Category Archives: Nuclear weapons

Fundraiser for key new book on Iran– please help!

As some JWN readers know, twelve days ago I launched an online fundraising campaign to support the writing and publication of one of my company’s most important books for 2013, a book by award-winning investigative reporter Gareth Porter that exposes how the U.S. and Israel have “manufactured” the whole scare about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
(Big thanks to Mr. Netanyahu for providing us with such a fabulous book cover image, by the way.)
The book will be called Manufactured Crisis: The Secret History of the Iranian Nuclear Scare. Gareth, who in June traveled to London to receive the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, is uniquely qualified to write this book. You can see more details about his qualifications over at the fundraising page. But he needs some financial support if he is to take time out from his continuing duties as a cutting-edge investigative reporter, and pull together the huge amount of material that he has amassed, into the form of this very sorely needed book.
We want, obviously, to get the book out as early in 2013 as we can… But it still all needs to be written!
My company, Just World Books, has given Gareth a small advance. But he needs quite a lot more support, if he is to be able to devote the time that this project needs– and to do so, starting in early December! We don’t have access (as the vast majority of the warmongers and scaremongers do) to huge gobs of funding from foundations or think-tanks. So this has had to be a “people’s” fundraising campaign; and in a way I’m very glad about that.
The fundraising platform that we’re working with, Kickstarter, has a generally good format. But it has an important feature that we all need to know about: Anyone launching a Kickstarter campaign has to designate both an end-date, and a target amount of money that she or he wants to raise before that end-date… And if the pledges made to the campaign as of that date don’t meet the target, then none of the money gets collected!
From the point of view of a project’s backers, that is probably a good thing. It means that you don’t end up pouring money into a project that never gets fully funded and that may therefore never get completed. From our viewpoint as the project’s authors, however, it means we absolutely need to meet the $10,000 fundraising target we set, before December 12, which was the cut-off date that I designated.
If we don’t reach the goal by then, not only we don’t get any of the money pledged, but also, I think we don’t even get access to the contact details of the pledgers, to ask them if they could find a way to support us, anyway.
Right, I agree that that latter aspect of the Kickstarter system seems really horrible.
But the Kickstarter folks are quite right to stress, as they do in some of their literature, that running a successful fundraising campaign takes time and energy; and that people who are planning creative projects should try to be strategic about minimizing the amount of time they have to spend fundraising.
So let me ask all of you readers of JWN to help us meet our goal.
This is not a “charitable” endeavor. It is a serious pitch for backing for an important publishing project… and we’re offering a graduated series of worthwhile “rewards” to everyone who contributes $10 or more. You can check them out on the right sidebar of the Kickstarter page there.
When I was planning this fundraising campaign, I decided it should run for 42 days. We launched it on October 24. We knew it would be hard to get much attention for it during the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of the U.S. election. But now, the election has finished and all the dust that it raised has settled. The fact that Pres. Obama won re-election does not mean at all that the threat of continued tensions and future, perhaps sudden, escalations between the U.S. and Iran–or, between Israel and Iran– has gone away.
Far from it!
Today, according to the Kickstarter page, we have 29 days left for our campaign. (I would have pegged it at 30 days, but never mind…) And we are already 22.6% of the way towards our goal.
My huge thanks to everyone who has expressed their support of this project– and their confidence in Gareth and me– by pledging, so far!
But we still need to raise the remaining $7,740 by December 12.
Can you help us, please?
Kickstarter will accept pledges in any amount from $1 up. We offer good rewards, at pledge levels from $10 right through $1,000. If you haven’t pledged yet, could you consider doing so? Pledging can be done quickly and simply through the Kickstarter page.
In addition, we’d appreciate anything you can do to help us spread the word about this fundraising campaign. There must be many ways in which, for example, you could tell your friends about it, and urge them to make a pledge, too?
If you’re a fellow blogger, could you blog something quick and simple about it? (I’d be happy to help you by giving you some “talking points” you could use in your blog post… Or, just take down some of the key points that Gareth makes about the project in the great little video that we put onto the KS page.)
If you’re on Twitter and want to tweet about the campaign, we’ve created this handy short URL you can copy and use: http://bit.ly/ManufCrisis… Actually, anyone can use that short URL, which is a whole lot easier to remember or copy than the long version.
And let’s not forget physical-media ways of doing outreach, either. I’m just about to make some print flyers about the campaign, to start handing out, including at the annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, which runs in Denver, Colorado, this weekend. Let me know if you’d like me to send you the PDF of the print flyers, so you can distribute some, too.
…So please, give us all the help you can. We need this fundraising campaign to succeed. That way, Gareth can get started very soon on the deep, sustained work that is needed to pull together all the materials he has collected, into this important book… And we can then know that this book can make a real contribution to setting the record straight on the lies, manipulations, and actual DIS-information on this issue that too many in the “west” have been subjected to, for far too long.
Thanks, everyone!

New docs on Israel’s nuke deal with apartheid SA

Kudos to the Guardian’s Chris McGreal for having published and interpreted a series of official agreements concluded between Israel and South Africa in the mid-1970s, when the government in South Africa was at the height of its pursuit of apartheid. (HT: omop.)
In 1974, the U.N. General Assembly formally determined that apartheid constituted a crime against humanity. Ah, but that didn’t prevent Israel’s then defense minister (and current president) Shimon Peres from sending a fawning letter to South Africa’s Information Minister in November 1974 saying that the two countries share a “common hatred of injustice,” and urging a “close identity of aspirations and interests.”
McGreal writes that the new documents were uncovered by U.S. researcher Sasha Polakow-Suransky, as part of his research for his soon-to-be-published book on the relationship between the two countries while South Africa was still in its apartheid phase. Officials in the present South African government apparently felt little need to continue to keep the documents secret.
McGreal writes that the newly revealed “top secret” minutes of meetings held by officials from the two countries in 1975 “show that South Africa’s defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them ‘in three sizes’.” The ‘three sizes’ can be understood, from other documents in the collection, to refer to warheads that could be conventional, chemical, or nuclear.
McGreal wrote,

    Botha did not go ahead with the deal in part because of the cost. In addition, any deal would have to have had final approval by Israel’s prime minister and it is uncertain it would have been forthcoming.
    South Africa eventually built its own nuclear bombs, albeit possibly with Israeli assistance. But the collaboration on military technology only grew over the following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its weapons.
    The documents confirm accounts by a former South African naval commander, Dieter Gerhardt – jailed in 1983 for spying for the Soviet Union. After his release with the collapse of apartheid, Gerhardt said there was an agreement between Israel and South Africa called Chalet which involved an offer by the Jewish state to arm eight Jericho missiles with “special warheads”. Gerhardt said these were atomic bombs. But until now there has been no documentary evidence of the offer.

It was in September 1979 that a U.S. satellite, the “Vela Hotel”, detected a double flash of light over the South Atlantic that many specialists thought was an emission from a nuclear test conducted from a South African naval vessel, quite likely in coordination with Israeli specialists.

Livni shows a little real vision on the Iran issue?

I just read this account, from the BBC’s Tim Franks, of what looked like some kind of cross between a ‘war-game’ and a panel discussion about Iran’s nuclear program, held yesterday at Israel’s close-to-power ‘Inter-Disciplinary Center’ (IDC), in Herzliya.
Well-connected and high-level participants from both the U.S. Israeli took part in the event, though not, apparently, any currently serving officials in either government.
Franks wrote this about Tzipi Livni, the head of Israel’s main opposition party, Kadima:

    Ms Livni directed particular criticism at the current Israeli Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu repeated warnings about a second Holocaust.
    “The role of leadership is to give an answer to this kind of threat,” she said, rather than to stoke worry.
    “Israel in 2010 is not the Jews in Europe in 1939.”

Franks also wrote that Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said that, time and again, during ‘war-games’ or consultations of this type held jointly between Israeli and American participants,

    a marked difference of emphasis would emerge from the role-playing, with the Israelis favouring military action as a ‘first course of response’, and the US tending to look at alternatives.
    In that context, there was a particularly striking contribution from Dan Halutz, the previous chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces, and another participant in the day of war-gaming.
    He argued strongly not just for talk of military pre-emption, but diplomatic pre-emption.
    He said that the Iranians should be isolated from the rest of the Muslim world, which, he claimed, was “by and large more concerned than Israel is about a nuclear Iran.”
    The way to do that, he said, was clear: a comprehensive regional peace settlement. “The price is known, all the files are ready.”

Ah, Dan Halutz! The guy who was so certain back in July 2006 that he knew exactly how to “isolate” Hizbullah from the rest of the Lebanese population!
What an idiot. Why should anyone consider him an expert on anything to do with the politics of the Muslim countries of the region?
Still, it sounded like an interesting gathering.
And I find it interesting that some high-level Israelis are willing to talk so openly about the way they see the ‘linkage’ operating between the Iran situation and the need for Israel-Palestine peacemaking. This, though Israel’s willing armies of hasbaristas inside the U.S. body politic are still so absolutely adamant that no-one in the west should assert that there’s any linkage between the two issues at all…
My assessment is that current PM Netanyahu also believes that there is and should be linkage between the two– but that he sees it operating in a way that’s almost 180 degrees turned round from the view Halutz was expressing. I think Netanyahu’s real view is something like the following:

    1. He may well believe that Iran is aiming at, and may get to, the possession of a nuclear weapons capability within the next few years. But he isn’t really very scared by that prospect– despite what all his armies of hasbaristas are yelling in the west– because he knows full well that Israel’s own nuclear arsenal is completely well poised to destroy Iran and come to that the whole world if Israel chooses what we might call the “Samson option”. (The hasbaristas, of course, are not allowed to make any mention at all, however indirect, of Israel’s own NW capability.)
    2. Nonetheless, Netanyahu is very happy indeed to keep tensions high around the Iranian nuclear program, and to carry on inciting/pressuring the U.S. to escalate these tensions (including by delivering threats that if the U.S. doesn’t act ‘forcefully’, then Israel just might have to launch its own military strike against Iran)– primarily because keeping the attention of U.S. officials focused on ‘containing’ and threatening Iran prevents them from giving due attention to what’s happening on the ground in occupied Palestine. It’s all an elaborate distraction ploy!
    3. Therefore, meanwhile, as American officials are fussing around and devoting huge resources to ‘containing’ and combating Iran, Netanyahu’s government is very busy indeed continuing with its policy of colonizing the West Bank and shutting up all its rightful Palestinian owners inside the increasingly overcrowded open-air pens called “Oslo”. Every time Americans dare to challenge that policy, Netanyahu distracts their attention to Iran. And any Americans appeals to the idea that what Netanyahu’s doing in the OPTs might be making the fight against Iran harder is met with squeals of outrage from the hasbaristas to the effect that there really cannot be any “linkage” between these two issues.

Bottom line: Whereas Halutz judges there is cross-issue linkage, but within that picture assigns the need to counter Iran a higher priority than the need to preserve the entire, continuing settler-colonial project in the West Bank, Netanyahu judges there is linkage but assigns the need to preserve the settler-colonial project a higher priority than the need to do anything to actually counter Iran.
… Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what happens now that the “initiative” on the Iran issue seems to be slipping out of the hands of Washington and into the new hands of Turkey’s Erdogan and Brazil’s Lula, backed up by the broad network of supporters that both those leaders have around the world.
Is Netanyahu perhaps already planning the launching of Israeli dirty tricks against both those governments?

Midsize, non-nuclear powers enter world stage

Treading where the U.S. and its European allies have failed to make any significant headway, the leaders of Turkey and Brazil have now engaged personally in dealing with the globally important Iran/nuclear issue– and they seem to be making real progress in de-escalating the tensions around it.
In Tehran today, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters his government has agreed to ship about half of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for the further enriched kind of fuel required to run a medical reactor.
The deal comes as the culmination of personal visits undertaken to Iran by Turkish Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva.
If this deal goes through, Erdogan and Lula’s diplomatic breakthrough will have a large impact not only on resolution of the globally vital Iran/nuclear issue itself but also on the whole face and structure of world politics.
The U.S., Britain, France, and Germany have all been pushing– within the ‘P5+1′ forum established specifically a couple of years ago to add Germany’s economic (and pro-U.S.) heft to the UN’s traditional P5 leadership– to impose a U.S.-designed solution on Iran, primarily by ratcheting up hostile economic actions against Iran backed up by a threat of military action.
Within the P5+1, the other two members of the P5, China and Russia, have adopted a fairly passive stance on the issue, showing neither any great support for the western countries’ line nor any readiness to actively resist it.
Enter the leaders of Turkey and Brazil– two significantly rising, mid-size countries whose current governments are generally pro-western but have also shown their willingness to challenge Washington where they judge their own core interests outweigh those of the U.S.
In contrast to the P5′s membership group, which coincides exactly with the group of five nations “allowed” to have nuclear weapons– for a while anyway– under the terms of the worldwide Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Turkey and Brazil are determinedly non-nuclear states. Both have good relations, including military relations, with the U.S. But perhaps most importantly, the current governments of these two states enjoy a wide and indisputable democratic mandate from their own citizenries– as well as considerable soft-power (diplomatic and economic) heft within the regions of which they are a part.
Therefore, though some European diplomats have apparently been a little huffy about the deal Erdogan and Lula achieved in Tehran, it would seem very counter-productive for the western governments to try to do anything active to try to undermine it.
That does not mean they won’t try, of course. All the western governments have been subjected to great pressure by Israel to continue ratcheting up the pressure on Iran; and it seems doubtful that either that pressure or those governments’ susceptibility to it will end overnight.
This is a great– and potentially very hopeful– story, in so many different respects. Watch this space.

Obama’s ‘Nuclear Security’ showcase, Israeli nukes, etc

The police helicopters have been droning overhead for a couple of days here in Washington DC, as scores of world leaders sit with Pres. Obama at the ‘Nuclear Security Summit’.
(But not Netanyahu. We’ll come back to him later.)
This morning I was having a meeting with a prominent former U.S. diplomatist who recalled how, back in the first months of the GWB administration, Secdef Rumsfeld had been making a huge issue out of the need for ballistic missile defense, convening summits and the like.
“But then,” my friend said, “it turned out that a bunch of Saudis had discovered that an airplane full of fuel could be even more deadly than a ballistic missile– especially if it had a guidance system as sophisticated as that provided by the human mind… It’s the same thing today. They’re all barking up this nuclear security tree, when there are so many other potentially very lethal materials lying around.”
Oh well. I guess Obama and his people have been trying to make a point… including by convening this gathering to which everyone except Iran, Syria, and North Korea gets invited.
But actually, isn’t that rather a childish “point” to seek to make? “We’ve got more friends than you have! Nanny-nanny-boo-boo!”
… Well, and then speaking of potentially very dangerous actors on the world scene who might one day get hold of the ingredients for nuclear weapons, there is of course Israel.
Oops! My silly mistake! Israel of course already has an advanced nuclear arsenal that may well be one of the three most deadly on the planet.
Just a couple of days ago, I blogged here that, just as the ‘elephant’ of the undue influence that dedicated pro-Israeli political appointees have long had on the making of U.S. Mideast policy is now coming ponderously out of the room of silence in which it was previously caged, then surely it must be time that that other big ‘elephant’ of which no-one in U.S. polite company like to speak– the fact of Israel’s own massive nuclear arsenal– should also be brought into the light of day.
Little did I know that that very evening, veteran Israeli commentator Yaron London was putting finishing touches to an op-ed in which he made exactly that same argument. (English translation here, thanks to Didi Remez.)
London was writing that it is time for Israel to end its long-pursued policy of “nuclear ambiguity”:

    Who are those interested in maintaining the ambiguity? The United States, with which, according to foreign sources, we have reached an agreement that it keep its wide eyes shut, and the Arab countries, which are unenthusiastic about getting drawn into a nuclear arms race.
    But the value of ambiguity has long since passed. Iran is certain to become nuclear, or will perhaps be stopped “half an inch before tightening the screws” from actually getting the bomb. The argument that Iran should not be denied a nuclear weapons so long as this is not being denied from Israel — if we are to believe foreign sources — has found a receptive international audience.
    …The age of nuclear ambiguity is coming to an end and it will be followed by an age of open debate. It is time that more people be allowed to take part in the debate which is most critical to our very existence.

Interesting…
One source that London linked to was this news report in Yediot Aharonot on April 10, which quoted a recent Jane’s report on the topic in these terms:

    the Israeli strategic force could be deployed by the Jericho 2 missile, which has a range of up to 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles), or the five-year-old Jericho 3, which reaches up to 7,800 kilometers.
    It is also believed to be able to deploy by air, using F-16 fighter jets, and even by sea through its submarine fleet, providing an opportunity for a second strike if its land systems are attacked.
    Israel acquired three diesel-powered Dolphin-class submarines in 1999-2000 which are capable of launching adapted Harpoon cruise missiles fitted with nuclear warheads.
    In addition, Jane’s says some observers believe Jerusalem has developed tactical nuclear weapons such as landmines and artillery shells.

Oh, and then I can’t help but juxtapose that sobering report with the photo in this news report today from Maan News in Bethlehem.
The report starts:

    Israel’s military said the bodies of two “heavily armed” Islamic Jihad operatives were found in the Gaza Strip late Tuesday, hours after they were killed in clashes near the Al-Bureij refugee camp…

Okay, so the IOF had apparently gone into the Gaza Strip after killing these two guys (and maybe beforehand, as well, in order to kill them?) But anyway, the photo, which was provided by the Israeli military, shows the “heavy armaments” it said it found on their bodies.
Of course, there is absolutely no way of verifying that the men were ever armed with these items, which seem from the photo to include only two folding-stock Klashen’s, eight Klashen bullet-magazines, and some other unidentifiable objects. We have to take IOF’s ‘say-so’ on this.
But even if they were carrying these weapons– let’s think about the armaments the IOF invasion force no doubt had at its command!
What, no pictures of those items?
And then, not far away, is the nuclear facility in Dimona…
How much longer do Israelis think that westerners will continue getting taken in by all their extremely dishonest arguments? Do they think we’re all idiots?

IPS piece on global power shifts and Iran

It’s here. Also archived here.
One bottom line is here:

    In 2003, Russia and China were unable (both in strictly military terms, and in terms of global power equations) to block the invasion of Iraq. But since 2003, Russia has stabilised its internal governance considerably from the chaotic state it was still in at that time, and China has continued its steady rise to greater power on the world scene.
    Two developments over the past year have underlined, for many U.S. strategic planners, the stark facts of the United States’ deep interdependence with these two significant world powers. One was last autumn’s collapse of the financial markets in New York and other financial centres around the world, which revealed the extent of the dependence the west’s financial system has on China’s (mainly governmental) investors.
    The other turning point has been the serious challenges the U.S. faced in its campaigns against Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Earlier this year, Pakistani-based Islamist militants mounted such extensive attacks against convoys carrying desperately needed supplies to U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan that Washington was forced to sign an agreement with Moscow to open alternative supply routes through Russia.
    Russia and China both have significant interests in Iran, which they are now clearly unwilling to jeopardise simply in order to appease Washington.

The other is here:

    Thursday brought dramatic evidence of the growing weight of non-western powers in policies toward Iran. What is still unclear is when there will be evidence of any parallel growth in their influence in Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy.

Iran: Ready or not to talk? Washington: Ready or not?

In an amazing display of very late-night– or very early-morning– blogging, Laura Rozen put a post up this morning showcasing a Reuters report that Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna Ali Asghar Soltanieh had “announced Iran’s readiness to take part in any negotiations with the West based on mutual respect.”
She walked her first report back a bit, after Iran’s Press TV reported that Soltanieh said “”There have been no comments or interviews with TV networks on nuclear talks or conditions.” (Which is not a complete rebuttal of what Rozen first reported.)
Rozen has more about all the “will they, won’t they?” speculation about Iran’s future actions that is rife in the Washington political elite that’s both inside and outside the administration. (Sometimes, outside, but close to it.)
The current focus is whether Tehran will send someone to the proposed talks on the nuclear issue that Washington wants to see held before the UNGA session opens at the end of September.
As usual, one of the smartest remarks comes from Trita Parsi, whom Rozen quotes as saying,

    I don’t think worst case is that they don’t show up… They’ll show up. The worst case scenario is that they show up but they are incapable of making any big decisions because of political infighting in Iran.

This is precisely the fear I’ve had since I first articulated it eight days after the June 12 elections.
The “end of September” deadline is one the Obama administration has been pretty insistent on. It is related primarily to the “understandings” the administration seems to have reached with the (nuclear-armed) government of Israel, to the effect that Washington will try to squeeze significant concessions out of Tehran before the end of the year… and if that doesn’t work, then Washington will push hard for much tighter international sanctions against Iran and possibly other potentially even more hostile acts.
The end of September deadline does not, however, take into account either the now-imminent incidence of Ramadan or the continuing, long-drawn-out deadlock in the internal power struggle inside Iran’s theocratic governance institutions.
Insisting on the deadline, or taking concrete policy steps that further escalate the west’s tensions with Iran, would be most likely to strengthen the hardliners inside Tehran/Qom.
Another inescapable factor in this is, of course, that Washington no longer occupies the uncontested Uber-power position at the pinnacle of the global system that it occupied even three or four years ago. To get any significant strengthening of the international sanctions regime against Tehran requires the concurrence of, at the very least, all the other members of the Security Council’s P-5.
At a time of increasing American dependence on (inter-dependence with) both Russia and China– not to mention the NATO allies– that is far from a foregone conclusion.
Rozen does some good reporting (and some that’s not so good.) But she does seem to operate these days almost totally within the DC policy bubble, and too seldom looks at the broader dimensions of world affairs within which the US’s foreign policy operates.

Obama and Israel’s nukes

My IPS news analysis piece yesterday was on the Obama administration’s intriguing injection of Israel’s nuclear weapons into the global and regional diplomacy. It’s here (and here.)
The piece attempts to put Rose Gottemoeller’s fascinating statement, made to an NPT review gathering in New York on Tuesday, into the broader context of Obama’s return to stronger support for the NPT– and the ‘non-proliferation’ strategy it embodies. This, after eight (or 16?) years of US support for the much more unilateral approach of ‘counter-proliferation’.
In the article I failed to spell out, as I should have done, that Iran is a member of the NPT.
Gottemoeller said,

    “Universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea … remains a fundamental objective of the United States.”

I have been interested to note that some people have reacted to the statement by saying it was “no big deal.” This includes Joshua Pollack, writing Wednesday on the normally quite sensible Arms Control Wonk blog.
Pollack was reacting to this excellent piece of reporting in the Washington Times.
He notably made zero mention of this equally excellent piece of opinion writing, in the WT the same day, which was by Avner Cohen, who is the world’s best-informed expert on the facts about, and impact of, Israel’s nuclear arsenal. (Oh, he also happens to be Israeli.)
Cohen argued that the US’s 40-year-old policy of, essentially conniving in Israel’s protection of its nukes through the use of a robustly maintained policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be changed.
He writes there,

    Israel’s nuclear opacity is incompatible with today’s norms of nuclear transparency.
    Instead of reaffirming those ancient Nixon-Meir [don't ask, don't tell] understandings, Israel’s interest favors forming with Mr. Obama a set of new and more open nuclear understandings that would reflect today’s political reality and nuclear norms. Those understandings should follow the idea of the Indian nuclear deal with the United States. That is, those understandings should openly recognize Israel’s status as a “responsible democracy with advanced nuclear technology.”
    Only such recognition would allow Israel to be engaged in meaningful arms-control and nonproliferation negotiations. The time has come to end the hypocrisy of not recognizing Israel’s nuclear status for what it is.

He also argued that the new policy could help make a negotiated approach to the Iranian nuclear question much more feasible– something he strongly supports.
Cohen’s recent piece in the Forward is also worth reading.
But the reason I found J. Pollack’s “no-big-deal” response to Gottemoeller’s statement so interesting is that this is exactly the tactic that Israeli hawks and their friends frequently use to “bury” news that they find disquieting. (This goes right back to Ze’ev Schiff’s early responses to Mordechai Vanunu’s revelations, back in 1986.)
Pollack’s argumentation is certainly all over the place. He quotes, with glowing approval, some comments that George Perkovich reportedly made (PDF) at a recent conference on nonproliferation.
Perko had said:

    I also think it’s not constructive to kind of like call out and talk about Israel as having nuclear weapons and that, you know, people ought to come clean and so on…

He also said,

    How would we create a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East? And you invite all of the states in the region, and you have the little placards there for Iran, for Saudi Arabia, so on and so forth – and Israel. And I guarantee you, Israel will show up and other seats will be empty…

This is dangerous and misleading nonsense. Even in present circumstances, if you convened a conference dedicated to the creation of a zone free of all WMDs in the Middle East, you would certainly get Egypt and Jordan prepared to turn up and commit themselves to the goal alongside Israel.
Yes, it’s true that Iran and Saudi Arabia don’t currently have diplomatic relations with Israel; but there are plenty of diplomatic contexts in which their representatives do sit down alongside those of Israel to discuss disarmament-related issues, and it’s perfectly possible to imagine a way the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament or some other UN-linked body could convene a gathering at which all the Muslim Middle East states would agree to sit down with Israel to discuss actions toward this important goal.
I suspect it would be Israel that would not sit down there, if it is made plain in advance that everyone’s nuclear weapons capabilities will certainly be on the agenda.
Why does Perkovich make such a silly and mendacious claim?
… Anyway, while J. Pollack was trying to argue that Gottemoeller’s statement was no big deal, Ha’aretz’s Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid were writing that the content of the statement– and the fact it had not been “coordinated with Israeli officials” in advance– was being understood by people in Israel’s political elite as signaling a big change from the lovey-dovey-ness Israeli governments have enjoyed with the White House under George W. Bush.
Good.

Five+One… +One => Seven

A LOT has been happening the past two weeks relating to US-Iran relations, much of it catalyzed by President Obama’s NowRuz Address to Iran. Scott Peterson summarizes major developments in this CSMonitor article. Note especially Farideh Farhi’s comments, explaining what’s potentially different from previous Bush and Clinton era approaches.
In the same realm, Roger Cohen continues to make waves with his extraordinary NYTimes opeds, variations on the taboo theme of how the “treacherous alliance” involving the US, Israel & Iran needs… rebalancing. Who wags this dog? Today’s Cohen essay entitled “Realpolitik for Iran” features memorable quotes from an interview with IAEA chief Mohammad El-Baradei, like these two:

“I don’t believe the Iranians have made a decision to go for a nuclear weapon, but they are absolutely determined to have the (nuclear) technology because they believe it brings you power, prestige and an insurance policy….
Israel would be utterly crazy to attack Iran,… I worry about it. If you bomb, you will turn the region into a ball of fire and put Iran on a crash course for nuclear weapons with the support of the whole Muslim world.”

Now for the higher math: And it likely won’t quite make the headlines, but it matters: 5+1…+1 => 7 equals. My turn to explain:

Continue reading

Netanyahu, Iran, and the US MSM’s shameful silence

Aluf Benn writes in Haaretz today that,

    In political circles the view is that yes, Netanyahu as prime minister brings Israel closer to war with Iran. Politicians in touch with Netanyahu say he has already made up his mind to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations. People close to him wonder how the public would receive a joint decision by Netanyahu and Ehud Barak to attack Iran, and whether the move would boost the two men’s popularity. The basic assumption is that diplomacy and sanctions will not gain a thing, and the only way to stop Iran’s nuclear program will be by force, which only Israel is motivated to apply.
    This is also the assessment of the international media, who consider an Israeli strike against Iran a near certainty.

Actually, Benn is wrong to claim that “the international media” have expressed themselves clearly one way or another regarding the probability of an Israeli attack against Iran. Here in the US, the big MSM prefer not to think, or say anything, about this matter, at all.
Because if they did, they would have to come to the same conclusion that I reached long ago– and that I see M.J. Rosenberg expressed yesterday on TPM Cafe, namely that, as he wrote:

    An Israeli attack on Iran would jeopardize a myriad of American interests in the region, starting with 130,000 US troops but Netanyahu talks as if he can call the shots without any regard for our interests.

That’s why the MSM really don’t want to deal with this. They seem completely reluctant to admit that on some extremely important topics, Israel’s interests can diverge radically from those of the US citizenry– and indeed, can put in direct jeopardy the lives of many scores of thousands of our citizens.
MJ also wrote this:

    In this week’s New Yorker, Seymour Hersh reports that, just before leaving office, Dick Cheney told the Israelis that Obama is a wimp and could be ignored.
    Netanyahu appears to have bought into the Cheney thesis and is now testing it by insulting the President on the day he is sworn in as Prime Minister. Let’s see if Obama let’s him get away with it. My guess is that Bibi just made the first major blunder of his tenure. [MJ: the eternal optimist, I see. ~HC]
    It is also not a coincidence that Netanyahu trash talked Iran while US Special Envoy Holbrooke was holding the Obama administration’s first face-to-face meeting with an Iranian official in The Hague. This is in keeping with the pattern set by President Shimon Peres who sent a nasty greeting to the Iranian people simultaneously with Obama’s friendly overture. The name of the game is to make it impossible for Obama to achieve a breakthrough with Iran by always leaving the impression that America is in thrall to Israel. Clever. And dangerous.

Meanwhile, over in the blog post in which Jeffrey Goldberg wrote up his “exclusive interview” with Netanyahu, he also writes that Moshe Ya’alon, who’s a leading security adviser to Netanyahu, “told me that a nuclear Iran could mean the end of American influence in the Middle East.”
Is Jeff Goldberg extremely stupid (in that he does nothing to distance himself, as the reporter, from this deeply flawed and disingenuous judgment)– or did Ya’alon just successfully play him along as being extremely stupid?
It is an Israeli military strike against Iran that would signal “the end of American influence in the Middle East” more than anything else. A nuclear-capable Iran is something that both the US and Israel could live with (as Efraim Halevy and others have written, with regard to Israel.)
Much better for everyone in the region and all round the world, of course, would be complete, negotiated denuclearization as advocated by Global Zero. But the idea that an Israeli act of war against Iran would be anything other than catastrophic for the US in the region is complete nonsense.
Btw, the often very well-informed Richard Sale also has some interesting tidbits of info about aspects of the covert ops the Israelis and US worked on against Iran’s nuclear program in the George W Bush era, here. (HT: B of Moon of Alabama.)
Among Sales tidbits: that for almost a decade Israel has been trying, often with US help and encouragement, to assassinate “key Iranian assets”.
Sale continues,

    But U.S. opposition to the program has intensified as U.S. President Barack Obama makes overtures aimed at thawing 30 years of tension between the two countries.
    Part of this is due to the U.S.’s desire to use Iran’s road networks into Afghanistan to help resupply U.S.-NATO forces there.
    But Israel’s interests in the region are not the same as those of the United States, several U.S. officials said.

I’ll say!
Later, Sale adds these further details:

    Israel’s targeting killing program was done in concert with the [George W.] Bush administration, former U.S. sources said.
    A former senior CIA official described several joint U.S.-Mossad operations to derail Iran’s nuclear program as “something out of slapstick.” All had failed miserably, he said.
    A new wave of assassination and sabotage programs were launched in spite of the fact that in 2005, the United States had little to no intelligence about the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
    According to U.S. sources, in 2004, the CIA had lost its entire agent network in Iran when a CIA headquarters communications officer was about to send instructions to an agent via its Immarsat transmitter/receivers. The CIA officer attempted to download data intended for a single operative, but accidentally hit a button that sent it to the entire U.S. spy network in Iran, these sources said.
    The information was received by a double agent who forwarded it to Iranian counterintelligence, which quickly wrapped up the entire network, leaving Washington completely blind.

Ah, the much-feared CIA.