On June 29th, the State Department announced it was expelling from the United States two Iranians who were working as security guards for the Iranian mission to the United Nations. They had been caught photographing various New York City landmarks, including bridges and tunnels.


Last November, a different pair of Iranians who worked at the UN mission were caught videotaping at a subway station in Queens.


"In the case of the Iranian mission to the United Nations, it represented a unique pattern that raised concerns of law enforcement," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told CNN.


On June 21st, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized eight British sailors and marines on the Shatt al Arab waterway. The Brits were delivering patrol boats to the Iraqi riverine police force. (Some say they were also dropping sensors which would warn of potential seaborne terror attacks on Iraqi oil ports.)


After three days, the British seamen were released, but not before having been paraded blindfolded before Iranian television. Upon their release, the Brits said they had been in Iraqi waters when they were captured.


On July 5th, a joint Iraqi-U.S. patrol in eastern Baghdad caught in the act two men who were building car bombs. During interrogation, the men identified themselves as Iranian intelligence officers.


"Senior officials said it was previously believed that Iran had officers inside Iraq stirring up violence, but this is the first time that self-proclaimed Iranian intelligence agents have been captured within the country," Fox News reported.


Col. Dhafir Sabah al Timeni, chief of the Iraqi border guard force in Basra, told an Iraqi newspaper the week before last that his men have captured 83 Iranians who were trying to sneak into Iraq (translation courtesy of the Iraqi web logger Omar). Col. Timeni said that Iranian forces on their side of the border have opened fire four times that week on the Iraqi border station at Shehan, near the city of Faw.


On June 15th, a leading Saudi newspaper reported that Iran was massing troops on the border with Iraq. The daily Al Sharq al Awsat said Iran is preparing to move into Iraq if U.S. troops pull out.

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Meeting in Vienna on June 18th, the International Atomic Energy Agency rebuked Iran for past cover-ups in its nuclear program. The resolution, proposed by Britain, France and Germany, did not impose sanctions on Iran, but warned that sanctions may be imposed in the future if Iran doesn't come clean.


Iran had promised in February that it would halt plans to enrich uranium. On June 25th, John Bolton, the under secretary of State for arms control, told the House International Security Committee that Iran had told Britain, France and Germany that it would resume production of centrifuges that can make uranium suitable for use in atomic bombs.


For more than a year, there have been reports Iran has provided shelter to Osama bin Laden and other al Qaida leaders, where they are treated as guests of the state.


"American intelligence officials said Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and the Qods division of the Revolutionary Guards, a unit of hard-line Islamist shock troops, are deeply involved in supporting terrorists," the Washington Times said in a story last July.


The Bush administration plainly wants no wider war in the Middle East, at least until after the elections in November. But Iran's increasing bellicosity means that decision isn't Bush's alone.


The key is how rapidly Iran may acquire nuclear weapons to mount on its already formidable force of medium range ballistic missiles.


Arnaud de Borchgrave, writing in the Washington Times July 5th, said Israel is dusting off contingency plans to bomb the three known Iranian nuclear sites before they become operational. The U.S. might participate in a preemptive strike, de Borchgrave said.


The potential for blowback in such an attack is high. But as Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first President Bush, said on June 24th, the key question is: "Are we serious in our efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, or will we watch the world descend into a maelstrom where weapons-grade nuclear material is plentiful, and unimaginable destructive capability is available to any country or group with a grudge against society?"

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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