The arrival of an as yet undisclosed number of KC-135 aerial refuelling aircraft will give the Israeli Air Force (IAF) the range to attack any target in Iran that it deems necessary in order to suppress the Iranian nuclear program.
This is quite simply a game changer.
Up until now just about every expert and pundit, not to mention former chief of staff of the IDF has known that Israel simply couldn’t launch an attack against Iran on it’s own and that all talk to the contrary was more bluster than threat. That is no longer the case or rather it will no longer be the case once the tankers arrive and our pilots have been trained in their use.
Many of the challenges of attacking Iran remain, but distance is no longer one of them. The aerial refueling capability means that from now on when the Prime Minister of Israel talks about attacking Iran he needs to be taken seriously.
In absolute terms the tankers on their own ensure that the IAF can reach every target in Iran that they need to, everything is in range. What they don’t do is increase the destructive power of the ordnance that their F-15s and F-16s can carry. Any strike that would be launched is likely to be launched at targets that were built with defense in mind. Essentially meaning that a large part of them is underground.
Although the much vaunted BLU-109 bunker buster bombs are on their way into the inventory of the IAF they are able to penetrate six feet of reinforced concrete whereas, for example, the Natanz nuclear plant is built under 22 meters of dirt as well as eight meters of reinforced concrete and in a facility that is about 100,000 square meters in size. Now multiply those problems by at least another 20 facilities that need to be attacked, probably more and the scale of the challenge still involved in destroying the Iranian program becomes clear.
These challenges are not insurmountable but it does mean that no attack on Iran can take place without Israeli boots on the ground, that fact is so important that I’m going to say it again;
No attack on Iran can take place without Israeli boots on the ground!
What’s really interesting is that the announcement of the imminent arrival of the V-22 Osprey into the inventory of the IAF came almost as an aside to the news of the KC-135s. These aircraft are a feat of design that compares with no other. They look like a regular propeller aircraft albeit with unusually large props on each wing. The wings can then be tilted 90 degrees while the plane is in the air giving it all of the hover capability of a helicopter. It has already performed exceptionally well in combat zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is perfect for the deployment of Special Operations Forces.
With the Osprey the IDF will gain the capability to transport troops and their equipment to the target zone in sufficient numbers not merely to conduct the reconnaissance that they are already carrying out but to launch direct action attacks.
Although it’s unlikely that the IDF has the power to stop the Iranian nuclear programme dead in its tracks, it does have the power to set it back a long way.
Tehran, are you listening?
By Finian Cunningham
April 22, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“PTV” – American secretary of offence Chuck Hagel kicked off his Middle East tour this week with outrageous warmongering threats towards Iran, while at the same time giving a license for more state terrorism from Washington’s Israeli rogue regime.
Hagel’s cozying up to Israeli partners-in-crime nails the lie that the Obama White House is somehow at odds with Tel Aviv over Middle East policy and Iran in particular. Nothing could be further from the truth. Washington is as wired for war as ever, and this belligerent impetus comes from Washington, not the rogue entity in Tel Aviv.
In what can only be described as a grotesque display of lawlessness and incendiary rhetoric, Hagel declared Iran a “real threat” and said that the US would stand by the Israeli state if the latter chose to launch a preemptive military strike on the Islamic Republic. “The bottom line is that Iran is a threat, a real threat,” Hagel told reporters while onboard his weekend flight to the Middle East.
Hagel flew into Tel Aviv bearing gifts worth $10 billion in the latest American military hardware, including upgraded precision-guided missiles, stealth radar equipment, V22 Osprey transport warplanes and the giant 135-KC refueling aerial tankers.
The arms deal “sends a clear message to Iran” that the military option is on the table, warned Hagel. The items in the weapons inventory convey a thinly veiled threat of attack on Iran. The Israeli state, which has a wanton criminal track record for unilateral air strikes against neighbouring countries over many decades, will now be in a stronger position to conduct bombing raids on geographically more remote Iran, as a result of the latest longer-range capabilities bestowed by its US patron.
And it’s not just the Tel Aviv regime that the US is arming to the teeth. The Sunni dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – sworn enemies of Shia Iran in their proxy war-making in Syria and Iraq – are also to enjoy the latest military munificence from Washington. Reports say that the $10bn arms supply is to include air-to-ground missiles for Saudi Arabia and F-16 fighter jets for the UAE.
What this amounts to is an escalation of all-out war threat towards Iran from Washington and its regional client regimes. This display of unprovoked militarism by the US towards Iran constitutes an act of aggression, which is in itself a war crime. Iran’s government should
consider filing a lawsuit.
The crime is all the more damning because it has no rational or material foundation. It is a gratuitous threat of violence against a sovereign, peaceful country based on paranoid misinformation and downright calumny. Of course, nothing should surprise us about US or Israeli criminality and state terrorism given the recent genocides in Afghanistan and Iraq, and crimes against humanity in Lebanon and Libya and ongoing in Palestine, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia, among other places.
While pathetically fawning over his Israeli hosts, Hagel reiterated the hackneyed lies about Iran’s nuclear program. “The Iranians must be prevented from developing that capacity to build a nuclear weapon and deliver it,” said Hagel. This is disgraceful, asinine deception hardly worth repeating. But for the record, the US secretary of offence went on to say: “Iran presents a threat in its nuclear program and Israel will make its decisions that Israel must make to protect itself and defend itself.”
What is disturbing about this trope is that one of America’s senior military chiefs – who takes decisions on whether to go to war or not – is either telling barefaced lies or is woefully ignorant of hiscountry’s own intelligence estimates.
Only last week in Washington, the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told a Senate Committee that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon. This is a well-established assessment of Iran’s nuclear program, which has been made previously by over a dozen US intelligence organizations, going back several years. Clapper also told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he did not know whether Iran’s leadership would in the future decide to build a nuclear weapon, but the fact is that the country did not have a nuclear weapons program now, nor was Iran pursuing an aggressive regional policy.
To that assessment, we can add the clear, unambiguous statements by Iranian leaders that the country has no intention to pursue the construction of nuclear arms out of deeply held ethical reasons and also out of many practical considerations. Only last week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while on an official visit to Africa denounced the age of nuclear weapons as a relic of the past. However, he added that Iran has every right to develop nuclear energy, as for all nations.
So, if US militarism towards Iran is not justified or credible based on the false claims of nuclear threat, what is it really about? It harks back to the old chestnut, regime change. Many people know this already perhaps, but what seems necessary is to expose this agenda, and the American criminality behind it, beyond any doubt to the wider world and the Western public in particular.
Recent remarks from John Kerry, the US secretary of state, about tightening (illegal) economic sanctions on Iran and the possible influence the US intends that this will have on the outcome of the Iranian presidential elections in June has to be seen in the context of a multi-pronged offensive tactic. The American-backed proxy genocidal war on Iran’s main regional ally Syria is also part of this game plan.
The latest stepped-up threats of criminal war on Iran – under the spurious pretext of nuclear weapons and “Israeli security” – are evidently part of the wider effort by Washington to pile pressure on the Iranian people and their government. Criminal, heinous, and most likely futile, but nevertheless Washington feels that it can force Iran to buckle under the weight of political, economic and military war.
Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring.He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio.
Este cunoscuta intentia americanilor de a ataca Iranul. In aceasta situatie Pentagonul trebuie sa prezinte doua strategii pe masa generalilor, una de atac si a doua de aparare.Si Iranul are strategii de aparare si de asalt in cazul unui atac surpriza.
Azi vom aborda strategiile Iranului si incepem cu relatia dezvoltata cu kurzii din nord-estul tarii si nordul Irakului. Republica Islamica a sprijinit comunitatea kurda inca din timpul conflictului cu Saddam, oferindu-le armament si ajutor umanitar pentru a rezista in fata persecutiilor fostului dictator irakian.
Iranienii au dezvoltat o serie de relatii cu comunitati ostile Israelului si Americii, zonele influentate de Iran sunt: Palestina, Fasia Gaza, tarile din Caucaz, Emiratele Arabe Unite si Afganistan. Tactica Iranului depinde de situatie: “cine este oponentul si cum il pot leza!?”
Atentia o vom canaliza pe un scenariu in care agresorii sunt SUA si Israelul. Incepem cu “proxy groups”(retelele militare) organizate si fiantate de Iran: Iranul si-a afiliat o retea de organizatii ce se ocupa de recrutare, inarmare si atacuri la nevoie. 3 dintre cele mai importante sunt Hezbollah (Liban), Hamas (Fasia Gaza) si Jihadul Islamic Palestinian. Aceste organizatii au evoluat enorm in decursul anilor, au format incluziv retele de spionaj, au procurat gadget-uri sofisticate si arme moderne. Daca Israelul lanseaza ofenziva in mod direct de pe teritoriul sau, atunci devine o tinta.
Un alt factor cheie este comunitatea shiita din Irak. Dupa invazia americana din 2003 Irakul a cazut sub dominatia siitilor. Acestia impreuna cu kurzii pot oferi o serie de beneficii Iranului, incluziv destabilizarea Irakului si inceperea ostilitatilor fata da SUA (distrugerea propriilor retele de petrol, drumuri, atentate etc). Scenariul poate fi observat mai bine in Afganistan, unde iranienii au suficenta experienta cu talibanii, fapt ce ar permite “blocarea” trupelor NATO pe teritoriul afgan.
Ultima strategie la care poate apela Iranul este inchiderea Stramtorii Hormuz. Acesta tactica este foarte periculoasa si ar putea avea influenta negativa asupra intregii lumi. Hormuz este traversat de 20% din numarul total al navelor oceanice, 90% din exportul de petrol colectat de la statele din Golf se face prin Stramtoare (aceste nave reprezint 40% din numarul total al petrolierelor). Latime Stramtorii este de 54km, dar numai 32 sunt navigabili. Iranul detine rachete anti-nava, submarine si avioane de atac ce pot ,,sigila” Stramtoarea. Ne putem gandi si la cantitati uriase de mine navale M-08/39. Daca blocajul ar dura o zi, acest lucru se va resimti in pretul energie, daca vorbim de o saptamana… atunci putem vorbi de o prabusire a energiei.
Personal, iau in calcul ca SUA sa foloseasca bomba nucleara in sudul Iranului. De pe Romania Military
By Scott McConnell
April 11, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“American Conservative” - The so called P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran are apparently going nowhere. One can find small signs of optimism: there was, for instance, some serious give and take at the last session between negotiators. But right now what the West is offering—limited sanctions relief in return for Iran dismantling its major hard-to-destroy reactor—hasn’t impressed the current batch of Iranian negotiators. As I read the accounts—which are highly technical for non-experts—it appears that the Iranians believe that if they’re going to accept limits and more intrusive inspections on their program, they want full sanctions relief, an end to all “regime change” talk and actions, and formal recognition of their right to enrich uranium. Right now the U.S. is offering limited sanctions relief and little else. The sides are far apart.
What seems obvious is why Iran would feel it would want a nuclear deterrent. It is surrounded by other nuclear powers, and has seen Iraq—which lacked a nuclear program—invaded on the basis of a packet of lies and its government destroyed. It has seen the West act like the most prudent of realists when dealing with a nuclear North Korea, which behaves like a crazy and aggressive state in ways Iran does not. It has observed the world’s passivity as Israel built up a massive nuclear arsenal, and its silence while Israel shared its nuclear expertise with apartheid South Africa, then considered a rogue state. It would be hard to imagine that Iranians—who began their nuclear pursuit under the Shah—would hear Western proclamations about the sanctity of nuclear non-proliferation as anything but rank hypocrisy.
The real reasons for the obsession with Iran’s nuclear program are not vocalized, and perhaps—resting as they do under layers of self-deception and sublimated power drives—are not even fully comprehended this country’s leaders. Wiliam Pfaff makes the pointhere:
Wars of defense more often than not are motivated by illusion or fantasies that disguise real or sublimated aggression. Many wars are the product of entangled motives that include such aggressive ambitions and fears — often unwarranted, but deliberately exaggerated for aggressive reasons and propaganda.
The United States provides one convenient, indeed irresistible, current case of self-deception. The war being promoted in the United States against Iran is (or would be) a war of aggression disguised by — but also to — the leaders themselves, as a preventive war necessitated by threat, as if an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons would perform so suicidal an act as to attack the United States, or more to the point, Israel.
The real motive for Israel to attack Iran would be to destroy a medium-sized hostile power, not because Iran is a nuclear threat, but because, even without nuclear armaments, Iran by its size, history, resources and economic potential, is a serious competitor to Israel in a region that is itself hostile to Israel and the United States.
One cannot say inherently hostile, since Jews since the eighth century lived on reasonably peaceful terms in Islamic-ruled societies, ended only in the twentieth century with the partition of Palestine. In fact Jews and Arabs both lived more peacefully with one another in the Maghreb and Middle East than either did in the past with Christian Europe. So a preventive destruction, or crippling, of modern Iran may seem merely a brutal but useful precaution to Jerusalem (or Washington), but in the long run could have enduring historical consequences.
The United States would in such a case not simply be acting in response to the political stranglehold Israel now enjoys over the majority of members of the American House of Representatives and much of the Senate, or because of the American formal alliance with Israel. It would be going to war with Iran to serve one of its permanent if unacknowledged foreign policy objectives, the preservation of as much as possible of its surviving quasi-monopoly of global nuclear military power.
“Permanent if unacknowledged foreign policy objectives”—the maintenance of a quasi-monopoly of atomic weapons. For Israel, the maintenance of monopoly is also unstated, and the position actually more extreme, unique in fact among the countries of the world. Israel demands the right to sole possession of nuclear weapons in its region, and at regular intervals attacks its neighbors to assert its monopoly aspirations. More surprising still is that Israel has managed to persuade the United States to accept, indeed embrace, its doctrine without so much as a whisper of debate—surprising since it requires the United States to imperil its own economy fighting wars to enforce it.
One can’t effectively predict the future, but some things are virtually certain. One is that Israel will not always and forever be the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Another is that if the United States, in another violent effort to maintain Israel’s monopoly, lays waste to Iran with bombers, there will be negative consequences in the long run which none of today’s war planners will imagine. They may be as unpredictable as the constellation of events that followed Germany’s “logical” and “defensive” and ultimately self-defeating efforts to secure its own strategic position in 1914. (Pfaff elaborates on the Wilhelmine Germany analogyhere.)
By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman
Editor’s Note: George Friedman originally wrote this Geopolitical Weekly on North Korea’s nuclear strategy on Jan. 29. More than two months later, the geopolitical contours of the still-evolving crisis have become more clear, so we believe it important to once again share with readers the fundamentals outlined in this earlier forecast.
North Korea’s state-run media reported Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the country’s top security officials to take “substantial and high-profile important state measures,” which has been widely interpreted to mean that North Korea is planning its third nuclear test. Kim said the orders were retaliation for the U.S.-led push to tighten U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang following North Korea’s missile test in October. A few days before Kim’s statement emerged, the North Koreans said future tests would target the United States, which North Korea regards as its key adversary along with Washington’s tool, South Korea.
North Korea has been using the threat of tests and the tests themselves as weapons against its neighbors and the United States for years. On the surface, threatening to test weapons does not appear particularly sensible. If the test fails, you look weak. If it succeeds, you look dangerous without actually having a deliverable weapon. And the closer you come to having a weapon, the more likely someone is to attack you so you don’t succeed in actually getting one. Developing a weapon in absolute secret would seem to make more sense. When the weapon is ready, you display it, and you have something solid to threaten enemies with.
North Korea, of course, has been doing this for years and doing it successfully, so what appears absurd on the surface quite obviously isn’t. On the contrary, it has proved to be a very effective maneuver. North Korea is estimated to have a gross domestic product of about $28 billion, about the same as Latvia or Turkmenistan. Yet it has maneuvered itself into a situation where the United States, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea have sat down with it at the negotiating table in a bid to persuade it not to build weapons. Sometimes, the great powers give North Korea money and food to persuade it not to develop weapons. It sometimes agrees to a halt, but then resumes its nuclear activities. It never completes a weapon, but it frequently threatens to test one. And when it carries out such tests, it claims its tests are directed at the United States and South Korea, as if the test itself were a threat.
There is brilliance in North Korea’s strategy. When the Soviet Union collapsed, North Korea was left in dire economic straits. There were reasonable expectations that its government would soon collapse, leading to the unification of the Korean Peninsula. Naturally, the goal of the North Korean government was regime survival, so it was terrified that outside powers would invade or support an uprising against it. It needed a strategy that would dissuade anyone from trying that. Being weak in every sense, this wasn’t going to be easy, but the North Koreans developed a strategy that we described more than 10 years ago as ferocious, weak and crazy. North Korea has pursued this course since the 1990s, and the latest manifestation of this strategy was on display last week. The strategy has worked marvelously and is still working.
First, the North Koreans positioned themselves as ferocious by appearing to have, or to be on the verge of having, devastating power. Second, they positioned themselves as being weak such that no matter how ferocious they are, there would be no point in pushing them because they are going to collapse anyway. And third, they positioned themselves as crazy, meaning pushing them would be dangerous since they were liable to engage in the greatest risks imaginable at the slightest provocation.
In the beginning, Pyongyang’s ability to appear ferocious was limited to the North Korean army’s power to shell Seoul. It had massed artillery along the border and could theoretically devastate the southern capital, assuming the North had enough ammunition, its artillery worked and air power didn’t lay waste to its massed artillery. The point was not that it was going to level Seoul but that it had the ability to do so. There were benefits to outsiders in destabilizing the northern regime, but Pyongyang’s ferocity — uncertain though its capabilities were — was enough to dissuade South Korea and its allies from trying to undermine the regime. Its later move to develop missiles and nuclear weapons followed from the strategy of ferocity — since nothing was worth a nuclear war, enraging the regime by trying to undermine it wasn’t worth the risk.
Many nations have tried to play the ferocity game, but the North Koreans added a brilliant and subtle twist to it: being weak. The North Koreans advertised the weakness of their economy, particularly its food insecurity, by various means. This was not done overtly, but by allowing glimpses of its weakness. Given the weakness of its economy and the difficulty of life in North Korea, there was no need to risk trying to undermine the North. It would collapse from its own defects.
This was a double inoculation. The North Koreans’ ferocity with weapons whose effectiveness might be questionable, but still pose an unquantifiable threat, caused its enemies to tread carefully. Why risk unleashing its ferocity when its weakness would bring it down? Indeed, a constant debate among Western analysts over the North’s power versus its weakness combines to paralyze policymakers.
The North Koreans added a third layer to perfect all of this. They portrayed themselves as crazy, working to appear unpredictable, given to extravagant threats and seeming to welcome a war. Sometimes, they reaffirmed they were crazy via steps like sinking South Korean ships for no apparent reason. As in poker, so with the North: You can play against many sorts of players, from those who truly understand the odds to those who are just playing for fun, but never, ever play poker against a nut. He is totally unpredictable, can’t be gamed, and if you play with his head you don’t know what will happen.
So long as the North Koreans remained ferocious, weak and crazy, the best thing to do was not irritate them too much and not to worry what kind of government they had. But being weak and crazy was the easy part for the North; maintaining its appearance of ferocity was more challenging. Not only did the North Koreans have to keep increasing their ferocity, they had to avoid increasing it so much that it overpowered the deterrent effect of their weakness and craziness.
Hence, we have North Korea’s eternal nuclear program. It never quite produces a weapon, but no one can be sure whether a weapon might be produced. Due to widespread perceptions that the North Koreans are crazy, it is widely believed they might rush to complete their weapon and go to war at the slightest provocation. The result is the United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea holding meetings with North Korea to try to persuade it not to do something crazy.
Interestingly, North Korea never does anything significant and dangerous, or at least not dangerous enough to break the pattern. Since the Korean War, North Korea has carefully calculated its actions, timing them to avoid any move that could force a major reaction. We see this caution built into its nuclear program. After more than a decade of very public ferocity, the North Koreans have not come close to a deliverable weapon. But since if you upset them, they just might, the best bet has been to tread lightly and see if you can gently persuade them not to do something insane.
The North’s positioning is superb: Minimal risky action sufficient to lend credibility to its ferocity and craziness plus endless rhetorical threats maneuvers North Korea into being a major global threat in the eyes of the great powers. Having won themselves this position, the North Koreans are not about to risk it, even if a 20-something leader is hurling threats.
There is, however, a somewhat more interesting dimension emerging. Over the years, the United States, Japan and South Korea have looked to the Chinese to intercede and persuade the North Koreans not to do anything rash. This diplomatic pattern has established itself so firmly that we wonder what the actual Chinese role is in all this. China is currently engaged in territorial disputes with U.S. allies in the South and East China seas. Whether anyone would or could go to war over islands in these waters is dubious, but the situation is still worth noting.
The Chinese and the Japanese have been particularly hostile toward one another in recent weeks in terms of rhetoric and moving their ships around. A crisis in North Korea, particularly one in which the North tested a nuclear weapon, would inevitably initiate the diplomatic dance whereby the Americans and Japanese ask the Chinese to intercede with the North Koreans. The Chinese would oblige. This is not a great effort for them, since having detonated a nuclear device, the North isn’t interested in doing much more. In fact, Pyongyang will be drawing on the test’s proverbial fallout for some time. The Chinese are calling in no chits with the North Koreans, and the Americans and Japanese — terribly afraid of what the ferocious, weak, crazy North Koreans will do next — will be grateful to China for defusing the “crisis.” And who could be so churlish as to raise issues on trade or minor islands when China has used its power to force North Korea to step down?
It is impossible for us to know what the Chinese are thinking, and we have no overt basis for assuming the Chinese and North Koreans are collaborating, but we do note that China has taken an increasing interest in stabilizing North Korea. For its part, North Korea has tended to stage these crises — and their subsequent Chinese interventions — at quite useful times for Beijing.
It should also be noted that other countries have learned the ferocious, weak, crazy maneuver from North Korea. Iran is the best pupil. It has convincingly portrayed itself as ferocious via its nuclear program, endlessly and quite publicly pursuing its program without ever quite succeeding. It is also persistently seen as weak, perpetually facing economic crises and wrathful mobs of iPod-wielding youths. Whether Iran can play the weakness card as skillfully as North Korea remains unclear — Iran just doesn’t have the famines North Korea has.
Additionally, Iran’s rhetoric at times can certainly be considered crazy: Tehran has carefully cultivated perceptions that it would wage nuclear war even if this meant the death of all Iranians. Like North Korea, Iran also has managed to retain its form of government and its national sovereignty. Endless predictions of the fall of the Islamic republic to a rising generation have proved false.
I do not mean to appear to be criticizing the “ferocious, weak and crazy” strategy. When you are playing a weak hand, such a strategy can yield demonstrable benefits. It preserves regimes, centers one as a major international player and can wring concessions out of major powers. It can be pushed too far, however, when the fear of ferocity and craziness undermines the solace your opponents find in your weakness.
Diplomacy is the art of nations achieving their ends without resorting to war. It is particularly important for small, isolated nations to survive without going to war. As in many things, the paradox of appearing willing to go to war in spite of all rational calculations can be the foundation for avoiding war. It is a sound strategy, and for North Korea and Iran, for the time being at least, it has worked.
Had you searched for “Israel, nuclear weapons” at Google News in the wake of President Obama’s recent trip to the Middle East, you would have gotten a series of headlines like this: “Obama: Iran more than a year away from developing nuclear weapon” (CNN), “Obama vows to thwart Tehran’s nuclear drive” (the Times of Israel), Obama: No nuclear weapons for Iran (the San Angelo Times), “US, Israel increasingly concerned about construction of Iran’s plutonium-producing reactor” (Associated Press), “Obama says ‘there is still time’ to find diplomatic solution to Iran nuke dispute; Netanyahu hints at impatience” (NBC), “Iran’s leader threatens to level cities if Israel attacks, criticizes US nuclear talks” (Fox).
By now, we’re so used to such a world of headlines — about Iran’s threatening nuclear weapons and its urge to “wipe out” Israel — that we simply don’t see how strange it is. At the moment, despite one aircraft carrier task force sidelined in Norfolk, Virginia (theoretically because of sequester budget cuts), the U.S. continues to maintain a massive military presence around Iran. That modest-sized regional power, run by theocrats, has been hobbled by ever-tightening sanctions, its skies filled with U.S. spy drones, its offshore waters with U.S. warships. Its nuclear scientists have been assassinated, assumedly by agents connected to Israel, and its nuclear program attacked by Washington and Tel Aviv in the first cyberwar in history. As early as 2007, the U.S. Congress was already ponying up hundreds of millions of dollars for a covert program of destabilization that evidently involved cross-border activities, assumedly using U.S. special operations forces — and that’s only what’s known about the pressure being exerted on Iran. With this, and the near-apocalyptic language of nuclear fear that surrounds it, has gone a powerful, if not always acknowledged, urge for what earlier in the new century was called “regime change.” (Who can forget the neocon quip of the pre-Iraq-invasion moment: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad, real men want to go to Tehran”?)
And all of this is due, so we’re told, to what remains a fantasy nuclear weapon, one that endangers no one because it doesn’t exist, and most observers don’t think that Tehran is in the process of preparing to build one either. In other words, the scariest thing in our world, or at least in the Middle Eastern part of it — if you believe Washington, Tel Aviv, and much reporting on the subject — is a nuclear will-o’-the-wisp. In the meantime, curiously enough, months can pass without significant focus on or discussion of Pakistan’s expanding nuclear arsenal. And yet, in that shaky, increasingly destabilized country, such an existing arsenal has to qualify as a genuine and growing regional danger.
Similarly, you can read endlessly in the mainstream about President Obama’s recent triumphs in the Middle East and that Iranian nuclear program without ever stumbling upon anything of significance about the only genuine nuclear arsenal in the vicinity: Israel’s. On the rare occasions when it is even mentioned, it’s spoken of as if it might or might not exist. Israel, Fox News typically reports, “is believed to have the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the Mideast.” It is, of course, Israeli policy (and a carefully crafted fiction) never to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal. But the arsenal itself isn’t just “believed” to exist, it is known to exist — 100-300 nuclear weapons’ worth or enough destructive power to turn not just Iran but the Greater Middle East into an ash heap.
To sum up: we continue to obsess about fantasy weapons, base an ever more threatening and dangerous policy in the region on their possible future existence, might conceivably end up in a war over them, and yet pay remarkably little attention to the existing nuclear weapons in the region. If this were the approach of countries other than either the U.S. or Israel, you would know what to make of it and undoubtedly words like “paranoia” and “fantasy” would quickly creep into any discussion.
With that in mind, let Ira Chernus, TomDispatch regular and an expert on separating fantasy from reality, take on the tough task of putting aside the media hosannas about the president’s recent Middle Eastern travels and making sense of what actually happened. Tom
Obama Walks the High Wire, Eyes Closed
When It Comes to Israel, Palestine, and Iran, It Could All Come Crashing Down
By Ira Chernus
Barack Obama came to Israel and Palestine, saw what he wanted to see, and conquered the mainstream media with his eloquent words. U.S. and Israeli journalists called it a dream trip, the stuff that heroic myths are made of: a charismatic world leader taking charge of the Mideast peace process. But if the president doesn’t wake up and look at the hard realities he chose to ignore, his dream of being the great peacemaker will surely crumble, as it has before.
Like most myths, this one has elements of truth. Obama did say some important things. In a speech to young Israelis, he insisted that their nation’s occupation of the West Bank is not merely bad for their country, it is downright immoral, “not fair… not just … not right.”
I’ve been decrying the immorality of the occupation for four decades, yet I must admit I never dreamed I would hear an American president, standing in Jerusalem, do the same.
Despite those words, however, Obama is no idealist. He’s a strategist. His Jerusalem speech was clearly meant to widen the gap between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the substantial center-left portion of Israeli Jews, who are open to a deal with the Palestinians and showed unexpected strength in recent elections. The growing political tensions in Israel and a weakened prime minister give the American president a potential opening to maneuver, manipulate, and perhaps even control the outcome of events.
How to do so, though? Obama himself probably has no clear idea. Whatever Washington’s Middle Eastern script, when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, it will require an extraordinary balancing act.
The president will have to satisfy (or mollify) both the center-left and the right in Israel, strike an equally perfect balance between divergent Israeli and Palestinian demands, march with Netanyahu up to the edge of war with Iran yet keep Israel from plunging over that particular cliff, calibrate the ratcheting up of punishing sanctions and other acts in relation to Iran so finely that the Iranians will, in the end, yield to U.S. demands without triggering a war, and prevent the Syrian civil war from spilling into Israel, which means controlling Lebanese politics, too. Don’t forget that he will have do it all while maintaining his liberal base at home and fending off the inevitable assault from the right.
Oh, yes. Then there are all the as-yet-unforeseeable variables that will also have to be managed. To call it a tall order is an understatement.
The Fantasy of Perfect Control
In American political culture, we expect no less from any president. After all, he is “the most powerful man in the world” — so he should be able to walk such a high wire adroitly, without fretting too much about the consequences, should he fall.
Whatever else he may be doing, whenever an American president travels abroad, his overriding goal is to act out on the world stage a singular and deeply felt, if not always articulated, fantasy so many Americans love: that their leader and the nation he embodies have, like Superman, unlimited powers to control people and events around the globe.
In this scenario, the president of the United States is a man above every fray, who understands the true needs of both sides in any conflict, as befits his uniquely exceptional nation. That’s why he can go anywhere — even Jerusalem or Ramallah — and tell the locals what is true and right and how they should behave.
This mythic president can deftly maneuver his way across the most challenging of situations, sooner or later settling any dispute with a god-like sense of justice — and without ever losing his perfect balance.
Like his country, he can be all things to all people. He never has to make painful sacrifices or suffer losses, as he proves that the American way will eventually triumph over all.
To make this fantasy seem convincingly real, the president — and the faithful mainstream media who report it all — must turn every place he visits into a fantasyland. They must exclude realities that might quickly puncture the idealized image. But reality has a nasty habit of showing up, even when it’s least wanted.
Israeli Realities Ignored
In fact, Israel is one place where the fantasy of U.S. control comes reasonably close to reality. The president has substantially more power over the Israelis than his critics on the left give him credit for. Netanyahu’s embarrassing apology to Turkey (with no reciprocity from Turkey guaranteed), his release of tax funds to the Palestinian Authority just days after Obama’s visit, and the truce that quickly ended Israel-Gaza fighting in November 2012, with a commitment to ease the blockade on Gaza, are only the latest of many examples of the way an American president can successfully pressure Israeli leaders.
But despite that reality, Obama has once again proven remarkably incapable of forcing the Israelis into serious, good-faith negotiations with the Palestinians — mainly because he traveled to the Mideast with a stark reality in his pocket: thelatest Gallup poll, showing American sympathy for Israel at an all-time high, while sympathy for the Palestinians has taken a nose-dive.
As always, pro-Israel attitudes are substantially stronger among Republicans than the rest of the U.S. public. If Obama pushes the Israelis to make genuine concessions for peace, he’ll give the GOP a huge opening to brand him as “soft on terrorists,” a label he has done everything possible to avoid — including assassinating American citizens.
Given that implicit pressure (and the degree to which all presidential travels abroad are also little dramas made for domestic consumption), Obama promptly endorsed an Israeli myth of particular power: the myth of its national insecurity. Even in his Jerusalem peace speech he repeated the mantra that Israel’s security “can never be taken for granted” because Israel “is surrounded by many in this region who reject it, and many in the world who refuse to accept it.”
In the next breath, he contradicted the very premise of the myth of an eternally endangered, on-the-brink-of-being-wiped-out country by stating the obvious: “Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.” But he carefully ignored that fundamental reality during the rest of his visit, masking it behind a torrent of rhetoric about supposedly dire threats to Israel’s existence from every direction.
Most Americans already assume that Israel is as imperiled as it claims to be. The more Obama reinforces that myth, the more sympathy he builds for Israel and the less Israeli leaders have to respond to pressure on negotiations with the Palestinians. And as long as most Americans mistakenly see Israelis, not Palestinians, as the besieged victims of the present situation, they’ll punish any president who puts real pressure on Israel to make a just peace. No president, not even in a second term, is likely to risk paying that price.
Palestinian Realities Ignored
Even if Obama did try to force a peace agreement on the Israelis, the effort would be doomed to fail, because he excluded from his fantasy world two crucial realities about Palestine.
First, he treated the main roadblock to peace — the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank — as if it hardly existed. Far from renewing his demand for an end to expansion, he fell back on the vague language we’ve heard from many presidents before: “We do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive”; “Settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace.” He even stood alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas andcalled the settlements merely an “irritant,” a poor “excuse” to avoid coming to the peace table, more or less demanding that Abbas return to negotiations while Palestinian land continues to be eaten up, bit by bit.
In effect, Obama pressured the Palestinians to accept a real evil in the present for the sake of some hypothetical good in a hard-to-imagine future. Though that may make sense to the president, the Palestinian Authority understandably sees it as senseless to enter prolonged negotiations that would simply give Israel a green light and more time to gobble up Palestinian land.
Obama’s other glaring omission was his refusal to visit Gaza and meet its prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, of the ruling Hamas party. In his peace speech, Obama explicitly called on Israel to negotiate only with the Palestinian Authority, which rules in the West Bank, dismissing Hamas with the usual false picture: “Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction.”
In fact, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has been saying for years that his party is ready for a long-term truce that would, de facto, accept the existence of Israel inside its pre-1967 borders. These are, of course, the very borders Obama himselfhas called for as the basis for a final status agreement. In recent talks with the king of Jordan, Meshaal reportedly made his most explicit statement yet accepting such a two-state solution.
The only realistic hope for peace is to encourage this growing moderation in Hamas, which would open the way to a unified Hamas-Fatah government. The idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank alone, living happily side by side with Israel, while an impoverished and ignored Gaza somehow doesn’t cause trouble for anyone, is an impossible fantasy.
But the Obama administration and the Israeli government prefer such a fantasy world in which there’s simply no place for a conciliatory Hamas policy, because the globe must always be divided between “the international community” and a threatening “radical Islam,” its banner held high by Hamas as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the greatest threat of all: Iran.
The Iranian Threat: When Myths Collide
Iran evokes the most dangerous clash between reality and fantasy. Obama has struck a devil’s bargain with Netanyahu: if you’ll negotiate with the Palestinians, I’llendorse your endless warnings about a purported Iranian program that might — just might — produce a tiny number of nuclear weapons at some unknown date in the imagined future.
The very existence of such an Iranian program is highly doubtful. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that it doesn’t exist. Yet on his recent trip Obama plunged into the Israeli right’s fantasy world, where Iran will, sooner than you think, be nuking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
To protect that fantasy world the president had to ignore the very existence of Dimona, the “research center” where Israel has produced anywhere from 100 to 300 nuclear weapons. As Jonathan Schell recently pointed out, Israel’s goal is to maintain its long-standing monopoly as the only nuclear power in the greater Middle East. Its leaders have been threatening for years to attack Iran to keep that monopoly a sure thing into the distant future.
The American people seem perfectly ready to back them in this project. In the latest Gallup poll, 64% of Americans say that they sympathize with Israel and, chillingly, precisely the same percentage now tell Pew pollsters that they would support U.S. military action to prevent Iran from making nukes.
The U.S. Senate gets the message. Three-quarters of its members have signed on as co-sponsors of a formal Senate resolution (S.Res. 65) which solemnly warns of Iran’s “threats against the existence of the State of Israel” and “urges” that, if Israel is “compelled to take military action in self-defense” against Iran, the U.S. should “provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”
“Self-defense”? “Compelled”? “Israel’s existence”? It all assumes the absurd notion that, even if Iran could manage to produce a few nukes, its leaders would choose to use them against a massively superior Israel, swiftly triggering Iran’s national suicide.
That fantasy might provoke laughter in Tehran, but only if Iranian leaders could stop worrying for a moment about the very real threats being leveled at them. Unlike Obama, they’ve been looking directly at Dimona and its product for a long time.
In the world as seen from Tehran, and from most of the rest of the planet, it’s Israel, not Iran, that poses a nuclear threat to the region. If someday there were a Mideast nuclear arms race, Israel would clearly be the country that set it off. And if Congress can sway the president, long before that the U.S. might well be caught up in an Israeli-Iranian war. When the myth of Israel’s insecurity meets the myth of “the Iranian bomb,” the result has the potential to be explosive indeed.
That’s a very real and heavy price to pay for the fantasy that a president can walk the high wire, balancing everyone’s demands perfectly, without the danger of simply falling into the abyss.
Barack Obama took a brave step out of that fantasy world when he told the Israeli people directly that their occupation of the West Bank is not only foolish but immoral. If he really wants to earn his Nobel Peace Prize, he’ll have to demand an end to settlement expansion, visit Gaza and Dimona, and create a new narrative about Iran as well as Palestine filled with a much larger dose of reality. That story just might have a happy ending, the hope and change that the president has always promised us. The script he has followed so far has tragedy written all over it.
Ira Chernus is a TomDispatch regular and professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is the author, among other works, of Monsters To Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin and the online collection “MythicAmerica: Essays.” He blogs at MythicAmerica.us.
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