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Nuclear Posture And Israel’s Survival

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Nuclear weapons and nuclear war. This is not a new subject for my column in The Jewish Press. What is new is the urgent need to confront, head on, an expanding international movement to eviscerate Israel’s nuclear posture – and at precisely the precarious moment when this critical posture should actually be made more visible, and hence, more compelling.

Si vis pacem, para bellum atomicum. “If you want peace, prepare for atomic war.” At first glance it would seem an odd maxim for Israel, perhaps a misconceived admission of belligerence, or even an embarrassingly empty witticism.

Still, however reluctantly, this maxim must become Israel’s core strategic mantra in the years just ahead. This is not because a nuclear war is necessarily likely, but rather because Israel’s nuclear deterrent will remain utterly indispensable for the prevention of large-scale conventional conflict.

Nonetheless, the myriad threats facing Israel are not mutually exclusive. With Iran’s steady and unhindered nuclearization, an eventual nuclear war, or even a “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack, cannot be ruled out. Considered together with the plausible understanding that an Iranian nuclear enemy could be driven by apocalyptic visions of jihad, this means Israel’s military planners will need to augment credible strategic deterrence with apt forms of diplomacy, ballistic missile defense, and (possibly) preemption.

At the moment, this last option might already be limited to cyber-attacks, assassinations and/or regime-change interventions, and/or to certain more traditional sorts of defensive physical harms. Jurisprudentially, all of these kinds of preemption could be considered as entirely proper expressions of “anticipatory self-defense.

Now, Israel must simultaneously examine the strongly related and inter-penetrating issue of a Palestinian state. If President Obama or his successor should persist with the so-called Road Map To Peace in the Middle East, an independent state of Palestine could still be carved out of Israel. Palestine would then become an additional and largely optimal platform for launching future war and terror.

President Obama still seeks “a world free of nuclear weapons.” However, the existential threat posed by a Palestinian state would require some forms of prior Israeli nuclear disarmament. Once a new enemy state and its allies believed that Israel had been bent sufficiently to their nicely-phrased “nonproliferation” demands, an adversarial military strategy could progress rapidly from terror to war, and subsequently from attrition to annihilation.

Any discernible movement toward Israeli denuclearization could remove the tiny country’s last stage barrier to national survival.

To be sure, Israel’s unilateral nuclear disarmament is improbable. But it is not entirely out of the question. For whatever reason, certain of the country’s leading academic strategists continue to advance this plainly insupportable recommendation. I have debated these strategists myself, most recently on the pages of Harvard University’s leading journal, International Security.

True, it is generally difficult to imagine nuclear weapons as anything other than implements of evil. Still, there are circumstances wherein a particular state’s possession of such weapons may be all that protects it from catastrophic war or genocide. Moreover, because such weapons may most effectively deter international aggression, at least in those cases where the prospective aggressor remains rational, their possession could also protect neighboring states (both friends and foes) from war-related, or even nuclear-inflicted harms.

Not all members of the Nuclear Club must necessarily represent a security threat. Some such members may even offer a distinct benefit to world peace and security. This point should already be clear to anyone who can remember the Cold War.

Should Israel ever be deprived of its nuclear forces because of naive hopes for peace, it could become vulnerable to overwhelming attacks from enemy states. Though such an existential vulnerability might be prevented, in principle, by simultaneously instituting parallel forms of chemical/biological weapons disarmament among these enemies, such parallel steps would never actually be undertaken. Meaningful verification of compliance in these complex matters is very difficult. Further, any such verification would become even more problematic in those conceivable cases wherein several enemy states might be involved.

It is time to be clear. Nuclear weapons are not the problem per se. In the volatile Middle East, the core threat to peace remains a far-reaching and unreconstructed jihadist commitment to “excise the Jewish cancer.”

Jerusalem should finally understand that the Road Map, like the prior Oslo agreements, is merely a convenient enemy expedient. Taken seriously in Jerusalem, it could easily become a cartographic detour to national oblivion.

Driving The Iranian Regime Into The Ground

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

There’s no question Iran’s corrupt and abusive regime is feeling the bite of tough new sanctions. These sanctions are our only hope short of armed conflict of stopping Iran – the world’s number one sponsor of terror and single greatest threat to the state of Israel – from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The clock is ticking. If we’re going to apply the fullest economic pressure to stop Iran, we’ll need more than governments to do it. Consumers – that means you and me – have to assert their power as well.

We launched www.IranWatchList.com earlier this year to do just that. Together with Iran180 and United Against Nuclear Iran, my office has been mobilizing consumer pressure to force Western car companies to cut their Iranian ties.

Unscrupulous automakers have maintained, and in some cases expanded, their Iranian business by exploiting sanction loopholes. But they can’t evade their consumer base here in the U.S. so easily.

That is why this past week I stood with strong allies in my anti-nuclear Iran fight to shine light on two luxury car companies that have recently increased their business presence in Iran: Maserati and Lamborghini.

These expensive cars are purchased by the elite and powerful members of the Iranian regime, who are the main targets of sanctions. The average Maserati sells for $300,000—roughly 1,000 times more than the average Iranian household makes in a month. These companies are also propping up the Iranian regime by allowing them to project signs of strength and prosperity to potential investors and Iranians living abroad.

We need to ensure that companies like this know doing business in Iran will cost them valuable business here in the United States.

On October 5, following months of reports that Maserati was planning on opening a dealership in Tehran,Maserati Center for Iran announced on its Facebook page that its new glitzy dealership had opened for business at 472 Mirdamad Boulevard – Tehran’s Fifth Avenue.

I joined with our former UN ambassador Mark Wallace earlier this month to give the two luxury automakers a chance to renounce their Iranian dealings. Neither said a word. Last week, we added both companies to our Watch List, ensuring that consumers looking to take a test drive would know their purchase could help fuel a nuclear Iran.

This is how we’re going to cut the Iranian regime’s economic lifeline. Maserati’s and Lamborghini’s actions are all legal. The car companies make use of non-sanctioned banks to handle all the sales transactions, and they are trying to cash in on their competitors’ exit from the Iranian market because of sanctions. But threatening their U.S. market makes them think twice. Almost half of the 6,200 Maseratis sold every year are sold in the United States.

Since the launch of our campaign we have successfully pressured four car companies – Volvo, Porsche, Hyundai and Fiat – to pull out of Iran. This is making a huge difference. The car industry is the second-biggest sector of Iran’s economy after oil and gas. Consumer pressure and tightened sanctions have led to a 42 percent drop in Iran’s car production so far this year.

The stakes could not be higher. We cannot allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This is a government that abuses and murders its own citizens. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a rabid Holocaust denier. He has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. With a nuclear bomb, he could hold the whole Middle East hostage.

And the threat to New Yorkers is just as clear. Iran’s agents have surveyed New York City for potential targets in the past year. As the number one target of terrorists in America, our city would be in profound danger if the world’s number one sponsor of terror acquired a nuclear bomb.

You can help. Visit www.IranWatchList.com and share it with your neighbors. They deserve to know if the car they are purchasing is sold by a company that is irresponsibly backing Iran’s dangerous regime.

Let’s send a message to companies around the world. You can do business with the regime in Tehran – or with the American people. The days of doing both are over.

Iranian Money Laundering Network Running through Vienna

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

According to reports in the Austrian news magazine “Profil” and the British “Telegraph,” the Iranian regime uses Austrian banks to launder money in order to circumvent the sanctions and to provide technology for its nuclear program. A representative of the Iranian Center for Innovation and Technology Cooperation (CITC) has been in Vienna as recently as September. CITC is closely related to the office of President Ahmadinejad and has been sanctioned by the US due to its direct involvement in Iran’s nuclear and missile program.

Stop the Bomb, a European coalition which works towards the enactment of economic and political sanctions against the Iranian Islamist regime, has criticized the lack of action by the Austrian authorities: “Apparently, the authorities knew about the years of excessive traveling of a representative of the CITC, without taking an interest,” says Simone Dinah Hartmann, STB’s spokesperson. “We demand that this case and the general involvement of Austrian banks be fully investigated and conclusions be drawn. The latest reports prove that only a solid EU travel ban for all representatives of the Iranian regime can prevent Iran from continuing to procure critical components for its nuclear program and laundering money in Europe,” Hartmann added.

STB points out that the laxity of the Austrian authorities as well as the suspected involvement of Austrian banks in the circumvention of the sanctions stand in the tradition of Austria’s previous policy towards Iran. Back in 2006, the president of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Ali-Naqi Khamoushi, named Austria the “gateway to the European Union” for Iran. STB states that the recently passed EU sanctions that were supported by Austria, in particular the prohibition of the import Iranian natural gas, are steps in the right direction. However, these sanctions are hardly enough to stop the regime in Tehran from continuing its nuclear weapons program and the brutal repression of the Iranian people. Austrian companies, in spite of all previous sanctions resolutions, are continuing to do business with Iran in the extent of hundreds of millions, STB reports. While exports are declining slightly, imports have exploded in the first half of 2012 and several hundred of Austrian companies are still active in Iran.

Despite of the massive criticism, which has been voiced by STOP THE BOMB and numerous Members of the European parliament, including its Vice-president, as well as two democratic members of the US senate, the Austrian MEP Josef Weidenholzer (SPÖ) will still partake in a trip to Iran planned by the “Delegation for relations with Iran” of the European Parliament. Simone Dinah Hartmann stated: “We continue to call for the cancellation of this courting of the Iranian regime. Dialogue, as being preached by politicians like Weidenholzer, only buys the Iranian regime more time to work on its nuclear program and undermine the efforts of the Iranian opposition. Weidenholzer should follow the example set by Belgian social democrat Kathleen van Bremt who has withdrawn her participation from the Iran trip publicly.”

The October Non-Surprise: Secret Talks

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

In my last blog, I called attention to a report that the US and Iran had made a secret agreement to end sanctions in return for a halt or pause in uranium enrichment. I suggested that this could be an “October Surprise:” the Obama campaign could claim that the President’s policy of partial sanctions and “tough diplomacy” had forced the Iranians to back down from their march toward nuclear weapons.

In fact, I said, such a deal would be more likely to guarantee the success of the Iranian program than to stop it. But by the time this became clear, the election would be over.

Yesterday the NY Times reported (based on remarks by unnamed Obama Administration officials) that in fact the US and Iran had recently reached a secret understanding, but only to hold one-on-one talks on the nuclear issue:

It has the potential to help Mr. Obama make the case that he is nearing a diplomatic breakthrough in the decade-long effort by the world’s major powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but it could pose a risk if Iran is seen as using the prospect of the direct talks to buy time. (my emphasis)

In what is perhaps a Freudian slip, the Times writers note a “risk” — to Obama’s reelection — if this gambit is perceived  by voters as futile, but not in that it might actually help the Iranian regime realize its plans!

Iran has denied the report. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor also denied it, in a carefully worded statement, saying “It’s not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections.” The Times article suggests that there is an agreement in principle, but not a “final agreement.”

It seems to me that simply talking with Iran would not give a significant boost to the Obama campaign, especially if there were any concessions to the regime required just to begin talks.

But it would not surprise me to hear that secret negotiations were presently in progress to try to reach a substantive agreement of some kind before the election, because a deal that could be presented as a victory for the president and his policy would be huge.

This presents a clear moral choice for President Obama and his advisers. Should they go for a big “victory” that will at best give Iran more time and at worst provide it with the cover it needs to go nuclear — and gain 5 points in the polls?

It will certainly tempting for the administration to go for a deal. After all, they may rationalize, they can fix things up after they are reelected.

There is enough uncertainty already, about the amount of enriched uranium Iran already has, about secret installations, about the progress of their weaponization program, etc. The last thing we should do is give them any more time or wiggle room.

We don’t need a “diplomatic breakthrough.” We need to tighten sanctions and follow up with a credible threat of military action. That is the announcement I hope to hear from the president in the next two weeks.

Visit FresnoZionism.org.

Negotiations with Iran: Obama’s ‘October Surprise’ to Help Win Election?

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Visit Rubin Reports.

Are supposed negotiations with Iran the “October Surprise” intended to win the election for President Barack Obama, an Iranian trick for buying time, or both? The answer is both. It’s an incredibly transparent ploy though with the cooperation of the mass media such a gimmick might well have some effect.

Here’s the scenario we are supposed to believe: Obama’s sanctions (the tough Obama) have severely damaged Iran and so Tehran is looking for a way out. At the same time, though, Obama’s flexibility in dealing with possible enemies wins them over (the empathetic Obama). Thus, Obama’s greatness as a statesman might solve this problem of Iran’s nuclear drive short of war.

Let’s note some of the evidence that this ploy meets the needs of both sides in the conflict. For Obama, it is a potential electoral gain at the last minute in a hard fought election in which his foreign policy has come under severe questioning. For the Iranian regime the development buys even more time as it continues to go full-steam ahead with its nuclear drive.

If the Iranians are really sophisticated about American politics they understand the advantages for themselves:

–There will be pressure against new sanctions for the next six months or more since it could be said in the United States that these would damage a promising initiative.

–It might help reelect Obama who is significantly softer on Iran. If the Iranians believe that a President Mitt Romney might launch a U.S. attack or support an Israel one—I don’t believe this but probably they do—that makes helping Obama win a top priority.

–Since the talks wouldn’t be until next year, Iran has to give up nothing to make the initiative. Note, too, that during the last five years Iran has repeatedly proposed different diplomatic formulae both in terms of meetings and potential compromises only to retract them or make clear that Tehran’s terms are going to be unacceptable.

According to the Times the agreement is “a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term.” In other words, nothing has happened for four years and suddenly we have a deal. Sound suspicious?

All this involves then is an Iranian offer to start talks, talks which could break down in a few hours or go on for years without result. Of course, the first Iranian demand will be for easing the sanctions.

Note, too, that the Obama Administration officially denied the report—hey, we’re not playing politics with foreign policy!—and then leaked that it was true to its friends in the media.

The new situation can also be used to paint Republican candidate Mitt Romney as a potential war-monger. In the words of the New York Times:

It is also far from clear that Mr. Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, would go through with the negotiation should he win election. Mr. Romney has repeatedly criticized the president as showing weakness on Iran and failing to stand firmly with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat….

Moreover, the prospect of one-on-one negotiations could put Mr. Romney in an awkward spot, since he has opposed allowing Iran to enrich uranium to any level — a concession that experts say will probably figure in any deal on the nuclear program.

One key issue is the difference between the U.S. and Israeli positions. The Obama Administration says that Iran can have all the fixings of a bomb as long as it doesn’t build one or that Tehran must be stopped short of having everything in place. The problem with the first option, of course, is that Iran could secretly or quickly assemble bombs (including those that might be delivered by terrorists); the second option is tougher to enforce, less likely to be negotiated, and more likely to bring military action.

As the Times rightly points out, for Romney, “The danger of opposing such a diplomatic initiative is that it could make him look as if he is willing to risk another American war in the Middle East without exhausting alternatives.”

The story continues:

It would be unconscionable to go to war if we haven’t had such discussions,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with Iran as under secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration.

So in other words, the U.S. government is under pressure to talk as long as Iran wants, even if Iran is moving ahead on its nuclear program at every moment during the long, drawn-out, and inconclusive chatting.

There is, of course, no solution. Sanctions won’t stop Iran from building nuclear weapons and long-range missiles able to deliver them onto targets. Diplomacy won’t work, except possibly for the fig leaf of having Iran own all the pieces for those weapons and simply promising not to assemble them. War is unattractive for the United States and, despite all you’ve heard, Israel, too. Does a scenario of the next U.S. president launching a major, long-term military operation against Iran seem likely–especially after the near- or non-completion of controversial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan– whether or not you’d like to see that happen?

Visit Rubin Reports.

Israel, US to Conduct Biggest-Ever Military Drill

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

The United States and Israel will conduct their largest-ever joint missile defense exercise this month, making a display of solidarity as the international rift over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program grows.

This months’s three week exercise will simulate long and short-range missile attacks on Israel, and is meant not just to prepare Israel for possible warfare, but to show Iran and its allies that the US and Israel are prepared to work together against Iran.

The drill, which will include over 3,500 US personnel, has been in the planning stages for 2 years and will cost $60 million.

Patriot missile batteries, an AEGIS ballistic missile defense ship, and an Israeli multi-tiered missile defense system will be employed, though all but one of the missile launches will be simulations.

Iran has said it will retaliate against Israel and the US if attacked.  The US has said it does not support an Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear installations.  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has urged the United States to set “red lines” of Iranian nuclear activity beyond which the US would support a military strike.  The US has refused.

Defining The Candidates’ Differences On Iran

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made headlines last month with this question: What are the U.S. red lines when it comes to Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program?

The two presidential campaigns are offering two different answers.

“Recently, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have talked about weaponization and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan talk about nuclear weapons capability,” said Michael Makovsky, a Bush administration Pentagon official who now directs the National Security Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

So what do the terms weaponization and capability mean as red lines?

The issue of red lines was lent urgency on Sept. 11, when at a blistering news conference, Netanyahu seemed to warn that a failure to set red lines for Iran could trigger a strike by Israel – an action the Obama administration has tried mightily to prevent.

“Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said at the time. The term “red lines” refers to actions that could trigger military action to stop Iran from progressing further.

In the Oct. 11 vice-presidential debate, the differences between the two U.S. presidential tickets on the Iranian nuclear issue were apparent.

Ryan, Romney’s running mate on the Republican Party ticket, cast the Iranian threat as one predicated on the degree of its enrichment.

“We cannot allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability,” Ryan said, using a threshold that Romney has embraced.

The Netanyahu government has long employed the term “capability” to define a bridge too far in Iran’s nuclear program, and the term has been picked up in a number of recent bipartisan congressional measures.

“Now let’s take a look at where we’ve gone – come from. When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material – nuclear material to make one bomb,” the Wisconsin congressman continued. “Now they have enough for five. They’re racing toward a nuclear weapon. They’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.”

Biden pushed back, seeming to suggest that the proper measure should be how close Iran is to achieving a weapon.

“When my friend talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up, then they have to be able to have something to put it in,” Biden said.

“There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know – we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon.”

But Israeli officials repeatedly have expressed the concern that Western intelligence agencies have failed to detect weaponization in time in the cases of Pakistan, India and North Korea.

Makovsky said the problem was especially acute in Iran because the regime there, which denies an interest in building a nuclear weapon, has denied access to inspectors at key sites.

“It’s a very hard thing to know, and we haven’t been able to detect it before,” he said.

The question is whether enrichment defines “capability,” and if so, at what level of enrichment is a country nuclear-capable.

The Iranians, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, already have achieved enrichment up to 20 percent – the level cited by Biden. Israel’s concern, outlined last month by Netanyahu in his speech to the UN General Assembly, is when they will get to the “and up” mentioned by the vice president.

Uranium is weapons-capable when it is enriched to above 90 percent.

“By next spring, next summer at most,” Iran will have finished the “medium enrichment” stage, Netanyahu said. “From there it’s less than a few months, possibly a few weeks, until they get enough uranium for an enriched bomb. The relevant question is not when will Iran get the bomb; the question is at what stage can we stop Iran?”

Michael Adler, an Iran expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, said that Netanyahu effectively aligned himself with the Obama administration’s red line with that speech.

“Netanyahu has walked capability back a lot saying it won’t come until next year,” Adler said.

That may have been in part because Netanyahu and Obama had spoken extensively between Netanyahu’s Sept. 11 news conference and his UN speech. U.S. and Israeli officials have said subsequently that the two leaders better understood each other on the Iran issue.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/defining-the-candidates-differences-on-iran/2012/10/17/

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