From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]



“If you want to understand the policy of a country, look at the map.”

–   Napoleon Bonaparte










By ANDY SOLTIS  /  May 24, 2007

In a massive broad-daylight show of strength off Iran’s coast, nine
U.S. warships packed with 17,000 sailors and Marines sailed through
the narrowest point in the Persian Gulf – just days before crucial
U.S.-Iran talks.

U.S. officials said Iran was not notified of plans to sail the
flotilla, led by two aircraft carriers, through the Straits of Hormuz,
the narrow channel through which 40 percent of the world’s oil exports
are shipped.

The Navy said the purpose of yesterday’s mission – the largest ever in
the region – was to allow the USS John C. Stennis and USS Nimitz and
the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard to take part in war

The big ships’ strike groups will take part in submarine, mine-warfare
and other exercises, while their 140 aircraft conduct training runs.

The war games will end in a practice amphibious landing in Kuwait,
just miles from Iran.

Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, who is leading the group, said the exercises
are part of a long-planned effort to reassure America’s Gulf allies to
keep the shipping lanes open.

“There’s always the threat of any state or nonstate actor that might
decide to close one of the international straits, and the biggest one
is the Straits of Hormuz,” he told reporters aboard the Stennis.

He didn’t name Iran as the likely suspect, but the unusual nature of
the mission appeared to be a clear warning to the anti-American regime
of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It comes on the eve of Iran-U.S.
talks in Baghdad amid deteriorating relations with the West over
Iran’s nuclear program.

The conflict over the atomic issue worsened yesterday when the United
Nations’ nuclear watchdog reported that Iran had expanded its uranium
enrichment despite a Security Council deadline to freeze the program.

The report, by the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran had
installed 1,640 centrifuges to enrich uranium and was injecting
uranium “UF6” gas into some 1,300 of them running simultaneously.

“Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities,” the IAEA
report said.

The IAEA also warned for the first time that its knowledge of Iran’s
nuclear activities was “deteriorating.”

The White House called the IAEA report “a laundry list of Iran’s
continued defiance of the international community,” and said it “shows
that Iran’s leaders are only furthering the isolation of the Iranian

The latest findings set the stage for the United Nations to impose new
sanctions, the third set since December.

Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran’s chief IAEA representative, said, “The
best advice to the few Western countries that have already
deteriorated the situation is to stop their actions at the Security

The U.S. naval buildup in the Gulf comes on the eve of a meeting in
Baghdad Monday between U.S. and Iranian ambassadors to discuss Iraq’s
security woes.

The United States has aired evidence that Iran is supplying Iraqi
Shiite militias with roadside bombs that kill GIs.

The Navy had maintained its two-carrier presence since February, when
the Stennis arrived in the Mideast waters. But this is the first time
the three strike groups have operated together in a training mission.

Also, the massive daylight sail through the straits was a marked
change from the usual policy of sending only a few U.S. ships through
the waterway at a time, and usually at night so as not to attract

“The Americans are sending a message to Iran that they are not coming
to the negotiating table weak, but with their military at Tehran’s
doorstep,” said Mustafa Alani, of the United Arab Emirates-based Gulf
Research Center.

If there is a serious showdown with Iran, one of Tehran’s options
would be to try to close the straits and starve the world of oil.
Yesterday’s show of force appeared designed to allay fears of such a
cutoff. With Post Wire Services

andy [dot] soltis [at] nypost [dot] com

Iran Might Try to Disrupt Hormuz Oil Flow If Attacked by U.S.
By Tony Capaccio  /  May 5, 2007

Iran may be planning to share the pain of any U.S. attack with the
world’s oil markets.

A strike against Iran’s nuclear program would probably be met with an
effort to choke off oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz,
military planners and Middle East analysts say. The goal would be to
trigger a market disruption that would force President George W. Bush
to back off.

The Iranians hope the mere threat of such action may lead oil-
consuming nations to pressure the U.S. to resolve the dispute short of
a military confrontation. About 17 million barrels of oil,
representing one-fifth of the world’s consumption, is shipped through
the strait every day.

Roiling the markets would be part of a broader retaliation that would
include terrorist attacks against U.S. forces or other interests in
Iraq and worldwide, said Michael Eisenstadt, an Iran expert at the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former Central Command

“They will not allow us to limit the conflict to `tit for tat’ — us
hitting their nuclear facilities, and they restricted to hitting
deployed American military,” Eisenstadt said in an interview.

General John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said
in a written statement to the House Armed Services Committee on March
15 that Iran is expanding naval bases along its shoreline and now has
“large quantities” of small, fast- attack ships, many armed with
torpedoes and Chinese-made high- speed missiles capable of firing from
10,000 yards.

“Iran’s capabilities are focusing on disrupting oil traffic through
the straits,” Army Colonel Mark Tillman, a professor at the National
Defense University in Washington and former Central Command planner,
said in an interview. “Why else would they have these things?”

Relying on Diplomacy

The Bush administration has said it will rely on diplomacy to persuade
Iran to halt its nuclear program, which Iran says is designed to
produce electricity but the U.S. suspects is aimed at producing a

John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Congress on
May 2 that those diplomatic efforts so far have been frustrated by
Iran’s clout as the world’s fourth-largest oil supplier.

“The Iranians have been very effective at deploying their oil and
natural-gas resources to apply leverage against countries to protect
themselves from precisely this kind of pressure, in the case of
countries with large and growing energy demands like India, China and
Japan,” Bolton said.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, has said his nation won’t
rule out cutting oil exports in response to pressure over the nuclear

Rising Prices

Escalation of the dispute has helped to boost oil prices by 17 percent
over the past two months. The current price of about $70 reflects
potential disruptions over the next six to 18 months, said Jamal
Qureshi, lead oil industry analyst for PFC Energy, a risk-analysis
firm in Washington.

Even with that, a military conflict would shock the system so “you’d
very likely get a quick spike that could very easily go to $100 a
barrel,” until the U.S. releases oil from its strategic reserve,
Qureshi said in an interview. “It could get messy real quick.”

While Iran probably couldn’t close the Strait of Hormuz — which lies
between Iran and Oman and is 34 miles at its narrowest point — it
could cause havoc by threatening or attacking individual oil tankers
or terminals, analysts said. Oil from Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, the
United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia is shipped through the

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard-controlled navy “has been developed
primarily to `internationalize’ a conflict by choking off oil exports
through the Strait,” Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, told

`Pressure the U.S.’

Kenneth Katzman, a terrorism and Middle East analyst for the
nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, said that even if Iran
can’t block the strait, it “can create a sense of crisis to drive up
the price of oil, and presumably” the nations that consume all that
oil “would pressure the U.S. to stand down or shrink from
confrontation or end it quickly,”

Iran supplies China with 4 percent of its oil; France, 7 percent;
Korea, 9 percent; Japan, 10 percent; Italy, 11 percent; Belgium, 14
percent; Turkey, 22 percent; and Greece, 24 percent, according to
Clifford Kupchan, a director of the Eurasia Group in Washington, a
global risk-consulting group.

These figures “tell me that Iran for the foreseeable future will have
considerable `petro-influence’ over prospective U.S. allies,” Kupchan
said in an interview.

Terrorist Attacks

Eisenstadt said disrupting world oil markets might not be Iran’s
“preferred avenue of response” if attacked. “I think they are more
likely to respond in Iraq by launching terrorist attacks,” he said.
“Disrupting oil shipments is a far second or third, but this is
something we have to prepare for.”

W. Patrick Lang, formerly the chief Middle East analyst at the Defense
Intelligence Agency, said Iran “could unleash the Shiites en masse in
Iraq, and kicking that up would place us in a very different position
there. You would have a lot of people out there in the streets with
rifles.” Shiite Muslims make up 89 percent of Iran’s population, and
are a majority in Iraq.

Rear Admiral Jeffrey Miller, deputy commander of U.S. naval forces in
the Gulf, said, the U.S. has “the capability to keep the straits open
and clean them up if that should be required.”

“We understand the importance of keeping all the choke points” open
“and commerce moving,” Miller said in a telephone interview May 3
from Manama, Bahrain.

Missiles and Seals

The U.S. has about 45 vessels in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea region,
including the USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier,
and five escorts, including the USS Tucson, an attack submarine that
can fire new tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles and launch Navy Seal

Lang said the U.S. military, in a conflict, “would be all air and
naval, with no ground operation.”

“Iran might surprise the U.S. by sinking a tanker in the gulf or
something and then the U.S. Navy would beat the bejesus out of them,
but they could cause a spike in oil prices for a month or two,” Lang
said in an interview.

acapaccio [at] bloomberg [dot] net


Iran, U.S. prepare for wary dialogue
By our staff writer

Iran and the United States are scheduled to discuss the situation in
Iraq during talks at the ambassadorial level in Baghdad on May 28,
although the wall of distrust between the two countries is so high
that anything might happen before Monday.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman announced on Friday that the Iranian
ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, has been named the head of the
Iranian delegation to the negotiations.

An examination of the professional record of Kazemi Qomi reveals that
he is quite familiar with U.S. policy.

Immediately after the fall of the Taleban in Afghanistan, he was
appointed to serve as Iran’s charge d’affaires in Kabul. After the
U.S.-Iraq war and the fall of Saddam Hussein, he was sent to Iraq
where he served as Iran’s charge d’affaires from 2002 to 2006, when
the Nuri al-Maliki government was officially established.

In 2006, he was promoted to the post of Iranian ambassador to Iraq.
Kazemi Qomi’s knowledge of both the situation in Iraq and U.S. policy
on Iraq is his strong point.

However, U.S. chief negotiator Ryan Crocker speaks Persian almost as
well as Kazemi Qomi and is also fluent in Arabic. In 1972, Crocker was
the U.S. charge d’affaires and head of the U.S. consulate in
Khorramshahr. After the Islamic Revolution, when Iran and the U.S.
suspended their diplomatic relations, Crocker was assigned to U.S.
embassies in Arab countries. He was appointed U.S. ambassador to
Lebanon in 1990, U.S. official representative in Kuwait in 1994, and
U.S. ambassador to Syria in 1998.

Crocker is currently the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and served as the
U.S. ambassador to Pakistan before being sent to Baghdad. He has also
served as a diplomat in Qatar and Egypt.

The Iran-U.S. talks are going to take place under unusual
circumstances. The deadline of UN Resolution 1747 has expired, and the
U.S. has taken some measures to destabilize Lebanon. Nine U.S.
warships are in the Persian Gulf on the pretext of participating in
joint war games with Saudi Arabia. In a word, the U.S. has arranged
psychological and political conditions in such a way so as to enable
it to put Iran under the utmost pressure.

Another point that further complicates the Kazemi Qomi-Crocker
diplomatic talks is the fact that there are many powerful figures on
both sides who are opposed to this dialogue.

With so many factors that could lead to a breakdown of the talks, the
negotiators will have a very difficult time indeed.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has officially announced that its goal in
negotiating with the U.S. is “reminding the occupiers of their legal

Favorable as this goal might be for the Iraqi people, one can not
overlook potential undesired consequences of direct dialogue between
Iran and the U.S., two countries which have been estranged for 28

It is highly likely that the U.S. plans to use psychological,
political, and media manipulation to take advantage of the situation
to maximize concessions during the negotiations.

However, the Islamic Republic of Iran has stood its ground in the face
of two resolutions by the UN Security Council and has resisted the
political and economic pressure to suspend uranium enrichment.

The fact that the U.S. has called for negotiations at this point in
time is a tacit admission that the pressure has been unable to
undermine Iran’s stability.

Although the situation in Iraq is the only topic on the agenda, the
U.S. may try to represent the talks as the “last diplomatic chance” to
resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, and then sabotage the
negotiations in order to accuse Iran of intransigency.

The talks could be described as a wary dialogue in which each side
attempts to extract concessions from the other.

This attitude complicates matters for Kazemi Qomi and Crocker because
the talks have been called based on mutual compulsion.

Thus, Iranian negotiators should be on guard against any tricks by the
U.S. delegation meant to weaken Iran’s position and facilitate an
increase in pressure on the Islamic Republic.


World Oil Transit Chokepoints
Over 40 million barrels per day of oil moves by tanker.

A significant volume of oil is traded internationally by oil tankers
and oil pipelines. About 2/3 of the world’s oil trade (both crude oils
and refined products) moves by tanker. About 43 million barrels per
day of that trade is crude oil. Tankers have made global
(intercontinental) transport of oil possible, as they are low cost,
efficient, and extremely flexible.

Oil transported by sea generally follows a fixed set of maritime
routes. Along the way, tankers encounter several geographic
“chokepoints,” or narrow channels, such as the Strait of Hormuz
leading out of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Malacca linking the
Indian Ocean (and oil coming from the Middle East) with the Pacific
Ocean (and major consuming markets in Asia). Other important maritime
“chokepoints” include the Bab el-Mandab passage from the Arabian Sea
to the Red Sea; the Panama Canal and the Panama Pipeline connecting
the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans; the Suez Canal and the Sumed Pipeline
connecting the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea; and the Turkish Straits/
Bosporus linking the Black Sea (and oil coming from the Caspian Sea
region) to the Mediterranean Sea.”Chokepoints” are critically
important to world oil trade because so much oil passes through them,
yet they are narrow and theoretically could be blocked — at least
temporarily. In addition, “chokepoints” are susceptible to pirate
attacks and shipping accidents in their narrow channels.

Not all tanker trade routes use the same size ship. Each route usually
has one size that is the clear economic winner, based on voyage
length, port and canal constraints and volume. Thus, crude exports
from the Middle East — high volumes that travel long distances — are
moved mainly by VLCC’s (200,000 to 300,000 dead weight tons) typically
carrying over 2 million barrels of oil on every voyage.”

STEVE’S VITAL MARINE CANALS – 8 narrow channels of vital importance


“If there was ever a “jugular vein” for the world’s economy, then the
Straits of Hormuz is where it is situated. At the bottom end of the
600 mile long Persian (Arabian) Gulf, the Straits of Hormuz, at their
narrowest point are just 34 miles across, between the Sultanate of
Oman and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Vessels transiting the Straits of Hormuz, have to adhere to strict
traffic separation schemes, which provide 2 mile wide channels for
inbound and outward bound vessels, with a 2 mile buffer zone in

80% of the oil produced in the Persian Gulf is transported by tanker
through the Straits of Hormuz, which means over 13 million barrels of
oil per day. Such volumes make the Straits of Hormuz strategically
vital, and at times of international tension in the Middle East, U.S.
and British naval vessels are always present to ensure the continued
flow of oil. Many of the small islands and coastlines are still
disputed between Oman, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.”


TARGET: President Bush’s “non-lethal finding” will seek to destabilize
the government of nuke-obsessed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (above), who
boasts a powerful military force.

May 23, 2007 — The CIA has been given presidential approval to mount
a “secret” operation to destabilize the Iranian government – a move
aimed at getting the country to abandon its nuclear-enrichment
program, it was reported yesterday.

President Bush has signed a “nonlethal presidential finding” that has
put into motion a Central Intelligence Agency-run plan that includes a
coordinated campaign of propaganda and the manipulation of Iran’s
currency and international financial transactions, ABC News said.

The plan is designed to peacefully pressure Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad – who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map – to
cease the enrichment program, which could lead to the development of
nuclear weapons, and stop aiding terrorists fighting in neighboring

Under law, the CIA needs an official presidential finding to carry out
such “secret” actions.

“Presidential findings” are kept secret – but reported to the Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee
on Intelligence and other key congressional leaders.

The “nonlethal” aspect of the presidential finding means CIA officers
may not use deadly force.

Also briefed on the plan, according to ABC News, were National
Security Adviser Steve Hadley and Deputy National Security Adviser
Elliott Abrams.

“The entire plan has been blessed by Abrams, in particular,” an
intelligence source familiar with the plan told ABC News.

Abrams’ last involvement with attempting to destabilize a foreign
government led to criminal charges.

He pleaded guilty in October 1991 to two misdemeanor counts of
withholding from Congress information about the Reagan
administration’s effort to destabilize the Nicaraguan Sandinista
government in the Iran-Contra affair.

Abrams was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush in December 1992.

In 2001, Abrams was named by then-National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice to head the National Security Council’s office for
democracy, human rights and international operations.

Two years ago, Hadley appointed Abrams deputy assistant to the
president and deputy national security advisor for global democracy
strategy – one of the country’s most senior national security jobs.

Since then, Abrams has been heavily involved in Middle Eastern
affairs, including serving as a primary advisor to Rice last summer
during her visits to the region in the course of discussions relating
to the Israel-Lebanon conflict.

“The White House does not comment on intelligence matters,” said a
National Security Council spokesman.

A CIA spokesman also had no comment last night.

Former intelligence officials said the plan is a sign President Bush
has decided not to pursue a military option against Iran.

“Vice President [Dick] Cheney helped to lead the side favoring a
military strike, but I think they have come to the conclusion that a
military strike has more downsides than upsides,” said Bruce Riedel, a
retired CIA official who has dealt with Iran in the past.

clemente [dot] lisi [at] nypost [dot] com


by RALPH PETERS  /  January 6, 2007

WORD that Adm. William Fallon will move laterally from our Pacific
Command to take charge of Central Command – responsible for the Middle
East – while two ground wars rage in the region baffled the media.

Why put a swabbie in charge of grunt operations?

There’s a one-word answer: Iran.

ASSIGNING a Navy avia tor and combat veteran to oversee our military
operations in the Persian Gulf makes perfect sense when seen as a
preparatory step for striking Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities – if
that becomes necessary.

While the Air Force would deliver the heaviest tonnage of ordnance in
a campaign to frustrate Tehran’s quest for nukes, the toughest
strategic missions would fall to our Navy. Iran would seek to
retaliate asymmetrically by attacking oil platforms and tankers,
closing the Strait of Hormuz – and trying to hit oil infrastructure in
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

Only the U.S. Navy – hopefully, with Royal Navy and Aussie vessels
underway beside us – could keep the oil flowing to a thirsty world.

In short, the toughest side of an offensive operation against Iran
would be the defensive aspects – requiring virtually every air and sea
capability we could muster. (Incidentally, an additional U.S. carrier
battle group is now headed for the Gulf; Britain and Australia are
also strengthening their naval forces in the region.)

Not only did Adm. Fallon command a carrier air wing during Operation
Desert Storm, he also did shore duty at a joint headquarters in Saudi
Arabia. He knows the complexity and treacherousness of the Middle East

STRENGTHENING his qualifications, numer ous blue-water assignments and
his duties at PACOM schooled him on the intricacies of the greater
Indian Ocean – the key strategic region for the 21st-century and the
one that would be affected immediately by a U.S. conflict with Iran.

The admiral also understands China’s junkie-frantic oil dependency and
its consequent taste for geopolitical street-crime: During a U.S.
operation against Iran, Beijing would need its fix guaranteed.

While Congress obsesses on Iraq and Iraq alone, the administration’s
thinking about the future. And it looks as if the White House is
preparing options to mitigate a failure in Iraq and contain Iran. Bush
continues to have a much-underrated strategic vision – the
administration’s consistent problems have been in the abysmal
execution of its policies, not in the over-arching purpose.

Now, pressed by strategic dilemmas and humiliating reverses, Bush is
doing what FDR had to do in the dark, early months of 1942: He’s
turning to the Navy.

AS a retired Army officer, I remain proud of and loyal to my service.
I realize that the Army’s leaders are disappointed to see the CentCom
slot go to an admiral in the midst of multiple ground wars. But,
beyond the need for a Navy man at the helm should we have to take on
Iran, there’s yet another reason for sending Fallon to his new
assignment: The Army’s leadership has failed us at the strategic

After Gen. Eric Shinseki was sidelined for insisting on a professional
approach to Iraq, Army generals did plenty of fine tactical and
operational work – but they never produced a strategic vision for the
greater Middle East.

Our Army is deployed globally, but our generals never seem to acquire
the knack of thinking beyond the threat hypnotizing them at the moment
(the Marines, with their step-brother ties to the Navy, do a better
job of acting locally while thinking globally). Perhaps the Army’s
Gen. Dave Petraeus will emerge as an incisive strategic thinker after
he takes command in Baghdad, but his predecessors routinely got mired
in tactical details and relied – fatally – on other arms of government
to do the strategic thinking.

The reasons are complex, ranging from service culture to educational
traditions, but it’s incontestable that the Navy long has produced our
military’s best strategic thinkers – captains and admirals able to
transcend parochial interests to see the global security environment
as a whole. Adm. Fallon’s job is to avoid the tyranny of the moment,
to see past the jumble of operational pieces and visualize how those
pieces ultimately might fit together.

NOR is the Iran problem the only Navy-first issue facing CENTCOM. As
you read this, our ships are patrolling the coast of Somalia to
intercept fleeing terrorists – and have been hunting pirates in the
same waters for years. China’s future development (and internal peace)
is tied to dependable supplies of Middle-Eastern and African oil
transiting Indian-Ocean sea lanes, as well as to shipping goods along
the same routes. In a future confrontation with China, our ability to
shut down the very routes we’re now challenged to protect would be

Not least because of the botch-up in Iraq, there’s a growing sense of
the limitations of U.S. ground-force involvement in the Middle East.
That doesn’t mean we won’t see further necessity-driven interventions
and even other occupations, only that our strategic planners have
begun to grasp that positive change in the region – if it comes at all
– is going to take far longer than many of us hoped and won’t always
be amenable to boots-on-the-ground prodding.

If we can’t determine everything that happens in the Big Sandbox, we
need to be able to control access to and from the playground – a
classic Navy mission.

And in the end the United States remains primarily a maritime power.
As Sir Walter Raleigh pointed out 400 years ago, he who controls the
waters controls the world.

Gen. Petraeus is going to Baghdad to deal with our present problems.
Adm. Fallon is going to the U.S. Central Command to deal with the

{Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Never Quit the Fight.”}

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