During the Napoleonic Wars, when it was reported that the French were preparing to invade England, Admiral John Jervis said “I do not say they the French cannot come–I only say they cannot come by sea.” Barring the movement of a regiment of sans culottes across the English Channel by a fleet of Montgolfier balloons, the Jervis comment pretty much summed up the limits to French ambitions as long as Britannia ruled the waves.
A similar bit of military overreach appears to be surrounding the alleged planning by the Israelis to stage an air assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The US media and even some Pentagon spokesmen have suggested that Israel cannot do the job alone, but the problem is much larger than that, leading to the question whether Israel can do it at all. Israel has over 400 fighters, but many of them are configured to establish air superiority over an opponent by shooting down opposing aircraft and disabling air defense facilities on the ground. They are fighters supporting ground operations first with a limited secondary capability as bombers.
Israel has no dedicated bomber force but it does have an estimated 125 advanced F-15I and F-16I’s, which have been further enhanced through special avionics installed by the Israel Aircraft Industry to improve performance over the types of terrain and weather conditions prevailing in the Middle East. The planes are able to fly long range missions and very capable in a bombing role but they do have their limitations.
It is generally agreed that any attempt to destroy the hardened and well-defended Iranian nuclear sites would require use of the United States-provided GBU-28, a five thousand-pound laser-guided smart bomb that can be directed to the target. The GBU-28 is regarded as accurate and able to penetrate deep into a target, which is why it has been described as the “bunker buster.” Exact performance specifications of the weapon are classified, but it is believed to be able to penetrate twenty feet of reinforced concrete. Whether that would be enough to take out the expected Iranian targets at the research centers in Natanz and Fordow, the heavy water facility at Arak, and the operating reactor at Bushehr is unknown and some analysts have opined that it might require multiple hits on the same spot to do the job. As Bushehr, the most accessible target of the three, is an active reactor, an attack would release considerable contamination.
Assuming that the US has supplied Israel with a sufficient supply of GBU-28s to go around to all the available aircraft, there remain two additional problems with the weapon that impact Israeli ability to stage an attack. First, it is so heavy that only Israel’s twenty-five F15Is are able to carry it, one bomb for each plane. For optimum use against a target, the GBU-28 also requires a clear line of sight, which means that the plane has to be flying low and relatively slowly, making the fighters more vulnerable to ground defenses, particularly with their maneuverability limited due to the bomb load. This first problem creates the second problem, which is that an attack will require a separate fleet of F-16 fighters unencumbered by GBU-28s to go in first and suppress the defensive fire, further complicating the mission.
Assuming that all the Israeli fighters capable of carrying the GBU-28 are available, which would not normally be the case, twenty-five bombs might not be enough to do critical damage to the targets. Perfect intelligence is required to place the bombs where they will do the most harm, an element that will likely be lacking with the underground targets. Some bombs will miss while others might not function perfectly and will detonate before penetration. And before the bombs are dropped the planes have to arrive over Iran.
Let’s assume that the Israelis opt for an attacking force of 50 fighters, one third of which would be designated for suppression of ground fire. The planes would be equipped with conformal fuel tanks built into the fuselages for extended range. They would also have auxiliary tanks that could be jettisoned when empty. Nevertheless, the attacking force would have to take off from Israeli airfields and then almost immediately refuel either over Israel or above the Mediterranean because fighters burn considerable fuel in getting off the ground. Refueling from Israel’s twelve modified Boeing 707 and C-130 tankers would take some time even though a plane using a flying boom for refueling can top up in thirty seconds. It is the maneuvering and connecting to enable the refueling that takes considerably longer. Refueling all 50 planes will be a major task essential to the success of the mission and while the planes are in the air and forming up they will be detected by radar in Egypt and Lebanon, information that one must assume is likely to be shared with Iran.
The objectives in Iran are more than 1,000 miles from Israel and the planes must be able to spend some time over their targets, which is why the refueling is necessary. But even then there would be problems if the Israeli jets have to engage any enemy planes either en route or over Iran. They would have to drop their auxiliary tanks to take defensive action and would probably have to return immediately to Israel.
There are three possible routes to Iran. One route to the south violates Saudi airspace and it is by no means certain that the very capable 80 plus F-15s of the Saudi Air Force would not scramble to intercept. The other is to the north over Syria, skirting the Turkish border. Syria is unlikely to be able to interfere much given its current troubles though it does possess some capable Russian made anti-aircraft missiles, but a Turkish response to possible airspace violations cannot be ruled out. The third and most likely option is to fly along Syria’s southern border, avoiding Jordan, and then through Iraq, which has only limited air defense capabilities since the US military’s departure at the end of 2011.
Israel’s previous attacks on nuclear facilities in Iraq and Syria hit targets that were above ground while relying on the element of complete surprise. Upon arrival over Iran, the Israelis would be confronted by something quite different, targets that are deep underground or hardened with reinforced concrete and further protected by layers of ground defenses that will be alert and waiting. Iran is known to have batteries of Russian supplied SA-5s for high altitude targets and SA-15s for lower level attackers. Both systems are regarded as very effective. It has also been alleged that Tehran has been able to acquire advanced Russian S-300 long range missiles, which, if true, would pose a serious problem for the Israeli fighters. The Israelis would have to be very lucky to avoid losses.
Assuming that the Israeli Air Force is able to carry out the refueling, fly successfully to Iran, suppress ground defenses, and carry out its bombing, it still has to return home, again flying over Iraq with every air force and air defense battery in the region on full alert. Depending on how much maneuvering was required while over Iran, some planes might well need to be refueled again which would mean deploying highly vulnerable tankers over Iraq or Jordan.
Back at home the Israelis would have to expect volleys of missiles of all kinds and varieties launched by Hezbollah in Lebanon to retaliate for the attack. The US-funded Iron Dome defense missile system would intercept many of the incoming missiles, but some would certainly get through and Israeli civilian casualties could be high.
It is clear that staging the attack on Iran would be fraught with difficulties and intelligence estimates suggest that at best the bombing would set back the Iranian ability to construct a weapon by only a year or two. Plus the attack would make certain that Iran would pursue a weapon, if only for self-defense, an essentially political decision that has not yet been made by the country’s leadership.
Israel has other military assets–including ballistic missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles–that could be used to attack Iran, that would invite retaliation from Iran’s own ballistic and cruise missiles, considerably complicating post-attack developments. There is also the Israeli nuclear weapons capability, use of which would invite worldwide condemnation and instantly escalate the fighting into a regional or even broader conflict.
On balance, all of the above suggests that the frequently repeated threat by the Israeli leadership to attack Iran is not a serious plan to take out Iran’s nuclear sites. It is more likely a long running disinformation operation to somehow convince the United States to do the job or a deliberate conditioning of the Israeli and US publics to be supportive if some incident can be arranged to trigger an armed conflict. If one believes the two presidential candidates based on what they said in Monday’s debate, both have more-or-less conceded the point, agreeing that they would support militarily any Israeli attack on Iran. Whether Romney or Obama is actually willing to start a major new war in the Middle East is, of course, impossible to discern.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.
Even those pundits who seem to want to distance U.S. foreign policy from Tel Aviv’s demands and begin treating Israel like any other country sometimes feel compelled to make excuses and apologies before getting down to the nitty-gritty. The self-lacerating prologues generally describe how much the writer really has a lot of Jewish friends and how he or she thinks Israelis are great people and that Israel is a wonderful country before launching into what is usually a fairly mild critique.
Well, I don’t feel that way. I don’t like Israel very much. Whether or not I have Jewish friends does not define how I see Israel and is irrelevant to the argument. And as for the Israelis, when I was a CIA officer overseas, I certainly encountered many of them. Some were fine people and some were not so fine, just like the general run of people everywhere else in the world. But even the existence of good upstanding Israelis doesn’t alter the fact that the governments that they have elected are essentially part of a long-running criminal enterprise judging by the serial convictions of former presidents and prime ministers. Most recently, former President Moshe Katsav was convicted of rape, while almost every recent head of government, including the current one, has been investigated for corruption. Further, the Israeli government is a rogue regime by most international standards, engaging as it does in torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and continued occupation of territories seized by its military. Worse still, it has successfully manipulated my country, the United States, and has done terrible damage both to our political system and to the American people, a crime that I just cannot forgive, condone, or explain away.
Interfering in American electoral politics
The most recent outrage is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s direct interference in U.S. domestic politics through his appearance in a television ad appearing in Florida that serves as an endorsement of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. The Netanyahu ad and his involvement in the election has been widely reported in the media and has even been condemned by several leading Jewish congressmen, but it has elicited no response from either Obama or Romney. Both should be condemning in the strongest terms the completely unprecedented intervention by a foreign head of government in an American election. That they are saying nothing is a testament to the power that Israel and its friends in Congress and the media have over the U.S. political establishment. Romney might even privately approve of the ads, as he has basically promised to cede to Netanyahu the right to set the limits for U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Pushing us into war
And why is Benjamin Netanyahu in such a lather? It is because President Barack Obama will not concede to him a “red line” that would automatically trigger a U.S. attack on Iran. Consider for a moment the hubris of Netanyahu in demanding that Washington meet his conditions for going to war with Iran, a nation that for all its frequently described faults has not attacked anyone, has not threatened to attack anyone, and has not made the political decision to acquire a nuclear weapon in spite of what one reads in the U.S. press. At the U.N., Netanyahu’s chart showing a cartoon bomb with a sputtering fuse reminiscent of something that might have been employed by an anarchist in the 1870s failed to pass any credibility test even for the inevitable cheerleaders in the U.S. media. If the U.S. is to go to war based on a Netanyahu cartoon then it deserves everything it gets when the venture turns sour, most likely Iraq Redux, only 10 times worse.
Even more outrageous, and a lot less reported in the media, were the comments made by Patrick Clawson, director of research for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an organization founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). WINEP is widely viewed as a major component of the Israel Lobby in Washington and is closely tied to the Israeli government, with which it communicates on a regular basis. Clawson heads WINEP’s Iran Security Initiative. At a briefing on Sept. 24 he said, “I frankly think that crisis initiation is really tough, and it’s very hard for me to see how the United States … uh … president can get us to war with Iran.… The traditional way America gets to war is what would be best for U.S. interests.”
Note that Clawson states his conviction that initiating a crisis to get the U.S. involved in a war with Iran and thereby fooling the American people into thinking that it is the right thing to do is actually a “U.S. interest.” He cites Pearl Harbor, Fort Sumter, the Lusitania, and the Gulf of Tonkin as models for how to get engaged. Which inevitably leads to Clawson’s solution: “if the Iranians aren’t going to compromise it would be best if someone else started the war … Iranian submarines periodically go down. Some day one of them may not come up…. We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier at that.” Clawson is clearly approving of Israel’s staging an incident that would lead to war, possibly even a false-flag operation carried out by Israel that would implicate the United States directly, or he is urging the White House to do the job itself.
Clawson not surprisingly has never served in the U.S. military and has a Ph.D. in economics from the New School for Social Research, which would at first glance seem to disqualify him from figuring out how to set up a covert operation to sink a submarine and thereby start a war. He might be seen as moderately ridiculous, but like many of his neoconservative colleagues he is well wired into the system. He writes regularly for The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal; appears on television as an “expert”; and is a colleague at WINEP of the ubiquitous Dennis Ross, sometimes called “Israel’s lawyer,” who was until recently President Obama’s point man on the Middle East. Clawson is a useful idiot who would be registered as an agent of the Israeli government if the Justice Department were doing its job, but instead he is feted as a man who tells it like it is in terms of American interests. The distortion of the foreign-policy decision-making in this country is something that can be attributed to Clawson and his host of fellow travelers, all of whom promote Israel’s perceived interests at the expense of the United States. And they do it with their eyes wide open.
Hate speech posing as free speech
I will deliberately avoid belaboring another Israel Firster Pamela Geller and her New York subway posters calling Palestinians savages and Israelis civilized, as I am sure the point has been made about how any lie that can serve the cause of Israel will be aggressively defended as “free speech.” A poster excoriating Jews or blacks in similar terms as “savages” would not have seen the light of day in New York City, another indication of the power of the Lobby and its friends to control the debate about the Middle East and game the system.
And then there are the reasons to dislike Israel and what it represents that go way back. In 1952′s Lavon Affair, the Israelis were prepared to blow up a U.S. Information Center in Alexandria and blame it on the Egyptians. In 1967, the Israelis attacked and nearly sank the USS Liberty, killing 34 crewmen, and then used their power over President Lyndon Johnson to block an investigation into what had occurred. In 1987, Jonathan Pollard was convicted of spying for Israel with investigators determining that he had been the most damaging spy in the history of the United States. In the 1960s, Israelis stole uranium from a lab in Pennsylvania to construct a secret nuclear arsenal. And the spying and theft of U.S. technology continues. Israel is the most active “friendly nation” when it comes to stealing U.S. secrets, and when its spies are caught, they are either sent home or, if they are Americans, receive a slap on the wrist.
Killing American citizens
And Israel gets away with killing American citizens — literally — in the cases of Rachel Corrie and Furkan Dogan of the Mavi Marmara. And let’s not forget Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians which has made the United States complicit in a crime against humanity. Tel Aviv has also played a key role in Washington’s going to war against Iraq, in promulgating a U.S.-led global war on terror against the Muslim world, and in crying wolf over Iran, all of which have served no U.S. interest. Through it all, Congress and the media are oblivious to what is taking place. Israel is a net recipient of over $123 billion in U.S. aid and continues to get $3 billion a year even though its per capita income is higher than that of Spain or Italy. No one questions anything having to do with Israel while Congress rubber-stamps resolution after resolution virtually promising to go to war on Israel’s behalf.
I have to admit that I don’t like what my own government is doing these days, but I like Israel even less and it is past time to do something about it. No more money, no more political support, no more tolerance of spying, and no more having to listen to demands for red lines to go to war. No more favorable press when the demented Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a cartoon at the U.N. The United States government exists to serve the American people, no more, no less, and it is time that our elected representatives begin to remember that fact.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served eighteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was Chief of Base in Barcelona from 1989 to 1992 designated as the Agency’s senior officer for Olympic Games support.
A guarantee of support for a strike against Iran overlooks the lessons of the First World War
Israel’s attempt to steer American foreign policy has been nowhere more evident than in the sustained campaign to move the United States in the direction of war with Iran, a war that serves no American interest unless one believes that Tehran is willing to spend billions of dollars to develop a nuclear weapon only to hand off the result to a terrorist group.
The most recent overtures by the Israeli government have pushed the United States to make a declaration that negotiations with Iran have failed and will not be continued. For Israel, this is a necessary first step towards an American military intervention, as failed negotiations mean there is no way out of the impasse but by war, if the Iranians do not unilaterally concede on every disputed point.
Two recent op-eds have elaborated the argument, promoting the necessity of convincing the Israelis that the United States is absolutely serious about using military force against Iran if the Iranians seek to retain any capacity to enrich uranium. One might note in passing that this new red line, sometimes also called the abstract “capability” to create a nuclear weapon, has been achieved by moving the goal posts back considerably. At one time Iran was threatened with a military response if it actually acquired a nuclear weapon (which is still the official position of the Obama administration), but earlier benchmarks within that policy saying that enrichment should not exceed 20 percent or that the enrichment should not take place on Iranian soil have been abandoned in favor of what now amounts to zero tolerance. Those who note that Iran, which is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is under IAEA inspection, has a clear legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes have been ignored in favor of those who believe that Iran is somehow a special case.
On August 17, the Washington Post and The New York Times featured op-eds explaining why the United States must do more to convince Israel not to attack Iran this year. Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence who is believed to be close to the country’s political leadership, argued in the Post that Obama must basically convince the Israelis that he will use force against Iran if sanctions do not convince the country’s leadership to abandon enrichment of nuclear fuel. Over at the Times, Dennis Ross, a former senior U.S. diplomat who has been described as Israel’s lawyer, made pretty much the same arguments. Both advocated giving Israel refueling tankers and special munitions that would enable an attack on Iran to be more effective, thereby widening the window of opportunity for sanctions to work, in light of Israeli arguments that hardened Iranian sites might soon be invulnerable to attack. Ross advocates giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively a blank check, asking him what he will need to attack Iran and granting the Israeli government commitments for a full range of U.S. military support. Both Yadlin and Ross argue that it is necessary to create the conditions for Israel to delay a possible attack until 2013. As Yadlin puts it, “if the United States wants Israel to give sanctions and diplomacy more time, Israelis must know that they will not be left high and dry if these options fail.”
Assuming that Ross and Yadlin are speaking for the Israeli government, which is almost certainly the case, Israel is essentially demanding a commitment from Washington to attack Iran unless the issue of Iran’s ability to enrich uranium is resolved through negotiation or through Iranian surrender of that right. In return, Israel will not attack Iran before the American election. So in effect, Washington would be promising to fight a war later if Israel does not start one now.
Israel knows it cannot successfully attack Iran unilaterally and must have the United States along to do the heavy lifting. It also knows that the threat to attack Iran before the election is a powerful weapon, with neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama welcoming such a potentially game-changing diversion from their debate on the economy and jobs.
Critics like Arnaud de Borchgrave have correctly noted that many former generals and intelligence officers in the United States and Israel have, in fact, decided that the basic premise is wrong. Iran does not pose a threat that could not be contained even if it does some day make the political decision to obtain a crude nuclear device. Launching a new war in the Middle East to prevent it from doing so would create “mayhem” throughout the region, guarantee a breakdown in Egypt-Israel relations, and create a perfect breeding ground for the civil war in Syria to spill out and lead to turmoil among all of its neighbors. American ships in the Persian Gulf would be attacked, unrest in Bahrain would turn to revolution, and the Palestinians would stage a new intifada. Israel would be bombarded from Lebanon and from Iran. Gas prices would soar, economic recovery would stall worldwide, and European nations now struggling to deal with unprecedented unemployment levels would watch the eurozone collapse before the rage of hundreds of thousands protesters in the streets. Americans would again become the targets of international terrorism.
And there is another serious objection to going along with the Israeli government’s thinking. Israel is by its own volition not an ally of the United States in any technical sense because alliances are troublesome things that require rules of engagement and reciprocity, limiting the partners’ ability to act independently. If Israel obtains a virtual commitment from the United States to go to war in 2013, it would mean enjoying the benefits of having a powerful patron to do its fighting without any obligation in return, beyond delaying unilateral military action until a more suitable time. A guarantee from Washington for Israel’s security which still permits unilateral action by Netanyahu is all too reminiscent of the entangling arrangements that led to World War I. The fact that the murder of an Austrian Archduke in the Balkans led to a world war that killed tens of millions was due to promises not unlike what Israel is demanding today.
If the United States commits to unconditional support for an Israeli attack on Iran, it will be a surrender of one of the defining attributes of national sovereignty: the power to choose when and where to go to war. Amos Yadlin suggests at one point that President Obama go to Congress and get approval in advance to take military action “to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a military nuclear capability.” Such a pre-approval for war certainly raises constitutional issues, but it also creates a virtual casus belli because Iran already has the “capability” to enrich uranium for potential military uses. A guarantee precludes any consideration that the United States might actually have an overriding national interest to avoid a war. It denies that the United States should be able to exercise complete sovereignty over the issue of Iran, and it also freezes the status quo, as if new ways of looking at the problem of the Iranian nuclear program could not evolve over the next few months.
Washington should make no commitment to anyone about what it will do vis-à-vis Iran in 2013 no matter what inducements are offered. As the 19th-century British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston put it, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” Let America’s actual interests dictate U.S. foreign policy.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.
- Peace is War: How Israel Induces America into War with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israeli defense minister misrepresents U.S. intelligence to bolster the case for war
It should surprise no one to learn that when intelligence agencies talk to other intelligence agencies as part of a liaison relationship there are certain rules in place, even though they are frequently unspoken. During the Cold War the most productive such relationship that the United States had was not with obvious candidates like the British or Germans. It was with the Norwegians, who ran a chain of listening posts that were able to pick up signals and other valuable information drawn from the heart of the Soviet nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The U.S. knew all about the latest Russian technical developments, and both Washington and Oslo kept quiet about what they were up to.
But sometimes the temptation to use highly sensitive classified intelligence obtained from a friend is overwhelming? On August 9, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed Israeli media reports that a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) from the United States on the Iranian nuclear program had “included new and alarming intelligence” that had led to the judgment that “Iran has made surprising, notable progress in the research and development of key components of the military nuclear program.” He described the source as an intelligence report “being passed around senior offices.” Barak concluded that the new report means that Israel and the United States now have the same view of developments in Iran, meaning that both now believe that the country’s nuclear program has a military component which makes Iran unambiguously a threat.
“Militarization” has become something of a buzzword in the debate over Tehran’s intentions. It can mean a couple of things, most obviously that some research or development is taking place that can plausibly only be linked to creation of a nuclear weapon. Or it could mean that certain developments in the nuclear area have been linked to corresponding advances in ballistic missile engineering, meaning that there might be a program to work clandestinely on a bomb while simultaneously upgrading Iran’s missiles to provide a mechanism to deliver the weapon on target as soon as it is available.
Barak’s remarks sparked considerable commentary worldwide, suggesting that Israel and the United States, who appear to have been seeking a casus belli for attacking Iran, at last have found their smoking pistol enabling them to do so. But there were some serious problems with the story, and the CIA and Office of National Intelligence initiated some immediate pushback over Barak’s apparent exposure of classified information provided to Israel by Washington.
Intelligence insiders noted immediately that there has not, in fact, been a new NIE on Iran. Barak apparently intentionally called the report he had seen an NIE to heighten the impact and veracity of what he was saying. An NIE is the consensus product of the entire U.S. intelligence community and the views contained in it are endorsed by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Barak clearly felt that he needed the gravitas of an NIE because there have been two previous NIEs, in 2007 and 2011, that have concluded that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and has not made the political decision to initiate one.
So it became clear that Ehud Barak was talking about something else. It turns out that the CIA routinely shares what is referred to as finished intelligence with Israel, and among those reports there have been several examining possible advances in Iranian missile development, to include an examination of intelligence suggesting that there might be some engineering of a warhead that might be capable of carrying a small nuclear device, if such a weapon were ultimately to become available [emphasis Aletho News]. Finished intelligence consists of reports that are produced in great quantity addressing a variety of issues. They are not unlike the types of reports generated by the various think tanks in Washington and at major universities, being generally academic in tone though carefully drafted to avoid any revelation of the sources and methods contributing to the document. Finished intelligence is frequently passed by CIA to friendly intelligence liaison services and is generally classified “Secret.”
So Barak was quite possibly misrepresenting a U.S. intelligence-generated report to serve his own purposes, and he was also leaking information that had been given to him in confidence with the understanding that he would only use it to guide internal Israel deliberations, not to discuss it with the media. The CIA was reportedly furious over the leak and, in an unusual move, the White House quickly gave a green light for the National Security Council to actually rebuke Israel, with an NSC spokesman commenting that “We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon.”
So Israel was saying that the Iranian threat had been demonstrated based on U.S. intelligence while Washington claimed the contrary. It all might have ended there, but intelligence leaks have a tendency to spill over and turn out to be difficult to contain. The Obama White House felt compelled to assuage Israeli fears over Iran’s alleged nukes. On Friday press spokesman Jay Carney told the media (and the Israelis) that the U.S. “would know if and when Iran made” a decision to build a weapon. “We have eyes–we have visibility into the program, and we would know if and when Iran made what’s called a breakout move towards acquiring a weapon.”
Carney’s unnecessary elaboration of United States intelligence capabilities vis-à-vis Iran caused the intel community to go ballistic for a second time in two days. If there is one thing that an intelligence organization never does it is to reveal what it can and cannot do. Now Iran, which already knew that it was being monitored closely, probably has a pretty good idea where its vulnerabilities lie because the White House has told them where to look. Marc Ambinder, a national security specialist who writes for The Atlantic, explains how it works: “the CIA’s ops arm, the National Clandestine Service, along with the US military, are devoting thousands of person-hours per day working along the periphery of the country, scrutinizing and seizing cargo shipments bound for Iran, tapping the black market for nuclear supplies and buying up spare parts, and maximizing the collection of Iranian signal traffic … it has a high-definition picture of the current state of the nuclear program and would be able to much more quickly identify if, say, scientists began to create the material needed to manufacture the lens and tamper system that would induce the fission in a bomb. What’s most valuable here is the US mastery of obscure but vital types of intelligence collection that spooks call ‘MASINT’—or measurement and signature intelligence. MASINT sensors on satellites, drones, and on the ground can detect everything from the electromagnetic signatures created by testing conventional missile systems to disturbances in the soil and geography around a hidden nuclear facility to streams of radioactive particles that are byproducts of the uranium enrichment process. Put together, the US has a good handle on the nuclear supply chain; it knows what Iran has and doesn’t have; it has a good handle on who needs to be where in order for certain things to happen; it knows, probably through National Security Agency signals collection, a lot about the daily lives and stresses of Iran’s nuclear scientists.”
If Marc Ambinder has figured out in some detail how the U.S. collects its most sensitive intelligence on Iran, the Iranians have almost certainly come to the same conclusions. Which means that they can move to address their vulnerabilities and can work harder to shield their intentions if they actually are developing a weapon, possibly doing so with outside technical help from the sophisticated friendly foreign intelligence services of Russia and China. As for the Israelis, a foolish attempt to use U.S.-provided intelligence to further demonize a country that has already been effectively blackened will prove counter-productive. Israel and its friends in Congress have long been demanding that CIA and NSA provide them with raw instead of finished intelligence. Raw intelligence is information that comes in as it is collected, indicating the sources and methods used. It is extremely valuable because it is transparent and not subject to analysis, but it is also highly vulnerable to disruption if it is in any way exposed. The resistance within the intelligence community to providing the Israelis anything of that nature has just hardened, with credit going to Ehud Barak for leaking information in an attempt to obtain some political mileage to bolster his country’s incessant arguments in favor of war.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.
- Points of No Return, Zones of Immunity, & Windows of Opportunity: The Constant Israeli Hype Over Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Reuel Marc Gerecht, the Wall Street Journal’s always available advocate of “let us reason together before we bomb Iran,” is now urging an immediate US surrogate attack on Syria by “unleashing the CIA.” Gerecht, a former CIA officer who served in Istanbul and Paris, once described the Agency disparagingly as a mixture of Monty Python and Big Brother, so it is particularly ironic that now he wants to go about unleashing it. He apparently hopes that the Big Brother component will prevail because Monty Python would no doubt prefer to execute a silly walk.
Gerecht, who currently perches at the neocon Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, argues that unless there is a “muscular CIA operation” to arm the rebels with “paralyzing weaponry” and other support that would provide them with a military advantage there will be between 200,000 and 4.5 million deaths in Syria. The numbers appear to be plucked out of the ethosphere and it should also be noted that Gerecht’s knowledge of paralyzing weapons and their deployment is limited as he never served in the US military.
The call for a humanitarian intervention in Syria comes oddly from Gerecht, who has never hesitated to call for the killing of any Iranian civilians who might get in the way of a US/Israeli assault, using inter alia the argument that Iranians have “terrorism in their DNA.” It also ignores the dismal record of various US interventions over the past fifty years and conveniently avoids the subject of blowback. The operation would be eerily reminiscent of the support for insurgents in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, an initiative that drove the Russians out to be sure, but also produced chaos in Afghanistan and created al-Qaeda. The situation in Syria is somewhat similar, at least in terms of potential downside, as Assad’s departure would create a power vacuum and no one really knows who the rebels are and what they represent.
But perhaps Gerecht is not really thinking about what is good for Syria and the Syrian people at all. He is a former employee of Doug Feith’s Pentagon Office of Special Plans that produced the disastrous war against Iraq and is also a close friend and associate of Richard Perle, who, together with Feith, drafted the 1996 proposal “A Clean Break”, which recommended specific policies to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “A Clean Break” endorsed encouraging Arab states hostile to Israel to splinter along tribal and ethnic lines, similar to what has been happening in Iraq. What could be better than replacing a unified and hostile Syria with a chaotic civil war in which Alawites, Sunnis, and Shia are at each others’ throats while the Christian minority frantically looks for a way out? The Washington based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which was founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), apparently agrees, noting that the disruption caused by the Arab Spring has actually been good for Israel in strategic terms.
- JINSA: ‘Israel is winner of Arab Spring’ (Aletho News)
An article by Scott McConnell “The Special Relationship with Israel: Is it worth the cost?” which appeared in the Spring 2012 Middle East Policy Council Journal, reviews an interesting analysis attributed to Professor Ariel Roth of John Hopkins University. Roth accepts that the only US strategic interest in the Middle East is to maintain relative stability to keep the oil flowing. Because the greatest threat to stability is Israel, which is paranoid about its own security, he argues that it is therefore in America’s interest to be bound tightly to the Jewish state so it will not do something stupid, like lashing out with its nuclear arsenal to start a war against a neighbor. Scott expands on the argument, “This claim is at once alarming and compelling. Roth is asserting that the principal ally of the United States in the twenty-first century — its main source of strategic advice, the nation whose leaders have an unequaled access to American political leadership — is not a rational actor. The United States is in the position of a wife whose spouse is acting erratically. A ‘panicked and unrestrained Israel,’ armed with an estimated 200 nuclear weapons, could do an extraordinary amount of damage. The only conclusion one can draw is that the special relationship would now be very difficult to exit, even if Israel had no clout whatsoever within the American political system, even if the United States desired emphatically to pursue a more independent course.”
The argument made by Roth and McConnell assumes that while Israel might be an irrational player, Washington is not and is acting out of self-interest. I am not really convinced that either congress or the White House is intelligent enough, collectively speaking, to have carefully thought through the possible consequences of a rogue Israel, therefore responding preventively to the mad dog in the room. American politicians have difficulty in seeing beyond their own very narrow personal self-interest, which is certainly why Mitt Romney has just announced that he will be making his fourth trip to Israel before the Tampa GOP nominating convention. He will hope for a photo op or two to make him look like an experienced foreign hand while receiving his marching orders on what is acceptable from Netanyahu. He will not be thinking of what a reckless Israel might do if Washington were not restraining it, a formulation that would never enter into his tiny mind.
It is, in fact, difficult to conclude that Israel has in any way been seriously restrained by its relationship with the US. On the contrary, Washington has provided it with the resources and political cover to enable it to act recklessly. If one considers events in Lebanon, the war against Iraq, the current drive to bring about a civil war in Syria leading to the breakup of that country, and the near constant urging to attack Iran, it might instead be argued that Israel’s influence over Washington has evolved to such a point that it is no longer taking the lead on aggressive military operations because it is able to have the United States do the fighting and dying for it.
The Romney foreign policy agenda is a symptom of the sickness that has seized control of the Republican Party in particular and the Washington elite in general. Romney is focused on supporting Israel at all costs while reverting to a new cold war with Russia, stitching together the most dangerously ignorant doctrine to emerge from the recent presidential primary campaign. Draft dodger Romney’s truculent posturing can only bring grief. And worse still, all the politically ambitious excepting only Ron Paul are falling into line. Demonstrating that wisdom does not necessarily run in families, Senator Rand Paul’s specific endorsement of the Romney foreign policy should be seen for what it is, a thoughtless pandering to a GOP establishment that is dedicated to catering to every Netanyahu whim while simultaneously going about in search of new enemies.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.
Is it possible that Americans are finally waking up to the dangers resulting from Washington’s involvement in Israel’s foreign policy? In the New York Times on June 24th there was an astonishing feature opinion piece by Professor Misha Glenny writing from London about “A Weapon We Can’t Control.” The editorial slammed the “decision by the United States and Israel to develop and then deploy the Stuxnet computer worm against an Iranian nuclear facility,” describing the development as a “significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the internet.” Glenny warned that to use such a devastating weapon in peacetime will “very likely lead to the spread of similar and still more powerful offensive cyberweaponry across the Internet,” also noting that “virus developers generally lose control of their inventions, which will inevitably seek out and attack the networks of innocent parties.”
Glenny also mentioned the second generation Flame virus, developed jointly by Israel and the US, and which has now spread to computers throughout the Middle East.
On the same day in the same issue of the Times, Jimmy Carter chimed in with an op-ed, “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” which asserted that “Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.” Carter did not mention Israel or name President Obama, but the decade long transition of the United States into a nation that believes itself to be above the law, following the Israeli example, would have been all too clear for the reader.
One day before the editorial and op-ed’s appearance, there was also another emperor’s new clothes moment at the Times. Regular columnist Nicholas Kristof had just completed a trip across Iran with his family in tow. And guess what? He found in “Not-So-Crazy in Tehran” that Iran was a “complex country,” not a police state, has a “vigorous parliament and news media,” and most university students are women who later obtain important jobs after graduation. Kristof’s advice? “Let’s not bluster…or operate on caricatures. And let’s not choose bombs over sanctions…”
I would add that it is about time that people in the United States begin to realize that unlimited support of Israel has turned US foreign policy into the poison that is bidding to destroy the republic.
Alas, over the same weekend that the Times was possibly coming to its senses, Mitt Romney was meeting in Park City Utah with his large donors. At a breakout session to discuss his support of Israel he revealed that he speaks regularly with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to get advice on the Middle East. Unseemly does not begin to describe such an arrangement, as Oren is not exactly a disinterested party re the advice he is giving. Oh, and Bill Kristol and Michael Chertoff also spoke to the pro-Israel group.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.
When we look at all the things that the Israel Lobby has been up to, we sometimes lose sight of the big picture. There has been a virtual flood of action by Congress to help Israel, much of it moving very much under the radar with no real debate and suspensions of rules to expedite the voting. Look at what has happened in the past month: HR 4133 passes through Congress on a 411 to 2 vote giving Israel a virtual blank check on the US Treasury and requiring the White House to prepare an annual report demonstrating how the Administration has guaranteed the Israeli military’s “qualitative edge” over its neighbors. It also provided military equipment — refueling tankers and bunker buster bombs — that can only be used for an attack on Iran. Only Ron Paul spoke out against the bill and even Justin Amash, a Palestinian American and Ron Paul supporter, voted yes, explaining “Our national defense benefits from Israel’s ability to defend itself and to serve as a check against neighboring authoritarian regimes and extremists.” According to Amash, it is constitutional to pay for Israel’s defense because of “Congress’s power to raise and support armies.” The Founders were not thinking of foreign armies to be sure, so Justin had better check on what he has been drinking from the House of Representatives water cooler. A few days later, $1 billion appeared in the 2013 Defense Appropriation Bill to fund Israel’s Iron Dome defense system — something that had been recommended in 4133. No coincidence there.
And then there is Iran. House Resolution 568 passed last week by a suspension of rules vote 401 to 11. Ron Paul spoke against the bill and also voted no. It ties the president’s hands on negotiating with Tehran, explicitly rejecting a “containment” policy relating to an Iranian nuclear program and also rejecting any compromises or concessions on the part of the United States if Congress in all its wisdom determines that Iran is pursuing a nuclear device. So if you want to understand how war with Iran is virtually guaranteed thanks to the US Congress, put the two bills together.
And then there is the little stuff. A bill proposed by Brad Sherman of California will give Israelis visa waivers, which means that they can travel freely to the United States, unlike their Arab neighbors. And not just as tourists — they will be able to do business. Why and why now? Because “Israel is our closest friend and democratic ally in the Middle East,” according to Sherman. And it will result in “more business.” For the Israelis.
And then there is an amendment by the redoubtable Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois which passed from committee on May 24th by unanimous vote which will reduce the number of Palestinian refugees by over 99% by declaring that only actual Palestinians who directly lost their homes in 1948 are actual refugees. Their children and grandchildren, also living in refugee camps, do not count. That would mean that there would be virtually no Palestinians left who might have some legal claim to return to their homes in Israel (roughly 30,000 are still alive of the 750,000 who were originally displaced). Kirk’s bill is a prime objective of the Israel government, i.e. to delegitimize the Palestinian diaspora. Given that the bill has nothing whatsoever to do with the American people, one can once again seriously question what parliament Kirk thinks he works for and what people he represents.
Certain names keep popping up in the pro-Israel legislation. Mark Kirk to be sure, who has received more than $1 million in pro-Israel PAC contributions, but also Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ben Cardin, Brad Sherman, Howard Berman, Joe Lieberman, Eric Cantor, Lindsey Graham, and Carl Levin. The Israel firsters in Congress are both shameless and relentless. We Americans who do not share their views should mark them out and hope for the day when they will be voted out of office and eventually prosecuted as the useful idiots and betrayers of our constitution that they most surely are.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.
Everyone who cares enough to express an interest knows that Israel gets $3 billion every year in military assistance, money that continues to flow no matter what is happening to the US economy. It being an election year, it should be no surprise that both the Obama Administration and a Republican controlled House of Representatives have agreed to send an additional $1 billion taken from the United States defense budget to fund the so-called Iron Dome missile defense system for Israel in 2013-4.
But there’s more. House Resolution HR 4133 United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, which recently sailed through the US Congress by a 410 to 2 vote, reveals the true objective of Israel and its friends in congress. It is to bind the United States and even NATO to Israel in such a fashion that Israel can continue to behave as it wishes vis-à-vis its neighbors and will be able to do so with impunity because the US and possibly even the Europeans will be obligated to defend it. HR 4133 provides what amounts to a blank check for Israel’s defense and also advances the Israel-as-part-of-NATO agenda, calling on the White House to implement “an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises.”
JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, founded by AIPAC, has not been slow to see an opportunity by putting 4133 and the Iron Dome funding together. In a May 10th article, Gabriel Scheinmann, a “Visiting JINSA Fellow,” argues that Iron Dome should become a joint US-Israel system, which he calls a “bold and mutually beneficial symbol of the closeness and importance of the US-Israel strategic alliance.” One might well ask, “What strategic alliance?” and “beneficial to whom?” US joint ownership and management of Iron Dome would make US citizens who are involved in the project hostages to Israeli misadventures. Israel creates an incident to justify an attack against its neighbors, they respond with missiles, a handful of US citizens die, and Washington is at war. And in the meantime you can bet that the US will bear all the costs. Sounds like a great deal to me.
- The Israel Lobby Never Sleeps (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US to grant more funds to Israel’s Iron Dome missile system (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Two Choices for Obama: War or More War (alethonews.wordpress.com)
There has been no media reporting on H.R.4133 — United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 introduced into the House of Representatives of the 112th Congress on March 5th “To express the sense of Congress regarding the United States-Israel strategic relationship, to direct the President to submit to Congress reports on United States actions to enhance this relationship and to assist in the defense of Israel, and for other purposes.” The sponsors include Eric Cantor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Howard Berman (all of whom are Jewish) and also Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who is Norwegian but might as well be Jewish given his frequently expressed love for Israel. The bill provides Israel with a blank check drawn on the US taxpayer to maintain its “qualitative military superiority” over all of its neighbors combined. It is scheduled for passage on a “suspension of the rules,” which means it will not actually be voted on and will be approved by consent of Congress.
It is perhaps no coincidence that on Monday the Republicans in the guise of the redoubtable Howard “Buck” McKeon released their proposal for increased defense spending (yes, increased) for 2013. It includes a cool $1 billion for Israel to upgrade its missile defenses. That’s on top of the $3 billion it already receives plus numerous co-production programs that are off the books and defense spending that is not considered to be part of the annual grant. Perhaps “Buck” should consider changing his sobriquet to “Warbucks.” Buck is not Jewish but he is a Mormon, perhaps a sign of what will be coming if we are so unlucky as to vote into office the born again Hawk Mitt Romney. Mitt has a foreign policy team consisting of more than thirty stalwarts, mostly drawn from the Bush Administration, and nearly all of whom are neocons. It features Robert Kaplan, John Bolton, and Dan Senor.
Israel and its partisan hacks in Congress are utterly shameless. At a time when the country is screaming for some measure of restraint in government spending, Israel is the one budget line that only sees increases.
A New York Times story on March 19 reported that there might be “perils” for the U.S. in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran and warned that “it may be impossible to preclude American involvement in any escalating confrontation” with “dire consequences for the region and for United States forces there.” The story received wide play in the media, a respite from the barrage of persistent press coverage that has been portraying a new Middle East war as both inevitable and a legitimate response to a burgeoning threat. The conclusion, based on the outcome of the Internal Look war games concluded in early March, is not particularly surprising, as many inside and outside the government have long been arguing that it would be impossible for Washington not to get involved in such a conflict given the U.S. military presence in the region and expected pressure from Israel and its friends.
But the real story of the still-classified war games, which were designed primarily to test internal communications and response coordination between Central Command in Tampa and operational units in the Middle East, was the ability of the Iranians to counterattack effectively against American forces and U.S. regional allies. The Netanyahu government has been arguing that any Iranian response to an Israeli air attack would be manageable, with few casualties among Israelis, because Iran would fear an escalation that would bring U.S. forces to bear. Yet even modest retaliation from Iran would almost unavoidably draw the U.S. into the fray. The war games tested a number of scenarios in which U.S. forces were hit either deliberately or by accident, producing a reaction from Washington that included sustained bombing of Iranian coastal defenses and nuclear sites, which quickly escalated into a full-scale regional conflict.
The war games demonstrated that the United States Navy would have considerable problems in dealing with Iranian offensive operations in the narrow waters of the Straits of Hormuz. Iran is believed to have more than 5,000 mines available, many of modern design and exceedingly difficult to detect, sweep, and disarm. The Iranian Navy has also become adept at small-boat swarming tactics, in which large numbers of light vessels attack larger warships in what have been described as suicide runs. U.S. warships have been training to deal with such tactics and it is believed that they can counter them somewhat effectively, but the games revealed that there is a high probability that American vessels will be sunk with considerable loss of life. Iranian cruise missiles also pose a threat. Iran has Chinese sea-skimmer models and has also developed its own variants. Again, U.S. warships have countermeasures, but sustained attacks at sea level combined with missiles that approach their targets vertically from high altitude could cause considerable casualties. In the earlier Millennium Challenge war games carried out in 2002, a combination of Iranian cruise missiles and swarming small boats employing innovative tactics and operating on internal lines defeated a much larger U.S. Navy squadron. The result was so disturbing that the game was canceled before it was concluded.
In ancient Greece and Rome the front line soldiers were drawn from the wealthiest class of citizens. That was partly because each soldier had to provide his own equipment and armor was expensive, but it was also due to the belief that men who had the most to lose would fight best. It also guaranteed that wars would be no more frequent than necessary, would be short in duration, and would be decisive in nature. America’s Founding Fathers clearly had similar ideas, envisioning only a small national army and much larger state militias where the local property owners would come out on weekends and drill with their weapons on the village green, developing the skills necessary to defend their homes.
I was thinking about the duties entailed in citizenship as I watched television coverage of the spectacle of the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). I wondered about the six thousand plus attendees at the conference and their hubristic sense of entitlement minus any sense of responsibility for what they advocate. The entire conference was dedicated to going to war with Iran, a war that is manifestly not in America’s interest. But there they were, welcoming more than half of Congress and a majority of Supreme Court Justices as well as the President of the United States, as they called for war on behalf of a foreign country.
I asked myself how many of those at AIPAC would pay any price at all for going to war with Iran? How many of them have children in the military? With a little searching I could only find ten members out of the 535 members of Congress having recently had sons or daughters in the military and I would imagine the numbers among other AIPAC attendees would be even lower. I would bet the percentage is miniscule. And how many of those at AIPAC will be contributing their wealth to support another absolutely senseless foreign war? None, most likely as America has become addicted to going to war on a credit card. Instead, the AIPAC attendees have learned that it is possible to start wars by using much smaller sums of money to buy influence and votes on Capitol Hill and compliant editorial writers in the media, meaning that AIPAC’s $65 million budget can easily translate into a war that costs the American taxpayer several trillion dollars, as occurred with Iraq.
AIPAC understands that there is no need to sacrifice one’s children or spend anything more than necessary when there are other people’s children out there who are ready, willing and able to die for your cause and for the foreign land that you hold most dear. It is a coward’s way to go to war without pain, without grief, and without cost to you personally, where fighting and dying by others is little more than an abstraction. It is one more powerful reason why groups like AIPAC, instead of being celebrated, should be placed under Justice Department supervision and strictly monitored as collaborative and subversive agents of foreign powers, which is precisely what they are. And when they step out of line by stealing secrets or suborning politicians it should mean hard time in prison. No one deserves to die in someone else’s fight, particularly in a bad cause, and no one should be able to start a war and escape the consequences.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest.
- Two Choices for Obama: War or More War (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Should the US Go to War for Israel? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- AIPAC to sic Obama on Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Progressive Democratic hero Elizabeth Warren enlists to serve AIPAC’s pro-war agenda (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Netanyahu Calls the Shots (alethonews.wordpress.com)