Iran Plays the West for Suckers
Friday, December 17, 2010
China behind the worm?
Stuxnet’s Finnish-Chinese Connection
Dec. 14 2010 - 8:07 am | 29,508 views | 1 recommendation | 15 comments
Posted by Jeffrey Carr
I recently wrote a white paper entitled “Dragons, Tigers, Pearls, and Yellowcake” in which I proposed four alternative scenarios for the Stuxnet worm other than the commonly held assumption that it was Israel or the U.S. targeting Iran’s Bushehr or Natanz facilities. During the course of my research for that paper, I uncovered a connection between two of the key players in the Stuxnet drama: Vacon, the Finnish manufacturer of one of two frequency converter drives targeted by this malware; and RealTek, who’s digital certificate was stolen and used to smooth the way for the worm to be loaded onto a Windows host without raising any alarms. A third important piece of the puzzle, which I’ll discuss later in this article, directly connects a Chinese antivirus company which writes their own viruses with the Stuxnet worm.
Most people who have followed the Stuxnet investigation know that the international headquarters for Vacon is in Finland, but surprisingly, Finland isn’t where Vacon’s frequency converter drives are manufactured. Vacon’s manufacturing plant is actually located in the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) under the name Vacon Suzhou Drives Co. Ltd., located at 11A, Suchun Industrial Square 428# Xinglong Street, SIP Suzhou 215126 China.
Vacon isn’t the only company involved with Stuxnet that has a Chinese connection. The first genuine digital certificate used by Stuxnet developers was from RealTek Semiconductor Corp., a Taiwanese company which has a subsidiary in (of all places) Suzhou under the name Realsil Microelectronics, Inc. (450 Shenhu Road, Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou 215021 Jiangsu Province, China).
The question, of course, is what, if anything, does this say about China’s possible role as the source of the Stuxnet worm. There are scenarios under which China would benefit such as the rare-earths scenario that I presented in my white paper, however there’s a lack of data on mining failures that can be attributed to Stuxnet. The closest that anyone has come to identifying compromised operations is at Natanz however their centrifuge failures go back several years according to this February, 2010 report by ISIS, while the earliest Stuxnet sample seen by Symantec’s researchers was June, 2009 and that’s before it had signed driver files or exploited the remote code execution vulnerability that appeared in January, 2010 and March, 2010 respectively. Natanz may very well have been the target of an earlier cyber attack, or even multiple attacks, which had nothing to do with Stuxnet.
Does China Benefit By Attacking Natanz?
In 2008, China decided to assist the IAEA inspectors after it learned that Iran was in possession of blueprints to shape uranium metal into warheads, according to this article in The Telegraph. That same article discloses that Chinese designs for centrifuges were discovered in Iran, supplied via Pakistan’s AQ Khan.
On April 13, 2010, Beijing reiterated its opposition to Iran’s goal to develop nuclear weapons capabilities while stating that sanctions against Iran would be counter-productive. In other words, the PRC wanted to support its third largest supplier of oil (after Saudi Arabia and Angola) while at the same time seeking ways to get Iran to stop its uranium fuel enrichment program. What better way to accomplish that goal than by covertly creating a virus that will sabotage Natanz’ centrifuges in a way that simulates mechanical failure while overtly supporting the Iranian government by opposing sanctions pushed by the U.S. It’s both simple and elegant. Even if the worm was discovered before it accomplished its mission, who would blame China, Iran’s strongest ally, when the most obvious culprits would be Israel and the U.S.?
Reviewing The Evidence
China has an intimate knowledge of Iran’s centrifuges since, according to one source quoted above, they’re of Chinese design.
China has better access than any other country to manufacturing plans for the Vacon frequency converter drive made by Vacon’s Suzhou facility and specifically targeted by the Stuxnet worm (along with an Iranian company’s drive). Furthermore, in March 2010, China’s Customs ministry started an audit at Vacon’s Suzhou facility and took two employees into custody thereby providing further access to Vacon’s manufacturing specifications under cover of an active investigation.
China has better access than any other country to RealTek’s digital certificates through it’s Realsil office in Suzhou and, secondarily, to JMicron’s office in Taiwan.
China has direct access to Windows source code, which would explain how a malware team could create 4 key zero day vulnerabilities for Windows when most hackers find it challenging to develop even one.
There were no instances of Stuxnet infections in the PRC until very late which never made sense to me, particularly when Siemens software is pervasive throughout China’s power installations. Then, almost as an after-thought and over three months from the time the virus was first discovered, Chinese media reported one million infections, and here’s where the evidence becomes really interesting.
That report originated with a Chinese antivirus company called Rising International, who we now know colluded with an official in Beijing’s Public Security Bureau to make announcements encouraging Chinese citizens to download AV software from Rising International (RI) to fight a new virus that RI had secretly created in its own lab. Considering this new information, RI’s Stuxnet announcement sounds more like a CYA strategy from the worm’s originators than anything else.
The conventional wisdom on which nation state was responsible for the Stuxnet worm has relentlessly pointed the finger at Israel or the United States almost from day one of the worm’s discovery. No other scenarios were discussed or even considered with the exception of my own conjecture about India’s INSAT-4b satellite failure and Britain’s Heysham 1 nuclear plant shutdown, and then my white paper proposing 4 additional alternative scenarios; all of which were my way of trying (and failing) to expand the discussion beyond Israel and Iran. The appeal of a U.S. or Israeli cyber attack against first Bushehr, then Natanz, was just too good to pass up even though there was no hard evidence and very slim circumstantial evidence to support a case for either country. The best that Ralph Langner, CEO of Langner Communications (and the leading evangelist for this scenario) could point to was an obscure Hebrew word for Myrtus and a biblical reference for a date found in the malware that pertained to Persia; both of which could have been explained in a half dozen alternate ways having nothing to do with either Israel or the U.S.
As far as China goes, I’ve identified 5 distinct ties to Stuxnet that are unique to China as well as provided a rationale for the attack which fits China’s unique role as Iran’s ally and customer, while opposing Iran’s fuel enrichment plans. There’s still a distinct lack of information on any other facilities that suffered damage, and no good explanations for why there was such massive collateral damage across dozens of countries if only one or two facilities in one nation state were the targets however based solely on the known facts, I consider China to be the most likely candidate for Stuxnet’s origin.
Stuxnet Worm Still Out of Control at Iran's Nuclear Sites, Experts Say
By Ed Barnes
Published December 09, 2010
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Iran International Photo Agency, via AFP
Aug 21: The first fuel is loaded into the reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran.
EXCLUSIVE: Iran's nuclear program is still in chaos despite its leaders' adamant claim that they have contained the computer worm that attacked their facilities, cybersecurity experts in the United States and Europe say.
The American and European experts say their security websites, which deal with the computer worm known as Stuxnet, continue to be swamped with traffic from Tehran and other places in the Islamic Republic, an indication that the worm continues to infect the computers at Iran's two nuclear sites.
The Stuxnet worm, named after initials found in its code, is the most sophisticated cyberweapon ever created. Examination of the worm shows it was a cybermissile designed to penetrate advanced security systems. It was equipped with a warhead that targeted and took over the controls of the centrifuge systems at Iran’s uranium processing center in Natanz, and it had a second warhead that targeted the massive turbine at the nuclear reactor in Bashehr.
Stuxnet was designed to take over the control systems and evade detection, and it apparently was very successful. Last week President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after months of denials, admitted that the worm had penetrated Iran's nuclear sites, but he said it was detected and controlled.
The second part of that claim, experts say, doesn’t ring true.
Eric Byres, a computer expert who has studied the worm, said his site was hit with a surge in traffic from Iran, meaning that efforts to get the two nuclear plants to function normally have failed. The web traffic, he says, shows Iran still hasn’t come to grips with the complexity of the malware that appears to be still infecting the systems at both Bashehr and Natanz.
“The effort has been stunning," Byres said. "Two years ago American users on my site outnumbered Iranians by 100 to 1. Today we are close to a majority of Iranian users.”
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/12/09/despite-iranian-claims-stuxnet-worm-causing-nuclear-havoc/#ixzz186aqzUHj
Iran Announces New Advances in Nuclear Program
Iran on Sunday announced it had delivered yellowcake, made from uranium ore, to a fuel-conversion facility in the city of Isfahan, The Wall Street Journal reported. Yellowcake, a concentrated form of uranium, is the key feedstock needed to produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor, or the highly enriched uranium for atomic weapons. "This means that Iran has become self-sufficient in the entire fuel cycle," said Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. "No matter how much effort they put into their sanctions...our nuclear activities will proceed and they will witness greater achievements in the future.
Wikileaks: Kouchner warns 'prepare for war' with Iran
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Sarkozy, French FM say the choice is "between an Iranian bomb and a bombing of Iran;" France pressed EU to impose sanctions, keep Iranian influence out of Lebanon.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned that there could be a war against Iran, according to a US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks this week.
The cable, dated September 18, 2007, explains that "three weeks after [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy publicly warned about the 'catastrophic choice between an Iranian bomb and a bombing of Iran'...Kouchner publicly observed that given Iran's behavior 'we must prepare for the worst, in other words, war,' and called for EU sanctions against Teheran."
In the cable, the US ambassador to France, Craig Stapleton wrote that Kouchner's use of the word "war" has "left some of his handlers fretting," and that "he and others in the French government repeatedly stress that pressing ahead with ongoing diplomatic efforts [including sanctions] must be exhausted before any potentially 'catastrophic' resort to force."
According to the cable, Kouchner planned to explain France's hard line to his Russian counterparts and to urge the EU to impose sanctions. Kouchner's ministry also attempted to contact Iran directly and split from the P5+1, in a move that the US called "naive."
Kouchner also sought to discuss "a senior-level US/French channel that might include the UK to discuss possible US military action" against Iran.
In addition, Kouchner saw "preserv[ing] Lebanon's sovereignty and limit[ing] Syrian and Iranian influence" as a priority.
Meanwhile, back here we have all but publicly declare that the military option is off the table and we have the spectacle of Hillary Clinton literally being humiliated by Iran a few days ago when she scurried about trying to get Iran’s foreign minister to at least recognize her presence as a security conference last week (shades of Madeleine Albright running after Yasser Arafat begging him to come back to a meeting after he had a temper tantrum and walked out; Note to all future Secretary of States-demeaning oneself is not a way to win respect. Self-abnegation is a disgrace). On Hillary Clinton’s behavior (and, btw, I donated to her back in 2008 –all a matter of public record-so my opposition to Obama is just that-opposition to Obama and not some partisan take):
Foreign Policy.com has a revealing article today detailing the Secretary of State’s futile attempts to greet Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at the 2010 IISS Manama Security Dialogue, where she was the featured speaker. According to Foreign Policy’s report:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to speak with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki twice on Friday, pursuing him both inside and outside the gala dinner here at the Ritz Carlton in Manama. But Mottaki deliberately avoided contact with her both times…
Everybody at the opening dinner for the 2010 IISS Manama Security Dialogue, where Clinton gave the speech, was watching to see if she and Mottaki would trade words. After all, they were seated only five seats apart. Clinton went out on a limb twice to try to make it happen, but the end result was only an unintelligible mutter from the Iranian leader in the general direction of the secretary.
… The next attempt by Clinton came outside the conference space, in the driveway while both leaders were waiting for their motorcades to pull up. Again, Clinton called out to Mottaki with a greeting and again, Mottaki refused to respond.
The incident was clearly humiliating for the Secretary of State, and strikingly illustrates the futility of the Obama Administration’s failed policy of “constructive engagement” with Iran, which the European Union has been trying for a decade without success. Tehran’s nuclear programme continues to march forward in the face of Washington’s weak-kneed approach, and we are now perilously close to having a nuclear-armed rogue state.
How the worm worked
Mystery Surrounds Cyber Missile That Crippled Iran's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions
By Ed Barnes
Published November 26, 2010
An aerial view of Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz.
In the 20th century, this would have been a job for James Bond.
The mission: Infiltrate the highly advanced, securely guarded enemy headquarters where scientists in the clutches of an evil master are secretly building a weapon that can destroy the world. Then render that weapon harmless and escape undetected.
But in the 21st century, Bond doesn't get the call. Instead, the job is handled by a suave and very sophisticated secret computer worm, a jumble of code called Stuxnet, which in the last year has not only crippled Iran's nuclear program but has caused a major rethinking of computer security around the globe.
Intelligence agencies, computer security companies and the nuclear industry have been trying to analyze the worm since it was discovered in June by a Belarus-based company that was doing business in Iran. And what they've all found, says Sean McGurk, the Homeland Security Department's acting director of national cyber security and communications integration, is a “game changer.”
The construction of the worm was so advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first “weaponized” computer virus.
Simply put, Stuxnet is an incredibly advanced, undetectable computer worm that took years to construct and was designed to jump from computer to computer until it found the specific, protected control system that it aimed to destroy: Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.
The target was seemingly impenetrable; for security reasons, it lay several stories underground and was not connected to the World Wide Web. And that meant Stuxnet had to act as sort of a computer cruise missile: As it made its passage through a set of unconnected computers, it had to grow and adapt to security measures and other changes until it reached one that could bring it into the nuclear facility.
When it ultimately found its target, it would have to secretly manipulate it until it was so compromised it ceased normal functions.
And finally, after the job was done, the worm would have to destroy itself without leaving a trace.
That is what we are learning happened at Iran's nuclear facilities -- both at Natanz, which houses the centrifuge arrays used for processing uranium into nuclear fuel, and, to a lesser extent, at Bushehr, Iran's nuclear power plant.
At Natanz, for almost 17 months, Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific component -- the frequency converters made by the German equipment manufacturer Siemens that regulated the speed of the spinning centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered at the centrifuges' control panel.
At Bushehr, meanwhile, a second secret set of codes, which Langner called “digital warheads,” targeted the Russian-built power plant's massive steam turbine.
Here's how it worked, according to experts who have examined the worm:
--The nuclear facility in Iran runs an “air gap” security system, meaning it has no connections to the Web, making it secure from outside penetration. Stuxnet was designed and sent into the area around Iran's Natanz nuclear power plant -- just how may never be known -- to infect a number of computers on the assumption that someone working in the plant would take work home on a flash drive, acquire the worm and then bring it back to the plant.
--Once the worm was inside the plant, the next step was to get the computer system there to trust it and allow it into the system. That was accomplished because the worm contained a “digital certificate” stolen from JMicron, a large company in an industrial park in Taiwan. (When the worm was later discovered it quickly replaced the original digital certificate with another certificate, also stolen from another company, Realtek, a few doors down in the same industrial park in Taiwan.)
--Once allowed entry, the worm contained four “Zero Day” elements in its first target, the Windows 7 operating system that controlled the overall operation of the plant. Zero Day elements are rare and extremely valuable vulnerabilities in a computer system that can be exploited only once. Two of the vulnerabilities were known, but the other two had never been discovered. Experts say no hacker would waste Zero Days in that manner.
--After penetrating the Windows 7 operating system, the code then targeted the “frequency converters” that ran the centrifuges. To do that it used specifications from the manufacturers of the converters. One was Vacon, a Finnish Company, and the other Fararo Paya, an Iranian company. What surprises experts at this step is that the Iranian company was so secret that not even the IAEA knew about it.
--The worm also knew that the complex control system that ran the centrifuges was built by Siemens, the German manufacturer, and -- remarkably -- how that system worked as well and how to mask its activities from it.
--Masking itself from the plant's security and other systems, the worm then ordered the centrifuges to rotate extremely fast, and then to slow down precipitously. This damaged the converter, the centrifuges and the bearings, and it corrupted the uranium in the tubes. It also left Iranian nuclear engineers wondering what was wrong, as computer checks showed no malfunctions in the operating system.
Estimates are that this went on for more than a year, leaving the Iranian program in chaos. And as it did, the worm grew and adapted throughout the system. As new worms entered the system, they would meet and adapt and become increasingly sophisticated.
During this time the worms reported back to two servers that had to be run by intelligence agencies, one in Denmark and one in Malaysia. The servers monitored the worms and were shut down once the worm had infiltrated Natanz. Efforts to find those servers since then have yielded no results.
This went on until June of last year, when a Belarusan company working on the Iranian power plant in Beshehr discovered it in one of its machines. It quickly put out a notice on a Web network monitored by computer security experts around the world. Ordinarily these experts would immediately begin tracing the worm and dissecting it, looking for clues about its origin and other details.
But that didn’t happen, because within minutes all the alert sites came under attack and were inoperative for 24 hours.
“I had to use e-mail to send notices but I couldn’t reach everyone. Whoever made the worm had a full day to eliminate all traces of the worm that might lead us them,” Eric Byers, a computer security expert who has examined the Stuxnet. “No hacker could have done that.”
Experts, including inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, say that, despite Iran's claims to the contrary, the worm was successful in its goal: causing confusion among Iran’s nuclear engineers and disabling their nuclear program.
Because of the secrecy surrounding the Iranian program, no one can be certain of the full extent of the damage. But sources inside Iran and elsewhere say that the Iranian centrifuge program has been operating far below its capacity and that the uranium enrichment program had “stagnated” during the time the worm penetrated the underground facility. Only 4,000 of the 9,000 centrifuges Iran was known to have were put into use. Some suspect that is because of the critical need to replace ones that were damaged.
And the limited number of those in use dwindled to an estimated 3,700 as problems engulfed their operation. IAEA inspectors say the sabotage better explains the slowness of the program, which they had earlier attributed to poor equipment manufacturing and management problems. As Iranians struggled with the setbacks, they began searching for signs of sabotage. From inside Iran there have been unconfirmed reports that the head of the plant was fired shortly after the worm wended its way into the system and began creating technical problems, and that some scientists who were suspected of espionage disappeared or were executed. And counter intelligence agents began monitoring all communications between scientists at the site, creating a climate of fear and paranoia.
Iran has adamantly stated that its nuclear program has not been hit by the bug. But in doing so it has backhandedly confirmed that its nuclear facilities were compromised. When Hamid Alipour, head of the nation’s Information Technology Company, announced in September that 30,000 Iranian computers had been hit by the worm but the nuclear facilities were safe, he added that among those hit were the personal computers of the scientists at the nuclear facilities. Experts say that Natanz and Bushehr could not have escaped the worm if it was in their engineers’ computers.
“We brought it into our lab to study it and even with precautions it spread everywhere at incredible speed,” Byres said.
“The worm was designed not to destroy the plants but to make them ineffective. By changing the rotation speeds, the bearings quickly wear out and the equipment has to be replaced and repaired. The speed changes also impact the quality of the uranium processed in the centrifuges creating technical problems that make the plant ineffective,” he explained.
In other words the worm was designed to allow the Iranian program to continue but never succeed, and never to know why.
One additional impact that can be attributed to the worm, according to David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Studies, is that “the lives of the scientists working in the facility have become a living hell because of counter-intelligence agents brought into the plant” to battle the breach. Ironically, even after its discovery, the worm has succeeded in slowing down Iran's reputed effort to build an atomic weapon. And Langer says that the efforts by the Iranians to cleanse Stuxnet from their system “will probably take another year to complete,” and during that time the plant will not be able to function anywhere normally.
Ahmadinejad: Iran's Nuclear Program Hit by Sabotage - Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
Iran's uranium-enrichment program has been the target of sabotage, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday.
"They had been successful in making problems for a limited number of our centrifuges, with software they had installed in electronic devices," he said.
Bombings Hit Iran's Atomic Experts - William Yong and Robert F. Worth
One top Iranian nuclear scientist killed in bomb attacks Monday was Majid Shahriari, who managed a "major project" for the country's Atomic Energy Organization. His wounded colleague, Fereydoon Abbasi, is on the UN Security Council's sanctions list for ties to the Iranian nuclear effort. The two scientists are among the most prominent in the Iranian nuclear world. "They're bad people, and the work they do is exactly what you need to design a bomb," said a U.S. official who assesses scientific intelligence.
Shahriari published dozens of articles on nuclear research, at least five of which list Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, as a co-author. The UN describes Abbasi as a senior scientist in the Ministry of Defense "working closely" with Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps whom Western intelligence considers a leader in Tehran's effort to acquire a nuclear warhead. "Abbasi is the big one," the U.S. analyst said. (New York Times)
Iran's Nuclear Program Reportedly Struggling - Glenn Kessler
Iran's nuclear program has experienced serious problems, including unexplained fluctuations in the performance of the thousands of centrifuges enriching uranium, leading to a temporary shutdown. Speculation immediately centered on the Stuxnet worm, a computer virus that some researchers say was designed to target Iran's centrifuge machines so that they spin out of control.
Olli Heinonen, a former top IAEA official, said Monday that 3,772 centrifuges at the Natanz facility were being fed uranium gas and 5,084 machines were idle. "This indicates that there is a problem," he said. (Washington Post)
US drops ball on Iranian nuks
To: firstname.lastname@example.orgFirst the numerous skipped deadlines….the silence and lack of support for Iranian protesters..the continual pushback of the date that Iran would be nuclear-weapon capable..and now “US has no problem with Iran’s Busherh atomic plant”. Iran is rich with natural gas- a relatively clean way to generate electricity. Iran does not need nuclear power. BTW, when America makes a statement such as this one the rest of the world will see no reason to be less complacent.
Clinton: US has no problem with Iran's Bushehr atomic plant
By JPOST.COM STAFF
As Iranians begin injecting uranium fuel rods into the core of the nuclear power plant, US secretary of state says Washington more concerned with facilities at Natanz, Qom where they fear weapons program conducted.
The United States does not see Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor as a threat, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday, on the day that the Islamic Republic began fueling the core of the power plant.
Clinton said that the US is more concerned with other Iranian sites where they believe the Islamic Republic may be attempting to create nuclear weapons.
"Our problem is not with their reactor at Bushehr, our problem is with their facilities at places like Natanz and their secret facility at Qom and other places where we believe they are conducting their weapons program," Clinton stated while addressing reporters at a meeting with Austria's foreign minister.
Iranian authorities began injecting uranium fuel rods into the core of the Bushehr nuclear power plant on Tuesday, Iranian Press TV reported.
According to the report, the nuclear plant will become operational once all 163 fuel rods have been injected into the plant's core, and it should begin generating electricity in early 2011.
On Monday, an Iranian lawmaker declared Iran's intent to continue with its nuclear program despite international concern.
"Despite all efforts and policies of America and the European Union to put sanctions on Iran, the fuel of the Bushehr power plant will be loaded into its core tomorrow," Iranian MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi was quoted as saying by official media.
Boroujerdi is the head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee.
The Stuxnet outbreak
A worm in the centrifuge
An unusually sophisticated cyber-weapon is mysterious but important
Sep 30th 2010 | From The Economist print edition
IT SOUNDS like the plot of an airport thriller or a James Bond film. A crack team of experts, assembled by a shadowy government agency, develops a cyber-weapon designed to shut down a rogue country’s nuclear programme. The software uses previously unknown tricks to worm its way into industrial control systems undetected, searching for a particular configuration that matches its target—at which point it wreaks havoc by reprogramming the system, closing valves and shutting down pipelines.
This is not fiction, but fact. A new software “worm” called Stuxnet (its name is derived from keywords buried in the code) seems to have been developed to attack a specific nuclear facility in Iran. Its sophistication suggests that it is the work of a well-financed team working for a government, rather than a group of rogue hackers trying to steal secrets or cause trouble. America and Israel are the obvious suspects. But Stuxnet’s origins and effects are unknown.
Stuxnet first came to light in June, when it was identified by VirusBlokAda, a security firm in Belarus. The next month Siemens, a German industrial giant, warned customers that their “supervisory control and data acquisition” (SCADA) management systems, which control valves, pipelines and industrial equipment, were vulnerable to the worm. It targets a piece of Siemens software, called WinCC, which runs on Microsoft Windows.
For security reasons SCADA systems are not usually connected to the internet. But Stuxnet can spread via infected memory sticks plugged into a computer’s USB port. Stuxnet checks to see if WinCC is running. If it is, it tries to log in, to install a clandestine “back door” to the internet, and then to contact a server in Denmark or Malaysia for instructions. (Analysis of traffic to these servers is continuing, and may offer the best chance of casting light on Stuxnet’s purpose and origins.) If it cannot find WinCC, it tries to copy itself on to other USB devices. It can also spread across local networks via shared folders and print spoolers.
Initially, Stuxnet seemed to be designed for industrial espionage or to allow hackers to blackmail companies by threatening to shut down vital systems. But its unusual characteristics suggest another explanation. WinCC is a rather obscure SCADA system. Hackers hoping to target as many companies as possible would have focused on more popular systems. And Stuxnet searches for a particular configuration of industrial equipment as it spreads. It launches an attack only when it finds a match. “The bad news is that the virus is targeting a specific process or plant,” says Wieland Simon of Siemens. “The good news is that most industrial processes are not the target of the virus.” (Siemens says it knows of 15 plants around the world that were infected by Stuxnet, but their operations were unaffected as they were not the intended target.)
Another odd feature is that Stuxnet uses two compromised security certificates (stolen from firms in Taiwan) and a previously unknown security hole in Windows to launch itself automatically from a memory stick. The use of such “zero-day vulnerabilities” by viruses is not unusual. But Stuxnet can exploit four entirely different ones in order to worm its way into a system. These holes are so valuable that hackers would not normally use four of them in a single attack. Whoever created Stuxnet did just that to boost its chances. They also had detailed knowledge of Siemens’s industrial-production processes and control systems, and access to the target plant’s blueprints. In short, Stuxnet was the work neither of amateur hackers nor of cybercriminals, but of a well- financed team. “Behind this virus there are experts,” says Mr Simon. “They need money and know-how.”
So what was the target? Microsoft said in August that Stuxnet had infected more than 45,000 computers. Symantec, a computer-security firm, found that 60% of the infected machines were in Iran, 18% in Indonesia and 8% in India. That could be a coincidence. But if Stuxnet was aimed at Iran, one possible target is the Bushehr nuclear reactor. This week Iranian officials confirmed that Stuxnet had infected computers at Bushehr, but said that no damage to major systems had been done. Bushehr has been dogged by problems for years and its opening was recently delayed once again. Given that history, the latest hitch may not have been Stuxnet’s work.
A more plausible target is Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz. Inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s watchdog, have found that about half Iran’s centrifuges are idle and those that work are yielding little. Some say a fall in the number of working centrifuges at Natanz in early 2009 is evidence of a successful Stuxnet attack.
Last year Scott Borg of the United States Cyber-Consequences Unit, a think-tank, said that Israel might prefer to mount a cyber-attack rather than a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. That could involve disrupting sensitive equipment such as centrifuges, he said, using malware introduced via infected memory sticks.
His observation now looks astonishingly prescient. “Since the autumn of 2002, I have regularly predicted that this sort of cyber-attack tool would eventually be developed,” he says. Israel certainly has the ability to create Stuxnet, he adds, and there is little downside to such an attack, because it would be virtually impossible to prove who did it. So a tool like Stuxnet is “Israel’s obvious weapon of choice”. Some have even noted keywords in Stuxnet’s code drawn from the Bible’s Book of Esther—in which the Jews fight back to foil a plot to exterminate them.
Ehud Barak: History Will Judge Obama on Nuclear Iran
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Follow Israel news on and .
“History will judge this [Obama] administration when it comes to the end of its term whether Iran has nuclear weapons or not,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Fox News in an interview. He also said sanctions are not enough to stop Iran from reaching nuclear capability.
Speaking in an interview while visiting officials in Washington, the Defense Minister added, “We are not frightened by [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s statements, but we have to take seriously that a nuclear Iran” would begin an arms race in the Middle East and “encourage global jihad and intimidation. We have to consider what follows sanctions, which will not suffice.”
Barak estimated that Iran “technically” may be able to possess a nuclear weapon within a year and a half “if they break all the rules.” He explained the major problem is that Iran may “become immune” to a military strike by building several sites and protecting them by burying them deep underground.
Do you really believe that you can sit and talk with Iran, and they will respond like rational Westerners?
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for the author of a book called “A Time To Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guard of Iran.”
He joined the Revolutionary guard in 1979. He quickly became disillusioned when he saw people being tortured and murdered, and women raped in Tehran’s Evin prison.
Rather than quit, he contacted the CIA and worked as an agent. In July, speaking in Washington, he predicted that Iran will eventually attack Israel, Europe and the Gulf.
He advocated a preemptive military strike saying,
“Stop dreaming please, you’re not dealing with rational people. Every time you extend a hand, it is not seen as sincerity but stupidity.”
That is a knowledgeable Iranian speaking, not me.
Bomb Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Reactor?
The endgame may be coming soon.
BY Michael Anton
August 14, 2010 4:45 PM
Speculation about a possible attack on Iranian nuclear sites has reached a fever pitch over the summer. The talk is so wild that even level-headed commentators on the right like Michael Barone opine aloud that perhaps Israel won’t be the instigator; rather the Obama administration might order a U.S. strike.
This still seems beyond unlikely but there is no question that the climate has changed. True, the president’s National Security Advisor the other day reiterated the administration’s willingness for Obama to meet with his Iranian counterpart assuming certain conditions were met—conditions that no one expects will be met. But inside the White House and national security bureaucracy, opinions about Iranian behavior and intentions appear to be hardening. Robert Kagan recently recounted a briefing by the president and top officials in which they made as clear as they could that their patience with Iran has all but run out.
So what’s next? Various chess pieces have been moving but it would take a Kasparov to divine a clear strategy—on either side—from what can be observed. The United States announced a $60 billion sale of advanced weaponry—including F-15s and Apache helicopters—to Saudi Arabia, and the Israelis, uncharacteristically, have declined to voice even mild reservations. Reports of an Israeli-Saudi deal for overflight rights over the kingdom draw predictable denials but continue to surface—without causing the political uproar one would expect. An Iranian nuclear scientist who vanished last year suddenly turned up in the United States and asked to go home. Al Qaeda figures—some blood relatives of the top brass—who have been living in Iran since shortly after 9/11 have pulled up stakes. Weapons caches of Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and (to a far lesser extent) Hamas in Gaza—both key Iranian proxies on Israel’s borders—have been growing. A fourth round of sanctions passed the UNSC with nominal Russian and Chinese support, but Moscow and Beijing undermine them any way they can. Tehran announced that a long-anticipated delivery of coveted S-300 anti-aircraft missiles had finally been made—though not from Russia, the principal seller, but from Moscow-lackey Belarus. American officials cast doubt on the “news” but nobody really knows.
Now comes word that Russia will, after a decade-and-a-half of stop-and-go work, finally fuel and start Iran’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr by August 21st. Similar word has come many times before. The Russians are, in the parlance of the region, adept at selling this particular rug over and over. Somehow the carpet never actually changes hands. Could this time be different?
Only Vladimir Putin and his immediate circle really know. It matters because, once fueled and operational, Bushehr will produce plutonium 239, which can be used to make nuclear weapons. The plant is also large, impossible to conceal or move, and relatively easy to destroy from the air. But once it has gone critical, any attempt to do so would risk the release of a radioactive plume that might kill civilians and poison surrounding areas.
This leaves any would-be attacker of Iran’s nuclear sites with a difficult choice. An attack is likely to cause collateral damage no matter how carefully it’s planned and is certain to result in a PR uproar. A radioactive release would compound both problems by several orders of magnitude. Israel in particular can expect outrage—some, but by no means all, feigned—from virtually the whole world should it move against Iranian nuclear sites. Jerusalem presumably does not wish to intensify the inevitable vitriolic reaction by causing radioactive contamination.
Which means that if the story is true, and if the Israelis judge Bushehr to be a dangerous installation, they will have to move quickly—as in, within the next week. Both are big “ifs.” Reports from inside the Israeli defense establishment suggest that they don’t fear Bushehr nearly as much as the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom. Certainly, the latter have been operating for years and have produced thousands of pounds of highly enriched uranium, whereas Bushehr has yet to produce so much as one gram of pu239 (or one watt of electricity for that matter). Also, it’s far from clear whether Iran has the technology, much less the capability, to extract plutonium from spent reactor fuel rods.
These are fair reasons not to be worried about Bushehr right now. But they aren’t good reasons to be unconcerned forever. Pu239 is an inevitable byproduct of the operation of a nuclear reactor. Once operational, Bushehr will produce bomb fuel over time. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. Having produced the stuff, Tehran’s incentive to master reprocessing will be high. And when it does, the plutonium will be ready and waiting. That incentive will only grow once/if Iran has lost or suffered a severe setback in its HEU production capability. Suddenly Bushehr would be Tehran’s only route to the bomb.
And it’s an objectively better route than HEU. Breeder reactors churn out far more plutonium, much more quickly, than centrifuge cascades can produce HEU. Plutonium also makes a better bomb: smaller, lighter, more powerful and more deliverable on a larger variety of vehicles.
The possible repercussions of an attack on Iran have been gamed out thoroughly. Opinions differ on how serious they might be. It seems reasonable to assume that adding one target to a lengthy list would not make them materially worse. Any nation prepared to incur all that risk from striking Iran’s HEU sites may as well take out Bushehr as well. If nothing else, at least the attacker could know for sure that the plant would be gone. As many opponents and skeptics of a strike have noted, no such certainty would apply to attacks on the buried and largely hidden Natanz and Qom sites. Plus, the Israelis have twice destroyed nuclear reactors in the region but never enrichment cascades. It’s hard to see what sense it would make to mount the difficult, unprecedented, uncertain operation while leaving standing the one site they know they can eliminate.
So this news—if it really is news—would appear to be one more move on the chessboard that suggests the endgame may be coming soon. A grandmaster might assume that anything he could game out, the Russians and Iranians could too. Are the Russians fueling Bushehr knowing—or even hoping—that doing so might precipitate an attack? Certainly Moscow has reasons not to welcome a nuclear armed Iran. Goading someone else into doing the dirty work has significant advantages. As does the inevitable rise in hydrocarbon prices following a Middle East conflagration.
Then again, it could be just another feint. Or the above analysis could be wrong. Or it could be right, but the Israelis decide not to act for other reasons. In chess, the players’ intentions may be unknown but at least all the moves are visible. Not so in politics.
Update (7:05 p.m.): The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Obama administration, as part of the price for a Russian vote in favor of June’s UNSC sanctions resolution against Iran, agreed not to oppose Russian help to get Bushehr started. Their rationale is that Bushehr doesn’t pose a proliferation risk because the Russians will be reclaiming all of the plant’s spent fuel rods. This of course entails trusting three parties—the governments of Iran and Russia, plus the International Atomic Energy Agency—which have not exactly proved trustworthy on this issue in the past. It’s an odd position for an administration so committed to “nuclear zero” to take.
However, it should put to rest any speculation that the United States might be contemplating an attack of our own—at least on Bushehr. It also must complicate Israeli calculations. Israel will no doubt do what it believes it has to do. Bush administration officials reportedly communicated to Jerusalem in advance their opposition to the attack on Syria’s reactor in 2007—an attack that went forward anyway. But this time such an attack would have to take place not merely in spite of an ally’s private objections to the operation but of its public approval of the targeted project.
One of the many difficult calculations Jerusalem must make is whether a potential U.S. backlash over a strike the Obama administration doesn’t want is worse than the consequences of not striking. No Israeli government could take lightly the prospect of a serious and potentially fatal breach of relations with the United States. That’s not an existential threat. But it would be dire enough that it’s not worth risking unless the consequences of inaction truly are existential. That’s a hard and unenviable call to have to make.
Michael Anton is policy director at Keep America Safe.
New sanctions crimp Iran's shipping business as insurers withhold coverage
By Thomas Erdbrink and Colum Lynch
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
TEHRAN -- Just weeks after the United States and the United Nations imposed new rounds of sanctions on Iran, Tehran's ability to ship vital goods has been significantly curtailed as some of the world's most powerful Western insurance companies cut off Iranian shippers out of fear that they could run afoul of U.S. laws, the insurers say.
The new measures pose a serious test for Iran. In particular, the U.S. sanctions, which threaten to penalize foreign companies that sell fuel and other refined petroleum products to Iran, have forced ports and freighting companies across the globe to reevaluate their Iranian business. Dozens of Iranian vessels that transport crude oil, industrial equipment and other goods and supplies in and out of the Islamic Republic have been denied insurance coverage for weeks, insurance company representatives said.
"Iranian-flagged ships are facing problems all over the world as they currently have no insurance coverage because of the new sanctions," said Mohammad Rounaghi, deputy manager of Sea Pars, an Iranian company that provides services for international ship owners and maritime insurance companies. "Basically, most ports will refuse them entry if they are not covered for possible damages."
In a blow to Tehran, maritime insurer Lloyd's announced this month that it would stop underwriting gasoline imports to Iran, a move that analysts say will probably prompt other insurers to follow. "Lloyd's will always comply with applicable sanctions," Sean McGovern, its general counsel, said in a statement. "The U.S. is an important market for Lloyd's and, in recognition of this, the market will not insure or reinsure refined petroleum going into Iran."
But Russia and India have made it clear that they intend to continue legitimate trade with Iran, providing Tehran with hope that some nations will accept its solution for the insurance crisis: coverage guaranteed by the Iranian government.
"These sanctions have not affected us much," said Mohammad Hussein Dajmar, the managing director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), which has 160 ships in its fleet. "The world has many ports. We will sail to those nations that want to do business with us."
Why Hasn't Israel Bombed Iran (Yet)?
The military risks are large; the political risks could be even bigger.
By BRET STEPHENS
Why hasn't Israel bombed Iran yet? It's a question I often get from people who suppose I have a telepathic hotline to Benjamin Netanyahu's brain. I don't, but for a long time I was confident that an attack would happen in the first six months of this year. Since it didn't, it's worth thinking through why.
First, though, let me explain my previous thinking. In the spring of 2008, there was intense speculation that then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, fresh from ordering an attack on a covert Syrian reactor, was giving serious thought to an Israeli strike on Iran. President Bush—who Israelis believed would give them the diplomatic cover and logistical support they would need for such a strike, especially if things went amiss—had only a few months left to go. The release of the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate claiming (erroneously, as we now know) that Iran had halted its nuclear weaponization effort meant it was highly unlikely that the U.S. would attack.
Finally, Israeli planners understood that the longer they delayed a strike, the harder it would be to achieve meaningful effects. Iran would have more time to harden its facilities, improve its defenses, and disperse its nuclear materials.
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Landing an F-15: Israel puts the brakes on a strike against Iran.
So why didn't Israel act then? A variety of reasons, the most plausible of which was that Mr. Olmert believed an Israeli strike on Iran was a huge gamble, and that it would be rash to attack before every diplomatic, political or covert means to stop Iran's nuclear bid had been explored. Then came Barack Obama with his time-limited offer to negotiate with Tehran, followed by Iran's post-election unrest, which briefly aroused hopes that the regime might be toppled from within.
By the end of last year, it was clear that both hopes were misplaced. It was clear that the limited sanctions being contemplated by the Obama administration were not of a kind to deter Iran from its nuclear bids. It was clear that those bids were moving steadily closer to fruition. And it was clear that the administration was ill-inclined to take military action of its own.
All of which persuaded me that, having duly given Mr. Obama's diplomacy the benefit of the doubt, Israel—under the more hawkish leadership of Mr. Netanyahu—would strike, sooner rather than later. Plainly I was wrong.
What gives? Here are four theories in ascending order of significance and plausibility.
The first is that Israeli military planners have concluded that any attack would be unlikely to succeed (or succeed at a reasonable price). Maybe. But this analysis fails to appreciate the depth of Israeli fears of a nuclear Iran, and the lengths they are prepared to go to stop it. A successful strike on Iran may be at the outer periphery of Israel's capabilities, but senior Israeli military and political leaders insist it is not completely beyond it.
India Sees Hurdle in U.S. Sanctions
A second theory is that Israel is biding its time as it improves its military capabilities on both its offensive and defensive ends. Yesterday Israel completed tests of its "Iron Dome" missile defense shield, designed to guard against the kind of short-range rockets that Hamas and Hezbollah might use in retaliation against an Israeli strike on Iran. The system will begin coming on line in November. Israel is also mulling the purchase of a semi-stealthy variant of the F-15 as an alternative to the much more expensive F-35, delivery of which has been delayed till 2015. What Israel decides could be a telling indicator of what it intends.
The third theory concerns the internal dynamics of Israeli politics. Mr. Netanyahu may favor a strike, but he will not order one without the consent of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and perhaps also Mossad chief Meir Dagan. This inner cabinet is said to be uniformly against a strike, with the wavering exception of Mr. Barak. But Mr. Ashkenazi and Mr. Dagan are due to step down within a few months, and who Mr. Netanyahu chooses to replace them will have a material bearing on the government's attitude toward a strike.
Finally, Israeli leaders are mindful of history. Put aside the routine comparisons between a prospective military strike on Iran with Israel's quick and effective destruction of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. As I'm reminded by Michael Doran, a Middle East scholar at NYU, Israel's leaders are probably no less alert to the lessons of the Suez War in 1956. Back then, a successful military operation by Britain, France and Israel to humiliate Egypt's Gamel Abdel Nasser (in many ways the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of his day) fell afoul of the determined political opposition of the Eisenhower administration, which mistakenly thought that it could curry favor with the Arabs by visibly distancing itself from Israel and its traditional European allies. Sound familiar?
There is now talk that the Obama administration may be reconsidering its military options toward Iran. Let's hope so. Israel may ultimately be willing to attack Iran once it reckons that it has run out of other options, as it did prior to the Six Day War. But its tactical margin for error will be slim, particularly since an effective strike will require days not hours. And the political risks it runs will be monumental. As Mr. Doran notes, in 1956 it could at least count on the diplomatic support of two members of the U.N. Security Council. Today, the U.S. is its last significant friend.
This is an unenviable position, and Israel's friends abroad would do well to spare it easy lectures. Iran is not Israel's problem alone. It should not be Israel's problem alone to solve, to its own frightful peril.
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Should Israel Bomb Iran?
Better safe than sorry
BY Reuel Marc Gerecht
July 26, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 42
There is only one thing that terrifies Washington’s foreign policy establishment more than the prospect of an American airstrike against Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities: an Israeli airstrike. Left, right, and center, “sensible” people view the idea with alarm. Such an attack would, they say, do great damage to the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Tehran would counterattack, punishing “the Great Satan” (America) for the sins of “the Little Satan” (Israel). An Israeli strike could lead to the closing of the world’s oil passageway, the Strait of Hormuz; prompt Muslims throughout the world to rise up in outrage; and spark a Middle Eastern war that might drag in the United States. Barack Obama’s “New Beginning” with Muslims, such as it is, would be over the moment Israeli bunker-busting bombs hit.
An Israeli “preventive” attack, we are further told, couldn’t possibly stop the Islamic Republic from developing a nuke, and would actually make it more likely that the virulently anti-Zionist supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, would strike Israel with a nuclear weapon. It would also provoke Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to deploy its terrorist assets against Israel and the United States. Hezbollah, the Islamic Revolution’s one true Arab child, would unleash all the missiles it has imported from Tehran and Damascus since 2006, the last time the Party of God and the Jewish state collided.
An Israeli preemptive strike unauthorized by Washington (and President Barack Obama is unlikely to authorize one) could also severely damage Israel’s standing with the American public, as well as America’s relations with Europe, since the “diplomacy first, diplomacy only” Europeans would go ballistic, demanding a more severe punishment of Israel than Washington could countenance. The Jewish state’s relations with the European Union—Israel’s major trading partner—could collapse. And, last but not least, an Israeli strike could fatally compromise the pro-democracy Green Movement in Iran, which is the only hope the West has for an end to the nuclear menace by means of regime change. This concern was expressed halfheartedly before the tumultuous Iranian elections of June 12, 2009, but it is now voiced with urgency by those who truly care about the Green Movement spawned by those elections and don’t want any American or Israeli action to harm it.
These fears are mostly overblown. Some of the alarmist scenarios are the opposite of what would more likely unfold after an Israeli attack. Although dangerous for Israel, a preventive strike remains the most effective answer to the possibility of Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards having nuclear weapons. Provided the Israeli air force is capable of executing it, and assuming no U.S. military action, an Israeli bombardment remains the only conceivable means of derailing or seriously delaying Iran’s nuclear program and—equally important—traumatizing Tehran. Since 1999, when the supreme leader quashed student demonstrations and put paid to any chance that the Islamic Republic would peacefully evolve under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami, Iran has calcified into an ever-nastier autocracy. An Israeli strike now—after the rise of the Green Movement and the crackdown on it—is more likely to shake the regime than would have a massive American attack in 2002, when Tehran’s clandestine nuclear program was first revealed. And if anything can jolt the pro-democracy movement forward, contrary to the now passionately accepted conventional wisdom, an Israeli strike against the nuclear sites is it.
There are many voices out there—“realists” in America, Kantians in Europe—who believe this discussion is unnecessary since Iran doesn’t really pose an existential threat to Israel, America, or anyone else, and whatever threat it does pose can be countered with “strategic patience” and the threat of Israeli nuclear retaliation. Tehran may support anti-Israeli terrorist groups, but there is no need to overreact: The regime is as scared of Israel’s military power as Israel is scared of mullahs with nukes. America’s preeminent job should therefore be to calm the Israelis down—or, failing that, arm-twist them into inaction.
Anti-Semitism run amok
One can certainly doubt whether Khamenei would be so rash as to hurl an atomic weapon at Israel, given Jerusalem’s undeclared force de frappe. But this is a huge unknown for the Jewish state. Iran has already embraced terrorism against Israel and the United States. Via Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas in Gaza, and Fatah on the West Bank, the clerics have repeatedly backed suicide bombers and helped launch thousands of missiles against Israeli civilians. Iranian-guided terrorist teams bombed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and slaughtered Argentine Jews at a community center there in 1994. And that was when Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani was Iran’s “pragmatic” president; Rafsanjani’s once awe-inspiring power network at home has been nearly gutted by his former protégé, Khamenei, who has always been more Trotskyite when it comes to exporting the Islamic Revolution.
Iranian violent adventurism abroad diminished after Khatami was elected president in 1997, as the Islamic Republic’s domestic agitation heated up and its clandestine nuclear program accelerated. If Khamenei can suppress the Green Movement and develop a bomb, he might choose to move beyond suicide bombers and Hezbollah and Hamas rocketry in his assaults on Israel and “global Jewry.” Who would stop him? It’s not hard to find Iranian dissidents grieved by their government’s love affair with terrorism, but it’s impossible to find any among the ruling elite who ruminate about the wrongness of terrorism against Israelis or Jews.
Anti-Zionism has deep roots in Iran’s left-wing “red mullah” revolutionary ethos. Iran’s hard core seems even more retrograde than the many militant Arab fundamentalists who once gave intellectual support to al Qaeda but have lost some enthusiasm for the organization’s insatiable and indiscriminate killing. The Egyptian-born former al Qaeda philosopher Abd al-Qadir bin Abd al-Aziz, aka “Dr. Fadl,” for instance, has evolved so far as to express reservations about murdering Israelis and Jews. Even the Saudis, in private, are capable of entertaining such thoughts. But from Iran’s power players we hear not a peep about the impropriety of killing Israeli civilians or Jews in general. This holds for Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; for the president’s spiritual adviser and the most influential cleric supporting the dictatorship, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi; for the head of Iran’s legislation-surveilling, candidate-disqualifying Guardian Council, Ahmad Jannati; and for the bright and more “pragmatic” Ali Larijani, the speaker of parliament who helped orchestrate the crackdown on the 1999 student rebellion.
Revolutionary Iran hates its main enemies—America, Israel, and the anti-Shiite Wahhabi Saudi court—with a special, divinely sanctioned intensity dwarfing the class-based hostility that the vanguard of the proletariat had for capitalists. And the hard core among the regime’s leaders—who have squeezed out of power just about anyone who could have worn a “moderate” label—revile Jews above all. Third World-friendly radical Marxism, which depicts Jews as the most nefarious members of the Western robber-baron class, provides half the fuel for the Iranian revolutionary mind. Classical Islamic thought, now given a nasty, modern anti-Semitic twist, provides the rest.
In the Koran, Jews are depicted as intelligent, well educated, and treasonous. The Prophet Muhammad’s slaughter of the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe, which occasionally caused moral indigestion and apologias among later Muslim commentators, serves as a leitmotif for contemporary radical Muslims, who often see Jews, as the Nazis once did, as innately and irreversibly evil. Modern Islamic fundamentalism has turned a scorching spotlight back on the faith’s foundation, when Jews, as the Koran tells us, stood in the way of the prophet and his divine mission. The tolerant, sometimes even philo-Semitic, attitudes of the Ottoman Empire have been almost completely forgotten by Islam’s modern militants. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wrote in the foreword to his masterpiece on Islamic government, “The Islamic movement was afflicted by the Jews from its very beginnings, when they began their hostile activity by distorting the reputation of Islam, and by defaming and maligning it. This has continued to the present day.”
The disciples of Khomeini grew to intellectual maturity in an age when Western anti-Semitism—in part thanks to Nazi propaganda in the Middle East during World War II and subsequent Muslim admirers of Hitler, both secular and fundamentalist—had married anti-Zionism in ways that might have made the young Khomeini recoil in disgust. In Iran among the hard core, an Islamist-Marxist-Nazi brew sustains the most vicious anti-Semitic—not just anti-Zionist—regime ever in the Muslim Middle East. (Saudi Arabia is a close but less threatening second.) In the Islamic Republic, state-sponsored anti-Semitism, for both popular and highbrow audiences, has become ubiquitous. Westerners need not know Persian to get an idea of how toxic the situation has become. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translates items of interest from the region’s press which regularly illustrate the Jew-hatred coming from Tehran. MEMRI doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive, but it provides an inkling of how the disease has metastasized.
It is important to dwell on the matter of anti-Semitism in Iran and the Muslim Middle East since American and European officials and academics usually refrain from doing so. It is a complicated and invidious subject. In the decade that I served in the Central Intelligence Agency, I can recall only a few diplomatic or intelligence cables and reports even mentioning anti-Semitism among Muslims. Yet the disease permeated Sunni and Shiite fundamentalist thought, and it’s only gotten worse since I left the agency in 1994. American officials and scholars like to wall the subject off, reluctantly touching it when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio and suggesting that the issue will evanesce when the Israelis and Palestinians make peace. As the historian Bernard Lewis pointed out in 1986 in his seminal Semites and Anti-Semites, peace between the Arabs and the Israelis would surely help diminish the antagonism toward Israel and the Jews that exists in the Middle East, at least among Muslims who view the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation more or less as a political and geographical struggle between two peoples. But for those, like the Iranian hard core, who believe this is a match-up between God and the Devil, a peace process can ameliorate nothing.
What Lewis observed 25 years ago among the Arabs is truer among the Persians 31 years after the Islamic Revolution: “Muslim anti-Semitism is still something that comes from above, from the leadership, rather than from below, from the society.” The average Iranian, including the average well-educated Iranian, who even under the shah was fairly likely to be obsessed with Jewish conspiracy, is free of the personal contempt for Jews that marks the classical European or American anti-Semite. The Green Movement even mocks the regime for its fixation on Israel and Palestine and Holocaust denial (which really means Holocaust approval). Young Iranians want to talk about Iran, not Palestine.
The average Iranian, however, controls neither his country’s nuclear program nor the clandestine network Tehran has built up to support its ideological proxies. As for the average Israeli, it matters little to him if someone who is virulently anti-Zionist is not lethally anti-Semitic. The two are operationally indistinguishable. Either way, the targets are Israelis.
As Bret Stephens pointed out in Commentary, Iran’s psychological state more closely resembles the militarist Japanese mindset in the 1930s—“a martyrdom-obsessed, non-Western culture with global ambitions”—than it does that of the Soviets of yesteryear, whose worst instincts were deterred at enormous cost. Japan made a series of gross, hubristic miscalculations—especially misjudging the United States—that led it into a world war that killed millions of its own people and destroyed the militarists’ cherished way of life. But even the Japanese parallel doesn’t quite capture revolutionary Iran’s special animus toward Israel.
Rafsanjani, whom Washington foreign-policy types have usually viewed approvingly, gave a few speeches in 1983 and 1984 about the Jewish contribution to Western imperialism. He described the creation of Israel as “a united conspiracy against Islam” which the Jews still lead. Understanding the aggression and nefariousness of the United States, he said, isn’t possible without first understanding the role of Jews within America—their success at capitalism and their power within the media. The Iran-Iraq war, the most searing near-death experience for the founding fathers of the Iranian revolution, couldn’t have happened without Jewish-controlled America giving the green light to Saddam and his financiers in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The Jews were thus responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iranians. For Rafsanjani, Jews have a dark, centripetal eminence. For Khamenei, a man of fewer words, it’s much simpler and more explicitly religious. When he describes Israel as an “enemy of God,” he means exactly that. His Revolutionary Guards continuously rail against nefarious Jewish power.
Khamenei run amok
A nuclear arsenal would allow Khamenei much greater latitude in finding ways to make Israel bleed. Iran’s actions against the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan have been pretty bold considering America could, if it chose, rain hell down on Iran for its complicity in the killing of hundreds of American soldiers. We have not done that because we have feared escalation into direct conflict with another Middle Eastern state. The Israelis, too, have failed so far to take on the Iranians with much gusto even though the Islamic Republic has done far more damage to the Jewish state via Iranian allied groups, weapons, and cash than has any Arab nation since 1973.
Imagine what Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard Corps will think of the Americans, and especially the Israelis, if, after announcing repeatedly that an Iranian nuclear weapon is “unacceptable,” they permit it. Israelis, who must live with the Middle East’s merciless power politics, should expect considerable Iranian creativity. Terrorism is never static. Even suicide bombers, Iranian-made improvised explosive devices, and missiles can become passé. And as Khamenei and the Guard Corps become savage in suppressing dissent at home, we should expect them to become more violent abroad. The regime lives in fear of a “velvet revolution.” It sees foreign powers—the United States, Israel, and some Europeans—as deeply complicit in the Green Movement (though, regrettably, none is). The odds are high that after the supreme leader and the Guards acquire a nuclear weapon, they will think of ways to get even. If Khamenei can kill and torture his way to more self-confidence, we may see a repeat of the 1990s, when the regime went on an overseas killing spree that culminated in the bombing of the American base at Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in 1996.
The key to stopping all of this is Khamenei. Like the former shah, he is the weak link in the regime. Once a relatively broad-based, consensual theocratic dictatorship run by Khomeini’s lieutenants, the Islamic Republic today is an autocracy. The supreme leader’s office has become a de facto shadow government, with bureaus that mirror the president’s ministries. In matters of security and intelligence, Khamenei’s men reign supreme. His arrogation of power has made the regime more fragile. Only someone of the supreme leader’s short-sighted, insecure arrogance could turn most of the Islamic Republic’s founding fathers into enemies of the state. Mir Hossein Mousavi, for instance, now leader of the Green Movement, was a loyal son of the regime who—if he’d been left unharassed during the 2009 election, if he’d not been personally belittled by Khamenei and told he was not really an acceptable candidate—probably would have proved a relatively uncontroversial president. Mousavi might even have lost a fair election, given the status-loving conservatism of many Iranians.
Khamenei has now turned a man with an iron will into his sworn enemy. Worse, he’s turned him into a democrat. The supreme leader’s rash decision to throw the election to Ahmadinejad has also compromised all future elections. He has permanently destabilized the country. National and municipal elections—especially in the major cities —will now get postponed, perhaps indefinitely, or be so grossly controlled that they can no longer be viewed by the regime as a legitimating force.
And the supreme leader has regularly played musical chairs with the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, purging those who rose to fame in the Iran-Iraq war and had respectful and affectionate connections to others in the republic’s founding generation. Since June 12, 2009, he’s alienated even more members of Iran’s senior clergy, who’ve never been particularly fond of Khamenei, a junior cleric until his elevation to Khomeini’s office. The use of rape by the regime to pacify the political opposition in the past year sent shockwaves through Iran’s clergy, even though their institutional conservatism and government paychecks have inclined mullahs to avoid discussing the regime’s worst abuses.
The Islamic Republic is not without ethics—it’s not nearly as morally flexible as the Orwellian states of the former Soviet empire or the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Political-religious legitimacy really does matter in the country, and Khamenei in his paranoid quest to make himself the “shadow of God on earth” has thrown it away. He has countered his loss of legitimacy by massively increasing the size of the security forces. The once proud Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose ethos was built in combat with Baathist Iraq, has become more like a mafia, where senior members make fortunes and those below try to advance through the gravy train. Greed and envy are rotting the state’s over-muscled internal defenses and making guardsmen, like the favorites of the late shah, the objects of Iran’s still lively class-based anger. The supreme leader’s hiring and firing practices within the corps and the outfit’s evolving ethos make one question the spiritual solidity of the organization.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others have described Iran as an emerging “military dictatorship” where “the space of decision making for the clerical and political leadership is shrinking.” That might be news to Khamenei, who has allowed the corps to grow and had his way with its leadership, promoting men who profess unrivaled religious zeal. It is certainly possible that if Khamenei were to fall, a military dictatorship would follow. But such an “evolution” would place the Guards in ideological opposition to the entire clergy and everything that is Shiite in the republic’s identity. If Khamenei’s rule cracks, the corps, riven with rivalries, will probably crack with it.
Rock the system
What the Israelis need to do is rock the system. Iran’s nuclear-weapons program has become the third pillar of Khamenei’s theocracy (the other two being anti-Americanism and the veil). If the Israelis, whom the regime constantly asperses as Zionists ripe for extinction, can badly damage Iran’s nuclear program, the regime will lose enormous face. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have said repeatedly that the Israelis wouldn’t dare strike the nation’s nuclear program; if the Israelis do dare, it will be a stunning blow. And military defeats can be deadly for dictatorships—historically, there’s nothing deadlier.
While there is no guarantee that an Israeli raid would cause sufficient shock to produce a fatal backlash against Khamenei and the senior leadership of the Guards, there is a chance it would, and nothing else on the horizon offers Israel better odds. Loyal members of Khamenei’s entourage, like Speaker Larijani, publicly counseled Khamenei not to be too aggressive in the development of the nuclear program for fear of provoking an American military response. Rafsanjani warned the supreme leader and Ahmadinejad about their aggressiveness even more explicitly. (Those public admonitions ended, as did President Bush’s threatening rhetoric, after the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate asserted, with more confidence than information, that Tehran had stopped its weaponization program in 2003.) It’s one thing to have the “Great Satan” lay waste your program; it’s another thing entirely to have the “Little Satan” do what the senior leadership of the Revolutionary Guards said was impossible. At the very least, the Iranian left, right, and center would rise in umbrage against any Zionist aggression, and Khamenei’s foes and the population as a whole would question the leadership of the men who provoked the Israelis, then couldn’t stop them from blowing up the nuclear program that has taken Iran 20 years to construct.
Too much has been made in the West of the Iranian reflex to rally round the flag after an Israeli (or American) preventive strike. Iranians aren’t nationalist automatons. Compared with Arabs and Turks, who lack an ancient cosmopolitan culture reinforcing their modern identity, Iranians don’t have a jagged and brittle patriotism. They are an old and sophisticated people quite capable of holding multiple hatreds simultaneously in their minds. The Green Movement is an upwelling of 30 years of anger against theocracy. It won’t go away because Israel bombs Iran’s nuclear sites.
Iran’s defeat in the Iran-Iraq war did not make Iranians rally to the regime. On the contrary, that defeat by Saddam Hussein helped to unleash an enormous wave of reflection and self-criticism. Without it, we likely would not have seen the rapid transformation of the Islamic Republic’s religious and political culture—a second intellectual revolution, which created the Green Movement. After that transformation, we have a supreme leader whom millions loathe and even more distrust. If the Israelis can make Khamenei look pathetic (and Khamenei has a nearly flawless talent for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time), they can conceivably crack the regime. Jerusalem needs to put the supreme leader under tremendous pressure and see if he can hold it together.
Neither the Israelis nor anyone else need fear for the Green Movement. (Always skeptical of democratic movements among Muslims, most Israelis probably wrote it off as soon as it was born.) If Khamenei were so foolish as to arrest and kill Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, another Khomeini loyalist who has become a leader of the Greens, he would create martyrs in a martyr-obsessed society. If he left them alone and the Israelis struck, they would rise in eloquent anger against the Israelis. Khamenei could never publicly try them for treason. Khamenei has been ordering his goons to rape and murder men and women who’ve dared to challenge his authority. Would he target still more Iranians for somehow abetting an Israeli bombing? This would only make the regime look more reprehensible in the eyes of the common faithful, on whom, ultimately, the supreme leader’s power rests. Yet such repression becomes conceivable as Khamenei’s exercise of power grows increasingly paranoid and prone to mistakes. In any case, Iran’s pro-democracy dissident culture is here to stay. Regardless of what the Israelis do, it will continue to hunt for fissures in the police state.
And the other concerns about an Israeli bombing are no more persuasive. Hezbollah would undoubtedly unleash its missiles on Israel after a preventive strike. Its raison d’être is inextricably tied to war with Zion. It did not twice send terrorists all the way to South America to slaughter Jews to deter Israelis from nefarious activities in the Levant. Hezbollah does not train Hamas, which is pledged to seek Israel’s destruction, because it is searching for leverage in negotiations. It did not make contact with al Qaeda because it wanted to improve its image with Sunni Lebanese. Right now, Israel has to deal with a Hezbollah backed by a nonnuclear Iran. Once the Islamic Republic goes nuclear, this relationship can’t get easier. Israel’s nuclear deterrent may hold back the worst that Iran could do—regardless of whether Israel strikes preemptively—but other horrific terrorist possibilities remain.
Hundreds of Israelis could die from Hezbollah’s new and improved store of missiles. Israel might have to invade Lebanon again, which would cost more lives and certainly upset the “international community.” These concerns have tormented a few Israeli prime ministers. But if nuclear weapons in the hands of Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards are an existential threat to the Jewish state—and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like his predecessors, has said that they are—Jerusalem has little choice. Bombing is the only option that could likely alter the nuclear equation in Iran before Khamenei produces a weapon. The Obama administration might fume, but it is hard to imagine the president, given what he has said about the unacceptability of Iranian nukes, scolding Jerusalem long. He might personally agree with his one-time counsel, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, that Israel has become a pariah state, but politically this won’t fly. The left wing of the Democratic party has been going south on the Jewish state for 30 years, but congressional Democrats, who’ve been pushing for new sanctions against Iran more aggressively than the White House, are not that far gone. By and large, the Republican party would hold behind the Israelis.
The Israelis are well aware of the United States’ global security interests. The American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan figures in any Israeli discussion of striking Iran. What should have been a strategic asset for the United States has become a liability since the Americans made it clear that our primary interest from the moment we arrived in the region was leaving. The Iranians aren’t stupid: If we tell them that we fear for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Revolutionary Guard Corps officers will give us reason to fear.
American fear of Iranian capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan has been exaggerated. The Americans are leaving Iraq; within a year, most of our troops are due to be gone. This might not be the best thing for the long-term health of Iraqi democracy, but President Obama appears more determined to exit than to ensure that Iraqi governance doesn’t fall apart. The Shiite Arabs now lead Iraq. Is the supreme leader of Shiite Iran really going to wage war on the Iraqi Shia? Khamenei has considerable difficulty with his own clergy. Is he now going to provoke the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the preeminent divine of Iraq and the most popular ayatollah among Iranians? Is he going to upset the Iraqi status quo that has mostly been built by the blood, sweat, and tears of the country’s Shiites, on whom Iran depends for influence in Iraq?
If Khamenei is so foolish as to antagonize the Iraqi Shia, by all means let him. Mutatis mutandis, the same is true in Afghanistan. The Iranians have no reliable proxies there: The Hazara, although Shiite, have never been close to Persians, the Sunni Tajiks are even less affectionate, and the Uzbeks carry no one’s water. Iran could ship more improvised explosive devices to the Afghan Pashtun Taliban, but eventually anti-Taliban sentiment in Iran and in Afghanistan would get in their way. If the Iranians tried their mightiest, they could give us only a small headache compared with the migraine we’ve already got courtesy of the Pakistanis, who are intimately tied to Afghanistan’s Taliban. And the Israelis know the U.S. Navy has no fear of Tehran’s closing the Strait of Hormuz. If Khamenei has a death-wish, he’ll let the Revolutionary Guards mine the strait, the entrance to the Persian Gulf: It might be the only thing that would push President Obama to strike Iran militarily. Such an escalation could quickly leave Khamenei with no navy, air force, and army. The Israelis have to be praying that the supreme leader will be this addle-headed.
It is entirely possible that Khamenei would use terrorism against the United States after an Israeli strike. That is one of the supreme leader’s preferred methods of state action, which is why he should not be permitted a nuclear weapon. The correct response for the United States is to credibly threaten vengeance. President Obama might be obliged to make such a threat immediately after an Israeli surprise attack; whether the Iranians would believe it, given America’s record, is more difficult to assess.
The great merit of the Bush and Obama administrations’ efforts to engage Iran in nuclear negotiations is that they have transformed the discussion about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. The West bent over backwards to be nice to Tehran, to extend carrots rather than sticks. The slow ramping up of Western sanctions has also forced all concerned to be more explicit about the Iranian menace. Democrats in Congress, who are backing tougher sanctions than the White House wants, are mentally in a different galaxy than they were under President Bush. If the Israelis bomb now, American public opinion will probably be with them. Perhaps decisively so.
The same is true, to a much lesser extent, of opinion in Europe. Starting in 2003, the European Union made a major effort to negotiate with Tehran. For the French, Germans, and British—the “EU-3”—it’s been an unsatisfying exercise, increasing distaste for the Iranian regime. Since June 12, 2009, the Europeans—more than the Americans—have watched on TV Khamenei’s attack on the Green Movement. Human rights in Iran is an issue in Europe, especially Germany, and especially on the left. Tehran’s representatives in Europe have also done their part in disturbing the diplomatic politesse that Europe’s political elites live and breathe. After Ahmadinejad’s election in 2005, Iran’s ambassadors to Portugal and Poland, for example, publicly ruminated on the practical impossibilities of the “Final Solution.” In 2006 Warsaw’s ministry of foreign affairs had to threaten to declare the Iranian ambassador persona non grata if he followed through on his publicly expressed wish to visit Auschwitz to measure the ovens so he could prove that genocide could not have happened there.
European sentiment remains overwhelmingly opposed to the use of force in foreign affairs, and many Europeans have developed an ugly anti-Israeli reflex. An inclination to excuse or ignore Arab violence toward Israel while excoriating any lethal (usually labeled “disproportionate”) Israeli response is still there, as witnessed recently with the Turkish-led, pro-Hamas, Gaza-bound flotilla. But the Europeans also take an increasingly dim view of Iran. Khamenei’s decision to tap Ahmadinejad for president in 2009, his post-June 12 crackdown, and the European political elite’s long and frustrating experience with the supreme leader’s minions have dispelled the sympathy Iran enjoyed under Khatami, when Europeans blamed every setback on George W. Bush.
No doubt many Europeans will rise in high dudgeon if the Israelis attack. Conceivably, the Germans will lead a charge to punish the Israelis through EU economic sanctions, though it’s doubtful the necessary consensus could be built. Even the Austrians, who’ve never seen an Iranian sanction they liked, might balk at imposing sanctions on the Jewish state for militarily striking a Holocaust-denying Islamist autocracy. The Israeli left might have to abandon its dream of being fully accepted in the salons of the Old World, but that is a sacrifice that most members of the Labor party, which seems only a bit less disposed to bombing Iran than the right-wing Likud, are probably willing to make.
Too little too late
It is possible the Israelis have waited too long to strike. Military action should make a strategic difference. If the Israelis (or, better, the Americans under President Bush) had struck Iran’s principal nuclear facilities in 2003 and killed many of the scientists and technical support staff, Khamenei’s nuclear program likely would have taken years, even decades, to recover. Now, by contrast, the Iranians may be sufficiently advanced in uranium enrichment, trigger mechanisms, and warhead design that they could build a device quickly after an Israeli raid, and the attack would have accomplished little. Khamenei could emerge from the confrontation stronger.
A spate of Iranian defections to the West (including Ali Reza Asgari, a former Revolutionary Guard commander, in 2007, the somewhat bizarre case of the nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri in 2009, and the country’s former nuclear negotiator with the EU, Hossein Moussavian, in 2010) may have allowed the Israelis and other Westerners a clearer picture of how advanced Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program is. If we’re not at the end of the road, then the Israelis probably should waste no more time. Khamenei is still weak. He’s more paranoid than he’s ever been. The odds of his making uncorrectable mistakes are much better than before. Any Israeli raid that could knock out a sizable part of Iran’s nuclear program would change the dynamic inside Iran and throughout the Middle East. There is a chance that it would spare the Israelis the awful, likely possibility that other Middle Eastern states—especially the Saudis, Iran’s arch-religious rival—would go nuclear in response to a Persian bomb. The Israelis know that many in the Sunni Arab world would be enormously relieved if the Israelis did what the Americans have declined to take on. The United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States recently revealed what is likely a Sunni Arab consensus: Bombing Iran might be bad; allowing Khamenei to have a nuke would be worse.
Unless Jerusalem bombs, the Israelis will soon be confronting a situation without historical parallel. The Islamic Republic currently has 8,528 uranium-enrichment centrifuges installed at the Natanz facility. Almost 4,000 of these are operational. A 3,000-centrifuge cascade could produce fuel for one warhead in 271 days. Natanz is designed to hold 50,000 centrifuges, which could produce enough fuel for one warhead every 16 days. Ignoring the possibility that Khamenei’s nuclear experts will transfer Natanz’s cascading centrifuges to covert facilities once they figure out how to maintain and array them (hence the urgent need to blow up the facility), uranium production will soon create a command-and-control nightmare. Envision nuclear warheads on missiles and on planes, dispersed throughout Iran to ensure that an American or Israeli first strike couldn’t take them out. Now focus on the fact that the Revolutionary Guards Corps will have possession of these weapons. Khamenei isn’t likely to give command-and-control to “moderate” guardsmen; he’ll likely give it to the folks he trusts most—a nuclear version of the Quds Force, the expeditionary terrorist-and-assassination unit within the Corps that does most of the regime’s really dirty work and has direct access to the supreme leader.
We’re not talking about the stolid (but at times dangerously foolish) Pakistani Army controlling nuclear weapons; we’re talking about folks who’ve maintained terrorist liaison relationships with most of the Middle East’s radical Muslim groups. It’s entirely possible that even with Khamenei in control, an Iranian atomic stockpile could lose nukes to dissenting voices within the Guards who have their own ideological agendas. Now imagine the ailing Khamenei is dead, the Guard Corps has several dozen nuclear devices in its “possession,” and the country is in some political chaos as power centers, within the clergy and the Corps, start competing against each other. The Green Movement, too, will probably rise in force. The whole political structure could collapse or the most radical could fight their way to the top—all parties trying to get their hands on the nukes. Since there is no longer a politburo in Iran to keep control (Khamenei gutted it when he downed his peers and competitors), this could get messy quickly.
In the best case scenario, if things were just “normal” in Tehran, Israel would likely be confronting Cuban Missile Crisis-style brinkmanship on a routine basis. Any halfway successful Israeli raid could transform the Western approach to the Islamic Republic. An Israeli strike could finally prompt the Western powers to think in concrete terms about what it would mean to allow the Revolutionary Guard Corps nukes.
Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in “nuclear energy”; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.
So then, does the Israeli air force think it can do it? Historically, Israeli politicians have taken the assessments of their air force as canonical. If the air command believes it can, will Bibi Netanyahu and his cabinet proceed with preemption, which has, most Israelis will tell you, repeatedly saved the Jewish state from terrible situations?
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, an acute observer of the Israeli prime minister, holds that Netanyahu will favor a strike if he has no other serious option. And Israelis—right and left—are deeply skeptical that a sanctions regime that does not shut down the Iranian oil and gas sector has any utility whatsoever in halting the nuclear program. The sanctions effort led by Treasury undersecretary Stuart Levey and congressional Democrats has certainly damaged Iran’s economy and slowed down the nuclear program, as Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, in a rare moment of honesty recently confessed. These sanctions are definitely beginning to sting Iran’s energy sector. But the Israelis have history on their side when they express their profound skepticism about the will of the “international community” to use sanctions decisively against Tehran. Contrary to what Senator Lindsey Graham said recently in Israel—“there’s many options still available to us” to stop the Iranian nuclear program—there has always, really, been only one peaceful way: paralyzing sanctions against Iran’s oil and gas industry. Neither President Obama, nor most Europeans, seem ready to hit so forcefully the Islamic Republic.
For Netanyahu, the Iranian-nuke question touches the core of his own Israeli identity—what he was taught by his historian father, whose specialty, the Jews of Spain, is a tragic saga of helplessness, flight, and conversion, and what he learned from the death of his elder brother, the only commando killed in the Entebbe raid to free Israeli hostages in 1976. Most Washington foreign-policy commentators just don’t believe the Jewish state will strike because of the limitations of Israel’s airpower. But they are probably underestimating Netanyahu personally and the Israeli-Jewish reflex to never again be passive in the face of an existential danger.
Israeli hawks may be wrong about what their air force can do, but they express sentiments—where there is a will, there is a way—that most Israelis probably still share. Which brings us to the current minister of defense and leader of the Labor party, Ehud Barak. At times he sounds as hawkish as Netanyahu; at other times, he seems almost willing to live with an Iranian nuclear weapon. The current coalition government couldn’t attack Iran without Barak’s approval. So, the whole discussion may boil down to this: Will Israel’s defense minister remain calm and “strategically patient,” putting his faith in Israel’s atomic arsenal, in the nuclear sobriety of Ali Khamenei and his Guards, and in the awe that Barack Obama’s America inspires in the Middle East? Or will he decide that a military strike is the only sound response to an existential danger?
Why Israel Shouldn't Attack Iranian Nuclear Installations--Unless It Has to Do So
By Barry Rubin*
July 14, 2010
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An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations for the purpose of trying to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons at all would be a mistake. Instead, Israel should plan--and indeed is planning--for a multi-layer campaign of airstrikes, missile defenses, and other measures in the event of Iran ever posing a specific threat of attacking Israel.
Before going into the details of why I'm saying this, however, let me stress that this is not something likely to be a central issue in the near-term future. That is precisely why we should discuss it now.
Let me also emphasize that Israeli plans should be in place such that if there ever would be an imminent threat of an Iranian attack, it should be preempted. What should be avoided, however, is an Israeli attack based merely on the goal of stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons at all. It is far better to risk setting of a major regional war only if there is a need to do so, as happened, for example, regarding the 1967 war, when a serious threat required a preemptive attack to defend the country.
Of course, Iran's having nuclear weapons is an overall danger for Israeli interests, wider regional stability, and U.S. interests. Such a situation would in theory open Israel daily to the possibility of an Iranian nuclear attack. Yet history shows that Israelis would adjust to this situation, if remote as it would likely be, without panic or paralysis. Given a calm analysis, however, and the alternatives, a preemptive attack on Iran possessing a few nuclear weapons and long-range missiles would make matters worse, not better.
1. Iran is unlikely to attack Israel with nuclear weapons but if Israel attacks Iranian nuclear facilities such an outcome becomes inevitable. A state of open war would exist and the Tehran regime would be seeking revenge. All other options--containment, deterrence, a longer-run overthrow of the regime by domestic forces, a U.S.-Iran war based on accident or misperception--would be closed.
Moreover, by waiting to see how the situation develops, Israel will still, in the event of an apparent war crisis or a serious belief that Iran is going to attack, can always preempt in the future. The problem with the idea of attacking to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is that it is based on the opposite view--a questionable assumption that an Iranian attack is inevitable in the near future.
Let me again emphasize that if Israel ever concludes on the basis of intelligence and actions by Iran that there is a real or imminent threat, it should react militarily.
It would be a mistake to base a belief that Iran is not going to attack Israel completely on the idea that Tehran's restraint or interests would prohibit such an outcome. We know the statements of Iranian leaders, their goals, and their ideology. Perhaps even more important, we know about the existence of factions within the regime that are very risk-oriented and the existence of even more extreme elements in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Yet also to be taken into account are three additional points: limited Iranian capabilities; other Iranian goals, as aggressive as they must be; plus Tehran's fear of retaliation from Israel and the United States. It is the combination of these four factors that are persuasive.
Limited capabilities: For a very long period of time, Iran will only be able to launch a very small number of missiles against Israel simultaneously. Therefore, Israel and the United States could more easily counter such a threat, including by attacks against the launchers. In addition, over time an Israeli missile defense system and a parallel system for stopping rocket attacks (that would come from Hamas and Hizballah in response to any Israeli attack on Iran) would improve dramatically.
Given the small number of missiles fired by Iran at the same time, plus the U.S. and Israeli anti-missile systems, Iran's leadership would know that it could not knock out Israeli airfields. Thus, any attack on Israel would trigger massive destruction of Iran. And of course some of the missiles could easily miss Israel entirely (or be knocked down) so they would explode in Lebanon, Jordan, and the West Bank. Add to this the fact of U.S. warning systems, anti-missile defenses, and retaliation and the deck is highly stacked against Tehran.
The point here is not that the Tehran regime would be deterred by purely humanitarian considerations nor proceed in a calm and deliberate matter. But the level of "craziness" would have to be distinctly higher to start a war under these conditions.
In addition, a specific threat of any systematic Iranian attack would also have a warning period allowing Israeli leaders to decide to make retaliation possible on a specific occasion. And knowing that Israel would have plenty of capability for a second strike that would inflict huge damage on Iran, even if the Iranian attack enjoyed some success, would also be a deterrent on Iran.
Moreover, Iran is unlikely to launch a nuclear attack on Israel (and certainly not an immediate attack on obtaining nuclear weapons) is because that would interfere with Tehran's overall strategy. That is to use the nuclear umbrella to carry out a long-term, low-risk aggressive policy of supporting surrogates to destabilize or take over other countries, along with enjoying the fruits of intimidation and the resulting appeasement from Europe and Arabic-speaking countries that a nuclear Iran is likely to enjoy.
Once Iran goes nuclear its prestige in the Muslim-majority world among the masses is likely to rise sky-high. The strength of revolutionary Islamist movements, especially those allied to Iran, is going to increase. Arabic-speaking states know that they cannot rely completely on U.S. guarantees particularly at a time when a U.S. government proclaims that country's weakness. On a whole range of issues, Iran is going to make big gains.
Having nuclear weapons and having the West and Arabic-speaking world both deterred and pushed toward appeasement by fear of Iran's nuclear weapons is an advantageous situation for Tehran, which could subvert other countries and expand spheres of influence without fear of retaliation. By firing the weapons, those advantages would be lost.
2. No matter how it is conducted or even how much initial success it has, an Israeli attack is not going to do away with Iran's possession of nuclear weapons. It does not make sense to follow a strategy you know in advance will not work: to attack Iran to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons when that effort will, at best, merely postpone Tehran getting them. At that point, following an Israeli attack and an Iranian crash program to rebuild facilities and get weapons, a nuclear war is a virtual certainty.
It is vital to understand that an Israeli attack will increase the likelihood of Iran firing nuclear weapons on Israel, after a period of time.
As one expert aptly put it:
"You can bomb an enrichment facility, but you can't bomb an enrichment program. (Or not one as well-developed as Iran's.) It's not like a reactor, with billions of dollars' worth of hard-to-replace capital piled up in one spot over the course of several years. Instead, it's thousands of interchangeable pieces that can be brought together and operated more or less anywhere."
And so, Iran would be able to rebuild after any such attack and, even if it took a few years, would be far more aggressive against Israel than it has been in practice up to that point. There is widespread agreement on this point including within Israeli military and political circles.
In addition, too much could go wrong with an Israeli attack, which could fail in part or whole if bombs miss the target, too many planes were lost, etc. Again, even a best-case outcome would not end the problem. It would, in fact, guarantee a large-scale future confrontation. And a partly failed raid would result in such a nuclear war happening immediately.
3. While the direct costs after such an operation are sustainable for Israel, they are likely to be high. If Israel faced an imminent threat from Iran, it would be worthwhile to bear such costs. In other words, if an attack were necessary to stop a specific plan or high level of likelihood that Iran would attack Israel with nuclear weapons, any cost would be worthwhile. But just to stop Iran from having nuclear weapons and long-range missiles in general does not validate such high costs.
The potential regional and international outcomes from an Israeli attack would include:
--Rocket attacks by Hamas and Hizballah along with border fighting.
--Increased Iranian attempts to sponsor terrorist attacks against Israel throughout the world.
--Possible attempted retaliation by Iran using unconventional weapons.
--A potential wider war between Iran and the West which would create serious Western resentment against Israel.
--Western criticism of Israel and perhaps serious problems in U.S.-Israel relations, especially with the Obama Administration in power.
While many Arab regimes would be happy at a successful Israeli strike, this would not bring any material benefits for Israel. The same would be true for Western satisfaction that Israel "took care of the problem."
Indeed, while an unsuccessful Israeli raid would be harshly criticized and might lead to sanctions on Iran, a successful Israeli raid would produce the reaction that since the danger would now be gone Israel could afford to make major concessions to the Palestinians and Syria.
Again, if Israel really faced the specific threat of an Iranian nuclear attack, such costs would be worthwhile, even limited in comparison to the problem. Yet why should Israel pay a high cost for the mere possibility that at some future time Tehran would go to war with Israel using nuclear weapons?
It should be stressed, too, that any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would also not resolve the threat-no matter how high or low one assessed it to be-of Iran giving nuclear materials to terrorists. While this is a serious problem (and one often underestimated in the West), a military attack on Iran would actually increase the likelihood of this happening, since Iran would have radioactive materials but not perhaps the capability of delivering them by missile plus a thirst for revenge. Letting terrorists deliver the nuclear devices is an ideal solution for Tehran and would be perceived there as both lower-risk and higher-priority than it would be otherwise.
4. Finally, there is a rather ironic geostrategic aspect of this issue. If we are discussing certainties rather than scenarios, Iran's main threat in practice is not to Israel but to Arabic-speaking states and to U.S. interests.
Israel can defend itself; the Arab regimes cannot. Arab states are going to be intimidated and subverted internally by Iran; Israel will not engage in appeasement or face any significant increase in direct subversion or a conventional threat on its borders.
On the contrary, fear and preoccupation with Iran's threat will force Arab states to devote more attention and resources on that front. (The one exception is that Iran's ally, Syria, is likely to be bolder in fomenting attacks on Israel from Hamas and Hizballah smug in the knowledge that Tehran will protect it and that the United States won't put pressure on it.)
Why, then, should Israel engage in a high-risk, costly venture to protect countries like Saudi Arabia or Iraq that will do nothing to reciprocate or to reduce their own hostility to Israel?
Rather, it is the job of the United States to provide a regional umbrella against an Iranian nuclear threat. America must set up a defensive shield for its Arab state clients, which will also necessarily include Israel, provide them with assurances, and threaten Iran. In practice, this also means that the United States will have to support Israel's missile defense efforts and provide help in obtaining other military equipment Israel will need.
If Washington fails to handle containment properly, there will be a long period of testing in which it will have an opportunity to see the extent of the threat from Iran and its allies, notably Syria. This will lead either to a better U.S. policy on the issue or to Israel being able to readjust its strategy toward Iran as required.
During that period, Israel will always have the option to act if it perceives a direct and immediate threat to itself. Thus, it will not in any way be dependent on U.S. protection although it will also benefit from whatever is provided by Washington to defend Arab states or the region in general from an Iranian attack. Equally, if Iran is perceived as more aggressive, international support for Israeli action would be far higher than at the beginning of the Iran nuclear era.
It is not impossible that at some point Iran itself will provoke a war with the United States due to its subversive and terrorist efforts in Arabic-speaking countries; its interference with U.S. operations and shipping in the Persian Gulf; direct attacks by its surrogates on U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere; or its brinkmanship with nuclear weapons.
Of course, it is more likely that this will not happen, but if Iran does behave in this manner the world will blame it--and many countries will coalesce against it--in any resulting war. Why should Israel take on Iran all by itself, not only lacking international support but actually receiving international condemnation for doing so?
It would be a mistake, and one Israeli decisionmakers aren't going to make, to assume that Iran will immediately use nuclear weapons against Israel or that Israel can easily make the problem go away with a series of air attacks. Whatever public posture Israel's government uses about a possible military option-and one can certainly argue it is in Israeli, U.S., Western, and Arab interests for Tehran to perceive a real Israeli threat-actually to carry out such an attack would be a mistake.
*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (V
Former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Tells of Life as CIA Spy - Elise Labott
Reza Kahlili, a pseudonym for the author of A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, spoke Friday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In the immediate aftermath of the 1979 revolution, he joined the newly formed Revolutionary Guard, but said he quickly became disillusioned when he saw people being tortured and murdered and women raped in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. But rather than quit the Guard and endanger his family, he contacted the CIA and began work as an American agent.
He said he provided critical information to his CIA handlers about Iran's role in the Iran-Iraq war, the Iran-contra affair, the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which he said was masterminded by Tehran. He predicted that Iran will eventually attack Israel, Europe and the Gulf and advocated a preemptive military strike against the regime but not against the Iranian people or infrastructure. "Stop dreaming, please," he said. "You are not dealing with rational people. Every time you extend a hand, it is not seen as sincerity, but stupidity." (CNN)Iran will attack israel
Obama what are you waiting for?
UAE Diplomat Endorses U.S. Strike on Iran
By The Washington Times
Published July 07, 2010
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ASPEN, Colorado -- The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that the benefits of bombing Iran's nuclear program outweigh the short-term costs such an attack would impose.
In unusually blunt remarks, Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba publicly endorsed the use of the military option for countering Iran's nuclear program, if sanctions fail to stop the country's quest for nuclear weapons.
"I think it's a cost-benefit analysis," al-Otaiba said. "I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion … there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what."
"If you are asking me, 'Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?,' my answer is still the same: 'We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.' I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the U.A.E."
A Dem losing faith in Obama's Iran policy?
American Thinker ^ | July 2, 2010 | Ed Lasky
Posted on Friday, July 02, 2010 12:03:49 PM by jazusamo
A leading Democrat said something very intresting about President Obama yesterday, though few seem to have noticed. The Iran Sanctions Bill was finally passed by Congress and President Obama signed off on it yesterday. The bill has been long in coming and is meant to dissuade Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program. The Wall Street Journal has a fine report on the particulars of the bill, but the most interesting part of the column was what was said by Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The new U.S. law still provides the White House with waiver powers for firms operating in Iran's energy sector, according to lawmakers who drafted the bill. But it incorporates a number of new measures that significantly raise the political pressure on the White House not to offer blanket waivers to companies or countries.
The White House, for example, now is required to report to Congress the names of any companies in violation of the investment restrictions on the energy sector.
It is also required to report to lawmakers on what national-security interests are served by granting waivers. The legal exemptions are now only good for 12-month periods.
"This waiver has the name-and-shame effect and a political cost for the White House," said Howard Berman (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Does that kernel not reveal a great deal about how the White House is viewed by at least one influential Congressman? Perhaps congressmen are losing faith that in this President's "engagement policy" toward our most dangerous adversary.
Congress is finally shining a spotlight on the White House and not placing a great deal of faith in its willingness to enforce the sanctions. It would have been far better not to grant those waivers, but at least Howard Berman is firing a shot across the bow when he says their use will have a political cost for the White House. Will the pro-Israel community (including many more Christians than Jews) be willing to call out the President if he fails to competently enforce the law? Will various congressmen? Will people be willing to shame the President for dropping the ball?
Maybe the Congressman finally had enough of the President's pattern of behavior regarding Iran and how the administration has (via its minions in Congress) obstructed, delayed, weakened and filled with loopholes the sanctions bill. Obama has ignored serial deadlines regarding Iran, downgraded the penalties Iran would face for failure to abide by UN Resolutions, and generally followed a policy of appeasement and accommodation towards the mullahs.
Maybe Congress has finally reached the end of it tether and willing to call not just the Iranians to account but the President as well.
Sanctions won't do it?
Obama set the pattern last year — withholding support for the Green movement, muting the reaction to the Qom revelation, and allowing deadline after deadline to pass. From all this the mullahs have learned that very little is required to hold the U.S. at bay and that we are overeager to avoid confrontation. At every turn, they have bested Obama and the “international community” and bought themselves breathing room.
The sanctions, therefore, are not the solution to the Iranian threat. Rather than congratulating the administration for passing sanctions after nearly a year and a half, Congress and pro-Israel groups must make clear that “containment” is not an option and that we will use military force and provide Israel with unconditional support if necessary. “Passed useless sanctions and allowed Iran to go nuclear” is not a result from which the president, lawmakers, or American Jewry will recover. And it is not an outcome Israelis can tolerate.
MY COMMEMT: The bill gives the President the option to “waive” sanctions on a case by case basis if he tells Congress that national security requires it. This administration considers climate change a national security interest-they have a very elastic definition of what constitutes national security. And it is up to them to decide. In other words, loopholes galore.
Iran Says It Has Enriched Uranium to 20 Percent Purity
Iran has enriched 17 kg of uranium to 20% purity, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said on Wednesday, underscoring Tehran's determination to push ahead with its nuclear program despite new international sanctions. Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said that around 200 kg of 20% enriched uranium, if further enriched, would be required to make a nuclear bomb. (Reuters)
Iran Preparing for U.S. Sanctions Targeting Fuel Imports - Thomas Erdbrink and Colum Lynch
As Congress prepares to target Iran's vital fuel imports, observers say Tehran has been laying the groundwork to resist the U.S. sanctions. Iran has over the past four years reduced its dependence on foreign imports of refined oil products from about 40% of its domestic needs to just under 30%, according to analysts. The government is expanding its capacity to refine its own oil, experimenting with alternative fuels and cutting consumption by gradually eliminating subsidies on gasoline.
In the past six months, thanks to an elaborate rationing system, domestic gasoline consumption has dropped by nearly 20%. At the same time, Iran has built up its strategic reserves by buying refined oil products from India, Turkmenistan and the Netherlands. (Washington Post)
Israeli national security adviser Uzi Arad on Tuesday
On Iran, Arad did not directly address the likelihood that Israel would strike militarily to set back the country's nuclear program. "I don't see anyone who questions the legality of this or the legitimacy," Arad said of a possible Israeli strike. "They only discuss the efficacy, which is interesting. It suggests that people understand the problem. And they are not questioning the right."
He also noted what Israeli officials have perceived as a shift in U.S. policy toward Iran, citing a subtle change in rhetoric. Officials say they think Obama is now more willing to employ military force, in the event it becomes necessary, to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. "All of us did take notice that the United States changed the definition of its policy on Iran, from one that said a nuclear Iran would be 'unacceptable,' to one in which it said that the United States 'is determined to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear.' There is determination there. There is activism," Arad said. (Washington Post)
Gates: U.S. and Europe "Must Be Prepared for Iranian Missile Attack by 2020" - Michael Evans
The U.S. and Europe need to be protected by 2020 from a potential attack from Iran that could involve "scores or even hundreds of missiles," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Thursday as he defended a U.S. plan to deploy a new, advanced shipborne anti-missile system called SM3 Block 2B. (Times-UK)
The morality of crippling sanctions on Iran
Many millions more people will be subject to
deprivations, shortages and loss of essential needs. The impact on the
civilian population -- especially on those who are not in the favor of
the government -- will be huge. World outcry, especially from Muslim
states, will be deafening, and the rhetoric from the regime will be up to unimagined levels.
Short of wholesale slaughter, this kind of suffering is the only way
to protect genuinely innocent human beings -- Jews especially, for whom
from the murderous intentions of
some very bad people. The loss of comfort is sad, of dignity is tragic,
of life is reprehensible.
But until Israel has neighbors willing to affirm the same protections
for its children as they are demanding for the children of Palestinians'
children, when it comes to suffering in Gaza or eventually in Iran, I
will let my heart break and keep my mouth shut, as I did during the US
embargo on Iraq (for much inferior reasons).
oBAMA LINKAGE LUDICROUS
A U.N. vote on Iran nuclear sanctions will likely be pushed back because of fallout from the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid flotilla, sources said Wednesday. The Obama administration had been planning to bring a new Iran sanctions resolution to a vote at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday but diplomatic sources said the vote is not likely to take place this week.
This is the danger and fallacy of linkage, that is, the idea that progress in the “peace process” is needed for progress in halting Iran’s nuclear weapons. If you propagate the notion that the peace process must be advanced in order to deal with other Middle East problems — including the most critical one, which extends beyond the Middle East — you hold our Iran policy hostage to factors beyond our control. Iran-backed terrorists stage a confrontation, Iranian-influenced nations (Syria, Turkey) scream for Israeli blood, and international organizations refuse to address Iranian hegemonic and nuclear ambitions. In essence, Iranian surrogates wind up with a veto power over our efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
This episode should also confirm the pitfalls of waiting for international consensus in order to deal with a fundamental threat to our own security. The entire notion that we would wait for UN sanctions and then the EU before pursuing U.S. sanctions against Iran has proven ludicrous. At each stage, there is delay and the opportunity for mischief, and at each stage more and more carve-outs pop up. At the root of this is a fundamental strategic error, namely that international consensus can replace the use of the full array of tools in the U.S. arsenal.
By casting Iran’s nuclear capability as primarily Israel’s problem (rather than one for the entire West), by conditioning progress in Iran’s nuclear threat on progress in a peace process doomed to failure, and by placing our fate and our own credibility in multilateral institutions, we have made both our tasks (promoting resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and thwarting Iran) infinitely more difficult. Now we have two failed diplomatic efforts. We continue to witness the steady ascendancy of Iran and its cohort of nation-states and surrogates. How’s that smart diplomacy working out?
Flaw in UN sanction plan
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
* Major Powers Have Deal on Sanctions for Iran - David E. Sanger and Mark Landler
The Obama administration announced an agreement on Tuesday with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose a fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. The announcement came a day after Iranian leaders announced their own tentative deal, with Turkey and Brazil, to turn over about half of Iran's stockpile of nuclear fuel for a year, part of a frantic effort to blunt the campaign for harsher sanctions.
On Wednesday, however, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that the draft resolution is far from completion. An official in the Russian Foreign Ministry said, "Our position [on Iran] is, give them another chance." (New York Times)
See also U.S. Proposes New Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran - Edith M. Lederer
The draft resolution would ban Iran from pursuing "any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons," freeze assets of nuclear-related companies linked to the Revolutionary Guard, bar Iranian investment in activities such as uranium mining and prohibit Iran from buying several categories of heavy weapons. (AP-ABC News)
* Sanctions Effort May Open Door to Press Iran Central Bank - Neil MacFarquhar and David E. Sanger
The sanctions resolution now being debated in the UN Security Council calls for countries to "exercise vigilance" in dealing with Iran's central bank. American and European officials said Wednesday that the reference could give them a legal basis in the future for choking off financial transactions between Iran and banking centers in Europe and elsewhere. (New York Times)
* Obama Reassures Jewish Lawmakers on "Obama Peace Plan" - Ben Smith
During a meeting Tuesday between President Obama and Jewish members of Congress, Obama sought to quell concerns that he would impose a peace plan on Israel without the country's consent, two attendees said. Jewish members, led by New York's Eliot Engel and Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, pressed Obama on their impression that he is putting more pressure on Israel than on the Palestinian side in peace talks, and asked about recent calls on Obama to jumpstart the process with an "Obama plan."
"I cannot impose a settlement," Obama said. "Israel is a sovereign nation and the notion that I would or could do that is simply wrong." Obama told the group that the rift between the U.S. and Israel has been overstated and stressed that the American commitment to Israel's military superiority is unabated. (Politico)
See also Jewish Dems Get a Chance to Vent to Obama - Laura Rozen
One can hardly turn around in Washington the past three weeks without running into another Jewish outreach event by the Obama White House. (Politico)
* Senators Call to Punish Syria - James Morrison
Twelve Republican senators are calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to impose "prompt punitive" sanctions against Syria for threatening Israel by supplying long-range Scud missiles to Hizbullah terrorists. They noted that the new missiles put every Israeli city in range of attack. (Washington Times)
See also Rebuilding the "Box" around Syria - Firas Maksad (Los Angeles Times)
* U.S. Seeking to Build Up Hizbullah Moderates - Adam Entous
The Obama administration is looking for ways to build up "moderate elements" within Lebanese Hizbullah, John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said on Tuesday. "There are certainly the elements of Hizbullah that are truly a concern to us....And what we need to do is to find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements," Brennan said. Hizbullah is branded a "foreign terrorist organization" by the U.S. (Reuters)
See also State Department Denies Change in Policy toward Hizbullah (Naharnet-Lebanon)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
* Palestinian Official: Expel Israel from the UN
Senior PLO official Nabil Shaath said Wednesday that the Palestinians must strive for the isolation of Israel in the international community, attempt to expel it from the UN and prevent a deepening of Israeli ties with the EU. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Report: PA to Ask NATO and U.S. to Defend It from Israel
The Palestinian Authority will ask that NATO and the U.S. commit to "defending the Palestinian state from Israel," Al-Quds al-Arabi reported Palestinian sources as saying Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
* Egypt Asked Israel to Reject Qatari Offer on Gaza Construction - Zvi Bar'el
Israel rejected a proposal from Qatar to allow it to bring construction materials into Gaza in exchange for renewing diplomatic relations with Israel after Egypt made clear its opposition to the plan. Relations between Qatar and Egypt are tense, in part because of the sharp criticism of Egypt voiced on Al Jazeera television, which is owned by the emirate's ruling family. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
* Iran's Circle of Diplomatic Partners Is Shrinking - Patrick Clawson
Even as Iranian leaders argue that they will ignore any and all pressure from the U.S. and its allies, the record demonstrates otherwise. This week's trilateral agreement reached by Iran, Brazil, and Turkey to refuel the Tehran Research Reactor was transparently done with the goal of forestalling sanctions at the UN.
Iran has had high hopes that Russia would block attempts by the West to slow its nuclear progress. But instead, Moscow has grown increasingly frustrated with Tehran. Beijing also does not seem particularly willing to buck the West on behalf of the Islamic Republic. Iran is not negotiating with Brazil and Turkey because it prefers these two nations as international partners. Rather, Tehran had no choice: its previous, and preferred, interlocutors no longer bought the line that, this time, the Iranians would really cooperate. The writer is deputy director for research at the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
* The Proponents of the Israel Divestment Movement Are on Trial - Hanan Alexander
Supporters of the initiative to divest from U.S. companies that sell arms to Israel stand accused of seeking to deny Israel the basic human right of self-defense by singling out Israel rather than opposing arms sales in general; of seeking to deny Jews the right to cultural self-determination in a country of their own by minimizing Hamas treachery and supporting its aim to destroy Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; of seeking to deny Jews self-respect by attributing to the Jews alone the power to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict; asserting a false analogy between democratic Israel and apartheid South Africa; and shamelessly asserting the vicious libel that the IDF intentionally targets innocent Palestinian children.
If one country is denied the right to self-defense, all countries can be denied that right; if one national culture is forbidden, then all cultures can be subjected to ideological discrimination; if one people is despised, then all peoples can be despised; and if one group is unsafe, then everyone is unsafe. The writer is Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor at UC Berkeley and Professor of Philosophy of Education, University of Haifa. (Jerusalem Post)
A Diplomatic Game of Chicken with Iran - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
* On Tuesday, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, including Russia and China, endorsed a draft resolution condemning Iran's nuclear program. However, the new UN resolution won't stop Iran's nuclear program any more than the previous three did.
* The U.S. and its allies will top up the UN sanctions with some tougher measures of their own, but those won't be enough to halt Tehran either. Yes, Tehran can claim that it has support from Turkey and Brazil, but realistically, the Iranians know that having lost Russia and China on sanctions, they are on shaky ground.
* The problem with this protracted process of bargaining is that the clock is ticking, with Iran moving toward nuclear-weapons capability even as it haggles on the diplomatic front. As Iran plays the game, "yes" and "no" are never final; negotiators walk away from the table only to return; face-saving compromises are floated, rejected and then re-floated.
* It's likely that this enervating bargaining will end when Iran announces - surprise! - that it has all the elements for a nuclear weapon and is now a de facto nuclear state.
Iran's deal with Turkey, Brazil
WSJ May 18 *What a fiasco. That's the first word that comes to mind watching Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raise his arms yesterday with the leaders of Turkey and Brazil to celebrate a new atomic pact that instantly made irrelevant 16 months of President Obama's "diplomacy." The deal is a political coup for Tehran and possibly delivers the coup de grace to the West's half-hearted efforts to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb.
Full credit for this debacle goes to the Obama Administration and its hapless diplomatic strategy. Last October, nine months into its engagement with Tehran, the White House concocted a plan to transfer some of Iran's uranium stock abroad for enrichment. If the West couldn't stop Iran's program, the thinking was that maybe this scheme would delay it. The Iranians played coy, then refused to accept the offer.
But Mr. Obama doesn't take no for an answer from rogue regimes, and so he kept the offer on the table. As the U.S. finally seemed ready to go to the U.N. Security Council for more sanctions, the Iranians chose yesterday to accept the deal on their own limited terms while enlisting the Brazilians and Turks as enablers and political shields. "Diplomacy emerged victorious today," declared Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, turning Mr. Obama's own most important foreign-policy principle against him.
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The double embarrassment is that the U.S. had encouraged Lula's diplomacy as a step toward winning his support for U.N. sanctions. Brazil is currently one of the nonpermanent, rotating members of the Security Council, and the U.S. has wanted a unanimous U.N. vote. Instead, Lula used the opening to triangulate his own diplomatic solution. In her first game of high-stakes diplomatic poker, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leaving the table dressed only in a barrel.
So instead of the U.S. and Europe backing Iran into a corner this spring, Mr. Ahmadinejad has backed Mr. Obama into one. America's discomfort is obvious. In its statement yesterday, the White House strained to "acknowledge the efforts" by Turkey and Brazil while noting "Iran's repeated failure to live up to its own commitments." The White House also sought to point out differences between yesterday's pact and the original October agreements on uranium transfers.
Good luck drawing those distinctions with the Chinese or Russians, who will now be less likely to agree even to weak sanctions. Having played so prominent a role in last October's talks with Iran, the U.S. can't easily disassociate itself from something broadly in line with that framework.
Under the terms unveiled yesterday, Iran said it would send 1,200 kilograms (2,646 lbs.) of low-enriched uranium to Turkey within a month, and no more than a year later get back 120 kilograms enriched from somewhere else abroad. This makes even less sense than the flawed October deal. In the intervening seven months, Iran has kicked its enrichment activities into higher gear. Its estimated total stock has gone to 2,300 kilograms from 1,500 kilograms last autumn, and its stated enrichment goal has gone to 20% from 3.5%.
If the West accepts this deal, Iran would be allowed to keep enriching uranium in contravention of previous U.N. resolutions. Removing 1,200 kilograms will leave Iran with still enough low-enriched stock to make a bomb, and once uranium is enriched up to 20% it is technically easier to get to bomb-capable enrichment levels.
Only last week, diplomats at the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran has increased the number of centrifuges it is using to enrich uranium. According to Western intelligence estimates, Iran continues to acquire key nuclear components, such as trigger mechanisms for bombs. Tehran says it wants to build additional uranium enrichment plants. The CIA recently reported that Iran tripled its stockpile of uranium last year and moved "toward self-sufficiency in the production of nuclear missiles." Yesterday's deal will have no impact on these illicit activities.
The deal will, however, make it nearly impossible to disrupt Iran's nuclear program short of military action. The U.N. is certainly a dead end. After 16 months of his extended hand and after downplaying support for Iran's democratic opposition, Mr. Obama now faces an Iran much closer to a bomb and less diplomatically isolated than when President Bush left office.
Israel will have to seriously consider its military options. Such a confrontation is far more likely thanks to the diplomatic double-cross of Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazil's Lula, and especially to a U.S. President whose diplomacy has succeeded mainly in persuading the world's rogues that he lacks the determination to stop their destructive ambitions.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
* Iran Creates Illusion of Progress in Nuclear Negotiations - Glenn Kessler
By striking a deal to ship some of its low-enriched uranium abroad, Iran has created the illusion of progress in nuclear negotiations with the West, without offering any real compromise. (Washington Post)
See also A Sham Deal with Iran - Bronwen Maddox
Brazil and Turkey claim to have pulled off a triumph in persuading Iran to freeze the heart of its nuclear program. But this is almost certainly a sham deal - and one that, dangerously, will undermine the drive to bring new sanctions against Tehran. (Times-UK)
* Changing the Paradigm of U.S. Assistance to Egypt: Alternatives to the "Endowment" Idea - J. Scott Carpenter
Recently leaked documents detail an exchange between Washington and Cairo regarding the future of U.S. economic assistance to Egypt, indicating that the Obama administration has welcomed Cairo's idea of ending traditional assistance in favor of creating a new endowment, "The Egyptian-American Friendship Foundation." This idea has a long, checkered history and, if implemented, will be bad for both American taxpayers and the Egyptian people. The administration should work with Egypt to craft alternatives that advance common objectives, including democratic reform. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Iran Maneuvers to Delay Sanctions - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
* The agreement between Tehran and Ankara is a nice achievement for the Iranians that will somewhat delay the international sanctions against them and provide an alibi for the Russians and Chinese to maintain excellent economic ties with Tehran.
* Every time Iran feels that it's approaching the point of no return in respect to Security Council or EU decisions on sanctions, it comes up with a "new initiative" and announces that it will in fact accept the international community's conditions. Yet when it actually needs to sign an agreement, it presents new conditions.
* The Iranians agreed and reneged on this kind of arrangement eight times. Indeed, this is just part of the ongoing ritual of Iranian maneuvers aimed at buying time in order to get as close as possible to the bomb.
Iran's Nuclear Coup - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
* Iran said it would send 1,200 kg. of low-enriched uranium to Turkey within a month, and no more than a year later get back 120 kg. enriched from somewhere else abroad. This makes even less sense than the flawed October deal. In the intervening seven months, Iran has kicked its enrichment activities into higher gear. Its estimated total stock has gone to 2,300 kg. from 1,500 kg. last autumn, and its stated enrichment goal has gone to 20% from 3.5%.
* If the West accepts this deal, Iran would be allowed to keep enriching uranium in contravention of previous UN resolutions. Removing 1,200 kg. will leave Iran with still enough low-enriched stock to make a bomb, and once uranium is enriched up to 20% it is technically easier to get to bomb-capable enrichment levels.
* Only last week, diplomats at the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran has increased the number of centrifuges it is using to enrich uranium. According to Western intelligence estimates, Iran continues to acquire key nuclear components, such as trigger mechanisms for bombs. Tehran says it wants to build additional uranium enrichment plants. The CIA recently reported that Iran tripled its stockpile of uranium last year and moved "toward self-sufficiency in the production of nuclear missiles." Monday's deal will have no impact on these illicit activities.
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blished 13:51 10.05.10Latest update 13:51 10.05.10
Vice Prime Minister Ya'alon: Israel has the technological capability to strike Iran
Addressing a conference on air power, Ya'alon said Israel's experience in carrying out air strikes against militants along its borders could easily be extended to distant sorties in Iran.
Tags: Israel news Moshe Ya'alon Iran
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Monday that Israel has the technological capabilty to launch a military strike against Iran.
Vice PM Moshe Ya'alon pictured in August 2009.
Photo by: Emil Salman
Addressing a conference on air power, Ya'alon said Israel's experience in carrying out air strikes against militants along its borders could easily be extended to distant sorties in Iran.
"There is no doubt that the technological capabilities, which improved in recent years, have improved range and aerial refueling capabilities, and have brought about a massive improvement in the accuracy or ordnance and intelligence," he said.
"This capability can be used for a war on terror in Gaza, for a war in the face of rockets from Lebanon, for war on the conventional Syrian army, and also for war on a peripheral state like Iran," said Ya'alon, a former chief of Israel's armed forces.
Israel, which is assumed to have the region's only atomic arsenal, bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 and launched a similar sortie over Syria in 2007.
It has rarely used the term "war" in official statements on how to deal with Iran over a nuclear program which Israel and the West believe is aimed at building atomic weapons. Iran denies it has hostile designs.
Israeli leaders have spoken of leaving all options on the table in addressing the question of possible military action against Iran, and they have endorsed efforts by United Nations Security Council powers to impose new sanctions.
Israel's veiled threats against Iran have been questioned by some independent analysts who see the potential targets as too distant, dispersed and well-defended for Israeli jets to take on alone.
In his address at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, Ya'alon posited air strikes to "decapitate or blind" an enemy by targeting its leadership or early-warning defenses.
"As far as I'm concerned, attack remains the best form of defense," he said.
Israel saw itself in a de facto war with Iran due to its sponsorship of Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas, Ya'alon said.
"There is no doubt, looking at the overall situation, that we are already in a military confrontation with Iran," he said. "Iran is the main motivator of those attacking us."
Meanwhile, in separate remarks, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said "there is still time" for diplomacy to work. He sought to play down Israel's interest in having Iran reined in, calling it a global challenge.
"If in the end of the day, Iran does get nuclear, in spite of what America says and wants, this will have grave implications for world order, the balance of power and the rules of the game," said Meridor, who, like Yaalon, belongs to Netanyahu's seven-member inner council.
Israelk could do it
Fearing Iran's bomb
Iran, Hezbollah, and the Bomb
BY William Harris
May 7, 2010 12:00 AM
When Iran gets the bomb, the nuclear club will have a crucial new feature. Without an Iranian bomb and barring regime change in Pakistan, we know that no nuclear power will transfer a device to a private army of the religious elect like Hezbollah in Lebanon. With an Iranian bomb, such assurance instantly ends. This is a looming, tangible state of affairs--in contrast to the hype about loose nuclear materials at the April 2010 Washington nuclear security summit.
Proponents of containing a nuclear Iran in and around the Obama administration conceive of deterring Iran in standard realist style. The Islamic Republic of Iran, however, has become a hybrid of the government of God and ruthless militarized mafias. It is well practiced in long-range subversion, intimidation, and weapons smuggling. It may be confidently expected to shred so-called containment, especially when equipped with a nuclear aura and facing the quivering potentates of Arabia.
In any case, Iran has a strategic extension across the Middle East to the Mediterranean that puts it beyond containment. On February 25, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah met in Damascus to celebrate their alignment and its achievements. The Syrian-Iranian partnership has enabled the Syrian ruling clique to go from strength to strength in dealing with the West and the Arabs. Syria only looks forward to more gains from the partnership as Iran moves toward the bomb. At the tripartite summit, Assad mocked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's call for Syria to steer away from Iran.
What of Hezbollah? Thanks to Western promoted demoralization of the West's own friends in Lebanon, Hezbollah has advanced from commanding a large part of Lebanon to effectively commanding the Lebanese state. This is the fruit of the West's courting of Bashar al-Assad, and pressing "consensus" with absolutists on the Lebanese. As a result, Lebanon is more than ever the business end of Iran's Middle Eastern operations.
Hezbollah is integral to the ruling clerical and military establishment in Iran. It has pledged itself to supreme guide Ali Khamenei, and from the perspective of Iran's leaders it is a wing of their apparatus. The party's formidable armory, fortified territory, and intelligence capability give it credibility as a base for Iranian strategic weaponry bordering Israel, in the heart of the Arab world, and half way to Europe.
It would be entirely within character for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to establish a clandestine strategic unit in Lebanon, with nuclear devices. There are considerable temptations: targeting Israel without needing to use ballistic missiles; deniability (at least in the mind of Tehran); and a secret reserve outside Iran. If a speedboat brought a ten-kiloton surprise early one morning to the Tel Aviv shore, with all evidence vaporized who could say for sure who was responsible? The mere prospect that Iran might implement a nuclear transfer to its base in Lebanon after crossing the weapons threshold would drastically change calculations on the Israel/Hezbollah front.
When Ahmadinejad speaks of Nasrallah's uprooting Israel in the "grand victory," it is difficult to think of a mechanism other than nuclear. Perhaps Ahmadinejad actually means what he says. He tells us that he has seen the light of the Twelfth Imam while speaking at the U.N. General Assembly. While he may not command Iran, his mode of thinking is widespread in ruling circles.
Hezbollah having any link to nuclear devices is terrifying, not least for Lebanese Shiites. The party combines technical sophistication, global reach, and delusional demagogy. For Nasrallah, Israel is nothing more than "a spider's web," to be swept away at a blow. Hezbollah restrains itself for the present, but its impetus and soaring ambition after Iran acquires the bomb will be another matter.
The future is bleak; the Lebanese mountain communities sport a history of disastrous miscalculations. The Druze lord Fakhr al-Din Ma'n invited and received an Ottoman avalanche after he expanded east to Palmyra and north toward Aleppo in the early 1630s. Within the mountain, the Maronites came to grief in 1845 and 1860 in overestimating themselves against the Druze. Hezbollah's journey to wherever its insouciance and hubris take it, with the Shiite community and all Lebanon along for the ride, is an escalated version of an old story, now with stratospheric stakes.
In the meantime, U.S. engagement of Syria's ruling clique only encourages Bashar al-Assad's provision of missiles and munitions of diverse descriptions to Hezbollah. One of the Syrian regime's sub-plots is to blackmail acceptance of its return to Beirut. The arsonist is selling himself to the credulous as a fire fighter, but he remains an incorrigible arsonist—not to mention a murder suspect, fingered in the 2005 reports of the U.N. investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
What to do? Suspending the policy of engaging Syria and Iran, of repeatedly proven futility, would be a start. Indeed, the principal utility of engagement may be the impact of publicly acknowledging it as unproductive and stepping back from it. Given the near certain provenance of the 2005 political murder in Lebanon, insistence on pursuing international justice to the end of the trail would also not go amiss. Despite the sclerotic condition of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, international justice might still pull down Iran's friends in the Levant. To the east, Iraq should not be considered hostage to engagement; the determination of the Syrian and Iranian regimes to wreck a pluralist Iraq has never wavered. As for Iran's rulers, the trick is to integrate whatever can be squeezed out of the U.N. Security Council with a new level of Euro-American sanctions. Only rigor with the regime might affect Iran's domestic environment in the couple of years that are probably all that are left. President Obama has spoken of proceeding "boldly and quickly." So far this is just hot air.
Iran's leader said Wednesday that neither threats of sanctions nor Israeli military action would stop his country from building its nuclear program, Haaretz reports.
"Iran will definitely continue its path. You should not even doubt that we will continue our path. We'll definitely continue our path," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" program.
In New York for the opening of a nuclear nonproliferation summit, Ahmadinejad on Tuesday dismissed President Barack Obama's threat to increase sanctions against his country as "just a posture," Haaretz reports.
"Sanctions cannot stop the Iranian nation. The Iranian nation is able to withstand the pressure of the United States and its allies," he told a news
ISSA & BURTON & MILLER: Nuclear-armed mullahs are not an option
Obama needs to stop looking the other way
By Reps. Darrell Issa, Dan Burton and Jeff Miller
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems hell-bent on enriching uranium and developingthe other complex components and specialized parts necessary to deliver and detonate a nuclear weapon. President Obama's policy in response is far from clear-cut.
We recognize that any assessment of the secret activities of a closed society like Iran is both difficult and necessarily tentative. Even with a well-honed intelligence network, it is impossible to understand the precise status and contours of the Iranian nuclear enterprise. Although some public accounts have indicated that intelligence agencies believe the Iranian bomb quest has been set back by sabotage and the defection of essential individuals, the inherent limitations of intelligence collection and analysis means that these assessments may be wrong. Iran may be even closer to producing a nuclear weapon than the intelligence community believes.
Only Mr. Ahmadinejad and his cronies know for certain.
What we do know, however, is that Iran continues to conduct military exercises in the Persian Gulf to showcase the regime's ability to threaten a vital transit route for the region's petroleum exports. America's dangerous dependence on foreign oil means that Iran's hostile behavior poses a national security threat. And while the threat from Iran's conventional weapons is serious, the threat to this strategic waterway from a nuclear-armed Iran would be a thousand times worse.
The United States must always be prepared for the possibility of a "strategic surprise." Yet given this administration's national security failures, we have little assurance that the president is equipped to handle an Iranian crisis.
Regrettably, it is increasingly apparent that the president's "outstretched hand" to the Islamist regime in Iran has failed, while his continual scolding of Israel appears to have further emboldened Mr. Ahmadinejad's hostilities toward this important regional ally. Furthermore, the administration's enthrallment with multilateral postulation about the benefit of aggressive global sanctions has accomplished nothing to mitigate the prospect that radicalized Muslims around the world might obtain nuclear weapons.
Some have suggested that the administration has tacitly accepted the development of an Iranian bomb. These analysts argue that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's speculation about a U.S. regional nuclear umbrella, in addition to the administration's plans to place missile defenses in Eastern Europe andthedispatchof other anti-missile weapons to the Mideast, indicate that the president is resigned to Iran's eventual acquisition of atomic arms.
The risk of Iranian nuclear weapons, surprise or not, is deeply troubling. So are the reports that the administration has conceded this eventuality.
First, "containing" a nuclear-equipped Iran as the United States did the Soviet Union during the Cold War would require an explicit commitment to use overwhelming force in certain circumstances. It is not clear whether the president is willing or prepared to make such a commitment in the case of Iran.
Second, even if this commitment was forthcoming, many experts do not believe it is possible to contain Iran. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union refused to take overtly hostile actions directly against the U.S. or its allies during the Cold War, presumably because it feared a massive nuclear retaliatory strike. Essential to this assessment is the fact that the leaders of the Soviet Union understood that American retaliation would preclude the possibility of an eventual global communist triumph.
Iranian leaders may not be encumbered by the modicum of rational statecraft distilled into the collective Soviet brain. Rather than discouraging the use of nuclear weapons against U.S. interests, the prospect of inducing destruction may actually appeal to the mullahs calling the shots in Tehran.
It is telling that while the Obama administration downgrades the role U.S. nuclear weapons play in our national security, the Iranians seem to be striving unabated to obtain atomic arms. Thebestway to counteract uncertainty about Iran's intentions,however, isa certain indication of what is intolerable to the United States.
The first step to halting an Iranian bomb program is increasing our intelligence-gathering capabilities to monitor the progress of Iran's nuclear program. Meanwhile,effective sanctions must be imposed immediately, and the United States must demonstrate its unequivocal support for the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. We also must not foreclose the possibility of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities or the option of overwhelming retaliatory force should Iran launch itself or supply terrorists with the resources to launch an attack on the United States or our allies. Iran should have no doubt about the full force of America's military strength and no question about our willingness to use it.
To date, however, the president's policy for dealing with Iran is both incoherent and frighteningly similar to the failed approach of the Carter era. It wasn't until a reinvigorated Kremlin - tempted by an anemic and indecisive American administration - sent Soviet tanks into Afghanistan that President Carter began to acknowledge the threat of a nuclear-armed foe. We hope it will not require another strategic surprise to educate President Obama about a pressing contemporary nuclear threat.
Rep. Darrell Issa of California is ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana is ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East. Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida is ranking member of the House Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism and unconventional arms.
Obama is the one softening sanctions
White House seeks to soften Iran sanctions
The Obama administration is pressing Congress to provide an exemption from Iran sanctions to companies based in "cooperating countries," a move that likely would exempt Chinese and Russian concerns from penalties meant to discourage investment in Iran.
The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act is in a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to reach President Obama's desk by Memorial Day.
"It's incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of "cooperating countries" in the legislation.
Neither the House nor Senate version of the bill includes a "cooperating countries" provision even though the administration asked the leading sponsors of the Senate version of the bill nearly six months ago to include one.
Oren hints Iran strike on the table
By JPOST.COM STAFF AND AP
Envoy cites memory of 65 yrs ago when Jews couldn't defend themselves.
Echoing sentiments earlier expressed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren indicated Tuesday night that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities was on the table.
During an interview with CNN, when asked whether Israel would embark on such an operation, Oren replied, “Israel, like any country in the world, has a right to defend itself, and we have a particular memory of 65 years ago when Jews didn’t have a right to defend themselves, and we remember what happened.”
Earlier Tuesday, after meetings at the Pentagon with the top US civilian and uniformed officials, Barak said that while the US was "doing the right thing" by pursuing a diplomatic solution to the Iranian threat, the world cannot afford to wait too long.
Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, and the United States is the only world power that can muster a coordinated global effort to deter Iran through economic pressure.
"Only time will tell to what extent they are really effective," Barak said He warned that if the world waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that would "change the landscape" of the entire world, not just of the Middle East.
NYT column on a shift in American policy in the Middle East had this quote regarding Barack Obama’s views:
“ conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure”-drawing an explicit link between the Israel –Palestinians strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/world/middleeast/15mideast.html
A veiled warning to Israel not to strike Iran?
Israel Weighs Merits of Solo Attack on Iran
Officials, Seeing Impending Policy Split With U.S., Debate Prospect of a Military Strike Without Washington's Consent
JERUSALEM—The Israeli security establishment is divided over whether it needs Washington's blessing if Israel decides to attack Iran, Israeli officials say, as the U.S. campaign for sanctions drags on and Tehran steadily develops greater nuclear capability.
Some senior Israeli officials say in interviews that they see signs Washington may be willing to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, an eventuality that Israel says it won't accept. Compounding Israeli concerns were U.S. statements this past weekend that underscored U.S. resistance to a military option. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday discussed a memo to National Security Adviser James Jones warning that the U.S. needed new strategies, including how to contain a nuclear Iran—suggesting that Iran could reach nuclear capability without any foreign military force trying to stop it.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated Sunday the U.S. position that a military strike against Iran is a "last option."
Israel says it supports the U.S.-led push for new economic sanctions against Iran. But Israeli officials have increasingly voiced frustration over the slow pace of diplomatic efforts to get sanctions in place.
Relations between the two allies have soured in recent weeks, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government pushing back against Obama administration pressure to freeze building in Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, which Washington says is counterproductive to its Mideast peace efforts.
In another sign of a split, Israeli officials say they believe Iran—whose president has called for the destruction of Israel—could develop a warhead to strike the country within a year if it decides to, though outside experts say such capability is years away. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful uses.
Such divisions have played into fears in Israel that if Washington's sanctions effort fails, the Israeli and American positions on Iran could rapidly diverge—and Israel, if it chooses to attack Iran, would have no choice but to do so on its own.
U.S. commanders say an attack would invite retaliation by Iran against American military interests in the region, or wider terrorist attacks by Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Hamas. Adm. Mullen said Sunday a strike could have "unintended consequences," and has long warned it could destabilize the region at a time the U.S. has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, which neighbor Iran.
A senior U.S. official said the U.S. has stated to Israel its opposition to unilateral Israeli action, but that there were still fears within the administration that Israel could strike Iran despite Washington's objections.
If Israel chooses to attack nuclear facilities in Iran against Washington's objections, politics will play a role in military strategy.
Some Israeli officials worry a unilateral strike would cause a break with Washington that would threaten Israeli national interests even more than a nuclear-armed Iran.
Israel's track record of coordinating such strikes with the U.S. is mixed. The country caught the U.S. by surprise with its attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. When Israel attacked a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, Washington was given advanced warning, according to U.S. officials at the time.
The decision of whether to strike Iran ultimately rests with the prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu. In the past, however, senior military commanders have had significant say in such decisions. A spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Defense declined to comment on internal deliberations concerning Iran.
There are a number of routes Israeli attack jets can fly to attack Iran. They all would require Israeli planes to fly through U.S.-controlled airspace in Iraq or through the airspace of U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia or Turkey, which could cause serious political consequences for Israel.
Many Israeli military experts say Israel can easily cope with any military retaliation by Iran in response to a strike. Iran's medium-range rockets would cause damage and casualties in Israel, but they aren't very accurate, and Israel's sophisticated missile-defense system would likely knock many out midflight. Israel has similarly proved it can handle attacks against Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel also hosts a contingent of U.S. troops attached to a radar system to help give early warning against incoming rocket attacks.
More worrying to Israeli strategic planners examining possible attack scenarios is the possibility that Iran would respond to an Israeli attack by ramping up support to groups battling U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to recently retired officials familiar with the military's thinking on Iran. If American soldiers start dying in greater numbers as a result of an Israeli unilateral attack, Americans could turn against Israel.
Iran could also disrupt the world's oil supply by cutting off exports through the Persian Gulf, roiling international oil markets.
"What will Americans say if Israel drags the U.S. into a war it didn't want, or when they are suddenly paying $10 a gallon for gasoline and Israel is the reason for it," says retired Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, former director of the Israeli army's Strategic Planning Division.
Former senior members of Israel's defense establishment have weighed in recently on both sides of the debate.
"We don't have permission and we don't need permission from the U.S.," says Ephraim Sneh, who served as deputy minister of defense under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser, says Israel wouldn't jeopardize its relationship with the U.S. by launching a military strike against Iran without an American nod.
Late last month, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak seemed to acknowledge publicly the opposing viewpoints inside the administration.
"Only we have the exclusive responsibility when it comes to the fate and security of Israel, and only we can determine the matters pertaining to the fate of Israel and the Jewish people," Mr. Barak said. "But we must never lose sight of how important these relations are, or the ability to act in harmony and unity with the United States."
ontainment Has Its Own Costs
Max Boot - 04.22.2010 - 11:38 AM
The signs are building that administration officials are essentially throwing up their hands when it comes to Iran policy and implicitly conceding defeat. Their offer to hold talks with Tehran predictably went nowhere; that wasted the administration’s first year. The justification for all this futile diplomatic activity was that it would supposedly enhance American credibility to seek crippling sanctions against Iran. No such sanctions are on the horizon; instead what we will get, at best, is more toothless gestures from the UN. With time running out, the only feasible way to stop or at least substantially delay the Iranian nuclear program is through military action. But, as senior Pentagon official Michele Flournoy concedes, that option is “off the table.” (She added “in the short term,” but does anyone imagine that the Nobel laureate in the White House is going to start a war in the long term?) Meanwhile, the growing rift between the U.S. and Israel makes it less likely that Israel will risk American wrath by striking Iran on its own. (Israeli officials are said to be worried that “a unilateral strike would cause a break with Washington that would threaten Israeli national interests even more than a nuclear-armed Iran.”)
So where does that leave us? With policy wonks and administration officials increasingly turning to “containment” and “deterrence” as the answer to Iran — a trend noted in this Washington Post article.
Those policies worked against the Soviet Union, but no one should have any illusions that they provide a painless fix to the threat posed by Iran. In the first place, even with the Soviets, there were a few moments when nuclear war was a serious possibility. Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? There is no guarantee that a replay with Iran — say a Lebanese Missile Crisis — would be resolved so peaceably. Moreover, even if we avoided World War III, containing the Soviets was hardly bloodless — it cost the lives of nearly a 100,000 American soldiers in Korea and Vietnam.
For a reminder of how difficult containment can be, consider the latest news emanating from the Korean peninsula. There are reports circulating that a South Korean ship that sank on March 26 with the loss of 46 sailors was torpedoed by North Korea. Even if true, South Korea’s options are limited. What’s it going to do — attack a nuclear-armed state? The U.S. faced a similar quandary with the Soviet Union, whose nuclear arsenal gave it a free pass to commit all sorts of aggression against the U.S. and our allies, often by proxy.
The danger is much greater from a nuclear-armed Iran than from a nuclear-armed North Korea. The latter, after all, is a sclerotic state whose leader’s only goal is to stay in power and enjoy various imported delicacies. Iran, by contrast, is a still a relatively young, revolutionary regime ruled by leaders with a fervor to remake the Middle East in accordance with their extremist ideology. Given all the carnage Iran is already responsible for — it has backed some of the world’s deadliest terrorist groups in Lebanon, Gaza, and Iraq, among other places, and it has been behind the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of American service personnel — it is terrifying to imagine what the region will look like when the mullahs have nukes. But that is precisely where we are headed thanks to the Obama administration’s feckless policies
Report: Iran to buy uranium from Zimbabwe in secret deal
By Haaretz Service
Tags: Israel news, Iran
Iran has signed a secret deal with Zimbabwe to mine its untapped uranium reserves, according to a Saturday report in The Sunday Telegraph.
The agreement was secured last month, when a close aide to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe visited Tehran.
According to the deal, Iran will supply Zimbabwe oil in exchange for access to potentially huge deposits of uranium ore - which can be converted into basic fuel for nuclear power, or could also be enriched to make nuclear arms.
A Zimbabwean government source has told The Daily Telegraph that "Iran secured the exclusive uranium rights last month when minister of state for Presidential affairs, Didymus Mutasa, visited Tehran. This is when the formal signing of the deal was made, away from the glare of the media."
The Daily Telegraph also reported that Iran's stockpiles of uranium, which mostly came from South Africa during the 1970s, has been running low, therefore the apparent deal with Zimbabwe has come at a critical time.
Obama and Berman are the ones holding up tough sanctions
April 21, 2010
Who Is Obstructing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act?
By John Appleton
Iran is the number-one terror-sponsoring nation in the world; it has been killing Americans for years. The country is led to by mad mullahs who see nuclear weapons as a ticket to paradise. Why would one key congressman spend the last year and a half trying to derail plans to stop Iran's nuclear program? Perhaps because he is doing so at the behest of Barack Obama.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has messianic dreams that view nuclear Armageddon as a means to bring about the return of Shia Islam's Hidden Imam and usher in a new age. For years, the Iranian regime has boasted of its plans to destroy the little Satan (Israel) and the big Satan (America).
For the past few years, Congress has worked on bills to erect a sanctions regime designed to moderate that Iran's behavior and slow, if not stop, its nuclear program. Over the years, various sanctions have been put in place and have not yet worked. Therefore, efforts have been made in both the Senate and the House to toughen the sanctions. A key focus has been efforts to shut off the export of refined petroleum products (gasoline, heating oil) into Iran. Despite having vast crude reserves, the nation cannot refine its own crude -- leading in the past to riots.
The Senate has a version of what is called the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act; the House has its own separate, somewhat weaker version.
Before these bills are voted on separately by both Houses of Congress, they must first be voted out of the foreign affairs committees of each house. In the Senate, this would be the Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Democratic Senator John Kerry (D-MA). In the House, it would be the Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Howard Berman (D-CA). Both have been accused of working with the White House to slow passage of these bills. Nevertheless, eventually and through the hard work of many advocates, both bills were voted out of the committee and then passed in both the Senate and the House.
But for the bills to become law, the bills have to be "reconciled" in a conference composed of both congressmen and senators, usually chosen by the chairmen of the committees who oversee the area involved in the legislation.
This type of reconciliation is not the controversial type of reconciliation used to pass ObamaCare, but refers to the process of melding the two separate bills into one single bill that can then be voted upon by both the House and the Senate. Then it would be passed on to the president for signing, becoming law.
But there seems to be a roadblock: Chairman Howard Berman.
John Kerry chose his conferees on March 11, 2010. Howard Berman has chosen to sit this one out -- he has not yet chosen his conferees from the House. The obduracy became so bad that steps were taken to elevate the matter to House leadership. They seem to be exasperated enough with Berman's delays to take the naming of the conferees upon themselves this week. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and the centrifuges are spinning.
This led me to suspect that something may be amiss with Congressman Berman, who professes to be, among other things, a strong supporter of the America-Israel relationship. There are reasons to question this view. Berman seems to be more devoted to doing the bidding of Barack Obama than to defending America and our allies from a nuclear Iran.
As noted above, the progression of the bill through the House has been a slow one. Clearly, the White House did not want a bill to interfere with its outreach towards Iran. There have been reports that Howard Berman worked with the White House to "gum up the works." His reward may very well have been help with fundraising.
From Politico (December 8, 2009):
Rahm Emanuel -- who has done no fundraising events for House members, or even for the congressional committees, since he left the body to become White House chief of staff -- will headline a Los Angeles fundraiser for Rep. Howard Berman tonight in Los Angeles, according to the invitation.
The event may be, in part, a thank you to Berman -- chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- for staying so closely in step with the White House on crucial issues, notably sanctions against Iran, on which the committee moved more slowly than some of its members would have liked as the White House sought to negotiate.
This was during the heat of the ObamaCare fight, yet the White House chief of staff -- for the first time -- takes a break to raise some funds for Berman. We shouldn't be surprised. The boys from Chicago have routinely treated Democrats as dogs in need of training: They can get the stick, such as a threat that they are "keeping score" regarding who supports them in Congress, or the carrot: fundraising help. Threats and bribes are the Chicago way.
But sadly, there are more grounds to be suspicious.
Howard Berman seems to have adopted the President's line of "reasoning". Before Barack Obama became president, Howard Berman spoke in June 2008 of the need for quickly passing a very tough sanctions regime. However, after Obama became president, Howard Berman changed his views and downgraded the importance of sanctions. In October of last year, sanctions became just one of many options for dealing with Iran. Actually, they became the fourth-best option. The first option would be continued (fruitless) engagement by Barack Obama, then U.N. resolutions, then other multilateral efforts. The very last option became sanctions. Berman seems to have done an about-face, all the while saluting Barack Obama.
An aversion to sanctions -- especially those that with bite that would crimp the import of gasoline by Iran -- is an Obama policy. Months ago, the administration made clear that it did not want sanctions that would affect the Iranian people, even though such sanctions would "heighten popular anger against the regime" (as a Washington Post editorial noted).
The steady weakening of the resolve of the administration to confront Iran (deadlines ignored by the mullahs and by Barack Obama; the devolution of sanctions from being "crippling" to "biting to "smart" to actually "non-existent") is an appalling but not surprising abdication of responsibility by our commander-in-chief.
Howard Berman seems to have gone along for the ride down that slippery slope -- endangering America and our imperiled ally, Israel.
One sign that Berman's weak approach matches Obama's agenda is that J Street -- an appeasement oriented lobby that declared it will serve as the "president's blocking back" regarding his policies towards Israel -- specifically endorsed Berman's approach towards Iran. Not a good sign that his approach has teeth.
There is more.
Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) attempted to introduce a resolution in the House that strongly supported Iranian protesters and freedom-fighters during last year's massive protests throughout Iran. The Obama White House was feckless, and its aversion to helping the Iranians even led them to chant the question in the streets of Iran whether Obama was "with us." By now, the answer to that is clear. In any case, Pence's resolution was gutted by Howard Berman, who preferred to dilute the resolution. Was this at the behest of the White House?
A further sign that Howard Berman is just following marching orders from the White House is an act that has nothing to do with Iran but is indicative that he wants to curry favor with the Oval Office. The president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was legally removed from power and escorted out of that nation. Barack Obama objected, as did Hugo Chávez and a Nazi-sympathizer ally of Zelaya's inside Honduras. The Law Library of Congress ruled that his ouster was legal -- frustrating Obama. Howard Berman (and John Kerry) then both wrote letters demanding that the opinion be retracted and "corrected"
Berman even went so far as to pen an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times advocating that the legal removal be characterized as a "military coup" and that foreign aid be terminated as a way to pressure Honduras to reinstall Zelaya. Berman is known for his left-wing sympathies, but is there something more at work here -- perhaps a bit of sycophancy?
Howard Berman appears to be doing the president's bidding as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In doing so, he is following an agenda that puts America at risk, as well as putting Israel in peril. His district in California covers part of Los Angeles, a lot of San Fernando Valley, and a bit of Hollywood. The survival of Israel just may be one of the concerns of many of his constituents.
There may be a number of constituents there who might wonder why their representative seems to be serving the interests of Barack Obama instead of looking after their concerns and goals. They might judge him now -- as history will later.
US will not stop Iran, Israel has a right to
The Non-Policy on Iran
Posted By Alan M. Dershowitz On April 21, 2010 @ 12:20 am In FrontPage | 32 Comments
The Obama Administration is sending conflicting and confusing messages both to Iran and to those who fear an Iranian nuclear weapon. According to The New York Times, defense secretary Robert M. Gates sent a top secret memorandum to White House officials bemoaning the fact that the United States simply has no policy in place to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. At the same time, it is telling Israel that although Iran has threatened to wipe it off the map, the Jewish state should not take military action to prevent a second Holocaust. Indeed former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has participated in White House discussions concerning the Middle East, has threatened that if Israel tries to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapon facilities, the United States is fully capable of shooting Israeli jets out of the air.
Although Gates subsequently denied that his memo, which he acknowledges writing, was intended as a “wake up call”, a senior White House official has confirmed that it was just that. There is no evidence, however, that the White House is prepared to confront the grave threat posed by a nuclear Iran. The policy that seems to be emerging from the White House is one called “containment.” But what is containment? It is little more than an acknowledgment of failure. Containment implies that the United States will not succeed in preventing Iran from securing nuclear weapons, but rather it will accept such an eventuality and seek to deter the use of nuclear weapons by threats and by the deployment of defensive measures. The analogy that proponents of containment point to is North Korea, which has nuclear weapons but has thus far been “contained” from using them. But there are vast differences between North Korea and Iran.
North Korea is a secular Communist regime that is risk averse and that has no sworn existential enemies. The goal of its leaders is simply to remain in power and maintain their totalitarian control over their people. Iran is a theocratic, apocalyptic regime that believes that it has a religious obligation to destroy Israel and threaten the United States. Iran, unlike North Korea, also operates through surrogates, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and other smaller terrorist groups. They could hand-off nuclear material to such groups, or to sympathetic individuals, for use as dirty bombs directed against its enemies.
When he ran for president, Barak Obama pledged not to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. He claimed to understand that a nuclear Iran would be a game changer and a direct threat to the United States and its allies. He now seems to be softening his position and that of the United States government.
If in fact the United States is prepared to accept a nuclear Iran, then it has no right to require Israel to accept the risks posed by a nuclear armed country that has overtly threatened its destruction. Every country in the world has the inherent right to protect its citizens from a nuclear attack. Israel, a nation that Obama has himself acknowledged was built on the ashes of one Holocaust, certainly has the right to take military action to prevent a second Holocaust, especially at the hands of a country that has explicitly threatened to wipe it off the map.
The world ignored the explicit threats of one tyrant who threatened to destroy the Jewish people in the 1930s, and he nearly succeeded in the 1940s. Israel cannot be expected to ignore Hitler’s successor, who while denying the first Holocaust, threatens a second one.
The United States has promised to regard a nuclear attack on Israel as a nuclear attack on its own country, but Iran does not credit such threats, since it appears that the Obama Administration has already broken its promise not to accept a nuclear Iran. Elie Wiesel put it well when he said that the Holocaust has taught the Jewish people to “believe the threats of our enemies more than the promises of our friends.” Iran’s promise to destroy Israel must be taken seriously, not only by Israel but by the United States. If the United States is not prepared to stop Iran from acquiring the nuclear weapons necessary to wipe Israel off the map, then Israel must be prepared to protect itself.
I am not suggesting that Israel should attack Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities. I don’t know enough about the military considerations that should go into any such an existential decision. But I am asserting, in unqualified terms, that Israel has an absolute right–legally, morally, politically–to take such an action if it deems it necessary to protect its citizens from a threatened nuclear attack. This is especially the case, if Secretary Gates was correct when he wrote in his memorandum that the United States “lacks a policy to thwart Iran,” as The New York Times headline announced. Someone must thwart Iran. An Iran with nuclear weapons simply poses too great a threat to the world to be accepted– or “contained.”
Iran: The Case for "Regime Change" - Michael Rubin (Commentary)
•The Iranian leadership sees diplomacy as an asymmetric warfare strategy employed to lull adversaries into complacency. Hopes for a self-generated revolution from below against Iran's Islamic Republic have been dashed for now. Yet ousting the despised theocracy is the surest way to end the nuclear threat. It can be done.
•Obama should impose broad sanctions. Targeted sanctions are not sufficient. Restricting gasoline and kerosene importation would sting bitterly and is likely to spark a spirit of resentment among ordinary Iranians at their own government.
•Obama could also paralyze the Islamic Republic's economy by declaring Iran's Central Bank guilty of deceptive financial practices, a power granted him under the Patriot Act. Such a finding would effectively prevent any non-Iranian bank from doing business with the Central Bank, subservient Iranian banks, or the Iranian government. The resulting economic isolation would be near total, and investment in Iran would halt.
•A willingness to fund efforts intended to bolster Iran's nongovernmental, nonreligious "civil society" is crucial. That such funding irritates the regime is an indication that it works. Funding would also be well spent in supporting Iran's nascent trade-union movement. During the 1979 revolution, Iranian unions provided funds that enabled wildcat strikes to spread to key industries. Investment here could grease the wheels of regime change.
•Ultimately, there can be no regime change until the Revolutionary Guard cracks. Thus, U.S. regime-change efforts must be directed at fragmenting the Guards. Washington should encourage defections. Simultaneously, the Obama administration should have no qualms about assassinating Revolutionary Guardsmen with American blood on their hands - like the ones engaged in a campaign of murder against U.S. soldiers and civilian officials in Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea that the administration should determine an entity like the Revolutionary Guards to be terrorists, but then refuse to treat its members as such, is absurd.
The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
#Netanyahu on stopping Iran
"If Iran attempts to develop atomic bombs...they could very well either use it or threaten to use it or threaten to give it to terrorists or even give them a crude device with fissionable material that can be put in a container ship. And this could come to Manhattan or to any port in the United States or in Europe or, for that matter, in Israel. It's a huge, huge danger. It's the biggest issue facing our times....The president has expressed his understanding of how serious a challenge it is. And we all should work together as world leaders to make sure that that challenge is met. That Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons."
# "We have a lot less time with each day that passes. And the crucial thing is to use the time available for forceful international action led by the United States. If you can, go through the Security Council. If you can't, go outside the Security Council. But there are several ways to stop this. And if the international community led by the United States, or a community of concerned nations led by the United States, is seriously determined to stop it, this can be stopped."
# "Our preference is that the international community, led by the United States, stop this nuclear weapons program. Having said that, you know, we're on the eve of Israel's Independence Day. And the fortunes of the Jewish people were such that we could never defend ourselves until we re-established the Jewish state. We paid a horrible price in the Holocaust and before the Holocaust. And of course there is a Jewish state now that always reserves the right to defend the Jewish nation."
# "Those states who have signed the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) have violated it left and right. The problem in the Middle East is not this or that treaty or these or that signatories. The problem is those regimes that call directly for Israel's destruction are developing atomic weapons, weapons of mass death, to achieve that destruction. So it's not whether we sign or whether they sign and are signatories to it. It's how do we prevent these people, these states, these regimes, these leaders like Ahmadinejad, from acquiring nuclear weapons. That's the main focus of the international community. And that certainly should be the focus of everyone concerned with peace and security."
Will threaten US directly with missiles in 4 1/2 years
Iranian Missile Could "Probably" Reach U.S. by 2015 - Mike Emanuel (FOX News)
"With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States by 2015," says a new report by the U.S. Department of Defense on the Iran military threat.
Iran continues being a disruptive force inside Iraq, it alleges. "Iran continues to provide money, weapons and training to select Iraqi Shia militants despite pledges by senior Iranian officials to stop such support," the report says. "Iran also offers strategic and operational guidance to militias and terrorist groups to target U.S. forces in Iraq and undermine U.S. interests."
The Tehran regime also makes big promises to the Afghan government, trying to appear to be a good neighbor, while it is sending weapons into the country, and backing a wide range of groups so "it will have a positive relationship with the eventual leaders."
Iran moving into our hemisphere
Iran Boosts Qods Shock Troops in Venezuela - Bill Gertz
Iran is increasing its paramilitary Qods force operatives in Venezuela while covertly continuing supplies of weapons and explosives to Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Pentagon's first report to Congress on Tehran's military. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), the Islamist shock troops deployed around the world to advance Iranian interests, "maintains operational capabilities around the world," the report says, adding that "it is well established in the Middle East and North Africa and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela."
"If U.S. involvement in conflict in these regions deepens, contact with the IRGC-QF, directly or through extremist groups it supports, will be more frequent and consequential," the report says. The report provides the first warning in an official U.S. government report about Iranian paramilitary activities in the Western Hemisphere. (Washington Times)
On the contrary, buying time can be critical.
In Iraq’s case, for instance, Israel’s attack bought just enough time for Saddam to make one critical mistake: the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which sparked the 1991 Gulf War. That war ended with Iraq’s defeat by the U.S.-led coalition, enabling the victors to impose an intrusive regimen of weapons inspections on Iraq that discovered and dismantled Saddam’s reconstituted nuclear program. Subsequent inspections, conducted after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, concluded that the program had not been reconstituted.
In Iran, a military strike would probably buy less time than it did in Iraq, given that Iran may well have uranium stockpiles and/or processing facilities unknown to foreign intelligence agencies. But it is also very possible that less time is needed.
President Barack Obama, for instance, will certainly be replaced by 2017 at the latest (and possibly as early as 2013), and his successor may be willing to impose the kind of truly painful sanctions on Iran to which Obama currently appears unalterably opposed.
Moreover, while Saddam’s grip on his country was rock-solid in 1981, the mullahs’ grip on Iran is looking decidedly shaky these days. No one can predict when regime change will occur, but it now seems far more plausible than it did a year ago. And since regime change is the development most likely to permanently end the nuclear threat posed by Iran, buying time for it to happen makes a lot of sense.
Finally, of course, there is the unforeseen. No one in 1981 could have predicted Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait a decade later, or its consequences for his nuclear program; similarly unforeseen events could affect Iran’s nuclear program in ways unimaginable today.
There is obviously no guarantee that any of the above will happen, but buying time at least gives such developments a fighting chance. Whereas if we don’t buy time, given how things stand now, a nuclear Iran looks like a certainty
A Nuclear Iran Could Become the First ‘Suicide State’
Monday, 12 April 2010 21:06
President Obama’s naive belief in rationality could turn Israeli cities into cemeteries
By Louis René Beres
April 12, 2010
US News and World Report
President Barack Obama--today launching a special nuclear security summit in Washington--finally acknowledges that Iranian threats to annihilate Israel are serious. Still, Obama fails to understand that applying so-called economic sanctions to Iran will be ineffectual. Somehow, despite very good reasons to the contrary, the president is now insisting that Israel learn to “live” with a nuclear Iran.
Obama confidently assumes that Tehran could be dealt with using the normally-compelling dynamics of nuclear deterrence. The problem with such threat-based optimism, however, is the always-underlying presumption of enemy rationality. Without rationality, deterrence will fail.
No system of nuclear deterrence can operate unless all of the involved countries value their own physical survival more highly than anything else. Significantly, Tehran’s new nuclear status could coincide with an unshakable leadership belief in the Shi’ite apocalypse. Here, Israel would face not only more Palestinian suicide-bombers (President Obama’s recycled Road Map toward a “Two-State Solution” will only encourage Palestinian terrorism), but also a “suicide state.”
Barack Obama stubbornly fails to recognize something critical. This is the unspeakable goal of all Israel’s Islamist enemies, which remains Jewish extermination. Oddly, this expressly genocidal goal is unhidden. In the bitterest of ironies, an ancient nation that was ingathered in 1948 precisely to prevent another Holocaust has become the fevered focus of another Final Solution.
The goal of all Israel’s enemies, especially Iran and the soon-to-be-born (and Obama-favored) Palestinian state, is to be left standing while Israel is made to disappear. For these refractory enemies, there can be no coexistence with Israel. At the end of the day, this is because their own survival is believed to demand Israel’s extinction.
Pressured by President Obama to exchange land for nothing, Israel is being pushed to collaborate in its own disappearance. Israel’s prime minister should take notice. It would be a fatal mistake for Binyamin Netanyahu to embrace Obama’s cheery belief that reason and rationality govern the world, a belief implicit, for example, in the president’s hope for “a world free of nuclear weapons.”
Barack Obama will not save Israel. Once Iran had decided to launch nuclear missiles at Israel, perhaps a plausible prospect in just a few years, Washington’s best assistance would be confined to help bury the dead. Even for this “assistance,” whole Israeli cities would first have to be converted into cemeteries.
Whether in Gaza, West Bank (Judea/Samaria) or Tehran, Israel’s Jihadist enemies wish to kill Jews because every such homicide is a deeply felt and genuinely sacred obligation. For them, killing Jews remains a praiseworthy expression of religious sacrifice. President Obama should bear in mind that such killing is expected to confer upon the perpetrators immunity from personal death. Could there ever be a more compelling expectation?
In the Islamic Middle East, power over death always trumps all other forms of power. There is no greater power in the Dar al Islam (the World of Islam) than the religiously-authoritative promise of immortality, and this promise is always linked to total war against “unbelievers.”
The core idea of death as a zero-sum commodity--“I kill you; I therefore remain alive forever”--has already been explained in certain literatures, and in psychology. It is captured perfectly in philosopher Ernest Becker’s paraphrase of Nobel Laureate Elias Canetti: “Each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.”
Just to stay alive, Israel must understand what Freud inner-circle member Otto Rank once called a general principle of psychology: “The death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the Sacrifice, of the other; through the death of the other one buys oneself free from the penalty of dying, of being killed.”
Israel’s enemies, to remain standing, and to prevent Israel from standing up, seek to sacrifice the Jewish state on a joyously bloodstained altar of protracted war and terror.
This planned destruction of Israel is not about geopolitics. It is integrally part of a system of religious worship that is directed toward the conquest of personal death.
True peace in the Middle East will never be brought about by political clichés and empty witticisms. Real wisdom is necessary, and this insight will need to be based upon a true awareness of jihadist goals and capabilities. For Barack Obama, this calls for a much deeper understanding of the interpenetrating and existential threats to Israel posed by Iran and “Palestine.”
Louis René Beres lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters. Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University, he was Chair of Project Daniel.
Iran gets closer and closer and the US does nothingIran Unveils More Advanced Centrifuge Machines
By Nasser Karimi
Iran unveiled a third generation of domestically built centrifuges Friday as the Islamic Republic accelerates a uranium enrichment program that has alarmed world powers fearful of the nuclear program's aims.
The new machines are capable of much faster enrichment than those now being used in Iran's nuclear facilities, and Iranian officials praised the advancement as a step toward greater self-sufficiency in the face of international sanctions targeted at choking off the nuclear work.
During a ceremony marking Iran's National Day of Nuclear Technology, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pulled back a white curtain to reveal one of the tall, cylindrical machines to a crowd of assembled dignitaries. The display capped months of announcements about the development of the new machines.
Ahmadinejad declared there was no way back for Iran's nuclear work despite opposition from the United States and other world powers, though he insisted it had only peaceful aims like power generation.
Iran would remain a nuclear state, he said, "whether enemies want it or not."
Iran proxies readying for war vs Israel
Can we get the Prez to do something?
Jennifer Rubin - 04.14.2010 - 2:55 PM
If the nuclear summit was meant to distract us from the failure of the Obami to devise a serious policy reasonably designed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, it isn’t working. As this report explains:
As Iran gets closer to fulfilling its nuclear ambitions, Republican lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to stop whistling past the graveyard and get tough with the Islamic Republic.
Sen. John McCain said Wednesday the United States has been backing away from a brewing fight with Iran, while U.S. officials admitted that that country’s accelerated nuclear program is roughly a year away from producing a weapon.
McCain opened a Senate hearing Wednesday by saying that Iran will get the bomb unless the U.S. acts more boldly. The Arizona Republican said the U.S. keeps pointing a loaded gun at Iran, but it is failing to “pull the trigger.”
So what is the Obama administration doing? “Bill Burns, the No. 3 person at the State Department, said the United States is working as fast as it can to win new international sanctions on Iran. Burns predicted that a resolution will emerge from the United Nations Security Council this spring, and he called the case for new penalties urgent, saying he expects China will agree to some form of sanctions.” (Perhaps if it had started last Labor Day, when the first “final” deadline passed for the Iranians to cooperate, we’d already have sanctions in place and could be evaluating their effectiveness.) One sees that the supposed agreement with China is no agreement at all, and we are essentially starting at the beginning to discuss what sanctions they might agree to.
I suspect the voices inside and outside of Congress will have to turn up the volume quite a bit to get the attention of the president. He’s got his plan — nibbly sanctions we might put in place this spring (if the Chinese agree) and that won’t be confused with a “magic wand” (i.e., anything remotely crippling that might impact the mullahs’ decision-making). There is only one president, and in this regard, his outlook is what matters. It will take a huge effort to get Obama to regard the Iranian threat as the single most critical issue we face. For a president who regards collection in four years of nuclear materials from NPT signatories a great achievement and who thinks global warming is a dire emergency, it’s going to be an uphill climb.
Unfortunately, McCain will be ignored; maybe Barack Obama will respond thusly: “I won” or “the campaign is over”
Did the summit make it a safer world? WHAT ABOUT IRAN?
The president called the Nuclear Security Summit “enormously productive” overall, explaining that commitments it produced for greater safeguards and centralization of dangerous nuclear materials would make it much harder for Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations to build a nuclear device.
“Because of the steps we’ve taken ... the American people will be safer and every nation will be more secure,” Obama said.
Still, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) was not impressed.
“The summit’s purported accomplishment is a nonbinding communiqué that largely restates current policy and makes no meaningful progress in dealing with nuclear terrorism threats or the ticking clock represented by Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” he said in a statement after the summit.
And he had similarly dismissive words for Obama’s drive for tough sanctions against Iran. “Despite the talk at the security summit, it appears we are no closer to tough sanctions or a meaningful Security Council resolution today, seven months after the president said that the regime would face sanctions,” Kyl said. “The president’s policy to deal with Iran is failing.”
Alan Kuperman, a former Senate aide on nuclear policy now at the University of Texas at Austin. “The massive increase in spending on this actually began during the Bush administration.” The summit’s achievements were important, Kuperman said, but ultimately secondary to what happens with Iran.“It’s great that Obama did this summit. It’s great that Obama did a new START treaty,” Kuperman said. “But if he accomplishes those two things and Iran gets nuclear weapons, on net, I’m not sure we’re in a safer world.”The Summit
Jennifer Rubin - 04.13.2010 - 9:47 AM
The Obami are hailing a “breakthrough” with China. Hold on to your hats: the Chinese “are prepared to work with us” on sanctions against Iran. In other words, we will begin the process of discussing what it is the Chinese will agree to. The administration spokesman hastened to add that the countries ”had not agreed to any details of what the sanctions might entail.”There seems to be considerably less agreement than the Obami’s spin would suggest:
Just weeks before the Obama administration hopes to advance sanctions against Iran at the United Nations, the U.S. said the two presidents had instructed their governments to work together on potential sanctions designed to punish Tehran for its nuclear program. China described the outcome differently, emphasizing diplomacy as usual and avoiding any reference to sanctions.
First, it’s remarkable that we wasted 15 months on fruitless engagement and only now will begin the process of talking about what the Chinese might do. Did the Obami really imagine last year that Iran might say yes and spare us the need to pursue sanctions? Second, we already know that the agreed-upon sanctions will be no stronger than what the Russians have already indicated would be acceptable to them. We are bargaining downward from Medvedev, who has ruled out refined petroleum or other serious sanctions. And finally, the time line for all this — the negotiation, the implementation, the evaluation (is it working?) – threatens once again to run on for months and months. Recall how many deadlines we blew through last year on the journey through engagement. Meanwhile, the Iranians’ program moves ahead and the options for military action narrow, raising the question as to whether this protracted time line isn’t precisely what the mullahs need in order to realize their ambitions
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Arabs say iran is worse than Israel
Threatening Israel Isn’t Enough Anymore
Michael J. Totten - 01.29.2010 - 9:05 AM
Iran’s tyrant Ali Khamenei posted a comment on his website (yes, even he’s doing it now) predicting the inevitable destruction of Israel, a task he generally delegates to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Definitely, the day will come when nations of the region will witness the destruction of the Zionist regime,” he wrote. “How soon or late … depends on how Islamic countries and Muslim nations approach the issue.”
Israelis should be pleased to hear they’ll be allowed to exist a bit longer if Saudi Arabia dithers. And Saudi Arabia is going to dither for a long time.
According to the Financial Times, a majority of citizens in 18 Arab countries think Iran is more dangerous than Israel. And according to a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a substantial number of Saudi citizens are even willing to support military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities.
A third of Saudi respondents say they would approve an American strike, and a fourth say they’d back an Israeli strike. The actual number is almost certainly higher. Supporting Israel is taboo in the Arab world, and that goes double when Israel is at war. This is not the sort of thing most Arabs are comfortable admitting to strangers, yet one-fourth of Saudis just did.
(Intriguingly, a clear majority of Saudis interviewed in the same survey think their own terrorism and religious extremism is more troubling than either Iran or Israel. There may be hope, at least in the long run, for that region yet.)
Iran’s rulers constantly threaten Israel with violence and even destruction because they know the Arabs are against them. They need to change the subject to something they all can agree on. Ever since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in 1979 and voided Iran’s treaty with Israel, regime leaders have believed they’ll meet less resistance while amassing power for themselves in the region by saying, Hey, we’re not after you, we’re after the Jews.
It isn’t enough anymore. Even arming and bankrolling terrorist organizations that fight Israel isn’t enough anymore. Most Arabs simply do not believe Ahmadinejad and Khamenei when they not-so-cryptically suggest that their nuclear weapons will be pointed only at Israel. By a factor of 3-to-1, Saudis believe Iran would use nuclear weapons against either them or another Arab state in the Persian Gulf before using nuclear weapons against Israel.
Most Arabs hate or at the very least have serious problems with Israel, and I expect that will be true for the rest of my life, even if the Arab-Israeli conflict comes to an end. Yet the Middle East is forever interesting and surprising, and “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” even applies to an extent when “the enemy of my enemy” is the “Zionist Entity.”
This was made abundantly clear during the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, when Sunni Arab regimes tacitly took Jerusalem’s side by blaming Hezbollah for starting it and saying nothing, at least initially, about the Israeli response. The war was fought in an Arab country, but it was a proxy war between two non-Arab powers. Lebanon merely provided the battle space.
The Sunni Arab “street,” so to speak, didn’t take Israel’s side. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah managed to turn himself into a heroic big shot for a while by taking the fight to the enemy, but the most recent victims of Hezbollah’s violence were Sunnis in Beirut in 2008, and no one in the Middle East has forgotten it.
With only a few exceptions, the region has been firmly controlled by Sunni Arab regimes since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, yet none of these governments are strong enough to project power abroad. As author Lee Smith notes, they can’t even defend themselves. A number of analysts have pointed out in the last couple of years that the political agenda in the Arab Middle East is now set by non-Arabs in Jerusalem, Tehran, Washington, and to a lesser extent, Ankara. Syria’s Bashar Assad helps set the regional agenda as the logistics hub in the Iranian-Hezbollah axis, but he’s a non-Muslim Alawite, not a Sunni, and he’s doing it as a mere sidekick of the Persians. If all that weren’t enough, the Sunnis now depend on Israelis to defend them, and they’re not even sure the Israelis will do it.
We’ll know Iran’s power play is actually working if and when Sunni Arab governments issue not just boilerplate denunciations of the “Zionist Entity” but actually join the Iran-led resistance and fight Israel like they used to. In the meantime, they’re falling in behind their enemy, although they dare not admit it to anyone.
Posted by truth seeker at 4:16 PM 0 comments
MYTHS ABOUT IRAN
Seven Myths About Iran
How long will it take for the lesson to stick?
· By BRET STEPHENS
'We have been trying to negotiate [with the Iranians] for five, six years. We've tried everything. We have met every Iranian. We have tried to open every possible channel. We've had new ideas and the result is this: nothing."
Thus did a senior Western diplomat recently describe to me his country's efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with Tehran over its nuclear programs. In doing so, he also finally disposed of the myth, nearly a decade in the making, that Iran was ready to abandon those programs in exchange for a "grand bargain" with the West.
Let's dispose of a few other myths—and hope it doesn't take years for the lesson to stick:
(1) Military strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities would accomplish nothing.
That's the argument made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who last year told a Senate Committee that "a military attack will only buy us time and send the program deeper and more covert."
Maybe so, but what's wrong with buying time? Israel's 1981 attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor also bought time while driving Saddam's nuclear programs underground. But it ensured that it was a non-nuclear Iraq that invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia nine years later, a point recognized by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney when he thanked the Israeli commander of the Osirak operation for making "our job much easier in Desert Storm."
(2) A strike would rally Iranians to the side of the regime.
The case would be more persuasive if the regime had any remaining claims on Iranian patriotism. It no longer does, if it ever did. It also would be more persuasive if the nuclear program were as broadly popular as some of the regime's apologists claim. On the contrary, one of the more popular chants of the demonstrators goes, "Iran is green and fertile, it doesn't need nukes."
Yet even if the nuclear program enjoyed widespread support, it isn't clear how Iranians would react in the event of military strikes. Argentine dictator Leopoldo Galtieri whooped up a nationalist fervor when he invaded the Falklands in 1982, but was ousted from office just a week after Port Stanley fell to the British. When a regime gambles its prestige on a single controversial enterprise, it cannot afford to lose it.
(3) Sanctions don't work, and usually wind up strengthening the regime at the expense of its own people.
That's only true when the sanctioned regimes have strong internal controls, relatively pliant populations, and zero interest in international respectability. It's also true that sanctions alone are never a silver bullet. But as Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies points out, they can be "silver shrapnel," particularly when the target country is as politically vulnerable as Iran is now, and when it is also critically reliant on the consumption of imported gasoline.
That's why the House was right when it overwhelmingly approved the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act in December, and when the Senate unanimously passed a similar bill (against the administration's objections) last Thursday. Over time, the regime will surely find ways to skirt the sanctions, which prohibit companies that do business in Iran's energy sector from also doing business in the U.S. But in the critical short term, these sanctions might provoke the kind of mass unrest that could tip the scales against the regime.
(4) The world can live with a nuclear Iran, just as we live with other nasty nuclear powers.
Assume that's true. (I don't.) Can we also live with nuclear Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey? The problem with the "realist" view is that it fails to take account of the fears a nuclear Iran inspires among the status quo regimes in its neighborhood. Containment was complicated enough during the Cold War. Now imagine a four- or five-way standoff among Arabs, Persians, Turks and Israelis, some religiously fanatic, in the world's most volatile neighborhood.
(5) The Iranian regime is headed for the ash heap of history. The best policy is to do as little as possible until it crumbles from within.
Communist regimes were also destined for the ash heap. Unfortunately, it took them decades to get there, during which they murdered tens of millions of people. It matters a great deal to Iran's people, and its neighbors, that the regime go quietly. But it also matters that it go quickly, and waiting on events is not a policy.
(6) The more support we show Iran's demonstrators, the more we hurt their cause.
This was the administration's view after the June 12 election, as it walked on tiptoes to avoid the perception of "meddling." The regime accused the U.S. of meddling all the same.
But protest movements like Iran's (or Poland's, or South Africa's) are sustained by a sense of moral legitimacy that global support uniquely conveys. When will American liberals get behind Iranian rights, as they have, say, Tibetan ones? Maybe when President Obama tells them to.
(7) Israel will ultimately dispose of Iran's nuclear facilities.
The more policy makers fall for the first six myths, the less mythical the seventh one becomes.
Posted by truth seeker at 4:11 PM 0 comments
FIDDLING AS IRAN BURNS US
People will be told Pres Obama will sign the toughest Iran sanctions legislation of any President. What will not be said is that, as Bret Stephens reminds, us in today’s column is that the administration did everything it could to derail the sanctions bill, slow it down, and eviscerate it of any real teeth (focusing only on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards so as to spare the Iranian people any hardship: a nullity because the IRG controls key aspects of the Iranian economy). John Kerry and Pat Leahy were mentioned as two people who tried to weaken the Senate version, at the behest of…well one can surmise. AIPAC deserves credit for working with friends in Congress for overriding these roadblocks. Kudos for those efforts.
Now the House version and the Senate version of the Iran Sanctions bills need to hashed out in conference. Hopefully, they will not be watered down.
Gold asked, as many have, why all the deadlines were completely ignored.
What Happened to the U.S. Deadline on Iran?
•Iran's new proposal to the West did not provide any opening for serious negotiations on the nuclear issue, but rather vague formulations for the agenda of any future talks. Back in July, when the G-8 announced that the opening of the UN General Assembly "would be an occasion for taking stock of the situation in Iran," most international observers understood that there was a hard September deadline that Iran had to meet to begin serious nuclear negotiations. Unfortunately, at this stage, there is little evidence that the Obama administration is about to adopt effective action in a timely manner in light of Iran's policy of rejectionism, setting aside diplomatic engagement and moving to a policy of severe sanctions.
•Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), recently acknowledged that the Iranian stockpile of low-enriched uranium has already reached a sufficient level so that it was possible to talk about Tehran having "a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity." Tehran undoubtedly observed that no serious action was taken against North Korea for its nuclear breakout, either by the Bush or Obama administrations.
•The common assumption in Washington policy circles today is that even if Iran reaches the nuclear finish-line, the U.S. can fall back on the same Cold War deterrence that was used against the Soviet nuclear arsenal. However, Iran is a true revolutionary power whose aspirations extend into the oil-producing states. It is involved in both the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies, while its support for terrorism reaches into Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. With Iran threatening the flow of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz as well, through which roughly 40 percent of the world's oil flows, the nuclearization of Iran has global - and not just Middle Eastern - implications.
•In 2003-2005, Tehran engaged with the EU-3 for two years, exploiting the talks to race ahead with construction of key uranium enrichment facilities, while fending off punitive measures by the UN Security Council for three entire years. Iran today is far more advanced than it was then and the time for diplomatic experimentation is extremely limited.
In the first part of September 2009, it became clear that Iran was defying the U.S. and its Western allies by again refusing to open serious negotiations over its nuclear program, thereby ignoring the deadline it had been given to respond favorably to President Barack Obama's repeated overtures to engage diplomatically. After all, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared on September 7 that, from his point of view, "the nuclear issue is finished." To be clear, he added: "we will never negotiate on the Iranian nation's rights." Days later, Iran's new five-page proposal to the P-5 plus 1 (the U.S., Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany) did not provide any opening for serious nuclear negotiations either, but rather vague formulations for the agenda of any future talks.
Indeed, the Iranian document began by asserting that the world was moving beyond "the difficult era characterized by domination of empires, predominance of military powers," in essence envisioning a period in which the U.S. was no longer a dominant power. It made reference to the need for "complete disarmament," but said nothing about Iran's own nuclear program. In his Friday sermon on September 11, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei further backed the uncompromising Iranian nuclear stance that Ahmadinejad had voiced and which appeared in the Iranian document. It is to be remembered that Iran is presently in violation of at least five UN Security Council Resolutions that insist it suspend its continuing enrichment of uranium.
The U.S. Sets a September Deadline for Serious Nuclear Talks
Back in July, when the G-8 announced that the opening of the UN General Assembly "would be an occasion for taking stock of the situation in Iran," most international observers understood that there was a hard September deadline that Iran had to meet to begin serious nuclear negotiations. President Obama stated at a July 10 press conference after the G-8 meeting: "We've offered Iran a path towards assuming its rightful place in the world. But with that right comes responsibilities. We hope Iran will make the choice to fulfill them, and we will take stock of Iran's progress when we see each other this September at the G20 meeting."
Unfortunately, at this stage, there is little evidence that the Obama administration is about to adopt effective action in a timely manner in light of Iran's policy of rejectionism, setting aside diplomatic engagement and moving to a policy of severe sanctions. Engagement was the centerpiece of its Middle East policy and has been hard to abandon. For example, while rejecting the newest Iranian proposals on September 10, State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley reminded reporters that engagement was still official U.S. policy, stating: "We remain willing to engage Iran."
Moreover, within twenty-four hours he announced the Obama administration's willingness to join the P-5 plus 1 in order to meet with Iranian leaders directly and open negotiations, despite the repeated statements coming out of Tehran. The hard-line Iranian newspaper Javan noted the dramatic U.S. shift on September 14: "One day after the hasty response to Iran's updated package of proposals, America made a U-turn and announced that because these proposals could become a basis for direct talks with Iran, it accepts the talks over this package." Indicating Iranian understanding of the new U.S. policy, the article was entitled: "The Inevitable Acceptance of Nuclear Iran."
The first meeting between the two sides reportedly will take place in early October when Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, meets with Saeed Jalili, the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator. They will be joined by representatives from the P-5 plus 1, but, according to Solana's office, the meeting will not yet be a "formal negotiation," which presumably will come at a later stage. The September deadline appeared to have vanished and the Iranians have gained valuable time.
A Display of Western Weakness
The consequences of letting the September deadline pass without demonstrating a decisive response is clearly not understood in Western capitals. Iran will carefully calibrate its next moves on the basis of how it believes the U.S. and its allies will act in the weeks ahead. Up until now, President Obama's efforts to reach out to the Iranian leadership with carefully-crafted public messages and private letters have elicited the opposite response of what he intended. During March he stated in his address marking Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, that the U.S. wanted the Islamic Republic "to take its rightful place in the community of nations." While Ahmadinejad welcomed the administration's call for dialogue with Iran, nonetheless he bluntly warned: "We say to you today that you are in a position of weakness. Your hands are empty, and you no longer promote your interests from a position of strength." What might have been seen in Washington as a magnanimous gesture was perceived in Tehran as a sign of reduced Western resolve.
Iran's Nuclear "Breakout" Scenario
There are two very important Iranian considerations that are likely to be affected by what the West does now. Just recently, Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), acknowledged that the Iranian stockpile of low-enriched uranium has already reached a sufficient level so that it was possible to talk about Tehran having "a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity." What he probably meant was that the Iranians could soon take their low-enriched uranium and put it through a further stage of enrichment to produce weapons-grade fuel. He announced that Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium for at least one atomic bomb. Under the breakout scenario, Iran would refuse any more IAEA inspections, shut down the IAEA cameras that provide a partial picture of what transpires in the Natanz enrichment plant, and manufacture high-enriched fuel.
International precedents in this area are not encouraging. North Korea's nuclear weapons program was initially based on plutonium and not uranium (now North Korea is moving into uranium enrichment as well), but nevertheless there is an analogy that can be made regarding its breakout from IAEA restrictions. It is to be remembered that North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear reactor was under IAEA monitoring, which sought to verify that its spent fuel rods would not be reprocessed to produce weapons-grade plutonium. In 2002, Pyongyang removed the IAEA seals from its stock of spent fuel rods and subsequently expelled international inspectors, while announcing its withdrawal from the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Since that time North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and got away with them: first in October 2006 and then in May 2009. Reportedly, Iranian representatives were present at both. Tehran undoubtedly observed that no serious action was taken against North Korea for its nuclear breakout, either by the Bush or Obama administrations. Should Iran escape from the September deadline that the West itself instituted, then its readiness to follow the North Korean example will substantially increase.
Can the West Deter Iran?
The second area which will be affected by how Iran is handled at present will be deterrence. The common assumption in Washington policy circles today is that even if Iran reaches the nuclear finish-line, the U.S. can fall back on the same Cold War deterrence that was used against the Soviet nuclear arsenal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's offer in July of a "defense umbrella" against Iran to worried Arab states foreshadows the coming approach of the administration to a nuclear Iran. But will Iran respond to Western deterrence the way Washington hopes? Indeed, over the last year, Western leaders have repeatedly declared that a nuclear-armed Iran was "unacceptable." But should they subsequently acquiesce to Iran's final sprint to a nuclear capability, what credibility will U.S. deterrence have with the leadership in Tehran after it successfully defied the West's repeated warnings?
There is an unwarranted complacency growing in the West about Iran. Some believe that if the world survived the advent of Pakistani and North Korean nuclear weapons, and the sky did not fall, then an Iranian bomb will be no more threatening. The cases are, of course, very different: Pakistan's bid for nuclear power was based largely on its preoccupation with India, while North Korea has been focused on regime survival and its interests on the Korean Peninsula (not with conquering Japan). In contrast, Iran is a true revolutionary power whose aspirations extend into Iraq, to Bahrain, and the other oil-producing states. It is involved in both the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies, supplying weapons and training, while its support for terrorism reaches into Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. Now Iran is heavily involved in South America and East Africa, with growing security and economic ties. With Iran threatening the flow of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz as well, through which roughly 40 percent of the world's oil flows, the nuclearization of Iran has global - and not just Middle Eastern - implications.
In dealing with the new Ahmadinejad government, the proposals currently being considered in the U.S. Congress for a gasoline quarantine on Iran could be an important good start. The West must demonstrate political will, but time is now short. It must be remembered that the decision to engage Iran diplomatically has never been cost-free. In 2003-2005, Tehran engaged with the EU-3 (UK, Germany and France) for two years, exploiting the talks to race ahead with construction of key uranium enrichment facilities, while fending off punitive measures by the UN Security Council for three entire years. Iran today is far more advanced than it was then and the time for diplomatic experimentation is extremely limited. The scale of the next crisis with Iran will largely be affected by how the Obama administration responds to the challenge it faces when it meets the Iranians next month.
* * *
Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in 1997-1999. He is the author of the newly-released book The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West (Regnery, 2009).
Posted by truth seeker at 4:11 PM 0 comments
Posted by truth seeker at 12:24 PM 0 comments
Israel sabatoging Iran's nuclear program
Report: Israel secretly sabotaging Iran's nuclear program
British Daily Telegraph quotes US intelligence officials as saying Israel using assassins, sabotage, double agents and front companies to interrupt and delay Islamic Republic's nuclear drive
Published: 02.17.09, 08:31 / Israel News
Israel is using assassins, sabotage, front companies and double agents in an effort to interrupt the Iranian nuclear program, US intelligence experts told the British Daily Telegraph.
Step closer to bomb / Isaac Ben-Israel
Iranian satellite has little significance but ballistic capabilities cause for concern
According to the report, Israel has gone as far as orchestrating the assassination of high-profile figures in the Islamic Republic's regime.
A former CIA officer told the British newspaper: "Disruption is designed to slow progress on the program, done in such a way that they don't realize what's happening…The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach."
A senior analyst with a private American intelligence company said that Israel's main strategy was to eliminate key Iranian figures.
"With cooperation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear program and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain," she told the Telegraph.
In this regard, the paper mentioned Iranian nuclear scientist Ardeshire Hassanpour who died in what was defined as "gas poisoning" in 2007. His death has been linked to the Israeli Mossad.
Other top Iranian officials involved in the nuclear program have also been "taken out" by Israel, Western intelligence sources told the paper.
According to the report, Israel has also been using front companies to supply the Iranian regime with faulty or defective items for its nuclear plants.
However, a former CIA chief said he was skeptical as to the efficacy of these actions in causing substantial harm to the Iranian efforts. You cannot carry out foreign policy objectives via covert operations," he told the Telegraph. "You can't get rid of a couple of people and hope to affect Iran's nuclear capability."
The Case for Bombing Iran
Although many persist in denying it, I continue to believe that what September 11, 2001 did was to plunge us headlong into nothing less than another world war. I call this new war World War IV, because I also believe that what is generally known as the cold war was actually World War III, and that this one bears a closer resemblance to that great conflict than it does to World War II. Like the cold war, as the military historian Eliot Cohen was the first to recognize, the one we are now in has ideological roots, pitting us against Islamofascism, yet another mutation of the totalitarian disease we defeated first in the shape of Nazism and fascism and then in the shape of Communism; it is global in scope; it is being fought with a variety of weapons, not all of them military; and it is likely to go on for decades.
What follows from this way of looking at the last five years is that the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be understood if they are regarded as self-contained wars in their own right. Instead we have to see them as fronts or theaters that have been opened up in the early stages of a protracted global struggle. The same thing is true of Iran. As the currently main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11, and as (according to the State Department’s latest annual report on the subject) the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism’s weapon of choice, Iran too is a front in World War IV. Moreover, its effort to build a nuclear arsenal makes it the potentially most dangerous one of all.
The Iranians, of course, never cease denying that they intend to build a nuclear arsenal, and yet in the same breath they openly tell us what they intend to do with it. Their first priority, as repeatedly and unequivocally announced by their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is to “wipe Israel off the map”—a feat that could not be accomplished by conventional weapons alone.
But Ahmadinejad’s ambitions are not confined to the destruction of Israel. He also wishes to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby to control the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil out of it through the Persian Gulf. If he acquired a nuclear capability, he would not even have to use it in order to put all this within his reach. Intimidation and blackmail by themselves would do the trick.
Nor are Ahmadinejad’s ambitions merely regional in scope. He has a larger dream of extending the power and influence of Islam throughout Europe, and this too he hopes to accomplish by playing on the fear that resistance to Iran would lead to a nuclear war. And then, finally, comes the largest dream of all: what Ahmadinejad does not shrink from describing as “a world without America.” Demented though he may be, I doubt that Ahmadinejad is so crazy as to imagine that he could wipe America off the map even if he had nuclear weapons. But what he probably does envisage is a diminution of the American will to oppose him: that is, if not a world without America, he will settle, at least in the short run, for a world without much American influence.
Not surprisingly, the old American foreign-policy establishment and many others say that these dreams are nothing more than the fantasies of a madman. They also dismiss those who think otherwise as neoconservative alarmists trying to drag this country into another senseless war that is in the interest not of the United States but only of Israel. But the irony is that Ahmadinejad’s dreams are more realistic than the dismissal of those dreams as merely insane delusions. To understand why, an analogy with World War III may help.
At certain points in that earlier war, some of us feared that the Soviets might seize control of the oil fields of the Middle East, and that the West, faced with a choice between surrendering to their dominance or trying to stop them at the risk of a nuclear exchange, would choose surrender. In that case, we thought, the result would be what in those days went by the name of Finlandization.
In Europe, where there were large Communist parties, Finlandization would take the form of bringing these parties to power so that they could establish “Red Vichy” regimes like the one already in place in Finland—regimes whose subservience to the Soviet will in all things, domestic and foreign alike, would make military occupation unnecessary and would therefore preserve a minimal degree of national independence.
In the United States, where there was no Communist party to speak of, we speculated that Finlandization would take a subtler form. In the realm of foreign affairs, politicians and pundits would arise to celebrate the arrival of a new era of peace and friendship in which the cold-war policy of containment would be scrapped, thus giving the Soviets complete freedom to expand without encountering any significant obstacles. And in the realm of domestic affairs, Finlandization would mean that the only candidates running for office with a prayer of being elected would be those who promised to work toward a sociopolitical system more in harmony with the Soviet model than the unjust capitalist plutocracy under which we had been living.
Of course, by the grace of God, the dissidents behind the Iron Curtain, and Ronald Reagan, we won World War III and were therefore spared the depredations that Finlandization would have brought. Alas, we are far from knowing what the outcome of World War IV will be. But in the meantime, looking at Europe today, we already see the unfolding of a process analogous to Finlandization: it has been called, rightly, Islamization. Consider, for example, what happened when, only a few weeks ago, the Iranians captured fifteen British sailors and marines and held them hostage. Did the Royal Navy, which once boasted that it ruled the waves, immediately retaliate against this blatant act of aggression, or even threaten to do so unless the captives were immediately released? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, using force was the last thing in the world the British contemplated doing, as they made sure to announce. Instead they relied on the “soft power” so beloved of “sophisticated” Europeans and their American fellow travelers.
But then, as if this show of impotence were not humiliating enough, the British were unable even to mobilize any of that soft power. The European Union, of which they are a member, turned down their request to threaten Iran with a freeze of imports. As for the UN, under whose very auspices they were patrolling the international waters in which the sailors were kidnapped, it once again showed its true colors by refusing even to condemn the Iranians. The most the Security Council could bring itself to do was to express “grave concern.” Meanwhile, a member of the British cabinet was going the Security Council one better. While registering no objection to propaganda pictures of the one woman hostage, who had been forced to shed her uniform and dress for the cameras in Muslim clothing, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt pronounced it “deplorable” that she should have permitted herself to be photographed with a cigarette in her mouth. “This,” said Hewitt, “sends completely the wrong message to our young people.”
According to John Bolton, our former ambassador to the UN, the Iranians were testing the British to see if there would be any price to pay for committing what would once have been considered an act of war. Having received his answer, Ahmadinejad could now reap the additional benefit of, as the British commentator Daniel Johnson puts it, “posing as a benefactor” by releasing the hostages, even while ordering more attacks in Iraq and even while continuing to arm terrorist organizations, whether Shiite (Hizballah) or Sunni (Hamas). For fanatical Shiites though Ahmadinejad and his ilk assuredly are, they are obviously willing to set sectarian differences aside when it comes to forging jihadist alliances against the infidels.
If, then, under present circumstances Ahmadinejad could bring about the extraordinary degree of kowtowing that resulted from the kidnapping of the British sailors, what might he not accomplish with a nuclear arsenal behind him—nuclear bombs that could be fitted on missiles capable of reaching Europe? As to such a capability, Robert G. Joseph, the U.S. Special Envoy for Nuclear Non-Proliferation, tells us that Iran is “expanding what is already the largest offensive missile force in the region. Moreover, it is reported to be working closely with North Korea, the world’s number-one missile proliferator, to develop even more capable ballistic missiles.” This, Joseph goes on, is why “analysts agree that in the foreseeable future Iran will be armed with medium- and long-range ballistic missiles,” and it is also why “we could wake up one morning to find that Iran is holding Berlin, Paris or London hostage to whatever its demands are then.”
As with Finlandization, Islamization extends to the domestic realm, too. In one recent illustration of this process, as reported in the British press, “schools in England are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils . . . whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.” But this is an equal-opportunity capitulation, since the schools are also eliminating lessons about the Crusades because “such lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.”
But why single out England? If anything, much more, and worse, has been going on in other European countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, and the Netherlands. All of these countries have large and growing Muslim populations demanding that their religious values and sensibilities be accommodated at the expense of the traditional values of the West, and even in some instances of the law. Yet rather than insisting that, like all immigrant groups before them, they assimilate to Western norms, almost all European politicians have been cravenly giving in to the Muslims’ outrageous demands.
As in the realm of foreign affairs, if this much can be accomplished under present circumstances, what might not be done if the process were being backed by Iranian nuclear blackmail? Already some observers are warning that by the end of the 21st century the whole of Europe will be transformed into a place to which they give the name Eurabia. Whatever chance there may still be of heading off this eventuality would surely be lessened by the menacing shadow of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons, and only too ready to put them into the hands of the terrorist groups to whom it is even now supplying rockets and other explosive devices.
And the United States? As would have been the case with Finlandization, we would experience a milder form of Islamization here at home. But not in the area of foreign policy. Like the Europeans, confronted by Islamofascists armed by Iran with nuclear weapons, we would become more and more hesitant to risk resisting the emergence of a world shaped by their will and tailored to their wishes. For even if Ahmadinejad did not yet have missiles with a long enough range to hit the United States, he would certainly be able to unleash a wave of nuclear terror against us. If he did, he would in all likelihood act through proxies, for whom he would with characteristic brazenness disclaim any responsibility even if the weapons used by the terrorists were to bear telltale markings identifying them as of Iranian origin. At the same time, the opponents of retaliation and other antiwar forces would rush to point out that there was good reason to accept this disclaimer and, markings or no markings (could they not have been forged?), no really solid evidence to refute it.
In any event, in these same centers of opinion, such a scenario is regarded as utter nonsense. In their view, none of the things it envisages would follow even if Ahmadinejad should get the bomb, because the fear of retaliation would deter him from attacking us just as it deterred the Soviets in World War III. For our part, moreover, the knowledge that we were safe from attack would preclude any danger of our falling into anything like Islamization.
But listen to what Bernard Lewis, the greatest authority of our time on the Islamic world, has to say in this context on the subject of deterrence:
MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the cold war. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic [like Ahmadinejad]. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that [Iran’s leaders] do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again. In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights.
Nor are they inhibited by a love of country:
We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.
These were the words of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who ruled Iran from 1979 to 1989, and there is no reason to suppose that his disciple Ahmadinejad feels any differently.
Still less would deterrence work where Israel was concerned. For as the Ayatollah Rafsanjani (who is supposedly a “pragmatic conservative”) has declared:
If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession. . . application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.
In other words, Israel would be destroyed in a nuclear exchange, but Iran would survive.
In spite of all this, we keep hearing that all would be well if only we agreed—in the currently fashionable lingo—to “engage” with Iran, and that even if the worst came to the worst we could—to revert to the same lingo—“live” with a nuclear Iran. It is when such things are being said that, alongside the resemblance between now and World War III, a parallel also becomes evident between now and the eve of World War II.
By 1938, Germany under Adolf Hitler had for some years been rearming in defiance of its obligations under the Versailles treaty and other international agreements. Yet even though Hitler in Mein Kampf had explicitly spelled out the goals he was now preparing to pursue, scarcely anyone took him seriously. To the imminent victims of the war he was soon to start, Hitler’s book and his inflammatory speeches were nothing more than braggadocio or, to use the more colorful word Hannah Arendt once applied to Adolf Eichmann, rodomontade: the kind of red meat any politician might throw to his constituents at home. Hitler might sound at times like a madman, but in reality he was a shrewd operator with whom one could—in the notorious term coined by the London Times—“do business.” The business that was done under this assumption was the Munich Agreement of 1938, which the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared had brought “peace in our time.”
It was thanks to Munich that “appeasement” became one of the dirtiest words in the whole of our political vocabulary. Yet appeasement had always been an important and entirely respectable tool of diplomacy, signifying the avoidance of war through the alleviation of the other side’s grievances. If Hitler had been what his eventual victims imagined he was—that is, a conventional statesman pursuing limited aims and using the threat of war only as a way of strengthening his bargaining position—it would indeed have been possible to appease him and thereby to head off the outbreak of another war.
But Hitler was not a conventional statesman and, although for tactical reasons he would sometimes pretend otherwise, he did not have limited aims. He was a revolutionary seeking to overturn the going international system and to replace it with a new order dominated by Germany, which also meant the political culture of Nazism. As such, he offered only two choices: resistance or submission. Finding this reality unbearable, the world persuaded itself that there was a way out, a third alternative, in negotiations. But given Hitler’s objectives, and his barely concealed lust for war, negotiating with him could not conceivably have led to peace. It could have had only one outcome, which was to buy him more time to start a war under more favorable conditions. As most historians now agree, if he had been taken at his own word about his true intentions, he could have been stopped earlier and defeated at an infinitely lower cost.
Which brings us back to Ahmadinejad. Like Hitler, he is a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism. Like Hitler, too, he is entirely open about his intentions, although—again like Hitler—he sometimes pretends that he wants nothing more than his country’s just due. In the case of Hitler in 1938, this pretense took the form of claiming that no further demands would be made if sovereignty over the Sudetenland were transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany. In the case of Ahmadinejad, the pretense takes the form of claiming that Iran is building nuclear facilities only for peaceful purposes and not for the production of bombs.
But here we come upon an interesting difference between then and now. Whereas in the late 1930’s almost everyone believed, or talked himself into believing, that Hitler was telling the truth when he said he had no further demands to make after Munich, no one believes that Ahmadinejad is telling the truth when he says that Iran has no wish to develop a nuclear arsenal. In addition, virtually everyone agrees that it would be best if he were stopped, only not, God forbid, with military force—not now, and not ever.
But if military force is ruled out, what is supposed to do the job?
Well, to begin with, there is that good old standby, diplomacy. And so, for three-and-a-half years, even pre-dating the accession of Ahmadinejad to the presidency, the diplomatic gavotte has been danced with Iran, in negotiations whose carrot-and-stick details no one can remember—not even, I suspect, the parties involved. But since, to say it again, Ahmadinejad is a revolutionary with unlimited aims and not a statesman with whom we can “do business,” all this negotiating has had the same result as Munich had with Hitler. That is, it has bought the Iranians more time in which they have moved closer and closer to developing nuclear weapons.
Then there are sanctions. As it happens, sanctions have very rarely worked in the past. Worse yet, they have usually ended up hurting the hapless people of the targeted country while leaving the leadership unscathed. Nevertheless, much hope has been invested in them as a way of bringing Ahmadinejad to heel. Yet thanks to the resistance of Russia and China, both of which have reasons of their own to go easy on Iran, it has proved enormously difficult for the Security Council to impose sanctions that could even conceivably be effective. At first, the only measures to which Russia and China would agree were much too limited even to bite. Then, as Iran continued to defy Security Council resolutions and to block inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was bound by treaty to permit, not even the Russians and the Chinese were able to hold out against stronger sanctions. Once more, however, these have had little or no effect on the progress Iran is making toward the development of a nuclear arsenal. On the contrary: they, too, have bought the Iranians additional time in which to move ahead.
Since hope springs eternal, some now believe that the answer lies in more punishing sanctions. This time, however, their purpose would be not to force Iran into compliance, but to provoke an internal uprising against Ahmadinejad and the regime as a whole. Those who advocate this course tell us that the “mullocracy” is very unpopular, especially with young people, who make up a majority of Iran’s population. They tell us that these young people would like nothing better than to get rid of the oppressive and repressive and corrupt regime under which they now live and to replace it with a democratic system. And they tell us, finally, that if Iran were so transformed, we would have nothing to fear from it even if it were to acquire nuclear weapons.
Once upon a time, under the influence of Bernard Lewis and others I respect, I too subscribed to this school of thought. But after three years and more of waiting for the insurrection they assured us back then was on the verge of erupting, I have lost confidence in their prediction. Some of them blame the Bush administration for not doing enough to encourage an uprising, which is why they have now transferred their hopes to sanctions that would inflict so much damage on the Iranian economy that the entire populace would rise up against the rulers. Yet whether or not this might happen under such circumstances, there is simply no chance of getting Russia and China, or the Europeans for that matter, to agree to the kind of sanctions that are the necessary precondition.
At the outset I stipulated that the weapons with which we are fighting World War IV are not all military—that they also include economic, diplomatic, and other nonmilitary instruments of power. In exerting pressure for reform on countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, these nonmilitary instruments are the right ones to use. But it should be clear by now to any observer not in denial that Iran is not such a country. As we know from Iran’s defiance of the Security Council and the IAEA even while the United States has been warning Ahmadinejad that “all options” remain on the table, ultimatums and threats of force can no more stop him than negotiations and sanctions have managed to do. Like them, all they accomplish is to buy him more time.
In short, the plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force—any more than there was an alternative to force if Hitler was to be stopped in 1938.
Since a ground invasion of Iran must be ruled out for many different reasons, the job would have to be done, if it is to be done at all, by a campaign of air strikes. Furthermore, because Iran’s nuclear facilities are dispersed, and because some of them are underground, many sorties and bunker-busting munitions would be required. And because such a campaign is beyond the capabilities of Israel, and the will, let alone the courage, of any of our other allies, it could be carried out only by the United States.* Even then, we would probably be unable to get at all the underground facilities, which means that, if Iran were still intent on going nuclear, it would not have to start over again from scratch. But a bombing campaign would without question set back its nuclear program for years to come, and might even lead to the overthrow of the mullahs.
The opponents of bombing—not just the usual suspects but many both here and in Israel who have no illusions about the nature and intentions and potential capabilities of the Iranian regime—disagree that it might end in the overthrow of the mullocracy. On the contrary, they are certain that all Iranians, even the democratic dissidents, would be impelled to rally around the flag. And this is only one of the worst-case scenarios they envisage. To wit: Iran would retaliate by increasing the trouble it is already making for us in Iraq. It would attack Israel with missiles armed with non-nuclear warheads but possibly containing biological and/or chemical weapons. There would be a vast increase in the price of oil, with catastrophic consequences for every economy in the world, very much including our own. The worldwide outcry against the inevitable civilian casualties would make the anti-Americanism of today look like a love-fest.
I readily admit that it would be foolish to discount any or all of these scenarios. Each of them is, alas, only too plausible. Nevertheless, there is a good response to them, and it is the one given by John McCain. The only thing worse than bombing Iran, McCain has declared, is allowing Iran to get the bomb.
And yet those of us who agree with McCain are left with the question of whether there is still time. If we believe the Iranians, the answer is no. In early April, at Iran’s Nuclear Day festivities, Ahmadinejad announced that the point of no return in the nuclearization process had been reached. If this is true, it means that Iran is only a small step away from producing nuclear weapons. But even supposing that Ahmadinejad is bluffing, in order to convince the world that it is already too late to stop him, how long will it take before he actually turns out to have a winning hand?
If we believe the CIA, perhaps as much as ten years. But CIA estimates have so often been wrong that they are hardly more credible than the boasts of Ahmadinejad. Other estimates by other experts fall within the range of a few months to six years. Which is to say that no one really knows. And because no one really knows, the only prudent—indeed, the only responsible—course is to assume that Ahmadinejad may not be bluffing, or may only be exaggerating a bit, and to strike at him as soon as it is logistically possible.
In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush made a promise:
We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.
In that speech, the President was referring to Iraq, but he has made it clear on a number of subsequent occasions that the same principle applies to Iran. Indeed, he has gone so far as to say that if we permit Iran to build a nuclear arsenal, people 50 years from now will look back and wonder how we of this generation could have allowed such a thing to happen, and they will rightly judge us as harshly as we today judge the British and the French for what they did and what they failed to do at Munich in 1938. I find it hard to understand why George W. Bush would have put himself so squarely in the dock of history on this issue if he were resigned to leaving office with Iran in possession of nuclear weapons, or with the ability to build them. Accordingly, my guess is that he intends, within the next 21 months, to order air strikes against the Iranian nuclear facilities from the three U.S. aircraft carriers already sitting nearby.
But if that is what he has in mind, why is he spending all this time doing the diplomatic dance and wasting so much energy on getting the Russians and the Chinese to sign on to sanctions? The reason, I suspect, is that—to borrow a phrase from Robert Kagan—he has been “giving futility its chance.” Not that this is necessarily a cynical ploy. For it may well be that he has entertained the remote possibility of a diplomatic solution under which Iran would follow the example of Libya in voluntarily giving up its nuclear program. Besides, once having played out the diplomatic string, and thereby having demonstrated that to him force is truly a last resort, Bush would be in a stronger political position to endorse John McCain’s formula that the only thing worse than bombing Iran would be allowing Iran to build a nuclear bomb—and not just to endorse that assessment, but to act on it.
If this is what Bush intends to do, it goes, or should go, without saying that his overriding purpose is to ensure the security of this country in accordance with the vow he took upon becoming President, and in line with his pledge not to stand by while one of the world’s most dangerous regimes threatens us with one of the world’s most dangerous weapons.
But there is, it has been reported, another consideration that is driving Bush. According to a recent news story in the New York Times, for example, Bush has taken to heart what “[o]fficials from 21 governments in and around the Middle East warned at a meeting of Arab leaders in March”—namely, “that Iran’s drive for atomic technology could result in the beginning of ‘a grave and destructive nuclear arms race in the region.’” Which is to say that he fears that local resistance to Iran’s bid for hegemony in the greater Middle East through the acquisition of nuclear weapons could have even more dangerous consequences than a passive capitulation to that bid by the Arab countries. For resistance would spell the doom of all efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and it would vastly increase the chances of their use.
I have no doubt that this ominous prospect figures prominently in the President’s calculations. But it seems evident to me that the survival of Israel, a country to which George W. Bush has been friendlier than any President before him, is also of major concern to him—a concern fully coincident with his worries over a Middle Eastern arms race.
Much of the world has greeted Ahmadinejad’s promise to wipe Israel off the map with something close to insouciance. In fact, it could almost be said of the Europeans that they have been more upset by Ahmadinejad’s denial that a Holocaust took place 60 years ago than by his determination to set off one of his own as soon as he acquires the means to do so. In a number of European countries, Holocaust denial is a crime, and the European Union only recently endorsed that position. Yet for all their retrospective remorse over the wholesale slaughter of Jews back then, the Europeans seem no readier to lift a finger to prevent a second Holocaust than they were the first time around.
Not so George W. Bush, a man who knows evil when he sees it and who has demonstrated an unfailingly courageous willingness to endure vilification and contumely in setting his face against it. It now remains to be seen whether this President, battered more mercilessly and with less justification than any other in living memory, and weakened politically by the enemies of his policy in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular, will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel. As an American and as a Jew, I pray with all my heart that he will.
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* However, a new study by two members of the Security Studies Program at MIT concludes that the Israeli Air Force “now possesses the capability to destroy even well-hardened targets in Iran with some degree of confidence.” The problem is that all of the many contingencies involved would have to go right for such a mission to succeed.
PALIN ENDORSES BOMBING iRAN
Sarah Palin entered the fray yesterday. In a high-profile interview yesterday with Chris Wallace, she spontaneously brought up the topic of Obama's winning a second term by bombing Iran:
WALLACE: How hard do you think President Obama will be to defeat in 2012?
PALIN: It depends on a few things. Say he played—and I got this from Buchanan, reading one of his columns the other day - say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decided really [to] come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do, but - that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today I do not think Obama would be re-elected. But three years from now, things could change if—on the national security front …
WALLACE: But you're not suggesting that he would cynically play the war card?
PALIN: I'm not suggesting that. I'm saying if he did, things would dramatically change. If he decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies, I think people would, perhaps, shift their thinking a little bit and decide, "Well, maybe he's tougher than we think he's—than he is today," and there wouldn't be as much passion to make sure that he doesn't serve another four years.
Comments: (1) Buchanan disapproves of Obama taking out the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, but Palin and I "would like him to do" that, thereby removing the world's No. 1 security threat.
(2) After vilification from the Left and tepid reactions on the Right, it's nice to have a major political figure endorse my idea.
(3) I've always liked Palin and been mystified by the fervid hostility she engenders. Perhaps that results from her readiness, as Jeff Bergner puts it, to challenge "The Narrative" formulated by the Democratic Party. True to form, she is, so far, the only politician willing to touch the hot potato of the political implications of bombing Iran.
Posted by truth seeker at 3:59 PM 0 comments
Pipes to Obama Bomb Iran
How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran
by Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
February 2, 2010
I do not customarily offer advice to a president whose election I opposed, whose goals I fear, and whose policies I work against. But here is an idea for Barack Obama to salvage his tottering administration by taking a step that protects the United States and its allies.
If Obama's personality, identity, and celebrity captivated a majority of the American electorate in 2008, those qualities proved ruefully deficient in 2009 for governing. He failed to deliver on employment and health care, he failed in foreign policy forays small (e.g., landing the 2016 Olympics) and large (relations with China and Japan). His counterterrorism record barely passes the laugh test.
This poor performance has caused an unprecedented collapse in the polls and the loss of three major by-elections, culminating two weeks ago in an astonishing senatorial defeat in Massachusetts. Obama's attempts to "reset" his presidency will likely fail if he focuses on economics, where he is just one of many players.
He needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a lightweight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations.
Barak Obama's job approval problem.
Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy the Iranian nuclear weapon capacity.
Circumstances are propitious. First, U.S. intelligence agencies have reversed their preposterous 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, the one that claimed with "high confidence" that Tehran had "halted its nuclear weapons program," No one (other than the Iranian rulers and their agents) denies that the regime is rushing headlong to build a large nuclear arsenal.
Second, if the apocalyptic-minded leaders in Tehran get the Bomb, they render the Middle East a yet more volatile and dangerous. They might deploy these weapons in the region, leading to massive death and destruction. Eventually, they could launch an electro-magnetic pulse attack on the United States, utterly devastating the country. By eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama protects the homeland and sends a message to American's friends and enemies.
Third, polling shows longstanding American backing for an attack on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.
Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg, January 2006: 57 percent of Americans favor military intervention if Tehran pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms.
Zogby International, October 2007: 52 percent of likely voters support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon; 29 percent oppose such a step.
McLaughlin & Associates, May 2009: asked whether they would support "Using the [U.S.] military to attack and destroy the facilities in Iran which are necessary to produce a nuclear weapon," 58 percent of 600 likely voters supported the use of force and 30 percent opposed it.
Fox News, September 2009: asked "Do you support or oppose the United States taking military action to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons?" 61 percent of 900 registered voters supported military action and 28 opposed it.
Pew Research Center, October 2009: asked which is more important, "To prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action" or "To avoid a military conflict with Iran, even if it means they may develop nuclear weapons," Out of 1,500 respondents, 61 percent favored the first reply and 24 percent the second.
The nuclear facility at Qum on Sep. 26,2009 from 423 miles in space, provided by GeoEye.
Not only does a strong majority – 57, 52, 58, 61, and 61 percent – already favor using force but after a strike Americans will presumably rally around the flag, jumping that number much higher.
Fourth, were the U.S. strike limited to taking out the Iranian nuclear facilities, and not aspire to regime change, it would require few "boots on the ground" and entail relatively few casualties, making an attack politically more palatable.
Just as 9/11 caused voters to forget George W. Bush's meandering early months, a strike on Iranian facilities would dispatch Obama's feckless first year down the memory hole and transform the domestic political scene. It would sideline health care, prompt Republicans to work with Democrats, make netroots squeal, independents reconsider, and conservatives swoon.
But the chance to do good and do well is fleeting. As the Iranians improve their defenses and approach weaponization, the window of opportunity is closing. The time to act is now or, on Obama's watch, the world will soon become a much more dangerous place.
Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
Posted by truth seeker at 3:25 PM 0 comments