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Monday, December 05, 2011

Newspapers speculate on Iran, come up with different theories

The New York Times says:
It is still unclear what caused the explosion, with American officials saying they believe it was probably an accident, perhaps because of Iran’s inexperience with a volatile, dangerous technology. Iran declared it an accident, but subsequent discussions of the episode in the Iranian news media have referred to the chief of Iran’s missile program as one of the “martyrs” killed in the huge explosion. Some Iranian officials have talked of sabotage, but it is unclear whether that is based on evidence or surmise after several years in which Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated on Tehran’s streets, and a highly sophisticated computer worm has attacked its main uranium production facility.

Both American and Israeli officials, in discussing the explosion in recent days, showed little curiosity about its cause. “Anything that buys us time and delays the day when the Iranians might be able to mount a nuclear weapon on an accurate missile is a small victory,” one Western intelligence official who has been deeply involved in countering the Iranian nuclear program said this weekend. “At this point, we’ll take whatever we can get, however it happens.”

The Los Angeles Times says:
However, many former U.S. intelligence officials and Iran experts believe that the explosion — the most destructive of at least two dozen unexplained blasts in the last two years — was part of a covert effort by the U.S., Israel and others to disable Iran's nuclear and missile programs. The goal, the experts say, is to derail what those nations fear is Iran's quest for nuclear weapons capability and to stave off an Israeli or U.S. airstrike to eliminate or lessen the threat.

"It looks like the 21st century form of war," said Patrick Clawson, who directs the Iran Security Initiative at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington think tank. "It does appear that there is a campaign of assassinations and cyber war, as well as the semi-acknowledged campaign of sabotage."

Or perhaps not. Any such operation would be highly classified, and those who might know aren't talking. The result is Washington's latest national security parlor game — trying to figure out who, if anyone, is responsible for the unusual incidents.

The Daily Mirror is more dramatic:
Sleeper agents in Tehran received coded signals and moved on their targets.

Their weapons were bombs made from household substances.

The result was more than a dozen fire-bomb attacks on the homes and offices of some of Iran’s leading nuclear scientists.

The message was clear. Agents working for Israel’s Mossad were telling Tehran: “Stop the nuclear weapons programme. We know where your key people are.”

The attacks would have been carried out not by Israelis but Iranian ­dissidents, ­probably trained by Mossad. Today the Mirror ­spotlights the secret war against Iran that has been going on for months.

Last week’s bombings were in response to threats by Tehran against Israel and the state-sponsored storming of the British embassy by demonstrators in Tehran.
And it goes on from there:
Within a fortnight we may see an all-out American air strike on a dozen key targets in the Islamic republic.

According to our sources, if the strike on Iran does take place, it will be US-led. British signals operators are likely to help monitor Iranian communications from a listening station in the Mediterranean. An ­intelligence source revealed: “There are UK experts nearer the region in places such as Cyprus who may assist in ­intercepting communications.

“And British warships will, of course, be in the Indian ocean – ostensibly helping the anti-piracy mission – but they will be able to provide aid.”

Almost hourly briefings are taking place between America’s most senior war ­planners in a bomb-proof bunker at US Central Command, called CentCom, in Tampa, Florida.

CentCom also has an office at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, in the Gulf, where staff help with the ­planning of an attack.

A new generation of super accurate missiles could be used to destroy bunkers up to 200ft underground. The US’s Massive Ordnance Penetrator, dubbed the Big Blu, was designed for targets in Iran.

B-2 Spirit stealth bombers will deploy the six-metre GPS-guided rocket, fitted with 2.5 tons of explosives.

They will be used to smash open bunkers and tunnels suspected of containing weapons of mass ­destruction. The £700million bombers are the most costly warplanes the world has seen.

They would fly a 13,000-mile-plus round trip to Iran from Whiteman air force base in Missouri or 12,500 miles there and back from Andersen US Bomber Forward Operating Base on the Pacific Island of Guam. If President Obama gives the go-ahead for a strike, Tomahawk cruise missiles are likely to be fired by US submarines in the Indian Ocean. They would slam into more than a dozen key targets.

Hellfire missiles unleashed by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles flying 40,000ft above Iran would target its nuclear labs in precision attacks.

Israel is committed to stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons programme but only the US has the resources to wipe out the suspect sites.

Barack Obama knows the longer he waits to give the go-ahead the greater the chances that Israel would launch an attack – with the possibility that they might not complete the job.
In the end, very few people actually know anything, making it easy to find experts willing to say anything.

(h/t Yoel)