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Posts Tagged ‘nuclear’

For Israel, What Next In The Matter Of Iran? (First of Three Parts)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Israel’s final decision concerning what to do about a nuclear Iran will depend on answers to certain core psychological questions. Is the Iranian adversary rational, valuing national survival more highly than any other preference, or combination of preferences? Or, on even a single occasion, is this enemy more apt to prove itself irrational, thereby choosing to value certain preferences more highly than the country’s indispensable physical security?

It is also possible that authoritative Iranian decision-makers could be neither rational or irrational but mad. In such unlikely, but especially daunting, circumstances, deterrence would no longer serve any conceivable Israeli strategic purpose. At that point, Jerusalem’s only effectively remaining policy choice would be: (1) to hope for regime change in Tehran, but otherwise passively await Israel’s destruction, or (2) to strike first itself, preemptively, whatever the global outcry, and irrespective of the shattering military consequences.

These are not frivolous or contrived descriptions of presumed Iranian leadership orientations. To be sure, the resultant wisdom of any considered Israeli preemption will ultimately depend on choosing correctly, and on reliably anticipating Iranian judgments over an extended period of time. For genuine safety, Israel must prepare to make decisions that are subtle, nuanced, and of protracted utility.

This is not the time to confuse conventional meanings with strategic precision. Even an irrational Iranian leadership could maintain a distinct and determinable hierarchy of preferences. Unlike trying to influence a “mad” leadership, therefore, it could still be purposeful for Israel to attempt deterrence of such a “merely” irrational adversary.

More than likely, Iran is not a mad or crazy state. Though it is true, at least doctrinally, that Iran’s political and clerical leaders could sometime decide to welcome the Shiite apocalypse, and even its associated destructions, these enemy decision-makers might still remain subject to certain different sorts of deterrent threats.

Faced with such extraordinary circumstances, conditions under which an already nuclear Iran could not be effectively prevented from striking first by threatening the usual harms of retaliatory destruction, Israel would need to identify, in advance, less orthodox but still promising, forms of reprisal.

Such eccentric kinds of reprisal would inevitably center upon those preeminent religious preferences and institutions that remain most indisputably sacred to Shiite Iran.

For Israel, facing a rational adversary would undoubtedly be best. A presumably rational leadership in Tehran would make it significantly easier for Jerusalem to reasonably forego the preemption option. In these more predictable circumstances, Iran could still be reliably deterred by some or all of the standard military threats available to states, credible warnings that are conspicuously linked to “assured destruction.”

But it is not for Israel to choose the preferred degree of enemy rationality.

Unless there is an eleventh-hour defensive first strike by Israel – a now improbable attack that would most likely follow an authoritative determination of actual or prospective Iranian “madness” – a new nuclear adversary in the region will make its appearance. For Israel, this portentous development would then mandate a prudent and well thought out plan for coexistence. Then, in other words, Israel would have to learn to “live with” a nuclear Iran.

There would be no reasonable alternative.

And it would be a complex and problematic education. Forging such a requisite policy of nuclear deterrence would require, among other things, (1) reduced ambiguity about particular elements of Israel’s strategic forces; (2) enhanced and partially disclosed nuclear targeting options; (3) substantial and partially revealed programs for improved active defenses; (4) certain recognizable steps to ensure the perceived survivability of its nuclear retaliatory forces, including more or less explicit references to Israeli sea-basing of such forces; (5) further expansion of preparations for both cyber-defense and cyber-war; and, in order to bring together all of these complex and intersecting enhancements in a coherent mission plan, and (6) a comprehensive strategic doctrine.

Additionally, because of the residual but serious prospect of Iranian irrationality – not madness – Israel’s military planners will have to identify suitable ways of ensuring that even a nuclear “suicide state” could be deterred. Such a uniquely perilous threat could actually be very small, but, if considered together with Iran’s Shiite eschatology, it might still not be negligible.

Further, while the expected probability of having to face such an irrational enemy state could be very low, the expected disutility or anticipated harm of any single deterrence failure could be flat out unacceptable.

(Continued Next Week)

New Evidence Shows: Iran Working on Nuclear Bomb

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

The Associated Press on Tuesday published a diagram showing that Iranian scientist have run computer simulations that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

A.P. reported that it got the diagram from officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon.

A.P.  furthermore wrote that the International Atomic Energy Agency — the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog — last year reported that it had obtained diagrams indicating that Iran was calculating the “nuclear explosive yield” of potential weapons.

A senior diplomat who is considered neutral on the issue confirmed that the graph obtained by the A.P. was indeed one of those cited by the IAEA in that report.

This alarming news came after the publication of the latest IAEA report that was unusually outspoken about the development of a nuclear weapon by Iran.

The IAEA report contained the following information:

40.  ‘The Annex to the Director General’s November 2011 report (GOV/2011/65) provided a detailed analysis of the information available to the Agency, indicating that Iran has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.’

Since November 2011, the Agency has obtained more information which further corroborates the analysis
contained in the aforementioned Annex.

42. As indicated in Section B above, since the November 2011 Board, the Agency, through several rounds of formal talks and numerous informal contacts with Iran, has made intensive efforts to seek to resolve all of the outstanding issues related to Iran’s nuclear programme, especially with respect to possible military dimensions, but without concrete results.

43. Parchin:…information provided to the Agency by Member States indicates that Iran constructed a large explosives
containment vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments…

44. As previously reported, satellite imagery available to the Agency for the period from February 2005 to January 2012 shows virtually no activity at or near the building housing the
containment vessel. Since the Agency’s first request for access to this location, however, satellite imagery shows that extensive activities and resultant changes have taken place at this location.

45. …such experiments would be strong indicators of possible nuclear weapon development….the Agency notified Iran of that location in January 2012. Iran has stated that “the allegation of nuclear activities in Parchin site is baseless.”

Originally published at the Missing Piece.

Will the Iranian Threat Go Away? (Podcast)

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

When Bibi Netanyahu addressed the U.N. and challenged the world to take a tough stance on Iran, his call to draw a red line met with comments on his artistic ability and mixed reviews on his political insights.

One can argue that the Europeans take the threat of Iran seriously. The European Union imposed its toughest sanctions on Iran to date with the hope that the economic effects of the sanctions will force the country’s Islamic government to give up its nuclear ambitions. However, without the backing of a threat of military action, the EU’s sanctions may not have much deterrence value against Iran.

America’s stance on Iran isn’t clearly drawn either. I recently spoke with Professor Alan Dershowitz, attorney and political commentator on the subject of Iran and its relationship with the West. Professor Dershowitz believes that, “President Obama means it when he says that he will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, but he’s being undercut terribly by J. Street, which claims to be a pro-Israel organization.”

Furthermore, Professor Dershowitz does not think that sanctions, such as those adopted by Europe, are necessarily effective: “I think sanctions alone will never work, but sanctions combined with a credible military threat could work, but it has to be a credible military threat.”

However, this is not so simple either. In the interview, Professor Dershowitz adds, “The United States doesn’t want Israel to unilaterally attack Iran. It’s concerned about what the implications would be both for Israel and for the international community. I think it’s very clear the United States government doesn’t want Israel to attack Iran. Israel doesn’t want to attack Iran except as an absolute last resort. … I think Iran will stop its development of nuclear weapons only if it believes it will be attacked by the United States.”

So what’s the answer? How will the Iranian threat go away? Watch this video of my interview with Professor Alan Dershowitz to find out more.

Middle East Crises of 2013 Already in Dress Rehearsal

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

If 2011 was the year of the Arab Spring, 2013 looks to be the year of the Arab Fall. The hopes of quick, easy democracy have already been eclipsed by the rise of radical Islamist groups, which are no less extreme for coming to power through elections. And so the coming months are likely to see more disillusion, violence, and the entrenchment of Islamist regimes.

Let’s start with the Gaza Strip. Hamas is determined to fight Israel in the belief that it can win total victory. Its five years in power have had no moderating effect and it doesn’t care how much of Gaza is destroyed, how much the people there suffer, or how many are killed. It puts a priority on jihad and hopes that international pressure will always stop Israel from continuing its retaliation too long, much less overthrowing the regime there.

Hamas may be moved by fearing that the regime might fall, the people might turn actively against it (but with Fatah not trying to overthrow Hamas a real internal threat is unlikely). But the key factor is how much help Hamas can expect from Egypt. Right now and in the current war, Egypt is still cautious. The regime hasn’t really entrenched itself in power, begun Islamizing the country, and consolidated control over the army. But in the coming months, as the regime needs to distract its peoples attention from failures and mobilize support the next war with Hamas might involve some higher level of Egyptian involvement. And that would really be a conflict to shake the Middle East.

Then there was the place where hope for democracy was greatest, Tunisia, where the dramatic events of 2011 began. The Muslim Brotherhood won with just over 40 percent of the votes—with the secularists split into four rival parties—and formed a government that was to oversee the transition and prepare a constitution.

Now, however, there is a violent Salafist movement which has clashed with secularists and is trying to impose its brand of Sharia on the society. There have been street battles, deaths, and attacks on police stations. A local secular party leader was murdered by Islamists; an Islamist stabbed a police chief and in response to that attacker’s arrest, hundreds of armed Salafists went into the streets threatening retaliation. Rioters torched the American school, attacked the U.S. embassy, and plotted to kidnap several members of Tunisia’s small Jewish community.

Islamic clerics are increasingly outspoken in their demands for a total transformation of the country. That doesn’t mean they will win but it does mean there will be a growing atmosphere of intimidation, violence, and extremism. Despite a lot of talk and some international conferences with lots of air travel and nice banquets, there has been no massive international aid effort for Tunisia. Tourism is plummeting.

The “moderate” Islamist Rachid al-Ghannouchi, gives speeches to loyalists explaining that it will take time to impose Sharia law. First, the Islamists have to get their people into controlling the government ministries and the army.

Everything that’s been happening in Tunisia has been taking place on a far larger scale in Egypt. We still haven’t seen a draft of the constitution but since it is being written by the Brotherhood and Salafists the limit on Islamist dictatorship will only be what they are willing to put into it as a sign of their patience and caution. The army was quickly taken over with the forced retirement of lots of officers and their replacement by opportunists willing to follow the Brotherhood’s orders.

During the coming months, we can expect to see more attacks on Christians, women rejecting Islamist restrictions, and secularists. Assaults on American institutions in these two countries are quite likely, even if there is not some new offensive video. What is especially disconcerting is the growing data on the formation of terrorist groups. In the Sinai peninsula, , there is already a low-level war going on as Salafists launch attacks on dissidents, police stations, and across the across the border into Israel.

One factor that has definitely not changed in Middle Eastern politics is how violence and killing—or the threat to do so—is not just a last resort, it’s the first resort.

For example, a Syrian opposition activist and a pro-Hizballah Lebanese journalist were being interviewed on Al-Arabiya television, the more moderate rival of al-Jazira. The activist, Ammar al-Qurabi, director-general of the National Organization of Human Rights in Syria, at one point remarked that Hizballah Secretary-General Nasrallah would end up being found hiding in a sewer like, he said, Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qadhafi. He might also have mentioned that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured while hiding in a hole. Both former dictators were executed.

The journalist, Ghassan Jawwad, angrily responded, “You will be killed” for saying that. The host tried to calm Jawwad in vain.

Qurabi later remarked, “This is their response to any attempt at dialogue,” he said. A Lebanese friend of mine once remarked that a Syrian official could never say anything without including a threat. And thus Qurabi added, “This was the basis for the revolution in Syria.” But it is also the basis for the death of tens of thousands in Syria and increased violence in Lebanon.

Three events that might not make it into 2013—they could take until 2014–but whose signs will be increasingly visible, are:

–The end of the Syrian civil war with the overthrow of the Bashar al-Asad regime and the coming to power of a rebel coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists.

–An economic crisis in Egypt that will drive the Brotherhood regime—and simultaneously give it an excuse—toward greater extremism, a crackdown on dissidents, and a growing hysteria against the United States and Israel.

–Iran obtaining nuclear weapons or being attacked by Israel.

In Libya, though, things may move more quickly. There, in contrast to Egypt and Tunisia, there is no Islamist regime to appease the Salafists or keep them under control. The killing of four Americans in Benghazi seems like a prelude to a new Libyan civil war. Radical Islamists, with support from some of the armed militias that did or did not join the country’s army, try to overthrow what they see as a Western puppet regime despite its winning an election.

The bitter fruits of the Obama Administration’s pro-Islamist policy will be increasingly visible. The only question is whether the Obama Administration will still be around to respond ineffectively or even to keep helping the anti-American forces.

[For a graphic vision of what might be coming elsewhere see this amazing collection of Russian photos from Syrian civil war Photos 5-8: the killing by rebels of a guy in civilian clothes (pro-regime militiaman?) Most of the weapons are AK-47 and other Russian equipment with the exception of a futuristic-looking AUG, Austrian-made assault rifle.]

[And for a really good lecture on the realities of Egypt and of Obama policy there--including the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood and nuclear weapons--see the lecture by Raymond Stock here.]

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Next Stop: Obama Puts his Trust in Negotiations with Iran

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Originally published by Rubin Reports.

The most important foreign policy effort President Barack Obama will be making over the next year is negotiating with Iran. The terms of the U.S. offer are clear: if Iran agrees not to build nuclear weapons, it will be allowed to enrich a certain amount of uranium, supposedly for purposes of generating nuclear energy (which Iran doesn’t need) and other benefits, supposedly under strict safeguards.

Will Iran accept such a deal? The Obama Administration and others argue as follow: Sanctions have taken a deep bite out of Iran’s economy and frightened the regime with the prospect of instability. Iranian leaders are concluding that nuclear weapons aren’t worth all of this trouble. They are interested in becoming wealthy not spreading revolution and this includes even the once-fanatical Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which is steadily gaining power in the country.

In a few months, June 2013, Iran will have elections to choose a new president to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Perhaps, goes the argument, they will pick someone more flexible and less provocative, a signal that they want to stand down from the current confrontation. Thus, a deal is really possible and it could be implemented.

I won’t dismiss this altogether. The truth is that despite extremist statements and radical tactics, the Iranian regime is by no means ideologically or theologically mad. The rulers want to stay in power and they have been far more cautious in practice than they have in rhetoric. Despite the claims that the Iranian regime just wants to get nuclear weapons to attack Israel as soon as possible, a serious analysis of this government’s history, its leaders and factions, indicates otherwise.

A key factor here is that Iran wants nuclear weapons for “defensive” purposes. By this I do not mean that a poor Tehran regime is afraid that it will be attacked for no reason at all and thus needs to protect itself. Not at all. It is Iran’s aggressive, subversive, and terrorist-sponsoring positions that jeopardize the regime. Like it or not, if the Tehran government got on with the business of repressing its own people without threatening its neighbors the world would be little concerned with its behavior. But it has refused to take that easy and profitable choice.

Rather, Iran wants nuclear weapons so it can continue both regime and behavior without having to worry about paying any price for the things it does. The situation has, however, changed in two respects. First, the “Arab Spring” has put an end to any serious hope by the regime of gaining leadership in the Middle East or in the Muslim world. Two years ago it was possible that Arabs would dance in the street and cheer Iran having a nuclear weapon as the great hope of radical Islam. Today, though, the Sunni Islamists are on the march and have no use for rival Shias, much less ethnic Persians.

They want to make their own revolutions, destroy Israel, expel the West, and seize control of the Middle East for Sunni Arabs and not under the leadership of Persian Shias. Iran’s sphere of influence has been whittled down to merely Lebanon, Iraq, and a rapidly failing Syrian regime. Under these conditions, getting nuclear weapons will not bring Iran any great strategic gain.

Second, sanctions have indeed been costly for Iran, though one could exaggerate the extent of this suffering. Additional internal problems have been brought on by the rulers own mismanagement and awesome levels of corruption. In other words, to stay in power and get even richer Iran’s leaders, along with disposing of Ahmadinejad, might seek a way out of their ten-year-long drive for nuclear weapons.

Thus, it is not impossible that Iran would take up the Obama Administration on the proposed deal either because the leaders now seek riches rather than revolution or because they intend to cheat or move far more gradually toward getting nuclear weapons or at least the capability to obtain them quickly if and when they decide to do so.

It is, however, equally or more possible that Iran would use the negotiations to wrest concessions from the West without giving anything in return and to stall for time as it steadily advances toward its nuclear goal. As this happens, Israeli concerns will be dismissed by the administration and the mass media. The kinder ones will say that Israel is being unnecessarily concerned; the more hostile that it is acting as a warmonger when everything can be settled through compromise.

NPT Meeting Canceled Due to Israel Nonparticipation

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

AP reports that Western diplomats announced that the long planned meeting of the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries has been cancelled because Israel, not a signatory on the NPT treaty, has declined to show up.

The Arab states and Iran (yes, that’s right), all signatories of the NPT want Israel to sign the NPT and reveal and give up its supposed nuclear weapons stockpile. Israel says it will be prepared to sign the NPT treaty only when the Middle East countries sign a peace treaty with her, making nuclear weapons unnecessary.

The meeting was sponsored by the US, Russia and the U.K.

What Obama Should Have Done in the Last Four Years and Won’t Do in the Next Four Years

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Over and over again I’ve written about what President Barack Obama should do. Now the voters have given him a whole new chance. He could take it and change his policy. I don’t believe he will do that but let me lay out both what he’s been wrong and what he should do, just in case Obama is seeking a different approach.

What he did in the first and will do in the second term: Foster revolutionary Islamism in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

What he should have done and should do now: Do what Franklin Roosevelt did in 1941 and Harry Truman in 1947 and George Bush in 1990. Lead an international coalition that will systematically fight against a totalitarian enemy. Today, that means revolutionary Islamism. The loose coalition should include Europe, anti-Islamist Arab regimes (Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Arab states) and pro-democratic opposition movements (Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, and Syria).

What he did….: Support Islamist opposition groups.

What he should have done….: Support anti-Islamist and moderate opposition groups.

What he did….: Pressed Israel to reduce pressure on the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip and helped bring an Egyptian regime that backed Hamas.

What he should have done….: Supported a reformed—not overthrown—Egyptian regime and Israel in opposing Hamas and subverting its rule.

What he did….: Gave support and aid to the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt despite lip service to defending women’s and Christian rights and the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

What he should have done….: Clearly condition aid on Egypt to protecting women, Christians, and moderates; take a strong stand on the regime’s permitting cross-border attacks on Israel and gutting the peace treaty. The Obama Administration has, and will have, no credibility with an anti-American extremist and antisemitic Egyptian government.

What he did: Celebrate the Turkish regime as a great example of democracy and moderate Islam. Did nothing as that regime went into a non-shooting war with Israel, backing Hamas, Hizballah, and Iran; rewarded Ankara with special treatment, including letting it organize the Syrian opposition.

What he should have done….: Without provoking a conflict, use U.S. leverage to press Turkey’s rulers to change their policies. No rewards without their help in promoting U.S. goals. Be suspicious of the regime’s intentions and note its suppression of democracy within Turkey.

What he did….: Accepted the Lebanese government dominated by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Syria.

What he should have done….: Back the moderate Lebanese opposition that opposed the regime in order to combat the Iran-Syria bloc.

What he did….: Backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria’s civil war and did not interfere with weapons going to Salafist groups as long as they were not al-Qaida affiliates.

What he should have done….Support moderates and anti-Islamists in Syria against both the Islamists and the regime.

What he did….: Acted as if all of Libya’s problems had been solved; tried to please the regime and show his niceness by not intervening to save Americans in the September 11 Benghazi attacks.

What he should have done: Know that the U.S. is involved in an ongoing conflict in Libya and there will be more attacks in future.

What he did: Nothing.

What he should have done: Investigate the Benghazi incident seriously and honestly (his choice for chief investigator, former State Department hack Thomas Pickering, is an opportunist who will write whatever the White House wants), get those responsible and make sure that nothing like that has ever happened again. Perhaps an apology to the families of those killed would be in order.

What he did….: Pushed the “peace process” for two years though then he did get the idea it wouldn’t work. He also opposed, albeit starting far too late, Palestinian Authority (PA) unilateral statehood bids. But will he continue that revised policy into a second term?

What he should have done: Realize the peace process isn’t going anywhere and understand that’s because PA intransigence and the Hamas challenge that is radicalizing even further Palestinian policy. When the P.A. subverts U.S. policies be willing to pressure and criticize it.

What he did….: Said he supported the rights of Christians and women from (Islamist) repression. But he never did anything about it, zero. Cozied up to Syria and Iran at the very moment they were violently suppressing dissidents at home and opponents abroad.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/what-obama-should-have-done-in-the-last-four-years-and-wont-do-in-the-next-four-years/2012/11/08/

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