Is Netanyahu Planning Nuclear Attack on Iran? November 11, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: Iran, iran nuclear, israel, israel iran, israel nuclear, netanyahu, nuclear attack, nuclear war, roger hollander, shaul mofaz
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Published on Sunday, November 11, 2012 by Common Dreams
The Sunday Times of London is reporting that ‘Rivals fear Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu is plotting nuclear strike on Iran.’
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz unveiling his party’s campaign slogan at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday. His campaign poster says “Bibi will endanger Israel” over the image of a mushroom cloud. (Photo/Yaron Brenner)
Netanyahu thinks ballistic missiles carrying tactical nuclear warheads will be necessary to take out Iran’s Fordow uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom. The site is buried deep beneath a mountain.
Western sources say Israel firing a Jericho-3 missile carrying a tactical nuclear warhead would be “sufficient to ‘bury’ the plant.” The United States is the only nation that has used nuclear weapons thus far.
From The Sunday Times:
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 defense 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 signaled 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.
Burman: What has prompted Canada’s move against Iran? September 8, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: Canada, ehud barak, iran embassy, iran nuclear, israel, israel nuclear, Middle East, netanyahu, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, tony burman
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There is little else to conclude from Canada’s unwise decision to move unilaterally on Iran at this moment. All sorts of crucial issues are in play with Iran. They involve the future of its nuclear program, the impatience of Israel’s leadership to attack Iran, the shape of a new Middle East as the heinous Syrian regime implodes and several delicate life-and-death issues involving Canadians on death row in Iran. Surprisingly, Western nations have held together on how to approach these key challenges — except, now, for Canada.
So why would Canada indulge in a meaningless poke in the eye that will only be dismissed by Tehran and serve to push the Canadian government even further to the extremes of diplomatic irrelevance?
For a clue, let’s flash back two weeks ago to Israel, where the debate over Iran has been at a fever pitch among politicians and in the media for months.
Prime Minister Netanyahu met privately with the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Netanyahu “lost his temper,” according to U.S. officials, and was described as nervous, agitated and frustrated at American reluctance to move on Iran. Several days later, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, further upset him by warning that an Israeli strike, with all its risks, would only “delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program.”
Now, enter the Canadian government. In recent years, with its passionate pro-Israeli stance, it has gained the reputation throughout the Middle East of being a passionate warrior on behalf of Israel’s foreign ministry. I was in Israel in July — coincidentally at the same time as Mitt Romney — and there were references in the Israeli media about Canada’s unwavering support of the Israeli government.
It was obviously appreciated, but one sensed it was also seen by some Israelis as somewhat mystifying. After decades of being one of the world’s most respected “honest brokers” on Middle East issues, what in God’s name has slipped into the water supply in Canada to explain such a change?
Contrary to the Canadian government’s statement on Friday, it is unimaginable that its actions against Iran will affect that country’s policy regarding Syria or its nuclear program. Instead, its priority seems to be on the Israeli issues. It is not surprising that Canada’s actions were warmly welcomed by Netanyahu.
But it is difficult to understand Canada’s timing. It will have precious little impact on Iran’s behavior and seems at variance with the current state-of-play on the nuclear issue. In fact, it actually comes at a time when the mood in Israel’s top leadership seems to have turned against the idea of an imminent strike against Iran.
On Thursday, Defence Minister Ehud Barak — who has sided with Netanyahu in arguing that a nuclear-armed Iran is an ”existential” threat to Israel — seemed subtly to temper his rhetoric. He emphasized a desire to work with the Americans on this issue, even if this meant a delay in potential military action: “One should not ignore the impressive preparations by the Americans to counter Iran on all fronts.”
Barak’s remarks may have reflected several important realities that are gaining attention. One, it is clear that U.S. president Barack Obama is as determined as the Israelis to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Two, there is still no evidence that Iran actually wants nuclear weapons. And three, most of the Israeli public, military and political class find the idea of a strike against Iran as unnecessarily dangerous. Last Sunday, a former Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Winograd— whose committee criticized Israel’s role in its 2006 war with Lebanon — warned that an Israeli strike on Iran “may endanger the future of the country”.
And then, there is that other crucial issue: If Israel attacks Iran, with or without U.S. help, what will be the repercussions? Will the region be engulfed in war? Will the Iranian government, so loathed by many of its people, be emboldened and strengthened by this attack? Will such an action actually ensure that Iran eventually develops a nuclear bomb?
Canadians have every right to ask its government how it believes such a conflict will evolve. However, reflecting on its recent actions, we may have to wait until our government checks with its new foreign minister in Jerusalem before we get some answers.
Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News, teaches journalism at Ryerson University. firstname.lastname@example.org
In Hiroshima’s Shadow August 2, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, History, Latin America, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
Tags: Cuba, cuban missile, cyberwar, hiroshima, history, iran nuclear, israel nuclear, john kennedy, Middle East, missile crisis, Nikita Khrushchev, Noam Chomsky, nuclear, nuclear war, roger hollander
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August 6, the anniversary of Hiroshima, should be a day of somber reflection, not only on the terrible events of that day in 1945, but also on what they revealed: that humans, in their dedicated quest to extend their capacities for destruction, had finally found a way to approach the ultimate limit.
This year‚ Aug. 6 memorials have special significance. They take place shortly before the 50th anniversary of, “the most dangerous moment in human history,” in the words of the historian and John F. Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., referring to the Cuban missile crisis.
Graham Allison writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that Kennedy, “ordered actions that he knew would increase the risk not only of conventional war but also nuclear war,” with a likelihood of perhaps 50 percent, he believed, an estimate that Allison regards as realistic.
Kennedy declared a high-level nuclear alert that authorized, “NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots … (or others) … to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb.”
None were more shocked by the discovery of missiles in Cuba than the men in charge of the similar missiles that the U.S. had secretly deployed in Okinawa six months earlier, surely aimed at China, at a moment of elevated regional tensions.
Kennedy took Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, “right to the brink of nuclear war and he looked over the edge and had no stomach for it,” according to Gen. David Burchinal, then a high-ranking official in the Pentagon planning staff. One can hardly count on such sanity forever.
Khrushchev accepted a formula that Kennedy devised, ending the crisis just short of war. The formula‚ boldest element, Allison writes, was, “a secret sweetener that promised the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey within six months after the crisis was resolved.” These were obsolete missiles that were being replaced by far more lethal, and invulnerable, Polaris submarines.
In brief, even at high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, it was felt necessary to reinforce the principle that U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, some aimed at China or at the borders of Russia, which had previously placed no missiles outside the USSR. Justifications of course have been offered, but I do not think they withstand analysis.
An accompanying principle is that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion. The plans for Kennedy‚ terrorist programs, Operation Mongoose, called for, “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime,” in October 1962, the month of the missile crisis, recognizing that, “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention.”
The terrorist operations against Cuba are commonly dismissed by U.S. commentators as insignificant CIA shenanigans. The victims, not surprisingly, see matters rather differently. We can at last hear their voices in Keith Bolender‚, “Voices from the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba.”
The events of October 1962 are widely hailed as Kennedy‚ finest hour. Allison offers them as, “a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great-power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general.” In particular, today‚ conflicts with Iran and China.
Disaster was perilously close in 1962, and there has been no shortage of dangerous moments since. In 1973, in the last days of the Arab-Israeli war, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war. There have been innumerable cases when human intervention aborted nuclear attack only moments before launch after false reports by automated systems. There is much to think about on Aug. 6.
Allison joins many others in regarding Iran‚ nuclear programs as the most severe current crisis, “an even more complex challenge for American policymakers than the Cuban missile crisis,” because of the threat of Israeli bombing.
The war against Iran is already well underway, including assassination of scientists and economic pressures that have reached the level of, “undeclared war,” in the judgment of the Iran specialist Gary Sick.
Great pride is taken in the sophisticated cyberwar directed against Iran. The Pentagon regards cyberwar as, “an act of war,” that authorizes the target, “to respond using traditional military force,” The Wall Street Journal reports. With the usual exception: not when the U.S. or an ally is the perpetrator.
The Iran threat has recently been outlined by Gen. Giora Eiland, one of Israel‚ top military planners, described as, “one of the most ingenious and prolific thinkers the (Israeli military) has ever produced.”
Of the threats he outlines, the most credible is that, “any confrontation on our borders will take place under an Iranian nuclear umbrella.” Israel might therefore be constrained in resorting to force. Eiland agrees with the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence, which also regard deterrence as the major threat that Iran poses.
The current escalation of the, “undeclared war,” against Iran increases the threat of accidental large-scale war. Some of the dangers were illustrated last month when a U.S. naval vessel, part of the huge deployment in the Gulf, fired on a small fishing boat, killing one Indian crew member and wounding at least three others. It would not take much to set off a major war.
One sensible way to avoid such dread consequences is to pursue, “the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons,” the wording of Security Council resolution 687 of April 1991, which the U.S. and U.K. invoked in their effort to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq 12 years later.
The goal has been an Arab-Iranian objective since 1974, regularly re-endorsed, and by now it has near-unanimous global support, at least formally. An international conference to consider ways to implement such a treaty may take place in December.
Progress is unlikely unless there is mass public support in the West. Failure to grasp the opportunity will, once again, lengthen the grim shadow that has darkened the world since that fateful Aug. 6.
© 2011 Noam Chomsky
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.
Tags: china nuclear, diplomacy, India nuclear, iran nuclear, israel nuclear, non-proliferation, nuclear, nuclear deterrance, nuclear power, nuclear proliferation, nuclear stockpile, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, Pakistan nuclear, roger hollander, start treaty, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics, william d. hartrung
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Roger’s note: when I was a small child I was afraid of the dark, and the only way I could peacefully fall asleep was to pull my blanket over my head. Somehow, irrationally, it made me feel safe from whatever out there I was afraid of. As you will read in the article posted below, “out there” are 20,000 nuclear warheads in the hands of the governments of nine nations, some less stable than others. Enough nuclear power to blow our planet to bits a number of time. Why am I calling this to your attention? Actually, I am not sure. It just seems to me that a strategy more practical than pulling a blanket of our collective heads is called for. And good luck in getting to sleep tonight.
By William D. Hartung, TomDispatch
There was a time when nuclear weapons were a significant part of our national conversation. Addressing the issue of potential atomic annihilation was once described by nuclear theorist Herman Kahn as “thinking about the unthinkable,” but that didn’t keep us from thinking, talking, fantasizing, and worrying about it, or putting images of possible nuclear nightmares (often transmuted to invading aliens or outer space) endlessly on screen.
Now, on a planet still overstocked with city-busting, world-ending weaponry, in which almost 67 years have passed since a nuclear weapon was last used, the only nuke that Americans regularly hear about is one that doesn’t exist: Iran’s. The nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons on missiles, planes, and submarines possessed by Russia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are barely mentioned in what passes for press coverage of the nuclear issue.
Today, nuclear destruction finds itself at the end of a long queue of anxieties about our planet and its fate. For some reason, we trust ourselves, our allies, and even our former enemies with nuclear arms — evidently so deeply that we don’t seem to think the staggering arsenals filled with weaponry that could put the devastation of Hiroshima to shame are worth covering or dealing with. Even the disaster at Fukushima last year didn’t revive an interest in the weaponry that goes with the “peaceful” atom in our world.
Attending to the Bomb in a MAD World
Our views of the nuclear issue haven’t always been so shortsighted. In the 1950s, editor and essayist Norman Cousins was typical in frequently tackling nuclear weapons issues for the widely read magazine Saturday Review. In the late 1950s and beyond, the Ban the Bomb movement forced the nuclear weapons issue onto the global agenda, gaining international attention when it was revealed that Strontium-90, a byproduct of nuclear testing, was making its way into mothers’ breast milk. In those years, the nuclear issue became personal as well as political.
In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy responded to public pressure by signing a treaty with Russia that banned atmospheric nuclear testing (and so further Strontium-90 fallout). He also gave a dramatic speech to the United Nations in which he spoke of the nuclear arms race as a “sword of Damocles” hanging over the human race, poised to destroy us at any moment.
Popular films like Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove captured both the dangers and the absurdity of the superpower arms race. And when, on the night of October 22, 1962, Kennedy took to the airwaves to warn the American people that a Cuban missile crisis was underway, that it was nuclear in nature, and that a Soviet nuclear attack and a “full retaliatory strike on the Soviet Union” were possibilities — arguably the closest we have come to a global nuclear war — it certainly got everyone’s attention.
All things nuclear receded from public consciousness as the Vietnam War escalated and became the focus of antiwar activism and debate, but the nuclear issue came back with a vengeance in the Reagan years of the early 1980s when superpower confrontations once again were in the headlines. A growing anti-nuclear movement first focused on a near-disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania (the Fukushima of its moment) and then on the superpower nuclear stand-off that went by the name of “mutually assured destruction” or, appropriately enough, the acronym MAD.
The Nuclear Freeze Campaign generated scores of anti-nuclear resolutions in cities and towns around the country, and in June 1982, a record-breaking million people gathered in New York City’s Central Park to call for nuclear disarmament. If anyone managed to miss this historic outpouring of anti-nuclear sentiment, ABC news aired a prime-time, made-for-TV movie, The Day After, that offered a remarkably graphic depiction of the missiles leaving their silos and the devastating consequences of a nuclear war. It riveted a nation.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of that planetary superpower rivalry less than a decade later took nuclear weapons out of the news. After all, with the Cold War over and no other rivals to the United States, who needed such weaponry or a MAD world, either? The only problem was that the global nuclear landscape was left more or less intact, mission-less but largely untouched (with the proliferation of the weapons to other countries ongoing). Unacknowledged as it may be, in some sense MAD still exists, even if we prefer to pretend that it doesn’t.
A MAD World That No One Cares to Notice
More than 20 years later, the only nuclear issue considered worth the bother is stopping the spread of the bomb to a couple of admittedly scary and problematic regimes: Iran and North Korea. Their nuclear efforts regularly make the news and garner attention (to the point of obsession) in media and government circles. But remind me: When was the last time you read about what should be the ultimate (and obvious) goal — getting rid of nuclear weapons altogether?
This has been our reality, despite President Obama’s pledge in Prague back in 2009 to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and the passage of a modest but important New START arms-reduction treaty between the United States and Russia in 2010. It remains our reality, despite a dawning realization in budget-anxious Washington that we may no longer be able to afford to throw money (as presently planned) at nuclear projects ranging from new ballistic-missile submarines to new facilities for building nuclear warhead components — all of which are slated to keep the secret global nuclear arms race alive and well decades into the future.
If Iran is worth talking about — and it is, given the implications of an Iranian bomb for further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East — what about the arsenals of the actual nuclear states? What about Pakistan, a destabilizing country which has at least 110 nuclear warheads and counting, and which continues to view India as its primary adversary despite U.S. efforts to get it to focus on al Qaida and the Taliban? What about India’s roughly 100 nuclear warheads, meant to send a message not just to Pakistan but to neighboring China as well? And will China hold pat at 240 or so nuclear weapons in the face of U.S. nuclear modernization efforts and plans to surround it with missile defense systems that could, in theory if not practice, blunt China’s nuclear deterrent force?
Will Israel continue to get a free pass on its officially unacknowledged possession of up to 200 nuclear warheads and its refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Who are France and the United Kingdom targeting with their forces of 300 and 225 nuclear warheads, respectively? How long will it take North Korea to develop miniaturized nuclear bombs and deploy them on workable, long-range missiles? And is New START the beginning or the end of mutual U.S. and Russian arms reductions?
Many of these questions are far more important than whether Iran gets the bomb, but they get, at best, only a tiny fraction of the attention that Tehran’s nuclear program is receiving. Concern about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and a fear of loose nukes in a destabilizing country is certainly part of the subtext of U.S. policy towards Islamabad. Little effort has been made of late, however, to encourage Pakistan and India to engage in talks aimed at reconciling their differences and opening the way for discussions on reducing their nuclear arsenals.
The last serious effort – centered on the contentious issue of Kashmir — reached its high point in 2007 under the regime of Pakistani autocrat Pervez Musharraf, and it went awry in the wake of political changes within his country and Pakistani-backed terrorist attacks on India. If anything, the tensions now being generated by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands and other affronts, intended or not, to Pakistan’s sovereignty have undermined any possibility of Washington brokering a rapprochement between Pakistan and India.
In addition, starting in the Bush years, the U.S. has been selling India nuclear fuel and equipment. This has been part of a controversial agreement that violates prior U.S. commitments to forgo nuclear trade with any nation that has refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (a pact India has not signed). Although U.S. assistance is nominally directed towards India’s civilian nuclear program, it helps free up resources that India can use to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal.
The “tilt” towards India that began during the Bush administration has continued under Obama. Only recently, for instance, a State Department official bragged about U.S. progress in selling advanced weaponry to New Delhi. Meanwhile, F-16s that Washington supplied to the Pakistani military back in the heyday of the U.S.-Pakistan alliance may have already been adapted to serve as nuclear delivery vehicles in the event of a nuclear confrontation with India.
China has long adhered to a de facto policy of minimum deterrence — keeping just enough nuclear weapons to dissuade another nation from attacking it with nuclear arms. But this posture has not prevented Beijing from seeking to improve the quality of its long-range ballistic missiles. And if China feels threatened by continued targeting by the United States or by sea-based American interceptors deployed to the region, it could easily increase its arsenal to ensure the “safety” of its deterrent. Beijing will also be keeping a watchful eye on India as its nuclear stockpile continues to grow.
Ever since Ronald Reagan — egged on by mad scientists like Edward Teller and right-wing zealots like Lt. Gen. Daniel O. Graham – pledged to build a perfect anti-nuclear shield that would render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete,” missile defense has had a powerful domestic constituency in the United States. This has been the case despite the huge cost and high-profile failures of various iterations of the missile defense concept.
The only concrete achievement of three decades of missile defense research and development so far has been to make Russia suspicious of U.S. intentions. Even now, rightly or not, Russia is extremely concerned about the planned installation of U.S. missile defenses in Europe that Washington insists will be focused on future Iranian nuclear weapons. Moscow feels that they could just as easily be turned on Russia. If President Obama wins a second term, he will undoubtedly hope to finesse this issue and open the door to further joint reductions in nuclear forces, or possibly even consider reducing this country’s nuclear arsenal significantly, whether or not Russia initially goes along.
Recent bellicose rhetoric from Moscow underscores its sensitivity to the missile defense issue, which may yet scuttle any plans for serious nuclear negotiations. Given that the U.S. and Russia together possess more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, an impasse between the two nuclear superpowers (even if they are not “super” in other respects) will undercut any leverage they might have to encourage other nations to embark on a path leading to global nuclear reductions.
In his 1960s ode to nuclear proliferation, “Who’s Next?” Tom Lehrer included the line “Israel’s getting tense, wants one in self-defense.” In fact, Israel was the first — and for now the only — Middle Eastern nation to get the bomb, with reports that it can deliver a nuclear warhead not only from land-based missiles but also via cruise missiles launched from nuclear submarines. Whatever it may say about Israel’s technical capabilities in the military field, Israel’s nuclear arsenal may also be undermining its defense, particularly if it helps spur Iran to build its own nukes. And irresponsible talk by some Israeli officials about attacking Iran only increases the chance that Tehran will decide to go nuclear.
It is hard to handicap the grim, “unthinkable,” but hardly inconceivable prospect that August 9, 1945, will not prove to be the last time that nuclear weapons are used on this planet. Perhaps some of the loose nuclear materials or inadequately guarded nuclear weapons littering the globe — particularly, but not solely, in the states of the former Soviet Union — might fall into the hands of a terrorist group. Perhaps an Islamic fundamentalist government will seize power in Pakistan and go a step too far in nuclear brinkmanship with India over Kashmir. Maybe the Israeli leadership will strike out at Iran with nuclear weapons in an effort to keep Tehran from going nuclear. Maybe there will be a miscommunication or false alarm that will result in the United States or Russia launching one of their nuclear weapons that are still in Cold War-style, hair-trigger mode.
Although none of these scenarios, including a terrorist nuclear attack, may be as likely as nuclear alarmists sometimes suggest, as long as the world remains massively stocked with nuclear weapons, one of them — or some other scenario yet to be imagined — is always possible. The notion that Iran can’t be trusted with such a weapon obscures a larger point: Given their power to destroy life on a monumental scale, no individual and no government can ultimately be trusted with the bomb.
The only way to be safe from nuclear weapons is to get rid of them — not just the Iranian one that doesn’t yet exist, but all of them. It’s a daunting task. It’s also a subject that’s out of the news and off anyone’s agenda at the moment, but if it is ever to be achieved, we at least need to start talking about it. Soon.
William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Hartung discusses the upside-down world of global nuclear politics, click here or download it to your iPod here.)
Tags: aipac, episcopal church, gaza, goldstone, gunter grass, israel, israel nuclear, james m. wall, methodist church, Middle East, natanyahu, Palestine, presbyterian church, religion, roger hollander
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by James M. Wall, www.wallwritings.me
A stunning new poem by German novelist Gunter Grass, has “broken the silence” on Israel as a nuclear power.
Western journalists and politicians have long enforced that silence by unspoken and unwritten common agreement.
The silence was successfully imposed for two reasons: The Holocaust and the fear of being called anti-Semitic.
Gunter Grass (pictured above) has broken that silence with his poem, Was gesagt werden muss (What must be said).
Grass is a major figure in German literature. He speaks with considerable authority through his extensive and innovative writing. He is considered one of Germany’s major novelists.
The press release announcing his 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature begins:
When Günter Grass published The Tin Drum in 1959 it was as if German literature had been granted a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction.
Within the pages of this, his first novel, Grass recreated the lost world from which his creativity sprang, Danzig, his home town, as he remembered it from the years of his infancy before the catastrophe of war.
Here he comes to grips with the enormous task of reviewing contemporary history by recalling the disavowed and the forgotten: the victims, losers and lies that people wanted to forget because they had once believed in them.
In 1979, The Tin Drum reached a world audience through a film of the same title, by German Director Volker Schlöndorff. The novel, which was brilliantly reproduced in the film, was praised by the Nobel Committee because of the way in which it:
Breaks the bounds of realism by having as its protagonist and narrator an infernal intelligence in the body of a three-year-old, a monster who overpowers the fellow human beings he approaches with the help of a toy drum.
The unforgettable Oskar Matzerath is an intellectual whose critical approach is childishness, a one-man carnival, dadaism in action in everyday German provincial life just when this small world becomes involved in the insanity of the great world surrounding it.
It is not too audacious to assume that The Tin Drum will become one of the enduring literary works of the 20th century.
Now, over a decade into the 21st century, Gunter Grass decides that Israel must be stopped from self-destruction before it is too late.
Through this deep concern, Grass wrote his poem, This Must Be Said, breaking decades of silence. Grass, now 84, says in the poem that he wrote with his “last ink”.
The entire poem may be read, and should be read, in its entirety. Click here for an English translation, or scroll down to the Comment section for the full text of the poem.
Here, as an introduction, are the first three sections of the poem:
Why have I kept silent, silent for too long over what is openly played out in war games at the end of which we the survivors are at best footnotes.
It’s that claim of a right to first strike against those who under a loudmouth’s thumb are pushed into organized cheering— a strike to snuff out the Iranian people on suspicion that under his influence an atom bomb’s being built.
But why do I forbid myself to name that other land in which for years—although kept secret— a usable nuclear capability has grown beyond all control, because no scrutiny is allowed. . . .
Later in the poem, Grass writes that the country with a nuclear arsenal that “has grown beyond all control, because no scrutiny is allowed”, is the modern state of Israel.
That lack of scrutiny of Israel’s nuclear arsenal has provided Israel with carte blanc to occupy Palestinian land, and to literally imprison the Palestinian people, all under the pretense of a need for the “security” of a nuclear armed Israel.
This same lack of scrutiny has also given Israel the freedom to function “behind the scenes” to shape the foreign policy of the West, a policy implemented by successive American governments trapped in the vise-like control of Israel’s two sacrosanct iron fists: The Holocaust and anti-Semitism.
How has Israel responded to Grass’ poem? It has followed their usual pattern, reacting with classic Israeli paranoid rhetoric.
First out of the box was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Israel will not tolerate anyone with credibility and a public platform, who exposes the truth of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
Only he does not say it that way, for that would be an admission of the unsayable, that Israel does indeed have such an arsenal.
In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned German Nobel laureate Gunter Grass for his “shameful moral equivalence”.
“Gunter Grass’s shameful moral equivalence between Israel and Iran, a regime that denies the Holocaust and threatens to annihilate Israel, says little about Israel and much about Mr. Grass,” Netanyahu said.
This reaction is the classic Israeli response when a cover story is exposed as false: Never deny, always attack and divert.
Netanyahu cannot deny the truth of Grass’ poem, so he attacks the messenger, first by condemning him, and then declaring him persona non grata in Israel, a country which Grass says in his poem, is a country “to which I am and will remain attached”.
Grass also has his supporters. Jakob Augstein, a columnist for the leading German newspaper, Der Spiegel writes:
The brief lines that Günter Grass has published under the title “What Must Be Said” will one day be seen as some of his most influential words. They mark a rupture.
It is this one sentence that we will not be able to ignore in the future: “The nuclear power Israel is endangering a world peace that is already fragile.”
It is a sentence that has triggered an outcry. Because it is true. Because it is a German, an author, a Nobel laureate who said it. Because it is Günter Grass who said it.
And therein lies the breach. And, for that, one should thank Grass. He has taken it upon himself to utter this sentence for all of us.
The New York Times reported the story entirely from Israel’s perspective. In the story on the poem, the Times ignored the truthfulness of the poem and focused instead on the “controversy” it stirred up.
Why should we expect anything different? It is the Times, after all, that has been a major player in the “protect Israel’s narrative” campaign.
We have seen before how Israel manipulates any story it deems a threat.
In 2009, the Goldstone Report revealed the details of Israel’s massive slaughter of citizens in Gaza, a three week assault carried out in the name of Israeli security.
In the initial report from a UN panel chaired by Judge Richard Goldstone an eminent South African jurist experienced in tackling war crimes cases and himself an avid Jewish Zionist, concluded “that Israel had committed multiple war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during its 2008-09 invasion.”
Did Israel deny the Goldstone Report? Of course not. The evidence was too overwhelming. Rather than confront the truth of Goldstone’s findings, Judge Goldstone was hauled off to South Africa, his native land, where he held personal meetings with rabbis there.
Soon, Judge Goldstone had second thoughts. He wrote a Washington Post op ed in which he famously said
“If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
The Palestine Chronicle examines further the aftermath:
Goldstone does not with any clarity explain what he means by this sentence. Paradoxically and shamefully for the judge, the more we know about the Gaza massacre, the more accurate the Goldstone Report appears – not less.
We may never know why Goldstone changed his position – it is certainly not the result of new revelations refuting the report’s validity, irrespective of what he implied in his article.
We know that he had been the subject of an international smear campaign of unprecedented dimensions and nastiness. Maybe the pressure was simply too much for him.
But even in this case, it is hard to understand why he caved in now. In fact, attempts to discredit the Goldstone Report themselves been been discredited over the past year.
Did Goldstone succumb to pressure or threats? No one knows.
What we do know for sure is that a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks has Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, saying that Israel was facing “three principal threats: Iran’s nuclear [programme], missile proliferation and the Goldstone Report.”
The Goldstone Report was the 2009-10 du jour “threat to Israel”.
Today the du jour “threat to Israel” is Gunter Grass and his poem, What Must be Said.
The threat is always there to Israel. The threat changes as Netanyahu, or whoever governs Israel at the time, sees a new threat to Israel’s long-protected narrative of why Israel is never wrong.
Any sign that anyone is breaking ranks on the silence surrounding that narrative, which has long included development of a nuclear arsenal in Dimona, Israel, must suffer personal attacks.
Israel is all that matters to Israel, regardless of the consequences to others. Unfortunately, thanks to AIPAC and its army of strong-armed warriors assigned to control US government officials and church leaders, the silence is rarely broken in US domestic politics.
Three US Protestant denominations, the United Methodists, Presbyterian Church, and the Episcopal Church, in that order, will hold national decision-making conferences between April 24 and mid-July.
These denominational leaders will attend to church business, budgets, reports, and honoring their retirees, that sort of thing. This year each body will also take up the matter of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.
The United Methodists and Presbyterians will consider resolutions which are both the result of many years of conversation and study, and will then ask officials to agree to divesting church funds from three corporations which have refused church requests to stop providing products that enable the Occupation to continue.
The Episcopal Church is about five to eight years behind the United Methodists and Presbyterians. All they are asking this time around is for Episcopalians to consider how Palestinians are suffering under Occupation. And of course, to celebrate the importance of Jewish/Christian relations.
Even that is too much for the Episcopalians, which seem thus far to be following the leadership of their Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has encouraged her constituents to have conversations and break bread with their local Jewish neighbors.
What has rankled Episcopalians, however, is that in their mild resolution on Israel/Palestine, a special Episcopal version of a study book entitled Steadfast Hope, is recommended for local church study.
Steadfast Hope has something positive to say about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) strategy. It does not call for adopting that strategy. It simply suggests BDS be studied.
For more on this discussion, see this recent posting from Wall Writings. I especially urge readers to scroll down for the follow-up comments.
I believe Gunter Grass, without knowing it, was speaking to all those gullible Protestants who still believe that the tactic of a nonviolent protest of divesting church funds from corporations that support the Occupation, is not good for Israel.
BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is also not a threat to the “fragile interfaith” relationship between Protestants and Jews.
Delegates to the upcoming church decision-making conferences should read Gunter Grass’ poem. He is speaking truth to you, just as he is speaking truth to Israel.
Like Sampson of old, Israel is agitating to have the US join with it to pull down those pillars and destroy huge sections of this planet in a nuclear holocaust.
Grass chose to break his own self-imposed silence because he believes Israel needs an “intervention”, a process whereby people who truly love their spiritual homeland, will persuade Israel that it is currently embarked on a suicidal course of action, harmful to itself and to others.
An “intervention” is designed to save that which we love. At the moment, Israel is veering dangerously close to the Sampson Option.(See Seymour Hersh’s 1991 book of that name.
Grass does not want to see a nuclear-armed Israel destroy itself and threaten further the already “fragile” world peace.
Neither should we. A nonviolent step like BDS is the least we can do to play a role in Israel’s “intervention”.
Correction: Earlier versions of this posting described Grass as Jewish. He is not. This error has been corrected in the version above. I regret this error. JMW
Tags: civil liberties, Criminal Justice, daniel ellsberg, human righs, israel, israel nuclear, israel repression, mordechai vanunu, mossad, nuclear, nuclear danger, nuclear weapons, roger hollander
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Nuclear Hero’s ‘Crime’ Was Making Us Safer
by Daniel Ellsberg
Mordechai Vanunu — my friend, my hero, my brother — has again been arrested in Israel on “suspicion” of the “crime” of “meeting with foreigners.” I myself have been complicit in this offense, traveling twice to Israel for the express purpose of meeting with him, openly, and expressing support for the actions for which he was imprisoned for over eighteen years. His offense has been to defy openly and repeatedly ,conditions put on his freedom of movement and associations and speech after he had served his full sentence, restrictions on his human rights which were a direct carry-over from the British Mandate, colonial regulations in clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such restrictions have no place in a nation evincing respect for a rule of law and fundamental human rights. His arrest and confinement are outrages and should be ended immediately.
My perspective on Mordechai and his behavior was expressed as well as I could do it today in the following op-ed published in 2004 on the day of his release from prison. I can only say that I would be proud to be known as the American Vanunu: though my own possible sentence of 115 years for revealing state secrets was averted by disclosure of government misconduct against me which pales next to the Israeli misconduct in assaulting, drugging and kidnapping Vanunu in the process of bringing him to trial, let alone the eleven years of solitary confinement he was forced to endure.
***[Published 4/21/04 in the Los Angeles Times]
Mordechai Vanunu is the preeminent hero of the nuclear era. He consciously risked all he had in life to warn his own country and the world of the true extent of the nuclear danger facing us. And he paid the full price, a burden in many ways worse than death, for his heroic act — for doing exactly what he should have done and what others should be doing.
Vanunu’s “crime” was committed in 1986, when he gave the London Sunday Times a series of photos he had taken within the Israeli nuclear weapons facility at Dimona, where he had worked as a technician.
For that act — revealing that his country’s program and stockpile were much larger than the CIA or others had estimated — Vanunu was kidnapped from the Rome airport by agents of the Israeli Mossad and secretly transported back for a closed trial in which he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
He spent the first 11 1/2 years in solitary confinement in a 6-by-9-foot cell, an unprecedented term of solitary under conditions that Amnesty International called “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”
Now, after serving his full term, he is due to be released today. But his “unfreedom” is to be continued by restrictions on his movements and his contacts: He cannot leave Israel, he will be confined to a single town, he cannot communicate with foreigners face to face or by phone, fax or e-mail (purely punitive conditions because any classified information that he may have possessed is by now nearly two decades old).
The irony of all this is that no country in the world has a stronger stake than Israel in preventing nuclear proliferation, above all in the Middle East. Yet Israel’s secret nuclear policies — to this day it does not acknowledge that it possesses such weapons — are shortsighted and self-destructive. They promote rather than block proliferation by encouraging the country’s neighbors to develop their own, comparable weapons.
This will not change without public mobilization and democratic pressure, which in turn demand public awareness and discussion. It was precisely this that Vanunu sought to stimulate.
Not in Israel or in any other case — not that of the U.S., Russia, England, France, China, India or Pakistan — has the decision to become a nuclear weapons state ever been made democratically or even with the knowledge of the full Cabinet. It is likely that in an open discussion not one of these states could convince its own people or the rest of the world that it had a legitimate reason for possessing as many warheads as the several hundred that Israel allegedly has (far beyond any plausible requirement for deterrence).
More Vanunus are urgently needed. That is true not only in Israel but in every nuclear weapons state, declared and undeclared. Can anyone fail to recognize the value to world security of a heroic Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian or North Korean Vanunu making comparable revelations?
And the world’s need for such secret-telling is not limited to citizens of what nuclear weapons states presumptuously call rogue nations. Every nuclear weapons state has secret policies, aims, programs and plans that contradict its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the 1995 Declaration of Principles agreed to at the NPT Renewal Conference. Every official with knowledge of these violations could and should consider doing what Vanunu did.
That is what I should have done in the early ’60s based on what I knew about the secret nuclear planning and practices of the United States when I consulted at the Defense Department, on loan from the Rand Corp., on problems of nuclear command and control. I drafted the Secretary of Defense Guidance to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the general nuclear war plans, and the extreme dangers of our practices and plan were apparent to me.
I now feel derelict for wrongfully keeping secret the documents in my safe revealing this catastrophically reckless posture. But I did not then have Vanunu’s example to guide me.
When I finally did have an example in front of me — that of young Americans who were choosing to go to prison rather than participate in what I too knew was a hopeless, immoral war — I was inspired in 1971 to turn over a top-secret history of presidential lies about the war in Vietnam to 19 newspapers. I regret only that I didn’t do it earlier, before the bombs started falling.
Vanunu should long since have been released from solitary and from prison, not because he has “suffered enough” but because what he did was the correct and courageous thing to do in the face of the foreseeable efforts to silence and punish him.
The outrageous and illegal restrictions proposed to be inflicted on him when he finally steps out of prison after 18 years should be widely protested and rejected, not only because they violate his fundamental human rights but because the world needs to hear this man’s voice.
The cult and culture of secrecy in every nuclear weapons state have endangered humanity and continues to threaten its survival. Vanunu’s challenge to that wrongful and dangerous secrecy must be joined worldwide.
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
War, Peace and Obama’s Nobel November 7, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Pakistan, Peace, War, Women.
Tags: iaea resolution, India nuclear, iran nuclear, israel nuclear, malalai joya, nculear weapons, Noam Chomsky, nobel committee, nobel peace, nobel peace prize, non-proliferation treaty, npt, nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear proliferation, Obama, obama nuclear, obama peace, Pakistan nuclear, peace, resolution 1887, roger hollander, security council, war
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The hopes and prospects for peace aren’t well aligned-not even close. The task is to bring them nearer. Presumably that was the intent of the Nobel Peace Prize committee in choosing President Barack Obama.
The prize “seemed a kind of prayer and encouragement by the Nobel committee for future endeavor and more consensual American leadership,” Steven Erlanger and Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote in The New York Times.
The nature of the Bush-Obama transition bears directly on the likelihood that the prayers and encouragement might lead to progress.
The Nobel committee’s concerns were valid. They singled out Obama’s rhetoric on reducing nuclear weapons.
Right now Iran’s nuclear ambitions dominate the headlines. The warnings are that Iran may be concealing something from the International Atomic Energy Agency and violating U.N. Security Council Resolution 1887, passed last month and hailed as a victory for Obama’s efforts to contain Iran.
Meanwhile, a debate continues on whether Obama’s recent decision to reconfigure missile-defense systems in Europe is a capitulation to the Russians or a pragmatic step to defend the West from Iranian nuclear attack.
Silence is often more eloquent than loud clamor, so let us attend to what is unspoken.
Amid the furor over Iranian duplicity, the IAEA passed a resolution calling on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its nuclear facilities to inspection.
The United States and Europe tried to block the IAEA resolution, but it passed anyway. The media virtually ignored the event.
The United States assured Israel that it would support Israel’s rejection of the resolution-reaffirming a secret understanding that has allowed Israel to maintain a nuclear arsenal closed to international inspections, according to officials familiar with the arrangements. Again, the media were silent.
Indian officials greeted U.N. Resolution 1887 by announcing that India “can now build nuclear weapons with the same destructive power as those in the arsenals of the world’s major nuclear powers,” the Financial Times reported.
Both India and Pakistan are expanding their nuclear weapons programs. They have twice come dangerously close to nuclear war, and the problems that almost ignited this catastrophe are very much alive.
Obama greeted Resolution 1887 differently. The day before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his inspiring commitment to peace, the Pentagon announced it was accelerating delivery of the most lethal non-nuclear weapons in the arsenal: 13-ton bombs for B-2 and B-52 stealth bombers, designed to destroy deeply hidden bunkers shielded by 10,000 pounds of reinforced concrete.
It’s no secret the bunker busters could be deployed against Iran.
Planning for these “massive ordnance penetrators” began in the Bush years but languished until Obama called for developing them rapidly when he came into office.
Passed unanimously, Resolution 1887 calls for the end of threats of force and for all countries to join the NPT, as Iran did long ago. NPT non-signers are India, Israel and Pakistan, all of which developed nuclear weapons with U.S. help, in violation of the NPT.
Iran hasn’t invaded another country for hundreds of years-unlike the United States, Israel and India (which occupies Kashmir, brutally).
The threat from Iran is minuscule. If Iran had nuclear weapons and delivery systems and prepared to use them, the country would be vaporized.
To believe Iran would use nuclear weapons to attack Israel, or anyone, “amounts to assuming that Iran’s leaders are insane” and that they look forward to being reduced to “radioactive dust,” strategic analyst Leonard Weiss observes, adding that Israel’s missile-carrying submarines are “virtually impervious to preemptive military attack,” not to speak of the immense U.S. arsenal.
In naval maneuvers in July, Israel sent its Dolphin class subs, capable of carrying nuclear missiles, through the Suez Canal and into the Red Sea, sometimes accompanied by warships, to a position from which they could attack Iran-as they have a “sovereign right” to do, according to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Not for the first time, what is veiled in silence would receive front-page headlines in societies that valued their freedom and were concerned with the fate of the world.
The Iranian regime is harsh and repressive, and no humane person wants Iran-or anyone else-to have nuclear weapons. But a little honesty would not hurt in addressing these problems.
The Nobel Peace Prize, of course, is not concerned solely with reducing the threat of terminal nuclear war, but rather with war generally, and the preparation for war. In this regard, the selection of Obama raised eyebrows, not least in Iran, surrounded by U.S. occupying armies.
On Iran’s borders in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, Obama has escalated Bush’s war and is likely to proceed on that course, perhaps sharply.
Obama has made clear that the United States intends to retain a long-term major presence in the region. That much is signaled by the huge city-within-a city called “the Baghdad Embassy,” unlike any embassy in the world.
Obama has announced the construction of mega-embassies in Islamabad and Kabul, and huge consulates in Peshawar and elsewhere.
Nonpartisan budget and security monitors report in Government Executive that the “administration’s request for $538 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal 2010 and its stated intention to maintain a high level of funding in the coming years put the president on track to spend more on defense, in real dollars, than any other president has in one term of office since World War II. And that’s not counting the additional $130 billion the administration is requesting to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, with even more war spending slated for future years.”
The Nobel Peace Prize committee might well have made truly worthy choices, prominent among them the remarkable Afghan activist Malalai Joya.
This brave woman survived the Russians, and then the radical Islamists whose brutality was so extreme that the population welcomed the Taliban. Joya has withstood the Taliban and now the return of the warlords under the Karzai government.
Throughout, Joya worked effectively for human rights, particularly for women; she was elected to parliament and then expelled when she continued to denounce warlord atrocities. She now lives underground under heavy protection, but she continues the struggle, in word and deed. By such actions, repeated everywhere as best we can, the prospects for peace edge closer to hopes.
Tags: iran nuclear, israel nuclear, jeremy scahill, north korea, north korea launch, north Korea missile, north korea rocket, nuclear arms, nuclear disarmament, nuclear threat, nuclear weapons, obama hypocrisy, outer space, peace, president obama, roger hollander, susan rice, test ban treaty, United Nations
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Published on Monday, April 6, 2009 by RebelReports
President Obama’s administration is pressing for diplomatic retaliation, perhaps in the form of more sanctions against North Korea, after Pyonyang launched a rocket into space. There are conflicting reports about the success of the launch. North Korea says the rocket carried a satellite, which is now orbiting the earth. That’s according to state-run media in North Korea, which reportedly broadcast patriotic songs and images of Kim Jung Il, praising him for the launch. The US, meanwhile, said the launch failed to reach orbit, landing in the Pacific Ocean. According to The New York Times, “Officials and analysts in Seoul said the North’s rocket, identified by American officials as a Taepodong-2, flew at least 2,000 miles, doubling the range of an earlier rocket it tested in 1998 and boosting its potential to fire a long-range missile.”
There is disagreement at the Security Council over whether North Korea violated any UN resolutions with the US on one side and Russia, backed by China, on the other. The Obama administration has called the launch a “provocative act.” “We think that what was launched is not the issue; the fact that there was a launch using ballistic missile technology is itself a clear violation,” said UN ambassador Susan Rice, who is pressing for more sanctions against North Korea at the Security Council. Chinese officials said North Korea, like other nations, had a right to launch satellites. “Every state has the right to the peaceful use of outer space,” said Russia’s deputy U.N. envoy, Igor N. Shcherbak.
Obama used the launch in his major address in Prague, which has been characterized as an anti-nuclear speech. “Rules must be binding,” he said of North Korea’s launch. “Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.”
Many countries around the world certainly see hypocrisy in the Obama administration’s position on North Korea. Israel has repeatedly been condemned by the UN for its occupation of Palestinian lands. Moreover, it has hundreds of nuclear weapons with estimates ranging from 200-400 warheads. What’s more, Israel and the US are in league with North Korea in the small club of nations that have refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Other nations include: China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan. In his Prague speech, Obama said his administration “will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification,” saying, “After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.”
All of this must be kept in context as the “crisis” with North Korea continues to unfold. US hypocrisy on the nuclear issue takes away credibility the US has in its condemnations of North Korea, or Iran, for that matter. “Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies,” Obama said in Prague. Obama used Iran to justify a controverisal central European missile system, saying, “As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward… with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.” Obama did not mention Israel once in his speech and has never acknowledged its nuclear weapons system. Perhaps Obama should ask Arab and Muslim nations in the region what country they see as the biggest nuclear threat.
And this historical fact, which to Obama’s credit he acknowledged, should never be forgotten: One nation in the world has used nuclear weapons-the United States.
In a statement, Peace Action, cautiously welcomed some of Obama’s positions outlined in Prague, but said, “President Obama’s statement that [a nuclear weapons-free] world might not be achieved in his lifetime is very disappointing. Obama can and should announce the initiation of negotiations on the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Similarly, his promotion of nuclear power, missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic and his escalation of troops in Afghanistan are all moves in the wrong direction.”
Bibi Wags the Dog April 2, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About War, Barack Obama, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: ahmadinejad, apocalypse, atomic bombs, Bush, cheney, Iran, iran nuclear, israel, israel nuclear, israeli military, jeffrey goldberg, netanyahu, nuclear non-proliferation, president obama, roger hollander, us military aid israel
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Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, April 2, 2009
“You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying …” (about-to-be-sworn-in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, Atlantic Magazine, March 31, 2009).
You’re eight years too late, Bibi, Bush and Cheney are gone. Oh, what? You were referring to Iran? I beg your pardon. Honest mistake. But really, Mr. Prime Minister, after eight years with Apocalypse Now Dubya with his finger on the button that could shoot off enough atomic bombs to wipe out the globe a thousand times over, you can hardly expect anyone to get excited about little old Iran, which may one day have the capacity to build a single atomic bomb and with no way to deliver it.
What is that you say, Bibi? “Iran has threatened to annihilate a state or to have a state wiped off the map of the world.” (cited, in Jeffrey Goldberg’s Blog, http://jeffreygoldberg.theatlantic.com, April 2, 2009). My God, do you believe everything Ahmadinejad says? Could it be that you are taking such threats seriously so as to instil the kind if fear that keeps warmongers like you in power? Do you really think the Iranis are dumb enough to risk annihilation by engaging in an unprovoked first nuclear strike (if they had the means, which they don’t) against a nuclear armed ally of the United States?
And by the way, Mr. Prime Minister, can you explain how Israel is the potential nuclear victim when it alone in the Middle East possesses nuclear weapons? What’s that, you say? Israel’s nuclear capacity has not been verified? Of course it hasn’t. Israel has refused to sign on to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NNPT), so we can only guess as to the size of its nuclear arsenal. I understand the Pentagon estimates 60 Israeli nuclear warheads. You don’t allow inspections. Iran, by the way, is a signee to the treaty, and it claims that its development of nuclear energy is for peaceful purposes, which is allowed. I admit that it may be naïve to think that Iran is not intent upon the development of a nuclear warhead, but if they are, would it not be as a counter to Israeli nuclear weapons? Let’s get real, Mr. Prime Minister.
Wait a second, isn’t that President Barack Obama I see down the hall. Excuse me, Mr. Prime Minister, I have a couple of questions to ask him.
Mr. President, Mr. President, a minute of your time? Thank you, most accommodating of you. I assume you’ve read Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Benjamin Netanyahu in Atlantic and the clarification piece in his Blog? You have? Good. I’d like to know your response to the Israeli Prime Minister’s apparent challenge to you, do something about Iran’s nuclear capacity, or he will. But first I’d like to check a few facts with you. According to Wikipedia, the U.S. sent some 20 Billion dollars worth of arms to Israel between 2001 and 2007. These and other numbers suggest that in effect Israel is just about entirely dependent upon the States for its military strength. That sound about right to you, Mr. President?
I see you nodding, so I’ll take that as a yes. Now, Mr. President, where does Mr. Netanyahu get off laying down the gauntlet to the United States President when he rules a country that is in effect a client state of the U.S.? What is that, Mr. President, you’re sort of mumbling. I thought I heard you say something about the pro-Israel lobby. What is that, Mr. President? Oh, yes, you’d rather look forward than backward. I see, but, but … yes, I know you’re busy and thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
(Here is the Atlantic interview and the subsequent clarification)
Jeffrey Goldberg, Atlantic Magazine, March 31, 2009
In an interview conducted shortly before he was sworn in today as prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu laid down a challenge for Barack Obama. The American president, he said, must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—and quickly—or an imperiled Israel may be forced to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities itself.
“The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told me. He said the Iranian nuclear challenge represents a “hinge of history” and added that “Western civilization” will have failed if Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
In unusually blunt language, Netanyahu said of the Iranian leadership, “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.”
History teaches Jews that threats against their collective existence should be taken seriously, and, if possible, preempted, he suggested. In recent years, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has regularly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” and the supreme Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, this month called Israel a “cancerous tumor.”
But Netanyahu also said that Iran threatens many other countries apart from Israel, and so his mission over the next several months is to convince the world of the broad danger posed by Iran. One of his chief security advisers, Moshe Ya’alon, told me that a nuclear Iran could mean the end of American influence in the Middle East. “This is an existential threat for Israel, but it will be a blow for American interests, especially on the energy front. Who will dominate the oil in the region—Washington or Tehran?”
Netanyahu said he would support President Obama’s decision to engage Iran, so long as negotiations brought about a quick end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “How you achieve this goal is less important than achieving it,” he said, but he added that he was skeptical that Iran would respond positively to Obama’s appeals. In an hour-long conversation, held in the Knesset, Netanyahu tempered his aggressive rhetoric with an acknowledgement that nonmilitary pressure could yet work. “I think the Iranian economy is very weak, which makes Iran susceptible to sanctions that can be ratcheted up by a variety of means.” When I suggested that this statement contradicted his assertion that Iran, by its fanatic nature, is immune to pressure, Netanyahu smiled thinly and said, “Iran is a composite leadership, but in that composite leadership there are elements of wide-eyed fanaticism that do not exist right now in any other would-be nuclear power in the world. That’s what makes them so dangerous.”
He went on, “Since the dawn of the nuclear age, we have not had a fanatic regime that might put its zealotry above its self-interest. People say that they’ll behave like any other nuclear power. Can you take the risk? Can you assume that?”
Netanyahu offered Iran’s behavior during its eight-year war with Iraq as proof of Tehran’s penchant for irrational behavior. Iran “wasted over a million lives without batting an eyelash … It didn’t sear a terrible wound into the Iranian consciousness. It wasn’t Britain after World War I, lapsing into pacifism because of the great tragedy of a loss of a generation. You see nothing of the kind.”
He continued: “You see a country that glorifies blood and death, including its own self-immolation.” I asked Netanyahu if he believed Iran would risk its own nuclear annihilation at the hands of Israel or America. “I’m not going to get into that,” he said.
Neither Netanyahu nor his principal military advisers would suggest a deadline for American progress on the Iran nuclear program, though one aide said pointedly that Israeli time lines are now drawn in months, “not years.” These same military advisers told me that they believe Iran’s defenses remain penetrable, and that Israel would not necessarily need American approval to launch an attack. “The problem is not military capability, the problem is whether you have the stomach, the political will, to take action,” one of his advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me.
Both Israeli and American intelligence officials agree that Iran is moving forward in developing a nuclear-weapons capability. The chief of Israeli military intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, said earlier this month that Iran has already “crossed the technological threshold,” and that nuclear military capability could soon be a fact: “Iran is continuing to amass hundreds of kilograms of low-enriched uranium, and it hopes to exploit the dialogue with the West and Washington to advance toward the production of an atomic bomb.”
American officials argue that Iran has not crossed the “technological threshold”; the director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, said recently that Israel and the U.S. are working with the same set of facts, but are interpreting it differently. “The Israelis are far more concerned about it, and they take more of a worst-case approach to these things from their point of view,” he said. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen, recently warned that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would undermine stability in the Middle East and endanger the lives of Americans in the Persian Gulf.
The Obama administration agrees with Israel that Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to Middle East stability, but it also wants Israel to focus on the Palestinian question. Netanyahu, for his part, promises to move forward on negotiations with the Palestinians, but he made it clear in our conversation that he believes a comprehensive peace will be difficult to achieve if Iran continues to threaten Israel, and he cited Iran’s sponsorship of such Islamist groups as Hezbollah and Hamas as a stumbling block.
Ya’alon, a former army chief of staff who is slated to serve as Netanyahu’s minister for strategic threats, dismissed the possibility of a revitalized peace process, telling me that “jihadists” interpret compromise as weakness. He cited the reaction to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza four years ago. “The mistake of disengagement from Gaza was that we thought like Westerners, that compromise would defuse a problem—but it just encouraged the problem,” he said. “The jihadists saw withdrawal as a defeat of the West … Now, what do you signal to them if you are ready to divide Jerusalem, or if you’re ready to withdraw to the 1967 lines? In this kind of conflict, your ability to stand and be determined is more important than your firepower.”
American administration sources tell me that President Obama won’t shy from pressuring Netanyahu on the Palestinian issue during his first visit to Washington as prime minister, which is scheduled for early May. But Netanyahu suggested that he and Obama already see eye-to-eye on such crucial issues as the threat posed by Hamas. “The Obama administration has recently said that Hamas has to first recognize Israel and cease the support of terror. That’s a very good definition. It says you have to cease being Hamas.”
When I noted that many in Washington doubt his commitment to curtailing Jewish settlement on the West Bank, he said, in reference to his previous term as prime minister, from 1996 to 1999, “I can only point to what I did as prime minister in the first round. I certainly didn’t build new settlements.”
Netanyahu will manage Israel’s relationship with Washington personally—his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, of the anti-Arab Israel Beiteinu party, is deeply unpopular in Washington—and I asked him if he could foresee agreeing on a “grand bargain” with Obama, in which he would move forward on talks with the Palestinians in exchange for a robust American response to Iran’s nuclear program. He said: “We intend to move on the Palestinian track independent of what happens with Iran, and I hope the U.S. moves to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons regardless of what happens on the Palestinian track.”
In our conversation, Netanyahu gave his fullest public explication yet of why he believes President Obama must consider Iran’s nuclear ambitions to be his preeminent overseas challenge. “Why is this a hinge of history? Several bad results would emanate from this single development. First, Iran’s militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella. This raises the stakes of any confrontation that they’d force on Israel. Instead of being a local event, however painful, it becomes a global one. Second, this development would embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the ultimate road to triumph.
“Third, they would be able to pose a real and credible threat to the supply of oil, to the overwhelming part of the world’s oil supply. Fourth, they may threaten to use these weapons or to give them to terrorist proxies of their own, or fabricate terror proxies. Finally, you’d create a great sea change in the balance of power in our area—nearly all the Arab regimes are dead-set opposed to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. They fervently hope, even if they don’t say it, that the U.S. will act to prevent this, that it will use its political, economic, and, if necessary, military power to prevent this from happening.”
If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, Netanyahu asserted, Washington’s Arab allies would drift into Iran’s orbit. “The only way I can explain what will happen to such regimes is to give you an example from the past of what happened to one staunch ally of the United States, and a great champion of peace, when another aggressive power loomed large. I’m referring to the late King Hussein [of Jordan] … who was an unequalled champion of peace. The same King Hussein in many ways subordinated his country to Saddam Hussein when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. Saddam seemed all-powerful, unchallenged by the United States, and until the U.S. extracted Kuwait from Saddam’s gullet, King Hussein was very much in Iraq’s orbit. The minute that changed, the minute Saddam was defeated, King Hussein came back to the Western camp.”
One of Iran’s goals, Netanyahu said, is to convince the moderate Arab countries not to enter peace treaties with Israel. Finally, he said, several countries in Iran’s neighborhood might try to develop nuclear weapons of their own. “Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The Middle East is incendiary enough, but with a nuclear arms race it will become a tinderbox,” he said.
Few in Netanyahu’s inner circle believe that Iran has any short-term plans to drop a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv, should it find a means to deliver it. The first-stage Iranian goal, in the understanding of Netanyahu and his advisers, is to frighten Israel’s most talented citizens into leaving their country. “The idea is to keep attacking the Israelis on a daily basis, to weaken the willingness of the Jewish people to hold on to their homeland,” Moshe Ya’alon said. “The idea is to make a place that is supposed to be a safe haven for Jews unattractive for them. They are waging a war of attrition.”
The Israeli threat to strike Iran militarily if the West fails to stop the nuclear program may, of course, be a tremendous bluff. After all, such threats may just be aimed at motivating President Obama and others to grapple urgently with the problem. But Netanyahu and his advisers seem to believe sincerely that Israel would have difficulty surviving in a Middle East dominated by a nuclear Iran. And they are men predisposed to action; many, like Netanyahu, are former commandos.
As I waited in the Knesset cafeteria to see Netanyahu, I opened a book he edited of his late brother’s letters. Yoni Netanyahu, a commando leader, was killed in 1976 during the Israeli raid on Entebbe, and his family organized his letters in a book they titled Self-Portrait of a Hero. In one letter, Yoni wrote to his teenage brother, then living in America, who had apparently been in a fight after someone directed an anti-Semitic remark at him. “I see … that you had to release the surplus energy you stored up during the summer,” Yoni wrote. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s too bad you sprained a finger in the process. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with a good fist fight; on the contrary, if you’re young and you’re not seriously hurt, it won’t do you real harm. Remember what I told you? He who delivers the first blow, wins.”
2009 03:27 pm Jeffrey Goldberg’s Blog
There’s some controversy about just what Bibi Netanyahu said to me when we were talking about the challenge President Obama faces on Iran. Gary Rosenblatt, the editor of the New York Jewish Week, writes:
”This week (Goldberg) landed another major interview, this time with Benjamin Netanyahu on the day he was sworn in as Israeli prime minister. The interview offers insights into Netanyahu’s priorities and strategies in dealing with foreign policy. But it does not make good on its headline: “Netanyahu to Obama: Stop Iran – Or I Will.” Nowhere in the Goldberg piece does Netanyahu say that Israel plans to attack Iran, nor does it even hint that the new Israeli leader will offer an ultimatum to Obama.”
Rosenblatt’s got a partial point here — the headline is an interpretation of Netanyahu’s statements, and framed in such a way to perhaps make an Israeli prime minister squeamish — even when Israeli leaders make demands on America, they don’t like to be seen as making demands on America. On the other hand, Netanyahu signals in about a dozen different ways that if the world doesn’t deal with this problem, Israel will be forced to. And his advisers, speaking on background, made themselves even more clear.
But since there’s some confusion on this point — and since, through the miracle of blog technology, I can update articles as I see fit — I’ll give you two quotes that I neglected to include in the first piece. The first one is from one of Netanyahu’s defense advisers, speaking on background: “We have to make sure our friends in Washington know that we can’t wait forever. There will come a point soon when it will be too late to do anything about this program. We’re going carefully, but if we have to act, we will act, even if America won’t.”
The second is from Netanyahu: “Iran has threatened to annihilate a state or to have a state wiped off the map of the world. In historical terms, this is an astounding thing. It’s a monumental outrage that goes effectively unchallenged in the court of public opinion. Sure, there are perfunctory condemnations, but there’s no j’accuse – there’s no shock and there’s a resigned acceptance that this is acceptable practice. Bad things tend to get worse if they’re not challenged early. Iranian leaders talk about Israel’s destruction or disappearance while simultaneously creating weapons to ensure its disappearance.”
I followed this statement with a question: Is there any chance that Iran could be stopped through non-military means? Netanyahu responded: “Yes I do, but only if the military option is left on the table.”
Based on all these statements, I think it’s fair to say that Netanyahu, when he comes to America, will tell President Obama that should America fail to suppress the Iranian nuclear program, Israel will have to try.
Pentagon’s nuclear weapons theory bombs March 8, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: atomic bomb, Barack Obama, dennis ross, eric margolis, fissile material, hillary clinton, Iran, iran nuclear, iran nuclear weapons, israel nuclear, leon panetta, mike mullen, muslim weapons of mass destruction, north korea, north korea nuclear, nuclear non-proliferation, plutonium, roger hollander, shahab missile, south africa nuclear, Stephen Harper, un inspectors, uranium-235, weapons of mass destruction, william gates, wmds
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Eric Margolis, Toronto Sun, March 8, 2009
As the U.S. economy sank ever lower, a huge brouhaha erupted this week over claims that Iran might have nuclear weapons.
The new CIA director, Leon Panetta, said “there is no question, they (Iran) are seeking that capability.” The Pentagon chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, claimed Iran had “enough fissile material to build a bomb.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had claimed Iran posed an “absolutely unacceptable threat.” However, to Harper’s credit, he just admitted that Afghanistan is a no-win war.
While Rome burns, here we go again with renewed hysteria over MWMD’s — Muslim weapons of mass destruction. War drums are again beating over Iran.
The czar of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, Admiral Dennis Blair, stated Iran could have enough enriched uranium for one atomic weapon by 2010-15. But he reaffirmed the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that Iran does not have nuclear weapons and is not pursuing them. Defence Secretary William Gates backed up Blair.
Public confusion over Iran comes from misunderstanding nuclear enrichment and lurid scare stories.
Iran is producing low-grade uranium-235 (LEU U-235), enriched to only 2.5%, to generate electricity. Tehran has this absolute right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Its centrifuge enrichment process at Nantaz is under 24-hour international inspection. Iran’s soon-to-open nuclear plant at Bushehr cannot produce nuclear weapons fuel.
Today, some 15 nations produce LEU U-235, including Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, and Japan. Israel, India and Pakistan, all nuclear weapons powers, refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty. North Korea abrogated it.
UN inspectors report Iran has produced 1,010 kg of 2% to 3% enriched uranium for energy generation. Theoretically that is enough for one atomic bomb.
But to make a nuclear weapon, U-235 must be enriched to over 90% in an elaborate, costly process. Iran is not doing so, say UN inspectors.
Highly enriched U-235 or plutonium must then be milled and shaped into a perfect ball or cylinder. Any surface imperfections will prevent achieving critical mass. Next, high explosive lenses must surround the core and detonate at precisely the same millisecond. In some cases, a stream of neutrons must be pumped into the device as it explodes.
This process is highly complex. Nuclear weapons cannot be deemed reliable unless they are tested. North Korea recently detonated a device that fizzled. Iran has never built or tested a nuclear weapon. Experts believe Israel and South Africa jointly tested a nuclear weapon in 1979.
Even if Iran had the capability to fashion a complex nuclear weapon, it would be useless without delivery. Iran’s sole medium-range delivery system is its unreliable, inaccurate, 1,500-km ranged Shahab-3. Miniaturizing and hardening nuclear warheads capable of flying atop a Shahab missile is another complex technological challenge.
It is inconceivable that Iran or anyone else would launch a single nuclear weapon. What if it didn’t go off? Imagine the embarrassment and the retaliation. Iran would need at least 10 warheads and a reliable delivery system to be a credible nuclear power.
Israel, the primary target for any Iranian nuclear strike, has an indestructible triad of air, missile and sea-launched nuclear weapons. An Israeli submarine with nuclear cruise missiles is on station off Iran’s coast.
Off the map
Iran would be wiped off the map by even a few of Israel’s 200 nuclear weapons. Iran is no likelier to use a nuke against its Gulf neighbours. The explosion would blanket Iran with radioactive dust and sand.
Much of the uproar over Iran’s so far nonexistent nuclear weapons must be seen as part of efforts by Israel’s American partisans to thwart President Barack Obama’s proposed opening to Tehran, and to keep pushing the U.S. to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. They and many Israeli experts insist Iran has secret weapons programs that threaten Israel’s existence.
The hawkish Hillary Clinton’s naming of veteran Israel supporter Dennis Ross as her new legate to Iran adds to the confusion over administration policy towards Iran. Who is in charge of foreign policy? What’s the plan?