Israel’s government is trying to downplay the results of Iran’s presidential election, but the fact is that Hassan Rouhani is immensely different from the departing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This change — and the unforeseen nature of Rouhani’s victory — represent a political earthquake. A bombshell in domestic and international politics.
Here is a Tweet sent out by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday evening:
PM Netanyahu: The international community must not be tempted to relax the pressure on #Iran to stop its nuclear program. http://dld.bz/cEBK6
Yet it certainly looks like Iranians have elected a reformist. Rouhani was clearly — among the six officially approved candidates — the one least liked by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And Rouhani promised change.
Although Israeli intelligence devotes huge energy and resources to monitoring Iran — Iran’s secret nuclear project, its military, its politics, and its society — the Israeli espionage agencies did not see Rouhani’s victory on the horizon.
They certainly did not expect that Rouhani could win an outright majority in the first round of voting, with no runoff required.
Mossad (the foreign espionage and operations agency, which our sources say has continued to run assets in and out of Iran) and Aman(the military intelligence agency that considers the capabilities and intentions of Israel’s regional enemies) both assumed that Khamenei would stop at nothing to install one of his reliable loyalists as Ahmadinejad’s successor. The Supreme Leader had many disagreements with Ahmadinejad, partly over the talkative president’s bombastic style and inflated ego, and Khamenei was expected to avoid further headaches. If necessary, it was thought, he would rig the election — just as hard-liners were believed to have done in 2009.
Hello, Hassan Rouhani
A landslide for a candidate who told voters he would work for peace and security? The only candidate who mentioned the sanctions that are adding to the suffering of many Iranians? A Muslim cleric, but one who spoke in favor of press freedoms and negotiating with the West?
Experts don’t understand Iran: This win by Rouhani was wholly unexpected, and it shows that trusted and prestigious Western experts don’t understand Iran — and the complex undercurrents of an ancient culture that’s struggling with a blend of modernity and religious extremism.
Remember Rouhani’s nuclear restraint: In 2003, as an official in “reformist” President Mohammad Khatami’s administration, it was Rouhani who directed the decision to freeze uranium enrichment.
(Israeli and U.S. officials firmly believe that Iran’s Supreme Leader feared that the U.S. might attack Iran at that time, just after the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel’s defense minister said this week that Iran’s uranium enrichment re-started in 2005 and is getting close to the amounts of enriched uranium needed to “break out” and build nuclear bombs.)
Might Rouhani freeze or reverse Iran’s nuclear work again, as part of a deal with the West to cancel sanctions? Would the Supreme Leader and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) let him do that? They may block any and all “reformist” ideas voiced by Rouhani.
Iran already has the materials, hardware, software, and knowledge necessary to build its first nuclear bomb — though not yet the ability to put one in a warhead atop a missile.
Rouhani’s election win signals a growing possiblity that Iran will decide to slow down its nuclear project. That would be part of a policy of engaging with the United States (as everyone assumes that President Barack Obama would dearly like to avoid waging war against Iran).
So here is another unexpected result: that Israel will be further isolated in its severe concern over Iran’s nuclear capabilities (and continued support for Syria’s regime, for Hezbollah, and for terrorism around the world). The gap between Israel and America, on these issues, may well be further widened.
In Washington on Friday, the Israeli defense minister Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon — a former director of the Aman agency — was asked about an interview, last year, in which he pointed out that Israel’s “red line” toward Iran was different from Obama’s “red line.” Has that changed?
Yaalon: “In the past twelve months, we have clarified the differences between our red lines.” That was merely a hint of disagreement, and below that tip of the iceberg there’s plenty more.
[Note: Yossi Melman is co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran, which gives a lot more intelligence-based information on and analysis of Iran's nuclear program and the country's politics. For more about the book: http://amzn.to/13Ru4Ou .]
June 16, 2013
When K.T. McFarland, for many years a communications specialist for White House national security advisors and for Secretaries of Defense, visited Israel this month, she made a point of getting fully briefed on the myriad of challenges — and potential crises — in the region: the Syrian civil war, how it might spill over into neighboring countries, the extreme changes in Egypt and Libya, the perpetual threat of instability in Jordan, and the decisions that Iran has to make on the nuclear front.
K.T.’s analytical series on FoxNews.com, called DefCon 3, taped an episode in Jerusalem. Yossi Melman, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, joined her on the program — with a detailed analysis of what Iran has accomplished so far, and the chance that Israeli leaders may choose to take military action to stop Iran’s nuclear progress.
Click here to watch the video: http://video.foxnews.com/v/2474823111001/defcon-3-live-from-jerusalem/?playlist_id=931078471001#
June 15, 2013
Did Israel help the National Security Agency (NSA) collect a massive database of phone calls and e-mails involving American citizens? Some reports have pointed to U.S. government purchases from Israeli high-tech companies of hardware and software — for the collection and analysis of huge amounts of information.
After Israel’s government was asked to provide a response, on a subject where “no comment” is usually all we get, a senior officer who worked for a long time in the field of communications intercepts did have something to say.
“America is our strategic ally, so it so clear that we neither spy on the USA nor against its citizens,” said a Brigadier-General who is a former commander of Unit 8200 of Israel’s military intelligence agency Aman. He asked not to be named. Unit 8200 is being mentioned in some media reports, in a form of innuendo, as a likely accomplice of the NSA in its counter-terrorism surveillance programs.
The Australian edition of Business Insider has this headline:
DID YOU KNOW?: Two Secretive Israeli Companies Reportedly Bugged the US Telecommunications Grid for the NSA
A few comments are in order, when almost every day there are new leaks about the surveillance programs run by the United States government since 9/11. Israel has been doing a lot of the same things, but with a minimum of complaint within Israel.
Years ago, and even since the founding of Israel in 1948, most of its citizens have weighed the conflict between security requirements and how to protect civil rights. They have clearly opted for security, above all.
Obama Administration officials say that with the vast amount of information collected by the highly secretive National Security Agency (NSA), only a tiny fraction is ever looked at — and only when there is believed to be a connection with foreign terrorist groups.
In Israel, the police have the authority to demand details of telephone calls for any criminal investigation. If a crime has been committed, police will obtain logs of cellphone calls in the immediate geographic area — just before and after the crime. That sort of high-tech investigating has helped solve crimes.
The domestic security agency Shin Bet (the initials of Sheruti ha-Bitachon, which means Security Services) has even broader authority — and capabilities — to intercept calls and e-mails within Israel. Shin Bet is roughly equivalent to America’s FBI and Britain’s MI5, and the Israelis have been on strongly on the look-out for communications involving foreign spies and terrorists — long before America woke up to the global peril on 9/11.
It can fairly be said that the surveillance powers of Israeli government and police agencies are far wider than those of U.S. officials, who insist that they obey laws barring them from spying on American citizens.
As for published claims that two high-tech companies that were founded in Israel — Narus Systems and Varint — helped the NSA run its controversial communications intercepts, suggestions that Israelis are physically present at NSA facilities and working with the American interceptors and analysts seem to be little more than speculation.
Yes, it would be no surprise if equipment used by the NSA — at its headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, and at many unacknowledged facilities around the world — is designed or made in Israel. (Our book includes information on high-tech accomplishments by Unit 8200 of Israel’s Aman agency, and veterans of Unit 8200 often become leaders in the internet and communications industries.)
Yet it would be unfair to suggest that Israelis are carrying out the intercepts, collection, and analysis of information. The Americans at the NSA are quite capable of doing it all on their own.
In reluctantly discussing the counter-terrorism programs that have been revealed, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, insists that information about U.S. citizens is ignored. Clapper adds that leaks to the news media on this subject have damaged America’s ability to keep an eye and ear on terrorist groups.
It is not surprising to see reports that the Department of Justice has launched an investigation into who is leaking all these secrets about surveillance programs. The leak seems more like a gusher.
Part of a Leak, Apparently from the NSA, Published June 8 by The Guardian
There are strong indications now that the United States and Israel are focused on similar dangers. The latest leak — describing an NSA tool (“Boundless Informant”) for keeping track of the internet and phone-call information intercepted all around the world — includes a list of countries that are targeted: Iran above all others. Israel has also had its focus on Iran, hoping to stop its nuclear program, for a decade.
NSA documents suggest that intercepts are fully approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and overseen by the Department of Justice — in the name of investigating terrorism and/or the spread of nuclear weapons.
June 9, 2013
Iran’s official media claim that authorities there arrested members of a “terror” squad trained by Israel’s Mossad and backed by Great Britain and an unnamed Arab country.
The Iranian claim said the Arab nation in question has become obviously dependent on Israel. (One can guess that Iran is hinting at Jordan or Qatar, but naturally an observer might wonder who’s now the target of Iran’s official, delusional hypothesizing.)
Iran’s report said the sabotage group — with 12 members supposedly now arrested — intended to stir up ethnic unrest in parts of Iran, specifically in the run-up to the Iranian election in less than two weeks.
Yossi Melman (co-author of Spies Against Armageddon) comments from Tel Aviv that the Iranian claim is “almost certainly rubbish.”
It’s true that Israeli intelligence analysts closely watch Iranian politics — as well as military moves, economic trends, and above all the nuclear program. But Israel and the world have no realistic reason to hope that the June 14 presidential election in Iran will change that country’s secret push toward becoming a nuclear-armed power.
An election cartoon from Iran’s news agency
None of the presidential candidates would represent a major shift in Iranian expansionist ambitions, in part because a guardian council controlled by the Supreme Leader — Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — held veto power over the list of candidates for the presidency.
Melman adds: ”Israel almost surely would not risk operations and waste resources on such a stupid mission – to sabotage Election Day. The Mossad has more urgent missions to execute in Iran. This report is obviously a propaganda ploy by the regime to boost its morale before the election and to mobilize Iranian voters to rally around the regime.”
Jonathan Schanzer, a scholar at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, seems quite appropriately to be ridiculing the Iranian claim — on his Twitter feed @JSchanzer:
Iran announced last month that it hanged two spies: one supposedly working for the Mossad, and the other for the CIA. These claims are often made after dissidents — or, frankly, individuals who fell into official disfavor — are arrested and quickly tried and executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
June 6, 2013
The steady drone of medium-level alarm bells about Iran continues, but the latest report by United Nations nuclear inspectors contains nothing that requires urgent action.
Israel has been alarmed for over a decade, now, by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s march toward nuclear capability — and our book chronicles the historic shift of priorities by Israeli intelligence: devoting less attention to Palestinian politics so as to be focused with laser-beam attention on Iran.
The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency has several troubling aspects, including Iran’s rapid progress on a few paths that could lead to nuclear weapons.
Julian Borger of Britain’s The Guardian notes, however, that Iran has apparently continued to take great care to stay below the “red line” set by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his speech at the U.N. in New York last September.
Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, is monitoring all this very carefully, and Netanyahu is surely interested in every detail that can be plucked out of Iran.
Yet his new coalition government is distracted by many subjects — and notably has failed to reach agreement on its posture toward a possible “two-state solution” with the Palestinians, even as America’s Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Jerusalem and Ramallah for another attempt at mediating a return to negotiations.
Even though Barack Obama, on his first trip to Israel as President in March, said he respects Israel’s right to make its own decisions on how best to defend itself, it is crystal clear that the United States still wants Israel to act with restraint: to give negotiations and sanctions more time to be effective.
American analysts feel the IAEA’s latest report still points to the likelihood that it would take Iran one year at a minimum — and perhaps two years — before it could produce a deliverable nuclear weapon.
May 22, 2013
Dan Raviv, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon, was a guest on the Jim Bohannon Show (on Dial Global Radio in the U.S.) on Wednesday night — with a wide-ranging discussion of President Obama’s new line on counter-terrorism drone strikes, the Syrian civil war, and the Middle East.
It is the first hour of this clickable audio item: http://www.jimbotalk.net/programhighlights?date=20130522
And here is a five-minute interview summarizing the main points for Bohannon’s “America In the Morning” aired on Thursday (May 23rd).
Please click here to listen for the 5-minute interview: Raviv on Jim Bohannon 23 May 2013
Raviv and Bohannon discuss the Obama Administration’s revelation that its drone strikes killed four U.S. citizens, Secretary of State John Kerry’s renewed attempt to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians, new indications that Syria’s regime may be winning the civil war, and the IAEA report on Iran’s rapidly advancing nuclear work.
May 22, 2013
Israel’s former Mossad chief is now practically confirming a significant piece of Middle East “nuclear conflict” history that we revealed on this blog — and at Al-Monitor.com last November 7. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had the idea of provoking a possible attack by Iran, as an excuse for Israel to strike hard at nuclear facilities in Iran.
Meir Dagan, who ended eight years as head of Israel’s secretive foreign intelligence agency at the end of 2010, was speaking (April 29) on Israeli television’s Channel 2 in an interview by Ilana Dayan on her “Uvda” (Fact) show.
Dagan, the former spymaster who last year had a medical emergency but then successful surgery in the former Soviet Union, is again actively speaking out — with the intention of restraining Prime Minister Netanyahu from ordering Israel’s military to attack Iran.
Last year, Dagan told the CBS News broadcast “60 Minutes” that the likely retaliation that would follow such an attack by Israel would ruin daily life in the Jewish state. In short, Dagan does not believe it would be worth it to attack Iran.
Now he has told Dayan on her TV show (in Hebrew) that there was a situation — when he was still the Mossad director — in which the political leaders of the country favored a military conflict, while those who would have to execute such orders were firmly against.
Meir Dagan on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” 2012
Dagan was undoubtedly referring to the opposition expressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his then-defense minister, Ehud Barak, by Dagan, the top military officer (Chief of the General Staff) Gabi Ashkenazi, and the head of domestic security (the agency known as Shin Bet), Yuval Diskin.
As Yossi Melman reported over 4 months ago:
“Netanyahu turned to the chief of staff, General Ashkenazi, and told him to ‘set the systems for P-plus,’ a term meaning to swiftly increase the preparedness of the military in case of a war with Iran. The measures to be taken in such a situation could include moving military units, strengthening intelligence capabilities and preparing the home front for a war. …
“The truth is that Netanyahu and Barak did not order the military to plan a direct, all-out attack on Iran. Their true intention was to trigger a chain of events which would create tension and provoke Iran, and eventually could have led to a war that might drag in the United States.
“At that meeting and on other occasions, General Ashkenazi warned Netanyahu and Barak that such an order could ‘create uncontrollable facts on the ground’ which could ignite an undesired regional war. ‘If you open and press an accordion, the instrument starts playing music’ was the picturesque description from the chief of staff, who retired more than a year ago.”
Now, on Israeli TV, Meir Dagan has gone public with his account of how his country’s top political leaders — meaning Netanyahu and Barak — wanted to ready the “military and the entire systems, and then you may have a situation where you are on alert — and the other side sees it — and everybody is ready and preparing for war. A war which maybe nobody wants.”
While hinting that he saw the danger of an unwanted war at that time, Dagan has not publicly said what he advocates. It seems obvious that he would like robust covert action — including sabotage coordinated with the United States — to continue.
Dagan did repeat this week that he pledged, while leading the Mossad, that Iran would not create or acquire a nuclear weapons during his time as head of the spy agency. And Iran has not developed nuclear bombs. Dagan says publicly that Iran cannot make a nuclear weapon before 2014, meaning that there still is time to slow down the Iranians — or for American military action to destroy Iranian facilities far more thoroughly than could Israel.
May 1, 2013
Don’t assume Israel will feel compelled to attack Iran this year, if Iran continues to enrich uranium even beyond the limits declared by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his famous “red line” speech at the United Nations in New York last September. So says the former head of the military intelligence agency, Aman — retired General Amos Yadlin.
Amos Yadlin, at an AIPAC policy conference
Yadlin, who was one of the pilots who bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Baghdad in 1981, is now the director of a think tank affiliaited with Tel Aviv University, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
He was quoted worldwide this week as saying that this summer, Iran will have surpassed the level indicated by Netanyahu as an intolerable line — perhaps even a casus belli for Israel.
Much has changed, of course, since September. Netanyahu has been reelected and has a different coalition of ministers who seem less willing than their predecessors to consider war against Iran. Barack Obama has also been reelected, and then he made his first visit to Israel as President — pledging that the United States will not permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
A new American defense secretary has been installed — a former senator, Chuck Hagel, who seemed in the past a bit skeptical about putting Israel’s security near the top of U.S. military priorities. This week, however, he had a productive and busy working visit to Israel — and could not be accused of being anything but a militant and firm friend of Israel.
Out of all this — and more, including disagreements on whether Syria’s army definitely used chemical weapons against rebels in the long and tragic civil war — comes a clarified analysis by Amos Yadlin.
General Yadlin, who commanded the largest agency in Israel’s intelligence community, made a point of telling Kol Israel radio: “I am a person who calms things and doesn’t inflame them.” Yet he confirmed that he criticized Netanyahu’s decision to set a public “red line,” because Iran can keep its quantity of uranium enriched to a 20% or higher level just below the line declared by the prime minister. ”But the Iranians can continue to enrich, in large quantities, at lower enrichment levels — in a very wide program with a very large number of centrifuges,” Yadlin added. (Quotations are somewhat paraphrased from his statements in Hebrew on the radio.)
He said that this could open the way to “a bad deal to be negotiated by the major nations with Iran,” permitting lower-level uranium enrichment. So far, he noted, Iran has been careful to stay “formally” below the line set by Netanyahu.
Yet Yadlin suggested that Israel does not have to feel compelled to attack Iran, even if that country does surpass the “red line” this summer. ”There are many things that can be done before an attack,” the retired general said — hinting at covert action inside Iran. ”Last year I said that we have to give diplomacy and sanctions more chance, and there are the various things that happen to the Iranian reactors and nobody takes credit for them.”
He said he continues to believe that in the second half of this year or at the start of 2014, “every one of the three leaders — of Iran, Israel, and the USA — will have to make a tough decision.” Yadlin has suggested that Iran will have the capability, if decided by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to break out quickly toward building nuclear bombs.
“There are different timetables between the United States and Israel,” said Yadlin, “due to different capabilities.” Israel is determined to prevent Iran from getting near the break-out to bomb construction, whereas the United States might not turn to military action until Iran is actually putting together a bomb — “and that could be years,” said Yadlin.
“I assume President Obama and the Prime Minister discussed this during the President’s visit, and just because a ‘red line’ is crossed doesn’t force an attack [by Israel or the U.S.].”
The radio host asked whether Hagel’s announcement that the U.S. will sell mid-air refueling planes, Osprey tilt-rotor helicopters, and advanced radar to Israel is intended as a message to “just sit quietly, because you have plenty of weapons.”
Yadlin replied: “The public doesn’t understand just what happened. Hagel announced approval to sell weapons, but then that may or may not fit into the plans of the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]. And it’s not clear when the weapons would be received. That’s typically 3 years. So it’s not relevant to the discussion [over bombing Iran this year or next year].”
Noting that the IDF chief of staff, General Benny Gantz, said this week that Israel could attack Iran on its own and be effective, Yadlin commented: “He’s right. Israel can do it. And I believe there wouldn’t be a world war, and the Middle East wouldn’t burn. But Iran would react. It wouldn’t be like Iraq [which did not respond in 1981]. Yet Iran’s capabilities are not quite as publicly presented. So an attack [by Israel] is not automatic, and the Iranian response would not necessarily be what other people think.”
If you’re assuming there will be a regional war, out of this nuclear issue, Yadlin advises: “I say calm down.”
April 24, 2013
On-the-spot reports from Almaty, Kazakhstan, on the latest talks between Iran and the P5+1 (including the United States), indicate no progress. If the negotiations are aimed at avoiding a military strike on Iran — or even a wider Middle East war — we are now a step, although probably only a small step, closer to an outbreak of violence.
Al-Monitor, an independent website specializing in Middle East news, has Laura Rozen tweeting from the Kazakh capital — with perhaps a hint of hope: a U.S. source saying there was a “whole new level of engagement” and “very intense talks on substance,” but the sides remain “far apart.”
Netanyahu at the UN in New York, September 2012
In a report by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Western diplomats were said to be “puzzled” that Iran did not fully respond to an offer that might have moved some way toward Iran’s demand that its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes be recognized.
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, although busy (as expected) with domestic issues and his new coalition cabinet, can be expected to find the time — most likely at the Sunday cabinet meeting — to issue a form of “I told you so.” He has repeatedly expressed his doubts that negotiations and sanctions will persuade Iran to halt its work aimed (in the view of Israel and most Western governments) at building nuclear bombs.
While welcoming President Barack Obama’s declaration that the United States won’t allow Iran to create or obtain a nuclear weapon, Netanyahu and Obama still disagree on what is and isn’t acceptable.
As is said in the Middle East, they disagree on what is the Red Line. The U.S. and Israel obviously will need a lot of behind-the-scenes discussions if they are to establish a united stand.
In the meantime, covert actions — including unprecedented joint operations by American and Israeli espionage agencies — aimed at slowing Iran’s nuclear work are believed to be continuing.
April 14, 2013
by Dan Raviv in Washington
Presidents Obama and Shimon Peres review Israeli troops at Ben-Gurion airport (White House photo)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, answering some questions in public with President Barack Obama alongside in Jerusalem, emphasized that Israeli and U.S. intelligence assessments of Iran’s nuclear program do not differ. But there’s a differing sense of what “the timing” means to each country.
Somewhat surprisingly deciding not to disagree with his American guest on how long it might take for Iran to build nuclear bombs, Netanyahu said: “If Iran decides to go for a nuclear weapon, then it’s true it will take them about a year.” But he added that Iran’s uranium enrichment can reach a dangerous, unacceptable level even without a bomb being designed and constructed.
Netanyahu made a point of thanking Obama for saying in public that they have instructed their teams to negotiate a new ten-year security cooperation agreement. Their talks, behind closed doors, almost certainly included secret cooperation on many levels — including covert activities that the Mossad and the CIA have done together to retard Iran’s nuclear program.
Obama has begun a three-day visit to Israel, meant to counter the impression that many people had that he does not like the Jewish state. At Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport and then in Jerusalem, Obama repeatedly stressed his commitment to Israel’s security as the nation of the Jewish people.
March 20, 2013
Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu
President Obama doesn’t want Israel to do it. He’ll say so, in person, in Jerusalem this week. Israel is likely, once again, to restrain itself — reluctantly depending on Obama to strike Iran. If deemed unavoidable and unnecessary. Maybe next year.
When one assesses the make-up of Benjamin Netanyahu’s newly formed coalition in Jerusalem, there are several facts that lead to a prediction that Israel’s military will not attack Iran this year.
We humbly note that we published our assessment, a year ago, that no attack would occur in 2012. A very senior Israeli official, reacting to one of our articles at TabletMag.com, challenged one of us: “How can you be so sure?” His job, it seems, was to add to the impression — around the world and especially in the United States — that Netanyahu was very serious in warning that Israel might have to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities at any time.
Netanyahu’s partner in saber-rattling was Defense Minister Ehud Barak. But Barak, unable to find any traction for a new political party he tried to form, ended up quitting politics. He is not in the Knesset, and he’s no longer in the cabinet. Barak’s absence is the main indicator that Israel won’t be rushing its air force or missiles into an offensive against Iran.
The new defense minister, a former military chief of staff who is proud of leading the elite Sayeret Matkal commando force, is Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon. He is a hawk in most things, but it seems that he is in agreement with the current and former military and intelligence chiefs who are against a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran.
One reason is the assessment that Iran’s nuclear work would be delayed for only a while. Some officials say that is good enough. But, when balancing any gains against the likely damage, destruction, and deaths from Iranian retaliation, the military and intelligence chiefs have concluded that attacking Iran — and doing so without American participation — would be folly.
Retired Major-General Amos Yadlin, who was head of Aman (the Military Intelligence) agency until 2010 — and now heads an influential think tank in Tel Aviv — is trying to keep the military option extremely credible by telling the AIPAC conference in Washington that no one is talking about starting “a war” with Iran. (View the video here.) Yadlin said what’s being considered would be a “one-night operation.” It doesn’t appear that Yadlin favors a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran, but — as an officer who served as Israel’s military attache in Washington — he does want to keep America’s attention on the unacceptable dangers of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
President Barack Obama has just repeated his firm intention to stop Iran from doing so, but his timeline is significantly different from Netanyahu’s. Obama told Israel TV that it would take more than a year for Iran to build a nuclear bomb — and he apparently meant after a decision by Iran’s leaders to step-up their uranium enrichment and bomb project. Both U.S. and Israeli intelligence assess that Iran has not yet made that decision.
Obama will arrive in Israel on Wednesday (March 20) for his first visit as President, and he’ll have plenty of opportunity to discuss this and other issues with Netanyahu — both at a press conference and behind closed doors. On March 21 he will visit leaders of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and Obama will deliver a speech aimed at the Israeli people in a convention center in Jerusalem.
March 16, 2013
At the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — AIPAC’s largest in Washington — almost all of the 13,000 supporters of Israel applauded Vice President Joe Biden when he gave a traditional, often personal, pro-Israel speech.
Everyone was aware, and Biden mentioned, that President Barack Obama will be visiting Israel in just over two weeks. Biden, to the relief of many in the AIPAC crowd, had very little to say about the possibility of any plan to revive peace talks with the Palestinians.
The Vice President, whose last appearance at a large AIPAC policy conference had included remarks “you won’t like” about why Israel must stop building settlements in the West Bank, portrayed Obama Administration policy as identical to Israel’s — notably on how to confront Iran’s nuclear program.
Vice President Biden (r.) at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013
As transcribed by the White House:
Big nations can’t bluff. And Presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff. And President Barack Obama is not bluffing. He is not bluffing. (Applause.)
We are not looking for war. We are looking to and ready to negotiate peacefully; but all options, including military force, are on the table. But as I made clear at the Munich Security Conference just last month, our strong preference, the world’s preference, is for a diplomatic solution. So while that window is closing, we believe there is still time and space to achieve the outcome.
Most interestingly, for readers of IsraelSpy.com, the loquacious Biden continued:
We are in constant dialogue, sharing information with the Israeli military, the Israeli intelligence service, the Israeli political establishment at every level, and we’re taking all the steps required to get there.
But I want to make clear to you something. If, God forbid, the need to act occurs, it is critically important for the whole world to know we did everything in our power, we did everything that reasonably could have been expected to avoid any confrontation. And that matters. Because God forbid, if we have to act, it’s important that the rest of the world is with us. (Applause.) We have a united international community. We have a united international community behind these unprecedented sanctions.
Just after Biden left the stage, Prime Minister Netanyahu — who said he could not attend the convention in Washington because he is so busy trying to form a new government coalition — addressed the crowd by video link from Jerusalem.
Netanyahu returned to saber-rattling against Iran, by declaring that words alone and sanctions alone will not stop Iran’s nuclear program. “Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat,” he said, “if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”
March 4, 2013
by Dan Raviv in Washington
Although Israel’s military censor wouldn’t let reporters in that country confirm any details, news emerged about Israeli airstrikes inside Syria on Tuesday — bombing targets that included a Syrian military convoy.
Reports filtering out of the region said Israeli jets hit Syrian army trucks suspected of transporting anti-aircraft missiles into Lebanon. Syria had a choice: complain in public, or say nothing. In September 2007, President Bashar al-Assad’s government said almost nothing after Israel’s air force destroyed a nuclear reactor the Syrians were building with North Korea’s help. Israeli officials never confirmed the attack, largely so as not to humiliate Assad and goad him into retaliation. Syria consistently denied that it was building a nuclear facility.
This week, Syria suddenly announced that Israeli jets struck a military research center close to the capital, Damascus. Analysts began to think that there had been multiple targets. That would accord with the notion, “As long as we’re attacking, we might as well hit a few places and take care of more than one problem.” (The Israeli equivalent of a well known British expression could be, “In for an agora, in for a shekel.”)
Israeli leaders, based on military intelligence assessments that Syria’s chemical weapons could fall into the hands of rebels or be transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon — considered for many months whether to act.
In 2008, Israel had also warned President Assad — who, at the time, was still powerful and was not coping with a civil war — that he should not supply anti-aircraft systems to Hezbollah. That warning, of course, would have resulted from intelligence that the Syrians were about to do just that. Iran, of course, would have coordinated such supplies and transfers.
Israeli intelligence — and most political leaders — believe that there will, one day, be another round of war across Israel’s border with Lebanon. They say that if Hezbollah has advanced anti-aircraft missiles and the accompanying radar installations, that would be a “game changer.”
Israel considered that a “red line,” as some officials put it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not prepared to wait until the outbreak of all-out hostilities, and he decided to prevent any shipments or truck convoys as and when they are detected. One can call it an attempt to nip this particular problem in the bud.
It is probably not a coincidence that the airstrike, and the leak of a little information about it as a warning to Syria and others, comes during the process of coalition-building in Israeli politics. Netanyahu is getting the nod from President Shimon Peres — legally, a 28-day window — to form a new government, after the election last week in which Netanyahu lost considerable clout.
Netanyahu seems anxious to demonstrate that he is still Israel’s strongest potential leader on security issues.
As for coordination with the United States, Israeli officials for months have consulted with their U.S. counterparts on the perils of Syrian weapons being moved. It is not clear whether Israel informed the U.S. before striking the Syrian convoy, but the director of the military intelligence agency known as Aman — General Aviv Kochavi — is reliably reported to have been in Washington DC a few days before the attack.
It is completely clear that the Obama Administration is not protesting in any way. That,in this context, signals approval of what Israel has done and might keep doing.
February 2, 2013
Less than a week after the end (for now) of the latest round of bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas faction in Gaza, Israel’s defense minister has suddenly announced that he is ending his political career.
Barak’s official photo while prime minister
Ehud Barak, who is 70 years old, said he is willing to continue as defense minister until a new cabinet is installed after the January 22 election. He has been leading his own, very small political party but was not expected to win many or any seats in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament).
As leader of the Labor Party he was prime minister in 2000, when Israel and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat came very close to a peace agreement mediated by President Bill Clinton. As defense minister in recent years, he was perhaps the leading voice constantly warning that Israel might bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.
As the election approached and Barak put distance between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Barak left most of the saber-rattling to Netanyahu — including the prime minister’s famous speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this past September. Barak seemed no longer to favor an attack on Iran, at least not at this time.
Many officials in Barack Obama’s administration, and notably the President himself, seemed to find Ehud Barak much easier to deal with than Netanyahu. Obama has hinted that he has had private talks with Barak, and — with the prestige of being a peace-making former prime minister as well as Israel’s most decorated soldier — Ehud Barak was apparently able to explain Israel’s thinking (regarding Iran) to the American President.
Barak was a commando in the Israeli army’s elite unit, Sayeret Matkal. Here is an excerpt from our book which mentions him. This is from Chapter 10, “More than Vengeance,” which is mostly about the counter-PLO campaign of shootings and bombings by the Mossad after Israeli athletes were massacred at the Munich Olympics in 1972:
In April 1973, the PLO attacked an Israeli civilian plane in Nicosia, Cyprus, and the nearby home of the Israeli ambassador.
The Jewish state seemed to be retaliating the very next night – although the timing was probably pure coincidence, as this was a major operation on territory much more treacherous than Rome or Paris. The Israelis would now take the battle to PLO headquarters in Lebanon, an enemy country. They had concluded that liquidating Palestinian operatives and coordinators in Europe was not sufficient. Leading the way into the lion’s den, this time, would be army commandos. The Mossad would play a support role.
The assassins were members of Sayeret Matkal, wearing civilian clothes. At least one of them, the future prime minister Ehud Barak, wore a wig and was dressed as a woman. In the middle of bustling Beirut, using vehicles and routes provided by the Mossad, the well-trained soldiers killed two organizers of PLO violence in their apartments and also shot dead the group’s spokesman. The intelligence about where they lived, and that they would be home, was perfect. So was the entry and exit plan by way of a Lebanese beach.
After a few years, Israel did not bother to deny this invasion of a neighboring country, and its code name Aviv Ne’urim (Spring of Youth) appears on official Israeli military websites as a notable and laudable event.
When Palestinian terrorists and activists were liquidated, relatives of dead Israelis were informed that a blow had been struck in tribute to their loved ones. The families, however, generally derived little joy from the fact that Arabs also had fatherless children now attending funerals.
November 26, 2012
While global media picked up on an intriguing element of a TV documentary in Israel — the apparent refusal of the military and intelligence chiefs to carry out a mobilization in 2010 that appeared to mean preparation for attacking Iran — a subtle but important feature of those events remained buried.
Yossi Melman, co-author of Spies Against Armageddon, reveals what the true intention was — at least as seen by the military and Mossad leaders who said “no” and, frankly, were shocked. Here is Melman’s article, appearing at the Middle East news and analysis website Al-Monitor.com.
TEL AVIV — Sometime in 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with their top five cabinet ministers for a routine yet secret meeting to discuss pressing security and foreign-policy issues. The group, which has no legal status and does not have the authority to make decisions, is known as the “Secret Seven,” inspired by the “Secret Seven” series of adventure novels for children by the British author Enid Blyton.
Also present at that meeting (the date of which Israeli censors do not allow to be specified) were Israel’s security chiefs, including then-Mossad director Meir Dagan, Chief of the General Staff Major-General Gabi Ashkenazi and a few others.
Minutes before that meeting ended, Netanyahu turned to the chief of staff, General Ashkenazi, and told him to “set the systems for P-plus,” a term meaning to swiftly increase the preparedness of the military in case of a war with Iran. The measures to be taken in such a situation could include moving military units, strengthening intelligence capabilities and preparing the home front for a war.
The 2010 incident was reported earlier this week in the opening of a new season of “Uvda” (“fact” in Hebrew), a flagship program of Channel 2, Israel’s largest commercial and privately owned TV station.
The story hit Israeli headlines and reverberated in major Middle Eastern and Western media outlets. The prime minister’s words two years ago are now interpreted by the Israeli and international media as an order for the military to begin the countdown to an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
But the truth of what happened, which went farther than that particular meeting involving Netanyahu, Barak and their top military and security echelon, is much more complex and intriguing than the way it was broadcast and understood.
The truth is that Netanyahu and Barak did not order the military to plan a direct, all-out attack on Iran. Their true intention was to trigger a chain of events which would create tension and provoke Iran, and eventually could have led to a war that might drag in the United States.
At that meeting and on other occasions, General Ashkenazi warned Netanyahu and Barak that such an order could “create uncontrollable facts on the ground” which could ignite an undesired regional war. ”If you open and press an accordion, the instrument starts playing music” was the picturesque description from the chief of staff, who retired more than a year ago.
Ashkenazi’s concerns were echoed at the time by Mossad director Dagan, who at present is fighting for his life at an Israeli hospital after a liver transplant four weeks ago.
Before his illness, Dagan, who retired from his office nearly two years ago, talked in private on numerous occasionns about Netanyahu and Barak’s intentions against Iran. He revealed that he witnessed several incidents in which Netanyahu, who became prime minister in 2009 and is seeking reelection in January 2013, conspired with Barak to take measures which could have led to miscalculations by Iran.
One such scary scenario was the possibility that Iranian intelligence could have noticed the Israeli military preparations and decided to stage a pre-emptive strike against Israel or US targets in the region. Israel, in such a situation, would have claimed that it was a victim of Iranian aggression and retaliated. America, too, could have found itself caught up in an unpredictable circle of violence.
Sources who were privy to the secret deliberations told me that Ashkenazi and Dagan eventually managed to convince the security cabinet and then the full cabinet, which are the only authorized bodies to decide on war and other vital issues, that Netanyahu and Barak were playing with fire and may not only ignite a regional war in the Middle East, but also ruin decades of close, intimate strategic cooperation with the US.
Since then, bad blood has overtaken the relations between Netanyahu and Barak on one hand and Ashkenazi, Dagan and Yuval Diskin, the former chief of the domestic security service Shin Bet, on the other. A few months ago, Diskin described Netanyahu and Barak as being “motivated” by a “messianic” drive. Barak in return accused his critics of attempting a military “putsch” — the disobedience of generals of legitimate elected officials — and hinted that they deliberately did not prepare the military for the mission.
For the time being, the danger of war with Iran has diminished. Israel is preoccupied with its national election on January 22. The Iranian issue is no longer high on the Israeli political agenda. Opinion polls indicate that Barak, who is leading a small party, may not be reelected. Netanyahu himself, in his speech last September in the UN General Assembly, set spring, or at the latest, summer 2013, as a new deadline to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.
The results of the US elections will also have a tremendous effect on the future Israeli deliberations and decision regarding Iran.
If Netanyahu is reelected — and he has a fairly good chance, though it’s premature to predict — he will get right back to beating the war drums. He is obsessed with Iran’s nuclear program. He has time and again likened Iran’s policies to German Nazi hatred of the Jews. He seems to feel certain that if Iran produces nuclear weapons, they will be used to destroy Israel and the Jewish people.
Netanyahu reiterated this week in interviews that if he is re-elected, he will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons. He refused to be more specific about how he would achieve that. But with the re-election of President Obama, and the likely re-election of Netanyahu, what to do about Iran, and the consequences of such action, will be at the very top of the national-security agendas of both Israel and the United States in 2013.
Yossi Melman is an Israeli commentator on security and intelligence affairs and the co-author with CBS News Correspondent Dan Raviv of Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars. They blog at IsraelSpy.com.
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/israel-secret-seven.html#ixzz2BZ78P0AZ
November 7, 2012
by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman
One of the most important debates on the world scene has gone silent. For more than a year, commentators and politicians worldwide had been discussing: How can Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program be stopped, and should Israel be stopped from bombing Iran?
The power of election scheduling is hugely impressive. In both the United States and Israel, political considerations have dwarfed what seemed until recently the most urgent, pressing strategic questions on Earth.
With Americans voting November 6, and Israelis having their national election on January 22, the debate is mute.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in recent years has been an enthusiastic saber-rattler, does not see any advantage in thundering about Iran’s nuclear program right now. His most recent big statement came at the United Nations in New York in late September, when he held a cartoonish diagram of Iran’s bomb-making progress but truly illustrated a time line that seems to delay any military action until mid-2013.
However, if Netanyahu finds that his opponents start bashing him over failures – or harsh realities – in the providing the social and economic needs of Israelis, the prime minister may well wish to change the subject. To portray himself as the only true tough guy in town, he would probably start beating the war drums again. That could occur anytime before January 22.
The defense minister in his lame duck cabinet, Ehud Barak, is leading his own small political party and has changed his tone on Iran. Barak is more obvious now in his reluctance to see Israeli warplanes and missiles strike Iran, but in truth Barak will say almost anything for political advantage — so one does not know what he would do, in the remotely possible scenario that he might return to the post of defense minister.
One man who might have kept the Iran debate alive is Meir Dagan. After serving as Mossad director from 2002 to 2010 and re-directing the priorities of Israel’s foreign espionage agency – featuring secret, daring sabotage and assassination missions inside Iran — Dagan became surprisingly vocal on the subject of Iran’s nuclear program.
In December 2010, just before his departure from the Mossad, Dagan invited Yossi Melman and a few other Israeli journalists for an unprecedented briefing at the agency’s headquarters north of Tel Aviv. The spy chief claimed credit for delaying the Iranians’ work on uranium enrichment and bomb development. And Dagan clearly spoke out against the military option, quite specifically against plans being laid by Netanyahu and Barak.
Within months, Dagan was speaking more frequently about how “stupid” it would be for Israel to launch air force sorties and missiles at Iran. In 2012, he was interviewed in English on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and warned that Iranian retaliation would make daily life unbearable in Israel. Dagan said Iran’s leaders are “rational,” in a way, suggesting that they could be persuaded to halt their nuclear work.
The implicit message also was that more covert action could continue to be effective: anything from assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists (actions which our book Spies Against Armageddon clearly ascribes to the Mossad) to cyberwarfare such as the Stuxnet worm which damaged computer-controlled uranium centrifuges in Iran. (Our book reported that the cyberwarfare, probably including more computer viruses, was and is a joint U.S.-Israel project.)
Dagan, as luck would have it, has been diagnosed with liver cancer. According to people close to him, he sought diagnosis and possible treatment at the Sloane Kettering cancer center in New York City. Apparently a liver transplant was recommended, but no donor was available. He found the same dead end in Germany and in India.
In Israel, where naturally a former chief of the Mossad would have some VIP priority (as much as anyone might), no donor was available. Medical policies in Israel discourage liver transplants for any patient older than 65, because senior citizens are not generally likely to benefit — or survive — for long after a transplant. Dagan is 67 years old.
An appropriate donor (meaning a “match” who had very recently died) was located in Belarus. Dagan flew to that former Soviet republic, without any public announcement, for the liver transplant. For some reason, the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko, considered to be Europe’s last dictator, decided last month to reveal that the former Mossad chief was in that country recovering from a transplant.
Sources in Israel said Dagan was “struggling for his life,” and indeed liver cancer is almost always extremely serious and recovery from a liver transplant uncertain. Dagan has returned to Israel and is hospitalized in a medical center with guards and almost no publicity.
People close to him continue to be very worried. Four weeks after the surgery, they say he is not showing good signs of recovery. They describe his condition as “stable” but add that he still battling to survive.
He might have been a powerful voice, during an Israeli election campaign when fateful decisions demand to be discussed. Although not running for parliament, he would have spoken out against the notion of Israel bombing Iran, Meir Dagan is, however, unavailable.
Behind the scenes, Israel’s military and intelligence agencies are surely preparing for all possibilities — for any orders that any Israeli prime minister might issue to them.
We know this is a perennial statement, but here goes: Something big has to happen in 2013, in one direction or another. Either Iran will give in to the sanctions and military threats and suspend its uranium enrichment, or the United States – whether under Barack Obama or Mitt Romney – will exercise its military might.
Those are the two possibilities most mentioned by Israelis, but they know that Israel may conclude in 2013 that it has to go it alone and do what it can to damage Iran’s nuclear program.
November 4, 2012
Netanyahu Needs His Own Etch-a-Sketch – by Dan Raviv
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given in to the temptation he has felt all this year — to shatter the gridlock in his sprawling, multi-party cabinet by calling an early election for Jan. 22. If he can win a bigger majority in the Knesset, he can handpick more of his own ministers.
That election date comes about four months before Netanyahu’s deadline for a fateful decision on how to stop Iran’s steadily advancing uranium enrichment — the “red line” he drew with a magic marker at the United Nations in New York two weeks ago.
The prime minister is hoping that voters in his country will give him a renewed and stronger mandate to deal with Iran and to deal with the United States: forcefully with the former, and perhaps using more genteel diplomacy with the latter.
Israelis increasingly realize that they need the support, and perhaps even the participation, of the American military to make any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities truly effective. The timeline unveiled by Netanyahu at the UN suggested that by the spring or summer of 2013, Iran will reach a key stage, enriching enough uranium to make a quick and secretive dash toward building nuclear bombs.
The prime minister, who is strongly favored to win a fresh mandate, needs to be ready to engineer American support in the Iran crisis — whether it is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the White House starting Jan. 20.
If it is Romney who wins, Israeli politicians are fairly confident that they will have an avowed friend in the Oval Office: someone who suggests that whatever Israel decides to do to defend itself is fine with him. Strategists in Israel have cautioned, however, that a new president often is unable in his first year to get the immense military and bureaucracy of the United States to do anything hugely dramatic. As some of them put it: Romney is very friendly, but he might not come through.
If Obama is re-elected, Netanyahu faces a subtler task. He plainly does not get along well with Obama on a personal basis, but what really counts is their political friction. That is what makes many Israelis nervous. They have been highly attuned, since the start of a tight strategic relationship with the United States in the early 1970s, to the level of support they feel from Washington. Israeli politicians who let hostility with Washington fester do so at their own political peril.
The Israeli leader, especially if he and Obama both win new four-year terms, will need what a Romney aide once called an Etch-a-Sketch: a device that he can shake and thus forget about all that was said and done beforehand. Netanyahu needs to erase the battle lines with the White House, starkly drawn since 2009 by both him and Obama — even as their official spokespeople almost always deny the dissonance.
At the start of their feud four years ago, the new American president was visiting Cairo and reaching out to offer talks with Tehran. That was Obama’s way of pushing for a new approach to the Middle East, one that did not seem so heavily tilted toward Israeli government policies as George W. Bush’s had been. The Nobel Prize committee plainly loved the change, and Obama won the world’s most prominent peace prize.
Netanyahu, however, felt that he had to protect his view of Israel’s security. He was reluctant to freeze housing construction for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and was adamantly opposed to any restrictions in east Jerusalem.
The prime minister practically lectured the president in public, as they sat side by side in the Oval Office. Netanyahu was out to impress Israeli voters and his somewhat fragile coalition back home. He seemed less concerned about the ill will growing in parts of the Obama administration. The Israeli leader was certainly encouraged by standing ovations when he addressed a joint session of Congress in Washington.
For the sake of U.S.-Israel relations, he should find a way to shake things up in a positive way. He might find gestures that he can make to the Palestinian Authority, giving American diplomacy an opening to try to restart peace negotiations that have withered to nothingness. There are many reasons for any occupant of the White House to want to appear as a peacemaker in the Middle East.
Netanyahu may instead choose to return to saber rattling toward Iran, trying to reap some of the benefits he believes he achieved in the past year or so of threatening war. He did indeed have a hand in persuading the United States and Europe to make economic sanctions against Iran even harsher. Israel, in the past decade, has succeeded in focusing much of the world’s attention on the dangers of Iran developing nuclear weapons. This is one of the accomplishments likely to help him win votes in January.
Dan Raviv, a CBS News correspondent, is co-author (with Yossi Melman) of “Every Spy a Prince” and a new history of Israeli espionage and security, “Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars.” He blogs at IsraelSpy.com
October 24, 2012
The New York Times has a scoop in the Sunday paper: “U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks.”
The dispatch, datelined Washington, says there have been “intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term” in 2009. Helen Cooper and Mark Landler write that talks, after America’s Election Day, “could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.”
[The White House, on Saturday night, issued a denial: "It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections." The statement from the National Security Council spokesman adds that, while efforts for "a diplomatic solution" continue through the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council + Germany), the Obama Administration has "said from the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally."]
Several Iranian dissidents living in exile have claimed, in recent weeks, that a deal has already been reached — for Iran to freeze or suspend its uranium enrichment in some verifiable way, in exchange for a cancellation of the harshest economic sanctions against Iran.
One of those Iranians, using the false name Reza Kahlili, says he was a Revolutionary Guards member who spied inside his native country for the CIA. (U.S. officials do not dispute the essence of the story in his book, A Time to Betray.)
“Kahlili” has been distributing an on-line article he wrote that suggests Iran could soon announce it is stopping uranium enrichment — in an effort to ensure an election victory for Barack Obama. This, he said, was the result of secret talks in an Arabian Gulf country. [Saturday night, in an e-mail, Kahlili said the Times story is confirmation of what he has been writing.]
Kahlili’s prediction of an October Surprise has not seemed to pick up much traction among think-tank scholars and others who track Western efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
At an appearance this past week at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Peace in Washington, a former chief of Israel’s foreign intelligence service — the Mossad — said the West should be talking with Iran. Efraim Halevy, the Mossad director from 1998 to 2002, said the best wars are the ones that are won without firing a shot. Halevy suggested that Iran’s leaders must be persuaded that having nuclear weapons would be “more dangerous to them” than to anyone else.
Halevy suggested that “red lines,” demanded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are not conducive to diplomacy. He also said Iran should not be told repeatedly that its nuclear ambitions are an “existential threat” to Israel — because then you are telling your enemy that if he sticks with his current plan, he will be able to defeat you.
Halevy, 78, expressed confidence that Israel will find solutions and countermeasures to whatever a hostile Iran may develop.
An official response to the report that direct talks are being planned came from Israel’s ambassador in Washington — Michael Oren — who told The New York Times that Israel has not been informed of any negotiations in the works. Oren also expressed concern that Iran would use talks to “advance their nuclear weapons program.”
October 21, 2012
Interviewed by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz <http://bit.ly/QpTjQU>, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman expresses the hope that unrest may break out in the streets of Iranian cities. That could prompt the government to freeze or shut down the nuclear program, so that the international sanctions that are making life miserable in Iran would be cancelled.
Foreign Minister Lieberman
In Israel’s multi-party coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s viewpoint is not identical to those of his cabinet ministers; but insight into official Israeli thinking can be found in Lieberman’s remarks.
He tells Haaretz‘s Barak Ravid that Iran’s Islamic authorities may face their own Egypt-style “Tahrir Square” protests, before long.
Lieberman also defends Netanyahu’s use of a cartoon illustration of a bomb with a lit fuse — to represent the nuclear bomb Iran is hoping to build. ”You can laugh,” the foreign minister says, but everyone is now talking about Netanyahu’s demand for a “red line” to define clearly where Iran’s uranium enrichment must stop.
The interview also contains a hint of criticism for Netanyahu’s handling of relations with President Barack Obama. Lieberman, whose English is poor and has only a minor role in handling relations with the United States, says, “There’s no alternative to a genuine, serious ally like the U.S.”
September 29, 2012
Today, Thursday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu almost mockingly disputed the contention — he means the U.S. claim — that intelligence agencies will surely notice when Iran starts using its enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb.
That missive, apparently aimed at President Barack Obama, was part of Netanyahu’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
He had declared in dramatic terms — before leaving Jerusalem on Wednesday night — that the speech would be very important, setting out the need for the “red lines” that the Obama Administration refuses to set.
Washington officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have said that setting “red lines” or “deadlines” for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment would not be helpful.
Holding up what to some seemed like a silly, oversimplistic graphic – or cartoon – of a bomb with a lit fuse to represent Iran’s alleged drive to build a nuclear bomb, Netanyahu used a red magic marker to draw a horizontal “red line.” He said that Iran needs to be stopped before reaching that stage: before Iran has enriched enough weapons-grade uranium.
The graphic might seem risible, but it got Netanyahu the worldwide attention he wanted for his argument.
Click here to hear the 1-minute portion dealing with intelligence (meaning the CIA and Mossad) not being “foolproof” : Netanyahu 27sept12 some claim intel
Click here to hear the entire 12-minute Iran-nuclear section of Netanyahu’s speech to the General Assembly: INetanyahu 27sept12 Iran nuke part of speech
And click here to hear his entire 31-minute speech: Netanyahu 27sept12 whole UN speech
Here’s the official text of the “intelligence” portion of Netanyahu’s speech:
Now there are some who claim that even if Iran completes the enrichment process — even if it crosses that red line that I just drew — our intelligence agencies will know when and where Iran will make the fuse, assemble the bomb, and prepare the warhead.
Look, no one appreciates our intelligence agencies more than the Prime Minister of Israel. All these leading intelligence agencies are superb, including ours. They’ve foiled many attacks. They’ve saved many lives.
But they are not foolproof.
For over two years, our intelligence agencies didn’t know that Iran was building a huge nuclear enrichment plant under a mountain.
Do we want to risk the security of the world on the assumption that we would find in time a small workshop in a country half the size of Europe?
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb. The relevant question is at what stage can we no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb.
The red line must be drawn on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target.
I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down.
This will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether.
Two days ago, from this podium, President Obama reiterated that the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran cannot be contained.
I very much appreciate the President’s position as does everyone in my country. We share the goal of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This goal unites the people of Israel. It unites Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike and it is shared by important leaders throughout the world.
What I have said today will help ensure that this common goal is achieved.
Israel is in discussions with the United States over this issue, and I am confident that we can chart a path forward together.
September 27, 2012