Friday, June 28, 2013





The Economist  and Haaretz , certainly no cheerleaders for Prime Minister Netanyahu nor for Israel have, in the last several days, radically reversed their previous positions on the Iranian threat.

Attached below, is a four article package ,for your information.


#1     The Economist explains How close is Iran to having a nuclear bomb?
 6-26-2013
#2      The Economist explains  Can Iran be stopped? 6-22-2013

#3     Harretz Surprise: Benjamin Netanyahu was right about Iran  By Ari Shavit  6-27-2013 

#4     ‘Economist’ Warns Iran Won’t Be Stopped Jonathan S. Tobin  6-27-2013





For several years  I had been assisting  the National Security Council and the State Department in facilitating their back channel communications  with Iran. These efforts proved discouragingly unsuccessful.

On April 23, 2012, in an open  unclassified forum,   I was asked  whether I personally believed Iran would obtain a nuclear weapon. I answered “yes”. This was based in part upon my understanding of Iran's nuclear development progress and my understanding of the interplay within US intelligence/defense/ political establishments.

 Unfortunately, my pessimism appears to be well warranted.



How close is Iran to having a nuclear bomb?
Jun 26th 2013

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IRAN is putting up with sanctions that damage its economy rather than accept a deal limiting its nuclear programme. It has developed the capacity to enrich far more uranium than it needs for generating nuclear power or for medical research. And its outgoing president has talked about wanting to wipe Israel off the map. All of which suggests to outsiders that the country intends, at a time of its choosing, to get its hands on nuclear weapons. Iran, for its part, denies that it wants any such thing and points to a fatwa against both the possession and use of nuclear weapons. So how close is Iran to having a nuclear bomb?
To become a nuclear power, a country requires both the fissile material for a bomb and the means of delivering it reliably to its target (“weaponisation” in the jargon). Iran was thought to have suspended work on weaponisation in 2004, but now the International Atomic Energy Agency is not so sure. In order to create a nuclear weapon, Iran would need to convert highly enriched uranium into a metal sphere and make a detonator small enough to fit in the warhead of a ballistic missile. That is not beyond its technological capability.
But does Iran have enough uranium for a bomb? To make one it would need about 20 kilograms of highly enriched uranium. To get there it would need to begin with a larger amount of medium-enriched uranium—somewhere between 94 kilograms and 210 kilograms—and enrich it further. At present it is thought to have around 123 kilograms of medium-enriched uranium. And getting from 20%, the upper limit for medium enrichment, to 80% or 90% is not as hard as getting from 2% to 20%, which Iran has already done. The upshot is that although Iran may not have decided whether it wants a bomb, it already has most of what it needs to build one.
British and American intelligence sources think Iran is about a year away from having enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb, and rather further from mastering the technologies to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile. But David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security, thinks that by mid-2014 Iran will have the capacity to produce enough fissile material for a single bomb in one or two weeks, should it choose to do so. It seems unlikely that Iran could be forced to change course on this matter by foreigners. The best that can be hoped for is that it decides that it does not want or need a nuclear weapon. The alternative is probably a nuclear-armed Middle East in which Iran and Israel—and eventually Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt—all have missiles pointed at each other.

#2     Can Iran be stopped?
The West should intervene in Syria for many reasons. One is to stem the rise of Persian power
Jun 22nd 2013 |From the print edition



IN 2009 Iran was on the verge of electing a reformer as president. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, subverted the vote and crushed the ensuing protests. Last week the same desire for change handed a landslide victory to Hassan Rohani—and Mr Khamenei hailed it as a triumph.
When a country has seen as much repression as Iran, outsiders hoping for a better future for the place instinctively want to celebrate along with all those ordinary Iranians who took to the streets. The smiling Mr Rohani’s public pronouncements encourage optimism, for he sounds like a different sort of president from the comedy-villain, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who precedes him. Yet even if his election bodes well for Iranians, it does not necessarily hold equal promise for the rest of the world. Iran’s regional assertiveness and its nuclear capacity mean that it is a more dangerous place than it ever was before.
The case for Compromise
Given the country’s obvious weaknesses, that sounds implausible. Inflation is running at over 30%, and the economy shrinking. Inequality is growing, with 40% of Iranians thought to be living below the poverty line. Sanctions restricted May’s oil exports to just 700,000 barrels a day, a third of what they used to be; as a result there are shortages of basic goods and growing unemployment caused by factory closures.
Yet the Persian lion has not lost its claws, nor has the theocracy suddenly become a democracy. Mr Rohani was indeed the most reformist of the candidates on offer at the election, but in much the way that Churchill was more of a teetotaller than George Brown. The 64-year-old cleric has been a loyal servant of the Islamic Republic from its inception. For years he headed the national security council (see article). He is constrained by a system that deemed just eight people fit to stand in the recent election and rejected 678 others (including a former president). The president’s power is limited by Iran’s other institutions, many of which are in conservative hands.
While Iran’s politics have probably changed less than Mr Rohani’s election suggests, the balance of power between Iran and the rest of the world has been shifting in Iran’s favour for two reasons. First, thanks to heavy investment in nuclear capacity by the mullahs, and despite attempts by the West and Israel to delay or sabotage the nuclear programme, Iran will soon be able to produce a bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium in a matter of weeks (see briefing). Iran has installed more than 9,000 new centrifuges in less than two years, more than doubling its enrichment capability. It is a short step from the 20% enriched uranium that the country’s facilities are already producing at an increasing rate to conversion into the fissile material needed for an implosion device. Although Western intelligence agencies think Iran is still at least a year away from being able to construct such a weapon, some experts believe that it could do so within a few months if it chose to—and that the time it would take is shrinking.
This makes a nonsense of Western policy on Iran. Round after round of negotiations to try to persuade Iran not to get a bomb have been backed up by the implicit threat that armed force would be used if talks failed. But now it looks as though Iran will soon be in a position to build a weapon swiftly and surreptitiously. Should the West decide to use force, Iran could amass a small arsenal by the time support for a military strike was rallied.
Against that background, a friendlier president becomes a trap as well as an opportunity. He may offer the chance of building better relations through engagement and the gradual lifting of sanctions. But Iran could take advantage of this inevitably slow process to build a weapon.
The other development that threatens the West’s interests is happening around Iran. Despite its economic troubles, the Iranian state is a powerful beast compared with its neighbours, and is keen to assert itself abroad. The Iraqi government is now its ally. It has sway over chunks of Lebanon through Hizbullah, the Shia party-cum-militia it finances. And it has sent Hizbullah into Syria, where its fighters have joined Iranian advisers, money and special forces to help turn the tide of the war in Bashar Assad’s favour. Ostensibly the reason why Barack Obama agreed last week to arm the rebels in Syria (see article) was Mr Assad’s use of chemical weapons; but many believe that the greater reason was his reluctance to see Mr Assad hold on to power as a client of Iran’s.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
This analysis may be too gloomy. It is possible that Mr Rohani’s arrival heralds a more pragmatic and less aggressive position. The new president used to serve as Iran’s main nuclear negotiator, and during his campaign made clear the link between Iran’s economic weakness and the nuclear sanctions, and called for better relations with the West. The West should reciprocate, making it clear that it has no intention of impeding Iran’s peaceful development. At the same time, it should continue to push for progress on the nuclear negotiations.
But it must do so warily. Any deal offered to Iran should include restraints draconian enough, and inspection intrusive enough, to prevent it from building a weapon surreptitiously, otherwise it would be worse than not doing a deal at all. And such a deal would very likely be unacceptable to Iran.
The growing risk of a nuclear Iran is one reason why the West should intervene decisively in Syria not just by arming the rebels, but also by establishing a no-fly zone. That would deprive Mr Assad of his most effective weapon—bombs dropped from planes—and allow the rebels to establish military bases inside Syria. This newspaper has argued many times for doing so on humanitarian grounds; but Iran’s growing clout is another reason to intervene, for it is not in the West’s interest that a state that sponsors terrorism and rejects Israel’s right to exist should become the regional hegemon.
The West still has the economic and military clout to influence events in the region, and an interest in doing so. When Persian power is on the rise, it is not the time to back away from the Middle East.

#3  Haaretz.com  Friday, June 28, 2013 Tammuz 20, 5773

Surprise: Benjamin Netanyahu was right about Iran  By Ari Shavit | Jun.27, 2013 

What the world promised would never happen is happening. What Israel’s defense establishment promised would never happen is happening. Iran is becoming a nuclear power, while Israel stands alone.










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The Natanz nuclear facility in Iran. Photo by Reuters

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Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the UN about the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. Photo by AP





If Israel were a sane country, it would have been concerned this week with one thing only: The Economist. The British weekly is the leading quality news magazine in the West, one of the few media outlets that give voice to the serious strategic and economic discourse of the global elite. Therefore, when the Economist declared this week that it's impossible to stop Iran's nuclear program, the significance of this statement was dramatic.
Via the Economist, the mainstream of the international community admitted that its campaign against Iran's nuclearization has ended in failure. And via this journal, the school that favors containing a nuclear Iran came out of the closet.
While Israel was busy with light entertainment in the form of political reality shows, The Economist informed it this week that a difficult strategic reality is taking shape around it. What the world promised would never happen is happening at this very moment. What the top ranks of Israel's defense establishment promised would never happen is in fact happening. Iran is becoming a nuclear power, while Israel (which is sunk in summer daydreams ) stands alone.
From 2009 to 2012, a vigorous debate over Iran took place here. On one side were the optimists: President Shimon Peres, then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, then-Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin, then-Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, the defense establishment, the media establishment and the refreshing spirit of hoping for the best. On the other side was a gloomy, besmirched pessimist: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
America is there, said the optimists. No, it isn't, said the pessimist. There's a hidden hand, said the optimists. No, there isn't, said the pessimist. There's time, said the optimists. No, there isn't, said the pessimist. Iran's nuclear program must be stopped by the fall of 2012, the pessimist said. It's not Iran's nuclear program that's the problem, but the prime minister, the optimists said.
For three and a half years, the optimists went from one journalist to another and from one American to another and said that the pessimist is a dangerous purveyor of doom and gloom who sees molehills as mountains and doesn't understand that the world won't let Iran go nuclear. For three and a half years, the optimists tied the pessimist's hands on the basis of the threefold promise of America, the hidden hand and time.
But suddenly, this week, along comes The Economist and says that the optimists' absolute promise was a false promise. That it's too late. That the enriched uranium horses have already fled the stables. The international optimists and the Israeli optimists were wrong, big time. Surprise surprise: Benjamin Netanyahu was right.
It's possible to criticize his conduct. It's obligatory to criticize certain aspects of his policy. The Israeli military option shouldn't have been the principal option on the table. Generosity toward Ramallah should have been part of Jerusalem's battle against Tehran. But Netanyahu understood the Iranian challenge better than others, and he read the map of the campaign against Iran better than others.
While the optimists were misled by their illusions, the pessimist read reality correctly. While the defense establishment and the media establishment were smitten with weakness and apathy, the pessimist kept sounding alarms. But because neither the sinking West nor partying Israel paid attention to his warnings, the world has entered a new and dangerous strategic reality. Wolf? Wolf? Wolf! A strategic wolf with nuclear teeth is now at the gate.
Perhaps it's still possible to disprove The Economist's situation assessment. Perhaps an immediate, complete diplomatic and economic blockade of Iran could still cause it to suspend its nuclear program in order to preserve its regime. But anyone who wants to refute the prophecy of disaster diplomatically rather than militarily must act immediately. We're out of time. We're really out of time.
Waking up at one minute to midnight will be hard. But waking up at one minute after midnight is liable to be catastrophic.

Jonathan S. Tobin  06.27.2013 

For years, we’ve been told that there’s plenty of time to stop Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. The world laughed when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu drew a red line across a cartoon bomb at the United Nations last fall to demonstrate the need to act before it was too late. President Obama, who has vociferously pledged that Tehran will never gain such a weapon on his watch, tried engagement and then a mix of sanctions and diplomacy to try and make good on his promise. He still insists that this policy will eventually work and with the election of a new supposedly more moderate Iranian president, virtually everyone in the chattering classes and the foreign policy establishment has seemed content to allow the administration to keep talking about talking with the Islamist regime even if there’s no sign that it will ever work. This complacence has been criticized by American conservatives and some Israelis to little effect, but now one of the most reliable indicators of establishment thinking in Europe with little sympathy for Israel is agreeing with those long deemed alarmists about Iran.
In an eye-opening article published this week, the Economist dismisses the notion that anything the United States and its allies has been trying will work:
British and American intelligence sources think Iran is about a year away from having enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb, and rather further from mastering the technologies to make a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile. But David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security, thinks that by mid-2014 Iran will have the capacity to produce enough fissile material for a single bomb in one or two weeks, should it choose to do so. It seems unlikely that Iran could be forced to change course on this matter by foreigners. The best that can be hoped for is that it decides that it does not want or need a nuclear weapon.
But given that, as the magazine stated in the opening sentence of the piece, ” what possible reason is there to believe that the ayatollahs would simply give up what the regime has worked so long and hard to achieve? The obvious answer is none at all. Which means that the assurances we have been getting from Washington about having all the time in the world to let diplomacy work—in spite of repeated failures—was pure bunk. While I wouldn’t expect those who have been working diligently to switch American policy from one aimed at stopping Iran to one of containment (something Obama has disavowed) to draw any conclusions from this, it should be noted that this turn of events has led a leading columnist at Israel’s left-wing Haaretz newspaper to make a startling concession: Netanyahu was right all along.

As Ari Shavit notes in today’s Haaretz:
While Israel was busy with light entertainment in the form of political reality shows, The Economist informed it this week that a difficult strategic reality is taking shape around it. What the world promised would never happen is happening at this very moment. What the top ranks of Israel’s defense establishment promised would never happen is in fact happening. Iran is becoming a nuclear power, while Israel (which is sunk in summer daydreams) stands alone.
From 2009 to 2012, a vigorous debate over Iran took place here. On one side were the optimists: President Shimon Peres, then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, then-Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin, then-Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, the defense establishment, the media establishment and the refreshing spirit of hoping for the best. On the other side was a gloomy, besmirched pessimist: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The mention of Dagan and Diskin is important here. The former spooks were two of the stars of The Gatekeepers, a film in which former security chiefs flayed Netanyahu’s government for its policies and have been lionized in the West as the sane, smart Israelis who should be listened to instead of the dumbbells that were elected by the Israeli people. Yet, as one of their cheerleaders now attests, they were wrong about the most important defense issue faced by the country.
But as Shavit writes, it was the famous gatekeepers and other liberal Israelis who were listened to by the West:
America is there, said the optimists. No, it isn’t, said the pessimist. There’s a hidden hand, said the optimists. No, there isn’t, said the pessimist. There’s time, said the optimists. No, there isn’t, said the pessimist. Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped by the fall of 2012, the pessimist said. It’s not Iran’s nuclear program that’s the problem, but the prime minister, the optimists said.
For three and a half years, the optimists went from one journalist to another and from one American to another and said that the pessimist is a dangerous purveyor of doom and gloom who sees molehills as mountains and doesn’t understand that the world won’t let Iran go nuclear. For three and a half years, the optimists tied the pessimist’s hands on the basis of the threefold promise of America, the hidden hand and time.
Just as Israel’s left-wingers have done much to poison the minds of Western journalists and opinion-makers about the standoff with the Palestinians, the willingness of so many top Jerusalem figures to align themselves against Netanyahu on Iran had serious consequences. The optimists, as Shavit calls them, refused to help the prime minister to ratchet up the pressure on Obama to act before Iran had amassed the huge store of enriched uranium that it now possesses or it had stored much of its nuclear infrastructure in hardened, mountainside bunkers that would be difficult even for the United States to destroy. Instead, they helped hamstring the efforts of Netanyahu and former Minister of Defense Ehud Barak in their efforts to mobilize the West to act or to get a green light from Washington for Israel to strike on its own.
After repeatedly accusing Netanyahu of crying “wolf” about Iran, as Shavit puts it, Israel must now deal with the fact that “a strategic wolf with nuclear teeth is now at the gate.”
But, as he notes, as dangerous as the situation has become, it is not too late for it to be corrected. A decision by the West to enact a total economic blockade and boycott of Iran—with no exceptions for China to buy their oil—could bring an already shaky Iranian economy to its knees in a manner than even the ayatollahs would have to notice. A credible threat of force rather than the amorphous language used by a president who is clearly determined to do anything but use force to stop Iran might also get their attention.
But with the U.S. seemingly ready to waste another year on a diplomatic track that is designed merely to give Iran more time to develop their nukes, there seems little chance of either of those things happening.
The result is the situation the Economist describes in which Iran is certain to get a nuclear weapon sometime before the midterm elections next year. At that point, apologies to Netanyahu from his detractors in both the U.S. and Israel will be both too late and of no use to a Jewish state confronted by a nuclear Iran that wants to wipe it off the map.