March 11, 2012

Obama Pressed Netanyahu to Postpone Israeli Attack on Iranian Nuclear Facilities until After November Elections

Israel to Delay Strike on Iran Until After U.S. Elections?

White House tells Sunday Times Obama pressed Netanyahu to postpone Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities until after November, adding president 'might visit Israel in summer'

March 11, 2012

Israel will only strike Iranian nuclear facilities in September or after the United States presidential elections in November, a White House official told the British Sunday Times newspaper after a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama last week.

According to the report, Obama has taken Israel's warnings about a possible strike in Iran very seriously. The Washington source added that the president “might visit in the summer to reassure the Israelis that the US commitment to defend Israel is unshakable and thus thwart a possible autumn attack.”

Obama insisted that any attack on Iran should be postponed until after the US presidential elections in November, possibly even until next spring. The source revealed that Netanyahu consented to delaying a strike, but wished to know until when.
“The question is how much time,” he reportedly said.
The White House source added that Netanyahu presented a number of demands Iran must fulfill in order to avoid an Israeli attack, including transferring 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of enriched uranium to a third party, stopping the enrichment process at the Fordow site near Qom and ceasing any further enrichment beyond the 3.5% required for power generation.

The source reported that Israel's National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror presented US administration and military officials with new intelligence data about Iran's nuclear program. The findings included "Project 111," a project to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile warhead and conduct large-scale high-explosive experiments, the Sunday Times reported. Amidror also noted that a Russian expert in Tehran had been involved for the past six years in helping develop Iran's nuclear program.

Israel rejected US claims that any official order from Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to develop a nuclear bomb would soon reach them.

In the meeting, one Israel official told the Americans:
“We’ll not know beforehand about such an order, you’ll not know, and probably Allah himself will not know. The time we’ll know for sure is when we wake up to a nuclear test.”

Iran: Military Strike Will Lead to 'Collapse' of Israel

Iranian Defense Minister says Israel "on the verge of dissolution," and that a military strike would "lead to the collapse" of the Jewish State, according to state-run TV

Jerusalem Post
February 25, 2012

An Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities will result in "the collapse" of the Jewish state, Iranian state-run Press TV quoted Iranian Defense Minister Brig.-Gen. Ahmad Vahidi as saying on Saturday.
“The Zionist regime is on the verge of dissolution… a military attack by the Zionist regime will undoubtedly lead to the collapse of this regime,” the Press TV website quoted Vahidi as saying.
Press TV's characteristically awkward translation continued:
“Israeli officials’ remarks about launching an attack against Iran are ridicules [sic].”
According to Press TV, Vahidi made the comments on Thursday, a day ahead of the UN nuclear watchdog's latest report on the Iranian nuclear program.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran has yet to clarify a discrepancy in uranium quantities at a Tehran research site after measurements by international inspectors last year failed to match the amount declared by the laboratory.

The United States has expressed concern the material may have been diverted to suspected weapons-related research activity.

UN inspectors have sought information from Iran to help explain the issue after their inventory last August of natural uranium metal and process waste at the research facility in Tehran measured 19.8 kg less than the laboratory's count.

Experts say such a small quantity of natural uranium could not be used for a bomb, but that the metal could be relevant to weapons-linked tests.
"The discrepancy remains to be clarified," said report, issued to IAEA member states on Friday evening.
Israeli officials have reportedly let it be known that they won't give their United States counterparts a heads up if the country decides to launch an airstrike against Iran. According to the Associated Press, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told this fact to every American official coming to Israeli hoping to talk them out of a pre-emptive strike of Iranian nuclear facilities. Officials say it's for the U.S.'s own good, since if they don't know about the strike in advance, they can't be blamed for failing to stop it. Never mind that most of Israel's enemies don't trust anything they say and would likely assume that the Americans were behind it anyway. [Source]

Zbigniew Brzezinksi on an Israel Attack on Iran:

Don’t Bet Against Israel on Iran

The Daily Beast
February 24, 2012

Israeli officials are pushing back against what appears to be a growing perception among experts and analysts that its military lacks the capability to deal a significant blow to Iran nuclear installations, warning skeptics not to underestimate the Jewish state.

The officials, including currently serving political figures and retired military officers, pointed out in interviews with The Daily Beast that Israel has a history of surprising its enemies and surpassing expectations, from the lightning assault of the 1967 war to the daring rescue operation for hostages at Entebbe in 1976.

Their remarks seemed calculated to counter reports like the one in The New York Times last week that suggested Israeli planes would face huge challenges in reaching Iran and destroying its nuclear installations, which are buried deep in the ground and scattered throughout the country.

But even as the officials sought to cast doubt about the assessments, they were unlikely to dispel the suspicion that Israel might be deliberately overstating its capabilities in order to prod the United States and other powers to deepen economic sanctions against Iran and, if necessary, launch their own military action to stop Tehran’s uranium enrichment.

“These reports don’t tell the whole story,” said one senior official who, like all the others, asked not be identified discussing Iran. “If we need to do it [attack Iran’s nuclear facilities], believe me, there are enough ways.”

Others echoed the remarks, including a retired senior officer who said:

“People take us seriously because we have a record in these things. Nobody should doubt us.”

Israel has been warning for years that Iran is developing nuclear weapons capability, a claim that was largely substantiated by an International Atomic Energy Agency report last November. Tension over the Iranian program has risen dramatically in recent months, with Israeli leaders repeatedly vowing to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold by whatever means necessary.

The United States takes the threat seriously. Fearing an Israeli attack would set the Middle East ablaze and tilt the world economy back toward an economic recession, President Obama has dispatched to Jerusalem a series of high-ranking officials to pressure Israel to give the latest round of sanctions – including an oil embargo and measures against Iran’s central bank—a chance to work.

Obama is expected to press the point personally with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the two men meet in Washington next month.

But a growing number of analysts, including Israelis, are now saying openly that Israel’s warnings are at least partly a disinformation campaign.

The skeptics include Martin van Creveld, Israel’s preeminent military historian and theorist, who said in an interview that Israel could do some damage to the Iranian program but could not knock it out.

“I would not be surprised if there was a strong element of political theater” to the Israeli threats, he said.

Barry Rubin, an Israeli expert on terrorism and international affairs, described the notion that Israel would attack Iran as “an absurd idea” and concluded:

“It isn’t going to happen.”
“So why are Israelis talking about a potential attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities? Because that’s a good way—indeed, the only way Israel has—to pressure Western countries to work harder on the issue, to increase sanctions and diplomatic efforts,” Rubin wrote on Pajamas Media.

The officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said the doubters weren’t seeing the whole picture. One alluded to advanced technology that Israel possesses that could not be factored into the analysis of experts because it remains secret. Others said some skepticism—from analysts or even from government insiders—always preceded Israel’s major operations, including its 1981 attack on Iraq’s nuclear plant.

One former Israeli official, speaking to a group of journalists recently, also rejected the idea that Iran’s response to an Israeli attack would upend the region.

“My assessment is that Iran will react but it will be calculated and according to Iranian means. The Iranians cannot set the Middle East on fire,” the former official said. “It will not be the doomsday promises of Iran… They do not have the capability to do what they threaten to do.”
Asked if Israel has the capability to deal a serious blow to Iran’s program, he said:
“If not, why is everybody worried?”

A U.S.-Iran Conspiracy?

The Daily Beast
February 24, 2012

Tehran and Washington have discovered a surprising common bond: to pretend that they might be heading toward serious negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear capacity. What’s more, they are pretending for the same reason: to ward off an Israeli attack on Iran.

Their moves are barely noticeable—vague diplomatic pronouncements, op-eds, lots of behind-the-scenes orchestration by Russia. They don’t want much attention—just enough to persuade Israel to wait on military action, to buy time. The American line is that the economic sanctions are working and weakening Tehran’s will. Iran’s line is we’re willing to compromise, but we’re not going to be pushovers.

Of course, there is no actual collusion between Iran and the United States; they don’t trust each other. But both have reached the conclusion that war is worse than continued uncertainty—at least for the time being, as far as the United States is concerned.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been driving the process. Moscow is one of Tehran’s last reliable friends, which makes Russia agreeable to Iran, but suspect in the West. Nonetheless, Lavrov has presented Iran with an unpublished, and perhaps vague, step-by-step proposal with reciprocity at each step. The idea is for both sides to move forward gradually toward Iran’s limiting (not eliminating) its nuclear capacity, plus extensive inspections and the West’s lifting economic sanctions against Iran plus giving security guarantees.

U.S. officials and other sources claim a breakthrough occurred in the Russian-Iranian talks last month. The big concessions, they said, were made by Tehran. Iran would hold its uranium enrichment to 5 percent, well below the threshold needed to make nuclear weapons, maintain only one uranium facility, and allow extensive inspections. These diplomatic mumblings were never spelled out in an official document. Instead, they were followed by a general and short letter sent from Saeed Jalili, head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. The addressee was EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, posting officer for the P-5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany).

Next comes a small, but consequential buy-in to this process by the United States. At a press conference last week with Ashton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the letter “an important step.” Ashton pronounced herself “cautious and optimistic.” In diplomatic parlance, that’s not chicken feed. And remember, they were making nice to a mere 200 word letter that said practically nothing, suggesting they were really giving a nod to something else going on.

A variety of diplomats said that the hidden information was spelled out in a recent op-ed by Hossein Mousavian, a key figure on Iranian nuclear matters. In it, he urged each side to meet the other’s bottom line. The West would allow Iran to produce reliable civilian nuclear energy (in other words, continue uranium enrichment at low levels), and Iran would commit to intrusive inspections. Also, Iran would agree to provisions that would prevent its development of nuclear weapons or a short-notice breakout capability. In return, the West would remove sanctions, and normalize Iran’s nuclear standing at the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Mousavian added that he regarded the Lavrov plan as well as statements by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (proposing to limit uranium enrichment to 20% in return for the West supplying fuel rods for Iran’s research reactor) to be “the most conducive path to reaching such a deal.” This, again, was a nice little link to the authenticity of the Russian plan, but still nothing official.

The players in this game awaited another positive signal earlier this week, when international inspectors arrived back in Iran. But they were denied access to a key military facility and publicly announced their disappointment and departure Wednesday. Those who say the game goes on insist this is just a temporary setback, part of an Iranian strategy to look tough at home even as they maneuver abroad. The chest-thumping for home consumption was further punctuated this week by a senior Iranian general threatening a preemptive military strike against any “enemy” who threatened Iran.

To look on the bright side of things, all the tough moves and talk could be aimed at Iran’s parliamentary elections set for next week. This will pit President Ahmadinejad’s “moderate” governmental party against even more conservative groups. (The reformers just don’t count this time.) It is said that Ahmadinejad doesn’t want to be outflanked on the right by the conservatives; thus the tough talk. Afterwards, he would resume positive negotiating steps toward the West. Or maybe Iran is just a political mess with no one really in control.

So, to see what Iran might be up to, the West will have to wait until April, at the earliest. However, this could have a devastating effect on the Iranian-American maneuvers to hold off an Israeli attack. It’s hard to convince Israel that the sanctions are working and that Iran is bending in the face of Tehran’s stone-walling the international inspectors and threatening pre-emptive assault. But that still appears to be the main play of the Obama administration.

General Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN on Sunday that an Israeli attack would be “premature” and “destabilizing.” Those are fighting diplomatic words against fighting. But they come from America’s top general, and they undoubtedly reinforce National Security Adviser Tom Donilon’s private messages to Israeli leaders in Jerusalem last week.

The mutual moves Tehran and Washington are making to convince Israel that serious negotiations are on the horizon are wearing thin. There isn’t enough happening in the diplomatic back channels. Thus, two choices remain:

  1. Ahmadinejad has to defy the conservatives and be more forthcoming publicly. Not likely.

  2. Alternatively, President Obama will have to suck it up in an election year and offer a comprehensive proposal of its own. Also unlikely.
At this point, then, Tehran’s and Washington’s subtle maneuvering to buy time is less a strategy than a prayer.

Wife Admits: Slain Iranian Nuke Scientist's 'Ultimate Goal Was the Annihilation of Israel'

The BlazeFebruary 22, 2012

As the U.S. and Europe place sanctions on Iran for the nuclear program suspected of having a military aim, Iran continues to insist its work is for peaceful purposes only. That claim will likely suffer a setback by an interview published Tuesday in the semi-official Fars News Agency.

The wife of slain nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan tells Fars her husband wholeheartedly sought Israel’s destruction.

Roshan, a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was killed during morning rush hour in Tehran in January after a magnetic bomb was attached to his car.

No one has claimed responsibility for killing the nuclear scientist, but Iran has blamed the CIA, MI6 and Mossad for a string of assassinations targeting its nuclear scientists.

Here’s an excerpt of Fars’ report:

Wife of Assassinated Scientist: Annihilation of Israel "Mostafa's Ultimate Goal"

TEHRAN (FNA) - The wife of Martyr Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, who was assassinated by Mossad agents in Tehran in January, reiterated on Tuesday that her husband sought the annihilation of the Zionist regime wholeheartedly.

"Mostafa's ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel," Fatemeh Bolouri Kashani told FNA on Tuesday.

Bolouri Kashani also underlined that her spouse loved any resistance figure in his life who was willing to fight the Zionist regime and supported the rights of the oppressed Palestinian nation.

This is not the first time Iranian officials have been quoted calling for Israel’s destruction. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Israel “must be erased from the page of time” and that the solution to the Middle East conflict is the “elimination” of Israel.

The combination of these calls for annihilation along with the prospects of the Islamic Republic being one day armed with a doomsday weapon is at the core of the debate over whether Israel should attempt a military attack to thwart Iran’s nuclear progress.

Jordan's King Blames Israel for Deadlocked Peace

The Associated Press
February 20, 2012

King Abdullah II on Tuesday blamed Israel for deadlocked Mideast peacemaking in a meeting with U.S. Jewish leaders, the official Petra News Agency said.

But the king's guests offered a more optimistic version of events, saying Abdullah had also been complimentary of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's position in recent peace talks.

Jordan last month played host to talks that have subsequently been broken off. Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have blamed the other for the cut-off.

Petra said Abdullah was specifically concerned over Israel's "unilateral policies." It said that included changing the identity of the traditionally Arab sector in East Jerusalem and tampering with Muslim holy shrines there.

It said Abdullah's remarks came in a meeting Tuesday with representatives of the New York-based Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations — a central coordinating body for American Jewry, representing 52 national Jewish agencies.

Delegation leader Malcolm Hoenlein, speaking after the meeting, acknowledged the king's concerns about unilateral Israeli action, particularly in east Jerusalem.

But he also said Abdullah had in fact been complimentary of Netanyahu's peace efforts and had even asked him to convey a message of thanks for Israel's proposals in the latest round of peace talks.

"He praised Netanyahu and asked that we specifically at the end to please give a message to 'my friend' that I appreciate his taking risks by putting forth the package that he did ... a package that he knew was difficult to do, but he created a climate to enable the process to move forward and for negotiations to take place," Hoenlein said.

The talks, hosted by Jordan, began last month, but were soon cut off with the Palestinians complaining that Israel's offers were insufficient. The Palestinians are supposed to decide shortly whether to resume the talks.

Although Israel's position was not made public, officials have suggested it included handing over to the Palestinians most of the territory, but keeping large chunks that contain most of the Jewish settlements in the area.

Critically, the offer reportedly did not include east Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want to locate their capital. Officials say Israel wants to maximize the number of Israelis who end up under Israeli control, while maximizing the number of Palestinians who live in a future Palestine.

Petra said that Abdullah also warned that failure to realize a Mideast settlement would exacerbate tensions in a region engulfed by uprisings that have unseated four Arab leaders — a report not contradicted by Hoenlein.

"He said he doesn't think that it's over," said Hoenlein, who is the executive vice chairman of the Jewish umbrella group. "He also explained why it would be critical given all the developments in the region and that Israelis and Arabs are moving closer together a common agenda on the threat from Iran."

Israel Under Huge Pressure to Avoid Iran Attack

February 20, 2012

Israel is coming under increased pressure from Washington and Europe to hold off from attacking Iran over its disputed nuclear drive and allow time for a regime of tight international sanctions to kick in.

Pressure is being exerted from all directions, officials acknowledge, with Washington's concern over a pre-emptive Israeli strike reflected in the steady stream of senior officials arriving in Jerusalem for top-level talks.

The latest visitor was US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who on Sunday held a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and held similar in-depth talks with Defence Minister Ehud Barak, whose "hawkish line" on Iran is worrying Washington, Haaretz newspaper reported on Monday.

Later this week, US intelligence chief James Clapper is also due to arrive, press reports said.

Barak, Netanyahu's de facto deputy, has been "summoned" to Washington next week, media reports said, ahead of a visit by the premier himself on March 5.

"Israel is under pressure from all sides. The Americans don't want to be surprised and faced with a fait accompli of an Israeli attack," a senior Israeli official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"They are telling us to be patient and see if the international sanctions against Tehran will eventually work," he said.

In an interview with CNN this weekend, top US military commander Martin Dempsey gave a blunt assessment that it would be "premature" to launch military action against Iran.

For several weeks, Israel has blown hot and cold over the possibility of a pre-emptive military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, which much of the West believes masks a weapons drive.

"For now, we are trying to nurture a certain vagueness, partly to push the international community to impose even tougher sanctions against Iran," he said.

"But at the same time, we are dealing with the usual polyphony from Israel's political class," he acknowledged.

The United States is not alone in wanting to curb the warlike tendencies apparent in some Israeli circles.

On Sunday, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said it would not be "wise" for Israel to take military action against Iran, echoing comments earlier this month by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"The solution is never military, the solution is political, the solution is diplomatic, the solution lies in sanctions," he told French Jewish leaders on February 8.

Even back home, Netanyahu is coming under pressure, with opposition leader Tzipi Livni accusing him of pursuing policies which isolate Israel.

"The prime minister's policies have brought about a situation in which the world is calling on us through loudspeakers to do this or not to do that," she told public radio on Monday.

"The whole world is running after us to stop us," she said.

Such policies, she charged, had meant Israel was "doubly isolated" -- over the Iranian issue and over the stalled peace process with the Palestinians.

In an editorial entitled "An American Warning," the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper urged the government to heed the warnings from Washington.

"Fear of Iran's nuclear programme is pushing Israel into a dangerous corner," it said.
"The state could find itself in a conflict of interest, or even on a collision course with the American administration just when it needs US support more than ever before."

Israel, it argued, "must listen to the warnings coming out of Washington and refrain, for now, from unilateral measures."

In 1981, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on the unfinished Osirak reactor outside Baghdad, leaving US officials stunned and earning it a sharp rebuke from its American ally.

Meanwhile, Iran on Monday deployed warplanes and missiles in an "exercise" to protect its nuclear sites and warned it may cut oil exports to more European Union nations unless sanctions were lifted.

The moves were announced the same day as officials from the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, arrived in Tehran for a second round of talks focused on "the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme."

Iran has repeatedly said it will not give up its nuclear ambitions, which it insists are purely peaceful.

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