Thursday, August 10, 2006


There are a number of dates coming up for you all to put in your diaries that are of cardinal importance in the way that things go in the Middle East. Needless to say, if we make it to Christmas then we should probably make it to Summer 2007, although strikes on Iran in the Autumn of that year are not out of the question.

Nevertheless, I still think that we are rapidly approaching the most dangerous period right now. Dates to remember, therefore: August 22nd (see below). Labour Party Conference 24-28 September. It is highly unlikely that Blair will want Israeli/US strikes on Iran going on while his conference goes down the toilet around him. Therefore, either he will want the strikes before this (unlikely, given the risk of escalation) or afterwards. Which brings us to October. And then November when there are the 7th November elections: Senate and Representatives. Bush is unlikely to do well in these elections (unless something happens.....) and this might leave him as a 'lame duck' president, his ability to act severely curtailed. Therefore he will either want to get what he wants done, done by then, or he will try and ensure that he does well in these elctions.

So October is the month (especially the last two weeks). This will also give him all of September to try and get a Security Council resolution against Iran, and Lebanon might well be spinning completely out of control by that time.


(since) 'the Bush administration retains the fundamental belief that Iran simply cannot be allowed to have even the technical capability of diverting resources from civil to military nuclear programmes. That remains the bottom line and should never be underestimated.
Second, it is probable that by the end of 2006 the Iranians will have moved towards a fully-fledged pilot-scale uranium enrichment capability at Natanz, while the Bushehr nuclear reactor may be ready for fuelling. These developments may still be within the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and under the eyes of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors; they may not involve any moves towards producing nuclear weapons; but they will almost certainly take Iran further than the Bush administration is prepared to allow.
Third, the US political leadership, especially in the form of the office of the vice-president, may consider that a concerted US military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is likely to be highly effective in the short term (in a similar way to the termination of the Saddam Hussein regime, with George W Bush's "mission accomplished" speech following three weeks later).
Iran certainly does have a wide variety of opportunities to retaliate - in Iraq, the Gulf and Afghanistan for a start - but these would take weeks and months, rather than days, to develop. It follows that the most likely period for US military action would be in late October, just before the mid-term elections. The scenario would be of US attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, declarations of success, plenty of TV footage of destroyed nuclear plant, and a "mission accomplished" speech -all in the space of a week or so, culminating in the elections. It is, in (Republican) political terms, a seductive prospect.'


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