Archive for the 'Israel' Category



What the USS San Antonio Can Teach Us About Iran

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

The Amphibious Dock USS San Antonio has something to teach us about Iran and its intentions.

But before learning from the USS San Antonio, a framework must be constructed within which to view this information.  David Ignatius authored an article for the Washington Post on the A-Team for Iran.  Ignatius likes Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft because of their ability to help American foreign policy “turn a page,” so to speak.  Ignatius asks the two how they would begin negotiations with Iran.

Scowcroft replied that his brief to the Iranians would begin this way: “First, that we’re aware you live in a dangerous region, and we’re prepared to discuss a regional security framework. . . . Second, whether or not you want nuclear weapons, you’re proceeding on a course that psychologically destabilizes the whole region. It is dangerous. It will bring about a counterreaction. And let’s work on this security framework. You don’t need nuclear weapons.”

Brzezinski said he agreed and added: “The only way we can accomplish [mutual security] is by sitting together and figuring out some mechanism whereby you achieve what you say you want, which is a peaceful nuclear program, and we achieve what we need, which is a real sense of security that it’s not going to go any further.”

The obvious but unstated presupposition is that Iran is pursuing a nuclear program, and indeed, behaves as it does, because of its fear and need for survival, or in their own words, “mutual security” in a dangerous region.  That no nation has threatened them, and that no nation in the region would even be able seriously to threaten them, doesn’t weigh in on the axiom.  It is simply irreducible, the notion that Iran would live in peace with its neighbors if only it could assure its own security.

All mathematics and in fact all philosophy begins with presuppositions, propositions that are unproven because they cannot be proven.  But the investigation doesn’t end here.  When a system of thought based on these presuppositions yields conclusions, results, observations and consequences that are radically inconsistent with what would be expected given the presuppositions, then something is wrong with the starting point.  Under these conditions, one must be willing to relinquish his presuppositions.

That Iranian weapons, special groups, IRG, Quds and other rogue forces supported by Iran (Ansar al Sunna) created havoc inside of Iraq hasn’t been enough to convince the two A-Team members that Iran doesn’t intend on having peace in the region.  Neither, for that matter, does the fact that General Petraeus had to appeal to Iranian General Qassem Suleimani to stop the shelling of the Green Zone in the summer of 2008 (at which point it stopped) convince the A-Team that their ideas of a docile Persia just may not be panning out.

But this unwillingness to revisit presuppositions isn’t baggage carried by the Arab states.  In fact, the Arab states never started with these ideas.  They are uniquely Western.  With Iran’s push towards going nuclear, the balance of the Middle East is thinking the same way, and not because they need the energy.

The outstanding Middle East journalist Michael Totten has an important article on how the Sunni Arabs see Iran, and the role Israel is playing in regional resistance.

Most Arab governments, aside from Syria’s and possibly Qatar’s, are far more worried about Iranian regional dominance than they are about anything coming out of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. They know perfectly well that the State of Israel is not going to undermine or overthrow them, while radical Iranian-sponsored Islamists just might.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are threatening Iran with a nuclear arms race. Surely they weren’t happy when Israel developed nuclear weapons, but they never retaliated with programs of their own. Bombastic anti-Zionist rhetoric to the contrary, they know Israel isn’t really a threat. Nor are they a serious threat to Israel anymore.

While the Arab states fear for their very existence, the A-Team wants to convince the radical Mullahs that they aren’t in any danger.  They wish to tell the regime that it doesn’t need nuclear weapons for its defense, while the regime has flatly told them that negotiations and dialogue will only succeed if the U.S. accepts the Iranian nuclear program.  It isn’t just the evidence of Iraq, Hezbollah, Hamas, trouble in Iraq, and threats against the state of Israel that is available to convince the A-Team that they must revisit their fundamental axioms about Iran.  In fact, it’s not even the conservatives in America (who have mostly given up).  The Iranian regime itself is trying to convince the U.S. that what they believe about Iran is fundamentally wrong by dictating a starting point for negotiations that ensures that the end game is diametrically opposed to what the U.S. wishes.

And now to the USS San Antonio.

The U.S. Navy has assigned an amphibious transport dock ship, the USS San Antonio, to track Iranian weapons shipments to the Gaza Strip.

Officials said the San Antonio, flagship of Combined Task Force 151, intercepted and searched an Iranian-owned cargo ship in mid-January found to contain artillery, missiles and rockets. The ship was released and expected to arrive in Syria on Jan. 28.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the weapons ship intercepted in the Red Sea was determined to have been destined for Syria, a leading supplier of Hamas and Hizbullah. Mullen said the United States could not legally hold the Cypriot-flagged ship, owned by Iran.

“The United States did as much as we could do legally,” Mullen told a briefing on Jan. 27.

“There are authorities, limitations in complying with this particular UN resolution, and we basically went right up to the edge of that and we couldn’t do anything else. And we think those weapons are headed to Syria, which is obviously not a great outcome …shipping weapons to Syria that we think, quite frankly, are going to end up in Gaza.”

We learn many things about our own struggle with lawfare versus warfare with this example.  But saving this for another time, the U.S. has interdicted a ship bound for Syria with artillery, missiles and rockets.  Whether these weapons end up with Hezbollah or Hamas is not relevant.  They will end up destabilizing the region over nation-states which are not a threat to its own existence.  The weapons will end up contributing to the regional hegemony that Iran has pursued for twenty five years.

While the A-Team is confused about presuppositions, they don’t hold the exclusive right to dreary stubbornness regarding Persian intentions.  This has been going on for twenty five years now, and thus, the same page that has been read for twenty five years is being recited once again.

The Role of Palestine in the War with Iran

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 8 months ago

While supporting Israel’s right to a robust self defense, The Captain’s Journal has also questioned both the strategic and operational goals of the current Israeli offensive, especially since it is being run by the more leftist administration currently in power in Israel.  But there are deeper questions still about the operation, ones that drive to the heart of the matter.

Robert Kaplan discusses the larger war in which Israel is engaged.

Israel has just embarked on a land invasion of the Gaza Strip after a week of aerial bombing. Gaza is bordered by Egypt, and was under Egyptian military control from 1949 through 1967. And yet in a startling rebuke to geography and recent history—and in testimony to the sheer power of audacity and of ideas—the mullahs in Teheran hold more sway in Gaza today than does the tired, Brezhnevite regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Gaza constitutes the western edge of Iran’s veritable new empire, cartographically akin to the ancient Persian one, that now stretches all the way to western Afghanistan, where Kabul holds no sway and which is under Iranian economic domination.

Israel’s attack on Gaza is, in effect, an attack on Iran’s empire, the first since its offensive on Iranian-backed Hezbollah in 2006. That attack failed for a number of reasons, not least of which was Israel’s poor intelligence on Hezbollah: historically, its intelligence on the Palestinians has been much better. Moreover, this attack seems more deliberately planned, with narrower, publicly stated aims – all in all, a more professional job. But there is a fundamental problem with what Israel is doing that goes to the heart of the postmodern beast that the Iranian empire represents.

To start with, Hamas does not have to win this war. It can lose and still win. As long as no other political group can replace it in power, even as some of its diehards can continue to lob missiles, however ineffectually, into Israel, it achieves a moral victory of sorts. Moreover, if Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement tries to replace Hamas in power, Fatah will forever be tagged with the label of Israeli stooge, and in the eyes of Palestinians will have little moral legitimacy. Israel’s dilemma is that it is not fighting a state but an ideology, the postmodern glue that holds together Greater Iran.

This is similar to the view espoused by Dr. Ely Karmon, namely that “The present conflict in Gaza must therefore be understood in its broad regional context. Israel is fighting not only Hamas, a radical Islamist religious/political movement whose ideological and strategic goal is to destroy the Jewish state in order to build on it a Taliban-style one, but is facing a coalition of radical actors — Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas — which is responsible for the destabilization of the entire Middle East for the last two decades … Hamas is a crucial element for Iran because it is the only Sunni member of the coalition, a faction of the broader Muslim Brotherhood movement (the Sunni Syria is actually led by an Alawi/Shia dictatorship), and represents the Palestinian cause, so dear to the Arabs and Muslims worldwide.”

In The Globalization of Jihad in Palestine, The Captain’s Journal pointed out that Ayman al-Zawahiri and the al Qaeda leadership had heretofore rejected participation in jihad with Hamas because of its acceptance of nationalism and democracy, two things al Qaeda hates most.  Global jihad (and hence, al Qaeda) doesn’t recognize borders or the legitimacy of states.  But we also pointed out that radical Salafist schools were developing across Palestine – including Gaza – financed by Saudi money and producing young radicals accepting of a more global and even less tolerant perspective.

Adding to this narrative is an analysis by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Both Hamas and the Gazan jihadist groups share a desire to destroy Israel and impose sharia, but Hamas focuses on local interests limited to the Palestinian arena. Hamas, therefore, directs its energy largely at Israel, while these groups target foreigners as well. The Salafi-jihadist groups espouse an ideology of “pure resistance,” within which there is no room for ceasefires or temporary halts in attacks against the enemy. Some of their members were therefore especially motivated to continue attacks following Hamas’s agreement to a tahdiyah, or lull …

Although these groups do not aim to usurp Hamas’s control of Gaza, the expansion of their power and popularity poses an ideological and practical challenge for Hamas and emphasizes the dichotomy in the movement; on one hand, Hamas is a resistance movement siding with an ongoing jihadist struggle, on the other, it is a sovereign power that is required to compromise on daily governance issues. Hamas is worried that this phenomenon will gain popularity among the young generation, since it represents “pure resistance.” Confronting this phenomenon not only endangers Hamas’s image on the street, but also forces the organization to confront one of the cornerstones of its identity: the ideological adherence to jihad as a way to achieve its goals. This very dilemma may go a long way toward explaining why Hamas allowed the tahdiyah to erode; attacks from time to time allow Hamas to explain that it remains committed to resistance.

In the wake of the current crisis, Hamas may choose to ease its crackdown on these jihadist groups, causing repercussions beyond Gaza. Strengthened Salafi-jihadist groups in Gaza could ultimately pose a threat not only to Hamas, but also, as the various attacks and foiled plots over the past several years illustrate, to Israeli and Western interests as well.

Al Qaeda’s inability to utilize differing sects in its global struggle, e.g., the nationalistic Hamas, is not a mistake made by the Persian empire which, while Shi’a, has no problems working with the Sunni Hamas.  Al Qaeda may look on with envy at the empire carefully constructed by Iran, but in the main Israel is surrounded by Iranian proxies.  True, there are allegations and counter-allegations over the role of al Qaeda in Lebanon (page 5).

There is no official consensus in Lebanon on whether al-Qa`ida has a presence in the country. Since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, all politics in Lebanon has been polarized. It is on the threat of terrorism where the gap is arguably most pronounced. On the one hand, the anti-Syrian political coalition, led by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and parliament majority leader Saad Hariri, believes that al-Qa`ida does not have an indigenous presence in Lebanon. What the country faces instead is a fabricated threat by Damascus and its intelligence services that is intended to destabilize Lebanon and restore Syrian hegemony. On the other hand, the pro-Syrian alliance, spearheaded by Hizb Allah (also spelled Hezbollah) and the Free Patriotic Party of Michel Aoun, judges that al-Qa`ida exists in Lebanon and poses a real threat to national security. For them, the rise of al-Qa`ida in the country is largely attributed to a devilish pact between Lebanese Sunni politicians and extremist Islamic factions in the north, the purpose of which is to counter-balance the perceived ascending power of Shi`a Hizb Allah. The Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), an institution that is perceived to be fairly loyal to Siniora—in addition to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential regional patrons of the anti-Syrian coalition—are also accused by the pro-Syrian alliance of having a hand in financing and arming these terrorist groups.

But the argument itself is evidence of the paltry presence of al Qaeda, or strongly Sunni anti-Persian elements.  Syria is an apparatchik of Iran, and Damascus gets its orders directly from Tehran, orders it immediately relays to Hassan Nasrallah who governs Hezbollah, which is itself Iran’s troops deployed in Lebanon.  Hamas, like Hezbollah but still following in its footsteps, serves the interests of Iran.

Michael Ledeen makes a strong case that Iran has turned Hamas loose to lose if necessary, a sort of cowardly betrayal of the Hamas leadership.  Further, argues Ledeen, there is rot inside of Iran.  Indeed, there is a budding insurgency in Western Iran, one that we have argued that should be aided in fomenting a full blown insurgency and regime change inside of Iran.

Caroline Glick makes a similar argument to Ledeen, but ends with a stern warning.

ALAS, THERE is another possible explanation for Iran’s apparent decision to abandon a vassal it incited to open a war. On Sunday, Iranian analyst Amir Taheri reported the conclusions of a bipartisan French parliamentary report on the status of Iran’s nuclear program in Asharq Alawsat. The report which was submitted to French President Nicolas Sarkozy late last month concluded that unless something changes, Iran will have passed the nuclear threshold by the end of 2009 and will become a nuclear power no later than 2011. The report is notable because it is based entirely on open-sourced material whose accuracy has been acknowledged by the Iranian regime.

The report asserts that this year will be the world’s final opportunity to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And, as Taheri hints strongly, the only way of doing that effectively is by attacking Iran’s nuclear installations.

In light of this new report, which contradicts earlier US intelligence assessments that claimed it would be years before Iran is able to build nuclear weapons, it is possible that Iran ordered the current war in Gaza for the same reason it launched its war in 2006: to divert international attention away from its nuclear program.

It is possible that Iran prefers to run down US President George W. Bush’s last two weeks in office with the White House and the rest of the world focused on Gaza, than risk the chance that during these two weeks, the White House (or Israel) might read the French parliament’s report and decide to do something about it.

So too, its apparent decision not to have Hizbullah join in this round of fighting might have more to do with Iran’s desire to preserve its Lebanese delivery systems for any nuclear devices than its desire to save pennies in a tight economy.

And if this is the case, then even if Israel beats Hamas (and I eat my hat), we could still lose the larger war by again having allowed Iran to get us to take our eyes away from the prize.

Whatever their strategy, unless Israel is willing to follow through with these current operations and the U.S. is willing not only to implement democracy programs in Iran but also to pursue regime change, the entire Middle East might be dealing in the near future with a nuclear Persia, leading not only to mortal danger for Israel but also to a nuclear Egypt, Jorgan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Thus we haven’t questioned the role of Iran in the war with Palestine, for that would be to miss the point.  The real question is the role of Palestine in the war with Iran, and whether the larger strategic picture is being kept in sight.

Further Reading:

Robert D. Kaplan, Iran’s Postmodern Beast in Gaza, a “must-read” from the author of the remarkable Imperial Grunts.

Michael Ledeen, Is Iran in Trouble?

Caroline Glick, Iran’s Gaza Diversion

Yoram Cohen, Jihadist Groups in Gaza: A Developing Threat

Syed Saleem Shahza, Al Qaeda Sniffs Opportunity in Gaza.  Saleem purveys fantasy when he says that there has been a slight resurgence of AQ in Anbar, and has to be read through the lens of someone who shills for both AQ and the Tehrik-i-Taliban.  Nonetheless, his prose is interesting and if you’re able to discern fact and analysis from propaganda, is usually useful.

Charles Levinson, Israel’s Ground Assault Marks Shift in Strategy

Victor Davis Hanson, Gazan Calculations

James Lyons, Gaza Distraction

Even if the current Hamas leadership and infrastructure are destroyed, nothing will change as long as the Ali Khamenei regime remains in power with continued support of terrorist groups to act as their proxies to further their political agenda.

While we have proof positive of Iran’s direct involvement in terrorist activities over the last almost 30 years, which has resulted in thousands of U.S. military and civilian casualties, they have never been made to suffer the consequences of their cowardly acts or held accountable. The ultimate solution is to change the power structure in Iran preferably by a form of a “yellow revolution” in which Iranians who desire a better life are able to free themselves from their current medieval theocratic regime. The odds of a popular uprising are slim unless supported by a variety of actions led by the United States.

Lyons’ commentary is analogous to the arguments made at TCJ for the last two years.

The Context of the Gaza Military Operations

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 8 months ago

Israel is increasing the pressure after Hamas sent rockets into Israel for three weeks or more.

Israel launched air strikes on Gaza for a second successive day on Sunday, piling pressure on Hamas after 229 people were killed in one of the bloodiest 24 hours for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state …

Black smoke billowed over Gaza City after Israel bombed more than 40 security compounds, and uniformed bodies lay in a pile and the wounded writhed in pain at a graduation ceremony for new recruits hosted by Hamas.

There are three points to note in placing this operation in context.  First, the violence is the latest in a cycle in which two peoples are in war over the same land.  With regards to the “occupation,” the Hamas position is clever and has befuddled even the brightest of U.S. negotiators sent to quell the violence in this region.

A Hamas spokesman on Saturday vowed the group would not surrender in the face of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip, and that Israel would not break its “resistance to the occupation.”  The spokesman added that Hamas would not “raise a white flag” of surrender and would respond with all means available at its disposal.

Why would the Hamas spokesman use the term “surrender” when referring to this conflict over the “occupation?”  Because it isn’t about Israel occupation of Gaza, but rather, Israeli occupation of Israel to which Hamas objects.  And this is the crux of the issue that so many negotiators of the “two-state solution” seem to miss.  Israel wants a two-state solution.  The U.S. wants a two-state solution.  Hamas doesn’t.

Second, Hamas Political Leader in Damascus Khaled Meshal has vowed a third intifada concerning his “Zionist enemy.”  The Olmert administration has pursued a strategy of appeasement, and this stand-down has allowed Hamas to arm, organize, enhance ties with Iran, and in learn lessons from the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006.

Hamas, once known for its suicide attacks inside Israeli cities, is no longer a small-time terrorist group, but a large guerrilla army that has well-trained forces deployed throughout the entire Gaza Strip.

Were the IDF to embark on a ground operation in Gaza, it would face an army of close to 20,000 armed men, among them at least 15,000 Hamas operatives. The rest are from Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Since the cease-fire went into effect in Gaza in June, Hamas has used the lull in action to fortify its military posts in the Strip and dig tunnel systems as well as underground bunkers for its forces. IDF estimates put the length of the tunnels at over 50 kilometers.

Hamas has also dug foxholes throughout the Strip to accommodate anti-tank missile units, and prepared massive bombs, which have been placed on the main access roads into Gaza.

In addition to its homemade Kassam rockets, Hamas has smuggled into Gaza a number of anti-aircraft cannons and several shoulder-to-air missiles. It also a large number of anti-tank missiles that, if used correctly, could wreak havoc on Israeli armor in the event of a ground operation involving tanks and armored personnel carriers.

It also has Special Forces – commando forces and units with expertise in rocket fire, mortar attacks and roadside bombs.

“Hamas has learned a lot from Hizbullah and has adopted many of the Lebanese group’s tactics which were used successfully against the IDF in the Second Lebanon War,” one IDF official said.

Since Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Hamas has created a military with a clear hierarchy, led by Hamas “chief” Ahmed Ja’abri …

Hamas has split the Gaza Strip into five sections corresponding to five different brigades in the north, center, Gaza City, and two brigades in the south. Each brigade has a commander as well as several battalions under its command.

The third point is the most important, as it explains the root rather than the proximate causes.  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has charged that Hamas could have prevented the bloodshed.  “We spoke to them and told them ‘Please, we ask you not to end the cease-fire. Let it continue,’” Abbas said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “We want to protect the Gaza Strip. We don’t want it to be destroyed.”

True enough, this analysis misses the final and most important point.  Hamas was either going to be supplanted and subsumed into a larger Salafist movement within Palestine or evolve into a sort of symbiosis with that movement.  Hamas has come to be rivaled by a radical Salafist movement within Palestine that is financially supported by oil-rich sheikhs in Saudi Arabia, and movement against Israel was a necessity given the predispositions to armed violence within the new evolved organization.

Only an organization committed to violence will place ordnance in the same locations as residences and schools in total disregard for the safety of women and children.  When the media value of the deaths of children has become more important than their protection, the evolution to a Hezbollah-like viciousness and totalitarianism is complete.

Israel is attacking Gaza because there is no other choice.  As for the incoming Obama administration and Clinton State Department, our prediction that Hamas will begin its attacks on Israel again appear to be spot-on but a bit late, with Hamas rudely not even waiting until Clinton took the reins at State.  It remains to be seen if the incoming administration still believes in the two-state solution.  Radicalism is all that is left in Palestine due to the politics of appeasement for so many years.

Is a Nuclear Iran Inevitable?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

Richard Fernandez writing for Pajamas Media latches onto a significant report about the thinking of President-elect Obama and his team of advisers concerning Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

President-elect Barack Obama will offer Israel a strategic pact designed to fend off any nuclear attack on the Jewish state by Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday.

Haaretz, quoting an unnamed source, said the Obama administration would pledge under the proposed “nuclear umbrella” to respond to any Iranian strike on Israel with a “devastating U.S. nuclear response.”

Granting Israel a nuclear guarantee would essentially suggest the U.S. is willing to come to terms with a nuclear Iran, the paper reported.

According to the paper’s source, Obama’s nuclear guarantee would be backed by a new and improved Israeli anti-ballistic missile system. The Bush administration took the first step by deploying an early-warning radar system, which enhances the ability to detect Iranian ballistic missiles.

No immediate comment from Israeli officials or the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv was offered.

Iran denies its nuclear program has military designs. But tough anti-Israel rhetoric from Tehran has spread fears that the Israelis, who are believed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, could attack their arch-foe pre-emptively.

The source, according to Haaretz, noted that the discussion of the possibility of a nuclear Iran undermines efforts to prevent Tehran from acquiring such arms.

A senior Bush administration source reportedly said the nuclear umbrella was ridiculous and lacked credibility.

“Who will convince the citizen in Kansas that the U.S. needs to get mixed up in a nuclear war because Haifa was bombed? And what is the point of an American response, after Israel’s cities are destroyed in an Iranian nuclear strike?,” he said.

Richard then goes on to consider a possible U.S. response to an Iranian strike, and then concludes:

A combination of tacitly accepting an nuclear-armed Iran and reposing deterrence in Washington could make the Ayatollahs more willing to run the risk. What are the odds that the West can bring itself to enter into a nuclear exchange with Iran if it could not muster the will to prevent Teheran’s acquisition of those weapons in the first place?

Michael Ledeen also weighs in with his always educational and interesting prose.  I agree with both Richard and Michael, but would add a significant forecast to the discussion.  It won’t happen this way.

Iran will not entrust the deployment of a nuclear warhead to an air delivery system (since achieving enrichment doesn’t mean achieving miniturization of nuclear weapons to decrease overall mass) – nor will it be that overt.  Instead, acceptance of a nuclear Iran will mean the turnover of a nuclear weapon to Hezbollah or some allied group, and detonation somewhere around Tel Aviv (with its metropolitan population of more than three million people).

Since IAEA inspectors have been effectively booted from Iran for months, it won’t be possible early on to ascertain, even with gamma spectrographic analysis, the fission product and actinide composition and thus the initial mixture of high enriched Uranium.  Another way of saying it is that we have no “signature” for Iranian weapons.

By the time it has been determined through intelligence that the weapon came from Iran, the spin machine will have been active for weeks convincing the world community that the weapon fell into the hands of rogue elements, and that any attack on Iran would mean the deaths of innocent civilians.  World pressure will build for Israel to refuse to retaliate.  Even if Israel retaliates, the military forces and authorities will have relocated to unknown locations.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis will be dead and much of the surrounding land will be uninhabitable for years.  The toll on the medical care system will be so enormous that it won’t be able to keep up, and the seat of power – the government – will effectively cease to exist.  At this time Hezbollah will attack from the North and Hamas and allied groups will attack from Gaza.

Given this scenario, i.e., the delivery of a weapon by means other than air delivery, the notion of a “nuclear umbrella” is ridiculous and irrelevant.  Team Obama is naive to the point of childish if this is their level of analysis of the situation.

Further, acquiescence to a nuclear Iran will mean a certain nuclear arms race in the Middle East.  Just recently Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak explained how most if not all Middle Easterners see Iran.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke out against Iran during a meeting with members of the Egyptian ruling party, according to a report in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida on Thursday, cited by Israel Radio.

Mubarak accused the Islamic Republic of trying to subsume its Muslim neighbors, telling the forum that “the Persians are trying to devour the Arab states.”

Mubarak’s comments came after the Egyptian leader recalled the country’s diplomatic envoy from the Iranian capital earlier this week following an increase in tension between the two countries.

Recent strain between Cairo and Teheran has grown as several demonstrations in Iran called for the hanging of the Egyptian leader. The Iranian FARS news service reported that participants in recent student demonstrations outside the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Teheran also chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” and burned an Israeli flag.

On Wednesday the Egyptian ministry was quoted as criticizing some Iranian newspapers that have repeatedly insulted Egyptian policies and leadership recently. Teheran media, for example, broadcast incitement against Cairo’s policy allegedly preventing aid from reaching Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Democratic revolution and regime change remain the best options, but the State Department effectively killed the last such remaining program and no politician has shown any interest in the easy solution.  They are all seeking the hard ones.

For team-Obama, it’s three strikes and an out the first time at bat.

Restoring the Balance

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

We are told that “experts” have now warned President-elect Barack Obama of a nuclear Iran.

Iran poses the greatest foreign policy challenge to Barack Obama, the President-elect, with Tehran on course to produce a nuclear bomb in the first year of an Obama administration, a coalition of top think-tanks gave warning yesterday.

Mr Obama must keep his promises of direct talks with Tehran and engage the Middle East region as a whole if he is to halt a looming crisis that could be revisited on the US, the experts said.

“Diplomacy is not guaranteed to work,” Richard Haass, one of the authors said. “But the other options – military action or living with an Iranian weapon are sufficiently unattractive for it to warrant serious commitment.”

The warnings came in a report entitled Restoring the Balance. The Middle East strategy for the President-elect was drafted by the Council for Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution.

Gary Samore, one of the authors, said that the level of alarm over the “hornet’s nest” facing the President-elect in the Middle East, and the need for the swift adoption of previously untested approach, had inspired the decision to write policy for him. “New administrations can choose new policies but they can’t choose next contexts,” Mr Samore said.

The report paints a grim picture of the problems in the region but asserts that Mr Obama is still in a strong position. For the first time since the Iranian revolution the leadership in Tehran has endorsed the idea of talking directly with Washington, as Mr Obama has suggested. Falling oil prices also provide an opportunity, restricting Iran’s means to sponsor terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah that act as its proxy in the region.

The new administration, however, must not fall into the trap of treating Iran in isolation to the rest of the Middle East, as the previous administration did.

Syria, which has shown tentative signs of a desire for better relations with the West and has held negotiations with Israel, could be the ideal test case for a new diplomatic approach.

The full report, Restoring the Balance, is a product of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. The Captain’s Journal is actually a bit surprised to see Michael O’Hanlon associated with the report – he seems a bit too smart to have endorsed it. But it is also worth pointing out that our record of forecasts is thus far impeccable. Three important examples evince the point. First, when Army intelligence forecast that there wouldn’t be a Taliban spring offensive in 2008 because of the alleged split between Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Omar, we predicted that there would in fact be a two-front offensive, one in Pakistan by the Tehrik-i-Taliban and the other in Afghanistan. Second, we accurately predicted the Taliban strategy of interdiction of NATO supplies in Pakistan in March of 2008. Third, we predicted that Joseph Lieberman would be victorious in the Connecticut Senate Race. We seldom make forecasts, but when we do, we’re usually right.

There were no instances of refusal to guarantee our forecasts when we went on record. The Captain’s Journal – although it is tempting to wait until the new year to weigh in on these important issues – will weigh in concerning some of the recommendations of the subject report, and make some forecasts of our own.

First, Richard Haass doesn’t guarantee that diplomacy will work with Iran. Without equivocation or qualification, we guarantee that diplomacy will not work to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran might make a show of allowing IAEA inspectors into certain parts of their facilities, or responding to IAEA inquiries as to the status of special nuclear material (” … this is not the same highly enriched Uranium we tested on such-and-such date, so where did it come from”), or employ any number of other decoys as a subterfuge. But in a truly verifiable and serious way, Iran will not cease and desist the pursuit of weapons grade nuclear material no matter the size of the army of negotiators or lawyers the U.S. deploys or the number of IAEA inquiries with which Iran gets pelted. Again, this is an absolute guarantee, something that The Council on Foreign Relations couldn’t provide.

Second, the desire to “spin off” Syria from Iran into an ally or even partial or halting ally in Middle East stability is a day dream. Syria is an apparatchik of Iran, and Damascus gets its orders directly from Tehran. Syria will court such negotiations and talks as long as it convinces the battalion of U.S. diplomats that there is something to be gained from it. When it is no longer prudent and efficacious to perform the show, Syria will drop the pretense. The battalion of U.S. diplomats will look like stooges on the world stage.

Third – concerning the recommendation in Chapter 5 of the report that the U.S. encourage Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab actors to pressure Hamas to police the cease-fire agreement with Israel and to convince the Hamas leadership to accept the April 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative – this avenue will fail because Hamas will cease to exist as an effective and viable organization unless it acquiesces to pressure from the surging Salafist movement inside Palestine itself (with religious schools numbering as many as 50,000). Palestine will become more radical, not less. A corollary forecast is that holding Israel to its commitment to freeze settlement and construction in Jerusalem (Chapter 5) will be meaningless to the Palestinian cause. When Hamas refers to the “occupation,” they don’t mean occupation of Gaza or Palestine proper. They mean that they consider the existence of the Jews at all to be an occupation of their land. In other words, Palestine will continue to reject the two-state solution, and no army of negotiators will change that.

Finally, as to some particulars:

  1. Hamas will begin launching rockets at Israel again from Gaza during the upcoming administration.
  2. Hezbollah will attack Israel again during the upcoming administration. The orders will come directly from Tehrah to Damascus and then be relayed to Hasan Nasrallah.
  3. Russia will continue the pressure on the Georgian administration and expand its military presence inside the borders of Georgia.
  4. Russia will (covertly) support the installation of a pro-Russian administration in the Ukraine (which is not the same as forecasting that a pro-Russian administration will actually end up being installed).
  5. Russia will assist Iran in its desire to achieve weapons grade nuclear material.
  6. Without direct action to undermine the Iranian regime (such as democracy programs or even the fomenting of an insurgency to topple the regime), Iranian elements (Quds, IRG) will expand the scope of their operations inside Iraq and Afghanistan and even support Hezbollah as it battles Israel. No amount of diplomacy will change this.
  7. Finally, the State Department will begin the administration will high hopes, excitement and grand ambitions for the role of diplomacy, negotiations and multi-lateral talks. By the end of the administration, a general malaise and confusion will have descended upon the entire State Department, and yet there will still be sparse and shallow understanding of why negotiations have so miserably failed to prevent or ameliorate the various calamities for which they were targeted.

Planning for these exigencies should “restore the balance.” The Captain’s Journal will send a bill to the incoming administration for our consultative services. They will prove to be better than those of the Council on Foreign Relations and well worth the cost.

Secret Plan to Destroy Natanz

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 8 months ago

It is being reported that there are plans to destroy the Iranian enrichment facility at Natanz.

Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with conventional and tactical nuclear weapons, Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper has reported.

Citing what it said were several Israel Defense Forces sources, the paper said two Israel Air Force squadrons had been training to blow up an enrichment plant in Natanz using low-yield nuclear “bunker busters.”

Two other sites, a heavy water plant at Arak and a uranium conversion plant at Isfahan, would be targeted with conventional bombs, the Sunday Times said.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously last month to slap sanctions on Iran to try to stop uranium enrichment that Western powers fear could lead to making bombs. Tehran insists its plans are peaceful and says it will continue enrichment.

Israel has refused to rule out pre-emptive military action against Iran along the lines of its 1981 air strike against an atomic reactor in Iraq, though many analysts believe Iran’s nuclear facilities are too much for Israel to take on alone.

The newspaper said the Israeli plan envisaged conventional laser-guided bombs opening “tunnels” into the targets. Nuclear warheads would then be used fired into the plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce radioactive fallout.

IAF pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000 mile round-trip to the Iranian targets, the Sunday Times said, and three possible routes to Iran have been mapped out including one over Turkey.

However, it also quoted sources as saying a nuclear strike would only be used if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene. Disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, the paper added.

Washington has said military force remains an option while insisting that its priority is to reach a diplomatic solution.

Fox News military analyst Col. David Hunt, when asked why the Israelis would divulge this information, responded that he believed that it was possible that the U.S. did it, in order to stop this plan.  Col. Hunt: “No one in their right mind wants nuclear footballs being lobbed around in the Middle East.”

The problem with Col. Hunt’s analysis is that it is only compelling if the U.S. has a viable means of stopping the Iranian nuclear program.  And the notion of “viable” includes willingness to execute it.  If we don’t, then it would be irresponsible for the IDF to not have a plan.  The U.S. should be assisting the IDF rather than undercutting their efforts.

Israel now Considers Missile Defense System

BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

I posted a while back on the fact that I thought that Israel should have invested in THEL (Tactical High Energy Laser) to help against the Katyusha rockets coming across the border.  From Haaretz:

Contrary to the approach of his predecessors, Defense Minister Amir Peretz believes it is of the “utmost strategic importance” for Israel to “come up with an effective solution as soon as possible” to the threat of Katyusha rockets and missiles. Peretz thus appears to be shaping a new security doctrine before the defense establishment has talked about the matter in depth.

Peretz plans to convene a discussion on the matter in the coming days.

Even without the minister’s determination in this regard, senior defense establishment officials agree on one immediate conclusion from the recent conflict in Lebanon: Israel must press ahead quickly with initiatives to protect the home front against high-trajectory weapons – missiles of various kinds, including Katyusha and Qassam rockets.

But even now, the concept has its detractors:

“As a researcher, I believe that the entire notion of developing means to intercept Katyushas or Qassams is superfluous,” says Yiftah Shapir of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

According to Shapir, a former Israel Air Force intelligence officer, “A Katyusha is in fact an artillery shell, and no one talks about the need to develop means to intercept shells. … With the existing technology, it is difficult to deal with tens of thousands of Katyushas or Qassams or shells. There’s no end to it, and it is not economically worthwhile.”

Well, perhaps.

But it seems to me that the smartest approach is a defense-in-depth concept of security.  Assuming that the money is available — and this is a big assumption — Israel should invest in and deploy a THEL defense system, in addition to working towards the disarming and relocation of Hezbollah.  If the resources are available, it should not be a matter of either-or.  It should be both-and.


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