Report suggest that ‘US defensive ring’ may be new front in war on terror. By Gabriel Ronay
PRESIDENT BUSH is preparing to attackIran'snuclearfacilities before the end of April and the US Air Force's new bases in Bulgaria and Romania would be used as back-up in the onslaught, according to an official report from Sofia.
"American forces could be using their two USAF bases in Bulgaria and one at Romania's Black Sea coast to launch an attack on Iran in April," the Bulgarian news agency Novinite said.
TheAmericanbuild-upalongthe BlackSea,coupledwiththerecent positioningoftwoUSaircraftcarrier battle groups off the Straits of Hormuz, appears to indicate president Bush has run out of patience with Tehran's nuclear misrepresentation and non-compliance with the UN Security Council's resolution. President Ahmeninejad of Iran has further ratcheted up tension in the region by putting on show his newly purchased state of the art Russian TOR-Ml anti-missile defence system.
Whether the Bulgarian news report is a tactical feint or a strategic event is hard to gauge at this stage. But, in conjunctionwiththebeefingupofAmerica'sItalian bases and the acquisition of anti-missiledefencebasesintheCzech RepublicandPoland,theBalkan developments seem toindicateanewphase in Bush's global war on terror.
Sofia'snewsofadvancedwar preparationsalongtheBlackSeais backed up by some chilling details. One isthesettingupofnewrefuellingplaces for US Stealth bombers, which would spearhead an attack on Iran. "The USAF's positioning of vital refuelling facilities for its B-2 bombers in unusual places, includingBulgaria,fallswithinthe perspective of such an attack." NovinitenamedcolonelSam Gardiner, "a US secret service officer stationed in Bulgaria", as the source of this revelation.
Curiously,thereportnotedthat although Tony Blair, Bush's main ally in the global war on terror, would be leaving office, the president had opted to press on with his attack on Iran in April.
BeforetheendofMarch,3000US militarypersonnelarescheduledto arrive "on a rotating basis" at America's Bulgarian bases. Under the US-Bulgarian military co-operation accord, signed in April,2006,anairbaseatBezmer, a second airfield at Graf Ignitievo and a shooting range at Novo Selo were leased toAmerica.Significantly,lastyear'sbases negotiations had at one point run into difficulties due to Sofia's demand "for advance warning if Washington intends to use Bulgarian soil for attacks against other nations, particularly Iran".
Romania, the other Black Sea host to theUSmilitary,isenjoyingadollarbonanzaasitsMihailKogalniceanu base at Constanta is being transformed into an American "place d'arme". It is alsovitaltotheIranscenario.
Lastweek,theBucharestdaily Evenimentual Zilei revealed the USAF is to site several flights of F-l5, F-l6 and Al0 aircraftattheKogalniceanubase.AdmiralGheorgheMarin,Romania's chief of staff, confirmed "up to 2000 Americanmilitarypersonnelwillbe temporarily stationed in Romania".
InCentralEurope,theCzech Republic and Poland have also found themselves in the Pentagon's strategic focus. Last week, Mirek Topolanek, the Czech prime minister, and the country's national security council agreed to the siting of a US anti-missile radar defence system at Nepolisy. Poland has also agreed to having a US anti-missile missilebase and interceptoraircraft stationedinthecountry.
Russia, however, does not see the chain of new US bases on its doorstep as a "defensive ring". Russia's defence chief has branded the planned US anti-missile missile sites on Czech and Polish soil as "an open threat to Russia".
SergeyIvanov,Russia'sdefence minister,spokemorecircumspectly while emphasising Moscow's concern. Hesaid:"Russiaisnotworried.Itsstrategicnuclearforcescanassureinanycircumstanceitssafety.Since neither Tehran,norPyongyangpossess intercontinentalmissilescapableof threatening the USA, from whom is this new missile shield supposed to protect the West? All it actually amounts to is that Prague and Warsaw want to demonstrate their loyalty to Washington."
Bush's Iran attack plan has brought into sharp focus the possible costs to Central and Eastern Europe of being "pillars of Pax Americana".