Saturday, March 16, 2019

Deterring Hamas vs. deterring a nuclear Iran

While Gantz has a point regarding Israel losing deterrence to Hamas, should we not be discussing whether Gantz understands that Israel’s nuclear deterrence would not work with a nuclear Iran? 

The main story should not be whether Iran hacked into Gantz’s phone, but whether Gantz understands that the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine is most probably dead when Iran is concerned. As former CIA Director James Woolsey put it: “We were, in a way, lucky with our opponent in the Cold War because they were thugs with a cover story.  They were not, on the whole, sociopaths. Unfortunately, the Castro model, the Hitler model, the model of the sociopath is one we may well need to deal with in Iran.  And it should not provide any kind of relief to hear from either the former head of Israeli intelligence, or anybody else, that they are rational. They may well be quite tactically quite shrewd and rational. The Persians invented chess, they are quite good at it. But rational in that sense doesn’t mean that you are not a sociopath, after the model of Castro and others.”

Scholars Bernard Lewis, Raphael Israeli and Mathias Kuntzel, along with former CIA director James Woolsey and former Pentagon official Harold Rhode all believe that a nuclear Iran cannot be deterred. Unless our political leadership, including Gantz, find out the truth for themselves, they will, to quote Churchill, ‘have committed an act of abdication of duty without parallel.’   

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Brexit vote flowchart

This blog is predominantly about Iran, but occasionally other topics get included.   This Brexit vote flowchart from The Guardian  clarifies what will happen next week and demonstrates the importance of infographics, pioneered by  Charles Joseph Minard with his map of Napoleaon’s disastrous Russian campaign in 1812.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Antisemitism, or any hate, become dangerous when three things happen (Rabbi Sacks speaks in the House of Lords)

On 13th September 2018, Rabbi Lord Sacks spoke in a House of Lords debate on antisemitism in Britain.
My Lords I am grateful to Lord Popat for initiating this debate, and I want to explain why. The greatest danger any civilisation faces is when it suffers from collective amnesia. We forget how small beginnings lead to truly terrible endings. A thousand years of Jewish history in Europe added certain words to the human vocabulary: forced conversion, inquisition, expulsion, ghetto, pogrom, Holocaust. They happened because  hate went  unchecked. No one said stop.  
My Lords, it pains me to speak about antisemitism, the world’s oldest hatred. But I cannot keep silent. One of the enduring facts of history is that most antisemites do not think of themselves as antisemites. We don’t hate Jews, they said in the Middle Ages, just their religion. We don’t hate Jews, they said in the nineteenth century, just their race. We don’t hate Jews, they say now, just their nation state.
Antisemitism is the hardest of all hatreds to defeat because, like a virus, it mutates, but one thing stays the same. Jews, whether as a religion or a race or as the State of Israel, are made the scapegoat for problems for which all sides are responsible. That is how the road to tragedy begins.
Antisemitism, or any hate, become dangerous when three things happen. First: when it moves from the fringes of politics to a mainstream party and its leadership. Second: when the party sees that its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby. And three: when those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so. All three factors exist in Britain now. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. That is why I cannot stay silent. For it is not only Jews who are at risk. So too is our humanity.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The consequences of the Netanyahu indictment on countering the nuclear threat from Iran

I am worried that if the Blue and White party wins we will be less prepared to counter the existential nuclear threat from Iran.  Why? Because it is essential for a prime minster of Israel to understand that Iran cannot be deterred and that the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine will not work with Iran.    

The fanaticism of Islam which young Winston Churchill saw up close in the Sudan at the end of the 19th century was not unlike the political fanaticism he was to encounter forty years later and consequently he was aware of the danger of Nazi ideology much earlier than other UK politicians. (From Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts).

Similarly, Netanyhu had held an in-depth discussion with Middle East expert Bernard Lewis which convinced him that if the ayatollahs obtained nuclear weapons, they would use them.  

No other Israeli leader has gone through this education. Will he preempt in time?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Whom do you trust on Iran? Bibi, or the Blue and White party?

Regarding “Gantz, Lapid vow to beat Netanyahu together” (February 22), I find it rather odd that Israelis do not seem to care where the Blue and White Party stands on Iran

Benny Gantz would wait until Iran attacks; Moshe Ya’alon now believes that at this point, and in the foreseeable future there is no existential threat facing Israel; Gabi Ashkenazi, along with Meir Dagan prevented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from attacking the Iranian nuclear sites in 2010; Yair Lapid – there is no evidence that he understands that Iran  cannot be deterred and he supported US president Barack Obama’s Iran Deal.

So from the above, it is obvious that if we do not want to be nuked by Iran, Netanyahu would be a better choice, but he has a problem. The “anyone but Bibi” mentality has taken its toll. A colleague’s reaction upon hearing my arguments: “ I get it, but I’ll be damned if I vote for him. I’d rather suffer a nuclear winter.”


Saturday, February 23, 2019

TV report: MI6 spy chief makes secret Israel trip amid new Iran nuclear activity

                                                    MI6 chief Alexander Younger

Channel 13: Alex Younger holds talks with Mossad chief as Iran renews centrifuge production; Israeli assessment: Regime has not yet made political decision to break out to bomb


Britain’s MI6 intelligence chief secretly visited Israel this week for talks with his Israeli counterparts about concerns that Iran may be considering breaching the 2015 nuclear deal and attempting to break out to a nuclear weapons capability, Israeli television reported on Friday night.
Channel 13 news said MI6 chief Alex Younger arrived in Israel on Monday and met with the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen, and other Israeli intelligence chiefs.
Israel’s assessment is that Iran is “making preparations” within the provisions of the 2015 deal, and “getting ready,” but has not yet made the political decision to break out to the bomb, the TV report said.
Citing Western intelligence sources, it said the issue was also discussed by participants at last week’s Munich international security conference.
Iran, the report noted, has recently renewed its production of centrifuges, “and is gearing up for the renewal of uranium enrichment” within the provisions of the deal.
The report described Iran’s current activity as “preparing the infrastructure… in an accelerated fashion” should the regime take the political decision to breach the accord.
Hours before the TV report, the UN’s nuclear watchdog in Vienna said Iran was continuing to comply with the 2015 nuclear deal, despite the United States withdrawing from the pact and re-imposing sanctions.
In a confidential quarterly report distributed to its member states, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran has been abiding with key limitations set in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The US pulled out of the deal in May and has been pressuring remaining signatories to abandon it as well.
In its report, the Vienna-based agency said its inspectors still have access to all sites and locations in Iran they needed to visit.
“Timely and proactive cooperation by Iran in providing such access facilitates implementation of the Additional Protocol and enhances confidence,” the report stated, referring to the procedure detailing safeguards and tools for verification.
It noted that Iran’s stock of heavy water and low-enriched uranium continues to be under the limits set under the 2015 pact.
Last June, Iran’s nuclear chief inaugurated a new nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz, which Iran said was geared toward producing centrifuges to operate within the limits of the nuclear deal.

Iranian state television broadcast an interview with Ali Akbar Salehi showcasing the facility at Natanz’s uranium enrichment center. In the interview, Salehi said its construction began even before the 2015 deal was signed.
Last month, Salehi bragged in another interview that Iran quietly purchased replacement parts for its Arak nuclear reactor while it was conducting negotiations for the deal under which it knew it would be required to destroy the original components.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns constantly that Iran has never abandoned its ambition to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. Last year, the Mossad spirited a huge haul of documents from what it said was Iran’s nuclear weapons archive, which Netanyahu said proved conclusively that Iran has lied to the world when claiming it has not been seeking to produce nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu said at the UN General Assembly in September that “The reason Iran didn’t destroy its atomic archive and its atomic warehouse is because it hasn’t abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons. In fact, it planned to use both of these sites in a few years when the time would be right to break out to the atom bomb.

“That won’t happen,” he vowed. “It won’t happen because what Iran hides, Israel will find.”

My comment:

Israel better have someone at the helm who understands the magnitude of the Iranian threat. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Why Russia covets hypersonic weapons


Russia’s ongoing development of hypersonic weapons proves nuclear weapons are in fact warfighting weapons — contrary to conventional wisdom in the West.
In December 2018, Moscow successfully tested the Avangard and Tsirkon hypersonic missiles. The former travels at speeds up to 20 times the speed of sound and is supposedly invulnerable to any missile defenses. It can carry a nuclear warhead and allegedly hit any spot on the globe within 30 minutes of launch. Therefore, it can be considered a “strategic” nuclear weapon.  
The Tsirkon, meanwhile, can be deployed on submarines, ships and airplanes, including long-range bombers. It possesses a range of approximately 310 miles and is expected to be a particularly lethal anti-ship weapon. 
Another mature Russian hypersonic missile, the Kinzhal, can travel 1,800 miles at up to 10 times the speed of sound. Russian President Vladimir Putin displayed it in 2018 in a simulation that modeled the destruction of Florida
Moreover, these represent just some of the new generation of weapons that Moscow is developing. By 2024, Moscow expects its submarine fleet to be able to launch hypersonic missiles that are capable of carrying either conventional or nuclear warheads. 
Russia’s larger military modernization effort encompasses its entire triad of air, sea and land-based nuclear weapons, from short- to intermediate- to long-range nuclear weapons, along with counter-force and counter-value weapons. According to General Paul Selva (USAF), vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Russia is also developing new tactical nuclear weapons to tailor its forces to virtually any contingency. Thus, Russia is currently working on over 20 nuclear programs, including nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons. 
Equally disquieting is the fact that in the recent Vostok-2018 exercises Russian forces and the Ministry of Energy conducted large-scale exercises to restore electric grids and power supply after an attack. In other words, Russia rehearsed an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) operation, and its aftermath strongly suggesting that it either expects or intends to launch one. Significantly, Moscow sought to conceal the purpose of that exercise and divorce it from Vostok-18. Russia has also rehearsed nuclear operations in the past – such as simulating a nuclear strike against Sweden back in 2013.
Clearly, Moscow sees nuclear weapons as usable instruments of war. In this context, hypersonics are valuable for the Kremlin because they are allegedly invulnerable to U.S. missile defenses. Without any basis in fact or science, Russia has long contended that American missile defenses in the U.S, Europe and Asia threaten its nuclear deterrent. Despite innumerable briefings, scientific facts and the admission of Russian experts that these “threats” are fantasies, the Kremlin persists in seeing nuclear weapons as warfighting instruments against American and allied missile defenses. 
And whatever Moscow declares in its doctrine or rhetoric, its procurements and exercises strongly suggest not only that, in the Russian view, nuclear weapons are warfighting weapons, but also that they will be used in a first-strike against purely conventional strikes. Accordingly, Russian officials informed then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis last year that defending the Baltics would lead to nuclear war — a clear statement of Russia’s intent to use nuclear weapons first.
At its core, Russia’s development of hypersonic weapons reflects its refusal to accept mutual assured deterrence among the superpowers and the self-generating paranoia of a state bent on rebuilding its empire by inhibiting NATO from defending its allies and partners. They embody both the Kremlin’s global ambitions and its own inherent paranoia (including the belief that nuclear weapons can and will be used against it).
Stephen Blank, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, focused on the geopolitics and geostrategy of the former Soviet Union, Russia and Eurasia. He is a former professor of Russian National Security Studies and National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. He is also a former MacArthur fellow at the U.S. Army War College.