Daily Archives: February 23, 2012

Russia: Israeli strike on Iran would be ‘catastrophic’

Deputy Russian FM warns Israel against striking Iranian nuclear sites, saying Israel must understand consequences of such an action.

Haaretz

Russian warned Israel not to attack Iran over its nuclear program, saying on Wednesday that military action would have catastrophic consequences.

“Of course any possible military scenario against Iran will be catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international relations,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.

“Therefore I hope Israel understands all these consequences … and they should also consider the consequences of such action for themselves,” Gatilov said at a news conference..

A top UN nuclear official said on Wednesday his team could “could not find a way forward” in attempts to persuade Iran to talk about suspected secret work on atomic arms.

Herman Nackaerts of the International Atomic Energy Agency says the talks in Tehran were inconclusive, although his mission approached the talks “in a constructive spirit.”

Nackaerts spoke to reporters at Vienna airport shortly after returning from the Iranian capital.

An IAEA statement published overnight already acknowledged the talks had failed.   Iran denies it has experimented with nuclear arms programs but has refused to cooperate with an IAEA probe on the issue for nearly four years.

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Lieberman: U.S., Russian warnings against Iran strike will not affect Israel’s decision

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, says in TV interview that Israeli decision is ‘not their business’; says security of Israel’s citizens is ‘Israeli government’s responsibility.’

Haaretz

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview on Wednesday that Israel will not bow to U.S. and Russian pressure in deciding whether to attack Iran.

Speaking on Channel 2 news, Avigdor Lieberman rebuffed suggestions that American and Russian warnings against striking Iran would affect Israeli decision making, saying the decision “is not their business.”

He said “the security of the citizens of Israel, the future of the state of Israel, this is the Israeli government’s responsibility.”

Russia warned Israel not to attack Iran over its nuclear program on Wednesday, saying that military action would have catastrophic consequences.

“Of course any possible military scenario against Iran will be catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international relations,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.

“Therefore I hope Israel understands all these consequences … and they should also consider the consequences of such action for themselves,” Gatilov said at a news conference.

This week, the U.S.military chief said an Israeli attack would be “not  prudent.”

Meanwhile, a top UN nuclear official said on Wednesday his team could “could not find a way forward” in attempts to persuade Iran to talk about suspected secret work on atomic arms.

Herman Nackaerts of the International Atomic Energy Agency says the talks in Tehran were inconclusive, although his mission approached the talks “in a constructive spirit.”

Nackaerts spoke to reporters at Vienna airport shortly after returning from the Iranian capital.

An IAEA statement published overnight already acknowledged the talks had failed.   Iran denies it has experimented with nuclear arms programs but has refused to cooperate with an IAEA probe on the issue for nearly four years.

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Israelis seem resigned to a strike on Iran

washingtonpost.com

TEL AVIV — A recent installment of the popular Israeli satirical television show “A Wonderful Country” captured the public mood here regarding a possible strike on Iran and its consequences: a mix of resignation and gallows humor.

In one scene, a house-hunting couple is shown a Tel Aviv apartment facing a drab housing project as a real estate agent proclaims that the place will have a view of the sea. “In June, that whole row of buildings won’t be here anymore,” she cheerfully informs the prospective buyers, gazing out a window.

“Are they making a park here?” asks the woman viewing the apartment with her husband. “No,” the agent chirps, “there’s the business with Iran this summer.”

As if noting a change of seasons, many Israelis are talking about a possible war come summer, or later this year, with an air of inevitability born of years of festering conflict that has periodically flared into full-blown hostilities. The prospect of devastating counterstrikes and mass casualties seems to be taken in stride, seen as a lesser evil than facing a nuclear-armed Iran.“It’s like people are saying, ‘A typhoon is coming,’ ” Avi Funes, a 57-year-old accountant, said over lunch at the Azrieli Center, a towering glass-and-steel mall and office complex next to the military headquarters and the Defense Ministry — a potential target area for retaliatory missile strikes.

“People aren’t taking to the streets to protest against an attack,” Funes added. “There’s a kind of complacency. What can the ordinary citizen do? It’s not up to him.”

The wisdom of a strike on Iran has been debated here for months, with current and former security officials as well as political figures arguing about whether such a move would achieve its aims or, instead, provoke costly retaliation and possibly a broader conflict without stopping Iran’s nuclear effort. On Tuesday, Iran warned of preemptive action against its foes if it felt its national interests were threatened.

Polls conducted in recent months have shown ordinary Israelis divided over the advisability of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

But now that Israeli leaders are openly suggesting that a military strike on Iran might be necessary to stop what they describe as its drive to obtain atomic weapons, Israelis are contemplating the possible result: a rain of missiles fired at population centers by Iran and the militant groups allied with it, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

A familiar fear

Many Israelis have been through it before.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq fired about 40 Scud missiles at Israel, including some that hit the Tel Aviv area. Thousands of rockets fired by Hezbollah struck northern Israel during the nation’s 2006 war against the guerrilla group, and hundreds more were fired by Hamas and other groups during Israel’s three-week offensive in late 2008 and 2009 against the Islamist movement. In those conflicts, Israelis took cover in bomb shelters and safe rooms, so civilian casualties were limited. Fewer than 50 Israeli civilians died in all three conflicts combined.

But there are concerns that retaliatory missile attacks by Iran could be of an altogether different magnitude, wreaking far more death and destruction and possibly triggering broader hostilities.

Seeking to allay public concerns and rebut doomsday scenarios, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has in recent months played down the possible impact of missile strikes on Israeli cities and towns. “There won’t be 100,000 dead, not 10,000 dead nor 1,000 dead. Israel will not be destroyed,” he said in a radio interview in November. “It’s not pleasant on the home front . . . [but] if everyone just goes into their houses, there won’t be 500 dead, either.”

That was cold comfort for Gideon Levy, a columnist in the liberal Haaretz newspaper. In a recent article, he railed against what he described as the apparent public indifference to suggestions by Barak and others that hundreds, if not thousands, of Israelis could die in missile barrages triggered by an attack on Iran.
“The impression is that the majority of Israelis are not afraid,” he wrote. “The decision is left to a handful of decision-makers whom the public, as usual, trusts obediently and blindly.”Levy urged Israelis to speak up against a military strike by telling their leaders “now, loudly: We are a-f-r-ai-d.”

‘Business as usual’

But among visitors to the designer shops and cafes at the Azrieli complex this week, there seemed to be only faint trepidation.

“It’s business as usual, although there are concerns,” said Zehava Shem-Tov, a 50-year-old secretary on a lunch break. “There is a sense that something unpleasant awaits us, but it’s kind of repressed.”

Amos Tzion, 53, who sets up farming projects abroad, said that “there’s concern, but also the need” to take action. “We live in an area that’s always been threatening, we’ve grown accustomed to that, and there’s an existential fear that Iran will have the bomb, and something has to be done about it,” he said.

Some people said they were skeptical that stepped-up international sanctions on Iran would stop its nuclear program.

With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “extremist views, it doesn’t look like it, and it’s more likely that there will be no choice but military action,” said Funes, the accountant. “What’s the alternative? If he develops an atomic bomb, it will be a constant threat, and their missiles will be even more dangerous. No one would dare bomb a country that has nuclear weapons.” Israel has its own undeclared nuclear arsenal.

Ayelet Lifschitz, a 24-year-old student from the northern city of Haifa, said she had spent the 2006 war against Hezbollah in a bomb shelter as rockets crashed into her city, an experience she views as “a lifelong trauma.”

She said she opposed Israel going it alone against Iran without international support, particularly from Washington. But she added that she was confident that the country would survive any counterstrike. “This is a strong society,” she said. “We can cope with it, if that’s what it takes to deal with the problem.”

In the meantime, she said, “there is a constant awareness” of the possibility of armed conflict in the coming months, to the point where her friends joke that they may have to juggle appointments and personal plans to accommodate the war.

That approach was reflected recently in a Facebook page started by Kobi Zvili, a Tel Aviv artist. The page, which has attracted hundreds of supporters, pleads with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off any military action before the singer Madonna takes the stage in a suburb of the city on May 29 on the first stop of her planned world tour.

“Bibi, No!” the page title says, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “No war with Iran until after Madonna’s performance.”

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AIPAC Declares War

by , February 23, 2012

The American people don’t particularly want a new war in the Middle East, but apparently Congress and Washington’s most powerful lobby do. Thirty-two senators have co-sponsored a resolution that will constrain the White House from adopting any policy vis-à-vis Iran’s “nuclear weapons capability” that amounts to “containment.” The senators include the familiar figures of Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both of whom have persistently called for military action. They and the other senators have presented their proposal in a particularly deceptive fashion, asserting that they are actually supporting the White House position, which they are not. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta repeated on Feb. 16 that Iran does not have and is not currently building a nuclear device. Before Christmas, he stated clearly that the “red line” for the United States is actual Iranian possession of a nuclear weapon. Even Israel’s intelligence services agree that Iran is not building a bomb. What we are seeing play out in Congress is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) position, which is that Iran has already crossed a “red line.”The AIPAC argument will no doubt be spelled out in more detail next month at the group’s annual convention in the nation’s capital, a meeting that will be addressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will attract nearly all of Washington’s power brokers.

Rejection of containment in this context and as spelled out in the resolution means that the United States will be forced to go to war if Iran attains the capability to put together a nuclear weapon. Indeed, one might argue that the United States should be at war already, based on the resolution. “Capability” is one of those particularly useful expressions that is extremely elastic and can be interpreted subjectively. By most standards, Iran already has the technical know-how to make a nuclear bomb and has most of the materials on hand to put one together, assuming it can enrich the uranium it possesses to the required level. The Iranians may not, in fact, have the engineering skills to do so, and the task of creating a small, sophisticated device that can be mounted on a ballistic missile is certainly far beyond their current capabilities and probably unachievable given the costs involved and the poor state of their economy.

There are about 50 countries in the world that have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon if they chose to do so, making Iran far from unique but for its persistence as a thorn in the side of Israel and Israel’s powerful lobby in the United States. In other words, Iran does not have to actually produce a nuclear weapon for it to be subject to attack by either Israel or the United States. It only has to continue to be an irritant for Israel.

The new threat of war takes the Bush doctrine of preemption to a whole new level. Some sources in the Obama administration are anonymously warningthat war with Iran is nearly certain and are predicting it to break out in late summer. That would be just before the presidential election, a time in which Obama will be seeking desperately to seize the high ground on Israel’s security from whomever the Republicans nominate. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not even have to mimic Colin Powell by going to the United Nations to seek authorization for an attack using false and fabricated information. Everyone can agree that the mullahs do not actually have a weapon and may not even want to acquire one, but it’s fine to bomb them anyway. The U.S. Senate approves, so off we go to another misadventure in the Middle East

Without a doubt, President Obama is to blame for this shameful state of affairs for showing every sign of weakness whenever confronted by Netanyahu and AIPAC. We should almost certainly expect nothing less than a personal and presidential kowtow at the AIPAC conference next month, a complete surrender that Netanyahu will no doubt receive in his usual ungracious fashion. Even President George W. Bush was able to stand up to the Israelis and forbid an attack on Iran, but now the United States has boxed itself into a corner diplomatically speaking, without any real ability to influence Tel Aviv to cease and desist.

Israel’s prime minister is continuously ramping up the rhetoric, callingIran a threat to the entire world and suggesting that his country will soon retaliate against recent Iranian-directed terrorist attacks. The bombing in New Delhi and attempted bombings in Tbilisi and Thailand targeting Israelis are a major escalation of the tit-for-tat terrorism between Israel and Iran. Israel has killed four Iranian scientists using Mujahedin-e Khalq agents and possibly relying on intelligence provided by Washington. Israel’s involvement in recruiting Jundallah-Balochi militants using officers pretending to be American CIA, referred to as a false-flag operation, was recently revealed in the U.S. media, though the story quickly disappeared from sight, as is almost invariably the case when dealing with Israel.

But Iran is now signaling that it too has surrogates and is willing to respond in kind. An interesting subplot is the location of two of the attacks in India and Georgia. Iran certainly has covert resources among India’s large Muslim population and also within the significant Azeri minority in Georgia. Israel has been courting India and sees a strategic relationship developing, with the two united against Muslim insurgency. Israel also has a not-so-secret military and intelligence base in Georgia and has recently expanded into nearby Azerbaijan, where it has established an intelligence listening post at an airbase. Iran is surrounded by Israeli operational initiatives and is now signaling that it has had enough and is prepared to strike back. A back-and-forth series of assassinations is particularly dangerous, as it could produce the type of incident that Israel could exploit to preemptively attack, not unlike the fallout from the assassination of a certain archduke in Serbia in 1914. The conflict would undoubtedly ignite the region and inevitably involve the United States, particularly if Congress and the media have any say in the matter.

The United States is powerless to prevent such an outcome in spite of a clear national interest to do so. President Obama has insisted, probably sincerely, that he doesn’t want a war and maintains that he is willing to talk to Iran. But he has nevertheless refused to do so despite several overtures from Tehran to start a dialogue, preferring to deal through surrogates. He has told the Israelis repeatedly that they should not attack Iran, but he keeps insisting that “all options are on the table” in dealing with the mullahs, completely confusing the issue for most observers. What is needed is a clear signal from the White House that the U.S. interest is that there should not be a war and that Washington will not get involved no matter who starts it. If the Israelis know they will have to go it alone, they will not attack. Unfortunately, in an election year, such a position is unlikely because the White House will want to present itself as a close friend of Israel and tough against “rogue” states like Iran.

You might well ask how the United States wound up in such a pickle. Many Americans are beginning to wake up to the fact that it is disgraceful that a small country like Israel should be able to dictate U.S. foreign policy in a key part of the world, but the current situation is actually far worse than that. This is the case of a foreign government’s lobby consisting largely of American citizens using its clout to avoid registering as a foreign agent while narrowing the policy options through its friends in Congress and the media in such a way as to make war inevitable. Some might call it treason. Such people should be denounced and marginalized before they send off another wave of young Americans to die on their behalf while beggaring the rest of us, but instead, senators and representatives will be lining up to cheer them in a month’s time. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison must be spinning in their graves.

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