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Monday, January 08, 2007

Is Israel really planning to attack Iran's nukes? A re-examination

I'm sure a lot of you looked at the story I ran yesterday on Israel using 'tactical' nuclear bombs to attack Iran's nuclear facilities and started wondering whether I had left the realm of politics and had moved on to Dr. Strangelove or Star Wars. Well, there's a lot to be questioned in this report, which has been denied by the foreign ministry, while the Prime Minister's office - as I noted yesterday - declined comment. One of the things you have to do with this story, as you have to do with every story about Israel, is to consider the source.

Uzi Mahnaimi, whom the Times bills as its Israeli correspondent, but who apparently now lives somewhere here in London, is an extreme leftist, who is apparently looking for any way he can to make Israel look bad. Joe's Dartblog has the lowdown on Mahnaimi. (Hat Tip: NY Nana):
From Mr. Mahnaimi especially, this flavor of reportage should not be cause for surprise. Such august organizations as The Institute for Historical Review—yes, review of that—count themselves fans of his work. In 1998, before the West awakened to the specter of Islamism, Mr. Mahnaimi was issuing other wild-eyed news bits about the evils of Israel. “Israel Planning ‘Ethnic’ Bomb,” one headline read. Mr. Mahnaimi claimed in his article that Israel was trying to isolate Arab-only genes so that a biological weapon could be developed to destroy them all. These were published in the International Herald Tribune, Uzi’s ravings were, and fell about as flat as this latest news that Israel is going to turn the deserts of Iran into ones even more barren than they are at present.


Two crucial things are missing from this sensationalist story. Not coincidentally, both mitigate its dramatic power. The nuclear weapons in question are tactical nuclear bombs. Those are not strategic nuclear bombs, which are the epic machines a few nations hold in reserve to balance geopolitical power. But the writer wants to use the kind of shock they provide, so the headline simply says ‘nuclear’ rather than ‘tactical nuclear’. The difference? A tactical nuclear bomb isn’t special because it is nuclear—it is special because it packs the power of five or so conventional bombs into a single package. A strategic nuclear bomb ends cities and nations. Every nuclear state concentrates its weapons development on tactical bombs, even as the word nuclear conjures in our heads images only of strategic bombs.

Strategic bombs like those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mr. Mahnaimi, who has perfected his scare craft since his days of revealing Israel’s anti-Arab genetic mutation juice, sees fit to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki right in the third paragraph, saying “The attack would be the first with nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

The second omission? Of course Israel has drawn up plans to forcibly decommission Iran’s nuclear program. So have most responsible nations. Mr. Mahnaimi has not a corpuscle of evidence that Israel has put its plans on a definite timetable, or that any consensus to execute the plans exists among the political class. He’s merely learned that Israel has figured out how to set back the nuclear program of a nation whose president swears to himself, to his god, and to his people each day that he will wipe out Jewry. In a sane world, the report might invite us to wonder why Israel countenances Iran so calmly. Instead, starting Monday, we will be treated to condemnations of “the plan” by the internationalist elites of the world.
At Pajamas Media, Allison Kaplan Sommer (who as a JPost reporter on opening day at Dunkin' Donuts in Tel Aviv brought my then-hospitalized son a dozen - we never forget the good people do for us) agrees:

Anyone reading the Sunday Times story and is waiting for the nukes to start dropping any moment can take a deep breath and relax. There are several reasons to doubt that such an attack is truly imminent or even imaginable.

First and foremost - one must consider the source of this story. The Sunday Times journalist in question Uzi Mahnaimi, is a controversial figure, who co-authored a book with Bassam Abu Sharif, former senior adviser to Yasser Arafat and PLO press officer.

While some may believe he has actual military sources in Israel who use him to leak stories that won’t make it past censors, others think he is used by foreign agents to push stories that embarrass Israel. Still others go farther, calling him unprintable names and charging that that despite the fact he works for a mainstream British newspaper, his sources makes Jamil Hussein look like the White House press secretary.

One thing is clear: Mahnaimi makes a regular habit of reporting that Israel is about to attack Iran. If his reporting was accurate, Iranian nuclear facilities would already be a smoking ruin – not once, but multiple times.

Allison cites two other instances - dating back to 2004 - when Mahnaimi reported the same thing (Joe's Dartblog - link above - cites two instances. one of which is different from Allison's two, so that this has actually happened three times before). Allison (who is a journalist herself in real life) then asked another real journalist - Haaretz's Yossi Mehlman - what's really going on:
“There’s no way this is a deliberate leak out of Israel,” he told Pajamas Media. “The policy under Sharon, under Olmert, under every Israeli leader has been clear – to keep as low a profile on Iran as possible and not to make inflammatory remarks about attacking Iran, particularly any that involve nuclear capabilities. There is no upside to this for Israel whatsoever.”

But was the story accurate? “Listen, of course Israel has active contingency plans for attacking Iran’s nuclear capabilities. So does the U.S., so does Great Britain, so does any Western power that is thinking straight. This is the duty of military planners – to come up with contingency plans. As far as I know these preparations haven’t been completed. There is still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done – I don’t think the Iranian targets has been chosen or selected. They could be attacks on known facilities, or other sites we don’t know about.”

For Melman, the “ultimate evidence” that the Times story is not credible is the claim that the weapons against Iran would be nuclear. “Israel will never use nuclear warheads in an attack of this kind. This is a last resort weapon, if at all. I don’t think there is any strategy to use them at all – but if there is, it would only be if Israel is attacked with nuclear weapons or its existence is truly threatened. They would never go nuclear in a preventive attack.”
Read the whole thing. And don't expect an Israeli nuclear attack on Iran anytime soon.



At 12:20 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

My opinion still is that the training involved necessary for Israel to attack Iran will make the attack next to impossible. When Israel jets start flying long patterns to the south or west someone's satellite is bound to pick it up.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Michael said...

No matter what the source, it is, as you said, Carl, a simple matter of common sense that Israel must have such contigency plans in the works.

With our current, emasculated, gov't, however, the implementation of such plans is highly doubtful.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

Thanks for the hat tip, Carl.

To see the Times start to morph into al-NYT is not very pleasant.When they stoop so low that Uzi Mahnaimi is an accepted source? They really have a problem. Have they changed to tabloid form? IIRC, they have. Fitting, somehow.

Foxnews channel also seems to be taking a left turn. I do not know why Murdoch is doing this. Too bad there are no more test patterns on TV; there are evenings when I feel like watching one, rather than Fox!

See any more niqabs??

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At 3:48 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

We Have never heard from military authorities in Iran how they would react to a nuclear strike by Israel.
I might be that they don’t take the threat seriously because Iran already has acquired a few nuclear weapons from third parties – former soviet republics or Pakistan – and would respond in kind if Israel ever uses its nuclear option.
One thing is very clear: leaders of Iran don’t seem at all to worry about a nuclear attack emanating from the Jewish state; and we should think very seriously why that is the case.


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