The Obama Administration’s intentions to relocate plans for “missile defense systems” from along the Russian border in Eastern Europe in order to aid Israel’s systems in intimidating Iran comes as an influential “bipartisan report” from Likudniks recommends an aggressive U.S.-Israel strike on Iran and secret U.S. intelligence reports to the White House say there are ‘no nukes in Iran’.

Mark Hosenball at Newsweek reports of “two counterproliferation officials” confirming that “Iran has not restarted its nuclear-weapons development program” that “U.S. agencies had previously said that Tehran halted… in 2003” when it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.):

The officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that U.S. intelligence agencies have informed policymakers at the White House and other agencies that the status of Iranian work on development and production of a nuclear bomb has not changed since the formal National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.) on Iran’s “Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities” in November 2007. Public portions of that report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that, as of early 2003, Iranian military units were pursuing development of a nuclear bomb, but that in the fall of that year Iran “halted its nuclear weapons program.” The document said that while U.S. agencies believed the Iranian government “at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons,” U.S. intelligence as of mid-2007 still had “moderate confidence” that it had not restarted weapons-development efforts….

According to the two officials, the latest update to policymakers has been that as of now—two years after the period covered by the 2007 N.I.E—U.S. intelligence agencies still believe Iran has not resumed nuclear-weapons development work. “That’s the conclusion, but it’s one that—like every other—-is constantly checked and reassessed, both to take account of new information and to test old assumptions,” one of the officials told Newsweek….

Officials of Israel’s conservative-led government have been delivering increasingly dire assessments of Iran’s nuclear progress and have leaked shrill threats about a possible Israeli military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities….

An Obama administration official says that top policymakers are being told that there is no significant disagreement among U.S. intelligence agencies and experts about the latest assessments regarding Iran’s nuclear effort.

“Iran insists that its nuclear energy research program is for the purpose of producing fuel for the Bushehr reactors when their construction is complete—i.e. they are seeking an ‘exotic way of boiling water’ (the ironic definition of nuclear power for electricity generation),” Middle East scholar Professor Juan Cole writes at his blog, Informed Comment, adding:

As far as U.S. intelligence can tell, the Iranian claim is correct. The Israelis and Germans are wild men on this issue, but a) the U.S. has better intelligence on the nuclear issue than do they; b) the Israeli and German intelligence agencies got Iraq badly wrong; c) Israel in particular wants to strike Iran for political reasons, to take it down a notch, and may be seeing the raw intelligence through that lens….

As for the Western press leaks that Iran now has enough nuclear material to make a bomb or now has the technical ability to make a bomb, both are nonsense. You need to enrich uranium to 90% to make a bomb. Iran claims to be able to enrich to 4% and a lot of observers think that is an exaggeration. So ipso facto Iran cannot possibly have produced enough fissile material for a bomb. Moreover, you need to have a weapons program trying to enrich to 90% to produce a bomb, which Iran does not have, from everything US intelligence can discover. Either the journalists are being fed fraudulent documents or they are just orally being misled.

Many American Jewish organizations are dismayed by the right-wing Likud Party’s beating of war drums against Iran.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is putting pressure on Iran about its nuclear research.

I talked with MSNBC’s Alex Witt on Saturday about Iran’s nuclear research program (3:42):

“Of course, the Likudniks and their enablers don’t care what the Iranians are doing or are not doing. They regularly announce their intention to attack and destroy—in violation of the U.N. Charter and of the ‘restraining order’ placed upon them by U.N. Security Council Resolution 487—Iran’s I.A.E.A. [International Atomic Energy Agency] Safeguarded guaranteed-to-be-peaceful nuclear facilities,” Nuclear physicist Dr. Gordon Prather wrote at AntiWar.com—after “several of our Likudnik enablers issued a ‘report‘… warning President Obama that: ‘If biting sanctions do not persuade the Islamic Republic to demonstrate sincerity in negotiations and give up its [I.A.E.A.-Safeguarded] enrichment activities, the White House will have to begin serious consideration of the option of a U.S.-led military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.’… Understand that all these Likudniks and their enablers are advocating a military strike on I.A.E.A.-Safeguarded facilities!”

Russian President Dmitry Medveded told Fareed Zakaria on CNN that, when Israel President Shimo Peres visited Russia, “he said something very important for all of us: ‘Israel does not plan any strikes on Iran, we are a peaceful country and we will not do this’ “. Pres. Medvedev described a potential Israeli strike on Iran as, “the worst thing that can be imagined,” adding: “What would happen after that? Humanitarian disaster, a vast number of refugees, Iran’s wish to take revenge—and not only upon Israel, to be honest, but upon other countries as well.” Pres. Medvedev “trusts them”—Israel—to be confident in this same assessment of reality as reason that it is “not planning to” strike Iran, adding that Iran’s continued cooperation with the I.A.E.A. since 2003 “is a duty and not a matter of choice”—a duty that is “absolutely obvious, if it wishes to develop its nuclear dimension, its nuclear energy programme.”

“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, sees Iran’s program as an imminent danger. It ‘is something that threatens Israel and threatens the region and threatens the peace of the world,’ he said during a recent visit to Germany. ‘There is not much time.’,” Howard Schneider reports at The Washington Post—contrasting to Pres. Medvedev’s relay to CNN—on a “recent unannounced trip by Netanyahu to Russia”, confirmed by Pres. Medvedev, though, “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said this week that he did not consider Iran’s nuclear program an ‘existential issue’ because ‘Israel is strong’. Part of that strength lies in its nuclear capabilities—never acknowledged but widely presumed to exist—and part in the assumption that the United States would stand behind Israel if it came under attack.”

Mr. Schneider’s report is from an article on Israel “steadily assembling one of the world’s most advanced missile defense systems” to be stationed near—and in—the Gaza Strip, extending Israel’s occupation and enhancing Sderot civilians as a target for Palestinian resistance, “designed with that country”—Iran—“in mind.”:

The effort, partly financed by the United States and incorporating advanced American radar and other technology, has been progressing quietly for two decades. But Israeli defense and other analysts say it has now reached a level of maturity that could begin changing the nature of strategic decisions in the region…

Uzi Rubin, a private defense consultant who ran Israel’s missile shield program in the 1990s. Iran, he said, now cannot be assured of a successful first strike against Israel…

The Obama administration decided this week to scrap a Bush-era plan to deploy a longer-range-missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, and said it would move toward a more intermediate system that better matches its assessment of Iran’s capabilities….

Iran “is radical, but radical does not mean irrational,” Rubin, the defense consultant, said. “They want to change the world, not commit suicide.”…

The Arrow was deployed in 2000, and Israel and the United States have since conducted a joint, biennial missile defense exercise, called Juniper Cobra, to work on integrating the weapons, radars and other systems of the two countries. Israel, for example, has the advanced U.S. X-Band radar stationed in the Negev desert. Israeli defense industry officials say the country also has almost real-time access to some U.S. satellite data, an important part of its early-warning system.

The next joint exercise is scheduled for October….

Beginning next year, Israeli officials say, the Iron Dome system should provide some relief. The mobile launchers initially will be placed around towns and facilities near the Gaza Strip, but they ultimately may be deployed in locations nationwide.

The system has sparked some controversy. It has not, for example, proved effective against mortar shells and could leave the towns closest to the border areas vulnerable, including chief targets such as Sderot. Critics have pushed for other systems, including a chemical-laser one that Israel was jointly developing with the United States, or the rapid-fire Phalanx guns that can be used to protect key facilities such as power plants.

There is also concern that militant groups could try to overwhelm the system by firing large barrages of comparatively cheap, homemade Qassams—perhaps not expecting to do damage so much as forcing Israel to spend tens of thousands of dollars a shot to knock them down.

But Israeli officials say systems such as Iron Dome are crucial to the country’s military planning—in terms of preventing damage and diminishing the need to retaliate.

Measures such as these increase and encourage—as opposed to deterring—that “Hamas fighters at times mixed and mingled with civilians” during the Gaza Massacre—a “reality did not lift Israel’s obligation to take all feasible measures to minimize harm to civilians”— Judge Richard Goldstone wrote in his The New York Times op-ed that coincided with the release of his 575-page report on the U.N. fact-finding mission he led on the Gaza Massacre. Surrounding civilians in Israel and Palestinian territories creates the hybrid civilian-military zones to manufacture cases where: “Repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require.”

Former Ha’aretz editor David Landau wrote—in a separate NYT op-ed—that the Goldstone Report “stunned even seasoned Israeli diplomats” because they “they never imagined that the report would accuse the Jewish state of intentionally aiming at civilians”, adding:

Israelis believe that their army did not deliberately kill the hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including children, who died during “Operation Cast Lead.” They believe, therefore, that Israel is not culpable, morally or criminally, for these civilian deaths, which were collateral to the true aim of the operation — killing Hamas gunmen.

It is, some would argue, a form of self-deception.

When does negligence become recklessness, and when does recklessness slip into wanton callousness, and then into deliberate disregard for innocent human life?

But that is the point — and it should have been the focus of the investigation. Judge Goldstone’s real mandate was, or should have been, to bring Israel to confront this fundamental question, a question inherent in the waging of war by all civilized societies against irregular armed groups. Are widespread civilian casualties inevitable when a modern army pounds terrorist targets in a heavily populated area with purportedly smart ordnance? Are they acceptable? Does the enemy’s deployment in the heart of the civilian area shift the line between right and wrong, in morality and in law?…

It is possible, and certainly arguable, that the Israeli policymakers, or individual Israeli field commanders in isolated instances, pushed the line out too far….

Judge Goldstone could have contended that just as Israeli leaders themselves have frequently called off pinpoint assassinations of terrorists because civilians were in the line of fire, so too they should have refrained from bombing and shelling Hamas targets in Gaza when that bombing and shelling was bound to exact a large civilian toll.

The question: Is Israel deliberately setting up civilian targets for those it chooses to isolate and intimidate?

Why not, when it systematically transforms the writings of obscene apologists like Professor Alan Dershowitz and American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris into self-fulfilling prophesies?

Comments
  1. […] a reference to the N.P.T. and the terms agreed to by all signatories. Iran being a signatory–with no nuclear weapons program, according to all relevant international watchdogs and U.S. intellig…–is enriching uranium for its nuclear energy program at levels 96% below the levels required […]

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