Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tensions With Iran Ratcheted Up In Persian Gulf

The polls indicate that, by and large, the American people are more concerned about the threat they perceive coming from Iran than they are about any threat from developments in Iraq, and may be in a more hawkish mood to do something about it.

Certainly tensions have risen in recent days with the seizure of 15 British sailors while on patrol duties near the Iraqi-Iranian boundary in the Shatt al-Arab, the northern extension from the Persian Gulf leading to the Iraqi city of Basra.

There have been broad indications from Iranian authorities that it may be their intent to hold the British sailors and hope to exchange them for several Iranian agents seized by U.S. troops in Iran months ago. In any case, we know from the dark history of relations with Iran that this fanatical Islamic regime loves kidnapping and often holds the kidnapped, such as the American hostages from the embassy seizure of 1979, for very long periods. Kidnapping is a regular tactic to these unsavory people.

It may not be in direct response, but the U.S. is increasing its military operations in the Persian Gulf. Two Navy aircraft carriers, the Eisenhower and Stennis, are now on maneuvers in the Gulf, along with ships forming parts of their task forces, and 100 U.S. planes are reported flying close to the Iranian coast.

Meanwhile, the U.N. by a unanimous vote in the Security Council has adopted new, slightly stiffer sanctions against Iran for not acceding to past demands that it cease nuclear enrichment toward the possible construction of atomic bombs. Joining in the vote were Russia and China. Russia recently withdrew personnel from a developing Iranian atomic power development and suspended the supply of nuclear materials.

The Jerusalem Post followed the lead of two British papers recently in speculating that an attack could be launched by either Israel or the United States against developing Iranian nuclear facilities by the end of the year. According to the scenario drawn by the papers, an attack might be decided in the time window between now and the accumulations of substantial deadly nuclear materials by the Iranians. Once such materials were obtained, it would be more deadly to attack Iran because of the prospect of the widespread dissemination of radioactivity.

The Jerusalem Post also reported that European embassies in Tehran are making plans for emergency evacuations.

The Russian foreign ministrry this morning issued a statement warning against any U.S. attack on Iran.

The Iranian authorities have never ceased to vow that in case of an attack against their country, they would spread terrorism all over the world, and U.S. authorities are not inclined to take the threats lightly. Recently, Ali Khamanei, a mullah who is the supreme figure in Iran much more than President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has adopted a more menacing tone, threatening to strike at the West if Iran is attacked.

At the same time, there are repeated accusations of Iranian weapons, such as IUVs, being used against American troops and Sunni terrorists in Iraq.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has repeatedly said the U.S. has no plan to attack Iran. Even if this is true, however, present tensions could result in a Persian Gulf incident that would lead to strife in that region. It is worth noting that Democrats in the U.S. Congress recently decided not to advance a motion restricting U.S. responses to Iranian militancy.

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The L.A. Times announced this morning that it would change the title of the ill-fated Current section back to Opinion and was scrapping plans to invite outsiders to edit the section four times a year. Jamie Gold, the Times' reader representative, was asked by publisher David Hiller to investigate whether there had been improper outside influence over the editorial pages during the tenure of Andres Martinez, who resigned last week as editorial pages editor. The Times also confirmed it would fold the Book Review into Opinion beginning next month, another move toward downsizing at the Times, as is the imminent termination of the weekly TV Guide. A plan to move the new combined section to Saturday instead of Sunday, however, was scrapped.

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