21st Century Wire
NEVER MISSES A CUE
In a vintage performance at the UN General Assembly, October 1st, Israel’s Benyamin Netanyahu castigated the Obama outreach strategy to Tehran, telling world leaders that Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. He claims that this he bazaar-wise Tehran dealer is even more dangerous than the last one – a Muslim (if not Arab) street-credible menace, who according to Netanyahu is determined to use Obama’s naïve and dangerous thawing of relations to craftily advance his country’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
Israel, weapons analysts estimate, already has a fully functional nuclear arsenal including at least 80 warheads of the explosive power used against Hiroshima, of around 13 – 16 kilotons TNT equivalent, each.
Throughout the Syria debacle, Senator John McCain played the role of schizophrenic, war-hungry, conflict salesman. Even as conditioned changed, McCain remained unfazed, with some critics questioning McCain’s psychological, or mental state. Mr. Netanyahu is McCain’s political doppelgänger (or vice versa) on the Med.
Netanyahu told his heard-it-before audience at the UN that Israel would take unilateral military action against Iran if it felt that the international community would not act to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He was given what is called “polite brief applause”, from assembled diplomats and politicians who have heard it all before. Many times.
The Israeli leader’s harangue came a day after President Barack Obama reassured him during a White House meeting that the US would use force “if necessary” to prevent Iran from obtaining an atomic bomb. Described as blunt rhetoric, Netanyahu’s endless repeated threats that ‘Israel will bomb Tehran’ at some key near-term moment when Israel judges it has to, is counter-productive and more than anything indicates that it probably won’t happen.
Iran is a big country with a nationwide nuclear program that is more than 55 years old. How is Israel going to bomb all of Iran’s nuclear facilities? The potential fall-out could devastate the region and beyond. Tough talk by Netanyahu, but not at all realistic.
WORLD WAR II RHETORIC
The USA’s four-year Manhattan Project directed by Enrico Fermi was tasked with cobbling up two functional A-bombs and use them against Japan, in 1945, took 4 years to complete. The program was laughably low-tech, to us today. It used catgut and piano wire, hand-hammered light metal cladding, and home-made uranium enrichment equipment hidden in a Manhattan piano factory. Fermi’s plutonium brewing reactor had a total power of a few dozen kilowatts and was hidden underneath a New York football stadium with ultra-flimsy radiation protection. Compared to the Manhattan Project, the bomb project of Abdul Qadr “Bombs R Us” Khan, hidden in a disused cricketers’ lodge near Rawalpindi during the 1970′s and 1980′s, was a miracle of high-tech. It produced at least 7 fully functional A-bombs in 2 years.
Supposedly, Iranian nuclear engineers in a country that was the first non-Western country to benefit in the 1950′s from Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” aid and development program, would be completely unable to cobble an A-bomb, nearly 60 years later, if they wanted. The Iranian Bushehr nuclear complex – including a very large conventional power-generating reactor, operating since 2010 and delivering power to the grid since 3 Sept 2011, and like most reactors worldwide – is a vast Dirty Bomb in terms of its radiological inventory. Such an incident would likely at least 100 times the radiation released by the Hiroshima bomb. Netanyahu would struggle to mention this reality, let alone think it.
Israel claims to know for certain that Iran already has enough enriched uranium for making a conventional atomic bomb, rather than an instant “dirty bomb weapon”, which would only need nuclear wastes and ordinary explosives. Israel accuses Iran of developing and building missiles able to deliver any kind of military payload, such as nuclear weapons – clean or dirty. Iran’s Shahab-3 and Israel’s Jericho-2 missiles are classified by weapons analysts as medium-range, defined as having 800-2400 kilometres range. Iran’s Shahab-3B missiles are classified as intermediate range, with a range up to 5500 kilometres. The straight-line distance between Jerusalem and Tehran is 1560 kilometres.
Although no longer available to the public, the reference source for world missiles, IHS Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, paints a picture of ever-growing global missile capabilities and production. In a July 2013 posting for example, IHS Jane’s 360 publication, and still available to the public, stated that Saudi Arabia (since March) possesses Chinese-made DF-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles. These are able to carry a 2000 kilogram payload about 2000 kilometres. More than 75 countries have various kinds and types of missiles, but at present few have missiles able to cover more than 2400 kms. Neither Iran nor Israel has disclosed, or satellite-observed long range missile capability, that is, missiles able to cover up to 10,000 kilometres, but Israel has intensively developed its Patriot-type Arrow anti-missiles, notably for its “Iron Dome” project, for protecting urban areas.
To be sure, we all know about the once dreaded SCUD missile, basically a remake of German Nazi V2 rockets of World War II vintage, but the world has moved on and up since then. Netanyahu is therefore trying to apply the famous 1968 Paris student rebellion slogan: “Be reasonable – Demand the impossible”.
He says that Iran not only has to be unable to produce either a clean or dirty nuclear weapon, but must also give up missiles able to reach Israel.
In his half-hour diatribe at the UN General Assembly, the Israeli prime minister said: “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.” Having Obama on board as his main or sole ally, with Obama’s proven ability to fumble any initiative, this proud boast by Netanyahu could be put to the test.
Iran’s diplomatic mission at the U.N. responded to Mr. Netanyahu’s speech by warning Israel that Tehran would retaliate against any military strike. It of course once more repeated that its nuclear program is not aimed at weapons development, and also repeated its demand – called a “cheap diversionary tactic” by Israeli hawks – that Israel declares it has nuclear weapons, places its “presumed” nuclear weapons arsenal under international safeguards, and signs the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). Like Iran has done but Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea… have not.
White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to say whether the Israeli leader’s speech undermined Mr. Obama’s diplomatic overture. “It is entirely justifiable that Israel is skeptical about Iran and its intentions,” Mr. Carney said. “After all, this is a country whose leadership, until recently, was pledging to annihilate Israel”. Neither Carney nor Netanyahu are able to cite when, where and how Iran has pledged to ‘wipe Israel off the map’, but somehow, this meme has embedded itself into western media and culture. Yet, Israel still pledges to annihilate Iran. Sure, Netanyahu says so (and sounds desperate), but we don’t need to take him seriously.
Mr. Obama held a 15-minute phone call with Mr. Rouhani on Friday, the first conversation between American and Iranian presidents since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. The two countries have agreed to resume international talks on Iran’s nuclear program this month in Geneva. The Israeli prime minister noted that Iran, during another period of diplomatic outreach in 2003-05, when Mr. Rouhani was Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator, had completed a nuclear facility where milled uranium yellowcake is converted into gaseous uranium hexafluoride for enrichment to reactor grade fuel. Further enrichment can produce bomb-grade uranium.
“You see, Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it, too,” Netanyahu quipped.
Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates fear Iran will use improved relations with Washington to challenge what are called their “economic and security interests” across the Middle East. Both KSA and UAE, as well as Kuwait are moving ahead with very large civil nuclear reactor building projects – therefore also equipping themselves with Dirty Bombs, which at the least can be used as anti-invasion and anti-occupation weapons. Saudi Arabia as mentioned above, is actively buying intermediate range missile capabilities, which supposedly at some future time it could fill up with nuclear wastes and launch at any unlucky country within 2000 kilometres range that has incurred Wahabite wrath.
DANCE WITH THE DEVIL
The Obama administration has been seeking Israel’s support for its new diplomacy with Iran, American and Israeli officials have disclosed. The White House now fears that Mr. Netanyahu could become sufficiently enraged to carry out his threat of unilateral strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, sparking a wider Mid East war and sinking the so-called “delicate process” of Israel-Palestine talks.
Another fear among American diplomats is that if Israel is shunned by the US, or humiliated by the US, it may cease to work with and support the American “drone war” in the region, providing it with vital logistics and intelligence.
Netanyahu openly challenged Washington’s policy in his General Assembly tirade, calling Rouhani a fanatical Islamist leader no different than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust and threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”. Netanyahu wants more and stronger sanctions against Iran – despite this inevitably cutting Iran’s ability to produce and ship oil.
Israel’s leader accused Mr. Rouhani of being involved in overseeing Iranian terrorist attacks, meaning Hezbollah actions against Israel as well as other targets. Netanyahu added the claim that Israeli intelligence has discovered Iranian planning and involvement in one or more plots, in recent months, to bomb the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Although some pro-Israel groups voice concern that Mr. Netanyahu’s extremism risks isolating Israel internationally, as the U.S., Europe and the U.N. prepare for more extensive negotiations with Iran, the Think-Israel website which is not responsible for its posted comments, has regularly published claims from Israeli sources of Iranian attempts to undermine the Sunni minority-ruled Gulf states. The Iranian aim, extremists say, is to cripple Gulf oil exports to the West after using its A-bombs against Israel.
These are the fantasies and conspiracy theories which feed old fundamentalist war dogs like Netanyahu and McCain.
Washington’s Gulf state allies headed by Saudi Arabia, like Israel, are especially alarmed by the rapid move toward U.S.-Iranian thaw. This has created a diabolically strange Israeli-Saudi de facto alliance between Netanyahu’s Zionists and the extreme Sunni Wahabite regime of Saudi Arabia. These two outlying fundamentalist, religious states have more in common than most people realise.
The Wahabite Grand Caliphate dream, or nightmare, can all too easily be compared to the dangerous Greater Israel fantasy of the Zionists. We can hope that neither succeed.