Tag: centrifuges

IRAN NUCLEAR GAME: TALK SOFTLY & KEEP THE CENTRIFUGES SPINNING; WEST DESPERATE FOR A DEAL, EVEN A BAD ONE

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

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Thwarting Iran: The Secret AlliancesNeville Teller, Jerusalem Post,  Oct. 14, 2013—There are two distinct groupings of Interests opposed to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but each – to misapply Oscar Wilde’s aphorism – is “a love that dare not speak its name.”
 
Iran Wants the Bomb — and Sanctions ReliefReuel Marc Gerecht & Mark Dubowitz, Washington Post, Oct. 11, 2013—Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is lying when he says the Islamic Republic has never had any intention of building an atomic weapon. Defecting Iranian nuclear engineers told U.S. officials in the late 1980s that the mullahs’ program, then hidden, was designed exclusively for such arms.
 
Is Iran a Lunatic State or a Rational Actor? NeitherBarry Rubin, Real Clear World, October 14, 2013—"One of the great unresolved questions of Barack Obama's presidency," says Time magazine, "is whether he can peacefully resolve America's conflict with Iran over its nuclear weapons program."
Er, wrong.
 
A Bad Deal is the Only Kind Iran is OfferingJonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, Oct. 14, 2013—Secretary of State John Kerry sounded a note of appropriate caution this past weekend when he said that although he believed the window for diplomacy with Iran was “cracking open,” he believes “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
On Topic Links
 
How Iran Will Play the West on NukesAmir TaheriNew York Post, Oct. 13, 2013
The Negotiations Game Begins AnewJoseph Klein, Front Page Magazine, Oct. 15, 2013
Iran: Peace-Dripping Nuclear LambAli Salim, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 8, 2013

THWARTING IRAN: THE SECRET ALLIANCES
Neville Teller
Jerusalem Post,  Oct. 14, 2013
 
There are two distinct groupings of Interests opposed to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but each – to misapply Oscar Wilde’s aphorism – is “a love that dare not speak its name.”  Binyamin Netanyahu has been taking the lead for one of these covert community of interests. Ahead of the 6-party diplomatic talks taking place in Geneva on October 15 and 16, where Iran is facing the US, Russia, the UK, France, China and Germany, Netanyahu has been undertaking a diplomatic and media blitz. He’s been on a whirlwind tour, both of TV studios and the world, voicing the case for maintaining the sanctions pressure on the Iranian regime until soft words are matched by hard action.
 
He does not oppose diplomatic initiatives to avert a nuclear Iran but, like the range of states and groupings he implicitly represents, he fears that the international community will accept a compromise on this issue, allowing Tehran to avoid dismantling its nuclear weapons facilities and having its stocks of enriched uranium removed from the country.
 
His fears seem all too justified, for behind his back – and the backs of most European and Gulf state leaders – it seems as though a secret deal on Iran’s nuclear program has already been worked out between the White House in Washington, the Kremlin in Moscow and the Tehran office of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This US-Russian-Iranian grouping represents the second secret alliance – though how far it will go towards curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions remains to be seen.
 
Sergei Kiriyenko, director of the Russian Atomic Agency Rosatom and the builder of Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr, is one of Putin’s most trusted advisers on nuclear affairs. Reports indicate that he has been in Iran for most of the summer and that, under his guidance, the text of a nuclear accord was drawn up by a team of Farsi-speaking Russian nuclear scientists for Tehran and Washington to sign.
 
Drafts of this text, which was modeled on the US-Russian accord for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, were then passed between the US and Russian presidents until they saw eye to eye, and finally it was referred to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, to be shaped into a document that can be put on the negotiating table at Geneva as agreed proposals.
 
It is reported that President Obama has briefed Netanyahu in detail on the understandings reached with Tehran, including Iran’s concessions on its nuclear program. Obama has also informed him that Washington will soon start easing certain economic sanctions against Iran. Neither European nor Gulf leaders, including Saudi Arabia, had been let in on the scale of reciprocal concessions approved between Obama and Iran’s Supreme Leader, although by now an indication has probably leaked out via the diplomatic grapevine.
 
Certainly the Wall Street Journal on October 8 reported, one assumes from informed sources, that Iran will offer to limit its operational centrifuges, cease 20 per cent uranium enrichment and agree to greater international supervision of its nuclear program, in return for a lifting of sanctions on its financial system and oil market. On October 14 the London Daily Telegraph reported that Iran had drawn the line at removing all the uranium already manufactured in its facilities, and insisted on keeping access to nuclear enrichment – since that would leave the potential for a relatively short dash to build a nuclear weapon. They seem to have won the day. “Western diplomats have indicated privately,” said the Telegraph, “a deal is likely to include access to limited enrichment.”
 
Whether it was a done deal before the principals ever took their places at the negotiating table, time will tell. What is certain is that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have not been party to any backstairs discussions, and that they view the apparent success of Iran’s charm offensive with alarm. Their concern is for their regional interests. They fear that Obama may be tempted to strike a deal allowing Iranian allies to go on dominating Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq in return for Iran’s agreeing to inspections of its atomic sites. They are also desperately concerned about Iran’s ambition to achieve hegemony over the Gulf, and its continuing effort to orchestrate political foes across half a dozen Arab countries.
 
All this fear was revealed in the 250,000 confidential US documents that were published in November 2010 by WikiLeaks. They showed that, contrary to their public positions, Arab leaders strongly supported, and indeed campaigned for, a US attack on Iran’s growing nuclear programme. According to the leaked documents Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah “frequently exhorted” the US to bomb Iran and “cut the head off the snake.” He warned Washington that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, “everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia.” Abu Dhabi’s crown prince said that Iran was seeking regional domination, and urged Americans to “take out” its nuclear capacity, or even send ground troops. Iran “is going to take us to war … it’s a matter of time.” The king of Bahrain said the US “must terminate” Iran’s nuclear program, “by whatever means necessary”. Zeid Rifai, then president of Jordan’s senate, said: “Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb.” Hosni Mubarak, then President of Egypt, expressed a “visceral hatred” for the Islamic Republic.
 
In short, no Arab government accepted Iran’s claim that its nuclear programme was merely peaceful. More to the point, perhaps, the WikiLeaks documents revealed that Iran loomed as the largest source of concern to the Arab world. As far back as summer 2010 Dubai's chief of police, Dahi Khalfan, one of the most outspoken security officials in the United Arab Emirates, warned of an "international plot" to overthrow the governments of Gulf Arab countries. Then United Arab Emirates officials announced that authorities were investigating a foreign-linked group planning "crimes against the security of the state."
 
This perhaps explains reports that Israel has recently been holding a series of meetings with prominent figures from a number of Gulf and other Arab states, supervised directly by PM Netanyahu. The Arab and Gulf states involved in the talks have no diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, the report noted. What they share with Israel is the concern that Iran’s President Rouhani’s new diplomatic approach will fool the US and lead to a US-Iran diplomatic agreement which provides for “less than the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program.” Which, as it now appears, and with Russia’s blessing, is indeed the most likely outcome.
 
Contents


 
IRAN WANTS THE BOMB — AND SANCTIONS RELIEF
Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz
Washington Post, October 11, 2013
 
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is lying when he says the Islamic Republic has never had any intention of building an atomic weapon. Defecting Iranian nuclear engineers told U.S. officials in the late 1980s that the mullahs’ program, then hidden, was designed exclusively for such arms. Everything Western intelligence services have tracked since then matches those early revelations.
 
U.S. participation in the upcoming negotiations doesn’t appear to be premised on an expectation of Iranian veracity. If it were, President Obama wouldn’t send his secretary of state until Tehran had come clean about its past deceits. The exemplary behavior of South Africa’s often-mendacious apartheid government when it decided to go non-nuclear — total transparency about the militarization of its atomic program — isn’t expected from Iran. The clerical regime has already dropped the bar through its “facts on the ground” intransigence: more than 19,000 centrifuges built and a heavy-water plant nearing completion. Washington doesn’t want to go to war again in the Middle East, and the Iranians know it.
 
The administration and Congress are gambling that sanctions will be enough to overcome the regime’s chronic dishonesty. Economic pain will be so intense, the theory holds, that eventually Tehran will play by Western rules. In other words, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Revolutionary Guards and Rouhani — who had a not-insignificant role in developing Iran’s nuclear program in the 1990s — would be willing to admit that “evil incarnate” (Khamenei’s update to the “Great Satan”), against which the Islamic Republic’s very identity has been built, has defeated their nuclear aspirations.
 
Every country has an economic breaking point. But achieving that moment in the Islamic Republic will be extraordinarily difficult because such compromise is tantamount to spiritual suicide. U.S. foreign policy elites play down or ignore God’s role in foreign affairs since the divine has no part in the U.S. worldview. In Western media, Rouhani is a “pragmatist,” as was his mentor Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former major-domo of the political clergy; and as was Khamenei before he backed the election of populist firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president in 2005. All of these men have been critical to Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. All, even Ahmadinejad, have been politically pragmatic. This doesn’t make them less religious, less anti-American or averse to viewing terrorism as both statecraft and soulcraft.
 
Iranian leaders probably are entering these negotiations for one reason: to test Barack Obama’s mettle. They want to see whether Tehran can have the bomb and sanctions relief. The strategy for doing so isn’t complicated. The regime could suspend work at the Arak heavy-water facility, the regime’s plutonium path to a bomb, and stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, the big step in processing it to weapons-grade. But without a verifiable end to centrifuge production, the regime could continue to manufacture centrifuges, shrinking the time required to convert unprocessed uranium to bomb-grade stock. With enough advanced centrifuges, a 20 percent stockpile becomes operationally much less relevant given the increased speed of processing.
 
The only real compromise Khamenei would be making here is with the nuclear calendar. More time would be needed to develop a rapid, undetectable “breakout” capacity, which nuclear expert David Albright has estimated will happen by mid-2014. If the regime could trade heavy-water processing and uranium enriched to 20 percent in return for weakening of the interbank transfer sanctions, regaining the right to trade in gold or loosened restrictions on using euros, then it could easily gain $20 billion — a big sum for a regime that has only $20 billion in fully accessible hard currency. Tehran still has about $50 billion of locked-up cash that can be used for barter trade in a handful of countries. Given Iran’s currency reserves, even without a lessening of economic pressure, nuclear physics is still outpacing sanctions and diplomacy.
 
Obama has been clear that he isn’t going to war to stop low-grade enrichment, so Tehran needs to figure out whether the president has any “red line” on 3.5 percent enrichment. If Khamenei had to export most of Iran’s stockpile enriched to that amount, a nuclear weapon would be significantly delayed — provided centrifuge production was curtailed and the number of machines spinning reduced.
 
Khamenei can’t allow the West to stop centrifuge manufacturing. He cannot allow Washington to know where all of the centrifuges are being built or how the regime has avoided sanctions on “dual-use” imports. Such knowledge could massively delay or even end the weapons program, either through a preemptive strike or better sanctions enforcement.
 
Nor can Iran’s supreme leader implement any additional protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that would allow U.N. inspectors to track centrifuge plants, search military bases (where the regime probably hides its most sensitive nuclear-weapons research) or debrief all of Iran’s nuclear scientists.
 
The administration and Congress would be wise to hit Tehran with more sanctions immediately. The United States shouldn’t be fooled by false divisions within the regime. Abandoning the long quest for atomic weapons would be an extraordinary humiliation for Iran’s ruling class. That isn’t going to happen unless Iran’s supreme leader and his guards know with certainty that the Islamic order is finished if they don’t abandon the bomb.

Contents


 
IS IRAN A LUNATIC STATE OR A RATIONAL ACTOR? NEITHER
Barry Rubin
Real Clear World, October 14, 2013
 
"One of the great unresolved questions of Barack Obama's presidency," says Time magazine, "is whether he can peacefully resolve America's conflict with Iran over its nuclear weapons program."
Er, wrong.
 
One of the great unresolved questions of Barack Obama's presidency is whether he can successfully resolve America's conflict with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Time continues that the Obama- Rouhani handshake "would be the most important… handshake since the historic grip between [Yitzhak] Rabin and [Yasser] Arafat." Again, wrong.
 
Remember that while it has still not been admitted by the United States, that event, 20 (!) years later, has proven a costly failure. Israel now must satisfy seemingly monthly American demands by releasing terrorists who murdered Israelis.
 
The handshakes of prime minister Neville Chamberlain with Hitler (the Munich agreement) and of the Nazi foreign minister and Stalin (the Nazi-Soviet pact) were also historic, peaceful gestures – but ultimately unsuccessful ones. Time continues, "It would only be a symbolic act, to be sure. But when it comes to international diplomacy, symbolism can go a long way." Alas, it is not a mere symbolic act, but the start of a foolish deal that Iran will break.
 
SO IS Iran a lunatic state or a rational actor? Well, it's a hell of a lot more rational than US foreign policy is today. After all, the UN just elected Iran Rapporteur for the General Assembly's main committee on disarmament and international security, without Tehran having to do anything in return. And Obama will blame Congress for diplomatic failure if it increases sanctions. In fact diplomats doubt Iran will actually do anything anyway. That's not "moderate," but radical – the smart kind of radical.
 
Put more politely, Iran is a rational actor in terms of its own objectives. The issue is understanding what Iran wants. Policy is always best served by truth, whether or not people like it: Iran is an aggressive, rational actor.
 
Remember: The problem is not that Iran is eager to use nuclear weapons but that the Obama administration is not going to apply containment properly and credibly. And that encourages Iran's non-nuclear aggression and terrorism. The hysteria over Iran, however, had also better be gotten under control, without belittling the real, very threatening situation developing regarding the Islamic Republic.
 
The fact is that the history of the Iranian Islamic regime does not indicate suicidal recklessness. A key reason for this is that the leaders of Iran know they can be reckless without risking suicide. If apparently suicidal rhetoric does not result in suicide but serves a very specific purpose, that rhetoric is not in fact suicidal.
 
What, then, does Iran want? Its basic goal was and is to be as powerful a regional hegemon as possible – including control over Syria and Lebanon. It would like to take leadership of all Muslims in the area. Today, however, it is clear that the Sunni Arabs reject Tehran's leadership and will fight against it. In other words, the ultimate extent of Iran's zone of influence could only include part of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, southwest Afghanistan, Bahrain and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. That is the maximum, and Iran is far from achieving that goal. And it will probably never achieve it.
 
Iran's influence is limited by the location of Shia Muslims. Not all Shia Muslims favor Iran, and pretty much all Sunni Muslims oppose it. Therefore, whatever the outcome is in Syria – in other words if the regime wins – Iran will at most keep its current levels of influence. But if the regime wins, the Sunnis will hate Iran even more and will fight against it harder. So Iran still wants to get as much power as it can, while minimizing the associated risks. Nuclear weapons are thus for Iran primarily a defensive shield enabling it to carry out conventional aggression with impunity.
 
As I've insisted for many years, it is increasingly clear that Iran will get nuclear weapons. We should start discussions in that framework. The recent brilliant decision of the Iranian elite – which is not only more ruthless but strategically smarter than Western leadership – to make President Hassan Rouhani its representative to the West guarantees it. The only question is when Iran will get them. The evidence seems to show that this is several years away. (It will be interesting if that development comes too late to affect Syria's civil war, and such will probably happen.)
 
Why will Iran certainly get nukes? First, the West isn't going to take strong enough action to stop it, because the alternatives are deemed – perhaps accurately so – too risky. No surgical Israeli strike is going to stop it, and President Barack Obama will never support such a strike. Of course, there is also lots of money at stake. The sanctions may seem tough, but have more holes than Swiss cheese. After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there is perhaps a better moneymaking climate. His successor Rouhani will further soothe Western willingness to battle on this issue. Of course, no one really cares that much about potential genocide in Israel.
 
Second, with international support at a low point, the logistical difficulties, and an incredibly reluctant US president, Israel is not going to attack Iran. What Israel should and will do is make clear it will attack Iran if there is any reason to believe Tehran might launch nuclear weapons. It will build up a multilayer defensive and offensive system. This is not mere passive containment, but assured massive retaliation.
 
Note that there is more than one potential victim of Iran's nuclear weapons. People, including the Israelis, talk a lot about Israel, yet the Sunni Arab states are increasingly involved in shooting situations with Iranian proxies. Unlike Israel, they won't do anything and perhaps can't, except to beg the US to take strong action. But the US won't. And of course everyone can just hope everything will turn out all right.
 
In other words, against Israel, the Tehran regime talked a big game but did relatively little. On other issues, too, Iran did not act like a country bent on suicide. Against its Arab enemies, it did not take considerable risks. Iran could wage a proxy war against America in Iraq because the US let it. All of the above in no way discounts an Iranian threat. Yes, of course, Iran sponsored terrorism and sought to gain influence and spread revolution. Yet it did not attack a single country in terms of open warfare. Remember, Iran was invaded by Iraq. And when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself was persuaded that the US was entering the war against him, he quickly ended it, though he said that doing so was like eating snakes and scorpions, but was necessary to preserve the regime.
 
Iran is the kind of aggressor once described by Winston Churchill as a thief who went down the street rattling doors to find one that was open. Second, Iran sought to defend itself by threatening antagonists with total destruction and by obtaining the ultimate deterrence: nuclear weapons. This does not mean one should sympathize with Tehran since, after all, it sought nuclear weapons to ensure its defense while it continued aggressive policies.
 
Iran can also complain about American encirclement, but there wouldn't be a US motive for such efforts without Iran's aggressive policies. The point, however, is that the claim Iran is seeking nuclear weapons so it can destroy itself by attacking Israel is just not supported by the facts.
 
Thus, Iran is not a demonic, crazed, kamikaze country. It is simply a typical aggressor that wants insurance against having to pay the price for such activity. North Korea and Pakistan sought nuclear weapons for the same reason, and it is working for them. The use of nuclear weapons causes the loss of the security the mere possession of nuclear weapons confers. The problem is not that Iran is eager to use nuclear weapons but that the Obama administration is unlikely to apply containment properly and credibly. And then its version of containment might fail.

Contents


 
A BAD DEAL IS THE ONLY KIND IRAN IS OFFERING
Jonathan S. Tobin
Commentary, Oct. 14.2013
 
Secretary of State John Kerry sounded a note of appropriate caution this past weekend when he said that although he believed the window for diplomacy with Iran was “cracking open,” he believes “no deal is better than a bad deal.” His willingness to admit that there was such a thing as a bad deal with Tehran was a sign that there were some limits to the wave of optimism sweeping through official Washington and the foreign policy establishment about the supposedly moderating influence of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Iran’s position on its drive for nuclear capability.
 
But coming as it did the same day that an Iranian government spokesman made it clear that all Tehran would offer the West tomorrow when the diplomats convene in Geneva for another round of the P5+1 talks was exactly the kind of bad deal that Kerry said he fears, it is by no means clear as to whether his stance is more than rhetoric aimed at soothing the fears of a gathering of supporters of AIPAC to whom Kerry’s remarks were directed.
 
It remains an open question as to whether the U.S. would adhere to President Obama’s declared refusal to countenance an Iranian bomb and therefore insist that they cease refining uranium and export all of their existing stockpile even if that means passing up the opportunity for an agreement that would end the danger of a conflict over the issue. Just as important, it is also uncertain that even if Kerry means what he says about an American refusal to accept an obviously inadequate agreement whether its European allies would follow suit. As last week’s signals from Britain and France to Israel showed, the rest of the members of the P5+1 negotiating team are united mostly by their desire to get out from under their commitments to stopping Iran rather than following through with more sanctions or force if a deal is never reached. If France and France jump ship and join Russia and China in seeking to put the issue aside with a deal that Iran can easily ignore or break, then Kerry’s promise may soon be put to the test.
 
Caution notwithstanding, it’s clear that the administration is more than eager to play along with the Rouhanimania that has caused the West to revive a P5+1 process that has repeatedly failed. For all of the fact that President Obama and Kerry have always said the right thing about stopping Iran, their actions have never matched their rhetoric. From the point of view of this U.S. foreign policy team, the “window of diplomacy” they constantly refer to, is never closed no matter how often the Iranians have shut it in their faces. Their commitment to diplomacy and engagement with Iran is not so much a tactic as it is a function of their near blind faith in international agreements, the United Nations and multilateralism.
 
The Iranians know that as their decision to make it clear that they will never agree to the export of their stockpile of enriched uranium illustrates. They also know that the Europeans have never swerved from their intention to craft a nuclear deal that would allow the ayatollahs to hold onto a functioning nuclear program, albeit one with safeguards that would theoretically prevent it from being converted to nuclear use.
 
Thus rather than give the Iranians an incentive to face facts and give up their nuclear dream, the prelude to the latest talks have given them good reason to give nothing in their proposals that impinge on their ability to flout any deal and move quickly to realizing their nuclear ambition much as North Korea did after a similar round of diplomatic appeasement aimed at stopping them.
 
In Kerry’s favor is the fact that he won’t be in Geneva tomorrow, a source of no small amount of frustration for the Iranians. If he was offered the opportunity for a dramatic announcement and photo op, it’s hard to imagine that he would have the character or the principles to turn it down even if meant accepting a bad deal. What the Iranians are clearly hoping is that by using their time honored tactics of prevarication and delay, they can not only drag out the process — and thus buy their scientists even more time — but to lure Kerry to a future gathering where such a temptation might prove too much for him.
 
By now the administration should have learned that the only deal they would ever get from Iran is a bad one. No amount of economic pain felt by their citizens can convince Rouhani’s boss, Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to see reason and abandon their nuclear ambition. Nor do they believe in Obama’s threats. The ayatollahs see the president as a paper tiger that will never make good on the promise to use force as a last resort. And their contempt for him will grow if they can peel off his European allies away from the flimsy coalition against Iran that the president built. But in the long run, with Washington as enthralled by the false promise of Iranian moderation as London and Paris (let alone, Moscow or Beijing), the odds of Kerry being able to retain his aversion to a bad deal must be considered slim.
 
 

How Iran Will Play the West on NukesAmir TaheriNew York Post, Oct. 13, 2013—A new round of talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the 5+1 Group, starts Monday night in Geneva amid a tsunami of expectations.
 
The Negotiations Game Begins AnewJoseph Klein, Front Page Magazine, Oct. 15, 2013—While President Obama refuses to negotiate with congressional Republicans over the terms for opening the government and passing an increase in the debt ceiling, he is perfectly happy to negotiate for the umpteenth time with the treacherous Iranian regime.
 
Iran: Peace-Dripping Nuclear LambAli Salim, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 8, 2013—Russia's Putin calculates his every move, and only goes to war to win. Considering the might of the West balanced against his own weakness, he apparently saw that the smart thing, should the U.S. decide to attack Syria, would be to stand on the sidelines and let Assad, his ally, tough it out alone.

 

 

 

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AS NEW IRANIAN PRESIDENT PUSHES NUCLEAR FLIM-FLAM, HE APPOINTS 1983 BEIRUT KILLER AS DEFENSE MINISTER – MEANWHILE ONLY CANADA JUDGES ROUHANI BY DEEDS, NOT WORDS

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

 Download an abbreviated version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Judge Iran’s Regime by Its Actions, not by Empty Words: John Baird, The Globe and Mail, Aug. 10 2013—This past weekend, the Islamic Republic of Iran inaugurated Hassan Rowhani as its seventh president. In the weeks and months ahead, the world will be watching to see if the hopes and aspirations of Iranians will be fulfilled.

 

Iran’s Plan B for the Bomb: Amos Yadlin And Avner Golov, New York Times, Aug. 8, 2013—Is Iran finally ready to talk? Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has said he’s ready for nuclear negotiations. And in recent weeks, the Iranian government has repeatedly expressed its desire to reach a deal on its uranium enrichment program.

 

Iran’s New Defense Minister: Behind  Attack on U.S. Marine Corps Barracks (Beirut 1983): Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Aug. 11, 2013—The newly-elected president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has appointed Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan as the new defense minister in place of Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. The appointment will take effect as soon as it is approved by the Majlis.

 

Even if Assad Loses, Iran Gains from its Support of Shia Militias: Phillip Smyth, The National, Aug 12, 2013—As Syria continues to burn, Iran has successfully pushed the narrative that it is the unbridled defender of Shia Islam. Even if Bashar Al Assad loses more ground to the rebel forces, Iran can still benefit from the conflict to bolster that narrative.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Report: Iran's Arak Reactor to Have Nuclear Weapons Grade Plutonium by Next Summer: Jeruslam Post, Aug. 5, 2013

PM: Iran Has Set 7,000 New Centrifuges Spinning since Presidential Election: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 8, 2013

Iran's Mounting Malaise: Jamsheed Choksy, Real Clear World, Aug. 8, 2013

Iran Enters the Peace Process: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, July 29, 2013

Former MI Chief Yadlin Cautions Over Iran's Plutonium Program: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2013

 

 

JUDGE IRAN’S REGIME BY ITS ACTIONS, NOT BY EMPTY WORDS

John Baird

The Globe and Mail, Aug. 10 2013

 

This past weekend, the Islamic Republic of Iran inaugurated Hassan Rowhani as its seventh president. In the weeks and months ahead, the world will be watching to see if the hopes and aspirations of Iranians will be fulfilled.

 

Canada’s skepticism of the regime’s commitment to genuine reform stands. Despite the expression of the Iranian people on June 14, Iran’s nuclear non-compliance, its deliberate decision to ignore its human-rights obligations, its ongoing sponsorship of terrorist groups, its support for Syria’s Assad regime, and its own regular and inexcusable anti-Semitic rhetoric continues unabated and undeterred. Mr. Rowhani’s own tome of literature chronicling Iranian subterfuge and clever protraction of nuclear negotiations does little to enhance his own credibility.

 

Irrespective of these dubious confluences, after Mr. Rowhani’s inauguration, this regressive clerical military dictatorship appears to have yet another opportunity. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has to decide whether he will continue to march Iran down its current path or whether he wants to allow Mr. Rowhani to roll back the apparatus of tyranny and fear, and place Iran within the community of nations committed to prosperity and freedom.

 

Maintaining the status quo will continue Iran’s isolation as international sanctions will remain in place. The status quo will also mean that Iran will continue its malevolent partnership with Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad, and deploy the insidious Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It will retain the same international standing and prestige as North Korea.

 

Alternatively, if the Supreme Leader allows Mr. Rowhani to immediately implement significant and deep changes in the regime’s irresponsible nuclear policies, its disregard for human rights and its destructive meddling in the Middle East, Iranians may yet see a brighter future. Let us be clear about one irreducible fact: The choice is firmly the Supreme Leader’s to make. The Iranian President has historically been constrained and shaped by the Supreme Leader, which highlights the challenges facing Mr. Rowhani.

 

Some of these obstacles have already been underscored since the election in June. On July 31, Iran announced it was extending a $3.6-billion oil credit to the murderous Assad regime so it can continue butchering its own people. Iranians should be asking Mr. Rowhani why Iran is spending $3.6-billion to kill fellow Muslims in Syria, rather than investing in the economic prosperity of the Iranian people.

 

Human Rights Watch recently reported that executions in Iran have increased at an alarming rate since the election and that as many as 71 people have been executed since June 14. The real number is certain to be higher. Was this the change Iranians voted for? The world cannot afford to take hints of moderation on key issues at face value while the regime continues to suffocate the aspirations of its people. Nor can we accept gestures that do not result in the systemic change Iranians demand and deserve. Serious change requires the regime to hold genuine nuclear talks with the P5+1 group, to fully co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, to respect human rights, to stop supporting agents of death, destruction and chaos in the region, and to put the real interests of its citizens first.

 

Iranians deserve a future free of fear in which they can enjoy the benefits of hard work and build more prosperous lives for their children. Iranians deserve to have the institutions that allow them to debate and to determine their future in freedom. Iranians deserve to see the day that Iran takes its rightful place in international affairs as a respected regional power. These are the hopes that Iranians have told us they have invested in Mr. Rowhani.

 

Canada and the rest of the world will be looking to the regime to undertake deep reforms and to genuinely help Iranians realize their aspirations. The world will judge the regime by the actions it takes, not its empty platitudes or symbolic gestures.

 

John Baird is Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada.

 

Contents

 

 

IRAN’S PLAN B FOR THE BOMB

Amos Yadlin And Avner Golov

New York Times, Aug. 8, 2013

 

Is Iran finally ready to talk? Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has said he’s ready for nuclear negotiations. And in recent weeks, the Iranian government has repeatedly expressed its desire to reach a deal on its uranium enrichment program.

 

A few days after Mr. Rouhani’s election victory, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, stated that Iran was prepared to limit its enrichment to a level below 20 percent, which is the main goal of a future agreement between the West and Iran. And last month, Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, reportedly told the White House that Iran wanted to begin direct nuclear negotiations with the United States.

 

But it would be dangerous to think that Iran’s proposal for negotiations alone would pave the way for a deal.

What matters is not the talks but the outcome. Whoever negotiates with Iran must acknowledge that the enrichment of uranium from a low level (3.5 percent to 19.75 percent) to weapons-grade level (90 percent) is only one of three dimensions of Iran’s nuclear strategy. A second dimension is Iran’s progress toward a quick “breakout capability” through the stockpiling of large quantities of low-enriched uranium that could be further enriched rapidly to provide weapons-grade fuel. Third, Iran also appears to be pursuing a parallel track to a nuclear capability through the production of plutonium. If there is going to be a nuclear deal with Iran, all three parts of its strategy must be addressed.

 

In the past year, Iran has installed thousands of centrifuges, including more than 1,000 advanced ones. A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency states that Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium to produce several nuclear bombs if it chooses to further enrich the fuel. Iran has deliberately refrained from crossing what is perceived as Israel’s red line: 240 kilograms (about 530 pounds) of uranium enriched to a level of 19.75 percent.

 

Nonetheless, Western experts like Graham T. Allison Jr. and Olli Heinonen estimate that if Iran decided to develop a bomb today, it could do so within three to five months. That is assumed to be sufficient lead time for the West to detect and respond to an Iranian decision. But a recent report from the Institute for Science and International Security estimates that at the current pace of installation, Iran could reduce its breakout time to just one month by the end of this year. The report also estimates that at that pace, by mid-2014 Iran could reduce the breakout time to less than two weeks.

 

Any agreement must ensure that an Iranian breakout is detected quickly enough to allow for a Western response — meaning that the international community must be able to uncover any concealed facilities and activities for the production of fissile material. A solution will also have to address the potential for a plutonium bomb. In May, Iran announced that the heavy-water reactor in Arak would become operational early next year. Some American and European officials claim that Iran could produce weapons-grade plutonium next summer. These two announcements indicate that Iran is making progress on this alternative track. So far, the West has not paid much attention to the potential for a plutonium-fueled weapon. Now it must do so.

 

A functioning nuclear reactor in Arak could eventually allow Iran to produce sufficient quantities of plutonium for nuclear bombs. Although Iran would need to build a reprocessing facility to separate the plutonium from the uranium in order to produce a bomb, that should not be the West’s primary concern. Western negotiators should instead demand that Iran shut down the Arak reactor. This is crucial because the West would likely seek to avoid an attack on a “hot” reactor, lest it cause widespread environmental damage. Once Arak is operational, it would effectively be immune from attack and the West would be deprived of its primary “stick” in its efforts to persuade Iran to forgo a military nuclear capability.

 

Of the three countries that have publicly crossed the nuclear threshold since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force in 1970, two — India and North Korea — did so via the plutonium track. In order to deny Iran this route, any agreement between the West and Iran must guarantee that Iran will not retain a breakout or “sneak out” plutonium-production capacity.

 

At the United Nations last September, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, focused only on uranium enrichment, reinforcing a one-dimensional perception of the Iranian nuclear program. This narrow perception is already widespread in the West and could enable Iran to attain a swift breakout capability using uranium or to build a plutonium bomb without detection.

 

Negotiations with Iran should resume, and the sooner the better. But Western leaders must maintain their current leverage — sanctions and a credible military threat — and ensure that any future agreement with Iran addresses all three dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. Moderate messages from Tehran should not be allowed to camouflage Iran’s continuing progress toward a bomb.

 

Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, is the director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, where Avner Golov is a researcher.

 

Contents

 

 

IRAN’S NEW DEFENSE MINISTER: BEHIND THE 1983
ATTACK ON THE U.S. MARINE CORPS BARRACKS IN BEIRUT

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira

JCPA, Aug. 11, 2013

 

The newly-elected president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has appointed Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan as the new defense minister in place of Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. The appointment will take effect as soon as it is approved by the Majlis. Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan spent his entire military career in the Revolutionary Guard, which he joined immediately after it was established in the last months of 1979. He came to the capital, Tehran, from his hometown of Shaharda in Isfahan Province, and until 1982 was commander of the Revolutionary Guard in the capital.

 

After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 1982, Dehghan was sent to Lebanon. He served as commander of the training corps of the Revolutionary Guard, first in Syria and soon after in Lebanon. This role made him responsible for building up the military force of Hizbullah, which also was established at that time. After most of the Revolutionary Guard force returned from Lebanon to Iran, and the force’s commander, Ahmad Motevasselian, was kidnapped along with three other Iranians in the summer of 1982 by the Christian militia – the Lebanese Forces, Ahmad Kanani was appointed commander of the Revolutionary Guard force in Lebanon.

 

About a year later Hossein Dehghan replaced Kanani in that position. One of his first goals was to set up a central command for the Iranian force, which at that time was scattered among small towns and villages in the Baalbek region. At the beginning of September 1983, Hizbullah, with the help of the Revolutionary Guard headed by Dehghan, took over the Sheikh Abdullah barracks, which was seized in the course of a procession led by three Hizbullah sheikhs: Abbas Mussawi, Subhi Tufayli, and Muhammad Yazbek. It had been the main base of the Lebanese army in the Beqaa Valley and now became the Imam Ali barracks, the main headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard.

 

It was from this headquarters that Iran controlled Hizbullah’s military force and planned, along with Hizbullah, the terror attacks on the Beirut-based Multinational Force and against IDF forces in Lebanon. The attacks were carried out by the Islamic Jihad organization, headed by Imad Mughniyeh, which was actually a special operational arm that acted under the joint direction of Tehran and Hizbullah until it was dismantled in 1992.

 

Instructions for the attack on the Multinational Forces were issued from Tehran to the Iranian ambassador to Damascus, who passed them on to the Revolutionary Guards forces in Lebanon and their Lebanese Shiite allies. According to the U.S. Marine commander, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted the Iranian orders to strike on September 26, 1983. It is difficult to imagine that such a high-level directive to the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon would be transmitted without the knowledge of their commander, Hossein Dehghan.

 

On October 25, 1983, a Shiite suicide bomber detonated a water tanker at the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Marines; simultaneously, another Shiite suicide bomber blew up the French paratroopers’ barracks in Beirut, killing 58 soldiers. It was Mughniyeh who dispatched both bombers. The order to carry out the attacks was transmitted, and the funding and operational training provided, with the help of the Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon under the command of Hossein Dehghan.

 

Contents

 

 

EVEN IF ASSAD LOSES, IRAN GAINS
FROM ITS SUPPORT OF SHIA MILITIAS

Phillip Smyth

The National, Aug 12, 2013

 

As Syria continues to burn, Iran has successfully pushed the narrative that it is the unbridled defender of Shia Islam. Even if Bashar Al Assad loses more ground to the rebel forces, Iran can still benefit from the conflict to bolster that narrative.

 

Iran's guiding ideology of valeyat Al Faqih, or the absolute rule of a religious cleric, is far from the accepted norm among the world's Shia. And Iran's support for sending Shia militants to fight alongside the Syrian regime has put Iran at odds with both traditional Shia clerics, who are followed by the majority of Shia Muslims, and radical clerics such as Iraq's Muqtada Al Sadr. These clerics, particularly Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, have rejected the Iranian role and have thus been a persistent thorn in Iran's side. Mr Sistani went so far as to call Shia who go to fight in Syria "disobedient". Mr Al Sadr has said that he would "punish" any members participating in Syria's battles, according to the news agency AFP.

 

Despite such resistance, the Iranian regime has managed to advance its narrative among many Shia in the region. The Iranian regime justifies the involvement of Shia foreign fighters in Syria as fighting to "protect Shia holy sites" – particularly the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Damascus – from "takfiris", a euphemism Tehran uses to describe all Syrian rebels. The term is generally used to describe radical Sunni Islamists who view Shia and some other Muslims as infidels.

 

The pretext of defending the shrine in Damascus plays well with Shia who have suffered under waves of bombings targeting their mosques, shrines and gatherings from Baghdad to Pakistan. Iran and its proxies have described their operations in Syria as a "sacred defence" and fallen fighters as "holy warriors of jihad".

 

The Iranian "defensive jihad" narrative is meant to be juxtaposed with the statements by Mr Al Sadr or Mr Sistani, who call on their followers not to fight in Syria, to make Shia feel their traditional and radical leaders are out of step in the face of a historic threat.

 

Iran works with numerous regional proxies, such as Lebanon's Hizbollah and Iraq's Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq – which split from Mr Al Sadr's militia – and Kata'ib Hizbollah, to propagate that narrative. These groups have provided members for Shia militias that operate in Syria, such as Liwa Abu Fadl Al Abbas. Working with these groups also helps Iran to expand its influence and create the impression that a broad front, united under Iran's leadership, is committed to keeping Mr Al Assad in power, thus attracting more Shia fighters for the conflict.

 

Even if a militia operates away from the holy sites in Syria, Iran claims that its policy of backing Mr Al Assad is part of its ultimate goal of defending the Shia relics. In May, for example, Liwaa Ammar Ibn Yasir, an Iranian-backed Shia militia, announced that it operates in Aleppo but also "defends" Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Damascus. The clear message is that no matter where one of the Tehran-backed Shia militias operates, it is indirectly defending Sayyida Zaynab.

 

Through this strategy, Iran can achieve three significant results: it can save a strategically important ally, lessen the influence of its Shia clerical rivals and foster a greater acceptance of its own radical doctrine within the Shia Islamic community.

 

Iranian government-controlled media has been proactive in pushing that narrative by highlighting the Sistani statements that jibe with Tehran's agenda while downplaying or simply ignoring his opposition to sending Shia fighters to Syria. For example, remarks made by Sayyid Javad Shahrestani, Mr Sistani's representative in Iran, that the war in Syria was actually a plot to damage Iran's regional standing were widely carried by Iranian state media. But Mr Sistani's clear opposition to Iranian moves in Syria is rarely mentioned.

 

The slogans used by Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting in Syria have also been used to give the impression that certain Shia clerics support the intervention. Liwa Imam Husayn has been branded as "Sadrist" by its creators. (It is worth mentioning that Shia militias in Syria have common leaders, for unstated reasons). According to a photograph used in the promotion of the latter militia on Facebook, one of the militiamen wields a heavy machine gun with a shot of Mr Al Sadr paternally looking down on him. The same photograph was published a few days earlier with Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq's logo on it, which suggests the group cannot be affiliated to Mr Al Sadr, as the latter's forces had sometimes clashed with Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq in Iraq.

 

Mr Al Sadr probably knew that he would need to cooperate with Iranian-backed groups in any joint operations in Syria, including with Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq, which is one of the main providers of combatants in Syria. In May, Mr Al Sadr came to loggerheads with Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al Maliki over the militia's activities in Iraq; according to the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, Mr Al Sadr even called on his supporters to clamp down on the militia in Baghdad.

 

Both Syrian rebels and Shia militias have claimed Mr Al Sadr's forces operate in Syria. But he has categorically denied these reports, saying, in June, that "all these claims are lies". Judging from the reports and videos emerging from Syria, Mr Al Sadr appears to be telling the truth.

 

Moreover, Liwa Imam Husayn, in an attempt to suggest that Mr Sistani supports its involvement in Syria, announced recently that it held iftar for residents in the neighbourhood around the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in a Damascus building owned by Mr Sistani. Iran and its proxies will continue to push more Shia into Syria's conflict. The war in Syria has provided a situation in which Iran can assume a leadership role among the region's Shia community.

 

Phillip Smyth is a researcher at the University of Maryland. He focuses on Lebanon and Syria and specialises in Shia militias in Syria

Contents

 

Report: Iran's Arak Reactor to Have Nuclear Weapons Grade Plutonium by Next Summer: Jeruslam Post, Aug. 5, 2013—The Arak heavy water nuclear reactor in Iran will be capable of producing two nuclear bombs' worth of weapons grade plutonium a year and will be capable of producing the material by next summer, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday that cited US, UN and EU officials.

 

PM: Iran Has Set 7,000 New Centrifuges Spinning since Presidential Election: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 8, 2013—1

Since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected two months ago, Iran has installed 7,000 centrifuges, indicating that he is nothing more than a new face to an old regime, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.

 

Iran's Mounting Malaise: Jamsheed Choksy, Real Clear World, Aug. 8, 2013—Hassan Rouhani took charge of Iran with its socioeconomic safety nets unraveling, thanks to deleterious policies exacerbated by tightened sanctions from the West. Addressing the parliament on July 14, while president-elect, he acknowledged that the nuclear impasse is far from the only factor transforming the Islamic Republic of Iran negatively with impact on other countries. Iran's challenges pose severe consequences at home and abroad.

 

Iran Enters the Peace Process: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, July 29, 2013—Hamas's apparent rapprochement with Iran paves the way for Iran to play a major role in the Palestinian arena. Iranian military experts could soon be arriving in the Gaza Strip to train members of Hamas and other terrorist groups. This does not bode well for the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

 

Former MI Chief Yadlin Cautions Over Iran's Plutonium Program: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2013—Former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin warned Friday that the West's one dimensional perception of Iran's nuclear program, focusing solely on the uranium enrichment path to a nuclear weapon, could enable the Islamic Republic to build a plutonium bomb without detection.

 

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IRANIAN NUCLEAR: U.S. WEAKNESS EMBOLDENS TEHERAN, DESPITE ITS INTERNAL DIVISIONS—NORTH KOREAN BOMB AS MODEL

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(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

Iran Can’t Agree to a Damn Thing: Patrick Clawson, Foreign Policy, Feb. 20, 2013During the chaotic days of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the country's emerging "supreme leader," assured Iranians that their supposed oppressor, the United States, would not be able to put the hated shah back on his throne.

 

The US and Iran: Pre-Negotiation Maneuvering: Prof. Eytan Gilboa, BESA Center, Feb. 19, 2013The United States and Iran are exchanging tough messages on possible negotiations towards a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear weapons crisis. Both sides are presenting conditions for direct negotiations, which would be the first of their kind.

U.S. Weakness Provokes N. Korea and Iran: Max Boot, Commentary, Feb.12, 2013So much for the exaggerated hopes of those that believed Kim Jong-un would turn out to be a different kind of dictator. Following a long-range rocket test in December, North Korea has now apparently tested a nuclear weapon bigger than any it has tested before.

On Topic Links

 

 

Spy Fail: Why Iran is Losing Its Covert War with Israel: Karl Vick, Time World, Feb. 13, 2013
The Collapse of Iran's RialSteven Plaut, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 21, 2013
North Korea Shows Dangers of Half-Deal with Iran: Gary Milhollin, Bloomberg, Feb 24, 2013

Iran's Shrewd Move: Michael Makovsky and Blaise Misztal: Weekly Standard, Feb 22, 2013

Are Iran Sanctions Working?: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 21, 2013

 

 

 

 

IRAN CAN’T AGREE TO A DAMN THING

Patrick Clawson

Foreign Policy, Feb. 20, 2013

 

During the chaotic days of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the country's emerging "supreme leader," assured Iranians that their supposed oppressor, the United States, would not be able to put the hated shah back on his throne. "America can't do a damn thing against us," he inveighed, a winning line that became the uprising's unofficial slogan. It's a catchphrase Iran has deployed time and again since….

 

Khomeini's slogan was true enough at the time: There wasn't much U.S. President Jimmy Carter could do to intervene in one of the most stunning uprisings in history. But today, when it comes to Iran's endless nuclear impasse with the West, one might turn the phrase back on the Iranians: The problem, in a nutshell, is that Iran can't agree to a damn thing.

 

Indeed, the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with Iran are only the beginning of the reasons to be discouraged about resolution of the standoff. More worrying is that political infighting in Tehran is so bad that Iran might not be able to bring itself to accept unilateral U.S. unconditional surrender were it to be offered. To be sure, eight months between negotiating sessions — June 18-19, 2012 in Moscow, followed by the upcoming session slated for Feb. 26 in Almaty, Kazakhstan — is bad news enough. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hit the nail on the head when he warned last week, "We should not give much more time to the Iranians, and we should not waste time. We have seen what happened with [North Korea]. It ended up that they [were] secretly, quietly, without any obligations, without any pressure, making progress" on nuclear weapons.

 

But the pace of talks is only the beginning of the problem. More important is the political meltdown among the Islamic Republic's leaders. Their problems should help put ours in perspective. Many Americans think Washington faces gridlock from hyper-partisan politics, though in fact Iran is an exception to that rule. Bills about Iran's nuclear program typically enjoy stunning levels of support — 100 to 0 in the Senate in the December 2011 round of sanctions. In the November 2012 vote on another sanctions round, several senators were absent, so the vote was a cliffhanger 94 to 0.

 

By contrast, Iranian leaders fight about everything, even where vital national security interests are at stake. In many respects, a divided Iran is nothing new. The Islamic Republic has from its beginning been characterized by sharp internal divisions. And that has long influenced debate about policy toward the United States. For at least 20 years, the rule in Iran has been: Whoever is out of power wants talks with the United States, which they know would be popular, while whoever is in power moves haltingly if at all toward talks. Several times, those on the outs became the ins and then quickly shifted position on relations with Washington. When Mohammad Khatami was running for president in 1997, he was all in favor of talks with the Great Satan, but then once in power, he did little if anything and refused to speak clearly on the issue. And so too with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: When he was riding high, he only had disdain for the United States, but as he got into trouble at home, he called for talks with Washington.
 

But now, the situation is much worse than before. It used to be that once Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke, that ended the debate, but no longer. Khamenei no longer enjoys the respect nor commands the power to stop the infighting. No matter how often or bluntly he rejects the idea of negotiations with the United States, other important officials — most loudly and frequently, Ahmadinejad — call for such talks.

 

Khamenei couches his call for obedience as a need for unity and vigilance in the face of the enemy. A typical speech on January 29 warned, "Today the world of Islam is faced with the plot of enemies… We should not fuel the fire of discord by arousing shallow and vulgar feelings. This will burn the fate of nations. It will completely destroy them. It will help the enemies of Islam." Consistent with his longstanding reluctance to publicly weigh in directly on political disputes, Khamenei has usually confined himself to elliptical criticisms, such as his warning in a Feb. 7 speech to Air Force commanders, "The improper conduct which is witnessed in certain areas from certain government officials — they should end this." He concluded with another strong call for unity.

 

Admonished by the supreme leader to close ranks, Iranian leaders promptly put on a full display of their bitter enmity. The Majlis, Iran's legislature, called in for questioning Labor Minister Reza Shaikholsislami, a close ally of Ahmadinejad. In response, the Iranian president went to the Majlis for the Feb. 3 debate and insisted on accusing Speaker Ali Larijani and his family (including his brother Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary) of corruption, playing a recording he claimed supported the charge. Ruled out of order, Ahmadinejad stormed out. The Majlis then voted Shaikholislami dismissed by a vote of 192 to 56; Ahmadinejad promptly added him to his official delegation leaving for Egypt. Five days after the Majlis brawl, 100 Ahmadinejad supporters pelted Ali Larijani with shoes, disrupting a speech he was trying to give in Qom.

 

Khamenei was clearly appalled that neither his public admonitions nor his reported firm private orders had been enough to stop the feuding. So he lit into the two sides in a Feb. 16 address, saying, "What is the reason behind impeaching a minister a few months before the end of the life of the government, for a reason that had nothing to do with that minister? … The head of one branch of power [Ahmadinejad] accused the two other branches of power based on a charge that was not raised or proved in a court…Such acts are against the sharia as well as the law and ethics." Turning to the disputes about corruption, he added, "I expect the officials to enhance their friendship at this time that enemies have intensified their [hostile] behavior. Be together more than before. Control your wild sentiments." He warned that if they did not follow his counsel, there would be grave consequences.

 

Khamenei was ignored again. Two days after this speech, the Supreme Court — largely controlled by Sadeq Larijani — upheld four death sentences against close Ahmadinejad allies in a high-profile corruption case. Neither the president nor his equally conservative, hard-line opponents seem to fear Khamenei or much respect his authority anymore.

 

By their actions, Iranian leaders are giving the strong impression that they are so preoccupied by their internal differences that they cannot agree on, well, a damn thing. Disunity helps the enemy, Khamenei frequently says. But the world powers negotiating with Iran would be glad to see more unity in Tehran, because a more unified Iranian government would be better able to reach a deal and then implement it. That seems less and less likely. The time is rapidly approaching when the big powers, or at least the United States, need to set out a stark choice for Iran's leaders: Either accept a generous offer to resolve the nuclear impasse or be prepared for the consequences.

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THE US AND IRAN: PRE-NEGOTIATION MANEUVERING

Prof. Eytan Gilboa

BESA Center, Feb. 19, 2013
 

The United States and Iran are exchanging tough messages on possible negotiations towards a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear weapons crisis. Both sides are presenting conditions for direct negotiations, which would be the first of their kind. In international relations theory this phenomenon is called “pre-negotiation.” During this phase the sides calculate the benefits and drawbacks of the negotiating process itself and of a possible agreement.

They present tough opening positions which they know the other side can’t accept, and they attempt to obtain concessions from the other side just for agreeing to negotiate. This has been the negotiating style of both the Palestinians and the Iranians. It seems that the West in general and the United States in particular don’t know how to effectively handle this style.

 

During a February 2013 international security conference in Munich, American Vice President Joe Biden said that there “is still time…[and] space for diplomacy backed by pressure to succeed. The ball is in the government of Iran’s court.” He added that the discussions would be held on condition of a “real and tangible” Iranian offer. Biden hinted that the atmosphere surrounding previous negotiations was not serious, because Iran was not ready to make a single compromise; its sole purpose was to buy time and advance its drive to the nuclear bomb in the interim.

His message was clear: the United States will not agree to such negotiations, and will not remove sanctions merely in exchange for Iran’s entrance into deliberations. In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called upon Iranian leaders to “recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations.” He concluded that the United States “will do what is necessary to prevent [Iran] from getting a nuclear weapon.”

 

The Iranian reply was immediate. The two Iranian leaders – the spiritual and more significant leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; and the political leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – responded negatively and conditionally to Biden’s invitation. We are ready for negotiations, they said, but only if the United Sates and the West announce support for Iran’s right to a nuclear program, and on condition that the heavy sanctions against Iran are removed. It is obvious that the United States can’t accept these demands, because the sanctions’ removal would eliminate any chance, remote as they are, to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The sanctions and the heavy damage they have inflicted on the Iranian economy pushed the Iranian leaders to seek negotiations, and suspending them now will eliminate any incentive they may have to compromise.

 

It is very possible that the tough stance of the Iranian leadership stems from its perception of the new senior appointments of the Obama Administration in foreign and national security affairs: John Kerry as Secretary of State and Chuck Hagel as the nominated Secretary of Defense. Both men are veterans of the Vietnam War and are almost fundamentally opposed to using any type of force to bring results. In the past, Hagel even opposed sanctions and claimed that it is impossible to halt the Iranian nuclear program. In his Senate testimony he also made an embarrassing statement by characterizing the Iranian regime as “legitimate.”

 

The Iranian leaders interpreted these appointments, as well as Obama’s and Biden’s invitation to open talks, as signs of weakness to be exploited for advancing their nuclear weapons program and for setting tough conditions for negotiations. The Iranian leaders have also closely observed the North Korean defiance of the United States and the Western pressure to stop the testing of nuclear weapons and long range missiles, and could have concluded that the US warnings and intimidations are not credible….

 

The current stalemate threatens to cripple Obama’s Iranian strategy. He planned heavy sanctions that he hoped would soften the Iranian position and bring them to negotiations and direct discussions with a good chance to stop the bomb. It is apparent that the goals of the two sides contradict each other: America wants Iran to stop enriching its uranium, while Iran wants to end the sanctions. The Iranians know how to conduct negotiations much better than the Americans; they have thousands of years of experience in bazaar-like bargaining. Thus, if the United States and Iran reach an agreement to begin direct negotiations, the ultimate results may be favourable to the Iranians. The American desire to avoid the military option almost at any cost may produce a vague agreement which will still enable Iran to clandestinely continue developing nuclear weapons. If no direct negotiations are held, or if they are held but fail to stop Iran from continuing to develop nuclear weapons, and if Obama stands by his commitments to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb – the Administration may have no choice but to use military force…..

 

Prof. Eytan Gilboa is Director of the School of Communication and Director of the Center for International Communication, both at Bar-Ilan University, and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

 

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U.S. WEAKNESS PROVOKES N. KOREA AND IRAN
Max Boot

Commentary, Feb.12, 2013
 

So much for the exaggerated hopes of those that believed Kim Jong-un would turn out to be a different kind of dictator. Following a long-range rocket test in December, North Korea has now apparently tested a nuclear weapon bigger than any it has tested before. This, despite warnings not only from South Korea, Japan, and the United States, but also from China, not to test. Far from being the reformer as many naively imagined, Kim is showing himself a chip off the old dynastic bloc, once again using North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction to posture before the world and no doubt to shake concessions out of the U.S., South Korea, and other states.

 

What makes this test truly disturbing is the close cooperation that is known to exist between Iran and North Korea in the development of ever-more destructive weaponry. The two countries have worked closely together on missiles and may well be working together on nuclear weapons. If so, the North Korean test is an indication of growing danger not only in Northeast Asia but also in the Middle East.

 

And what is the American response to this latest provocation? To his credit, President Obama has not repeated the pattern of his predecessors in trying to shower North Korea with aid to get it to desist from its dangerous behavior—a pattern that only subsidized North Korean malfeasance. Rather than trying to relaunch stalled six-party talks, he has actually pushed for the toughest sanctions yet on North Korea although their ability to actually coerce Pyongyang is limited as long as China refuses to cut off economic aid.

 

But these tough responses are undermined to a large extent by the symbolism of Obama proposing steep cuts in the American nuclear arsenal—from 1,700 to 1,000 warheads—in the State of the Union address on the very day when North Korea is testing a nuke and Iran is drawing closer to acquiring its own nukes. It is hard to know why the president imagines unilateral American cuts will encourage more responsible behavior from the likes of Iran and North Korea. The more likely consequence is to call into question America’s deterrent capacity, an especially pressing issue if, as Bret Stephens argues in this Wall Street Journal column, China’s nuclear arsenal is actually larger than commonly supposed.

 

With the danger growing from both Iran and North Korea it is all the more incumbent on the US to reassure regional allies—from Saudi Arabia to South Korea–that they will be sheltered securely underneath the American nuclear umbrella. If we cut our own nuclear forces drastically, the credibility of our guarantees diminishes and the likelihood goes up that our allies will seek nuclear weapons of their own, potentially setting off two nuclear arms races.

 

Of course it is not just in the nuclear realm that the US is undertaking defense cuts. Our overall military budget is to undergo drastic cuts within weeks assuming that the Congress and White House do not reach an agreement to turn off the sequester. Already the military services are cutting back on readiness and training. The Navy, for one, has announced that the Persian Gulf area will for the time being have only one aircraft carrier battle group on station, rather than two.

 

It is hard to think of a more threatening prospect than unilateral American military reductions at a time when our enemies our growing stronger. Weakness, it is often said, is provocative. By that measure we are provoking two of the most dangerous rogue states in the world.

 

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Spy Fail: Why Iran is Losing Its Covert War with Israel: Karl Vick, Time World, Feb. 13, 2013Slumped in a Nairobi courtroom, suit coats rumpled and reading glasses dangling from librarian chains, the defendants made a poor showing for the notorious Quds Force of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

 

The Collapse of Iran's RialSteven Plaut, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 21, 2013The Iranian economy has been imploding, at times even nudging news of Iran's nuclear program off of the front pages. In the first ten months of 2012, the Iranian currency, the rial, lost more than 80% of its exchange value. In a single day, on October 1, 2012, it dropped by 15%, and, after a brief reprieve, resumed its trend downwards in early 2013. At least one commentator has compared Iran's economic meltdown with that in Zimbabwe.

 

North Korea Shows Dangers of Half-Deal with Iran: Gary Milhollin, Bloomberg, Feb 24, 2013Negotiators from the world’s major powers sit down with Iran this week for more talks on its nuclear program, just weeks after North Korea tested another nuclear weapon. If the connection between these two events isn’t obvious, it should be: North Korea’s nuclear saga is a cautionary tale for anyone attempting to bargain with the Islamic Republic.

Iran's Shrewd Move: Michael Makovsky and Blaise Misztal: Weekly Standard, Feb 22, 2013With the next round of international talks on Iran’s nuclear program scheduled for February 26, the United States needs to understand Iran’s negotiating strategy. Recent Iranian tactics suggest a seemingly contradictory approach: simultaneously slowing down and speeding up their nuclear program. But by buying time now, Iran is shrewdly seeking to evade international pressure while hastening its advance to nuclear weapons capability.

 

Are Iran Sanctions Working?: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 21, 2013It’s a commonplace to say that sanctions against Iran are tighter than ever and are working. Here’s an example from White House spokesman Jay Carney last Fall: ”We have diplomatic isolation and international isolation that’s unprecedented in history and it’s having a profound impact on both the Iranian economy and the Iranian regime’s internal political structure.”

 

 

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“PREEMPT OR RETALIATE FROM THE RUBBLE” TOUGH TIMES AHEAD FOR ISRAEL, & FOR IRAN

TIME IS SHORT FOR IRAN DIPLOMACY

Michael Oren

Wall Street Journal, Aug. 6, 2012

 

Nearly two decades ago, Israel started alerting the world about Iran’s nuclear program. But the world ignored our warnings, wasting 10 years until the secret nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz was exposed in 2002. Then eight more invaluable years were lost before much of the international community imposed serious sanctions on Iran.

 

Throughout that time, the ayatollahs systematically lied about their nuclear operations, installing more than 10,000 centrifuges, a significant number of them in a once-secret underground facility at Qom. Iran has blocked International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from visiting its nuclear sites, refused to answer questions about the military aspects of its program, and rejected all confidence-building measures. Iran has tested long-range missiles capable of reaching any city in the Middle East and, in the future, beyond.

 

Iran is also the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. It has supplied more than 70,000 rockets to terrorist organizations deployed on Israel’s borders and has tried to murder civilians across five continents and 25 countries, including in the United States. In July, Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists killed five Israeli tourists, among them a pregnant woman, in Bulgaria. Iran’s forces have attacked American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its agents are operating in Yemen, Africa and South America. By providing fighters and funds, Iran is enabling Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to massacre his own people.

 

Iran has done all this without nuclear weapons. With them, it can commit incalculable atrocities anywhere in the world, beginning with Israel. As the chief of staff of the Iranian military recently stated, “the Iranian nation stands for the full annihilation of Israel.” Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said “the annihilation of the Zionist regime is the key for solving the world problems.”

 

Accordingly, Israel believes that Iran is far from forfeiting its nuclear ambitions. Our conviction is based on Iran’s record of subterfuge and terror together with its genocidal rhetoric. It also reflects the inability of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (the “P5+1”) to negotiate a compromise with Iran.

 

In their first round of talks with Iranian officials, late in 2009, the P5+1 demanded the suspension of all enrichment activities in Iran and the transfer of its stockpiles, then enriched to 3.5%, abroad. Iran rejected those conditions and escalated its enrichment process to 20%, which can be enhanced to weapons-grade in a matter of weeks.

 

Iran now has amassed roughly 225 pounds of 20% uranium and 11,000 pounds of 3.5%, sufficient for almost five nuclear bombs. Rather than stand by its initial demands, however, the P5+1 is now seeking merely the cessation of Iran’s 20% enrichment, the removal of its 20% stockpile, and the closure of the facility at Qom. Arguably, this would be the first stage in the phasing out of Iran’s nuclear program. But Iran has rejected even this preliminary gesture.

 

Iran will continue to drag out the negotiations while installing more centrifuges. These, according to the IAEA, are spinning even faster. The sanctions, which have dealt a blow to Iran’s economy, have not affected the nuclear program. Meanwhile, more of Iran’s expanding stockpile will be hidden in fortified bunkers beyond Israel’s reach.

 

No country has a greater stake than Israel in using negotiations and economic pressure to dissuade Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We appreciate the determination of President Obama and the U.S. Congress to advance the sanctions and their pledge to keep all options on the table.

 

At the same time, the president has affirmed Israel’s right “to defend itself, by itself, against any threat,” and “to make its own decision about what is required to meet its security needs.” Historically, Israel has exercised that right only after exhausting all reasonable diplomatic means. But as the repeated attempts to negotiate with Iran have demonstrated, neither diplomacy nor sanctions has removed the threat.… (Mr. Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.)

 

TOUGH TIMES AHEAD FOR ISRAEL

Elise Cooper

American Thinker, August 5, 2012

 

It appears that Israel might be facing the toughest struggle yet in its history. There is Syria, a country possibly becoming a tribal state; Iraq, with a growing influence from al-Qaeda; Egypt, quite likely to become an Islamist regime; and the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezb’allah at Israel’s borders. Then there is Iran, a dangerous and murderous country which could soon possess a nuclear weapon. American Thinker interviewed some experts, asking them their opinion on the Israel-Iran crisis.

 

New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva, in his latest novel, The Fallen Angel, wrote, “There are some leaders who assure me that Israel can live with an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon. … But to someone who lived through the madness of the Second World War, they sound too much like those who said the Jews had nothing to fear from a Germany led by Hitler and the Nazis. … We ask only that you [Israel] proceed with the utmost caution, for your decisions will affect the entire world[.]”

 

Michael Hayden, the former CIA director, believes that Israel has a right to be concerned, since crunch time for Iran having a nuclear weapon will come in late 2013 or early 2014. He does not see the sanctions working and views all the options as bad. The problem with Iran today is that “[i]t is less stable and less predictable, which makes a lot of people concerned. 

 

People are less comfortable now than during the Cold War, since with the Soviet case, there seemed to be more traditional curves and breaks in behavior, whereas with North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran, the internal pathology of the states create behaviors that appear far less predictable and less susceptible to be influenced by other governments. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the Iranians will be able to get a nuclear weapon if they have the will.”

 

A nuclear Iran means a lose-lose situation for the world. Elliott Abrams, a former Middle East advisor to President George W. Bush, believes that a nuclear Iran will be a constant day-to-day threat, having a psychological impact on Israel. “If an Iranian official today makes frequent speeches about Israel being wiped off the map, it’s disgusting, yet we all know currently [that] they don’t have the ability to do it. How does an Iran that does have nuclear weapons behave? [It’s] something I hope to never find out.”

 

Hayden sees other consequences as well — namely, a more hostile, bold, and brazen Iran, since the Iranians will have as a defence a nuclear umbrella. He also feels that Iran’s nuclear capacity will show other second-rate powers that they can “stare down the international community with regard to nuclear weapons.” What will then transpire is a regional nuclear arms race, causing a destabilized world. The Saudis have already discussed a nuclear guarantee with Pakistan. In addition, Turkey and Egypt will also desire a nuclear weapon.

 

Obviously, Israel has to weigh the risks of acting or not acting. It faces a very tough target that is dispersed, distant, and numerous. Israel must consider the physical effects of any action compared to the political and diplomatic price. A former intelligence operative who worked in the region told American Thinker, “There is no doubt in my mind that Iran is going to complete its enrichment program. When it has the capacity to do so, the Iranians have made it very clear they will wipe Israel off the face of the earth. I don’t see that as rhetoric. Iran will have the missile capability to take out Israel.

 

The problem is that Iran has nuclear bunkers so deep in the soil [that] there is a good possibility of having to do a land invasion as well. Then there is the worry that other Arab countries in the Middle East will attack Israel. This regional conflict can then turn into a global conflict. As we look at history, typically big wars start with smaller actions.”

 

Abrams is not as pessimistic. He believes that the people of Iran hate their current leaders and are not anti-American or anti-Israeli. He wonders if there “is a tendency to underestimate the damage done with a strike on the Iranian nuclear program. Israel may be able to set it back by a number of years. I think defeat never helps a regime. A strike may lead to the demise of this Islamic Republic. The Iranian leaders will have to defend the position that they devoted untold billions of dollars, defied the world, and became a pariah — for what?”

 

All interviewed agree that the world, and the U.S. in particular, needs to make sure that Iran believes that military action is a definite consideration. Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, noted that the Obama administration has to show in very concrete ways that the U.S. is serious regarding military engagement. He suggests aggressive joint exercises with Israel, as well as the movement of equipment to the region in a very public way.…

 

During the June Global Terrorism Conference, sponsored by the U.S., the Obama administration did not take a tough stand. According to Rabbi Marvin Hier, Israel was deliberately excluded, yet countries with a history of sponsoring radical Islamic ideology were invited. What is this telling Iran, the world’s largest state supporter of terrorism?

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, cannot understand the snub, since “Israel, if any state, knows something about counter-terrorism. Yet that is the country that is not invited to participate in the conference.…This administration has not shown friends we are their allies and enemies that we are their adversaries.”

 

Abrams is disappointed but not surprised. His explanation for this rebuff is that the Obama administration caved to pressure and made a terrible mistake, “setting a precedent. What the U.S. should have done is take the position that the problem is with those hostile to Israel. They should be saying ‘we will never have these conferences if Israel is excluded, so get used to it, and let’s move forward.’…

 

The recent terrorist attack in Bulgaria by Iran has shown how the Iranians will act without nuclear weapons. This is a sad reminder of the nature of this regime. The Iranian leadership are willing to accept any amount of damage to their country to achieve the goal of obtaining nuclear weapons. Congressman Rogers summarized it best: “Israel’s challenge is now. They have to make a decision on what is best for their existence.

As one Israeli official recently told me, ‘we started this nation to say never again so we would not be put in a position that we were during the Holocaust. Maybe we have put all the Jews in one place to be easily annihilated with a nuclear weapon. We must not let that happen.’“

 

WHY ISRAEL COULD STRIKE IRAN BEFORE NOVEMBER
        Giulio Meotti

Front Page Mag, Aug 7th, 2012

           

If the Obama administration still vehemently opposes an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities for fear of hampering his chances for reelection, the latest Debka report reveals that Tehran is closer than ever to an atomic bomb. “The months of negotiations with the six world powers were happily used by Iran for great strides toward bringing its nuclear weapon program to fruition,” explains Debka, a publication close to Israeli intelligence agencies.

 

We knew that Tehran produced low-enriched uranium for four nuclear warheads in the fortified bunker in Fordo. We knew that the centrifuges are enriching uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent. But according to Debka, uranium enrichment levels have crept past 20 percent in expanded quantities.

 

“The six powers are understandably reluctant to admit that in the time bought by negotiations, Iran was able to refine uranium up to 30-percent grade or even a higher and go into advanced preparations for 65 percent grade enrichment. Now the Iranians are well on the way to an 80-90 percent weapons grade.” This is the weaponization of the nuclear cycle.

 

That’s why Israel could launch a preemptive operation against Iran before the US presidential election in November. Or as the former Israeli Mossad director, Ephraim Halevi, just commented to the New York Times, “if I were an Iranian I would be very worried in the next 12 weeks.” “The period before the US elections is the best for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities,” Israel’s leading analyst Efraim Inbar, head of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and one of the informal advisors of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told me this week. “

 

The diplomatic talks failed, the sanctions are not working, only a military operation can stop Iran’s atomic program. We already stopped Iraq and Syria’s nuclear programs. We will take in consideration only our security and Jewish survival, because a nuclearized Iran would be an immense threat for the Jewish State.”

 

Inbar attacks the “bizzarre red line” of the Obama’s administration on Iran, which is an order by Iranian leadership to build a bomb. “If you wait so long the Iranian program would become immune to an attack,” says Inbar. He also criticizes Europe, which used the talks to stop an Israeli strike on Iran’s atomic program. “It’s even worse than Munich’s 1938, then Europe was willing to use the force, while today nobody wants to fight anymore.”

 

In Israel, Inbar explains, “nobody believes in the sanctions, while there are those, like the former Mossad’s head Meir Dagan, [who] believed that covert operations would have been better to abort the Iranian program. The Americans are now trying to be our babysitter, but the last decision will be taken in Jerusalem by Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu.”

 

The two Israeli leaders must now determine whether Israel can trust the recent US promise to thwart Iran’s atomic ambitions in case sanctions prove to be insufficient – or launch a unilateral Israeli attack on the Islamic Republic. In the first case, everything would be postponed to the next spring.

 

Otherwise, the sirens will wake up the Israelis one day in the next three months, [canned foods] will quickly disappear from the supermarkets, they will seal doors and windows and the Home Front Command will instruct them to enter into shelters. The rest will be history.

 

And if Iran gets the bomb? Norman Podhoretz, founding father of neo-conservatism and the ideological architect who inspired George W. Bush’s foreign policy, recently told me: “If Iran gets the bomb, the Israelis would have to decide whether to preempt or to retaliate from the rubble.”