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Monday, April 30, 2007

US Cruise Missile Drive-by?

MOSCOW — The United States is planning to launch a war with Iran with a salvo of cruise missiles against military and other strategic facilities, a Russian official said.

A leading Russian analyst close to the government of President Vladimir Putin said the Bush administration has been preparing a major air strike against Iran. The analyst said the Iranian release of 15 British Marines abducted in early April has hampered but not canceled U.S. attack plans.

"Preparations to strike Iran's strategic facilities continue," Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy for Geopolitical Problems, said. "Three major groups of U.S. forces are still in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Altogether, they have up to 450 cruise missiles on alert."

[On Tuesday, the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily quoted French military sources that projected a U.S. strike on Iran in 2007, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said Iran could be making a major mistake in underestimating U.S. intentions and capabilities.]

The assessment was the latest by government-financed Russian military analysts that warned of a U.S. war against Iran. Over the last two weeks, some analysts have raised the prospect of a U.S. air strike over the next few weeks.

"Combat nuclear weapons may be used for bombing," Ivashov said. "This will result in radioactive contamination of the Iranian territory, which could possibly spread to neighboring countries."

On April 8, Ivashov, who heads a government think tank, told the Interfax-AVN news agency that the U.S. Navy would be the lead service in the military campaign against Iran. He said the attack would begin with a salvo of advanced cruise missiles.

"Military operations against Teheran will begin with the launch of at least two unexpected strikes using Tomahawk cruise missiles and air power in order to disable Iran's air defense capabilities," Ivashov said.

The general said the U.S. military plans to employ up to 150 fighter-jets in the two air strikes on Iran. In the first stage, he said, the United States would destroy Iran's air defense umbrella, including the new Russian-origin TOR-M1 mobile surface-to-air missile systems.

Ivashov said the U.S. campaign would target command centers, air defense batteries, naval vessels and air bases. In the second stage, the general said, the U.S. military would target Iran's nuclear facilities.

"Nuclear facilities may be secondary targets," Ivashov said. "According to expert assessments, at least 20 such facilities need to be destroyed in order to stop Iran's nuclear program."

Ivashov said Iran could respond by firing the Shihab-3E intermediate-range missile toward Israel. He said this could result in Israeli nuclear retaliation.

"If Iran strikes back at Israel with missiles, Tel Aviv is likely to use nuclear weapons on Iran," Ivashov said. "Development of the situation would undermine stability not only in the Middle East, but also in the entire world."

Here is an interesting speech by Putin at the 43rd Munich Convention

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