Sunday, June 23, 2013

Is the House of Commons abdicating its duty regarding the Iranian nuclear threat?

The reaction of the British public and fellow panelists to what Melanie Phillips said at the BBC’s Question Time is truly shocking.  That the audience is ignorant of the Iranian threat is bad enough, but that Ed Davey, MP, is as ignorant is the fault of the House of Commons.  Has the House of Commons ever debated the inapplicability of MAD with regards to Iran?

For if leading scholars of Islam like  Bernard Lewis  and  Raphael Israeli, former CIA director  James Woolsey , former CIA spy who spent 10 years among the Revolutionary Guards,  Reza  Kahlili  and German scholar Matthias Kuntzel , all believe that the Iranian threat is real, should not the House find out the truth for itself?

On November 12, 1936, Winston Churchill said this:

Two things, I confess, have staggered me, after a long Parliamentary experience, in these Debates. The first has been the dangers that have so swiftly come upon us in a few years, and have been transforming our position and the whole outlook of the world. Secondly, I have been staggered by the failure of the House of Commons to react effectively against those dangers. That, I am bound to say, I never expected. I never would have believed that we should have been allowed to go on getting into this plight, month by month and year by year, and that even the Government's own confessions of error have produced no concentration of Parliamentary opinion and force capable of lifting our efforts to the level of emergency. I say that unless the House resolves to find out the truth for itself, it will have committed an act of abdication of duty without parallel.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

With Nothing to Lose: The Limits of a Rational Iran

by Prof. Steven David
June 20,2013

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 206

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Lost in the debate over Iran is the possibility that Iran is a rational actor that cannot be deterred. Historical examples show that even rational leaders, when faced with the loss of their regimes, are willing to destroy despite not having much to gain. Iranian leaders may strike Israel with nuclear weapons if they feel they have nothing to lose.

There is no debate that a nuclear-armed Iran would have the capability to destroy Israel. Israel is a small country, with half of its Jewish population and GDP confined to three cities (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa); the destruction of any two of them would be devastating. Iran also has the technological means to launch such a strike. Furthermore, there is not much debate that Iran is gaining the capability to develop nuclear weapons, despite its denials. There is a debate, however, over how much of a threat a nuclear Iran would be to Israel, and whether it can be deterred. If it can be deterred, Israel can accept a nuclear Iran. However, if it cannot be deterred then all actions, including a military strike, would be preferable to a nuclear-armed Iran.

Can Iran Be Deterred?

On one side of the debate are the realists – among them former Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski and the late Kenneth Waltz – who claim that Iran is a deterrable country, led by rational and cost-calculating leaders who do not wish to commit suicide. Just as the Soviet Union, China, Pakistan, and North Korea were deterred from using nuclear weapons, they argue, so too Iran can be deterred from using nuclear weapons.

On the other side of the debate are those who argue that Iran may not be deterrable, and that a comparison to the Cold War is incorrect. Iran’s leaders could be religious fanatics bent on causing a global catastrophe that would usher in the “hidden Imam” and an Islamic paradise. Iran has the capability to transfer its weapons to terror groups, such as Hizballah and Hamas. Accidents, such as a mistakenly-detonated nuclear weapon, could trigger Iranian leaders to blame Israel and launch missiles. The lack of ties between Iran and Israel also limit Israel’s ability to deter Iran (as opposed to the Cold War, during which the US and USSR had diplomatic relations). Unauthorized launchings by lower-level government members could also conceivably occur. It is for these reasons, it is argued, that Iran cannot be deterred.

An overlooked possibility, however, is that Iranian leaders are rational but likely to launch nuclear weapons against Israel or the US anyway. This would happen if Iranian leaders feel they are at the point of being toppled from within. Facing the end of their rule, and possibly their lives, they are likely to lash out against Israel or the US in a parting shot for posterity.

Rational Leaders Behaving Erratically

History has shown us that several rational leaders, when faced with the end of their regimes, were willing to behave erratically. Waltz’s view that no leader would launch nuclear weapons against a nuclear-armed state, knowing that such an action would be suicidal, is called into question by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s behavior during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Castro’s ability to seize and hold onto to power for five decades proves that he was a rational actor. During the crisis, fearing for the survival of his regime, he lobbied Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to strike the US with nuclear weapons, knowing that such a strike would plunge the world into nuclear war and kill millions. What saved the world was not the rationality or restraint of Castro, who was determined to save his regime at all costs, but rather his lack of ability to start a nuclear war.

Another example is Saddam Hussein’s behavior during the First Gulf War in 1991. When faced with the loss of Kuwait and his hold on power, Saddam ordered his troops to set Kuwait’s 700 oil wells ablaze and pour 11 million barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf. Burning the fields caused an environmental hazard across the region and made no sense; it was destruction for destruction’s sake. This is yet another example of a desperate leader doing anything to hold to power when he felt threatened.

A third example is Syrian President Bashar Assad’s actions during the ongoing Syrian civil war, which has claimed almost 100,000 lives. US President Barack Obama threatened Assad that should the Syrian leader use chemical weapons he would be crossing a “red line” that would provoke an American response. In November 2012, Israel told the US that Syrian agents were loading Sarin gas into bombs. In March 2013 there was strong evidence that Assad used Sarin against insurgents and civilians in Aleppo, yet we have not yet seen an American response. It is clear that American deterrent threats against Syria have not worked.

What About Iran?

These examples can be reassuring when it comes to Iran, because none of them involve the use of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, the “Arab Spring” has not seen the use of such weapons despite losses of power across the region. This does not mean, however, that concerns over a falling Iranian regime are exaggerated. The above examples prove that it was not the rational behavior of leaders or deterrence that prevented catastrophe, but rather the absence of a key ingredient in each case.
There are three components of catastrophe: the leadership believes it has nothing to lose; it has extreme hatred against a country or group; and it has the capability to unleash weapons of mass destruction. Though Castro, Saddam, and Assad believed they had nothing to lose, and hated a country or group, they were each missing the capability to wreak havoc. This was also true in the “Arab Spring.” However, the Iranian leadership is close to meeting all of the requirements for disaster. The regime’s hold on power is increasingly shaky, especially in the wake of the “Arab Spring,” from which the winds of change may arrive in Iran. The leadership hates the US and Israel, and has made many statements threatening Israel’s existence. If the Iranian regime teeters on the brink of oblivion, all that would stop it from striking Israel is a lack of capability. With thousands of centrifuges spinning, Iran will soon get the capability to develop the nuclear weapons to do what it has threatened. If the prospects of horrendous retaliation were not enough to deter the above leaders, why should we expect the Mullahs to be different?


Israel is now considering launching a military strike on Iran. There are many reasons not to do so – it might not work; it might only help in the short term; Iranian retaliation would be costly; it could potentially damage ties with the US – but if Iranian cannot be deterred, a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, whatever the cost. Israel will never know with 100 percent confidence whether or not Iran can be deterred, but is this uncertainty a risk it is willing to take?

As Iran’s leaders pursue their nuclear quest, Israel and the US have reason to be afraid. While there is hope that diplomacy and economic sanctions will divert Iran from its nuclear path, if they are not successful there may be no choice but a military option. Despite its horrendous implications, a military strike is preferable to a nuclear-armed Iran whose leaders are likely one day to find themselves with nothing to lose and everything to destroy.

Prof. Steven David is vice dean for undergraduate education and a faculty member in the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. He is a member of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies’ International Academic Advisory Board. This Perspectives Paper is based upon a presentation given at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on June 11, 2013.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

A similar view was expressed by former CIA director James Woolsey, except that instead of calling  Castro a “rational leader behaving erratically “  Woolsey called  him a “fanatic sociopath”:

Well, I once wrote a paper years  ago on Hitler as a diplomat. From 1933 to 1939 Hitler was superbly rational in the tactical sense. He was a total sociopath whose objective was to kill all the Jews and conquer Europe for a 1000 year empire, but tactically, he was as shrewd as they come.  He rivaled Metternich at his best.  He had the chanceries of Europe eating out of his hands. He was a sociopath. And it is important I think to realize that this third category of international national leaders, being a sociopath, is unfortunately more common than many others would like. For example, we know now from Soviet documents that were released or stolen after the Cold War ended, that Castro pushed very hard during the Cuban missile crisis for essentially there be a nuclear war. Happily he did not care if Cuba would be destroyed. He wanted so much that the   United States be destroyed, and he was not even a religious fanatic. He was just a fanatic sociopath.  That almost tipped things into a tragic direction, but happily on the other side the Soviet Union was basically a bunch of thugs with a cover story their ideology was very substantially dead. By the early sixties there were more true believing revolutionary Marxist-Leninists in the bookstores of the Upper-West Side of Manhattan by that time, than I think there were in the Kremlin. Those guys did not want die for the principle of each according to his ability, to each according to his need – they wanted to remodel their dachas.

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.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peres, Clinton and Blair - The Unteachable Trio

Last night the Facing Tomorrow conference began with their dreams.

The promised land must become a land of promise, President Shimon Peres said Tuesday night at his 90th birthday celebration, an event that also marked the start of the fifth annual presidential conference, Facing Tomorrow.

Tomorrow has arrived, and this is our reality this morning:

Sirens sound in Ashkelon; 3 rockets fall in open areas. 
They have proven Winston Churchill right yet again. In the House of Commons, on May 2, 1935, he said:

When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand, we apply the remedies which then might have effected a cure.  There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the Sibylline books. It falls into that long dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong – these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history." 

Monday, June 17, 2013

MEMRI: Iranian Nuclear Program - from Uranium to Plutonium

While the world deludes itself with the ‘moderation’ of Hassan Rohani…

MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis|981| June 17, 2013
Leap Forward In Iran's Nuclear Program: Plutonium Route At Arak Heavy Water
Reactor Simplifies Path To Attaining Nuclear Weapon
By: A. Savyon and Y. Mansharof*

On June 8, 2013, Iran inaugurated the main nuclear fission container at the
heavy water reactor in Arak. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)
director Fereydoon Abbasi remarked at the event that Tehran had taken "an
important step in the advancement of the project."[1]

In its most recent report, published May 30, 2013, the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) noted that Iran has made progress in the construction
and operation of the Arak heavy water reactor despite the demand by the U.N.
Security Council in recent years that this activity be suspended. The report
also stated that Iran has notified the IAEA that it intends to activate the
reactor by the end of 2014 for manufacturing radioactive isotopes for
medical purposes.

This month, the IAEA Board of Governors expressed its criticism of Iran for
failing to construct the Arak reactor in accordance with the IAEA-approved
model; in addition, it noted that since 2006, Iran had failed to supply the
agency with all planning information concerning the reactor, as required by
IAEA regulations.[2] At the same time, Iran is continuing to prevent the
IAEA from inspecting the heavy water reactor, claiming that heavy water is
not a nuclear material that requires supervision – even though this kind of
reactor can produce weapons-grade fissile material via the plutonium route.


The installation of the nuclear fission container at the heavy water reactor
in Arak has several ramifications:

It will force the international community to recognize Iran as a nuclear
power, as Tehran continues to adhere to its claim that heavy water is not a
nuclear material that requires supervision and that the IAEA will therefore
not be allowed to inspect its facilities.
With this move, Tehran has decided to break through the deadlock in the
nuclear talks by shifting the focus to the plutonium route and moving the
uranium enrichment route to the back burner.

By stepping up the plutonium route by operating the heavy water reactor at
Arak, Iran aims to eliminate the possibility of a military attack on its
nuclear facilities – because attacking a plutonium reactor that has been
activated and is operating will have, inter alia, very grave environmental

What Is The Arak Heavy Water Reactor For?

While Tehran is declaring that the Arak heavy water reactor will be used to
produce isotopes for medical purposes and that it will replace the obsolete
research reactor in Tehran, the Tehran reactor is still in operation and has
not been shut down. Furthermore, Iran has stockpiled enough uranium enriched
to 20% to keep the Tehran reactor operating for years to come.

Why, then, does Iran need two facilities with two different routes – uranium
enrichment in Tehran and plutonium in Arak – to manufacture the same
isotopes, especially when the Arak reactor offers the easiest and most
common way to produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon?

On June 10, 2013, the Iranian website, which is close to Iran's
Supreme National Security Council that conducts the nuclear talks vis-א-vis
the international community, published an article exposing Tehran's
intention to focus the nuclear talks on the plutonium route, as opposed to
the uranium-enrichment route that is underway at the Fordo and Natanz

The article also mentioned the fact that a heavy water reactor could be the
easiest path to the production of weapons-grade plutonium.

Following are excerpts from the article:

The Arak Reactor "Will Dominate The Talks"

"The installation of the main container at the Arak reactor a few days
before the presidential election indicates that Iran has decided to set a
new atmosphere, new conditions, and a new agenda in advance of the next
round of talks with the P5+1. Diplomats in Tehran are saying that while the
issue of enrichment to a level of 20% at Fordo has been the focus of the
talks so far, it is very likely that during 2013, and especially in early
2014, this issue will be pushed aside, and the issue of Arak itself will
dominate the talks.

"The West has always portrayed Iran's nuclear program as one with military
potential. According to this view, the Arak facility, and especially the
heavy water reactor, is more important than [the facilities in] Fordo and
Natanz, because it could be one of the easiest and most conventional ways of
producing plutonium, which is currently the classic method used worldwide to
produce nuclear weapons.

"Iran has announced that the 40-megawatt heavy water reactor at Arak will
gradually replace the research reactor in Tehran, which is already producing
isotopes required [to combat] hundreds of thousands of types of cancer.
However, taking into account the end of the effective life of this reactor
[in Tehran], it will soon need to be shut down and replaced with another

"Although these isotopes have no use other than medical, Iran imported no
isotopes for over 20 years, because of the sanctions. Even so, the West does
not see this issue in this way.

"The closer the Arak reactor comes to completion, the more attention it will
receive from the West; the more attention it receives, the more the issue of
Fordo and [uranium] enrichment to 20% will be pushed aside.

"Some diplomats estimate that the next round of [nuclear] talks with Iran
will not take place before the fall of 2013, and by that time, the Arak
reactor project will have advanced significantly. Thus, it is assumed that
the next time the P5+1 sits down at the negotiating table with Iran, its
priorities will have shifted, and it will have to focus on the [need] to
reach a deal with Iran regarding the Arak reactor project, instead of
discussing Fordo and [uranium] enrichment to 20%.

"Diplomats are assessing that the issue of Arak will soon be added to the
P5+1's official proposals to Iran, and that in order for it to be realistic,
any new proposal – which according to Western diplomats will be presented to
Iran immediately after its [presidential] election – will have to include
the issue of Arak.

"A diplomat in Tehran told []: 'Iran will step up the Arak
project, and by doing so will change the course of the talks [with the

*A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI's Iranian Media Project; Y. Mansharof is a
Research Fellow at MEMRI.

[1] Fars (Iran), June 9, 2013.
[2] Press TV (Iran), June 6, 2013.
[3], June 10, 2013.

Scientific American-   Interactive periodic table

The June 14 Iranian presidential election was won by Hassan Fereidoun Rowhani. With approximately 51 percent of the votes, he was far ahead of the five other candidates.

Rowhani was born in 1948 in the north Iranian city of Sorkheh, Semnan Province. He is a cleric who carries the title Hojjat-ol-Eslam. In 1960 he began studying religion in Semnan Province and then transferred to the religious seminary in the city of Qom. As a young man he was involved in the revolutionary movement against the Shah, for which he was arrested on several occasions by Iran’s security services. In 1978 he joined Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic revolution, who was living in exile in Paris.

He has received extensive Western education in addition to his religious training. He has a B.A. in law from Tehran University as well as an M.A. and Ph.D. in law from Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland.

Rowhani is one of the founders of the Iranian regime and, even though his political status has declined over the past several years, he still holds several important roles in the regime. In 1980-2000 he was a Majles member. Since 1991 he has been a member of the Expediency Discernment Council and head of its Center for Strategic Studies. Since 1999 he has also been a member of the Assembly of Experts, which oversees the activity of the Supreme Leader. In addition, he has held a number of security positions, including chairman of the Majles Defense Committee (1985-1989), deputy commander-in-chief during the Iran-Iraq War (1988-1989), supreme commander of civil defense (1985-1990), and commander of the Khatam-ol-Anbiya Headquarters.

His most notable position so far has been secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (1989-2005). He is still Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s personal representative on the council. As secretary of the council, he was put in charge by Khamenei of Iran’s nuclear case and represented Iran in the nuclear talks with the international community. During his term as secretary he was a key partner in directing the nuclear policy and was instrumental in Iran’s decision to suspend the enrichment of uranium in 2003. His conciliatory approach drew criticism from conservative circles, and he resigned from the council after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected as president in 2005.

Rowhani is considered a close ally of former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He is affiliated with the pragmatic wing of the traditional-conservative camp, but also has the support of the reformist camp thanks to his moderate positions.

His views on the nuclear issue are considered relatively pragmatic. While he does stress that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear energy, he supports a more lenient stance on achieving that right and conducting the nuclear negotiations. In the June 7 presidential debate, Rowhani expressed support for his country’s uranium enrichment program but said that it’s not only about keeping the centrifuges in motion—it’s also about making sure that Iranians can live well. He also said that the nuclear program should not be pursued if it means closing down factories. He criticized the uncompromising approach taken by Sa’id Jalili, the current secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, in the nuclear negotiations with the world powers and argued that it is the government’s extremist policy over the past several years that led to the U.N. Security Council’s decision to impose sanctions on Iran. He also reiterated his stance, which he has expressed in the past several years, in favor of the nuclear policy pursued by Iran during his term as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.

Rowhani has also taken a moderate stance on the issue of Iran’s relationship with the United States and called for an improvement in Tehran-Washington relations. In a recent interview to the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Rowhani said that he strives for a dialogue between the Iranian and the American people to achieve mutual respect between the two nations.

During the presidential campaign he also discussed regional issues in Iran’s foreign policy, calling for a de-escalation of tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia, and announcing his intention to strengthen Iran’s ties with Arab countries. In the interview to Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Rowhani reiterated Iran’s official stance on the crisis in Syria, based on supporting the Syrian regime and accusing foreign governments of fanning the violence in the country and supporting radical Islamic groups working against President Asad. However, he also called for free elections in Syria in 2014 and for the election of a government that will be able to restore stability and security to the country.

As for the Israeli-Arab conflict, Rowhani stated that the Palestinian issue has a prominent place in Iran’s foreign policy, and that Iran will continue supporting the Palestinians after the presidential election. He said that the only solution to the Palestinian problem is to realize the aspirations of the Palestinian people and fully restore their rights.
In the economic sphere, Rowhani holds liberal views supporting the decrease of the government’s involvement in economy. He is partial to the policy pursued by Rafsanjani during his presidential term (1989-1997), based on privatization, deregulation, and economic openness. During the presidential campaign he announced his intention to reopen a number of economic institutions closed down in recent years by President Ahmadinejad, including the Management and Planning Organization and the Supreme Economic Council. He noted that he intends to continue the subsidy policy reform launched by Ahmadinejad, with changes designed to make it more successful and effective.
In the area of domestic policy, Rowhani declared his support in principle for expanding individual rights and the freedom of the press and expression, and for loosening censorship restrictions. He also called for the release of political prisoners, including those detained in the 2009 riots.

Rowhani’s ability to promote domestic policy reforms, advance political initiatives in the regional and international scene, and make a real change in Iran’s policy depends on how much leeway he will get from the Supreme Leader to implement his plans.

Iran's new president Hassan Rohani is no moderate.
'There's a sucker born every minute" is one of those great American phrases, fondly and frequently repeated by Americans, who tend to forget that it was said mainly about Americans. In the election of Hassan Rohani as Iran's president, we are watching the point being demonstrated again by someone who has demonstrated it before.
Who is Mr. Rohani? If all you did over the weekend was read headlines, you would have gleaned that he is a "moderate" (Financial Times), a "pragmatic victor" (New York Times) and a "reformist" (Bloomberg). Reading a little further, you would also learn that his election is being welcomed by the White House as a "potentially hopeful sign" that Iran is ready to strike a nuclear bargain.
All this for a man who, as my colleague Sohrab Ahmari noted in these pages Monday, called on the regime's basij militia to suppress the student protests of July 1999 "mercilessly and monumentally." More than a dozen students were killed in those protests, more than 1,000 were arrested, hundreds were tortured, and 70 simply "disappeared." In 2004 Mr. Rohani defended Iran's human-rights record, insisting there was "not one person in prison in Iran except when there is a judgment by a judge following a trial."
Mr. Rohani is also the man who chaired Iran's National Security Council between 1989 and 2005, meaning he was at the top table when Iran masterminded the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people, and of the Khobar Towers in 1996, killing 19 U.S. airmen. He would also have been intimately familiar with the secret construction of Iran's illicit nuclear facilities in Arak, Natanz and Isfahan, which weren't publicly exposed until 2002.
In 2003 Mr. Rohani took charge as Iran's lead nuclear negotiator, a period now warmly remembered in the West for Tehran's short-lived agreement with Britain, France and Germany to suspend its nuclear-enrichment work. That was also the year in which Iran supposedly halted its illicit nuclear-weapons' work, although the suspension proved fleeting, according to subsequent U.N. reports.
Then again, what looked to the credulous as evidence of Iranian moderation was, to Iranian insiders, an exercise in diplomatic cunning. "Negotiations provided time for Isfahan's uranium conversion project to be finished and commissioned, the number of centrifuges at Natanz increased from 150 to 1,000 and software and hardware for Iran's nuclear infrastructure to be further developed," Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Mr. Rohani's spokesman at the time, argues in a recent memoir. "The heavy water reactor project in Arak came into operation and was not suspended at all."
Nor was that the only advantage of Mr. Rohani's strategy of making nice and playing for time, according to Mr. Mousavian.
"Tehran showed that it was possible to exploit the gap between Europe and the United States to achieve Iranian objectives." "The world's understanding of 'suspension' was changed from a legally binding obligation . . . to a voluntary and short-term undertaking aimed at confidence building." "The world gradually came close to believing that Iran's nuclear activities posed no security or military threat. . . . Public opinion in the West, which was totally against Tehran's nuclear program in September 2003, softened a good deal." "Efforts were made to attract global attention to the need for WMD disarmament by Israel."
And best of all: "Iran would be able to attain agreements for the transfer of advanced nuclear technology to Iran for medical, agricultural, power plant, and other applications, in a departure from the nuclear sanctions of the preceding 27 years."
Mr. Mousavian laments that much of this good work was undone by the nuclear hard line Iran took when the incendiary Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

But that's true only up to a point. Iran made most of its key nuclear strides under Mr. Ahmadinejad, who also showed just how far Iran could test the West's patience without incurring regime-threatening penalties. Supply IEDs to Iraqi insurgents to kill American GIs? Check. Enrich uranium to near-bomb grade levels? Check. Steal an election and imprison the opposition? Check. Take Royal Marines and American backpackers hostage? Check. Fight to save Bashar Assad's regime in Syria? That, too. Even now, the diplomatic option remains a viable one as far as the Obama administration is concerned.

Now the West is supposed to be grateful that Mr. Ahmadinejad's scowling face will be replaced by Mr. Rohani's smiling one—a bad-cop, good-cop routine that Iran has played before. Western concessions will no doubt follow if Mr. Rohani can convince his boss, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to play along. It shouldn't be a hard sell: Iran is now just a head-fake away from becoming a nuclear state and Mr. Khamenei has shown he's not averse to pragmatism when it suits him.

The capacity for self-deception is a coping mechanism in both life and diplomacy, but it comes at a price. As the West cheers the moderate and pragmatic and centrist Mr. Rohani, it will come to discover just how high a price it will pay.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What is Bibi reading?

Yesterday I went to the post office to pick up my copy of William Manchester’s second volume of The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone  1932-1940. This morning my daughter brought to my attention that Benjamin Netanyahu on the way to Poland was reading the third volume of the same book!   The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965


Here are two excerpts from volume 2, page 14. Incredible how one man’s generosity can save the world!

It also explains, in part, Winston’s fondness for Baruch, though Baruch’s appeal is broader. He is an American, he is Jewish, he recognizes the menace of an aggressive Germany, and Churchill is indebted to him for an extraordinary act of shrewdness and generosity. Winston was badly hurt in the Wall Street Crash three years ago. Had it not been for Baruch, however, it would have been much worse; he could have spent the rest of his life in debt. He is not a born gambler; he is a born losing gambler. In New York at the time, he dropped into Baruch’s office and decided to play the market, and as prices tumbled he plunged deeper and deeper, trying to outguess the stock exchange just as he had tried to outguess roulette wheels on the Riviera. In Wall Street, as in Monte Carlo, he failed. At the end of the day he confronted Baruch in tears. He was, he said, a ruined man. Chartwell and everything else he possessed must be sold; he would have to leave the House of Commons and enter business. The financier gently corrected him. Churchill, he said, had lost nothing. Baruch had left instructions to buy every time Churchill sold and sell whenever Churchill bought. Winston had come out exactly even because, he later learned, Baruch even paid the commissions.

And on page 137, these words spoken by Churchill in the House of Commons on May 2,1935,  which are applicable without change today

When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand, we apply the remedies which then might have effected a cure.  There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the Sibylline books. It falls into that long dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong – these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.