Iran Nuclear NewsIran's military power subject to new U.S. study used...

Iran’s military power subject to new U.S. study used for China


ImageBloomberg: Iran’s military will be subject for the first time to the kind of U.S. assessment reserved for China’s expanding forces as lawmakers seek a more accurate analysis of the Persian Gulf oil power’s strengths and strategy. By Viola Gienger

ImageNov. 3 (Bloomberg) — Iran’s military will be subject for the first time to the kind of U.S. assessment reserved for China’s expanding forces as lawmakers seek a more accurate analysis of the Persian Gulf oil power’s strengths and strategy.

Congress ordered an annual report on Iranian military goals and capabilities, including the country’s missile and nuclear programs, in a provision tucked into a 1,200-page measure authorizing defense spending. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law last week.

The demand for the analysis reflects lawmakers’ concerns that periodic U.S. intelligence estimates focusing on Iran’s nuclear efforts are too limited in scope. The U.S. and nations in Europe and the Middle East see current and potential threats from Iran, including its support of designated terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, interference in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a push to dominate the Gulf.

“Iran’s actions pose a threat to peace and stability in their region, and these have repercussions for global security,” said California Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. He and Kansas Republican Sam Brownback in the Senate proposed the provision and won Democratic support for its inclusion in the defense bill.

“Our hope is that our nation and countries around the world will gain better insight on the true intentions of Iran,” McKeon said.

The legislation requires the first report to be produced by Jan. 30 in classified and unclassified versions.

Obama Overtures

The timing may coincide with increasing pressure on Obama to toughen his approach on Iran should a policy based on diplomatic overtures fail to win concessions. The U.S. is working with France, the U.K., Germany, Russia, and China to persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium, a process that can lead to nuclear energy production or a nuclear bomb.

Committees in the House and Senate last week backed separate legislation to further restrict trade with Iran by imposing sanctions on companies that supply the country with refined petroleum products. While Iran is the world’s fourth- largest oil producer, limited refining capacity forces it to import about a third of its gasoline.

Congress and the administration also are considering further sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, an arm of the military that also has become a political and economic force.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, said yesterday that negotiations intended to turn Iranian enriched uranium into fuel for a Tehran medical reactor provide a chance to resolve the dispute over the nuclear effort.

‘Fleeting’ Opportunity

“This is a unique and fleeting opportunity to reverse course from confrontation to cooperation and should therefore not be missed,” ElBaradei said in his final report to the UN General Assembly before leaving the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency after 10 years as director-general.

In Washington, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton said he endorsed the requirement for an annual report on Iran’s military because the U.S. needs a better handle on Iran’s general military strength.

“That country has potential to cause great mischief,” said Skelton, a Missouri Democrat.

In addition to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, the analysis must include the size and effectiveness of Iran’s conventional forces and the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.

Power Trends

Congress wants details indicating trends in the Gulf nation’s strategy “that would be designed to establish Iran as the leading power in the Middle East and to enhance the influence of Iran in other regions of the world.”

The administration also will have to examine Iran’s strategy regarding other countries in the region, especially Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“This report will help us understand the comprehensive threat Iran poses,” Brownback said in an e-mailed response to questions. The analysis will create “a much clearer picture of Iran’s capabilities and how it intends to use them.”

Congress has required a similar report since 2000 on China, which has criticized the practice.

‘Disruptive’ Technology

The most recent report, issued by the Pentagon in March, found that China is shifting the balance of power in Asia by continuing to develop “disruptive” military technology, including anti-satellite and cyber capabilities. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing called the analysis a “gross intervention in China’s international affairs.”

The U.S. has long been concerned that China aims to threaten the American military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. China recently resumed military talks with the Obama administration after cutting off dialogue 18 months ago when the U.S. signaled its intent to sell arms to Taiwan.

The Iran report might be more effective were it to include updates on diplomatic negotiations and Iran’s compliance with UN Security Council resolutions and the atomic energy agency, said Michael Elleman, a visiting senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington.

“One needs to examine the entire picture, not just the military side of it,” said Elleman, who has consulted on weapons programs for the UN and the U.S. and is leading an independent study of Iran’s missile program. “It could have been much sharper language and more balanced if they tried to address the entire issue.”

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