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Why Israel Overestimates Iran

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    Why Israel Overestimates Iran By Danny Kampf Wednesday, February 7 2007 http://www.dailycolonial.com/go.dc?p=3&s=3787 There s been much blathering in
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2007
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      Why Israel Overestimates Iran
      By Danny Kampf
      Wednesday, February 7 2007

      There's been much blathering in Washington as of late about what
      should be done with a nuclear Iran. The current thinking seems
      dominated by two not-so-opposing factions: The hawks and the hawks
      light. Not surprisingly, this heavy handed chorus has managed to
      reduce the public debate into a question of whether we want to use
      air-strikes or boots on the ground when, and not if, we hit Iran. Why?
      Because it is taken as a fact that a nuclear armed Iran will move to
      strike Israel.

      Since Tehran made its intentions to acquire nuclear weapons so
      obviously apparent to the rest of the world, referrals to Iran as an
      "existential threat" have become fairly ubiquitous in the Israeli
      press. This final assertion never seems to be challenged in the media,
      and it is repeated ad nauseam as a justification for military action
      against Iran. Yet it is wildly over exaggerated.

      The only way Iran could pose an "existential" threat to Israel in any
      way that would differentiate itself from the current, apparently
      non-existential threat is if Iran nuked Israel. But why would Iran
      want to commit national suicide? If it ever launched a nuclear attack
      on Israel (the Middle East's sole nuclear power) that is exactly what
      it would be doing. Presumably, the same logic for nuclear deterrence –
      the universally acknowledged principle of mutually assured destruction
      – that applies to every other nuclear-armed nation in the world would
      similarly apply to Iran as well. There is no reason to think that Iran
      would somehow wield this power with a totally unprecedented disregard
      for the destruction a retaliatory strike would bring upon its own country.

      But Iran is different, we are told, and not susceptible to the
      politics of realism because Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are religious
      fanatics who care less about this life than they do about the next
      one. Through this lens, a mushroom cloud looks less like the end of
      existence and more like a gateway to heaven. Plus, it doesn't hurt
      that Ahmadinejad never seems to miss an opportunity to call for
      Israel's destruction. So why shouldn't this threat be taken at face
      value? The fact is that Tehran's leaders, pious as they are, are
      ultimately being disingenuous.

      Throughout their personal histories, Ahmadinejad and his allies must
      have been confronted with countless opportunities to throw their lives
      away in defense of Islam. Yet all of them are still around. Why is
      that? Is it because they weren't devout enough? Is it because they're
      just waiting for the right time to cast down their lives in the name
      of Allah? Or is it because they, like all men of their ilk, harbor
      political ambitions that distinctly require them to be alive to come
      to fruition?

      I'm not saying that Ahmadinejad is not a devoted believer in his
      particularly medieval brand of metaphysics; it's just that somewhere
      deep down inside, Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who hold his reins know
      that they are as wedded to life as they are to ideology, and that
      given a tug-of-war between the two, they are more than willing to deal
      with the cognitive dissonance required to come down on the side of the

      It is not the case that Iran doesn't threaten Israel at all, it is
      just that this is not a threat of "existential" importance. Few like a
      bellicose neighbor, and no one likes a bellicose neighbor with nukes.
      But let's get real; even with nuclear weapons, Iran just doesn't have
      the capacity to credibly threaten Israel's existence.

      Danny Kampf is a sophomore majoring in political science. A
      self-admitted liberal, Kampf is increasingly exploring the politics of
      moderation and realism. Taking issues one-at-a-time, his interests lie
      in trying to divorce himself from ideology in favor of pragmatic
      solutions. His two biggest influences are Fareed Zakaria and Andrew
      Sullivan. He is the quintessential self-hating liberal.


      Iranian Mortar Rounds Found in Iraq?
      by Steven D
      Mon Feb 12th, 2007

      The Telegraph (UK) is reporting that 81 mm mortar shells of Iranian
      manufacture were captured by Iraqi police January 13, 2007. A
      photograph of one of the the shells is shown with the markings "81 MM"
      and "3-2006" on it. Here's the photograph:

      What's wrong about this picture? Several things. The absence of dating
      using the Iranian calendar for one thing. The use of the Roman
      alphabet for the markings on the shell, rather than the use of Farsi,
      for another. You see, in the past, Iranian armaments that have been
      captured or found had markings on them which were printed in Farsi
      (which uses a form of the Arabic alphabet) such as these from 1997:

      ...However, a significant portion of newer ordnance originated in
      Iran, as indicated by Farsi markings stenciled onto it. This included
      large quantities of G-3 assault rifles, landmines, and mortar
      ammunition. [...]

      No. 4 Pedal Mines (Iran—green plastic with Farsi writing, shoe mines)

      [M]ost of the equipment the SAF captured from Eritrean Islamic Jihad
      in the Togan area of northeastern Sudan in April 1997 bore Farsi
      writing and was Iranian-made, from boots to light weapons.

      Isn't that odd? Iranian armaments, including mortar shells, have
      markings in the Farsi language on them when discovered in the Sudan in
      1997, but Iranian arms alleged to have killed 170 US soldiers in Iraq
      have no Farsi markings on them when captured in 2007. Even odder, most
      US troop deaths (by far) have occurred in the Sunni areas of Iraq
      (e.g., Anbar province, around Tikrit, West Baghdad), but these Iranian
      arms are supposedly being delivered to Shi'a militias. What could
      possibly explain this seemingly counterintuitive inconsistency? It
      couldn't possibly be a disinformation campaign by the Pentagon (like
      the one employed by the US Military in the run-up to the Iraq
      invasion) targeted at generating support for a military strike against
      Iran among the American public, could it?

      The strategy is clear. Define a target as evil. Find some kind of
      connection with weapons of mass destruction---chemical, biological,
      nuclear---or just to low-tech "terrorism," draw some sort of Hitler
      parallel and get strategically placed press people on board. Plant the
      stories, then cite them as though they were troubling news to you.
      Then cite "intelligence"---this mystical reservoir of wisdom
      restricted to the elite (rather like the gnosis of ancient mystery
      religions)---trusting that the foolish masses will accept it on faith,
      at least until the job's all done and the noble lies are inevitably
      exposed. You can always scapegoat the intelligence community for any
      errors. It can't, by its very nature, resist that scapegoating.
      Like Fox News, I only report. I'll let you come to your own conclusions.


      Gareth Porter
      Inter Press Service

      WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (IPS) - When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
      declared last week at the Herzliya conference that Israel could not
      risk another "existential threat" such as the Nazi holocaust, he was
      repeating what has become the dominant theme in Israel's campaign
      against Iran -- that it cannot tolerate an Iran with the technology
      that could be used to make nuclear weapons, because Iran is
      fanatically committed to the physical destruction of Israel.

      The internal assessment by the Israeli national security apparatus of
      the Iranian threat, however, is more realistic than the government's
      public rhetoric would indicate.

      Since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in August
      2005, Israel has effectively exploited his image as someone who is
      particularly fanatical about destroying Israel to develop the theme of
      Iran's threat of a "second holocaust" by using nuclear weapons.

      But such alarmist statements do not accurately reflect the strategic
      thinking of the Israeli national security officials. In fact, Israelis
      began in the early 1990s to use the argument that Iran is irrational
      about Israel and could not be deterred from a nuclear attack if it
      ever acquired nuclear weapons, according to an account by independent
      analyst Trita Parsi on Iranian-Israeli strategic relations to be
      published in March. Meanwhile, the internal Israeli view of Iran,
      Parsi told IPS in an interview, "is completely different."

      Parsi, who interviewed many Israeli national security officials for
      his book, says, "The Israelis know that Iran is a rational regime, and
      they have acted on that presumption." His primary evidence of such an
      Israeli assessment is that the Israelis purchased Dolphin submarines
      from Germany in 1999 and 2004 which have been reported to be capable
      of carrying nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

      It is generally recognised that the only purpose of such
      cruise-missile equipped submarines would be to deter an enemy from a
      surprise attack by having a reliable second strike capability.

      Despite the fact that Israel has long been known to possess at least
      100 nuclear weapons, Israeli officials refuse to discuss their own
      nuclear capability and how it relates to deterring Iran.

      Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a former Pentagon
      official who visited Israel last November, recalls that Israeli
      officials uniformly told his group of eight U.S. military analysts
      they believed Iran was "perfectly willing to launch a first strike
      against Israel," if it obtained nuclear weapons.

      But when they were asked about their own nuclear capabilities in
      general, and the potentially nuclear-armed submarine fleet in
      particular, Francona says, the Israelis would not comment.

      In fact, Israeli strategic specialists do discuss how to deter Iran
      among themselves. An article in the online journal of a hard-line
      think-tank, the Ariel Centre for Policy Research, in August 2004
      revealed that "one of the options that has been considered should Iran
      publicly declare itself to have nuclear weapons is for Israel to put
      an end to what is called its policy of 'nuclear ambiguity' or 'opacity'."

      The author, Shalom Freedman, said that in light of Israel's
      accumulation of "over 100 nuclear weapons" and its range of delivery
      systems for them, even if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons within
      a few years, the "tremendous disproportion between the strength of
      Israel and an emergent nuclear Iran should serve as a deterrent."

      Even after Ahmadinejad's election in mid-2005, a prominent Israeli
      academic and military expert has insisted that Israel can still deter
      a nuclear Iran. In two essays published in September and October 2005,
      Dr. Ephraim Kam, deputy head of the Jaffee Centre for Strategic
      Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former analyst for the Israeli
      Defence Forces, wrote that Iran had to assume that any nuclear attack
      on Israel would result in very serious U.S. retaliation.

      Therefore, even though he regarded a nuclear Iran as likely to be more
      aggressive, Kam concluded it is "doubtful whether Iran would actually
      exercise a nuclear bomb against Israel -- or any other country --
      despite its basic rejection of Israel's existence."

      Kam also pointed out that the election of a radical like Ahmadinejad
      would not change the fundamental Iranian policy toward Israel, because
      even the more moderate government of President Mohammad Khatami had
      already held the position that the solution to the Palestinian problem
      should be the establishment of a Palestinian state in place of the
      Zionist Israeli state. Furthermore, he wrote, Iran's basic motive for
      aspiring to nuclear weapons in the first place had not been to destroy
      Israel but to deter Saddam Hussein's Iraq and later to deter the
      United States and Israel.

      Despite the existence of a more realistic appraisal of the actual
      power balance and its implications for Iranian behaviour, Israeli
      officials do not see it as in their interest to even hint at the
      possibility of deterring a nuclear Iran. "They don't talk about that,"
      Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born analyst based in Tel Aviv, told IPS,
      "because they don't want to admit the possibility of defeat on Iran's
      nuclear programme. They want to stop it."

      Occasionally, Israeli officials do let slip indications that their
      fears of Iran are less extreme than the "second holocaust" rhetoric
      would indicate. Last November, Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh
      explained candidly in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that the
      fear was not that such weapons would be launched against Israel but
      that the existence of nuclear capability would interfere with Israel's
      recruitment of new immigrants and cause more Israelis to emigrate to
      other countries.

      Sneh declared that Ahmadinejad could "kill the Zionist dream without
      pushing a button. That's why we must prevent this regime from
      obtaining nuclear capability at all costs."

      Israel's frequent threat to attack Iran's nuclear facilities is also
      at odds with its internal assessment of the feasibility and
      desirability of such an attack. It is well understood in Israel that
      the Iranian situation does not resemble that of Iraq's Osiris nuclear
      reactor, which Israeli planes bombed in 1981. Unlike Iraq's programme,
      which was focused on a single facility, the Iranian nuclear programme
      is dispersed; the two major facilities, Natanz and Arak, are hundreds
      of miles apart, making it very difficult to hit them simultaneously.

      In mid-2005, Yossi Melman, who covers intelligence issues for the
      daily newspaper Haaretz, wrote, "According to military experts in
      Israel and elsewhere, the Israel Air Force does not have the strength
      that is needed to destroy the sites in Iran in a preemptive strike..."
      He added that that the awareness of that reality was "trickling down
      to the military-political establishment".

      Javedanfar, Melman's co-author in the forthcoming book on Iran's
      nuclear programme, agrees. "There is no way the Israelis are going to
      do it on their own," he said.

      That is also the conclusion reached by Francona and other Air Force
      analysts. Francona recalls that he and two retired U.S. Air Force
      generals on the trip to Israel told Israeli Air Force generals they
      believe Israel does not have the capability to destroy the Iranian
      nuclear targets, mainly because it would require aerial refueling in
      hostile airspace. "The Israeli officers recognised they have a
      shortfall in aerial refueling," Francona says.

      In the end, the Israelis know they are dependent on the United States
      to carry out a strike against Iran. And the United States is the
      target of an apocalyptic Israeli portrayal of Iran that diverges from
      the internal Israeli assessment.

      *Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst.
      His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road
      to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005.



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