Arab St., crisis management, Iran, Middle-East

Iranians And Israeli Instead Of Israel Vs. Iran

<img source="http://niacblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/israel_iran_nuclear.jpg?w=252&h=189" alt="Israel, Iran and nuklear."</img>Two days before his inauguration, President of Iran, Hasan Rouhani said, “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed”. A bit similar words were given by former President Ahmadinejad for years. On the other side Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu went on U.S television to remind the world that the threat from Iran remains very much alive. Speaking on “Face the Nation,” Netanyahu warned that the Islamic Republic is once again approaching a nuclear redline, and hinted that if the United States doesn’t take action soon, he will. Israeli leaders have been issuing such alarms for almost a decade now.

<img source="https://i0.wp.com/foreignaffairs.com/files/images/preview/Bibi3_0.jpg" alt="Israel, Iran and red line by Netanyahu."</img>While military strike still is a serious thread the secret war between Israel and Iran has been going on the whole time. From Israeli side well known actions are assassinations of some key figures in Iran’s nuclear program, Stuxnet and some strange blasts and explosions in Iran’s nuclear facilities. However its pleasure to find out that some civil activities will give hope that a non military development might be possible.

Jerusalem Film Festival

Recently in July 2013, Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Iranian film maker and member of the Iranian political opposition who has won some 50 awards, visited Israel as a guest of honor at the Jerusalem Film Festival. He received an award for his efforts to promote freedom and democracy in Iran and hosted a film screening of his recent film The Gardener a film that explores the Bahai community in Israel. The Gardener is the first Iranian film since the 1979 Iranian Revolution to be filmed within Israel. A number of his other films were also highlighted at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Crowds of Israelis honored him with standing ovations. Makhmalbaf was the first high-profile Iranian artist and former revolutionary to visit the Jewish state since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

Born in Tehran 56 years ago, the maker of 20 films took part in the demonstrations against the shah of Iran which saw him arrested at the age of 17 and spending more than four years in prison. After the 1979 Islamic revolution he was able to concentrate on cinema, but his approach and attempts to prevent censorship angered the new authorities. Makhmalbaf was forced into exile in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where he remained underground, before moving to Paris for four years. He now lives in London.

“On many occasions the Iranian authorities sent killers after me. I narrowly escaped a grenade attack in Afghanistan. In Paris I lived 24 hours with 24 bodyguards,” he said.

All of his films and 30 books are banned in Iran, but his movies do find their way in through black market DVDs, satellite television or YouTube.

“After my visit to Israel, I’ll probably face a campaign accusing me of being a Mossad or CIA agent,” he predicted. (Source and more in Arutz Sheva)

Makhmalbaf came to Israel despite the fact that he could face up to five years in prison for such a visit should he ever decide to return to Iran. According to Makhmalbaf, he made this film in Israel just to provoke the fundamentalist elements in my country.

In response to Makhmalbaf’s visit to Israel, Javad Shamghadri, one of the authorities of the Ahmadinejad-controlled cinema agency, ordered the withdrawal of all of Makhmalbaf’s works from Iran’s cinema museum. Also a group of Iranian scholars, artists, journalists and activists who are deeply concerned by the decision of Makhmalbaf to take part in the Jerusalem International Film Festival as they see that his participation directly violates the International call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of the State of Israel campaign issued by Palestinian civil society in 2005, as well as the specific call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued in July 2004.

<img source="http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSk_70bXyX41gV605Jarg3usbfC2tNwijlDWM0h1swcQBmd4hJ8" alt="Israel, Iran and cyberwar."</img>Still, Makhmalbaf says he is “proud to have paved the way for Iranian cinema in Israel. Boycotting and writing statements does not solve anything. It only leads to war. We have to get to know each other through art, literature, and cinema, so we can become friends and end the hostility. That’s the reason I filmed my latest movie ‘The Gardener’ in Israel.” And, he adds, he hopes that someday soon, Israeli filmmakers will be able to shoot films in Iran.

In an interview by Payvand Iranian News Mohsen Makhmalbaf answer to critics e.g as follows:

However, I am very happy for a discussion to have started and I believe we have to elevate the level of the conversation. My point is that religious enmity and hatred, particularly in the Middle East, are threatening the security of the whole world. By traveling, by starting a dialogue between different ethnic and religious groups and creating bonds of friendship between the opposing sides, we have to try to reduce this hatred and religious prejudice. Turning away and boycotting worsens the hatred.”

Man lives on the planet Earth. Communities need to communicate with one another. Cultural interaction can clear the way for solving financial and political crises. For sixty years, we went along with boycotting. It is time to start a cultural dialogue, especially on the topic of peace. In Israel I said, ‘I love your people and as far as I have seen, Iranian people also love Israelis.’ There is no problem between the two nations; it is a political issue between the governments.”

More e.g. in Payvand Iranian News 

On the other hand more than 80 Iranian scholars, opposition group members, and human rights activists openly declared their support of Mohsen Makhmalbaf‘s decision to come to Israel by following words:

In gratitude for Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s peaceful efforts in Israel

Iranian director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who recently attended the Jerusalem Film Festival to screen his latest film “The Gardener”, received a special award from the festival organizers for “artistic achievements” and “for his long battle and struggle for democracy and freedom” in Iran.

Upon receiving the award, Mr. Makhmalbaf stated: “If politics separates us, art, on the other hand, can heal these rifts and distances and unite us in our peaceful efforts.”

He further mentioned that he wanted to dedicate his award to “artists, politicians, intellectuals and all the people in Iran and Israel who have worked for peace and friendship between two nations and believe in it.”

Mr. Makhmalbaf added in Jerusalem that he likes the people of Israel but an attack by Israel against Iran would only worsen the situation.

He stated that instead of a military attack, Israel should support the “democratic forces” in Iran which struggle for freedom.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf predicted, while making these statements, that he would soon face a wave of accusations, that he would be called a “spy of CIA and the Mossad.”

His prediction has come true in a way. Besides the media that is owned or affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a number of other Iranians inside and outside Iran (under the guise of peace and human rights activists and intellectuals), have published a letter condemning Makhmalbaf‘s trip to Israel “with grave concern” as it “violates human conscience” and stated that his presence at Jerusalem Film Festival was tantamount to support of the “apartheid politics of the Israeli government.”

It is at this juncture of time, and under the circumstances outlined above, we sign this letter to support and applaud Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s bravery for breaking the taboo of visiting the state of Israel and conveying the message of friendship between Iranian people and people of Isreal.

We believe that supporting the rights of the Palestinian people is not a sufficient justification to criticize an Iranian director’s professional trip to Israel.

We still remember those Israeli and Iranian citizens who last year launched a campaign of friendship between the two countries and exchanged written and video messages stating that they “loved “ each other just when it seemed that the chances of an Israeli strike against Iran was increasing.

We condemn the politics of war whether it is advanced by officials of the Islamic Regime or some officials in Israel. Instead, we endorse, support and welcome, the position of Mohsen Makhmalbaf that instead of a military attack, Iran’s “democratic forces” should be supported.

Just like Mohsen Makhmalbaf, we are unafraid to stretch out our hands in friendship with the citizens of Israel and believe that art can be a tool that brings people together regardless of people’s racial, linguistic and political differences.

We believe that instead of criticizing Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s trip to Israel, we should call him the ambassador of peace and friendship between the people of Iran and Israel.

Signatures: more than 80 members of opposition groups, scholars and human rights activists

Israelis love Iranians and vice versa

<img source="https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRoPVyYuBRt3Sh7mWIuFZTNG9-4Q7aa6Mzo8Um6I6meDvLfxtP1jA" alt="Israel loves Iran and vice versa."</img>

70 buses rode the streets of TelAviv carrying message for peace

There is many Iranians who support peace with Israel as seen in an article published in pages of United with Israel – a global grassroots movement:

I think there are many Iranians who live for the day that Iran has diplomatic relations with Israel,” says Mhyar Shams Ahmadi, who was born in Tehran 28 years ago but now lives in Toronto. “In my view, if you just look at relations between Iran and Israel, it is clear that it is in fact the ruling regime in Iran that is preventing diplomatic relations.”

Ahmadi is inspired by the high-tech advances and Western-style democracy that Israeli society has achieved. “Israel is already serving as a model for Iran, and other countries, on how to treat women and minorities,” he says. “Much like Canada, Israel does not oppress its citizens and allows them to think freely without fear of being persecuted no matter what your religion or beliefs are.”

Ahmadi criticizes Iranian leadership’s view of Israel as “little Satan” to the US’ “big Satan.” He says he is embarrassed and saddened that the present Iranian government remains opposed to Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. “Even with a new president, it is evident that Iran’s government hasn’t changed at all, and it is no surprise that Iran still continues to fail to live up to their international obligations,” he said.

Other Iranians are a bit more optimistic. “I think that the prospect of Israeli-Iranian relations will look good within the near future, either through the collapse of the regime, or by reform of Iranian politics,” says Pedram, an Iranian presently living in Stockholm, Sweden. “The Iranian and Jewish people have thousands of years of cultural and historical connection with each other and it cannot be broken just because we have an oppressive regime at the moment. I can with strong confidence say that the overwhelming majority of Iranians, both inside and outside the country, strongly support not only peace with Israel but also better relations in general.”

I highly appreciate people like Mohsen Makhmalbaf who have courage to act outside the box of their regime. Happily the Jerusalem Film Festival was not an isolated case. At grassroots there has been over one year a movement labelled as ”Israel loves Iran”. It is aline of communication between the people of Israel and Iran – a bridge in the Middle East between the people. The mission of this mostly virtual group is to break the wall of fear, built a bridge of communication as war happens where there is no communication.”And the only thing we can do…is communicate. Get the lines open. That’s hope…and that’s easy. Because of the internet” says in their mission statement. Israel loves Iran Facebook community can be found from here!

<img source="https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSaZtj1DEHNDMV2YuR99TPvHrvMQnyuI7P3y77VDwcykh1pv2bE" alt="Israel loves Iran and vice versa."</img>

¤ ¤ ¤

Some of my previous articles related to nuclear Iran:

Standard
BalkanBlog, crisis management, Iran, MENA, Middle-East

End Game Approaches on Nuclear Iran

From the start of 2012 the spotlight on Iran and for good reason. Today the entire region is now on tenterhooks for the next move, with US, Iranian and Gulf armies on the highest war alert. Earlier the main scenario was that Israel would make an preventive limited air strike to Iran’s nuclear facilities, now it seems that U.S is going to war with Iran.

The decision point for applying a military option, before too late, is getting nearer. Ehud Barak, Israel’s minister of defense, implied that this critical point would be reached in less than a year, in a recent CNN interview. U.S has changed radically its earlier position, now both the U.S. and Israel say also officially that they have not ruled out military action against Iran. This in case if diplomacy fails to resolve a dispute over the nuclear program, which Tehran says is peaceful but the West believes is a cover for trying to build atomic bombs. The use of military option is now well on the way.

Latest developments

Thousands of US troops began descending on Israel this week as part of the US-IDF deployment in readiness for a military engagement with Iran and its possible escalation into a regional conflict. The 9,000 US servicemen gathering in Israel in the coming weeks are mostly airmen, missile interceptor teams, marines, seamen, technicians and intelligence officers. Officially this maneuver is part in sc Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint US-Israeli war game ever held. The joint US-Israeli drill will test multiple Israeli and US air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets, according to the official communique; they will also practice intercepting missiles and rockets coming in from Syria, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In fact the joint force will now be in place ready for a decision to attack Iran’s nuclear installations or any war emergency. Washington and Jerusalem are doing their utmost to present a perfectly synchronized military front against Iran: American officers are stationed at IDF command centers and Israeli officers posted at the US European Command-EUCOM.

British Defense Minister Phillip Hammond, on a visit to Washington, affirmed unofficially that Britain stands ready to strike Iran if the Strait of Hormuz is closed. Officially this was not said as the Obama administration tries keep a low profile on plans for attacking Iran.

Tehran is staging military’s maneuvers every few days to assuring the Iranian people that its leaders are fully prepared to defend the country against an American or Israeli strike on its national nuclear program. By this strategy, Iran’s ground, sea and air forces are maintained constantly at top war readiness to thwart any surprise attack. The next Iranian naval exercise at the Strait of Hormuz to take place in February, although its 10-day drill in the same arena only ended Monday, 2. Jan. 2012. Iranian marine commandos were preparing to sow mines in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Other – last week tested – possibility was using Shahab-3 ballistic missiles which have a range of 1,600 kilometers and other missiles, such as the Nasr1 cruise marine missile, are capable of reaching Hormuz from central Iran. Tehran has also redistributed the Shahab missiles to secret sites ready to launch retaliatory strikes.

Iran itself has reported that the new Fordow nuclear enrichment plant will be operational in the near future to refine uranium to a fissile purity of 20% – far more than the 3.5% level usually required to power nuclear energy plants. 20 % uranium can be turned more easily into fissile warhead material. Based to information of the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection 348 machines are operating at Fordow. Operations at the bunker-like Fordow facility south of Tehran are small in comparison to Iran’s main enrichment site in Natanz in central Iran, where nearly 8,000 centrifuges are operating. The centrifuges at the underground labs are considered more efficient than others and are shielded from aerial surveillance and protected against airstrikes by up to 300 feet (90 meters) of mountain rock. Iran has also announced that it had succeeded in producing and testing its own uranium fuel rods for use in its nuclear power plants. If true, this claim would constitute a significant advance in Iran’s efforts to attain the capability of powering its nuclear reactors without international assistance.

Military option on the table

The starting point with today’s tensions could be the interview in a CBS Tuesday, Dec. 20 where US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said following: “Despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, they have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less”. This is a radical change in US administration policy. “That’s a red line for us and that’s a red line, obviously, for the Israelis,” Panetta noted. Instead of warning Israel against striking Iran, he said: “If we have to do it we will deal with it.”A nuclear weapon in Iran is unacceptable”.

From Tehran’s standpoint, the American military departure from Iraq has removed a formidable obstacle in Israel’s path to an attack on its nuclear installations: the shield of the US Air Force’s control of Iraqi skies.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, issued a warning: “Iran is playing a dangerous game that could ensnare the Middle East, the Middle East and others into conflict and a renewed arms race.Don’t push it.” He was described as quietly leading the ongoing military planning for an attack against Iran’s nuclear weapons if the president gives the order to do so. Gen. Dempsey went on to say: “My biggest worry is they (Iran) will miscalculate our resolve. One factor is also Israel which destroyed Iraq’s nuclear plant in Osirak on 1981 without warning US beforehand. ”There is no guarantee that Israel will give the United States warning if it decides to attack Iran,” Dempsey said. “We are trying to establish some confidence on the part of the Israelis that we recognize their concerns and are collaborating with them on addressing them.”

Covert activities

Covert activities against Iran have included the use of computer worms to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, including the Stuxnet virus that in 2010 was thought to have destroyed more than a thousand of Iran’s uranium-enriching centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control. Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated, and in November explosions ripped through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ ballistic missile base near Tehran. Seventeen people were killed, including one of the IRGC’s top officers in the missile development program.

The covert activity is designed to slow Iran’s nuclear progress but they are not stopping Iran’s enrichment activity permanently. Iran is thought to have many more nuclear scientists and missile designers than Western intelligence services could ever eliminate.

In October, the Obama administration accused Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, an alleged plot that some Iran analysts see as an Iranian effort to hit back. The storming of Britain’s Embassy in Tehran in late November and a December explosion outside Britain’s Embassy in Bahrain may be other signals of Iran’s intention to respond to covert fire.

The Strike

According to reports in Haaretz and Ynetnews 29.12.11, Israel and the United States have recently been discussing ‘red lines’ which would necessitate a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. US administration is keen to avoid Israel surprising the US by taking unexpected military action against Iran in the coming year. Scenarios, in which Washington might find a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities necessary, include e.g. if Iran were to expel IAEA observers, if it were to enrich uranium to weapons grade, and if it were to install advanced centrifuges in its newly constructed underground uranium enrichment facility in Qom or Iran making progress on new secret enrichment facilities.

Illustration by IISS

The U.S. Air Force has unveiled the Massive Ordnance Penetrator – dubbed the Big Blu – and speculation is already mounting that it may be used in airstrikes on Iran (as well on North Korea if needed). B-2 Stealth Bombers will use the six metre long GPS guided rocket, fitted with 2.5 tons of explosives, to smash open underground bunkers and tunnels suspected of containing weapons of mass destruction.

To be a successful military strike, Iran must be deterred and prevented from rebuilding its programme. Is this possible is the question and will define the scope of attack.

Counter acts?

In response to mounting Western pressure over its nuclear ambitions, Iran started a naval drill in the Gulf last week , responded with belligerent rhetoric, spooking oil markets by warning that it could shut the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions were imposed on its oil exports, the country’s main revenue source. However if Hormuz will be closed by mines, the U.S using mine countermeasures can reopen Hormuz within 24-48 hours.

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most important waterways. Some 40% of all seaborne oil passes through this narrow passageway, which is equivalent to about 20% of total oil traded worldwide. This amounts to 16.5 to 17 million barrels per day (other significant choke-points for the transit of oil include the Suez Canal – 4.5 million barrels per day and the Strait of Malacca – 15 million barrels per day).

Israel has no influence over internal events in Syria or Lebanon. Its interest is in a quiet northern border. For as long as Hezbollah is able to maintain its independent military infrastructure in Lebanon, the threat of an attack on Israel remains. Hezbollah has extensively rearmed after the losses it incurred in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. It is now estimated to have an arsenal of 40,000 rockets, including precision guided missiles that can reach all parts of Israel. It has also deliberately deployed its weapons in villages to make them harder for Israel to target in any future conflict due civilian/collateral damages which would damage Israel’s image even more if possible.

On 7 July, Israel Defense Forces revealed, in unprecedented detail, previously classified information about Hezbollah’s deployment in south Lebanon. The information released focused on El Khiam, a Shia town in south east Lebanon a few miles from the border with Israel. El Khiam was the scene of fighting during the 2006 war; the surrounding area was used by Hezbollah to launch Katyusha rockets at Israel. The IDF material included maps and a 3D simulated video of the village, showing that weaponry and rockets were being stored close to schools, hospitals and residential buildings.

A military strike can have serious strategic consequences too. Iran will surely respond violently, both directly and through proxies such as Hezbollah. Iran has long-range missile systems including the Shahab-3, which could reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East. The conflict could escalate into a regional war. Iran may take aggressive action in the straits of Hormuz, leading to a spike in oil prices, even though disrupting the flow of oil would be self-defeating.

Preparations for counter strike

The Magic Wand by Rafael

Israeli defense technology developer Rafael last week unveiled its medium-range missile interceptor, the Magic Wand, designed to shoot incoming missiles and rockets out of the sky with its own guided projectile. The Magic Wand is seen as a possible defense against Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah’s stockpile of medium-range missiles. Magic Wand’s first operational test is expected to take place this Spring. Israel has – after Magic Wand – three different kinds of interceptors to provide a shield against a multitude of missile threats. Iron Dome to shoot down short-range rockets such as the Qassams fired by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, older Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile provides defenses against larger ballistic missiles, such as Scuds or Iran’s long-range Shahab missiles. Testing full operational capacity of newer Arrow 3 interceptor is ongoing. ( More about Israeli missile defence in article Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror? . )

Risks?

War games are a puzzle not only with tactical alternatives, timing, more or less accurate intelligence and means available but also with known and un-known risks. One event on 4th Dec 2011 brought one new piece to this puzzle.

US stealth drone RQ-170

On Dec 8th 2011 Iran exhibited the top-secret US stealth drone RQ-170 Sentinel captured on Sunday, Dec. 4. Its almost perfect condition confirmed Tehran’s claim that the UAV was downed by a cyber attack, meaning it was not shot down but brought in undamaged by an electronic warfare ambush. This is a major debacle for the stealth technology the US uses in its warplanes and the drone technology developed by the US and Israel. The state of the lost UAV refutes the US military contention that the Sentinel’s systems malfunctioned. If this had happened, it would have crashed and either been wrecked or damaged. The condition of the RQ-170 intact obliges the US and Israel to make major changes in plans for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program.

There is also some other risks than Iran’s counter strike such as

  • Air strike would not eliminate the knowledge about how to build a nuclear weapon that Iran already has.
  • Bombing would pass those nuclear sites that foreign intelligence services do not know about.
  • Attack could create unneeded tensions between US and China and Russia, who are needed to successfully resolve this issue via non-military means
  • Israel might have best available missile defense.  However the capacity can not absorb 40.000 missiles by Hizbollah in short period of time and some % will cause serious damage.

The newest Iranian nuclear facilities are nearly 100 meter deep in hard rock. The consequence is that to destroy this plant the most effective bunker busters are needed maybe even a nuclear bomb some 1 megaton size. Using so heavy methods can have their effect also outside Iran’s borders e.g in form of radioactive dust.

Position of Iran

Israel is unique in that it perceives a nuclear Iran as a potentially existential threat. The Iranian leadership has continuously threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” and with nuclear weapons they could also implement this aim. Given their collective memory of the Holocaust and the hostile surrounding in which they have had to defend themselves, Israelis take this threat especially seriously. A nuclear Iran would change radically regional or even geopolitical balance. It would increase the danger of miscalculation towards a nuclear crisis. Iran could take bolder position threatening Israel and moderate Arab regimes, undermining any Israeli-Arab peace process and manipulating the energy markets.

Dore Gold hits the core of the problem in his column published in IsraelHayom by asking Is Iran rational? One of the most difficult questions that the West needs to answer in the year ahead is whether Iranian behavior will be influenced mostly by rational considerations or by ideological beliefs. Some analysts say that the possession of nuclear weapons might encourage moderation in the Iranian regime ( Reuven Pedatzur in Haaretz on Dec. 20, 2011). The leading commentator on international affairs in the U.S., Fareed Zakaria, also believes that a nuclear Iran would act rationally and could be deterred. He notes that the Revolutionary Guard has become the center of power in Iranian decision-making taking, displacing the religious leadership.

Western intelligence has assessed that if Iran wanted to develop atomic bombs, it has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to do so. There might be not yet a consensus in Tehran that they actually want build a bomb, it is seen more like an open option for the future. So far the aim of in fact covert war has been to give Iran’s leaders a reason not to go nuclear weapons. However Iran might see this current policy opposite way, it could give Iran a reason to weaponise. So far the aim of in fact covert war has been to give Iran’s leaders a reason not to go nuclear weapons. However Iran might see this current policy opposite way, it could give Iran a reason to weaponise.

The registration of candidates for the Majles elections slated for March 2, 2012 ended last weekend. Meanwhile, power struggles are still being waged between the two major bodies affiliated with the conservative bloc: the United Conservative Front, affiliated with President Ahmadinejad’s political opponents, and the Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution (Jebhe-ye Paydari), which consists of activists considered to be the president’s allies. The Khabar Online website reported this week that from among more than 1,000 candidates who registered for the elections in Tehran Province, only about 60 are well-known political personalities; and that 46% of the candidates are affiliated with the United Conservative Front, 21% with the Stability Front, and 7% with the reformist camp.

Will there be anything else than negative and more negative outcomes?

An alternative way to military option from my point of view – which might be too optimistic – is to boost of diplomacy and sanctions. After years of measures that had little impact, the new sanctions are the first that could have a serious effect on Iran’s oil trade, which is 60 percent of its economy. Sanctions signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve would cut financial institutions that work with Iran’s central bank off from the U.S. financial system, blocking the main path for Iran to receive payments for its crude.

Following the announcement by the European Union that its member states will cease imports of Iranian crude oil, Japan said yesterday that it would also consider cutbacks in its purchases of Iranian oil. Also China has cut its purchases of Iranian oil by half this month, and is set to extend its cuts into February. The EU, China and Japan account for about half of the totality of Iranian exports of 2.6 billion barrels of oil per day. These new sanctions will have some economic effect in Iran but other sanctions might be needed.

Diplomacy must be done with various interests in mind. Iran has recently signaled that it is willing to restart talks with UN lead international community based 5+1 composition (=UNSC+Germany). The hope is that Iran will come around and allow IAEA inspectors to resume inspections. However, there always exists the possibility that Iran may use IAEA inspections as a way to buy time at sites unknown to the IAEA. If sanctions and diplomacy fail and proof of a nuclear weapons program is established, should the military option be seriously considered.

If all non-military pressures fail there are clearly no “good” options available. In my opinion it is hard to believe either side wants a war to start because all sides are aware about risks. Today’s preparations for strike might be aimed to be means of pressure to get non-military solution. However, when emotions are high, domestic political interests differ in different key player states and massive destruction weaponery is on the theatre the situation can escalate anytime.

Standard
BalkanBlog, crisis management, Middle-East, Yemen

Fragments of the Middle East peace efforts

With the recently launched Palestinian-Israeli peace talks receding into a state of limbo and while Yemen is slowly disappearing from headlines a smaller stories from the Middle East are going on in the marginals of western mainstream media. However these some times crueler actions may change situation on the ground even more than high level official diplomacy.


Knesset. Jerusalem

News from peace talks too often are limited to photo opportunity to see negotiators and host making theatrical handshake – of course studying the outcome of talks one has some base to claim that this staging indeed was the (only) content of meeting. However outside cabinets in theatre of operations actions are following one another although they are not dominating front pages of mainstream media. Here I have collected some fragments of information flow from first part of November.

U.S. strikes to Gaza

A missile fired from an American warship in the Mediterranean hit the car in which Muhammad Jamal A-Namnam, 27, was driving in the heart of

Missile struck Al Qaeda operative's car in Gaza, made by U.S.

Gaza City Wednesday, Nov. 3 and killed him. Namnam was an operational commander of the Army of Islam, Al-Qaeda’s Palestinian cell in the Gaza Strip. He was on a mission on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP to plan, organize and execute the next wave of terrorist attacks on US targets after last week’s air package bomb plot. The Al Qaeda operative’s death by a US missile is the first American targeted assassination in the Gaza Strip against an Al Qaeda target. Up until now, US missions of this kind took place in Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. (Source: DEBKAfile)

U.S. aids both sides with different methods

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Wednesday that $150 million dollars in direct aid was being transferred to the Palestinian Authority. The latest U.S. aid brings the amount of direct funding for 2010 to $225 million and total assistance to the Palestinian Authority including that through third parties to $600 million, Clinton said. Same time the U.S. government is to move an additional $400 million worth of military equipment to emergency storage in Israel over the next two years. Equipment to stand at Israel’s disposal in an emergency; hike will bring the value of American military equipment stockpiled in Israel to $1.2 billion by 2012. (Source: Haarez)


Other side of refugee issue

Speaking about refugees in the Middle-East a new initiative promoted by the Foreign Ministry calls on Palestinians to “recognize Jews who exiled from Arab lands as refugees.” According to the initial outline of the plan, Israelis hailing from Arab countries will be eligible to demand financial compensation for the property they left behind. “We must remember that more than 850,000 Israelis came from Arab lands without any property, and therefore they are considered refugees. It is definitely an issue that must be raised during our negotiations on a permanent agreement,” said Deputy Defense Minister Danny Ayalon. (Source: Ynetnews)


Targeted killing authority

Lawyers for the Barack Obama administration told a federal judge Monday that the U.S. government has authority to kill U.S. citizens whom the executive branch has unilaterally determined pose a threat to national security. That claim came in federal court in Washington, D.C. in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). The two human rights legal advocacy organisations contend that the administration’s so-called “targeted killing authority” violates the constitution and international law. The ACLU and the CCR were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorise the targeted killing of his son, Anwar Al- Aulaqi. (Source: Obama Lawyers Defend “Kill Lists” By William Fisher).

These “democratic” western values are not so unknown to Yemeni as a Yemeni judge ordered police Saturday to find a radical US-born cleric – Anwar al-Aulaqi – “dead or alive” after the al-Qaida-linked preacher failed to appear at his trial for his role in the killing of foreigners. (Source. Jerusalem Post/AP)


US Predator UAVs now in Yemen – the drone war is expanding

Targetted killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi is coming easier now. In the first week of November, directly after the discovery of two explosive parcels mailed from Yemen to the United States, Washington moved a squadron of Predator drones to a secret base at the Yemeni Red Sea port of Al Hodaydah. Until now, the covert facility – finished in April on a site CIA director Leon Panetta has selected last January – was allotted to US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) units for mounting clandestine raids against Al Qaeda cells deep inside Yemen.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen

Yemen has so far claimed that the war on Al Qaeda is carried out exclusively by the Yemeni army, however for some time now, US warplanes and drones have been crisscrossing Yemeni skies from their bases in Djibouti and the decks of aircraft carriers offshore. Officials in Sanaa have habitually claimed those sorties were the work of the Yemeni air force, although it has neither the aircraft nor the air crews able to conduct these precision attacks. DEBKAfile‘s Middle East sources note that it is the first time in seven years that US air strike forces are stationed on Arabian Peninsula soil. In 2003, the American Air force dismantled its Saudi base and withdrew to Qatar and Oman.

US Predator - Now in Yemen too

In Washington there is debate going on whether the drone war should be conducted by the U.S. military or the CIA. Both the CIA covert operations directorate and U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) brass regard the outcome in Yemen as the key to the larger struggle over control of a series of covert wars that the Obama administration approved in principle last year. The CIA directorate and the two major figures in the Iraq- Afghanistan wars, Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, lobbied Obama in 2009 to expand covert operations against al Qaeda to a dozen countries in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. On Dec. 17, less than three months after the Petraeus order, a cruise missile was launched against what was supposed to have been an al Qaeda training camp in Abyan province in south Yemen. The Yemeni parliament found that it had killed 41 members of two families, including 17 women and 23 children. After this and later strikes and when JSOC stumbled badly and failed to generate usable intelligence on al Qaeda targets, the CIA went on the offensive to get the administration to take control of the drones away from the SOF. (Source: DEBKAfile and IPS)

Attacking Iran?

Obama may save Presidency by attacking Iran

At a special White House security consultation last week, Obama said it was time to plant America’s military option against the Iranian nuclear threat visibly and tangibly under the noses of Iran’s political and military decision-makers. In the last few days, three aircraft carriers, four nuclear submarines and marine assault units have piled up opposite Iranian shores. Early Sunday, the influential Senator Lindsey Graham (R. South Carolina), member of the Armed Services and Homeland Defense committees, said: “The US should consider sinking the Iranian navy, destroying its air force and delivering a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guards.”As part of this strategy, two weeks ago, the White House requested the heads of NATO to draw up operational plans for attacking Iran’s nuclear and military facilities.


Axle of Gaza-Damascus-Tehran

A further round of conciliation talks between PLO/Fatah and Hamas broke up in Damascus Wednesday, Nov. 10, without accord. The Fatah delegation insisted that the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas be the sole sovereign authority for all security services in both territories, Hamas didn’t agree. This dispute will decisively influence the US-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinians – if they ever take off. It means that the only accommodation attainable would be, at best, a partial one covering only the West Bank.

Same time the Hamas government’s deputy foreign minister Dr. Ahmed Yousef is actively campaigning for the Gaza regime to form a strategic partnership with Iran on the same lines as the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah alliance. He also invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Gaza. Close ties between Gaza and Tehran will bolster the Palestinian extremists’ military and intelligence ties with Damascus and Hizballah. This will in turn boost the bloc led by Iran and Syria and add to its leverage for derailing any fence-building moves between the feuding Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah and perpetuate the division between the two Palestinian entities – one in Gaza and the other on the West Bank. This stronger alliance may also threaten the stability of Jordan, where already Hamas-Damascus controls the local Muslim Brotherhood branch.

The evolving partnership between Hamas and Iran and its negative impact on the prospect of an Israel-Palestinian peace may be the key determinant of the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks – not, as claimed in Washington and Jerusalem, the row which has sprung up over 1,300 new Israeli apartments in old-established East Jerusalem suburbs. (Source: DEBKAfile)

My related articles:

The Three-State Option could solve Gaza conflict”

Gaza War: Could Balkan history show way out?”

Will (East) Jerusalem be the End of Two-State Illusion?

Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks”

Standard