(1) Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons (2) Contain Iran: Admit Israel to NATO

February 22, 2006

CONTENTS

1. Senior Iranian mullah says it is “only natural” to have nuclear bombs
2. “The claim that to stop Iran’s program all of its nuclear sites must be destroyed is simply wrong”
3. “Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons” (Sunday Telegraph, Feb. 19, 2006)
4. “Contain Iran: Admit Israel to NATO” (Washington Post, Feb. 21, 2006)
5. “In a single night” (By Edward N. Luttwak, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 8, 2006)
6. “US prepares military blitz against Iran’s nuclear sites” (Sunday Telegraph, Feb. 12, 2006)



SENIOR IRANIAN MULLAH SAYS IT IS “ONLY NATURAL” TO HAVE NUCLEAR BOMBS

[Note by Tom Gross]

This is the third of three dispatches today on Iran.

The first article below reports that spiritual leaders in Iran have issued an unprecedented fatwa that sanctions the use of atomic weapons. Mohsen Gharavian, a senior mullah and a disciple of the ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is regarded as the cleric closest to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said that it is “only natural” to have nuclear bombs.

Gharavian declared “that the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to Sharia.” He added that “when the entire world is armed with nuclear weapons, it is permissible to use these weapons as a counter-measure. According to Sharia too, only the goal is important.”

It is also reported that strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for a “last resort” military blitz against Iran’s nuclear sites. It is thought that planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation to block Iranian efforts to develop an atomic bomb. (See the final article in this dispatch.)

“THE CLAIM THAT TO STOP IRAN’S PROGRAM ALL OF ITS NUCEAR SITES MUST BE DESTROYED IS SIMPLY WRONG”

Also attached in this dispatch are two opinion pieces which question the present thinking about combating Iran and its efforts to produce nuclear weapons. Ronald D. Asmus, writing in the Washington Post, argues that “the best way to provide Israel with that additional security is to upgrade its relationship with the collective defense arm of the West: NATO.” Asmus concludes by urging the United States to put “its weight behind the idea. The time has come to do so.”

(Asmus is executive director of the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Center in Brussels, and served as deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs from 1997 to 2000.)

Edward N. Luttwak, writing in The Wall Street Journal, attempts to dispel the claim that “a pre-emptive air attack against Iran’s nuclear installations is unfeasible.” Luttwak claims that “in fact the odds are rather good.”

Luttwak argues that “it is enough to demolish a few critical installations to delay its program for years” and then concludes that “the bombing of Iran’s nuclear installations may still be a bad idea for other reasons, but not because it would require a huge air offensive. On the contrary, it could all be done in a single night.”

(Luttwak is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.)

I attach four articles, with summaries first for those that don’t have time to read them in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

IRANIAN FATWA APPROVES USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

“Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons” (By Colin Freeman and Philip Sherwell, The Sunday Telegraph, February 19, 2006)

Iran’s hard line spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies… influential Muslim clerics have for the first time questioned the theocracy’s traditional stance that Sharia law forbade the use of nuclear weapons.

One senior mullah has now said it is “only natural” to have nuclear bombs… The pronouncement is particularly worrying because it has come from Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of the ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is widely regarded as the cleric closest to Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad… Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi’s group opposes virtually any kind of rapprochement with the West and is believed to have influenced President Ahmadinejad’s refusal to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The comments, which are the first public statement by the Yazdi clerical cabal on the nuclear issue, will be seen as an attempt by the country’s religious hardliners to begin preparing a theological justification for the ownership – and if necessary the use – of atomic bombs… Ayatollah Yazdi has previously justified use of suicide bombers against “enemies of Islam”…

… The bus strike, which has led to the jailing of more than 1,000 drivers, was originally sparked by an industrial dispute over unpaid wages benefits. But the robustness of the state response has indicated the nervousness of the Ahmadinejad regime over any internal dissent. Reports from Iran say that Massoud Osanlou, the leader of the bus drivers’ union, was arrested at his home by members of the Basij, the pro-regime militia, and had part of his tongue cut out as a warning to be quiet…

 

CONTAIN IRAN: ADMIT ISRAEL TO NATO

“Contain Iran: Admit Israel to NATO” (By Ronald D. Asmus, The Washington Post, February 21, 2006)

The choice of how to respond to Iran’s growing threat to the West in general and Israel in particular is not an easy one. One option is to try to stop Iran’s nuclear program via an air and missile strike – but such a step is unlikely to work militarily and could have disastrous consequences. The other is to shift to a longer-term strategy of containment while working for peaceful regime change. While that might work over time, it is unlikely to stop Iran from going nuclear in the short term if it is determined to do so. While working to prevent Iran from going nuclear, the West must think now about what to do if we fail.

One important element has been missing from the debate: NATO. What can the alliance do to help address the growing likelihood that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons? Let us not forget that it is European capitals that would be within striking distance of Iranian nuclear arms. NATO would have to return to its classic mission of defending Europe by deterring a nuclear threat.

… But the country most threatened by a future Iranian nuclear capability is, of course, Israel. It would be a mistake to dismiss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rantings about Israel as mere posturing or a bluff. One lesson from Sept. 11 is that we should not limit our strategic imagination or underestimate our enemies in the Middle East. When someone says he wants to wipe you off the map, he might just might mean it. If, then, the West decides that a military strike to deny Iran the nuclear option is too risky and instead opts for a policy of deterrence and long-term peaceful regime change, it must also take steps to ensure Israel’s protection for that interim period.

… The best way to provide Israel with that additional security is to upgrade its relationship with the collective defense arm of the West: NATO.

There are growing signs that Israel is interested in such a relationship with NATO … Talking with my Israeli interlocutors two years ago, I asked them how they envisioned the circumstances under which Israel might one day seek NATO membership. They laid out two scenarios. The first was one in which Israel was moving toward a final peace settlement with Palestinians and an upgraded relationship with NATO became a key element in a package to persuade the Israeli public to opt for peace. The second was a scenario in which Iran acquired nuclear weapons and posed a real and growing threat to Israel. Having lost its own extended deterrence, Israel would turn to the West and NATO to help guarantee its very real security needs.

… NATO has been reluctant to move too far too fast with Israel, preferring to wait for more progress in the peace process and wanting to move forward in cooperation with other Arab Mediterranean countries in parallel. But this is no longer the time for political correctness…

 

THE BOMBING OF IRAN’S NUCLEAR INSTALLATIONS “COULD ALL BE DONE IN A SINGLE NIGHT”

“In a Single Night” (By Edward N. Luttwak, Wall St Journal, February 8, 2006)

Many commentators argue that a pre-emptive air attack against Iran’s nuclear installations is unfeasible. It would not be swift or surgical, they say, because it would require thousands of strike and defense-suppression sorties. And it is likely to fail even then because some facilities might be too well hidden or too strongly protected. There may well be other, perfectly valid reasons to oppose an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. But let’s not pretend that such an attack has no chance of success. In fact, the odds are rather good…

But the claim that to stop Iran’s program all of its nuclear sites must be destroyed is simply wrong. An air attack is not a Las Vegas demolitions contract, where nothing must be left but well-flattened ground for the new casino to be built. Iran might need 100 buildings in good working order to make its bomb, but it is enough to demolish a few critical installations to delay its program for years – and perhaps longer because it would become harder or impossible for Iran to buy the materials it bought when its efforts were still secret. Some of these installations may be thickly protected against air attack, but it seems that their architecture has not kept up with the performance of the latest penetration bombs…

The bombing of Iran’s nuclear installations may still be a bad idea for other reasons, but not because it would require a huge air offensive. On the contrary, it could all be done in a single night. One may hope that Iran’s rulers will therefore accept a diplomatic solution rather than gamble all on wildly exaggerated calculations.

 

US PREPARES MILITARY BLITZ AGAINST IRAN’S NUCLEAR SITES AS A “LAST RESORT”

“US prepares military blitz against Iran’s nuclear sites” (By Philip Sherwell, The Sunday Telegraph, February 12, 2006)

Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran’s nuclear sites as a “last resort” to block Teheran’s efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

They are reporting to the office of Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, as America updates plans for action if the diplomatic offensive fails to thwart the Islamic republic’s nuclear bomb ambitions. Teheran claims that it is developing only a civilian energy programme…

The most likely strategy would involve aerial bombardment by long-distance B2 bombers, each armed with up to 40,000lb of precision weapons, including the latest bunker-busting devices. They would fly from bases in Missouri with mid-air refuelling.

The White House says that it wants a diplomatic solution to the stand-off, but President George W Bush has refused to rule out military action and reaffirmed last weekend that Iran’s nuclear ambitions “will not be tolerated”…



FULL ARTICLES

IRANIAN FATWA APPROVES USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons
By Colin Freeman and Philip Sherwell
The Sunday Telegraph (U.K.)
February 19, 2006

Iran’s hard line spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.

In yet another sign of Teheran’s stiffening resolve on the nuclear issue, influential Muslim clerics have for the first time questioned the theocracy’s traditional stance that Sharia law forbade the use of nuclear weapons.

One senior mullah has now said it is “only natural” to have nuclear bombs as a “countermeasure” against other nuclear powers, thought to be a reference to America and Israel.

The pronouncement is particularly worrying because it has come from Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of the ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is widely regarded as the cleric closest to Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Nicknamed “Professor Crocodile” because of his harsh conservatism, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi’s group opposes virtually any kind of rapprochement with the West and is believed to have influenced President Ahmadinejad’s refusal to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The comments, which are the first public statement by the Yazdi clerical cabal on the nuclear issue, will be seen as an attempt by the country’s religious hardliners to begin preparing a theological justification for the ownership – and if necessary the use – of atomic bombs.

They appeared on Rooz, an internet newspaper run by members of Iran’s fractured reformist movement, which picked them up from remarks by Mohsen Gharavian reported on the media agency IraNews.

Rooz reported that Mohsen Gharavian, a lecturer based in a religious school in the holy city of Qom, had declared “for the first time that the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to Sharia.”

He also said: “When the entire world is armed with nuclear weapons, it is permissible to use these weapons as a counter-measure. According to Sharia too, only the goal is important.”

Mohsen Gharavian did not specify what kinds of “goals” would justify a nuclear strike, but it is thought that any military intervention by the United States would be considered sufficient grounds. Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi has previously justified use of suicide bombers against “enemies of Islam” and believes that America is bent on destroying the Islamic republic and its values. The latest insight into the theocracy’s thinking comes as the US signals a change in strategy on Iran, after the decision earlier this month to report it to the United Nations Security Council for its resumption of banned nuclear research.

While Washington has made it clear that military strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites would be a “last resort”, White House officials are also targeting change from within by funding Iranian opposition groups.

The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said the Bush administration would seek an extra $75 million (£43 million) from Congress to help to support Iran’s fractured pro-democracy movement and fund Farsi-language satellite broadcasts.

The announcement is the clearest public indication that Washington has adopted a two-track approach to Iran, combining the diplomatic search for a united international condemnation of its illicit nuclear programme with efforts to undermine the regime’s status.

The new tactic amounts to the pursuit of regime change by peaceful means, although that phrase is still not stated as official US policy. Washington hopes that a dedicated satellite channel beamed into Iran will encourage domestic dissent, such as the current strike by bus drivers – the most significant display of organised opposition since the 1999 and 2003 student protests.

Ms Rice unveiled the change of tactics a week after a visit to Washington by a senior British delegation that pressed for a co-ordinated Western policy on using satellite television and the internet to bolster internal opposition. The State Department had previously been wary of the two-track strategy.

As the Sunday Telegraph reported last week, Pentagon strategists have been updating plans for a another policy of “last resort” – blitzing Iranian nuclear sites in an effort to stop the regime gaining the atomic bomb.

The bus strike, which has led to the jailing of more than 1,000 drivers, was originally sparked by an industrial dispute over unpaid wages benefits. But the robustness of the state response has indicated the nervousness of the Ahmadinejad regime over any internal dissent.

Reports from Iran say that Massoud Osanlou, the leader of the bus drivers’ union, was arrested at his home by members of the Basij, the pro-regime militia, and had part of his tongue cut out as a warning to be quiet.

But the dispute already risks disillusioning Mr Ahmadinejad’s core of working class support – among them municipal workers – who voted him into power on his promises to improve the lot of Iran’s poor.

 

CONTAIN IRAN: ADMIT ISRAEL TO NATO

Contain Iran: Admit Israel to NATO
By Ronald D. Asmus
The Washington Post
February 21, 2006

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/20/AR2006022001121.html

The choice of how to respond to Iran’s growing threat to the West in general and Israel in particular is not an easy one. One option is to try to stop Iran’s nuclear program via an air and missile strike – but such a step is unlikely to work militarily and could have disastrous consequences. The other is to shift to a longer-term strategy of containment while working for peaceful regime change. While that might work over time, it is unlikely to stop Iran from going nuclear in the short term if it is determined to do so. While working to prevent Iran from going nuclear, the West must think now about what to do if we fail.

One important element has been missing from the debate: NATO. What can the alliance do to help address the growing likelihood that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons? Let us not forget that it is European capitals that would be within striking distance of Iranian nuclear arms. NATO would have to return to its classic mission of defending Europe by deterring a nuclear threat. This development would also accelerate the debate in NATO over a regional missile defense system. The alliance would have to reorient its defense shield to confront the greatest threats to its members, emanating from the wider Middle East, in particular from a nuclear-armed Iran.

But the country most threatened by a future Iranian nuclear capability is, of course, Israel. It would be a mistake to dismiss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rantings about Israel as mere posturing or a bluff. One lesson from Sept. 11 is that we should not limit our strategic imagination or underestimate our enemies in the Middle East. When someone says he wants to wipe you off the map, he might just might mean it. If, then, the West decides that a military strike to deny Iran the nuclear option is too risky and instead opts for a policy of deterrence and long-term peaceful regime change, it must also take steps to ensure Israel’s protection for that interim period.

The United States already has a de facto security commitment to Israel. Any future U.S. president would go to the defense of that country if its existence were threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran. And in spite of the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic voices that one can hear in Europe, there is little doubt that European leaders such as Tony Blair, Angela Merkel and even Jacques Chirac would also stand tall and defend Israel against an Iranian threat. Given this situation, basic deterrence theory tells us that it is more credible and effective if those commitments are clear and unambiguous.

The best way to provide Israel with that additional security is to upgrade its relationship with the collective defense arm of the West: NATO. Whether that upgraded relationship culminates in membership for Israel or simply a much closer strategic and operational defense relationship can be debated. After all, a classic security guarantee requires clear and recognized borders to be defended, something Israel does not have today. Configuring an upgraded Israel-NATO relationship will require careful diplomacy and planning. But what must be clear is that the West is prepared to match the growing bellicosity against Israel by stepping up its commitment to the existence of the Jewish state.

There are growing signs that Israel is interested in such a relationship with NATO. About two years ago I was approached by a group of Israelis and asked to help facilitate a closer Israeli-NATO dialogue. At the time, the idea seemed a bit far-fetched to many. Since then, however, a real debate has emerged in Israel over building closer ties to both NATO and the European Union. Israel has also presented the alliance with a plan for a step-by-step upgrade in bilateral cooperation. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has paid his first visit there, and talks on closer cooperation are underway.

Talking with my Israeli interlocutors two years ago, I asked them how they envisioned the circumstances under which Israel might one day seek NATO membership. They laid out two scenarios. The first was one in which Israel was moving toward a final peace settlement with Palestinians and an upgraded relationship with NATO became a key element in a package to persuade the Israeli public to opt for peace. The second was a scenario in which Iran acquired nuclear weapons and posed a real and growing threat to Israel. Having lost its own extended deterrence, Israel would turn to the West and NATO to help guarantee its very real security needs.

I would much prefer that we were faced with the first scenario, and one day we may reach that point, although the recent victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections suggests we shouldn’t hold our breath. But the second scenario may become reality for Israel and the West. And that is the one that must determine the future pace of Israeli-NATO cooperation.

NATO has been reluctant to move too far too fast with Israel, preferring to wait for more progress in the peace process and wanting to move forward in cooperation with other Arab Mediterranean countries in parallel. But this is no longer the time for political correctness. It is time to break that link and not hold future Israeli-NATO ties hostage to Hamas or the broader vagaries of NATO’s overall Mediterranean dialogue. While continuing to expand ties with these other Arab countries, we must recognize that the threat Israel faces is qualitatively different, as is our security commitment to that country.

Several leading Europeans have called for NATO to embrace Israel, but this debate will not get serious until the United States, Israel’s main ally, puts its weight behind the idea. The time has come to do so.

 

THE BOMBING OF IRAN’S NUCLEAR INSTALLATIONS “COULD ALL BE DONE IN A SINGLE NIGHT”

In a Single Night
By Edward N. Luttwak
The Wall Street Journal
February 8, 2006

Many commentators argue that a pre-emptive air attack against Iran’s nuclear installations is unfeasible. It would not be swift or surgical, they say, because it would require thousands of strike and defense-suppression sorties. And it is likely to fail even then because some facilities might be too well hidden or too strongly protected. There may well be other, perfectly valid reasons to oppose an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. But let’s not pretend that such an attack has no chance of success. In fact, the odds are rather good.

The skeptics begin sensibly enough by rejecting any direct comparison with Israel’s 1981 air attack that incapacitated the Osirak reactor, stopping Saddam Hussein’s first try at producing plutonium bombs. Iran is evidently following a different and much larger-scale path to nuclear weapons, by the centrifuge “enrichment” of uranium hexafluoride gas to increase the proportion of fissile uranium 235. It requires a number of different plants operating in series to go from natural uranium to highly enriched uranium formed in the specific shapes needed to obtain an explosive chain reaction. Some of these plants, notably the Natanz centrifuge plant, are both very large and built below ground with thick overhead protection.

It is at this point that the argument breaks down. Yes, Iraq’s weapon program of 1981 was stopped by a single air strike carried out by less than a squadron of fighter-bombers because it was centered in a single large reactor building. Once it was destroyed, the mission was accomplished. To do the same to Iran’s 100-odd facilities would require almost a hundred times as many sorties as the Israelis flew in 1981, which would strain even the U.S. Air Force. Some would even add many more sorties to carry out a preliminary suppression campaign against Iran’s air defenses (a collection of inoperable anti-aircraft weapons and obsolete fighters with outdated missiles). But the claim that to stop Iran’s program all of its nuclear sites must be destroyed is simply wrong.

An air attack is not a Las Vegas demolitions contract, where nothing must be left but well-flattened ground for the new casino to be built. Iran might need 100 buildings in good working order to make its bomb, but it is enough to demolish a few critical installations to delay its program for years – and perhaps longer because it would become harder or impossible for Iran to buy the materials it bought when its efforts were still secret. Some of these installations may be thickly protected against air attack, but it seems that their architecture has not kept up with the performance of the latest penetration bombs.

Nor could destroyed items be easily replaced by domestic production. In spite of all the claims of technological self-sufficiency by its engineer-president, not even metal parts of any complexity can be successfully machined in Iran. More than 35% of Iran’s gasoline must now be imported because the capacity of its foreign-built refineries cannot be expanded without components currently under U.S. embargo, and which the locals cannot copy. Aircraft regularly fall out of the sky because Iranians are unable to reverse-engineer spare parts.

The bombing of Iran’s nuclear installations may still be a bad idea for other reasons, but not because it would require a huge air offensive. On the contrary, it could all be done in a single night. One may hope that Iran’s rulers will therefore accept a diplomatic solution rather than gamble all on wildly exaggerated calculations.

 

US PREPARES MILITARY BLITZ AGAINST IRAN’S NUCLEAR SITES AS A “LAST RESORT”

US prepares military blitz against Iran’s nuclear sites
By Philip Sherwell
The Sunday Telegraph (U.K.)
February 12, 2006

Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran’s nuclear sites as a “last resort” to block Teheran’s efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

They are reporting to the office of Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, as America updates plans for action if the diplomatic offensive fails to thwart the Islamic republic’s nuclear bomb ambitions. Teheran claims that it is developing only a civilian energy programme.

“This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment,” said a senior Pentagon adviser. “This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months.”

The prospect of military action could put Washington at odds with Britain which fears that an attack would spark violence across the Middle East, reprisals in the West and may not cripple Teheran’s nuclear programme. But the steady flow of disclosures about Iran’s secret nuclear operations and the virulent anti-Israeli threats of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has prompted the fresh assessment of military options by Washington. The most likely strategy would involve aerial bombardment by long-distance B2 bombers, each armed with up to 40,000lb of precision weapons, including the latest bunker-busting devices. They would fly from bases in Missouri with mid-air refuelling.

The Bush administration has recently announced plans to add conventional ballistic missiles to the armoury of its nuclear Trident submarines within the next two years. If ready in time, they would also form part of the plan of attack.

Teheran has dispersed its nuclear plants, burying some deep underground, and has recently increased its air defences, but Pentagon planners believe that the raids could seriously set back Iran’s nuclear programme.

Iran was last weekend reported to the United Nations Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency for its banned nuclear activities. Teheran reacted by announcing that it would resume full-scale uranium enrichment – producing material that could arm nuclear devices.

The White House says that it wants a diplomatic solution to the stand-off, but President George W Bush has refused to rule out military action and reaffirmed last weekend that Iran’s nuclear ambitions “will not be tolerated”.

Sen John McCain, the Republican front-runner to succeed Mr Bush in 2008, has advocated military strikes as a last resort. He said recently: “There is only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option and that is a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, has made the same case and Mr Bush is expected to be faced by the decision within two years.

By then, Iran will be close to acquiring the knowledge to make an atomic bomb, although the construction will take longer. The President will not want to be seen as leaving the White House having allowed Iran’s ayatollahs to go atomic.

In Teheran yesterday, crowds celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution chanted “Nuclear technology is our inalienable right” and cheered Mr Ahmadinejad when he said that Iran may reconsider membership of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He was defiant over possible economic sanctions.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.