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November 1, 2014 / 8 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘nuclear proliferation’

Netanyahu: Sanctions Alone Won’t Stop Iran

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors that sanctions alone will not stop Iran, as evidence by North Korea’s continued nuclear program, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Only if sanctions are backed by “credible military threat” will there be a chance that Iran will peacefully halt its nuclear program, Netanyahu said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly stated that “all options are on the table” when it comes to stopping Iran, though he has indicated that U.S. has a different time table than Israel when it comes to resorting to the use of force.

Furthermore, various statements by administration officials, Obama’s refusal to set publicly set a red line for when the U.S. might use force, and the nomination of Chuck Hagel who in the past opposed applying sanctions against Iran, have left room to doubt whether Obama is indeed ready to use military force against Iran if necessary.

Obama’s Careful Phrasing Conceals Disasters

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

While President Obama’s State of the Union message was overwhelmingly domestically oriented, the foreign policy sections were most interesting.

The president began in the same neo-patriotic mode used in the second inaugural address, with a special emphasis on thanking U.S. troops. He used the imagery of the end of World War II paralleling the return of troops from Iraq to promote his idea that the American economy must be totally restructured.

Obama defined his main successes—careful to credit the military (whose budget he seeks to cut deeply and whose health benefits he’s already reduced) rather than his usual emphasis on taking the credit for himself—were the following points:

For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.
For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.
Most of Al Qaida’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken. And some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.Now there certainly have been accomplishments on these three fronts but these claims are also profoundly misleading and very carefully worded. Let’s take them one at a time.

Iraq Withdrawal. It is true that U.S. forces are largely out of Iraq yet this was inevitable, with one key reservation. There was no likelihood they would be there in a large combat role forever. Whatever one thinks of the invasion of Iraq, the American forces were staying for an interim period until the Iraqi army was ready. Any successor to George W. Bush would have pulled out the combat forces.

The reservation, of course, is that it was the success of the surge—which Obama and his new secretary of defense (yes, he will be confirmed) Chuck Hagel opposed. So he is taking credit for a policy that was inevitable and that was made possible by a success that he was against.

Lest you think that assessment is unfair to Obama consider this: he did absolutely nothing to make this outcome happen. No policy or strategy of his administration made the withdrawal faster or more certain.

Osama Bin Laden. This is a strange phrase: “For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.” It is a new way of putting the “Obama killed Osama” meme while hinting that al-Qaida is not a threat to the United States. Well, as Benghazi shows, al-Qaida is still a threat but wording the sentence the way Obama did implies otherwise without saying so and looking foolish at making an obviously false claim.

Al Qaeda. Notice a very strange and ungrammatical formulation: “Most of Al Qaida’s top lieutenants have been defeated.” I think this can only be understood as an incomplete change in the traditional slogan that al-Qaida has been defeated. The administration can no longer make this argument so it is looking for something that gets in bin Ladin’s assassination and that of other al-Qaida leaders (al-Qaida has been decapitated) with hinting that al-Qaida has been defeated.

In other words, someone did a bad job of proofreading the speech. Of course, all of this glosses over the fact that al-Qaida hasn’t been defeated. It is on the march in Mali, the Gaza Strip, Somalia, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Yemen, and other places.

Incidentally, al-Qaida will always be defeated politically because it has no strong political program or structure. That’s why al-Qaida kills but the Muslim Brotherhood wins. And Obama is helping the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Taliban. As for the Taliban, again there is a cute formulation: its “momentum has been broken.” In other words, the Taliban has survived, it is still launching attacks, and it might even take over large parts of Afghanistan after American troops leave. Momentum has been broken is just a fancy way of saying that its gaining power has been slowed down. Of course, after American troops leave, that momentum will probably speed up again.

In his second mention of foreign affairs, Obama spoke of economic issues, he says:

My message is simple. It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I will sign them right away.In fact, though, businesses are not fleeing the United States because the wages are lower there while the Obama Administration puts into effect increasingly tight and costly regulations and imposes higher costs (including the impact of Obamacare). Moreover, wages are lower overseas.

Report: Obama to Link Iran, Peace Process

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

U.S. President Barak Obama intends on offering Israel more U.S. pressure on Iran in exchange for greater Israeli overtures to the Palestinians, the British publication, The Sunday Times, reported today.

Early in his first term Obama tried to similarly link Israeli peace efforts and U.S. action on Iran’s nuclear program.  In testimony to Congress in April 2009, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that, “For Israel to get the kind of support its looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can’t stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and peace efforts. They go hand in hand.”

Clinton’s statement was part of an intense push by the Obama administration, which began shortly after Obama’s inauguration, to force newly elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to endorse Palestinian statehood and make concessions to the Palestinians.  In June 2009, Netanyahu endorsed the two-state solution for the first time in a major policy address at Bar Ilan University.

Obama reportedly intends to visit Israel as well as Jordan this coming March. It would be his first visit to Israel since he was first elected President.

Typically, such a presidential visit would be used to push for progress on a major issue, such as reaching a peace agreement, though almost all reports about the trip predicted that Obama would not be using the visit for such a purpose.

Why Hagel is Really Scary: He’s Typical of the Ruling Elite

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

“Joab came to the king [David] in his quarters and said, “Today you have humiliated all your followers, who this day saved your life, and the lives of your sons and daughters…by showing love for those who hate you and hate for those who love you. For you have made clear today that the officers and men mean nothing to you.” –II Samuel, 19: 6-7

If Chuck Hagel is so much dumber than you why is he the one being nominated by President Barack Obama to be secretary of defense? Answer: Hagel knows how to be dumb in the right way.

In other words, He’s simultaneously even dumber than you think but also, to use an old expression, dumb like a fox. Let me explain.

In his public self-management and especially during his confirmation hearings as secretary of defense, Hagel handled himself in a manner that showed he is incapable of fulfilling a cabinet-level position.

Here’s the main example.

Hagel said, “I support the president’s strong position on containment.” Now the truth is that there’s nothing wrong with that. He did not say the president’s position advocating containment of Iran. Contrary to the way that many writers are portraying it, what he said wasn’t incorrect, just ambiguous. He could easily have recovered.

So then some of his handlers asked him to clarify and what did he do?

“I was just handed a note that I misspoke,” he announced, “that I said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say that we don’t have a position on containment.”

Now this management alone is enough to bar him from handling one of the most important and complex jobs in the world. Let’s count the ways:

–Never admit that you’ve just been told you were wrong! He should have pocketed the note without mentioning it and simply added to his statement. What he did instead is on the level of stupidity of a television host being shown a cue card reading, “Wrap up the show, moron!” and then reading that aloud to the live audience.

–Instead, He should have said something like this: “I do not want any ambiguity in my clear statements of support for the president and for a tough policy on Iran. I support the president’s position of asserting that containment is insufficient and that our goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, leaving all options open for doing so.”

In other words, he doesn’t just not know the facts; he doesn’t know how to be a high-level official at all. He doesn’t just not know the details of international affairs; his thought is simply not coherent at all. And unlike Obama and Kerry, he doesn’t know how to hide his radicalism behind smooth phrases.

–And then he makes it worse by saying that the administration doesn’t have a policy on containment! Of course, the U.S. government does have a position on containment of Iran! It is supposedly against doing that. [Accepting that Iran has nuclear weapons and then trying to limit the damage by isolating Iran, surround it with forces, installing anti-missile and early-warning stations, etc.] President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and two now ex-defense sectaries along with tens of others expressed it daily. [Of course, it is 99 percent likely that they will end up trying containment anyway.]

For Hagel, that’s a triple goof, sort of equivalent to an Olympics gold medal winning move by a figure-skater, only in reverse!

But I have a theory. As everyone knows, Hagel is a “Republican.” Perhaps Obama was conspiring to make Hagel secretary of defense, have him show how dumb and incompetent he was, and then lead the public to conclude that all Republicans are dumb and incompetent. Brilliant as always!

Want proof? How about Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, arguably the dumbest—I didn’t say most terrible but just dumbest—member of Obama’s cabinet who is a—wait for it—Republican!

Seriously though. Can you imagine the kind of mentality that would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and the national security of the country in the hands of a man like Hagel?

Hagel’s “Global Zero” Plan

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Former Senator Chuck Hagel, nominated to be Secretary of Defense, is also a signatory of what is known as the “Global Zero” plan. It calls for the United States and Russia to begin comprehensive nuclear arms negotiations in early 2013 to achieve zero nuclear weapons worldwide by 2030 in four phases.

The first phase would be a reduction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal to 1,000 weapons from its current level — some number slightly less than 5,000 warheads. While the U.S. has now deployed 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons, the new total would include stored and reserve weapons, as well as warheads considered tactical and deployed in Europe, and therefore not regulated by current arms control agreements. By way of comparison, the former head of the U.S. Strategic Command laid out in a summer 2012 essay the comparable Russian arsenal, which he estimated was probably in excess of 10,000 nuclear warheads — a number considerably higher than many current and previous estimates of the Russian nuclear arsenal, and nearly twice that of the United States.

The Global Zero plan first would remove all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from U.S. combat bases in Europe to storage facilities in the United States. However, while these tactical U.S. weapons would no longer be able to defend Europe and NATO, Russians weapons would be able to attack all of Europe in a relatively short time — launching weapons from bases in Russia, where they would be stored, reconstituted and redeployed. Given the nature of such weapons systems, the verification of such efforts would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

The real eye-opener is that the 1,000 ceiling for the U.S. would include our tactical nuclear weapons and stored weapons for reserve emergencies, and the currently deployed 1,550 weapons. The implication is that Hagel is pushing an 80% cut in overall U.S. deployed weapons. If done proportionately, that would involve a reduction to fewer than roughly 300 total deployed strategic nuclear warheads, a level less than China, and less than India and Pakistan combined.

This further signals the elimination of the U.S. strategic nuclear Triad (air, sea and land) — 300 accountable warheads would enable the deployment of a limited bomber or submarine or IBM leg of our nuclear deterrent, but certainly not all three legs. This would have the effect, by virtually eliminating all serious deterrent capability to our adversaries, of massively increasing the instability of the international security environment — a dramatic reversal of the promises made within the New START Treaty ratification process, in which enhancing and maintaining strategic stability was one of the cornerstones of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review.

By quickly withdrawing our tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, we would be emasculating the extended deterrent umbrella which now covers Europe, and as a result seriously weaken the defense ties to our allies and friends across the Atlantic. There would also be a corresponding weakening of our deterrent umbrella over the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, just at a time when these three nations, and others, are threatened by an expanding North Korean missile and nuclear weapons capability and a major modernization program by China of its nuclear weapons. The result, based on reasonable mid-point estimates of the current PRC arsenal, would be a Chinese deployed nuclear arsenal in excess of that deployed by the United States, to say nothing of what Peking could deploy in the near and intermediate future.

The Global Zero plan also calls for “de-alerting” our nuclear weapons. That would mean any number of things, but generally it means even the severely reduced number of warheads in our deployed arsenal would not, in a crisis, be available for use if they were needed. The warheads might be removed from their missiles or bombers; they might be disabled and stored remotely — requiring many hours, days, or longer to be redeployed.

Previous administrations, as well as the current government, have in various ways discussed and considered such a move. In every instance, de-alerting has been firmly rejected. First, the proposal is totally unverifiable. Second, it is highly destabilizing: in a crisis, there would be a race to re-alert and rearm, making the first and sudden use of nuclear weapons a greater or more likely possibility. Third, de-alerting solves no “nuclear” problem, whether in concerns abut proliferation, threats of an electro-magnetic pulse [EMP] attack, or any other deterrent or arms control requirement.

Cold War Tactics to Stop Iran

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

As Americans seek to find an alternative to the stark and unappetizing choice of accepting Iran’s rabid leadership having nuclear weapons or pre-emptively bombing its nuclear facilities, one analyst offers a credible third path. Interestingly, it’s inspired by a long-ago policy toward a different foe – the Reagan administration’s ways of handling the Soviet Union – yet this unlikely model offers a useful prototype.

Abraham D. Sofaer, a former U.S. district judge and legal adviser to the State Department, now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argues in Taking On Iran: Strength, Diplomacy and the Iranian Threat (Hoover Institution, 2013) that since the fall of the shah during the Carter administration, Washington “has responded to Iranian aggression with ineffective sanctions and empty warnings and condemnations.”

Not since 1988, he notes, has the U.S. government focused on the Iranian military force that specifically protects the country’s Islamic order and most often attacks abroad, variously called the Pasdaran or Sepah in Persian and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or IRGC in English. This roughly 125,000-strong elite force, created in 1980, has an outsized role in Iran’s political and economic life. It possesses its own army, navy, and air force units, it controls ballistic missile programs, and it shares control over the country’s nuclear program. It runs the Basij, which enforces strict Islamic mores on the Iranian public. Its military forces are more important than the regular armed forces. Its Quds Force of about 15,000 agents spreads the Khomeini revolution abroad via infiltration and assassination. Its graduates staff key positions in the Iranian government.

The IRGC has played a lead role attacking Americans, their allies, and their interests, especially when one includes the IRGC’s many documented surrogates and partners, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muqtada al-Sadr movement, even the Taliban and al-Qaeda. IRGC accomplishments include the 1983 Marine barracks and U.S. Embassy bombings in Lebanon, the 1992 and 1994 bombings of Jewish targets in Argentina, the 1996 Khobar barracks bombing in Saudi Arabia, the 2011 attempt to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, and provisioning Hamas with missiles for its 2012 war with Israel (which are already being re-provisioned).

In all, IRGC attacks have caused the deaths of more than 1,000 American soldiers, and many more members of other armed forces and non-combatants. The U.S. government has condemned the IRGC as a state sponsor of terrorism and designated it as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.

Sofaer advocates a supple two-pronged approach to Tehran: “confront IRGC aggression directly and negotiate with Iran.”

Confrontation means Washington exploits “the full range of options available to curb the IRGC short of preventive attacks on nuclear sites.” He argues that U.S. forces have the right to and should target factories and storage facilities for arms, facilities associated with the IRGC (bases, ports, trucks, planes, ships), arms shipments about to be exported, and IRGC units. Sofaer’s goal is not just to to curb IRGC violence but also to “undermine IRGC credibility and influence, and help convince Iran to negotiate in earnest” over its nuclear weapon program.

Negotiations means talking to Tehran about outstanding issues, rather than trying to punish it with aloofness. Sofaer quotes James Dobbins, a former special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, as expressing this view: “It is time to apply to Iran the policies which won the Cold War, liberated the Warsaw Pact, and reunited Europe: détente and containment, communication whenever possible, and confrontation whenever necessary. We spoke to Stalin’s Russia. We spoke to Mao’s China. In both cases, greater mutual exposure changed their system, not ours. It’s time to speak to Iran, unconditionally, and comprehensively.” More broadly, along with Chester A. Crocker, another former American diplomat, Sofaer sees diplomacy as “the engine that converts raw energy and tangible power into meaningful political results.”

Confronting and negotiating in tandem, Sofaer expects, will put great pressure on Tehran to improve its behavior generally (e.g., regarding terrorism) and possibly lead it to shut down the nuclear program, while leaving available a preemptive strike on the table “if all else fails.”

Former secretary of state George P. Shultz, in his foreword to Taking on Iran, calls Sofaer’s idea “an alternative that should have been implemented long ago.” Indeed, the time is well overdue to respond to IRGC atrocities with the language of force that Iranian leaders only understand – and which has the additional benefit of possibly avoiding greater hostilities.

President’s Nomination of Hagel May Encourage Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense risks increasing the likelihood that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. It poses that risk because Hagel is well known for his opposition both to sanctions against Iran and to employing the military option if necessary.

These views are inconsistent with the very different views expressed by President Obama. The President has emphasized on numerous occasions that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons and will use military force if necessary to prevent that “game changer.”

The nomination of Hagel thus sends a mixed message to the mullahs in Tehran, who will likely interpret it as a change from a red light to a yellow or green one when it comes to their desire to develop nuclear weapons. Sending a mixed message at this point can increase the chances that Iran will miscalculate and act in a foolhardy manner thus requiring the actual use of the military option—an eventuality that nobody wants.

The goal of America’s policy toward Iran has always been to frighten the mullahs into believing President Obama’s threat to use military force if sanctions fail. “I don’t bluff,” President Obama has famously and publicly stated. It is imperative that the Iranian leadership believe this. If they do, they may well decide that the sanctions they are currently undergoing are too painful to endure, if the end result is that they will never be permitted to develop nuclear weapons. If they don’t believe President Obama’s threat, then the sanctions alone will not dissuade them from pursuing their nuclear goal. The nomination of Senator Hagel will strengthen the hand of those within the Iranian leadership who think that President Obama is bluffing.

It is also important that the Israeli leadership believes that President Obama really has Israel’s back when it comes to preventing Iran from endangering the Jewish state by obtaining nuclear weapons. Any loss of trust in this regard may result in an Israeli decision to take unilateral military action to protect its citizens against nuclear attacks.

This is the wrong time to send mixed messages by nominating a man who has, at best, a mixed record with regard to sanctions and the military option against Iran and with regard to having Israel’s back.

Senator Hagel will have an opportunity to clarify, and hopefully to change, his previous statements with regard to these issues. He should be asked probing questions about sanctions, about the military option and about Israel’s security. In his answers he must persuade the Iranian leadership that there is no distance between his current views and those of the President who has nominated him. The President must also persuade the Iranian leadership that his nomination of Hagel does not constitute any backing down from his commitment to use military force, if sanctions don’t work.

Independence may be a virtue for a senator, but it is a vice when it presents conflicting messages at a time when it is imperative that the Iranian leadership understand that the Obama Administration, indeed the United States as a whole, speaks with one voice when it says that Iran will never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, even if that requires the use of military force if all other options fail.

Normally a president, especially a president reelected to a second term with a substantial majority, should be entitled to pick his own Secretary of Defense. But when the President’s decision risks sending a mixed message that could increase the chances of having to employ the military option against Iran, the Senate has an especially important role to play. The burden is now on Senator Hagel to persuade the Senate, the American people, and the leaders of Iran that he is fully supportive of the President’s commitment not to contain a nuclear armed Iran, but to prevent such a catastrophe from occurring, even if that requires the use of military force to achieve that commendable goal.

Nor is this a liberal-conservative or Democratic-Republican issue. Reportedly, the Hagel nomination has been very controversial within the White House itself, with some of President Obama’s closest advisers being critical of it. Many Democrats, both elected officials and rank and file voters, are deeply concerned about the wisdom of the President’s nomination of Senator Hagel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/presidents-nomination-of-hagel-may-encourage-irans-nuclear-ambitions/2013/01/09/

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