Expert: Iran nukes replace old military (UPI) VIA-WASHINGTON TIMES) By Stefan Nicola - Washington, DC 05/21/05)
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Washington, DC, May. 20 (UPI) -- Iranīs military is focusing on
asymmetric warfare and nuclear weapons because its conventional armed
forces are outdated, a senior Middle East expert said Friday.
"Iranīs main intents lie in two efforts: one is asymmetric
and the other is weapons of mass destruction," said Anthony
Cordesman, strategic analyst at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, a public policy think tank in
Cordesman, author of "Iranīs Developing Military
CSIS-sponsored report assessing Iranīs armed forces, and a former
high-ranking Pentagon official, also noted that in light of
uncertainties about Iranīs nuclear capabilities, a military strike on
the Islamic republic would be "disastrous" and so a diplomatic
approach is the way to go, even if that might not entirely stop Iran
from pursuing a military alternative, he said.
United States publicly says it prefers to deal with Iran
through diplomacy for now, Vice President Dick Cheney, in a
television interview earlier this year, did not rule out the
possibility that Israel might hit Iranīs nuclear
Cordesmanīs remarks come just days before foreign
France, Britain and Germany -- the so-called European Union 3 -- will
meet Iranian officials to negotiate a permanent halt to Iranīs
already-suspended uranium enrichment program. The step is a key part
of both civilian and military nuclear programs.
Iran says its
nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, the United
States and much of the international community believe otherwise.
"Much of the nuclear tests and development
efforts in Iran simply
make no sense as peaceful research," he said. "Iīm almost certain
there is a nuclear weapons program now."
Iranīs expensive long-
range missile program wouldnīt be financially
feasible "unless you put a nuclear warhead on it," he
Speculation about Iranīs nuclear capabilities often
from reality, Cordesman said. When observing international
intelligence, Iran still is "a significant distance from a meaningful
missile and a nuclear capability," he added.
In light of a lack
of a credible threat, diplomacy is probably the
best way to go, he added.
"If the Europeansī negotiations do
nothing more than keep Iran from
being overt in deploying and testing, they have accomplished a great
deal," Cordesman said.
So far, financial incentives for Iran to
give up its uranium
enrichment program are lacking, he said.
"Iran desperately needs
industrial development, it needs job
creation, and it desperately needs to improve technology for its
natural gas and oil industry."
The United States supports the
European efforts to negotiate with
Tehran but has in the past unsuccessfully tried to get the matter
referred to the U.N. Security Council. This time around, however, it
has said it will block its opposition to Iranīs entry into the World
Trade Organization and to the sale of airline parts for the Islamic
republicīs ageing civilian fleet.
The question remains, however,
whether Iran is ready to accept
financial incentives on a political level, Cordesman said. If
diplomacy fails, the U.N. Security Council has to step in and use "a
very decisive political language combined with economic sanctions on
things like transportation and shipping that would have significant
economic pressure over time," he added.
Although China - a
permanent, veto-wielding member of the Security
Council -- has signaled it will veto drastic sanctions against Iran
in absence of a direct threat, the situation might radically change
if U.S. intelligence "would find a smoking gun," Cordesman said. So
far, there is no clear evidence Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons
Thatīs why the U.S. administration should continue to
intelligence-gathering in Iran, no matter how intrusive that might
be, Cordesman said.
"If it bothers the Iranians, so be it," he
said. "Itīs a matter of
life. Itīs too important."
Asymmetric warfare -- featuring
highly mobile guerilla troops and hit-
and-run attacks -- is thought to be the most effective way to attack
a superior military power such as the United States. Iran has about
120,000 people in the revolutionary guards, a force that could deploy
asymmetrical warfare in the Middle East, Cordesman said.
are pretty capable forces," Cordesman said. "They could very
quickly move large numbers of people to a country like
But while Iranīs nuclear enrichment programs and its
asymmetric warfare pose a threat to stability in the Middle East, its
conventional military systems in army, navy and air force
are "obsolescent," Cordesman said.
In the light of slow
modernization of planes, tanks and missile
system, which are mostly from the mid-1970s, Iranīs capability of a
conventional military strike is severely limited, Cordesman
"They have a 340,000-men army, but 220,000 of them are 18-
conscripts," Cordesman said. "Its artillery is old and worn ... and
its 1,600 tanks and about 300 airplanes are outdated even by Middle
Wayne White, a Middle East expert at the
Middle East Institute, said
Friday in a telephone interview there are incentives for Iran to
pursue independent weapon systems.
"Most of Iranīs conventional
weapons were taken away by Iraq in the
last stages of the Iran-Iraq war," he said. "Renewing basic military
forces is extremely expensive -- weīre talking billions of dollars."
(Copyright 2005 United Press International 05/21/05)
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