Friday, September 27, 2013

Churchill on MAD

Sitting by the surprisingly empty BGU swimming pool and reading the concluding pages of The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965, on page 1025 I came across this Churchill quote taken from  Parliamentary debate concerning the hydrogen bomb (Nov 3,  1953):

It may be that this rule may have a novel application and that when the advance of destructive weapons enables everyone to kill everybody else nobody will want to kill anyone at all. At any rate, it seems pretty safe to say that a war which begins by both sides suffering what they dread most—and that is undoubtedly the case at present—is less likely to occur than one which dangles the lurid prizes of former ages before ambitious eyes.

The times have changed and Churchill may well be wrong on this one.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

President Obama’s abysmal leadership - yet nobody cares

President Obama in his speech to the UNGA said: “Real breakthroughs on these two issues – Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace – would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa.

The world is facing its gravest moments since the Cuban Missile Crisis. If Iran gets the bomb it will probably use it undeterred, since according to Bernard Lewis - “for people with this mindset, M.A.D. is not a constraint; it is an inducement“.  Millions may die.  But what does President Obama put in the same sentence along with the prevention of this looming catastrophe?  The resolution of the Arab –Israeli conflict which ranks 49th in terms of number  of fatalities.  This is absurd. It demonstrates that President Obama either does not understand the magnitude of the Iranian threat or he has inflated the importance of the Arab –Israeli conflict hundredfold .  Either way, his policies are detached from reality.
President Obama and his administration may be detached from reality, but what is really scary is that apparently nobody cares.  This is a systemic malaise of the whole West which has managed  through self delusion to bring itself to the same brink of disaster it had been in 1939.
The only group of people wide awake at this moment is the Israeli leadership. They know that the fate of millions of their countrymen depends on them, and on them alone.

Obama in his speech also said: "Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depend on the realization of a Palestinian state."

President Obama is wrong. The future of Israel, and the world, depends on what PM Netanyahu does about the Iranian nuclear threat, not what President Obama says he would do

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why is Israel’s PR so bad, especially regarding Iran?

On September 19, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani gave an interview to NBC and on September 20 continued his “charm offensive” with an Op-Ed in the Washington PostReacting to Rouhani’s NBC interview, PM Netanyahu said:  "One shouldn't be taken in by Rouhani's deceptive words,"

On August 5, under the title  Tape Reveals Deceit of Iran's New President ,  former CIA spy among the Revolutionary Guards, Reza Kahlili, uploaded a video with his translation from Farsi showing how Rouhani duped the European nuclear negotiators and had said “We did not stop, we completed the program.”   I added it along with the transcript to my blog the same day.

One would have expected that the only logical thing to do by the world and Israeli media would be to validate Kahlili’s translation from Farsi and then post the video.Should not the easiest way to prove that Rouhani’s words are deceptive be by posting the video?

What is the Prime Minister's Office waiting for? What is the Israeli media waiting for

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Why Israelis See Shi'ite Axis as a Greater Threat Than Syrian Jihad

I agree with the basic premise of this article that the Shi'ite axis is a greater threat to Israel than Syrian jihadis. However, Yaakov Lappin writes: “If Iran isn't stopped, Hizballah, and other terrorist semi-states like Hamas in Gaza, could try to attack Israel while enjoying protection from an Iranian nuclear umbrella.”

The problem is that once Iran gets nuclear weapons Iran may, according to renowned scholars of Islam,  proceed to use them undeterred. It is Iran, not Hizbollah and Hamas which presents the main threat. Why, just why, is Bernard Lewis’s warning “for people with this mindset, M.A.D. is not a constraint; it is an inducement” being disregarded even by Yaakov Lappin?

by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
September 10, 2013

A vital debate is raging in the United States over a key question: Does the Assad regime pose a greater threat to international security than the radical Islamist elements fighting to topple the Syrian dictator? And how would a military strike alter the balance?
As Congress debates the merits of military action in Syria, concerns are being raised by some observers that hurting the Assad regime could strengthen the al-Qaida-affiliated groups, thereby doing more harm than good to regional and global security.
During these tumultuous and chaotic times in the Middle East, it is more difficult than ever to assemble and update an accurate, comprehensive threat assessment picture, one which takes into account both near and distant dangers, and which can distinguish between security problems based on their level of severity.
There is not one uniform view among Israeli defense experts over what outcome would be best for Israel, in light of the fact that no one can know with certainty what will come in Assad's place.
Most observers agree that from Israel's perspective, the al-Qaida-affiliated organizations in Syria pose a very real and growing threat, but one which is significantly smaller in scope and more easily contained than the threat posed by a far more powerful axis: Iran, the Assad regime, and Hizballah.
This view is based on the fact that the Syrian regime forms a central component in the Iranian bloc. It is this bloc, on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons, and with access to unconventional weapons and state-sponsored conventional weaponry, that is the No. 1 threat to Israel's security.
Syria is the bridge connecting Tehran to Hizballah in Lebanon. Bashar Al-Assad has brought Syria closer to Iran and Hizballah, and today relies on them for his survival. Assad is facilitating the transit of advanced Iranian arms to Hizballah, as well as supplying it with Syrian-made weapons.
Syria is viewed by the Iranian regime as its critical forward base and springboard to eventual regional domination.
With Syrian help, Iran has armed Hizballah with 70-80,000 rockets that are pointed at Israeli cities. Hizballah's firepower has the potential to paralyze the Israeli home front in a future war.
The most critical threat is the Iranian nuclear weapons program, which is edging forward all the time.
If Iran isn't stopped, Hizballah, and other terrorist semi-states like Hamas in Gaza, could try to attack Israel while enjoying protection from an Iranian nuclear umbrella.
The same pattern can repeat itself on an even larger scale in the future. Iranian-sponsored terrorist networks might attack Western cities with impunity if they are emboldened by a nuclear-armed Iran.
The collapse of the Assad regime would deal a serious blow to Tehran and Hizballah, while significantly improving Israel's strategic situation.
Furthermore, a Syrian regime that is only weakened by a U.S. strike, yet deterred from deploying a chemical weapon again, could in turn deter the entire Iranian network, and give Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini pause before considering further progress on his nuclear program.
According to former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin,"Iran has all of the capabilities it needs to decide to create a nuclear weapon. The day of the decision could be tonight, when they might choose to break out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty."
U.S. influence and deterrence has never been more needed in the region, and it has never been more lacking.
If Iran, the world's most radical state – whose leaders have publicly declared their desire to see Israel destroyed – gets hold of humanity's most destructive weapons, the effect on regional security would be devastating.
Sunni Arab countries, made up of Gulf states and secular countries like Jordan and Egypt, are all deeply concerned about the potential of nuclear weapons in the hands of Shi'ite Iran.
It is impossible to divorce Syria's use of chemical weapons from the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards Corps is assisting the Syrian army against the rebels, while thousands of Hizballah fighters are in Syria too, fighting alongside Assad's forces.
The Iranian-led axis views Syria as a battleground where it can experiment with unconventional weapons and push the boundaries on international prohibitions against weapons of mass destruction.
An indecisive response to August's chemical massacre in Damascus runs the risk of emboldening Iran and its allies. They in turn will continue in their scheme to emerge as leaders of the Muslim Middle East, acquire nuclear weapons, and confront Israel and the moderate Sunni states.
None of these concerns negate the dangers from a revitalized al-Qaida network in Syria.
Estimates vary about the number of radical Islamists among opposition fighters. The fact remains that jihadi groups are growing quickly there. They make up some of the most effective fighting units, and are thriving in the power vacuum and deadly battlegrounds of Syria.
The jihadi presence in Syria has begun infecting neighboring states too, such as Lebanon and Iraq, and is likely to spread to other territories experiencing power vacuums, like Egypt's troubled Sinai Peninsula, while threatening stable countries such as Jordan. A spillover of terrorists to other lands is inevitable.
While the Sunni radical threat is very real, it is also limited in scope at this time, as far as Israel is concerned.
Small terrorist groups can fire rockets and mortars at Israel, and launch cross-border attacks. But this is a threat the IDF can contain, and for which it has spent many months preparing.
In contrast, a war with the Iranian axis would take on a significantly higher magnitude.
When weighing the extent of the danger presented by pro-al-Qaida groups in Syria, one might also factor in the likelihood that they will be engaged in a power struggle, sectarian warfare, and battles with more moderate elements of the Free Syrian Army for years to come.
This subsequent conflict could hamper their ability to organize serious attacks.
To be sure, the security problem posed by jihadis is no laughing matter. As they continue to raid weapons storehouses once owned by the Syrian army, Israel must think ahead about a scenario involving a raid by al-Qaida on a chemical weapons facility controlled by the Assad regime.
A reality in which al-Qaida is armed with chemical weapons can never be accepted.
But right now, Iran is just a few months away from a working nuclear weapon, should it decide to obtain one. Its ally in Damascus massacred over 1,400 civilians with sarin gas, and its ally in Lebanon stockpiles more rockets and missiles than any arsenal in the hands of most modern militaries.
For all of these reasons, a failure to deter the Iran-Syria-Hizballah axis now could result in a future security deterioration, the outcome of which would be more extensive than any immediate threat posed by jihadis in Syria.
Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post's military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books), which proposes that jihadis on the internet have established a virtual Islamist state

Friday, September 6, 2013

The US does not understand the Iranian nuclear threat to the US

Jake J. Smith in The Atlantic writes:  “Since Israel is the state most concerned about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, that kind of rhetoric suggests we’re drifting toward Netanyahu’s best-case scenario—Congress justifying a strike on Syria based largely on the interests of Israel. “

This is a total misreading and underestimation of the Iranian nuclear threat to the United States. Although Israel would be the prime target of the Iranian nuclear attack, the US would be in its cross-hairs just as well since according to Bernard Lewis to the Iranians mutually assured destruction is an incentive.

Why Israel Supports the Syria Strike

The Israelis fully support U.S. intervention, despite the grave danger it poses to Israel. They think American action now will commit us to striking Iran later on—and they may be right.

Last week, throngs of Israelis crowded a Jerusalem mall, shoving past one another to pick up government-subsidized gas masks. Their impatience was understandable. For days, American leaders had been openly contemplating a strike on Syrian defense capabilities, a move likely to provoke a swift retaliatory attack on Israeli soil. A chemical onslaught from the Assad regime seemed like a real possibility. The crowd was so unruly that the mall gave up on distributing the masks after a few hours.   
Any other state so concerned for its citizens' safety (and so vulnerably positioned, with Israel and Syria sharing nearly 50 miles of border) might try desperately to talk U.S. policymakers down from drastic action. Instead, Israel's housing minister, Uri Ariel, went on the radio to egg President Obama on. His message was unequivocal: "[Assad] is a murderous coward. Take him out."

On the surface, an American strike would seem to expose Israel to immense peril, with no real benefits. Why would Israelis offer to undergo such an incredible act of self-sacrifice?

It’s no sacrifice. All of the evidence indicates that it’s a careful bet. Netanyahu and company see the consequences of American actions in Syria as a small risk to undertake for what could prove a huge victory for Israel: bringing the U.S. one large leap closer to mounting a strike on Iran.

What makes this gamble possible is that Israelis are perfectly willing to hazard retaliation from Assad. Living in Israel has long meant being subject to constant threats. Settlers willingly endure attacks in order to build homes on the cliffs of East Jerusalem. Upon turning 18, a typical citizen serves at least two years in the Israeli army. There’s a pervasive expectation that every member of Israeli society will undertake some personal hazard for long-term security. Violence is never a cheery prospect, but when you live on contested territory, it comes with the terrain. A seasoned Israeli summarized it nicely for The Jerusalem Post after witnessing the gas mask clamor: “I’ve lived here since 1969, through at least a dozen wars, and I’m just pissed off that we have to deal with this again. Been there, done that.”

Risking retaliation is scary. For Israelis, the alternative—having to face a nuclear Iran without guaranteed U.S. support—may be scarier.

The Syria-Iran connection is not a hard one to see. Both are rogue states whose hostile weapons programs have threatened to destabilize the already-unhinged Middle East. The basic American reasons for striking Syria—to save innocent lives, to punish an oppressive leader for war crimes, to potentially oust a tyrannical regime—could certainly apply to a belligerent Iran as well.

Israel is eager to help Americans make connections between the two nations. Several top Israeli officials have openly tied the Syrian predicament to the Iranian threat. Most recently, Israeli President Shimon Peres offered an Israeli radio station his confidence that, just as “Obama will not allow nuclear weapons in Iran,” he will make the right call and strike Syria. AIPAC, the American pro-Israel lobby, is following suit. “As we witness unthinkable horror in Syria, the urgency of stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions is paramount,” surmised an editorial on the organization’s website, accompanied by a photo of Bashar al-Assad and Ayatollah Khamenei chatting casually.

American policymakers are also starting to conflate the two. “Iran is hoping you look the other way,” Kerry warned the Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday as they prepared to draft the resolution on a Syrian strike. Later in the day, everyone from Marco Rubio to Barbara Boxer to Chuck Hagel echoed his point.

Since Israel is the state most concerned about Iran’s nuclear capabilities, that kind of rhetoric suggests we’re drifting toward Netanyahu’s best-case scenario—Congress justifying a strike on Syria based largely on the interests of Israel. Such a precedent could draw Israeli security as our new "red line," requiring us to go after anybody who crossed it. To renege at that point would destroy our credibility beyond repair. Whenever Israel decided it was time to fire at Iran, we would be compelled to oblige.

President Obama seems to be speeding in that direction. Immediately after announcing that it would seek Congressional approval for the strike, the White House plainly presented the decision on Syria as a matter of Israeli security. Obama’s team knows that representatives on both sides of the aisle have professed their undying commitment to Israel's safety. While using that commitment to sell the Syria intervention is clever political strategy, it could set a hazardous example.

Whether the U.S. should strike Syria is a tough choice, and whether to strike Iran may soon be another. But each needs decided on its own terms. Predicating the Syria decision on allegiance to Israel could establish a very dangerous precedent. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Iranian nuclear threat finally enters the Congressional hearings on Syria

Tom Cotton

By Mike Pompeo and Tom Cotton, Wednesday, September 4, 3:42 AM

Mike Pompeo is a Republican representative from Kansas and a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Tom Cotton is a Republican representative from Arkansas and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

President Obama has asked Congress to support his use of military force against another nation. This is the most consequential vote any Congress can take. We support a well-crafted use-of-force resolution against Syria and urge the president to take decisive, effective military action.

We are Army veterans. One of us served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq; the other conducted patrols along the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. We understand the gravity of using force. We are also among the most fiscally conservative House Republicans. We’ve challenged nearly all of this president’s efforts to expand government. And as former lawyers and soldiers, we have a deep faith in our Constitution.

We have often criticized this president’s halting defense of U.S. interests and principles abroad. Had the president supported the Syrian people two years ago, al-Qaeda might not have infested the rebel movement. Had he acted decisively against Bashar al-Assad’s earlier use of chemical weapons, we might not face this situation today. Likewise, had he not blindly insisted that “al-Qaeda is on the run,” it might not have metastasized across northern Africa — resulting in attacks such as the one in Benghazi and the recent closing of U.S. embassies across the region.

We understand why many of our GOP colleagues are undecided about a use-of-force resolution. Indeed, we have reservations about the president’s implied course of military action. Yet Congress has its own constitutional duty to defend U.S. interests, and those interests shouldn’t be neglected simply because we have doubts about Obama.

Core U.S. national security interests are implicated in Syria, more so than ever by Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

First, U.S. credibility is at stake: Obama drew this “red line” a year ago. Some have criticized him for a reckless remark, but the criticism is misplaced.

With or without that comment, our enemies and allies would still be watching to see whether we will tolerate rogue dictators using weapons of mass destruction on the borders of our allies. Inaction will tell Assad, Kim Jong Un and others that it’s open season for the use of chemical weapons. Assad might also transfer these weapons to his terrorist ally Hezbollah, which is dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

The day the United States fails to act against Assad is likely the day Iran’s supreme leader spins his uranium centrifuges into overdrive. If we won’t act against a use of weapons of mass destruction, Iran will surely believe that we will not act against its nuclear program. And once Iran has a nuclear breakout, its nuclear warheads could hit the United States in less than two years.

Second, our country has a strong interest in preserving the international taboo against the use of chemical weapons. U.S. troops benefit from this standard. And while some note, fairly, that innocent civilians are no less dead from conventional artillery than from chemical weapons, the key difference is scale. Conventional weapons can cause only so many casualties. With chemical weapons, what kills hundreds today can kill tens of thousands tomorrow.

Third, our allies are being weakened and our enemies emboldened. Israel, our closest ally in the region, faces an existential threat from Iran and uncertainty in Egypt. The last thing Israel needs is Iran, Syria and Hezbollah on the march. Jordan, a close Arab ally and Israel’s partner in peace, is being destabilized by a massive influx of Syrian refugees. Turkey, our NATO ally, faces a similar refugee crisis.

Meanwhile, our enemies act with impunity. Iran and Hezbollah are sending Assad thousands of ground troops and weaponry to fight the rebels. Their involvement has turned the tide in Assad’s favor in recent months. Russia continues to side with these rogue states and terrorist organizations, following Vladimir Putin’s pattern of gratuitous and unpunished affronts to U.S. interests.

Despite these core interests, many Republicans understandably don’t trust the president to take decisive action. We share the concern that Obama won’t execute a proper strategic response. We worry that his action will more resemble President Bill Clinton’s ineffective response to the 1998 African embassy bombings rather than the 1999 Kosovo campaign. But Congress shouldn’t guarantee a bad outcome for our country because of fears that the president will execute an imperfect military campaign.

In such a case, our constitutional role is oversight and advocacy of effective military action. One can vote for a use-of-force resolution yet preserve the right — indeed, the duty — to critique how the president employs such force. After all, we have one commander in chief at a time, and the United States is weakened if our presidency is weakened. No matter the president’s party or his past failures, all Americans should want, and help, him to succeed when it comes to our national security.