US-Iran Escalation: Iran Arrests 30 US Spies As It Builds Venezuelan Missile Base; America Sends A Third Aircraft Carrier To Persian Gulf

A week ago Die Welt reported that, in what may soon be a repeat of the Cuban missile crisis, US arch-enemy Iran, following a secret agreement signed on October 19, 2010 of strategic cooperation, Venezuela has allowed Iran to commence construction of a missile base on Venezuelan soil. The base, which will be located on the northernmost peninsula de Paraguana, 120 kilometers from the Colombian border, has recently been visited by a group of leading engineers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard-owned construction company Khatam al-Anbia, is unofficially designed "to help develop an infrastructure to protect against air attack. Also planned is the construction of a command and control station, residential areas, watchtowers, and bunkers, in which warheads, missile fuel and other items can be stored. In cooperation with its Venezuelan partners, Iran also intends to build missile silos at a depth of about 61 ft." The project appears to be funded by Iran: "Information gathered by Die Welt also suggests that on their visit to Venezuela, members of the Iranian delegation carried cash in their luggage for the project’s initial funding. Western security circles suspect that this involved tens of millions of dollars siphoned off from Iran’s burgeoning oil profits." But most importantly is the discovery that while presumably defensive, Venezuela has told Iran, that it will be granted use of the base when completed: "According to the secret agreement between the two countries, Venezuela pledged to Iran that it will be able to strike its enemies from the joint missile base. Iran is attempting to boost its strategic threat to the U.S., similar to the Soviet strategy in Cuba during the 1960s." And while skeptics may say that the base located about 2,400 miles from DC has no chance in striking the US capitol, the reality is that the Iranian long-range ballistic missiles Shahab 5 and 6, are rumored to be a three-stage system, which has a range of anywhere between 3,000 and 10,000 miles. So with missile base supplies most likely to come by sea (Venezuela is a few hundred miles away from Cuba), is a recreation of the 1961 Cuban missile crisis the next big political diversion?

Location of the base per Die Welt:

Which then begs the question: is America trying to antagonize Iran and to accelerate this "Cuban" denouement? According to the latest Naval update, not only are there now two aircraft carriers situated at the Straits of Hormuz, but a third one, CVN 77 G.H.W. Bush, is under way on a deployment to the 5th and 6th fleet AORs.

These developments come at a bad time for Ahmedinejad, whose power appears to be slipping following the deterioration of his relations with the religious leader Khamenei. Following a series of bizzare cabinet layoffs and forced transitions, none of which were to the liking of Iran's religious head, the president appointed himself the as country's oil minister, which yesterday was denounced by Iran's constitutional watchdog as illegal: a move that will put the country even more on edge as it likely now faces a crisis of confidence in its current rulers.

From Al Jazeera:

Iran's constitutional watchdog has deemed illegal Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's decision to take over the role of oil minister, after Iran's president removed the previous minister along with two others earlier in the week.

Iran's president was said to have assumed the role earlier this week as part of a government shakeup that reduced the number of ministries from 21 to 17.

The move put him in direct control of the government unit responsible for the extraction and export of the world's fifth largest oil and gas reserves.

It also meant Ahmadinejad would represent Iran at the next OPEC meeting, set for June 8 in Vienna.

According to Iranian law, a president has three months after removing a minister to introduce a new candidate to parliament.

During that period he can act as caretaker of the ministry or appoint someone else to do so.

And a move that is sure to tip the scales to an outright confrontation even more, is the just announced by Al Arabiya arrest of 30 suspected US spies: a move which will certainly lead to executions, and the complete collapse of any diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Iran has arrested 30 people it said were spying for the United States.

“Due to the massive intelligence and counter-intelligence work by Iranian agents, a complex espionage and sabotage network linked to America’s spy organization was uncovered and dismantled,” an intelligence ministry statement read out Saturday on the television said.

“Elite agents of the intelligence ministry in their confrontation with the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) elements were able to arrest 30 America-linked spies through numerous intelligence and counter-intelligence operations,” it added.

According to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, the suspects had passed information to US officials at embassies and consulates in third countries, including Malaysia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

It said Iran had identified 42 US intelligence officers in such countries, saying: “They engage in collection of information regarding Iran’s nuclear, aerospace defense and bio-technology fields,” among other areas.

Spying in Iran usually carries the death penalty, often implemented without a full trial.

The announcement of the arrests comes two days after US President Barack Obama made a speech on the Middle East, reiterating Washington’s view that Tehran sponsors terrorism and is developing nuclear weapons, charges that Iran vehemently denies.

Topping it all is the fact that just yesterday Obama had a meeting with Israel PM Netanyahu (full transcript here) which sought to mitigate the previous announcement by the administration that Israel should get back to its 1967 borders, and which merely led to yet another failure for returning to peace talks, after Palestinians described fresh talks as pointless following Israel's dismissal of Barack Obama's call for a return to prewar frontiers.

Once again, just like in 2010, the geopolitical concern of the "Iranian Question" continues to be the fuse on the timebomb for the inevitable military conflict which, as Zero Hedge predicted in early 2010, is the only possible outcome to the current global stagflationary wave. At this point it is almost certain that a war will break out. The only question is when, in what format, and just which countries will participate in the conflict.