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Is an Attack on Iran Imminent?
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Diplomats in Europe and the United States who have been tackling the difficult issue of Iran and its nuclear ambitions have been jolted in recent days by two unexpected developments.

The first was a report in the highly respected Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. It claimed that a top-secret intelligence operation that had been developed over several years by the Dutch AIVD Secret Service had been aborted. The report went on to claim that one of the agency's top agents had been withdrawn from Iran because of impending U.S. plans to attack Iran.

 De Telegraaf reporter, Joost de Haas, said the attack was expected within weeks. He based his story on Dutch intelligence sources, and went on to suggest that Iran's supposed nuclear targets would be attacked by unmanned vehicles (which could presumably include cruise missiles) to avoid any possible harm to aircrew. This would also mean that the Israeli -- and – or United States air forces would be held in reserve to ensure the defense of Israel against Iranian retaliation.

It is impossible to confirm reports of this kind, but the usual intelligence rumor mill has been busy, particularly in Paris, where officials seem to be taking the Dutch story very seriously. That may help explain the second new development that has really surprised France's allies. During the visit to Syria of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, he tried to bring Syria into the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

"I told the president that Syria can play a role in the Iranian issue. Iran must not obtain a nuclear weapon but it has the right to have nuclear energy for peaceful use," Sarkozy said in Damascus, just before taking part in a four-part summit on the broader Middle East peace process with Turkish and Qatari leaders.

The United States, which remains highly suspicious of Syria (and still lists it as a state sponsor of terrorism) was surprised and far from pleased by Sarkozy's initiative. The likely explanation is that Sarkozy felt a new sense of urgency to try something, indeed anything, to fend off the worst in Iran.

"Iran is taking a major risk by continuing the process of seeking nuclear technology for military ends, because one day, no matter which Israeli government is in power, one morning we will awake to find Israel has attacked," Sarkozy said during the Damascus summit.

"It's not a question of whether it is legitimate or intelligent or not. It would be a catastrophe, and we must avoid such a catastrophe."

Sarkozy's new sense of urgency may owe something to the Dutch intelligence story. Who knows? Cynics suspect that these recurrent rumors of air strikes against Iran are deliberately leaked as some form of (so far unsuccessful) psychological pressure against Tehran. But the Bush administration has just 60 days to go before the presidential elections, less than 140 days before Bush leaves the White House. And the clock is ticking.

Source >
  Middle East Times | sept 05

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