Daily Archives: February 3, 2012


By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON, Feb 1, 2012 (IPS) – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Israeli leaders Jan. 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers.

Dempsey’s warning, conveyed to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by President Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the United States is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran.

But the Israeli government remains defiant about maintaining its freedom of action to make war on Iran, and it is counting on the influence of right-wing extremist views in U.S. politics to bring pressure to bear on Obama to fall into line with a possible Israeli attack during the election campaign this fall.

Obama still appears reluctant to break publicly and explicitly with Israel over its threat of military aggression against Iran, even in the absence of evidence Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon.

Dempsey’s trip was highly unusual, in that there was neither a press conference by the chairman nor any public statement by either side about the substance of his meetings with Israeli leaders. Even more remarkable, no leak about what he said to the Israelis has appeared in either U.S. or Israeli news media, indicating that both sides have regarded what Dempsey said as extremely sensitive.

The substance of Dempsey’s warning to the Israelis has become known, however, to active and retired senior flag officers with connections to the JCS, according to a military source who got it from those officers.

A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Commander Patrick McNally, offered no comment Wednesday when IPS asked him about the above account of Dempsey’s warning to the Israelis.

The message carried by Dempsey was the first explicit statement to the Netanyahu government that the United States would not defend Israel if it attacked Iran unilaterally. But Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had given a clear hint in an interview on “Face the Nation” Jan. 8 that the Obama administration would not help defend Israel in a war against Iran that Israel had initiated.

Asked how the United States would react if Israel were to launch a unilateral attack on Iran, Panetta first emphasised the need for a coordinated policy toward Iran with Israel. But when host Bob Schieffer repeated the question, Panetta said, “If the Israelis made that decision, we would have to be prepared to protect our forces in that situation. And that’s what we’d be concerned about.”

Defence Minister Barak had sought to dampen media speculation before Dempsey’s arrival that the chairman was coming to put pressure on Israel over its threat to attack Iran, but then proceeded to reiterate the Netanyahu-Barak position that they cannot give up their responsibility for the security of Israel “for anyone, including our American friends”.

There has been no evidence since the Dempsey visit of any change in the Netanyahu government’s insistence on maintaining its freedom of action to attack Iran.

Dempsey’s meetings with Netanyahu and Barak also failed to resolve the issue of the joint U.S.-Israeli military exercise geared to a missile attack, “Austere Challenge ’12″, which had been scheduled for April 2012 but had been postponed abruptly a few days before his arrival in Israel.

More than two weeks after Dempsey’s meeting with Barak, the spokesman for the Pentagon, John Kirby, told IPS, “All I can say is that the exercise will be held later this year.” That indicated that there has been no major change in the status of U.S.-Israeli discussions of the issue since the postponement of the exercise was leaked Jan. 15.

The postponement has been the subject of conflicting and unconvincing explanations from the Israeli side, suggesting disarray in the Netanyahu government over how to handle the issue.

To add to the confusion, Israeli and U.S. statements left it unclear whether the decision had been unilateral or joint as well as the reasons for the decision.

Panetta asserted in a news conference Jan. 18 that Barak himself had asked him to postpone the exercise.

It now clear that both sides had an interest in postponing the exercise and very possibly letting it expire by failing to reach a decision on it.

The Israelis appear to have two distinct reasons for putting the exercise off, which reflect differences between the interests of Netanyahu and his defence minister.

Netanyahu’s primary interest in relation to the exercise was evidently to give the Republican candidate ammunition to fire at Obama during the fall campaign by insinuating that the postponement was decided at the behest of Obama to reduce tensions with Iran.

Thus Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, explained it as a “joint” decision with the United States, adding, “The thinking was it was not the right timing now to conduct such an exercise.”

Barak, however, had an entirely different concern, which was related to the Israeli Defence Forces’ readiness to carry out an operation that would involve both attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities and minimising the Iranian retaliatory response.

A former U.S. intelligence analyst who followed the Israeli military closely told IPS he strongly suspects that the IDF has pressed Barak to insist that the Israeli force be at the peak of readiness if and when they are asked to attack Iran.

The analyst, who insisted on anonymity because of his continuing contacts with U.S. military and intelligence personnel, said the 2006 Lebanon War debacle continues to haunt the thinking of IDF leaders. In that war, it became clear that the IDF had not been ready to handle Hezbollah rocket attacks adequately, and the prestige of the Israeli military suffered a serious blow.

The insistence of IDF leaders that they never go to war before being fully prepared is a primary consideration for Barak, according to the analyst. “Austere Challenge ’12″ would inevitably involve a major consumption of military resources, he observes, which would reduce Israeli readiness for war in the short run.

The concern about a major military exercise actually reducing the IDF’s readiness for war against Iran would explain why senior Israeli military officials were reported to have suggested that the reasons for the postponement were mostly “technical and logistical”.

The Israeli military concern about expending scarce resources on the exercise would apply, of course, regardless of whether the exercise was planned for April or late 2012. That fact would help explain why the exercise has not been rescheduled, despite statements from the U.S. side that it will be.

The U.S. military, however, has its own reasons for being unenthusiastic about the exercise. IPS has learned from a knowledgeable source that, well before the Obama administration began distancing itself from Israel’s Iran policy, U.S. Central Command chief James N. Mattis had expressed concern about the implications of an exercise so obviously based on a scenario involving Iranian retaliation for an Israeli attack.

U.S. officials have been quoted as suspecting that the Israeli request for a postponement of the exercise indicated that Israel wanted to leave its options open for conducting a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the spring. But a postponement to the fall would not change that problem.

For that reason, the former U.S. intelligence analyst told IPS he doubts that “Austere Challenge ’12″ will ever be carried out.

But the White House has an obvious political interest in using the military exercise to demonstrate that the Obama administration has increased military cooperation with Israel to an unprecedented level.

The Defence Department wants the exercise to be held in October, according to the military source in touch with senior flag officers connected to the Joint Chiefs.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.


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Officials claim Iran has missiles that could strike US


Israeli officials have apparently been engaged in an aggressive public relations offensive to broaden support for a military attack on Iran, with particular emphasis on American audiences.

Israel’s strategy conference this week in Herzliya, a Tel Aviv suburb, has featured highly publicized speeches by many Israeli officials. Specifically, they have claimed that Iran currently possesses long range missiles that could reach the United States and enough the material to build four nuclear weapons.

For months, Israeli officials have been feeling out the Obama administration’s appetite for a war with Iran. Reports have revealed that U.S. officials have tried to assure Israel that a military strike is in principle on the table, while simultaneously urging them not to attack unilaterally.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Israeli leaders on Jan. 20 that the U.S. would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel unless explicitly agreed upon beforehand. But Israeli officials have not been satisfied with this reluctance.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has expressed concern that Israel will unilaterally attack Iran sometime in “April, May or June,” something a number of U.S. military and intelligence officials have argued against.

At the conference, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak put an attack on Iran in a global context, claiming that support for such a strike is coming from the whole world as opposed to couching it in terms of America having his back. “Today as opposed to in the past,” Barak said, “there is wide world understanding that in the event that sanctions won’t reach the intended result of stopping the military nuclear program, there will be need to consider action.”

Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, too, fought back against arguments that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be insufficient, and perhaps counterproductive, in halting their enrichment. “It’s possible to strike all Iran’s facilities,” Ya’alon declared.

Ya’alon also tried to frame U.S.-backing as really a tit-for-tat exchange as well as a security imperative for Washington. He claimed, without any evidence, that Israel had been behind an explosion at an Iranian missile base late last year where Iran was developing missiles“with a range of 10,000 kilometers” that could have reached the United States.

Yoram Cohen, head of the Shin Bet security service, made unfounded claims about alleged Iranian attacks on “Israeli targets” around the world, although he gave no firm evidence to back them up. ”Over the past year three serious attacks were thwarted that were on the verge of being carried out,” the Shin Bet head said. “In Turkey against the general consul in Istanbul; in Baku, Azerbaijan; and two weeks ago in Thailand.”

Also at the conference, Israeli Major-General Aviv Kochavi claimed that “Iran has accumulated more than 4 tonnes of uranium enriched to a level of 3.5 percent and nearly 100 kilos at an enrichment level of 20 percent. This amount of material is already enough for four atomic bombs.”

Nuclear bombs require uranium enriched to 90 percent, but Kochavi said Iran could quickly get there if it wanted. ”From the moment Khamenei gives an order…to speed up production of the first nuclear explosive device, we estimate it will take about a year to complete the task,” adding that arming a missile with a nuclear warhead could take a year or two longer.

On this score, Israelis have faced reluctance from the U.S. because there is no evidence of any military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program. The opinion of the U.S. intelligence community, the Obama administration, and the latest IAEA report is that Iran’s enrichment is so far civilian in nature.

All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in 2007, and again in 2011, that there is no military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program. And despite the hyperbolic reporting on it, the latest report from the IAEA said, “the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material.”

As Adm. Dennis Blair, Obama’s former director of national intelligence, told Congress in March 2009, “We judge in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons design and weaponization activities” but that Tehran “is keeping open the option to develop them.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the IAEA, said that same year that he did not “believe the Iranians have made a decision to go for a nuclear weapon, but they are absolutely determined to have the technology because they believe it brings you power, prestige and an insurance policy.” This is likely a deterrence strategy, as opposed to a desire to actually attain nuclear weapons.

Despite the near consensus that Iran has not yet chosen to have a nuclear weapons program, the United States has heaped a crippling set of sanctions on Iran, partially to satisfy Israeli concerns and pressure. This is unlikely to have any effect on Iranian nuclear policy and has already had terrible consequences for ordinary Iranians in a struggling economy.

The Obama administration has also bolstered the U.S. military presence in the Gulf region as a bulwark against Iran. “With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran,” the New York Times reported in October, “the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.”

In addition to all of this, the U.S. has been engaged in extensive covert operations against Iran including funding dissident groups that aim to undermine the regime, cyber-terrorism, commercial sabotage, and targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Despite all of this overt and covert aggression, Israelis are not satisfied, continuing to push for war. But Israel is not unanimous on the issue. Notably, top former Israeli intelligence official Meir Dagan has been outspoken against an attack on Iran, nothing the dangerous potential for a protracted, bloody war.

Along with the intelligence community’s near-consensus on the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear program, the Iranian government itself denies any intention to build the bomb. As a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treat (NPT), they have legally bound themselves to non-proliferation, while Israel refuses to sign the treaty and has hundreds of secret nuclear warheads.


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Menachem Youlus leaves federal court in New York after appearing on mail and wire fraud charges 24 August 2011



A self-described “Jewish Indiana Jones” who claimed to have travelled the world to rescue holy Torah scrolls has pleaded guilty to fraud.

Rabbi Menachem Youlus, 50, admitted he had simply made up claims that he personally found and restored Torah scrolls in Europe and Israel.

Prosecutors also said he defrauded the charity he founded and its donors of $862,000 (£545,000).

As part of a plea deal, Youlus faces up to five years in prison.

“I know what I did was wrong, and I deeply regret my conduct,” Youlus said in court on Thursday.

According to a criminal complaint, Youlus claimed to have scoured Europe in search of lost or endangered Torah scrolls – the holy Jewish text containing the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament.

He distributed the Torahs among American synagogues and communities, sometimes at inflated rates, and put almost one-third of the $1.2m proceeds into his personal accounts.

At a 2004 Torah dedication, Youlus wrote: “I guess you could call me the Jewish Indiana Jones,” the prosecutors alleged.

He spent some of it on private school tuition for his children and on personal expenses, prosecutors said.

Youlus, who owns a Jewish bookstore in Wheaton, Maryland, told one prospective buyer that he had personally retrieved parts of a scroll from a metal box at Auschwitz.

If fact, authorities said Youlus rarely travelled abroad during the years he had claimed to go Torah-hunting.

Lawyer Benjamin Brafman said he would seek leniency at sentencing, describing Youlus as “a good man with the best of intentions who ultimately strayed into fraudulent conduct that he now accepts full responsibility for”.


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ANYTIME IRAN WANTED TO it could bring chaos to the US. Teams armed with nothing more than small arms in coordinated strikes (a la Mumbai) in a mere dozen US cities over the course of 3 days would SHUT DOWN THE COUNTRY.

And yet, despite the fact that the US–acting as Israel’s attack dog–is waging acts of terrorism against Iranian citizens in arming and funding groups such as MeK, is enforcing economic sanctions against her and threatening to turn her country into a sheet of glass, nevertheless Iran has done NOTHING to retaliate, although she would have every moral and legal right to do so.

AND MEANWHILE, AT THE SAME TIME, we have dear little Israel, spying against the US, threatening to murder the US president, posing as CIA agents, attacking United States ships such as the USS LIBERTY, plotting to kill another US president at the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, selling America’s most sensititve military technology to her enemies, hijacking her presidential and congressional elections so as to install puppet governments over the American people and embroiling America in a series of bankrupting wars that are designed to destroy her, and where are our generals warning about these ‘existential threats’ to the well being of the US?



The Daily Beast

The U.S. intelligence community is worried that mysterious assassinations and bombings aimed at Iran’s nuclear program may be spurring the Iranian leadership to pursue attacks inside the United States, according to current and former U.S. officials.

On Tuesday, Director of National IntelligenceJames Clapper told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that a plot last year to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States “shows that some Iranian officials—probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.” 

The alleged 2011 plot to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador—using contacts in a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the hit—was uncovered in October.

“The Iranians feel—and they have said this already—that they are under attack via economic pressure and things blowing up in their country,” says Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security for counterterrorism who served under President Bush and the senior adviser at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. “The Iranians seem to be responding by trying to attack the United States and its allies abroad.”


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