Iran is prepared to retaliate, experts warn
By Bryan Bender
Globe" -- -- WASHINGTON -- Iran is prepared to
launch attacks using long-range missiles, secret commando units,
and terrorist allies planted around the globe in retaliation for
any strike on the country's nuclear facilities, according to new
US intelligence assessments and military specialists.
US and Israeli officials have not ruled out military action
against Iran if diplomacy fails to thwart its nuclear ambitions.
Among the options are airstrikes on suspected nuclear
installations or covert action to sabotage the Iranian program.
But military and intelligence analysts warn that Iran -- which a
recent US intelligence report described as ''more confident and
assertive" than it has been since the early days of the 1979
Islamic revolution -- could unleash reprisals across the region,
and perhaps even inside the United States, if the hard-line
regime came under attack.
''When the Americans or Israelis are thinking about [military
force], I hope they will sit down and think about everything the
ayatollahs could do to make our lives miserable and what we will
do to discourage them," said John Pike, director of the think
tank GlobalSecurity.org, referring to Iran's religious leaders.
''There could be a cycle of escalation."
President Bush has said military force should be the last resort
in international efforts to deter Iran from acquiring a nuclear
bomb. Yet Bush has stated unequivocally that the United States
would not tolerate an Iranian nuclear arsenal, which the CIA
estimates could be in place in three to 10 years. Iran maintains
its nuclear program is solely aimed at producing electricity,
Israel, which Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has
threatened to annihilate, asserts that Tehran is much closer to
going nuclear and has been far more direct with its
The Israel Defense Forces, which destroyed Iraq's nuclear
reactor in 1981, has said it is perfecting ways to launch a
preventative strike against Iranian nuclear sites, including
outfitting its Air Force with American-made, bunker-busting
US intelligence officials have said that Iran, which fought a
war with Iraq from 1980-1988 that cost one million lives, still
has the most threatening armed forces in the immediate region.
Its combined ground forces are estimated at about 800,000
personnel. The CIA has concluded that Iran is steadily enhancing
its ability to project its military power, including by
threatening international shipping.
But it is Iran's unconventional weapons and tactics -- rather
than its conventional military -- that would pose the greatest
threat, according to the intelligence officials.
Bush's new intelligence chief, John D. Negroponte, outlining the
conclusions reached by a variety of US spy agencies, warned in
his first overall annual threat assessment this month to
Congress that Iran is capable of sparking a much wider conflict
it comes under threat.
A major worry: newly acquired long-range missiles. Obtained with
the assistance of North Korea, the Shahab 3 could strike Israel
and perhaps even hit the periphery of Europe, according to a
recent report by the Pentagon's National Air and Space
The missiles could also be tipped with chemical warheads and
threaten US military bases in the region.
Iran is believed to have at least 20 launchers that are
frequently moved around the country to avoid detection.
''Iran has an extensive missile-development program and has
received support from entities in Russia, China, and North
Korea," the Pentagon report said, estimating their range to be
at least 800 miles.
New missile designs under development could travel 400 miles
farther, it said, while Iran purchased at least a dozen X-55
cruise missiles from Ukraine in 2001 that are capable of
carrying a nuclear warhead as far as Italy.
Meanwhile, Iranian agents and members of the Revolutionary Guard
Corps, widely believed to have a large presence in Iraq, could
attempt to foment an uprising by the their fellow Shi'ite
majority in Iraq or join insurgents in directly attacking US
troops there, Negroponte warned.
He reported that Tehran has ''constrained" itself in Iraq
because it is generally satisfied with the political trends in
favor of the Shi'ite majority and to avoid giving the United
States another excuse to attack Iran. But that could change if
Iran were targeted militarily.
A leading Shi'ite cleric in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia
has clashed with US troops and rival Shi'ite groups, vowed in a
visit to Tehran last month to defend Iran if it were attacked.
The assessment presented by Negroponte said the Iranian regime
already provides ''guidance and training" to militant groups in
Iraq and ''has been responsible for at least some of the
increasing lethality of anticoalition attacks by providing Shia
militants with the capability to build" improvised explosive
Government and private analysts assert that Iran's intelligence
apparatus and Revolutionary Guard Corps could cause serious
damage to US efforts to pacify Iraq.
''The Iranian ayatollahs may deploy an 'asymmetric' answer and
incite a Shi'ite rebellion in Iraq," the respected Russian
military publication ''Defense and Security," warned last month,
referring to a military strategy that employs such tactics as
guerrilla warfare. ''That would be disastrous for the United
Iran, believed to be responsible for the bombing of a US Air
Force barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, also would be expected
to enlist its terrorist allies around the world to come to its
aid if attacked, US officials and private specialists contend.
''Tehran continues to support a number of terrorist groups,
viewing this capability as a critical regime safeguard by
deterring US and Israeli attacks, distracting and weakening
Israel, and enhancing Iran's regional influence through
intimidation," according to Negroponte's assessment to Congress.
Primary among them is Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group
that killed 241 US Marines when it bombed a Beirut barracks in
''Lebanese Hezbollah is Iran's main terrorist ally, which . . .
has a worldwide support network and is capable of attacks
against US interests if it feels its Iranian patron is
threatened," according to the report.
''They have all kinds of people that would like to embrace
martyrdom," Pike said of Iran, raising the specter that a
terrorist group allied with Iran would be capable of launching
attacks inside the United States to avenge a strike against
Intelligence officials also point out that Iran controls a small
island at the mouth the Strait of Hormuz and could use missiles
and gunboats to temporarily shut off access to the economically
vital Persian Gulf, sparking an oil crisis.
''Military attack is not the solution to this problem," Mohammad
Mohaddessin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the
National Council of Resistance of Iran, the leading dissident
group, said in a telephone interview from Paris. ''The regime is
absolutely focusing on nonconventional responses. Missiles and
terrorist operations are the strong points."
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)