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October 26, 2014 / 2 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘nuclear proliferation’

The ‘Peace Partner’ Who Wants to Nuke Israel

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

There’s a sadly familiar feel to this story. It concerns a man about whom we have written here numerous times, and here’s how it is headed:

Top PA official: Israel ‘is our main enemy, resistance is still our agenda’ | Arab states should put their money where their mouth is to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem, says Jibril Rajoub, a signatory to the Geneva Initiative who had pledged he was Israel’s peace ‘partner’ [Times of Israel].

Click here for the JewishPress.com report and PMW video of Rajoub’s statements.

Jibril Rajoub, in his words, deeds, history and public profile, personally embodies much of what makes the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis so intractable.

Start with this. He is a perennial participant for the Palestinian Arab side in the negotiations for peace that have been part of the political landscape here for two decades. An ad campaign on behalf of the Geneva Initiative included him as one of its central media figures back in August 2010. Click below to view one of the ads – the Hebrew dialogue is translated via English subtitles:

Like the other high-profile Arabs who appeared in that very expensive media campaign, the words “I am your partner” are placed in his mouth and the mouths of other Arab personalities over and again. “There is a consensus in the Arab world”, Rajoub recites, “to recognize the existence of Israel in return for an end to occupation”.

The purpose of the Geneva Initiative campaign – and keep this in mind as we take a closer look at this exceptionally unlovely individual – was expressed in the following terms by the campaign’s spokesperson, Gadi Baltiansky:

The perception in the Israeli public is that there is no partner for peace on the Palestinian side… We all want peace, but don’t believe there is anyone to talk to. We are trying to change this perception, to explain that there is a partner, and that the problem is actually with us. ["Shalom, this is Jibril" on Geneva Initiative website]

In reality, Rajoub rarely lets other people put words in his mouth. He actually appears much more comfortable spinning his own words and firing them off on cue, generally in the form of threats. Those threats have come with appreciable power accumulated via a series of publicly-funded roles he has filled over the years. He’s a man with the rare ability to be in the right place at the right time in order to exercise serious power.

Today Rajoub is one of twenty members of the Central Committee of Fatah, the highest decision-making organ of the Fatah political party, and the innermost circle of the Mahmoud Abbas clique. He stands at the head of both the Palestinian Football Federation and the Palestine Olympic Committee.

But his past is much less sporty. He was the head of the Preventive Security Force until 2002, when Arafat appointed him national security advisor. As advisor, he knew where to place his loyalties: his tenure was marked by the use of force in harassing and quashing Arafat’s political opponents by whatever it took, including resort to torture [Source: BBC]. When Hamas had to be taught lessons for being too religiously fundamentalist, Rajoub got the job of managing a crackdown and did it well enough [Wikipedia].

And before all of that, he was an ordinary terrorist who was sentenced to life in prison. Foreshadowing a process that has happened again and again, Israel released him and 1,150 other Arab prisoners in 1985 in order to win back the freedom of three Israeli hostages held one of the alphabet-soup factions of the Palestinian Arab terrorism industry. He was sent back to prison several more times for several more rounds of terrorism. He released exactly the same number of times, acquiring a smooth grasp of Hebrew and of Israeli culture along the way.

Now to Jibril Rajoub, 2013 edition. This prince of peace, this ambassador of the power of sport to build bridges across troubled waters, this recovered thug and reformed torturer, was interviewed on Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen television channel on April 30, 2013:

Resistance to Israel remains on our agenda… I mean resistance in all of its forms. At this stage, we believe that popular resistance – with all that it entails – is effective and costly to the [Israeli] side…” [Al-Mayadeen]

The Arabic-to-English media watchdog, Palestinian Media Watch, which translated and published [here] the contents of the Lebanese TV program for the benefit of people who think Rajoub is (or ever was) a peace partner, provides some useful interpretation. In saying “resistance in all of its forms”, Rajoub simply means violence against Israel. Israel is “the main enemy” of Arabs and Muslims. So why negotiate? Because, said Rajoub, the Palestinians still lack military strength:

We as yet don’t have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.”

Does this mean he has stopped being a partner for peace? No. Rajoub is a man of principle, one who says what needs to be said (depending of course on who is listening in). And one of the principles that has served him well throughout a successful career in public life is the expedient value of violence. And really, all he’s doing is sticking to his guns.

But on the other hand, what are the salaried employees of the very well-funded Geneva Initiative (mostly by the governments of France, Belgium and Switzerland), those strategists who served up Rajoub as living proof that there actually is a partner for peace with beleagured Israel, saying now? Is “oops – sorry” even in their lexicon? Or is there a more subtle, peace-friendly way to interpret “If we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning“?

Visit This Ongoing War.

State of Unreadiness

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

My colleague Timothy Whiteman at Liberty Unyielding highlighted recently the number of Air Force squadrons that will have to cease training later this year because the Air Force doesn’t have funds for the flying hours.  This is real, and it is astounding.  It will mean that, at a certain point in the near future, as early as this fall, if no additional funds become available, the cost of mounting an operation big enough to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons-related installations is likely to be too high.

This is because there will be no force depth to either sustain follow-on operations or overcome the geographic constraints U.S. forces are increasingly likely to face.  Assuming all of the Air Force’s stand-downs and readiness-losses do occur, the available front-line forces would be maxed out with a moderately scoped strike package.  To meet the task, they would require the most favorable basing options that could be available in the Persian Gulf under today’s conditions – but which may not be available.  If we don’t have those favorable basing options and the Air Force squadron groundings remain on track, the Iran strike goes from all-but-under-resourced to impossible.

There will not, after all, be two aircraft carriers on station near Iran, with their combined eight squadrons of Navy strike-fighters (more on that below).  It will in theory be possible to deploy a second carrier, but doing so is pretty much certain to require more money from Congress.  (Doing so would also enlarge and accelerate the readiness snowball for the Navy’s carrier force, a snowball that will inevitably become an avalanche of carrier unreadiness in the next three years, if world problems require unplanned operations during this period.)

The Air Force will have to carry the load of a strike on Iran, if there is to be one in the foreseeable future.  The Air Force’s forward-deployed squadrons will continue to train and conduct operational flights.  The B-2s and some of the B-52s, which can deploy immediately and/or operate globally from their bases stateside, will remain combat ready.  But the strike-fighter squadrons at their home bases in the States, which would be called on if a major operation had to be ordered, will be in an impaired state of readiness.  The aircrews will fall out of combat qualification when they haven’t been able to get their training hours in (and some aircraft maintenance will be deferred as well).  If the president wanted to order a new operation, beyond our current military commitments, it is not clear what would happen.

Geography rules

This is a good time to briefly review the features of the hole we are backing into, with respect to an Iran strike.  (I wrote more about some of them in February).  The features of this hole can be grouped geographically and in terms of military resources.

Geographically, the potential axes of approach to Iran for a nuclear-facilities strike have been whittled down significantly, through political attrition and strategic disuse.  Five years ago, U.S. forces might have approached from multiple axes, including possibilities like operating intelligence or refueling aircraft out of Turkey, or inserting special forces from Iraq.  These were at least political possibilities at that time; today, they fall between unlikely and not happening.

Moreover, it is no longer guaranteed that we would be able to launch the Air Force’s strike-fighter aircraft from Qatar or Kuwait, still less from a base in UAE or Oman.  We don’t normally operate Air Force aircraft from Bahrain, but even Bahrain – long our closest partner in the Gulf – may not be a fallback option.  Iraq will not be an option at all, and Afghanistan would object to being used as a base for launching attacks on Iran.  The same can be said of Pakistan.

If the Air Force has to launch most of the aircraft for this operation, we have a serious problem.  B-2s and B-52s launch from elsewhere, of course, but for certain types of bombing, they will require fighter escort protection while over Iran.  Refueling tankers orbiting over the Gulf will require fighter protection as well, as will the EA-3 Sentry airborne command and control platform.

We may or may not have the use of other nations’ air space to approach Iran (e.g., Kuwait’s, Jordan’s, Saudi Arabia’s, or Oman’s); if we don’t, there will be one way in and out of the Persian Gulf air space through which manned bombers will have to transit.  That in itself is a significant vulnerability.  Geographically, there is a real possibility that the U.S. would be limited to bringing aircraft in through the air space over the Strait of Hormuz.  If there is nowhere local for aircraft to recover – e.g., Oman – that limitation would effectively knock the Air Force strike-fighters out of a small operation.

The Guardian’s Continuing Obsession with Mordechai Vanunu

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

In 1985 Mordechai Vanunu left his job as a technician at Israel’s nuclear installation in Dimona.  Before leaving, however, he stole several rolls of film about the facility, which he then used to help the U.K. Sunday Times write a story that purported to expose Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

Vanunu was convicted of treason and espionage in 1988 and was released after serving 18 years in prison.  After his release, he exclaimed that he was proud of what he did.

Vanunu is still subject to travel restrictions (and other limitations) as he continues to be considered a serious danger to Israeli security owing to the fact that he holds state secrets that have not yet been published and which he reportedly said he would reveal.  Israeli courts have upheld the legitimacy of the state’s concerns, ruling that Vanunu has not changed his ways and has “repeatedly violated their injunctions” by maintaining ties and contact with the media and other parties.

Naturally, Vanunu is something of a cause celeb at the Guardian, which has published no less than 75 separate pieces (reports and commentary) on the convicted Israeli felon, including an official editorial lauding him, entitled “In Praise of…Mordechai Vanunu.”

The latest Guardian entry is a boilerplate pro-Vanunu letter-to-the-editor entitled “Mordechai Vanunu’s Suffering,” April 19, and is signed by the usual cast of U.K. anti-Zionists, including several Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) “Patrons”: Tony Benn (PSC Patron), Ben Birnberg (War on Want), Julie Christie (PSC Patron), Jeremy Corbyn MP (PSC Patron), Kate Hudson (Stop the War Coalition), Bruce Kent (PSC Patron), and Roger Lloyd-Pack (who played Trigger in BBC’s “Only Fools and Horses”).

In a 2004 interview with Amy Goodman, published at the extremist site CounterPunch, Vanunu accused the Israeli government not only of unjustly imprisoning one man, but of “betraying all of humanity and the world.”

Is there really any mystery as to why Vanunu is so admired by the Guardian?

Visit CifWatch.

The Dictator’s Lesson: ‘Nuke up Fast’

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

If you like what is happening with North Korea at the moment, you will love what happens when Iran goes nuclear.

In case anyone is in any doubt, it is always worth remembering that North Korea is a basket-case of a country – probably in the most abysmal situation of any country on earth (not forgetting the Middle East). Its people intermittently starve by the millions, and all of them lack even the most basic of amenities.

As Shin Dong-hyuk and a few other unbelievably fortunate escapees have attested, concentration camps (for once the term is not inaccurate) are maintained across the country. And even those fortunate enough not to be in them are cut off from the outside world by a regime which has the unique selling point of being the world’s only Stalinist monarchy. The authorities have no ability to provide the most basic services to the majority of its population; and after years of sanctions, can do almost nothing either internally or externally to alter the situation it finds itself in. Yet here it is, dictating the news agendas of the world.

And why? For two straightforward reasons. First, because it has a new leader of whom everyone is ignorant. No one – no other government, intelligence agency or foreign office – is entirely sure of his intentions. We do know that he spent some time at a school in Switzerland and has a fondness for basketball. But apart from that and a few other tiny details, there is almost nothing known about him. It was the same with his father and indeed his grandfather. We knew what type of sushi the current Kim’s father liked, and we knew he was a fan of Hollywood movies, but aside from such ephemera we had almost no idea of the type of man he was or the type of things he thought. Now his son – the third generation of the family to reign – is even more of a mystery. So there, undoubtedly, is the first problem.

But the second reason is even far more straightforward: North Korea is now in the Nuclear Club. No one is quite sure how rudimentary are the devices that they have set off (including the third such test just this February). But nevertheless they have managed it. Assisted by any number of rogue states, networks and cartels, the most isolated regime on earth has finally got into the only club that matters. And why? Why would a regime allow its people to suffer the most biting sanctions, the most appalling privations and itself to suffer the most complete international isolation – just for the possession of this one type of weaponry?

It is because the regime in Pyongyang knows something that everybody now knows but which those countries already in the Nuclear Club are increasingly unwilling to admit: the very clear lesson of the fate of Libya’s Colonel Qaddafi.

Qaddafi, you will remember, committed what is a clear, cardinal, school-boy error for dictators. In 2003, concerned by the U.S./U.K. and allied invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein for his WMD program, Qaddafi suddenly volunteered up – to the U.S. and U.K. it should be remembered, not the U.N. – his somewhat more-advanced-than-anybody-had-realized WMD program. Having seen Saddam Hussein fall for less, Qaddafi decided it was more trouble than it was worth in those days to continue going down that route.

But what a difference a decade makes. For apart from anything else, Qaddafi himself is now history. Having given up his WMD program, he then made the terrible error, once a rebellion against his rule began, of beginning to massacre his own people . And so – for humanitarian reasons – NATO intervened and toppled Qaddafi. And the last anyone saw of Qaddafi, he was being assaulted by a mob, beaten, having a knife put in every conceivable part of his body and then shot.

If you were a Kim or a Mullah, what lesson would you take from that? Personally, putting my dictator hat on I would take one lesson: “nuke up fast.” And certainly, on no account should you disarm. Disarmed despots are soon-to-be-dead despots. It is a lesson the North Koreans have taken on board with understandable eagerness and with – to date – considerable success. After all, for all the latest round of bellicose rhetoric against South Korea, there is no U.S. or NATO or any other kind of talk of, for instance, regime-change in North Korea. The system there may be – against stiff competition – the worst human rights violator in the world. Yet nobody is talking about toppling Kim. They are elementary nuclear, after all.

Forget the Smiles: US, Israel Still Divided on Iran

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel constituted a welcome, long overdue outreach to the Israeli people, who have received him warmly and enthusiastically.

The bond that ties Israelis and Americans is deep, and encompasses shared values, common strategic challenges, and the closest military and intelligence cooperation to date.

The visit’s timing, however, was directly linked to Iran’s continued march towards a nuclear weapon, and Obama’s concern over potential Israeli military action, despite attempts by the U.S. president and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to present a united front on the Iranian threat.

The U.S. President used the visit to speak directly to Israelis, and tried to set up a channel of communication with them over the head of Netanyahu.

This is why he declined to speak at the Israeli Knesset, and urged the Israeli public to pressure Netanyahu to restart the diplomatic process with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

During the visit, Obama and Netanyahu worked hard to generate an image of warmth and friendship among one another, and tried to undo years of public and damaging clashes.

Yet it remains apparent that the two leaders remain out of sync on the most urgent and serious threat to global security: Iran’s nuclear program.

The disagreement does not stem, as it once did, from differences in intelligence assessments of Iran’s nuclear progress. Today, the intelligence communities of both counties agree that Iran is close to a nuclear breakout phase.

A glance at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s February report reveals the disturbing fact that Iran continues to make good progress in its uranium enrichment project, while stalling for time through round after round of fruitless discussions with the international community.

Although sanctions are causing real harm to Iran’s economy, and stirring up resentment among ordinary Iranians, they have not yet managed to cause Tehran to change its mind on its nuclear program.

Iran currently possesses just under 170 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent (medium enriched uranium) according to the IAEA, meaning that it needs between 60 to 90 more kilograms to have enough for its first atomic weapon.

Israeli defense observers note that that final enrichment process, from medium to high enriched uranium, is the easiest and fastest phase.

Meanwhile, Iran has recently installed faster centrifuges at its Natanz uranium facility, a factor that will speed up the enrichment process. IAEA inspectors seeking access to Iran’s classified Parchin military site, where a suspected nuclear trigger is being developed, have been blocked at every turn.

These developments lie at the heart of Obama’s visit. Behind closed doors, it seems reasonable to assume, Obama sought to ascertain how close a potential Israeli strike might be.

He may also have sought to dissuade Netanyahu from acting alone.

Publicly, at least, Netanyahu and Obama agreed on a way to present their differences in a useful way.

During Obama’s three-day visit, both leaders stressed the right of their respective countries to take military action.

Obama acknowledged Israel’s right to “make its own decisions when it comes to the awesome decision to engage in any kind of military action, and Israel is differently situated than the United States.”

Going even further, Obama implicitly recognized that Washington’s red line for action was significantly behind that of Israel’s. “I would not expect that the prime minister would make a decision about his country’s security and defer that to any other country, any more than the United States would defer our decisions about what was important for our national security,” he said.

This, then, is the new public American-Israeli stance. The U.S. will not let Iran go nuclear, but is willing to let its sanctions experiment play out, while Israel, because of its more limited strike capabilities, cannot wait much longer before it loses the ability to act.

Because Israel’s core defense doctrine is based on the principle of never entrusting the Jewish people’s fate to others – even the best of allies – Israel may go it alone, with American approval, if Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei does not freeze his nuclear program soon.

It is far from clear whether these public stances are reflections of the positions privately held by Netanyahu and Obama.

Khamenei, for his part, wasted little time in responding to the messages coming out of Jerusalem, threatening to “annihilate Tel Aviv and Haifa” if Israel attacked his country.

Dead in the Water: Obama’s Military and Iran

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Two to three years ago, the United States Department of Defense had enough military forces on station in, or readily deployable to, the Persian Gulf region (the “CENTCOM AOR” – area of responsibility – or Southwest Asia, as it is called in the military) to execute a limited strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities without asking Congress for special funding.  The military could have performed such an operation “out of hide,” as quickly and seamlessly as the president wanted it to.

Four to five years ago, moreover, the U.S. had the regional political capital to use our bases in the local nations (e.g., Qatar and Bahrain) to launch and direct such a strike campaign.

Both of these conditions have now changed.  I wrote about the political shift in December of 2010, after the Persian Gulf nations executed a flurry of bilateral defense agreements with Iran, and Bahrain, in particular, announced that the U.S. would not be able to use Bahraini territory for launching military operations against Iran.  Even a subtle shift in these nations’ postures means that the U.S. will have less discretion in what we propose to do against Iran.  U.S. military actions that are so limited as to leave Iran able to retaliate against her neighbors may not be acceptable to our hosts.

Mounting a limited strike campaign using only U.S. Navy assets and the Air Force’s global strike bombers (which don’t need the Persian Gulf bases) has remained a fall-back option.  But as of 2013, with the funding issues inherent in the long-term budget stand-off, that option can no longer be performed out of hide.  The Navy has already had to cancel a carrier strike group deployment that it couldn’t project being able to pay for, and we can no longer assume that the Air Force will have the ready aircraft and aircrew – not to mention the fuel – to perform a bomber campaign against Iran.

The central reason is that the military doesn’t know whether or when it will get more operating funds.  There isn’t a federal budget, and the recurring fiscal showdowns between Obama and the House Republicans make all future military funding a big question mark.  There is no end-point beyond which the military knows how much money it will have.  This isn’t a question of pinching pennies for a while until the money kicks in on a date certain.  The Department of Defense doesn’t know what its future operating picture will be, beyond the next couple of months.

In the worst case, the sequestration cuts kick in on a month-to-month basis, as the fiscal stand-off between Congress and the president drags on.  In early February, in anticipation of having to “operate down” to this worst case, the Navy cancelled the scheduled deployment of the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) strike group, which was to be the second of two carrier strike groups hitherto maintained on station in the CENTCOM AOR.  Secretary Leon Panetta announced at the time that the U.S. would cut its CENTCOM-deployed carrier force to one.

A strike group brings not just the carrier and its air wing but an Aegis cruiser and/or Aegis destroyers, all with Tomahawk missile load-outs.  In multiple ways, U.S. combat power has now been cut in half in the CENTCOM AOR due to the long-running fiscal stand-off.  The level of carrier presence is insufficient today to execute a limited-strike campaign against Iran while containing the potential backlash.

Note that the Truman deployment, even if it had gone on as scheduled, would have left a gap of more than two months in the two-carrier presence in CENTCOM.  There has been one carrier strike group in CENTCOM, that of USS John C Stennis (CVN-74), since USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN-69) left the AOR in late November (returning to Norfolk, VA in December).  A gap isn’t unprecedented, in the years since the two-carrier presence was factored into carrier scheduling (although gaps are typically much shorter).  But now an actual degradation in our force posture has been announced.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is scrambling to scope out the impact of the sequestration cuts on its operations.  Big Blue foresees having to cut flying hours for the rest of the year by a third and cancel some scheduled squadron deployments overseas, both of which measures will, within months, affect force posture and readiness in CENTCOM.  So will the impending decision to further defer depot-level maintenance on overdue aircraft.  Some squadrons in the U.S. would run out of flying-hour funds by mid-May 2013, with no prospect of a new infusion of funds.  If additional squadrons were to be forward deployed to CENTCOM for a strike on Iran – and the fuel for such a massive operation set aside – much of the Air Force would have to stop flying altogether until more funds were provided.

Bibi, Tell Obama to Take His Promises and Go Home

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

News item:

When he visits Israel next month, US President Barack Obama will tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a “window of opportunity” for a military strike on Iran will open in June, according to an Israeli TV report Monday evening.

Obama will come bearing the message that if diplomatic efforts and sanctions don’t bear fruit, Israel should “sit tight” and let Washington take the stage, even if that means remaining on the sidelines during a U.S. military operation, Channel 10 reported. Netanyahu will be asked to refrain from any military action and keep a low profile, avoiding even the mention of a strike, the report said, citing unnamed officials. Translate “citing unnamed officials” as “the administration leaked.”

There is no way I can put an optimistic interpretation on this. There are four things that immediately come to mind:

First, Israel is asked to put its trust in the Obama Administration to deal with an existential threat. Simply, would you take this bet?

Second, the U.S. armed forces are stretched extremely thin as a result of the budgeting policies of the administration, and now by the likely sequester of funds. For example, the USS Harry S. Truman, scheduled to deploy to the Persian Gulf this month, will not do so (h/t: JD). The U.S. is not in a position to ‘gear up’ for anything major.

Third, Obama is said to be offering this to Israel. What will Israel be expected to do in return? I don’t have to tell you, do I? Hint: it involves the Palestinians.

Fourth, the demand to ‘remain on the sidelines’ is a direct attack on Israel’s sovereignty as well as an invitation to disaster. When the first Tomahawk hits Iran, Israel will be attacked by Hizballah, which has stockpiled 50,000 missiles for just this occasion, and probably also by Hamas. Iran, too will throw whatever it can against Israel.

The policy of ‘no self-defense’ would result in the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Israelis. It is as stark as that.

And what is the reason for this tactically foolish restriction? Wouldn’t it be better if the U.S. had Israel on its side? This is part of the deal, because the Arab world, as it did in 1993, wants to see Israel hurt and Israelis die. It is offensive to the Saudis, for example, when Jews dare to raise a hand to Arabs or Muslims. This is why Israel was required to suffer bombardment by Iraqi scuds during the Gulf War, and why it is expected to do nothing when Iranian proxies try to tear it apart.

Obama’s policy is Saudi policy. That is where the irrational push to create a Palestinian state comes from, and that is where the handcuffs on the IDF are forged.

Netanyahu must tell Barack Hussein Obama to take his promises and go home.

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