This may be the most unsurprising sneak attack in history

November 22, 2011

* A weird but wonderful feature of Israeli democracy is that even fateful decisions about national security – like whether to carry out a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities – are publicly debated and covered in the press as if they were questions about road building or water rates, complete with vote counts in the cabinet and speculation about political motives.

* For Khomeinists only one adversary counts: America. And, since the United States is believed to be in terminal decline, there is no need for Tehran to fear American threats or respond to Obama’s offers. All it need do is wait until Americans realize they have no future in the Middle East and acknowledge Iran as the regional “superpower.”

* Mutual misunderstanding has often been the cause of conflict and war. In the case of Iran and the United States, that misunderstanding seems to be especially acute.

* “The former Director of the IAEA Mohammed El Baradei (below) has minimized the risks for years. In 2005 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for ‘his efforts against the atomic bomb.’ It is time to take away the Nobel Prize from the one who lied on the Iranian nuclear program.”

[Egypt’s ruling Military council is considering naming El Baradei as Cairo’s new prime minister following the resignation this morning of Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharif.]

 

CONTENTS

1. “For Israel, a tough call on attacking Iran” (By Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2011)
2. “Panetta reassures Iran it has little to worry about” (By Jonathan Tobin, Commentary, Nov. 11, 2011)
3. “Why Iran doesn’t fear Bam” (By Amir Taheri, New York Post, Nov. 10, 2011)
4. “Hundreds of N. Korean nuclear and missile experts working in Iran” (Yonhap News, South Korea, Nov. 13, 2011)
5. “Remove the Nobel Prize from the one who lied about the Iranian nuclear program” (By Fiamma Nirenstein, Il Giornale, Nov. 10, 2011)


[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch concerns Iran. It was compiled a few days ago, but delayed because of illness.

It is split in two for space reasons. The other part can be read here: Aircraft are not the only means at Israel’s disposal

Among the writers of articles included in today’s dispatches, the following are subscribers to this email list:

Leading Iran expert Amir Taheri; Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian parliament Fiamma Nirenstein; Deputy Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Jackson Diehl; Jonathan Tobin, the online editor of Commentary; Eli Lake, the National Security Correspondent for The Daily Beast / Newsweek; and Yaakov Katz, the military and defense correspondent of the Jerusalem Post.


FOR ISRAEL, A TOUGH CALL ON ATTACKING IRAN

For Israel, a tough call on attacking Iran
By Jackson Diehl
The Washington Post
November 13, 2011

A weird but wonderful feature of Israeli democracy is that even fateful decisions about national security – like whether to carry out a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities – are publicly debated and covered in the press as if they were questions about road building or water rates, complete with vote counts in the cabinet and speculation about political motives.

For more than two weeks now, mullahs in Tehran, generals in Washington and anyone else with an Internet connection has been able to read detailed accounts of attempts by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to convince their military chiefs and coalition partners that an Israeli strike is both feasible and necessary. Bitter closed-door debates have been chronicled; op-ed pages have been filled with the arguments, pro and con. There’s even been polling: Forty-one percent of Israelis were reported to favor an attack vs. 39 percent who were opposed.

If it happens, this may be the most unsurprising sneak attack in history. Reports that Israel is on the verge of bombing Iran have been appearing regularly since at least 2008. It’s tempting to dismiss the latest flurry as political noise or orchestrated leaks, aimed at focusing Western attention on the need for tougher sanctions against Iran, or at drowning out the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations.

That’s probably part of it. But it is also, in Israel, a genuine dilemma – and one in which the calculus looks very different than it does in Washington. “This is a serious debate,” said Shai Feldman, an Israeli expert on nuclear security who made a presentation on the subject at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy last week. “And it’s a tough call.”

It’s worth going through some of the key decision factors cited by Feldman and how they look to Israelis. Start with a threshold question: How much time is there to stop an Iranian bomb? In Washington, the typical answer depends on a projection of how long it would take Iran to finish a weapon and put it on a missile; or perhaps, how long Tehran might need to enrich a sufficient amount of uranium to bomb-grade. Estimates range from 62 days, in the case of uranium enrichment, to several years, for completing a deliverable bomb.

Israelis consider another timeline: How long before Iran finishes installing enrichment equipment at its new Fordow facility, which is buried under a mountain near the city of Qom? That plant is a far more difficult target for airstrikes than the buildings in Natanz, where most of the 4.9 tons of enriched uranium Iran has fabricated is now stored. And the latest report from U.N. inspectors suggests that Fordow will be open soon: Centrifuges have been set up, power has been connected and a first delivery of uranium has been made.

A second consideration is whether an Iran with a bomb could be deterred from using it. Many in Washington, with its half-century experience of the Cold War, suspect that it could be – and U.S. policy since the Bush administration has quietly aimed at setting up a deterrence structure, through such measures as providing air defense missiles to U.S. Persian Gulf allies.

But most Israelis, with the Holocaust in mind, judge it differently: The religious motivations of Iranian rulers, they argue, mean Tehran might be willing to accept even devastating civilian casualties in exchange for wiping out the Jewish state.

The regional fallout from an Israeli attack might be the biggest negative factor. Israelis expect that thousands of missiles might be fired at their cities by Iran’s clients in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, while U.S. forces might be attacked in Afghanistan, Iraq or in the Persian Gulf. But while the Pentagon worries about managing a fight on multiple fronts, Israeli leaders think they could handle their threat. Barak predicted last week that Israel would suffer fewer than 500 civilian casualties.

The most interesting calculations of all concern U.S-Israeli relations. The rupture of the U.S.-Israeli alliance arguably would be as large a blow to Israel’s security as Iran completing a bomb – and a unilateral attack might just risk that. The Pentagon might suspend what is now close cooperation; in Congress and in public opinion, Israel might be blamed for any U.S. casualties in Iranian counterattacks. I’ve always supposed that there will be no Israeli attack without a green light from Washington.

Israel, however, has a history of ignoring U.S. opinion at moments like this. It struck nuclear reactors in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007 with no American go-ahead. In both cases, there was no serious damage to relations – and, for that matter, no regional reaction.

Iran, almost certainly, would be a very different case. That’s why most of Israel’s military and intelligence chiefs oppose action. But Netanyahu and Barak seem to be arguing the other side. And, for better or for worse, you can read all about it in the Israeli press.

 

“THE NETANYAHU GOVERNMENT MUST BE FORGIVEN FOR BELIEVING THEY ARE NOW CLEARLY ON THEIR OWN”

Panetta reassures Iran it has little to worry about
By Jonathan S. Tobin
Contentions (Commentary magazine)
November 11, 2011

If the leaders of the Iranian regime were worried about Jeffrey Goldberg’s prediction that Barack Obama would confound the world and launch a U.S. military strike designed to save Israel from nuclear destruction, they can now calm down. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made it crystal clear at a Pentagon news conference yesterday he has no intention of supporting an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Echoing remarks uttered by his predecessor Robert Gates, Panetta said a U.S. strike would only deal a temporary setback to the Iranians and emphasized his fear that the “unintended consequences” of an American offensive would negatively impact the position of U.S. forces elsewhere in the region.

Panetta’s fears about conflict with Iran are reasonable. We don’t know whether it will be possible to completely eradicate their nuclear facilities (though a U.S. campaign would have a much greater chance of success than one conducted solely by Israel) and war with Iran could set off a series of other struggles around the region which would, at best, be messy, and at worst, be disastrous. But by publicly throwing cold water on the idea the United States is ready and able to militarily squash Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Panetta has sent a dangerous signal to Tehran that the Pentagon intends to veto any use of force against them. Combined with Russia’s pledge to block any further sanctions on Iran, the statement should leave the Khameini/Ahmadinejad regime feeling entirely secure as they push ahead to the moment when they can announce their first successful nuclear test.

For several years, leading voices in the Pentagon have sought to dampen any interest in attacking Iran. Part of it can be put down to the natural reluctance of military leaders to actually use the forces at their disposal. Part can also be attributed to a very understandable worry about launching a new war while the old ones in Iraq and Afghanistan were still raging. But it also reflects a sense by many in Washington that a nuclear Iran can be contained without too much bother. Israel’s fears of an existential threat to its existence and the equally profound worries of Arab countries about the prospect of a nuclear-fueled Iranian hegemony over the region just don’t resonate with those who, like many in Europe, fear a fight to stop the ayatollahs from getting the bomb more than they fear Iranian nukes.

But whatever the motivation, what Panetta has done with his statement is to alert the Iranians to the fact that the United States has no intention of doing anything but talk about stopping the Islamist nuclear threat. This comes as no surprise to Iran, because its leaders have long since pegged President Obama as a weakling whom they needn’t worry about. A year of the administration’s comic attempts at “engagement” followed by two more of unsuccessful attempts to forge an international coalition in favor of tough sanctions aimed at Iran have taught the ayatollahs to discount any possibility that Obama will take action against them.

It was bad enough the Iranians already believed this to be true, but by speaking out publicly in this manner in an effort to stop any speculation about Washington still considering the possibility of the use of force, Panetta has given them a guarantee they have nothing to fear from the United States.

Panetta is also sending a message to Israel. Going back to the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. has refused to give the Israelis a green light to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. By speaking of “unintended consequences,” there’s little doubt Panetta is seeking to repeat that signal. While Jerusalem may still hold onto some hope that the U.S. will eventually change its mind when presented with an imminent Iranian threat, the Netanyahu government must be forgiven for believing they are now clearly on their own.

 

WHY IRAN DOESN’T FEAR OBAMA

Why Iran doesn’t fear Bam
By Amir Taheri
The New York Post
November 10, 2011

As expected, the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s clandestine nuclear-weapons program has revealed, once again, that the Islamic Republic is determined to ignore international law and the threat of military action.

Many factors may be behind Tehran’s behavior – most notably, a misreading of the Obama administration’s intentions and America’s ability to impose its will on Iran if necessary.

Iran’s official media have long claimed that President Obama has sent two letters to Iranian “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei. But until yesterday, there had been little information about Obama’s attempts at charming the mullahs with his magic prose.

Now an editorial in Kayhan, a daily Tehran newspaper run by the office of the “Supreme Guide,” has revealed what it describes as “America’s demands” from the Islamic Republic. Since Khamenei has refused to write back to Obama, the editorial can be regarded as his reply.

The paper lists five demands:

* Refrain from action that might disrupt the flow of OPEC’s oil to world markets.

* Stop the campaign to topple the monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

* Stop supporting movements opposed to the Israel-Palestine peace process, and accept Israel’s right to exist.

* Accept the US military presence in Muslim countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

* Don’t support groups that try to create Islamist regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.

Khamenei’s reply to Obama can be summed up in one phrase: Take a walk!

The editorial asserts that the US is in “global retreat” and that the American military are “scared” of confrontation with Iran. “It is interesting that while the White House, the State Department and the FBI are conducting the campaign of threats against Iran, the American security and military organizations have remained quiet,” Kayhan notes.

The silence of “the head of the Pentagon, the CIA, the [Joint] Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Adviser” indicates that the US “military-security” establishment fears the Islamic Republic. As a sign of that fear, the paper claims that these days the US fleet in the Persian Gulf “promptly answers any question put by the Iranian Central Command.”

“It is true,” the editorial continues, “Iran is America’s No. 1 challenger. But it is also true that the United States’ principal concern today is to reach an accommodation with Iran.” Washington now has “a strong adversary that cannot be deterred,” the paper muses.

It makes it clear that Khamenei wants total victory and is confident of securing it without endangering his hold on power.

While hardly mentioning Israel, the editorial makes clear that its destruction as a Jewish state remains a high priority of Khomeinism and its Arab clients. Convinced that Israel is in no position to attack Iran on its own, Kayhan makes no mention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent threat of military action.

For Khomeinists only one adversary counts: America.

And, since the United States is believed to be in terminal decline, there is no need for Tehran to fear American threats or respond to Obama’s offers. All it need do is wait until Americans realize they have no future in the Middle East and acknowledge Iran as the regional “superpower.”

The editorial reveals a deep misreading at the highest level of Iranian leadership of the situation and the United States’ interests and capabilities.

Khamenei’s analysis is that the US would simply sit back and watch as Iran becomes a nuclear power, wipes Israel off the map, imposes the rule of the “Supreme Guide” from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and uses Middle East oil as a weapon in global jihad against the Infidel.

Khamenei is also mistaken in his understanding of the “American psychology.” Americans may be reluctant warriors and natural dealmakers – but, when forced to fight, they are not the cowards that Khamenei believes.

Mutual misunderstanding has often been the cause of conflict and war. In the case of Iran and the United States, that misunderstanding seems to be especially acute.

 

HUNDREDS OF N. KOREAN NUCLEAR AND MISSILE EXPERTS WORKING IN IRAN

Source: Hundreds of N. Korean nuclear and missile experts working in Iran
By Kim Kwang-tae
Yonhap News (South Korea)
November 13, 2011

english.yonhapnews.co.kr

SEOUL, Nov. 13 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of North Korean nuclear and missile experts have been collaborating with their Iranian counterparts in more than 10 locations across the Islamic state, a diplomatic source said Sunday.

The revelation lends credence to long-held suspicions that North Korea was helping Iran with a secret nuclear and missile program.

 

REMOVE THE NOBEL PRIZE FROM THE ONE WHO LIED ON THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM

And now take away the Nobel Prize from the one who lied on the Iranian nuclear program
By Fiamma Nirenstein
Il Giornale
November 10, 2011

(Translated from Italian)

The former Director of the IAEA El Baradei has minimized the risks for years. In 2005 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for “his efforts against the atomic bomb.”

There is a hero and a terrible villain in the story of the hottest potato the whole world has been trying to handle since World War II: the 25-page report submitted by the International Agency for Atomic Energy: technical, icy, precise, confirming the intention – and between the lines – the success of Iran in pursuing the atomic bomb. Yes, the atomic bomb, that is allegedly about to be experimented in ad hoc facilities which – as the text reads – are hardly designed for poultry farming or for anything else. And the nuclear warheads for Shihab 3 missiles: this is the real nature of this program – explained without flustering by the report – and it is not atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

The hero is a Japanese, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano: notwithstanding the pressures from China and Russia – and notwithstanding who knows what steps Iran may take – he was as brave as a lion in presenting to the world what instead had been concealed, downplayed and minimized by his predecessor, Mohammed El Baradei, in the same role, from 1997 to 2009.

El Baradei had a nice group of technicians to study the situation in Iran. And they reported to him who decided what to use and what to select. And he did select a lot, even if everybody already knew the truth. Actually, the intelligence agencies from half of the world (including the Arab ones) gave him information that proved reliable when compared to the facts on the ground. It was well known – as Amano’s report plainly reveals – that up to 2003, the uranium enrichment preparatory work took place in various sites and that they received assistance from very important providers, such as Russia and China. And that, after the Ayatollahs’ regime had tried to cover it up by masking it as a civilian effort, this activity was increasingly pushed underground. But this was no secret to anybody, it was just a pretence to ignore its objectives, not to understand why these plants were being built so secretly and with the help of so many foreign technicians.

This work appears to be more clearly designed for war purposes. Amano says it, El Baradei did not reveal it even if he had all the elements to do so. And yet, surprise, surprise, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 “for his effort in preventing the use of nuclear energy for war purposes”. The well-meaning ideological approach of the Nobel Organizations made many mistakes, but now they have committed a blunder. El Baradei has obliged the world to face today a nightmare that could have been avoided if the IAEA had timely certified that a crazy, Islamist, extremist, anti-Western, anti-Semitic Iran was preparing an atomic bomb that can now be built in a very short time (some say it takes one year to build up a whole arsenal, some say two.... but two bombs, a trifle, can already be built today for most experts). And that he was experimenting warheads that are able to hit not only Jerusalem, but also the European capitals. And so, in addition to the categorical imperative to act contained in Amano’s report, (that at least the USA and Europe should act blocking the Iranian bank through sanctions, by ignoring Russia and China) we would like to make a sensible humble proposal to the Nobel Prize Organizers: if you want to save your face before future generations, at least take his Nobel Prize back.

Today, El Baradei is the candidate for the Egyptian Presidency. And as an enlightened layman, he couldn’t help but establishing a relationship with the Muslim Brothers and stating that the relationship with Israel is to be reviewed. However he has also been recently abandoned by his constituency. Maybe they realize the damage he did to his Country: Egypt is the main Sunni country in the area and Iran, Shiite, has only recently attached to it its amicable attention, thus hoping to expand his hegemony in the area. But this is unlikely to last. Egyptians too will not be pleased to see Iran turn nuclear.


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