Sunday, February 17, 2013

Arlene Kushner From Israel

Where does all of this leave us with regard to discussions on Iran that will take place between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama during the latter's visit to Israel in March? We are being told that it is Obama's goal to convince Netanyahu that he will take care of matters -- acting to prevent a nuclear Iran, and that Netanyahu should trust him. Let us put aside for a moment the issue of whether Obama's word can be trusted. There has been a serious and real difference of opinion between the Israeli and American heads of state regarding when action would have to be taken.

Arlene Kushner..
17 February '13..

In the midst of so much that is ugly, it is a great pleasure to report this: Little Zakkai will be going home today. On Friday, his parents wrote: "Zakkai has impressed the medical staff and us with another miraculous recovery from surgery (two this time!). Thank God...

"In fact, he's doing so well that we are being discharged already, ahead of schedule."

"Thank God" says it all. The capacity of this young body to rally and heal is amazing.


Now if only the world could rally and heal. But there is precious little sign of this. Anything but...

While the international community dithers and dallies -- still seeking "negotiations" with Iran -- that Islamist republic is rushing towards nuclear capability.

According to the Sunday Times (London), Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, believed to be the head of Iran's secret nuclear weapons program, was present in North Korea last week when critical weapons tests were run. This is particularly noteworthy because Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi is said to be reluctant to leave Iranian soil out of fear that the Mossad might get him.

What is being pursued by the Iranians is a nuclear warhead compact enough to be fitted to the ballistic missiles in its possession. And the device the N. Koreans detonated is a step in that direction. A Japanese source cited reportedly said (emphasis added):

"The atomic bomb appears to have been made compact enough to be placed on a missile."

If this doesn't send chills through you, you're just not paying attention.


Experts in the field of nuclear weaponry have been suggesting for some time now that Iran may be further along in its development of such weapons than is apparent because of cooperation with North Korea.

Iran’s Shahab-3 long-range missile is based on the North Korean Nodong-1. And Iranian agents were said to be present in December 2012, when North Korea tested its missiles.


Where does all of this leave us with regard to discussions on Iran that will take place between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama during the latter's visit to Israel in March? We are being told that it is Obama's goal to convince Netanyahu that he will take care of matters -- acting to prevent a nuclear Iran, and that Netanyahu should trust him.

Let us put aside for a moment the issue of whether Obama's word can be trusted. There has been a serious and real difference of opinion between the Israeli and American heads of state regarding when action would have to be taken.

When PM Netanyahu spoke at the UN last September, he had that diagram and drew his red line. It had to do with development of the nuclear bomb itself, and Netanyahu's position was that Iran had to be stopped by the time it was 90 percent along the path of having sufficient weapons-grade material.

(This has been interpreted as being the point at which Iran has amassed enough uranium, purified to a level of 20 percent, that could quickly be enriched further -- i.e., to 90% -- and be used to produce an atomic bomb.)


The US position has been that it is only necessary to stop Iran when it is about to connect an atomic bomb to a detonating device or delivery system, presumably a missile (but possibly a device to be placed in the container of a cargo ship or elsewhere). If Iran were stopped from delivering or detonating that atomic weapon, that is what would matter.

Absolutely not the case, argued Netanyahu:

"[Enriching enough uranium for a bomb] requires thousands of centrifuges spinning in tandem in big - very big - industrial plants. Those uranium plants are visible, and they're still vulnerable.

In contrast, Iran could produce the nuclear detonator - the fuse - in a lot less time, maybe under a year, maybe only a few months. The detonator can be made in a small workshop the size of a classroom. It may be very difficult to find and target that workshop, especially in Iran. That's a country that's bigger than France, Germany, Italy and Britain combined."


Netanyahu's argument was always on the mark, even if Obama, and the world more generally paid him no heed.

But now? Now that we know that Iran is further ahead than had been imagined because of cooperation with North Korea? Now that we see it clear: that there's no way to "detect" when Iran will have a delivery system or detonator because of that cooperation with N. Korea?

Has Obama begun to see things differently? Will Netanyahu be able to convince him to take a new approach?


Consider just how sick the world is: ISRAEL is the only nation in the world that the Iranians fear. Imagine that. An nuclear scientist afraid to leave Iran because of the Mossad. Repeatedly I've read that Iranian leaders believe that Israel might bomb them. Only Israel, in all the world.

And so, I continue to salute PM Netanyahu -- for all the quarrels I may have with him in other regards -- for his clear vision and his courage in bringing this issue to the international community.

Because of enhanced technology that the Iranians have begun using, the time has been reduced for reaching the Red Line that Netanyahu spelled out last September. If Israel is to hit Iran, it will have to be soon. Even at the UN, he had said the Red Line would likely be reached by spring or summer of 2013.

And so, nu?


I reiterate here what I've said many times: I have no inside track on what will happen (if even the prime minister is certain right now what will happen). I write based on my research of public information, and according to my intuitive sense of what is implied by various statements and policy decisions made by our leaders.

It has been my understanding for years that we have the capacity to weaken, although not totally eliminate, Iran's nuclear development capacity -- perhaps setting back their program three to five years. As recently as September there were still reports that we have "an attainable military option that can be implemented independently, without American assistance."

In recent weeks, I've been seeing strength exhibited by our government -- this with regard to Syria in particular. I noted that Netanyahu has declared unequivocally that Iran must be stopped and that Barak said, "We mean what we say." I see a genuine determination to guard the security of Israel.


With all of this, however, there is a serious proviso. Iran is burying its nuclear manufacturing equipment underground in a way that makes its accessibility limited. Note that last September Netanyahu said the uranium plants were "still vulnerable." That's less the case today than it was when he said it. And so the Red Line for Israel's ability to effectively hit Iran may be different from the Red Line that Netanyahu brought to the international community with intention of moving the US on the issue.

Bottom line: Israel has bunker-buster bombs, including some sold to us by the US that weigh in at 5,000 pounds. But none would penetrate the huge volume of concrete utilized by Iran in building its nuclear manufacturing bunkers.

It is the US that possesses the newly developed GPS-guided, 30,000 pound bunker-buster bombs -- Massive Ordnance Penetrators nicknamed Big BLU -- that would do the job, and the stealth-bomber refitted B-2s that would be capable of deploying the bombs.

The US could take out the Iranian nuclear project. The US is the one that should be doing it.


Perhaps the Israeli delay in acting is connected to attempts, still, to get the US on board. Not that the US would take the lead in attacking, but perhaps would give the nod and then provide logistical back-up, or sell Israel pertinent equipment.

Certainly Israel is not going to act before Netanyahu has those talks with Obama.

This should not be forgotten, however: Part of the problem in giving Obama more time to see if diplomatic efforts plus sanctions can work (something Netanyahu knows is nonsense) is that if Israel allows too much time, we'll be past the red line with regard to our ability to successfully attack. Then it will, by default, fall to the US to act or not. We will have surrendered our capacity to act successfully on our own behalf. It is a fine line that must be walked.


And where is the international community on all of this? Hey! they're moving right along.

First, since Iran says they are enriching uranium for peaceful purposes only, P5 + 1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, the US, plus Germany), want Iran to do more to prove that this is the case. That's enormously constructive, don't you think?

And then -- during a meeting scheduled for February 26th in Kazakhstan -- they said they intend to offer easing of sanctions barring trade in gold and other precious metals in return for Iran taking steps to shut down Fordow. (Taking steps?) This is no more than a partial re-run of a demand made last year that Iran stop producing higher grade uranium, ship stockpiles out of the country, and shut down Fordow.

According to one official cited anonymously in the JPost, this new offer is "a way to test whether they are serious or not."

This amazes me. That there might still be officials who wonder about this. The name of the Iranian game is stalling long enough to complete weapon development.

Netanyahu, in the privacy of his own living quarters, must bang his head against the wall on a regular basis.

In any event, today, once intentions to make this demand became public, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Iran's National Security Committee Chief, declared that Iran will never close that military facility: "our national duty is to defend our nuclear and vital centers against an enemy threat."


But let me share here another international concern.

Yesterday, Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton let it be known that the EU is following "with concern reports about the deteriorating health condition" of four Palestinian prisoners "in Israeli detention who have been on an extended hunger strike."

This followed an earlier expression of concern (same word) voiced on behalf of the UN by Humanitarian Coordinator James W. Rawley.

Gee, I can hardly think of an issue more significant than this. But since there is so much hoopla, let's look at the facts, which are in short supply.


Of the four Palestinians, focus is on one, Samer Issawi, who has been doing a protest fast intermittently during the past few months, in order to secure his release.

According to the JPost, Issawi, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was arrested in 2002 for terrorist-related activity (this was in the course of Operation Defensive Shield, mounted against the terrorism of the second intifada). He was subsequently tried and sentenced to 30 years. But in 2011, after having served close to 10 years, he was one of the terrorists released from Israeli prisons in exchange for Gilad Shalit.

In 2012, he was re-arrested by the IDF for violating the terms of his release, and almost immediately began that intermittent hunger strike.


I guess he was incensed by the fact that he was again in prison, when he thought he was home free; although in a just world he never would have been released in the first place.

We're hardly talking about a nice man, my friends. Or an innocent one. Or someone to whom an injustice has been done. But he wants out, and Palestinian Arabs in prison have determined that sometimes if they go on hunger strikes Israel will let them out rather than endure the bad press.

And oh! does the PA milk this for all it's worth. Poor suffering man, languishing in prison without full rights. On the verge of dying, actually, because of that (self-inflicted) hunger strike and horrendous Israeli neglect. I saw one pro-Palestinian site that wailed, "Samer Issawi is like an olive tree, his head reaches the sky."

This, then, is the man that the UN and the EU are worried about. It's politically correct to take this position.

For the record, Issawi is getting medical care in prison, and does eat sometimes. Israel cannot let him die in prison because then he would be made a martyr. I will be furious if he's let out, however.


On Friday, Palestinian Arab demonstrations in Judea and Samaria on behalf of the release of Issawi turned into riots. In more than one location, rocks and firebombs were thrown at IDF soldiers. Major sites of rioting were in Beitunya, near the Ofer security prison, at Kfar Kaddum west of Nablus (Shechem), and in the Kalandiyah area. All in all several hundred Arabs were involved. Smaller demonstrations were held in Jenin, Bethlehem, and outside Efrat.

Firebombs tossed at the IDF in order to secure Issawi's release? Under no circumstances whatsoever should he be released.

Abbas has made the release of all prisoners a pre-condition for coming to the table. On Friday, in Ramallah, he declared, "We will not forget, and we will not leave you to suffer behind the bars of the occupation."

Please note carefully that he condones all actions against "the occupation" -- never stopping to say that those who have killed innocent civilians, particularly women and children, cannot be excused.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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