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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

If we blow them all away, is it still a trap?

It's beginning to look increasingly likely that Israel is going to have to hit Iran sooner rather than later. Here's what former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said about that prospect last week at the Herzliya Conference:
"... the pre-emptive use of force ... has to come before they get the (nuclear) weapon. ... in the next year the use of force by the United States is highly unlikely ... That increases the pressure on Israel ... if it feels Iran is on the verge of acquiring (nuclear) capability, it brings the decision point home to use force." (emphasis added)
Last week at Davos, Defense Minister Ehud Barak had a conversation about Iran with the Washington Post's Lally Weymouth.
Q. You were critical of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

A. Our interpretation is that clearly the Iranians are aiming at nuclear capability. It's probably true that . . . they may have slowed down the weapons group in 2003, because it was the height of American militarism. . . . We think that they are quite advanced, much beyond the level of the Manhattan Project. We suspect they are probably already working on warheads for ground-to-ground missiles . . . [and] that probably they have another clandestine enrichment operation beyond the one in Natanz.

What kind?

The dots that we see . . . cannot be easily connected in a way that does not lead to a nuclear program. . . . The leading intelligence communities should concentrate on finding whether there is . . . a clandestine enrichment operation and a weapons group working on the weapons technology.


Does Israel have the ability to conduct a military raid on Iran alone?

I am not going to talk about this.


There is a rumor that Pakistan is helping Saudi Arabia build a nuclear program.

I don't want to . . . I have no information.

It's clear that the real risk with Iran turning nuclear is that it will be the end of the non-proliferation regime because it will open the door on active proliferation. We already had a wake-up call from the case of A.Q. Khan, who was ready to sell to anyone, especially if he was a good Muslim. It's very dangerous that we will end up in 10 to 15 years with a nuclear device in the hands of terrorists.

You think in 10 years?

It's possible.
It sure sounds like Barak could have been the 'senior' security official who - commenting on Bolton's remarks at Herzliya - said "One should listen very closely to what Bolton has to say." (Although Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz - a former Defense Minister and Army Chief of Staff like Barak - was quoted similarly, Mofaz is not currently technically a 'senior security official').

All of this leads James Lewis to fear that Israel - and the US - may fall into a 'trap' laid by Iran and the Russians.
In a very odd move, the Syrians are now rebuilding that mysterious concrete cube in exactly the same location --- even though the whole world knows about it now. Why should they spend vast amounts of money doing that, if it would only become another fat target?

One possibility is that it's a trap for IAF jets. Surround the concrete cube with enough new Russian anti-aircraft missiles, back it up with radars based on Russian ships that just happen to be doing the biggest naval exercise in years right now in the Mediterranean, and provoke another attack by announcing another nuclear breakthrough. It could be a baited ambush.

The whole thing smells like an Ahmadi-Nejad shell game, with Russian help: put your nuclear materials under a dozen different giant concrete shelters, and dare the enemy to attack all of them, without knowing which one has nuke materials. All of the sites would be heavily defended with state-of-the-art Russian anti-aircraft missiles. Not just one trap for attacking aircraft, but a dozen or more.
Lewis underestimates the IAF. It's inconceivable to me that the IAF will fly into a trap, especially given that it has already proven that it is capable of disabling the Russians' most advanced anti-aircraft missile, the Pantsyr. And one way to play a shell game would be to hit all the shells simultaneously, so that even if some of the shells are empty underneath, the ones that have the nukes would also be hit.

I have a different fear. I fear that Israel won't take action due to either Olmert's inability or fear of making the decision to attack or because the country will be too busy with elections when the time comes. All of which is an argument for pushing for elections now and not in March 2009 as Labor's Ehud Barak hinted he might want to do. We need a real government with a real Prime Minister to be in charge now and not just a year from now.


At 6:07 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Agreed - sometimes I wonder if a nuclear bomb exploding in Tel Aviv would be enough to jolt the current government into action.

The threat of Kassams haven't been able to do that or the lethal arsenal being built up by Israel's enemies. The spirit of defeatism and ennui that's gripped Israel under Ehud Olmert sounds a lot like the malaise that took ahold of the French under the Fourth Republic.

France survived Hitler's conquest. Israel won't survive an Iranian bomb. And yet Israel's leaders act like they have all the time in the world to get around to taking care of it.


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