- The Times/ ISRAEL’S military planners have been forced to conclude that a conventional assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities might fail after evidence emerged that Tehran has hidden far more of its uranium enrichment capacity beneath a mountain than previously suspected. Western defence experts say much of Iran’s Fordow enrichment site near the city of Qom is now deep underground in a “zone of immunity” safe from conventional airstrikes.They claim this narrows Israel’s response to two options: the deployment of special forces in a ground attack, or the use of ballistic missiles carrying small tactical nuclear warheads.
The phrase “zone of immunity” was coined by Defence Minister Ehud Barak to emphasise that time was running out for Israel as Iran moved closer to being able to make a nuclear weapon.
“Israel’s plans have been constantly evolving in recent years according to the progress Iran is making,” a senior defence source said. “A decade ago when Ariel Sharon (the former prime minister who suffered a stroke in 2006) was in charge, it was relatively easy to strike Iran as its air defences were almost non-existent. Now they’ve upgraded and our tactics have to change.”
Western sources believe a single Israeli Jericho-3 missile could carry a tactical nuclear warhead with a yield of less than one kiloton, which would be sufficient to “bury” the plant. In a conventional attack Israel might, according to experts, lose up to 20 per cent of its planes.
Well aware of the hostile international response to even the suggestion of a nuclear attack, the option is not being debated publicly. But last week it was referred to indirectly by Shaul Mofaz, head of the Kadima party and leader of the opposition.
For some time Mr Mofaz, 64, a former defence minister and one of the few Israeli politicians privy to the country’s nuclear secrets, has believed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is playing a dangerous game.
Mr Mofaz shocked many Israelis last week when during a press conference he unveiled a poster showing a red mushroom cloud with the slogan: “Bibi will endanger Israel.”
Most Israelis assumed the poster referred to the Iranian threat. But its message may have been more subtle, hinting at an argument that Mr Mofaz cannot articulate in public: that he believes Mr Netanyahu could be considering a nuclear option.
Mr Netanyahu signalled in a television interview last week that he was prepared to strike Iran without the support of the US. “When David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the state of Israel, was it done with American approval?” he asked.
I give it a Hmmmm..But knew they would see it too=ed
As Israelis and their government continue to debate the merits of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, the contempt for American foreign policy realists for the idea the Jewish state might decide to act in its own defense is considerable. Contempt for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak seems to be the primary motivation for the latest missive for James Traub, one of the realists leading writers, that appeared in Foreign Policy on Friday. Rather the focus on the “zone of immunity” that many Israelis and others worried about the nuclear threat believe Iran may be entering as its stockpiles get larger and are stored in invulnerable bunkers, Traub is more interested in what he calls, as the title of the piece puts it, the “zone of insanity.” As far as he is concerned Netanyahu and Barak are nuts to even think about acting without the permission of the United States.
But the answer to Traub’s points comes in his own column. Even the Obama administration now understands diplomacy and sanctions have failed. The only possible diplomatic solution is to agree to a compromise lauded by Traub that would leave Iran’s nuclear project intact. Under these circumstances, it is fair to ask who’s insane: The foreign policy realists who have been wrong about just about everything about the Middle East for decades and who now expect Israel to wait patiently for Iran to go nuclear or Netanyahu, who understands all too well that the Israel-hating ayatollahs mean what they say about eliminating Israel. If these purveyors of conventional wisdom are now counseling further inaction or more feckless diplomacy, that’s good reason for Israelis to think hard and long about attacking Iran soon.
Traub believes, not without reason, that the recent flurry of leaks and open talk of an Israeli attack are motivated by a desire in Jerusalem to force the hand of the Obama administration. The president’s current strategy about Iran is to kick the can down the road until after the November election. If re-elected, he may then have the “flexibility” to back down from his pledges not to accept or “contain” a nuclear Iran. Netanyahu may hope the threat of an Israeli attack may motivate the president to obligate the United States to use force sooner rather than later as attempts to talk Iran off the ledge continue to fail.
Realists oppose such red lines. They also dispute the veracity of recent reports of a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate revising previous erroneous rulings about Iran giving up the quest for nuclear weapons. But if they claim supporters of a tougher policy on Iran endorse such a conclusion because they want to raise the pressure on Tehran, those who oppose action are arguing the new NIE is non-existent because that suits their pre-existing notions about what should be done. But even Jeffrey Lewis, another realist, wrote in Foreign Policy two days earlier specifically to cast doubt about the intelligence about Iran, concedes that there is no doubt the Iranians have already done work towards nuclear weaponization but claims it’s merely old news and nothing to get excited about.
Traub, almost in passing, also mocks those who have written about the depth of the anti-Semitism of the Iranian regime and chortles about Netanyahu’s endorsement of such columns. But the day Traub’s piece was published, Iran held its annual Al Quds day in which millions were turned out to chant “death to Israel” and the country’s leaders competed with each other as to who would make the most extreme statements about the elimination of the Jewish state. Iran’s government, media and religious institutions (all of which are under the thrall of the ayatollahs) are drenched in Jew-hatred and routinely spew hateful rhetoric. Iran also is the major sponsor of terror groups that kill Jews and Israelis whenever they can. Yet realists seem to think talk about such topics is irrelevant to the question of allowing Iran to go nuclear or the urgency of acting before it is too late.
The dangers that an attack on Iran would present to Israel and the world are real. But having been as wrong about the Palestinians’ desire for peace as they are about Iran’s willingness to back away from the nuclear abyss, the realists have no credibility to bring into this argument. Israelis do well to worry about the implications of acting on their own but Traub’s efforts to minimize the risks of doing nothing ring hollow in the ears of those tasked with defending the existence of the Jewish state.
If they are serious about persuading Israel to stand down, realists like Traub would do better to pressure President Obama to start acting like he means business about Iran rather than obviously signaling that he doesn’t. Neither the Iranians nor the Israelis believe the president wants to do anything but avoid making a decision on this most dangerous foreign policy dilemma. But until their minds are changed, Traub’s jibes at Netanyahu will continue to ring hollow.
- Beware of Conventional Wisdom About Iran (commentarymagazine.com)
Here is a follow-up to my item yesterday about Mitt Romney and his comments about Palestinian culture in order to clarify some of the debate swirling on Twitter and the Internet. I want to make a couple of things clear: I was in no way disparaging the entrepreneurial and educational achievements of the Palestinian people, whose record in building human capital is among the most impressive in the Arab world. Nor was I claiming that Israeli security restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip play no role whatsoever in retarding Palestinian economic development. Obviously, they do. But even here Palestinian culture (and institutions) are, I believe, ultimately to blame.
Israel is not restricting movement in and out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip because it wants to play the role of colonial occupier or believes it has a duty to rule the benighted Palestinian people. The vast majority of Israelis are happy to give up any claims to rule in the West Bank or Gaza Strip and to acknowledge the Palestinians’ right to statehood. Indeed, in 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak was willing to cede upwards of 95 percent of the West Bank, part of Jerusalem, and the entire Gaza Strip to Palestinian rule. As we know, Yasir Arafat refused to take the deal.
Why? Much of the explanation may be found in Arafat’s character: shaped by a “resistance” struggle, he was unwilling to beat swords into ploughshares and become the president of a small, impoverished state with little claim on the world’s attention. But part of the explanation can also be found in the Palestinians’ dysfunctional political culture which they share in common with much of the Arab world–a culture that elevates grand gestures (such as “resistance”) over mundane realities such as improving economic life, and a culture that is so deeply impregnated with anti-Semitism it is simply unimaginable for most Palestinians to give up the “right of return” and truly accept they will never win back by force the land now occupied by the “Zionists.” Arafat was said to fear that if he actually gave up the struggle, he would not be long for this world, and he may have been right–look at the fate of Sadat.
If Palestinian political institutions–which, as I noted, are dominated by corrupt opportunists and ideological fanatics–were to change and moderates such as Salam Fayyad were to be truly in charge (rather than to be unpopular and marginalized, as is presently the case), then any Israeli government, even one dominated by Likud, would be willing to do even more to lift the security restrictions which Palestinians claim impede their economic development. So at the end of the day, Palestinian culture really does account for their impoverishment in spite of the tremendous success enjoyed by many individual Palestinians, especially those who have emigrated to other countries, and in spite of the vast amounts of foreign aid which has poured in to help them.
So too, Israeli culture helps to explain its success in spite of facing unremitting hostility from all of its neighbors since the day of its birth (which has forced it to spend a far higher share of GDP on defense than the U.S. or other Western countries) and in spite of its almost total lack of mineral wealth. It is not so much Israeli economic culture that explains its enduring success because, until fairly recently, Israel has had a backward socialist economy. Nor is it even the Israelis’ willingness to work hard–Palestinians work hard, too.
What is more important, I believe, is a factor identified by Francis Fukuyama–the level of “trust” in a society. Israelis have been willing, when push comes to shove, to pull together for the common good in a way that Palestinians, who have always been riven by clan and political rivalries, have not. Israeli political culture has also been resolutely democratic, and this, I believe, is the ultimate secret of its success–it is inconceivable that the egalitarian Israelis would have tolerated the rule of a strutting authoritarian like Arafat. Israeli political culture demanded that “resistance” fighters like Begin and Shamir put down the gun and compete for votes like normal politicians. The Palestinians have never, even now, demanded this of their leaders–or at least not made the demand stick–and they will continue to pay a heavy price for elevating “resistance” over economic opportunity.Max Boot
- Report of possible Gaza independence stirs debate (iranaware.com)