US President Barack Obama declared in ringing tones Wednesday, Nov. 30, “We don’t compromise when it comes to Israel’s security. No ally surpasses Israel in importance to the US.” Three days later, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in a lecture to the Brookings Institute was crystal-clear about what America expects Israel to deliver in return.
He cited “Israeli estimates” to argue against an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities because “it would set back (the program) by one to two years at best.” He urged Israel to take risks and get to “the damn negotiating table” with the Palestinians, and “mend fences with countries like Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, which share an interest in regional stability”- in view of Israel’s “growing isolation in a volatile region.”
The content and tone of the defense secretary’s lecture were clearly designed to rebut Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s comments Thursday, Dec. 1, that as a sovereign state, Israel is bound to determine its own security needs and the ultimate responsibility for its national security rests with the government in Jerusalem and the Israeli Defense Forces – no one else.
Panetta’s lecture was long on generalizations and contradictions and short on facts.
The “Israeli estimates” he cited referred to the most outspoken opponents of the Netanyahu-Barak government, namely the former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, the ex-chief of staff Gaby Ashkenazi, former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, as well as Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.
debkafile: Their political agenda would tend to overrule their true views on the merits of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites. It also runs contrary to the assessment of every responsible, knowledgeable Israeli intelligence and military expert, who all believe an attack could delay Iran’s nuclear armament by three or four years at the least.
Yet Panetta chose the contrary, minority view to support his arguments against an Israeli attack.
He also contradicted himself on at least one point:
On the one hand, the defense secretary told the Washington forum that, “No greater threat exists to the security and prosperity of the Middle East than a nuclear-armed Iran,” adding that Obama has not ruled out using military force to stop Iran from going nuclear.
On the other hand, Panetta warned “the consequences (of an Israeli attack) could be that we have an escalation that …would not only involve many lives… but trigger Iranian retaliation against US forces, and ultimately spark a backlash in Iran that would bolster its rulers.”
The facts contradict this assertion: An opinion poll secretly conducted at the universities of Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan in early November showed that 72 percent of those canvassed were certain the population of Iran’s cities would rise up against the Islamic regime the moment the US or Israel attacked its nuclear program.
As to the secretary’s argument that it would also be hard for attackers to reach Iran’s nuclear installations because some of them (the centrifuge plant transferred to Fordo, near Qom) have already been moved underground, he failed to answer two key questions:
1. Why was Israel held back from carrying out a military operation when those installations were still on the surface and vulnerable?
2. By continuing to hold back Israel back, is he saying that Iran should be allowed to go all the way to manufacturing a nuclear bomb without military interference? Is the US defense secretary advising Israel to learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, even though its menace is constantly expanding?
Panetta did not supply an answer to either question. But he was a lot clearer on Iran’s threat to American security when he said: “…any disruption of the free flow of commerce through the Persian Gulf is a very grave threat to all of us” and a redline for the US.” Was he saying that a nuclear-armed Iran was not a red line for America?
The defense secretary then offered the opinion that “sanctions and diplomatic pressure were working” to isolate Iran. debkafile’s Middle East sources emphasize that he would not find a single informed politician, general, intelligence official or economist in the region who agreed with him. Just the reverse: the region’s leaders and international financial community report that the Islamic Republic has overcome sanctions with remarkable success and they have not slowed down its nuclear progress by a second.
The US would safeguard Israel’s security, said Panetta, but “Israel has a responsibility to pursue shared goals (with the US) – to build regional support for Israeli and United States’ security objectives.”
He was referring to the US offer of a security shield in return for Israel’s pursuit of “shared goals.” The only trouble with that offer is that when it was put before Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, they agreed to pursue only certain “shared goals” – but not those affecting their national security, especially on the Iranian question, which they preferred to address by developing their own independent nuclear options. Therefore, the US shield on offer would be very limited.
His assumption that if Israel could persuade the Palestinians to sit down for peace talks and if it reached out to Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, relations would instantly improve, is just as fallacious.
Perhaps Panetta has not heard that Mahmoud Abbas stands by his year-long refusal to face Israel across any “damned tables” and only this week tried to manipulate the Middle East Quartet into forcing Israel to accept an indirect track. Neither does he address the anti-Israel posture adopted by the rulers of Egypt, Turkey and Jordan to persuade their people of their affinity with the Islamist forces rising in the region, like the ultra-orthodox Salafis of Egypt.
Neither Israel, nor any of the mainstream Arab governments accept the Obama-Panetta proposition that time will magically temper the extremism of the Islamist regimes. They have before them the example of a former Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, who made the same argument 32 years ago for the West to dump the shah and welcome Khomeini’s ayatollah regime.
It is time for Jerusalem to state clearly to the Obama administration that there is no way to reconcile Israel’s essential security needs with the rejection of a military operation to cripple Iran’s nuclear program; or to promote the rise of Islamist forces in the Arab capitals neighboring on the Jewish state and at the same time hold Israel to account for not reaching out to them.
Israel must put its cards on the table, after Panetta put his, by saying: “I understand the view that this is not the time to pursue peace, and that the Arab awakening further imperils the dream of a safe and secure, Jewish and democratic Israel. But I disagree with that view.” source – DEBKA
A ‘severe’ incident
Rockets fired from Lebanon struck northern Israel early Tuesday for the first time in more than two years, drawing a burst of Israeli artillery fire across the tense border, the Israeli military said.
Two buildings in Israel’s western Galilee area were damaged, Israeli media said, but there were no reports of casualties. Residents said they heard two explosions and that houses shook.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack. The military said at least two of the rockets landed on Israeli soil, and that Israeli guns shelled the area where the fire had originated.
A Lebanese security official told The Associated Press that one rocket was fired from Lebanon and that Israel hit back with six rockets, which landed in an empty area. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The flare-up comes at a time when the entire region is engulfed in violence and upheaval, with thousands killed in the regime’s crackdown on protesters in Syria and after popular uprisings ousted longtime rulers in Libya , Egypt , Tunisia and Yemen .
Israel said it was trying to establish who fired the rockets from Lebanon, but that it held the Lebanese government responsible and would deliver a complaint. The Israeli military said it did not expect Tuesday’s incident to touch off a wider conflict with Lebanon. In a statement, however, it said it regarded the attack as “severe.” source – MSNBC
Muslim Brotherhood holds venomous anti-Israel rally in Cairo mosque Friday;
Islamic activists chant: Tel Aviv, judgment day has come.
Arab hate: Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo’s most prominent mosque Friday turned into a venomous anti-Israel protest, with attendants vowing to “one day kill all Jews.”
Some 5,000 people joined the rally, called to promote the “battle against Jerusalem’s Judaization.” The event coincided with the anniversary of the United Nation’s partition plan in 1947, which called for the establishment of a Jewish state.
Speakers at the event delivered impassioned, hateful speeches against Israel, slamming the “Zionist occupiers” and the “treacherous Jews.” Upon leaving the rally, attended were given small flags, with Egypt’s flag on one side and the Palestinian flag on the other, as well as maps of Jerusalem’s Old City detailing where “Zionists are aiming to change Jerusalem’s Muslim character.”
Propaganda material ahead of Egypt’s parliamentary elections was also handed out at the site.
Spiritual leader Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb charged in his speech that to this day Jews everywhere in the world are seeking to prevent Islamic and Egyptian unity.
“In order to build Egypt, we must be one. Politics is insufficient. Faith in Allah is the basis for everything,” he said. “The al-Aqsa Mosque is currently under an offensive by the Jews…we shall not allow the Zionists to Judaize al-Quds (Jerusalem.) We are telling Israel and Europe that we shall not allow even one stone to be moved there.”
‘We have different mentality’
Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen, as well as Palestinian guest speakers, made explicit calls for Jihad and for liberating the whole of Palestine. Time and again, a Koran quote vowing that “one day we shall kill all the Jews” was uttered at the site. Meanwhile, businessmen in the crowd were urged to invest funds in Jerusalem in order to prevent the acquisition of land and homes by Jews.
Throughout the event, Muslim Brotherhood activists chanted: “Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, judgment day has come.”
Speaking to Ynet outside the mosque following the prayer, elementary school teacher Ala al-Din said that “all Egyptian Muslims are willing to embark on Jihad for the sake of Palestine.”
“Why is the US losing in Afghanistan? Because the other side is willing and wants to die. We have a different mentality than that of the Americans and Jews,” he said. source – YNET
The “time has come” to deal with Iran, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday, refusing to rule out military action to curb the Islamic republic’s nuclear ambitions.
Barak, speaking on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS program, indicated that Israel’s patience was wearing thin — and provided an ominous response when asked about the growing speculation of an Israeli military strike.
“I don’t think that that is a subject for public discussion,” he said. “But I can tell you that the IAEA report has a sobering impact on many in the world, leaders as well as the publics, and people understand that the time has come.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency published a report on November 8 saying there was “credible” information that Iran was carrying out “activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”
On Friday the IAEA’s board passed a resolution condemning Iran’s nuclear activities, but stopped short of reporting Tehran to the United Nations and issuing no deadline for compliance.
“People understand now that Iran is determined to reach nuclear weapons,” said Barak. There is “no other possible or conceivable explanation for what they have been actually doing. And that should be stopped.”
The IAEA report — based on “broadly, credible” intelligence, its own information and some input from Iran itself — said that Iran had examined how to fit out a Shahab 3 missile, with a range capable of reaching Israel, with a nuclear warhead.
Tehran rejected the report “baseless,” denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and maintains its nuclear activities are for civilian energy purposes.
Washington, Paris and London however jumped on the report as justification to increase pressure on Iran, already under four rounds of Security Council sanctions and additional US and European Union restrictions. source – Yahoo News
Israel must act, the God of Abraham will provide the results
“Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.” Psalm 129:5
A short statement was read out to the Knesset (Israel’s parliament by cabinet member Michael Eitan Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 16. It read: “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu informed the full Knesset plenum that all options are on the table when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program. The prime minister and the authorized bodies are acting to stop the nuclear armament of Iran. The efforts are ongoing and we will do everything possible to enlist states in the international community, “he continued “because the Iranian threat is a danger not only to the State of Israel but to world peace.”
The Knesset was due to devote a special session to the question of an attack on Iran.
debkafile’s military sources report that this is the first statement of this nature the prime minister has ever delivered to Israel’s parliament. It was phrased notably in the present tense. “The authorized bodies” are thought to refer to the Israeli Defense Forces and its intelligence community.
Also worth noting is that Netanyahu sent a minister to read out his message. He himself absent from this key debate and so was the defense minister. For the first time too, there was no reference to sanctions which have figured hitherto in all Israeli official statements on the Iranian nuclear controversy.
The implication is that an operation against a nuclear Iran may be in the works. If so, a response from Tehran is to be expected shortly. Earlier Wednesday, the supreme commander of Iran’s armed forces Gen. Hassan Firouz-Abadi said Israel’s cries of alarm about Iran’s nuclear development bespeak shock and fear. But nothing will save the Zionist regime from its bitter fate – a hint at Iran’s nuclear capability.
Firouz-Abadi said the massive explosion which killed Iran’s missile chief Saturday “had nothing to do with Israel or America.” It took place during “research on weapons that could strike Israel,” adding that the blast had delayed by only two weeks the development of an undisclosed military “product.”
The two statements together aroused lively speculation in the tense climate left by the latest nuclear watchdog agency’s evidence of Iran’s work on a nuclear weapon. Linking them might suggest that the Israeli prime minister had decided to refute the Iranian general’s claim. By stating that “efforts are ongoing” to stop Iran’s nuclear armament, he may have been implying that the explosion at the Guards base Saturday was indeed a covert Israeli operation in line with those efforts. source – DEBKA
Sanctions have been a spectacular Obama-led epic fail
According to the briefing given to a closed meeting of Jewish leaders in New York Sunday, Nov. 13, the window of opportunity for stopping Iran attaining a nuclear weapon is closing fast, debkafile’s sources report. It will shut down altogether after late March 2012. The intelligence reaching US President Barak Obama is that by April, Iran will already have five nuclear bombs or warheads and military action then would generate a dangerous level of radioactive contamination across the Gulf region, the main source of the world’s energy.
Sunday, too, President Barack Obama said the sanctions against Iran had taken an “enormous bite” out of its economy. He also said that the “US is united with Russian and Chinese leaders in ensuring Iran does not develop an atomic weapon and unleash an arms race across the Middle East.”
He spoke after talking to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hawaii about the new evidence submitted by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran was engaged in clandestine efforts to build a bomb.
He said both shared the goal of keeping a bomb out of Iran’s hands. As to sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference that sanctions against Iran had been exhausted and “now the problem should be solved though diplomatic channels.” debkafile’s analysts note that tough sanctions are pretty much off the table now. In any case, it is obvious that they failed to slow down Iran’s work on a bomb as confirmed by the latest IAEA report.
The road of diplomacy, favored by Moscow, has proved worse than ineffectual. Its only result was to buy time for Tehran to carry on with its military atomic project free of international pressure.
Obama went on to say Sunday that, while his strong preference was to resolve the Iran issue diplomatically, “We are not taking any options off the table. Iran with nuclear weapons would pose a threat not only to the region but also to the United States.”
This was the first time the US president had called a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to the United States. Until now, official statements limited the threat to “America’s regional interests and influence.”
The Jewish leaders meeting Sunday were informed that the Obama administration had intelligence data that the US and Israel have no more than a couple of months left for striking down Iran’s military weapons development by force. This will not longer be viable after Iran is armed with five nuclear bombs or warheads. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources refute the wild rumors alleging that the American CIA or Israeli Mossad was responsible for the massive explosion Saturday at a Revolutionary Guards base west of Tehran in which Iran’s missile chief Brig. Hassan Moghadam was killed.
While both organizations have formidable capabilities which Iran has experienced in the past, there is no way – even with a UAV – they could have hit a single missile warhead in the middle of a Guards base at the very moment that IRGC chiefs were gathered around considering how best to improve its precision.
All the evidence garnered in the two days since the attack indicates that a single warhead blew up by accident while it was being handled, rather than by sabotage. source – DEBKA
Israel has refused to reassure President Barack Obama that it would warn him in advance of any pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, raising fears that it may be planning a go-it-alone attack as early as next summer.
The US leader was rebuffed last month when he demanded private guarantees that no strike would go ahead without White House notification, suggesting Israel no longer plans to “seek Washington’s permission”, sources said. The disclosure, made by insiders briefed on a top-secret meeting between America’s most senior defence chief and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hawkish prime minister, comes amid concerns that Iran’s continuing progress towards nuclear weapons capability means the Jewish state has all but lost hope for a diplomatic solution.
On Tuesday, UN weapons inspectors released their most damning report to date into Iran’s nuclear activities, saying for the first time that the Islamic republic appeared to be building a nuclear weapon. It was with that grave possiblity in mind that Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, flew into Israel last month on what was ostensibly a routine trip.
Officially, his brief was restricted to the Middle East peace process, but the most important part of his mission was a private meeting with Mr Netanyahu and the defence minister, Ehud Barak. Once all but a handful of trusted staff had left the room, Mr Panetta conveyed an urgent message from Barack Obama. The president, Mr Panetta said, wanted an unshakable guarantee that Israel would not carry out a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations without first seeking Washington’s clearance.
The two Israelis were notably evasive in their response, according to sources both in Israel and the United States.
“They did not suggest that military action was being planned or was imminent, but neither did they give any assurances that Israel would first seek Washington’s permission, or even inform the White House in advance that a mission was underway,” one said.
Alarmed by Mr Netanyahu’s noncommittal response, Mr Obama reportedly ordered the US intelligence services to step up monitoring of Israel to glean clues of its intentions.
What those intentions might be remains distinctly murky. Over the past fortnight, Israel’s press has given every impression that the country is on a war footing, with numerous claims that Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak are lobbying the cabinet to support the military option.
Two weeks ago Israel tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching Iran, its first since 2008. Shortly before, the Israeli airforce took part in Nato exercises in Sardinia that involved air-to-air refuelling, a key component of an aerial strike on Iran. A separate exercise in and around Tel Aviv tested civilian readiness in the event of a missile strike against the city. In a sign of the febrility of the public mood, many beach-goers apparently mistook the air raid sirens for a genuine Iranian attack and fled in panic for their cars. There were similar jitters in Iran yesterday, when a huge but apparently accidental explosion at arms dump outside Tehran killed at least 27 soldiers and shook the city.
Speculation about an imminent Israeli military action has been a regular occurrence over the years, but rarely as fevered as now. Last week, a British official even suggested that an attack could come before Christmas.
Few in Israel believe that is likely and the difficulty of mounting an operation over winter, when cloud cover hampers aircraft targeting systems, means that if military action is being considered it will not come before the spring or summer of next year.
Many observers also believe that the bellicose rhetoric voiced by a number of senior Israeli figures in recent days is largely bluff, designed to goad the international community into imposing sanctions of such severity that Iran would be forced into economic ruin if it persisted with its nuclear ambitions. Israel says that if Iran’s central bank were sanctioned and a ban on Iranian oil exports enforced by an international naval blockade, military action would not be necessary.
Mr Barak has already publicly stated that he does not believe the West can overcome Russian and Chinese opposition to the sanctions Israel wants, leaving military action increasingly as the only alternative.
Mr Netanyahu may have another reason to bluff. In recent months, Meir Dagan, who retired as director of Mossad at the beginning of the year, has made a series of unprecedented speeches countenancing against Israeli military action – describing it as “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard”.
His comments have infuriated the Israeli establishment – senior officials have said they would like to see him behind bars – because they fear it could convince Iran’s Mullahs that Israel’s sporadic talk of war is a fiction.
Hints by Mr Netanyahu that he is considering the military option may be designed to resurrect Iran’s paranoia of Israel, something seen in the Jewish state as a powerful deterrent, says Yossi Melman, a leading intelligence analyst and journalist.
“Meir Dagan made a laughing stock of military action,” Mr Melman said. “Netanyahu believes he damaged the deterrent and he wants to repair it.”
Yet the fact that Mr Dagan chose to speak out – extraordinary in itself for a just-retired Mossad chief – suggests that he believes Mr Netanyahu is intent on attacking Iran.
Tellingly, until last year, Israel’s four most powerful military and security chiefs, including Mr Dagan, were all strongly opposed to military action. All four have now been replaced by younger men who may be less able to stand up to Mr Netanyahu, not that Israeli prime ministers are necessarily bound to heed objections from their top military advisers anyway. In 1981, Menachem Begin did just that when he bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak.
If Israel is to attack Iran, many in the country believe time is running out. Last week’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) highlighted Iran’s apparent determination to build a nuclear warhead, but did not indicate how long it might take.
Some in Israel, however, believe it is very close.
“It is my personal opinion that, if the Iranian regime decides to do so, it can produce a nuclear explosive device within a year, plus or minus a few months,” said Ephraim Asculai, a former IAEA official and leading Israeli expert on Iran’s nuclear programme.
Not everyone agrees. Some argue that a covert espionage operation has caused such delays that Iran still needs another three years to build a bomb. Sabotage efforts by Israeli, American and British intelligence have successfully slowed Iranian progress, most notably via the Stuxnet computer virus that caused the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant to explode. Mossad agents on motorbikes are also believed to have planted magnetic explosives on the cars of at least two key Iranian nuclear scientists as they weaved through Tehran’s traffic jams. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the scientist and Revolutionary Guards officer who is thought to be the ultimate mastermind of the nuclear programme, is now believed to be under round-the-clock protection as a result. But, whatever the time frame, some in Israel believe there is additional cause for urgency that could prompt military action sooner rather than later.
According to western intelligence assessments, Tehran is preparing to move the bulk of its nuclear production to a plant beneath a mountain near the holy city of Qom that would be far harder to hit from the air.
According to Ronen Bergman, senior military analyst for Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper and the author of a forthcoming book on Mossad, that makes a strike necessary well before Iran actually perfects its programme.
“Today Israeli intelligence talks of what is known as the ‘framework of immunity’,” he said. “In other words, it is not the point at which Iran acquires a nuclear device, but the point at which the project has reached such an advanced stage that a strike any time after would be ineffective.”
An Israeli attack could probably manage at most a dozen targets, using more than 100 F-15 and F-16 aircraft.
Three German-designed Dolphin submarines equipped with conventional cruise missiles could also be ordered into the Persian Gulf to take part, although it is thought that Israel’s Jericho-3 ballistic missiles are to inaccurate to play a role.
But how effective the mission would be is another matter. At best, Israel can hope to delay Iran from building a bomb by two to four years, experts assess. Optimists hope that within such a period, Iran’s Islamist regime could collapse and give may to a more moderate government. But it could equally redouble its nuclear efforts, this time arguing that it now had every right to produce a weapon.
As Mr Panetta warned during a Pentagon briefing last Thursday, such a strike would also have a “serious impact” on the region. Iran could blockade the Straits of Hormuz, through which 25 per cent of the world’s oil exports are shipped, sending energy prices soaring. US military assets in the Gulf could come also come under attack from Iranian Scud missiles.
Iran would almost certainly fire its Shahab ballistic missiles at Israeli cities and press Hizbollah and Hamas, the militant Islamist groups it funds and equips, to unleash their huge rocket arsenals from their bases in Lebanon and Gaza.
Despite this, last week Mr Barak – making a rare venture in such sensitive territory – predicted that fewer than 500 fatalities would arise “if people stayed at home”.
Such are both the political and military risks involved that many Israelis say it is inconceivable that Mr Netanyahu would go to war without the United States alongside him.
“I think personally that if such action is taken, there will be come kind of consultation with the United States,” said Ilan Mizrahi, Mossad’s former deputy director and Israel’s national security adviser until 2007.
“If Iran breaks all the rules, then military action will be needed, but definitely not alone by a tiny country like Israel,” added Uzi Eilam, a retired general who held senior positions at the Israeli defence ministry.
But not everyone is so sure. Mr Obama’s willingness to take on Iran militarily is openly questioned in Israel. And while many Israelis do not believe Iran has any intention of actually firing a nuclear missile at them, the the key question is whether their prime minister is one of them.
In Mr Netanyahu’s eyes, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is another “Hitler” whose aim is to complete what the Holocaust failed to do by wiping out the Jewish race.
“People outside Israel don’t understand how profound memories of the Holocaust are, and how they affect future policy making,” said Mr Bergman, the military analyst. “At the end of the day, this policy of ‘never again’ would dictate Israel’s behaviour when intelligence comes through that Iran has come close to a bomb.” source – Telegraph UK