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NATO and Iran; Israel fights a covert war

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NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has again stressed the importance of regional coordination in order to help with their efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan is mainly focused on, though India, the Central Asian countries, and Russia are included in this. De Hoop Scheffer has also said that Iran could be included in a broader regional approach at some point.

In 2001, Iran was very helpful in getting its allies in the Northern Alliance to work with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Iran is no friend to the Taliban, and even threatened war against them in 1998. Risk of war was sparked after seven Iranian diplomats were killed in Afghanistan after Taliban takeover of a city.

However, I don’t see how Iran could directly be involved in a U.S.-led plan for Afghanistan without an about turn in relations between those two countries. This may well be mainly rhetoric, a flourish to present NATO as open-minded while no effort to actually realize a political solution to NATO-Iran relations will be sought by the alliance. There is likely to be a continuation of a containment policy toward Iran, supported by covert operations and economic erosion. However, there has been some talk that the U.S., under President Obama, may well try to strike some level of cooperation with Iran in order to help stabilize Afghanistan.

From Jim Lobe’s article at IPS (republished in the Asia Times):

”It is absolutely clear that Iran plays an important role in Afghanistan,” Obama’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said in Kabul earlier this week in an interview during which he pointedly declined to repeat Bush administration charges that Tehran was aiding the Taliban. “[Iran has] a legitimate role to play in this region, as do all of Afghanistan’s neighbors,” he insisted.

Most regional specialists, including Bruce Riedel, who co-chairs the White House’s “AfPak” policy review, and John Brennan, Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser, have long argued that Iran’s cooperation would make Washington’s effort to stabilize the region and ultimately defeat al-Qaeda markedly easier while, conversely, its active opposition, as in Iraq, is likely to make the task considerably more difficult.

That assessment has, if anything, gained strength in just the past few weeks as Washington has scrambled to secure new supply lines into land-locked Afghanistan after a key bridge in Pakistan’s Khyber Pass was destroyed by Taliban militants there and Kyrgyzstan threatened to end Washington’s access to its Manas air base.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has published an article claiming that Israel has launched a covert war against Iran:

It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime’s illicit weapons project, the experts say.

The most dramatic element of the “decapitation” programme is the planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran’s atomic operations.

…A former CIA officer on Iran told The Daily Telegraph: “Disruption is designed to slow progress on the programme, done in such a way that they don’t realise what’s happening. You are never going to stop it.”

…Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, the US private intelligence company with strong government security connections, said the strategy was to take out key people.

“With co-operation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear programme and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain,” she said.

Israel’s intelligence organization, Mossad, is also suspected of having been behind the death of a leading Iranian nuclear scientist in 2007. Ardeshire Hassanpour, who worked at the Isfahan nuclear plant, was officially reported to have died of “gas poisoning.”

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