Specialist: Invading Iran not a big deal, militarily
WASHINGTON — A leading analyst told Congress that any U.S.-led military force would not face a major challenge from Iran's air force and navy. As a result, the invading force would require a relatively small fighter-jet and naval component to counter any Iranian threat.
"Whether some ground forces were needed as a prudent deterrent against overland Iranian aggression would also have to be considered, but the numbers here would presumably not have to reach into the major theater war magnitudes," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
O'Hanlon told the House Armed Services Committee on Oct. 26 that a U.S. invasion of Iran could be necessary to protect the flow of oil from Gulf Cooperation Council states to the West. He also cited a U.S. operation to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons infrastructure.
Over the past decade Iran has not fulfilled Western forecasts regarding weapons procurement, O'Hanlon said. He told the House committee that Iran could resort to asymmetrical warfare, including mining the Straits of Hormuz.
"[U.S.] Reconnaissance and rapid-strike capabilities could be provided either via sea-based assets or land-based capabilities," O'Hanlon said.
"Aerial and sea reconnaissance, as well as quick-strike capabilities, would be needed. Submarines would probably be desired to keep a constant track on Iranian submarines. And, of course, ships to protect convoys would likely be required as well."
O'Hanlon said a U.S.-led force would not require more than 20 submarines to face Iran's fleet of three diesel underwater vessels. The United States would require 200 aircraft to maintain air space dominance in the Gulf, he said. Iran has 200 aircraft capable of any operations.
In addition, the U.S.-led force would require up to 10 early-warning and surveillance aircraft. O'Hanlon also cited the need to deploy a fleet of Aegis-class naval vessels with ballistic missile defense systems.
"Taken together, the above assets resemble the air and naval components of what has commonly been considered a one-war force package in recent times," O'Hanlon said.
South Africa offers yellowcake, enrichment tech to Iran's nuclear program
South Africa has offered to be a supplier of nuclear material and technology to Iran.
Iranian officials said Pretoria has offered to transfer material and technology to help Teheran's nuclear program. They said the South African offer would be restricted to activities permitted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"We are in the process of negotiating on the modalities of this participation," said Javad Vaidi, an official from Iran's Supreme National Security Council.
On Nov. 5, Iran approved a resolution that would enable foreign companies to participate in that nation's uranium enrichment program. The resolution, which requires parliamentary approval, would allow the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization to invite domestic and foreign investors to the Natanz enrichment facility.
Vaidi told Iranian state television on Nov. 7 that South Africa has offered to immediately supply Iran with U308, or yellowcake. Yellowcake could be converted to uranium hexafluoride gas, or UF6, the feed material for gas centrifuges required to produce enriched uranium.
Under the program, Pretoria would deliver yellowcake to Iran's uranium conversion plant in Isfahan. In the second stage, he said, South Africa would participate in the actual uranium enrichment, a leading requirement for nuclear weapons.
Officials said Iran and South Africa have been discussing nuclear cooperation for more than a year. The two countries have exchanged nuclear delegations amid international pressure on Iran to resume its suspension of uranium enrichment.
Vaidi said Russia and South Africa have accepted Iran's right to complete the nuclear fuel cycle. The two countries have opposed U.S.-led efforts to submit the Iranian nuclear file to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.
Western intelligence agencies have monitored the flow of South African nuclear technicians and scientists to Iran over the last two years. South Africa operated a nuclear weapons program in the 1970s and 1980s, but said it was dismantled in 1989.
In Washington, UN Director-general Mohammed El Baradei said the IAEA was progressing in efforts to determine the extent of Iran's nuclear program. On Nov. 7, El Baradei told a conference sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that his inspectors were examining a military facility at Lavizan suspected of conducting nuclear weapons tests.
"We are moving in the right direction," El Baradei said. "We are making good progress with Iran."
Israel: Iran-backed Islamic Jihad has 12 cells in West Bank
TEL AVIV — The Iranian-sponsored Jihad has formed and operates at least a dozen cells, Israeli military sources said. Most of the cells are located in the northern West Bank around such cities as Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm.
Brig. Gen. Yair Golan, commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank, said the Jihad cells were responsible for many of the suicide bombing attempts in Israel this year. Golan cited a suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Hadera in October in which five people were killed.
In all, Jihad operates more than 100 insurgents — funded by Iran — in the West Bank, the sources said. Each cell usually contains between eight and 12 fighters.
The most active Jihad cell is one in the Jenin area that was responsible for a series of suicide bombings in Israeli cities, including Hadera, Netanya and Tel Aviv.
The cell has been the target of Israeli special operations forces in the Jenin area. Golan said many of the cell members were captured or killed over the past week.
"We killed two of the most prominent figures in this terrorist net," Golan said in a briefing on Nov. 2. "We captured a few other suspects. We harmed this terrorist cell quite significantly, but this is not the end."
Israeli military sources said Jihad is the most active insurgency group in the West Bank, particularly in the northern area. They said that in some cases Fatah and Hamas insurgents have joined Jihad for attacks against Israeli targets.
"In any case, we see in all the groups a process to build the infrastructure with weapons and organization so that if this truce ends we will face an operational challenge," Golan said. "We can see a clear escalation since last August."