Abolition: The Only Path to Nuclear Security April 8, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Nuclear weapons/power, Peace, War.
Tags: disarmament, first-strike, joseph gerson, non-proliferation, non-proliferation treaty, npt, nuclear, nuclear arsenals, nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear security, nuclear stockpile, nuclear weapons, nuclear-free, peace, roger hollander, start, war
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Thursday 08 April 2010
In Prague, President Obama signed the modest START 1 Follow On Treaty, or “New START,” between the US and Russia. It helps to stabilize the relationship between the two remaining nuclear superpowers, and extends and updates verification measures, setting the stage for negotiating deeper reductions later.
New START will be praised as an encouraging sign of a renewed commitment to nuclear nonproliferation by both sides. That’s fine as far as it goes. But neither New START nor the Obama administration’s narrowly revised nuclear strategy (the Nuclear Posture Review) seriously begin to eliminate the danger of nuclear apocalypse.
That will require full implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It calls for the abolition of nuclear arsenals worldwide. Fulfilling the US NPT obligation is the only way President Obama can achieve his stated commitment for a nuclear-free future.
Note that even with the New START reductions in each country’s nuclear warheads, the US and Russia still will possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons seven years from now. Despite President Obama’s intention to reduce the US nuclear stockpile, the Federation of American Scientists finds that New START “doesn’t force either country to make changes in its nuclear structure.” Nevertheless, the US Senate should ratify it quickly as a positive move to reinforce nonproliferation diplomacy.
The key to a world free of nuclear weapons, however, is the four decade-old NPT. One of the seminal agreements of the 20th century, the NPT is the grand bargain whereby the non-nuclear nations (except Israel, India and Pakistan) forswore becoming nuclear powers. In exchange, they were guaranteed access to resources and technology for nuclear power production for peaceful purposes. The nuclear powers promised in the NPT’s Article VI to engage in “good faith negotiations” to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
The NPT Review Conference, held at the United Nations every five years and set to start May 3, provides the most important opportunity for the world’s nations to demand that the nuclear powers finally fulfill their Article VI obligations.
The last NPT Review Conference, in 2005, was crippled by the Bush administration’s intransigence, and no agreements were reached. The conference adjourned in failure, putting the NPT in jeopardy. That failure also severely undermined the first priority of US national security policy since 9/11: preventing a nuclear attack by nonstate terrorists. It was this failure that spurred George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama to publicly embrace the vision of a nuclear weapons-free world.
A year ago, when President Obama repeated his pledge to work for nuclear weapons abolition, he followed a familiar political path by committing the US to work toward the fulfillment of its part of the NPT bargain. In fact, this week’s Nuclear Posture Review failed to renounce the US first-strike policy, a point emphasized by Defense Secretary Gates when he reiterated that “all options are on the table” as the US confronts Iran and North Korea. The double standard of insisting that we can possess nuclear weapons and threaten first-strike attacks, while other nations cannot, is rightfully seen as old-fashioned hypocrisy and fuels proliferation.
Even as he signs New START, President Obama is undermining his nonproliferation goal. Despite our economic travails, his budget calls for a $2 billion increase to modernize the US nuclear weapons production infrastructure, additional money to study development of a new nuclear weapon he opposes and $800 million to develop a new nuclear-capable cruise missile.
As the resolutions adopted annually in the UN General Assembly demonstrate, the overwhelming majority of the world’s nations want more than a New START. In May, when the NPT Review Conference convenes, delegates will be welcomed by the urgent demand delivered via tens of millions of petition signatures and tens of thousands of nuclear weapons abolitionists: Begin those “good faith negotiations” to eliminate the world’s nuclear arsenals.
Dr. Joseph Gerson is director of programs and director of the Peace and Economic Security Program of the American Friends Service Committee.
Obama’s Nuclear Credibility Gap March 7, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Nuclear weapons/power, Peace, War.
Tags: joseph gerson, non-proliferation, nuclear, nuclear arsenals, nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear power, nuclear stockpile, nuclear warheads, nuclear weapons, Obama, peace, roger hollander
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(Roger’s note: a careful reading of this article reveals that it is solely the United States of America that holds the key to nuclear proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Its failure to honor its treaty commitments has put the entire world in danger. It’s not a question of Iran or North Korea developing nuclear weapons, it’s a question of whether the world’s only mega-power will use its strength for peace or for war. Note that the rogue states that developed nuclear weapons in defiance of the Non-proliferation Treaty are three US allies: Israel, India and Pakistan. It is Israel’s nuclear capacity that motivates Iran to go nuclear, nothing more. Unfortunately Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize is turning out to be a useless piece of paper, as he continually caves in to the fanatic right, the military, and the war profiteers. As the article suggests, only a massive movement from below can force the world’s number one bully to use its overwhelming power for peaceful purposes.)
A month ago, writing in the New York Times about the economy and the escalating war in Afghanistan, Bob Herbert warned President Obama that he was developing a “credibility gap.” Now, the advance advertising designed to help launch the president’s Nuclear Posture Review and the stalled negotiations with Russia on the START 1 Follow On Treaty are leading people around the world to ask their version of “Where’s the beef?” The administration’s policies and actions are severely undermining its commitment to non-proliferation and its promise of working to create a “nuclear weapons free world.”
First some background: Forty years ago today the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into force. It rests on three pillars: With the exceptions of Israel, India and Pakistan, the (then) non-nuclear powers foreswore ever joining the nuclear club. In exchange, in Article IV, they were guaranteed the right to necessary technologies for nuclear power generation for peaceful purposes (a serious flaw in the Treaty) and in Article VI that the nuclear powers would engage in “good faith” negotiations to completely eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
Unfortunately, the nuclear powers, led by the United States have not kept their part of the bargain. As former Deputy Secretary of Defense and CIA Director John Deutch once put it, “The United States never intended, nor does it intend now, to implement Article VI. That’s just something you have to say to get what you want out of a conference.” This approach, plus that fact that U.S. presidents have prepared and threatened to initiate nuclear war at least 40 times during international crises and wars (most recently in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the “all options on the table” threats against Iran, has been the driving force of nuclear weapons proliferation.
Among the disasters visited upon the United States and the world by the Bush-Cheney government was its sabotage of the 2005 NPT Review conference. The Review, conducted every five years at the United Nations, provides an opportunity for the world’s nations the ability to press for more intrusive inspections, and thus control over, the world’s nuclear power plants to prevent non-nuclear nations from becoming nuclear powers. It also affords the vast majority of the world’s nations to press for implementation of Article VI. During its eight years in office, the Bush-Cheney Administration failed to implement any of the 13 disarmament steps agreed to during the 2000 Review Conference, and delirious with its “romance of ruthlessness” — in this case believing that the U.S. could militarily enforce non-proliferation – it refused to agree to an agenda for the 2005 Review Conference until it was half completed and then prevented the Conference from reaching any agreements.
The failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference placed the NPT, and thus the non-proliferation order, in jeopardy, thus increasing the nuclear dangers faced by the United States and other nations. Elite figures, from George Shultz and Henry Kissinger to presidential candidates Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson responded by attempting to regain U.S. legitimacy and leverage in this coming May’s NPT Review Conference by calling for significant reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and a reaffirmation of the United States’ commitment to fulfill its Article VI obligations.
Since his election, especially with his speeches in Prague and last September at the United Nations, President Obama raised the world’s hopes that under his leadership we could finally free ourselves from the nuclear sword of Damocles. Now he appears to be having second thoughts, and as the president’s nuclear security conference” with its focus on non-proliferation, not disarmament or abolition scheduled for this April, analysts, officials and activists across the United States and around the world are wondering if Obama is cleaving to the hypocritical double-standard of the last four decades.
In his National Defense University speech Vice President Biden anticipated that many committed to disarmament and the elimination of the world’s nuclear arsenals would be critical of the administration’s nuclear policies, and he was right. As on too many other issues, President Obama hasn’t walked his talk.
President Obama’s budget calls for a 10% increase in spending to ensure the “reliability” of the nuclear weapons stockpile and an additional $2 billion dollars to modernize and expand the of country’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, including more money for the weapons laboratories, to reinforce the country’s ability to design, develop and maintain nuclear weapons for decades to come.
Elsewhere the START 1 Follow On negotiatons have stalled, because in violation of President George H.W. Bush’s pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev not to move NATO a centimeter closer to Moscow, the U.S. is moving ahead with so-called “missile defense” deployments in the Czech Republic, Poland and Rumania. Russia sees these as shields to reinforce Washington’s first strike nuclear swords.
Worse, as advertised, the Nuclear Posture Review will reiterate the United States’ nuclear first strike policy, leading other nations to either maintain or develop their nuclear arsenals to deter a possible U.S. attack. And diplomatically this is hardly offset by the Posture Review’s commitment to dismantle a portion of the non-deployed nuclear stockpile and not to build a new generation of nuclear weapons mis-named “Reliable Replacement Warheads.”
Just as Wall Street’s speculators pursued their narrow self-interests at great cost to the people of our nation and others, vested interests who accumulated power and privilege during the Cold War are jeopardizing our and the world’s security as they continue to call the nuclear shots in Washington, D.C.
What is to be done? As in the civil rights, women’s rights, 1980s nuclear weapons freeze and other movements for justice, peace and security, it will take people’s power to prevail. And the movement to do it is being built.
In the broadest popular mobilization for nuclear weapons abolition in well over a decade, more than 250 U.S. and international organizations are preparing to send a clear message to this May’s NPT Review Conference: President Obama, fulfill the U.S. commitment to Article VI. We want abolition in our lifetimes. Carrying millions of petition signatures, thousands of people from across the country and around the world — led by the largest delegation of atom bomb survivors ever to visit the U.S. and 2,000 activists traveling from Japan — will descend on New York for the May 2 International Day Action for a Nuclear Free Future. In the weeks that follow, we will be pressing the Review conference and making plans for the longer struggle to eliminate this omnicidal threat to life itself.
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.
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?