Former UN weapons inspector says attack on Iran 'virtual guarantee'
Published: Monday May 5, 2008
US denies again on Monday
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who was among the original experts to question Bush Administration claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, now says he believes an attack on Iran is a "virtual guarantee."
"We take a look at the military buildup, we take a look at the rhetoric, we take a look at the diplomatic posturing, and I would say that it’s a virtual guarantee that there will be a limited aerial strike against Iran in the not-so-near future—or not-so-distant future, that focuses on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command," Ritter said last week in a little-noted interview with Amy Goodman's Democracy Now. "And if this situation spins further out of control, you would see these aerial strikes expanding to include Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and some significant command and control targets."
The Pentagon denied the claim again Monday.
"I actually am very hopeful that we don't get into a position where we have to get into a conflict," Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Israel's Channel Ten television when asked if he might recommend that U.S. forces strike Iranian nuclear facilities preemptively.
"It would be a very significant challenge for the United States right now to get into a third conflict in that part of the world," Mullen added, referring to the Bush administration's long-running military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ritter, who led the UN mission to inspect Iraqi weapons from 1991 to 1998, also questions Administration claims that Syria was developing a nuclear weapon in concert with North Korea. RAW STORY has written in detail regarding concerns from intelligence officers, who say that satellite photographs of the alleged site offer no formal proof, and officials are internally skeptical of such claims.
"We have to be concerned about the evidence," Ritter said. "We have interior photographs and exterior shots and nothing that links the two. And so, on the surface, I would say that if you’re bringing this evidence to a court of law—it’s a strange dimension, the rule of law, when we speak of American foreign policy lately—you would have trouble having anybody say yes, this is definitive evidence that links the allegations to this specific site in question."
"And this notion that the reactor was on the verge of becoming operational, again, is absurd," he adds. "You know, there would have to be literally thousands of pounds of pure graphite that would have to be introduced to this facility, and there’s no evidence in the destruction. You know, there were a number of reporters who went to the site after it was blown up. If it had been bombed and there was graphite introduced, you would have a signature all over the area of destroyed graphite blocks. There would be graphite lying around, etc. This was not the case."
US intelligence officials told RAW STORY they “found no radiation signatures after the bombing, so there was no uranium or plutonium present.”
“We don't have any independent intelligence that it was a nuclear facility -- only the assertions by the Israelis and some ambiguous satellite photography from them that shows a building, which the Syrians admitted was a military facility.”
The site of the alleged reactor was bombed in 2007. The UN is currently probing US claims.
"I don’t know what was going on at this site," Ritter said. "If the images are accurate, it appears that Syria was producing a very, very small research reactor. But it is not a reactor usable in a nuclear weapons program. Syria was not violating the law."
The interview was highlighted by a diarist on Daily Kos.
Report fingers new Pentagon planning
Ritter's remark about Iran comes on the heels of a report Sunday in the UK Sunday Times' which alleges that the Pentagon is drawing up plans for a "surgical strike" against an alleged insurgent training camp in Iran, and a CBS report that suggests US forces are prepared to launch small-scale attacks.
Attributing the assertion to Western intelligence officials, the Times' Michael Smith asserts that US officials have become increasingly frustrated with Iran's Republican Guard force -- an elite corps of the country's military -- which the Bush Administration has designated a terrorist group. Western officials have accused Iran of helping arming rebel militias in Iraq, and have accused Iran of supplying IEDs.
Smith was the first to reveal the Downing Street Minutes, an account of a secret 2002 meeting between Bush Administration officials and British intelligence surrounding Iraq, in which MI6 director Richard Dearlove remarked that facts around Iraq were being "fixed" around a policy for war.
"US commanders are increasingly concerned by Iranian interference in Iraq and are determined that recent successes by joint Iraqi and US forces in the southern port city of Basra should not be reversed by the Quds Force," Smith writes."'If the situation in Basra goes back to what it was like before, America is likely to blame Iran and carry out a surgical strike on a militant training camp across the border in Khuzestan,'" he quotes a defense official as saying.
Nuclear facilities 'not targets'
Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker and RAW STORY's Larisa Alexandrovna revealed internal Pentagon planning in a buildup to a potential Iran conflict. Since the reports ran, however, rhetoric about Iran has been toned down and concerns of a potential all-out war have diminished.
American officials are opposed to any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, Smith says. They believe, however, that an attack on a militant camp could send a message to the Republican Guard.
CBS News reported last week about a potential strike on Iran.
"Targets would include everything from the plants where weapons are made to the headquarters of the organization known as the Quds Force which directs operations in Iraq," they wrote.
"U.S. officials are also concerned by Iranian harassment of U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf as well as Iran's still growing nuclear program," CBS adds. "New pictures of Iran's uranium enrichment plant show the country's defense minister in the background, as if deliberately mocking a recent finding by U.S. intelligence that Iran had ceased work on a nuclear weapon."
Sources told Smith that no attack was planned on Iranian nuclear facilities. Such attack plans have been criticized, because many of Iran's facilities are located underground and not all locations might be neutralized by an airstrike.
"If an attack happens it will be on a training camp to send a clear message to Iran not to interfere," one intelligence officer said.