With the Mideast in Chaos, Israel Needs Defensible Borders

Stating (what should be) the obvious:

Israel was supposed to surrender land and defensible borders to its neighbors to buy peace. As those neighbors have descended or risk descending into war and chaos, the folly of trading strategic territory to placate unstable dictatorships has become even more clear. And as those dictatorships are replaced by terrorist organizations with their own armies and Iranian backing, defensible borders are as necessary as ever for Israel:

Netanyahu 1, Obama 0

Or maybe it is Netayahu 4, Obama 0:

Bibi’s grand slam: Boxing in Obama on Iran’s nukes

On Tuesday, Bibi Netanyahu gave the speech of his life before a joint session of Congress — and he has Barack Obama to thank for it.

Yes, the very same Barack Obama who hates Bibi, the same Obama who was furious the speech was being given at all, walked the bases full for Netanyahu and served up the sucker pitch he hit for a grand slam.

While the response to the Speech of the Year has been somewhat divided based on party lines, there is no question Bibi came out the winner. President Obama, the far Left of the Democratic Party (including the House Minority Leader) and their protectors in the media are doing their best to respond, but it is clearly damage control.

First, while House Speaker John Boehner made the original invitation, 100% of the publicity for the event was provided by the vindictive Mr. Obama and his team, and the media firestorm that followed. (For you conspiracy theorists out there — maybe the Jews really do run the world??)

All the ruckus insured the maximum possible audience for the Prime Minister, who has been known for decades as one of the best public speakers anywhere. This was his 3rd (!!) speech to a joint session of Congress so he knew what to expect. He had to give the speech of his life, and he did.

No one expects the speech will change the President’s mind, but it will do the only 3 things that are in Bibi’s power to do to improve the chances of stopping Iran: 1) influence mainstream American opinion, 2) influence some centrist Democrats in Congress and 3) help get Bibi re-elected.

President Obama started the fight, as usual. He came out it looking petty, petulant, even childish.

Netanyahu, for once, asserted himself in return, but even then made sure to be as gracious as possible by thanking Obama for what he could at the beginning of his speech. He came out looking… Presidential. He gave a powerful but rational and truth-based appeal that certainly helped sway the uninformed and the open-minded.

There is no doubt who won this one.

Syria, Hezbollah and the Next Mideast War?

In light of the recent disclosure by Israeli president Shimon Peres that Syria has shipped Scud missiles to Hezbollah, Wall Street columnist Bret Stephens considers recent actions by Syria, Hezbollah and how they could ignite the Next Mideast War:

In the matter of Syria’s alleged shipments of Scud missiles to Hezbollah, it bears noting how often the fate of the Middle East has turned on seemingly trivial or nearly imperceptible events…

Why would Syria risk war with Israel by transferring the sorts of weapons it doubtlessly knows could provoke a sharp Israeli reprisal?

It is no secret that since Israel’s summer 2006 war with Hezbollah, Syria has helped to rearm its Lebanese ally with as many as 50,000 rockets and missiles, many of them hidden-at the unwitting recommendation of last year’s Goldstone Report-in homes, hospitals and schools. But the transfer of Scuds, which can be tipped with chemical or biological weapons, poses a threat to Israel of a different order of magnitude.

The prosaic answer is that Syrian President Bashar Assad has a reckless streak. He was reckless in allowing Syria to become a way station for Iraq-bound jihadists, reckless in (almost certainly) ordering the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, reckless in attempting to build a covert nuclear facility, and reckless in pursuing a no-wriggle-room alliance with Hezbollah and Iran.

Then again, Mr. Assad has never had to pay the ultimate political price for those gambles…. Another destructive war over Lebanon might just be sufficient to topple Beirut’s fragile pro-Western governing coalition, enhance Hezbollah’s prestige, and perhaps give Damascus the cover it needs to re-enter Lebanon militarily by posing, as it so often has in the past, as a force for “stability”…

What does the Obama administration do? So far, it hasn’t helped matters by giving the impression of a clear wedge between Israel and the U.S. Nor has the administration’s assiduous courtship of Damascus done anything other than embolden Mr. Assad’s taste for adventure.

In 1967, a series of seemingly minor events, tactical misjudgments, and particularly an Arab perception that the West would not honor its international commitments or come to Israel’s defense triggered a war the consequences of which have defined the Middle East ever since. We are adrift in those same waters today.

Iran Nuclear Scientist Defects to US

ABC News is reporting that an award-winning Iranian nuclear scientist has defected to the United States:

An… Iranian nuclear scientist, who disappeared last year under mysterious circumstances, has defected to the CIA and been resettled in the United States, according to people briefed on the operation by intelligence officials. The officials were said to have termed the defection of the scientist, Shahram Amiri, “an intelligence coup” in the continuing CIA operation to spy on and undermine Iran’s nuclear program. A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment. In its declassified annual report to Congress, the CIA said, “Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons.” Amiri, a nuclear physicist in his early 30s, went missing last June three days after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage, according to the Iranian government. He worked at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University, which is closely connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, according to the Associated Press.

The Daily Alert, prepared by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs adds this note mentioned in the above video:

Amiri has been extensively debriefed since his defection. One Iranian web site reported that Amiri had worked at the covert Qom facility.

How Nuclear Equipment Reaches Iran

This Associated Press report describes a case study in how nuclear equipment reaches Iran:

Early last year, a Chinese company placed an order with a Taiwanese agent for 108 nuclear-related pressure gauges. But something happened along the way. Paperwork was backdated. Plans were rerouted, orders reconfigured, shipping redirected.

And the gauges ended up in a very different place: Iran.

The story behind the gauges shows how Iran is finding its way around international sanctions meant to prevent it from getting equipment that can be used to make a nuclear bomb. At least half a dozen times in recent years, the Persian Gulf nation has tried to use third countries as transshipment points for obtaining controlled, nuclear-related equipment.

In the case of the pressure gauges, it succeeded. In the process, the Swiss manufacturer and the Swiss government were duped, a Chinese company went around its own government’s prohibition on moving nuclear-related equipment to Iran, and Taiwanese authorities showed themselves unwilling or unable to get into step with the international community.

The deal was a huge victory for Tehran, which had been seeking the gauges for months, said nuclear proliferation expert David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. It also reflected the uneven enforcement of international sanctions against Iran, at a time when the U.S. and other Western countries are pushing hard to expand them.

“The (Iranian) government looked everywhere — Russia, Europe, the U.S., and they were being thwarted by the international community,” Albright said. “It’s really unfortunate they succeeded in using this Taiwan-China connection. …This case is a wake up call of the importance of universal and timely application of sanctions on Iran.”

….The gauges, also known as pressure transducers or capacitance diaphragm gauges, …have numerous commercial applications in machines that employ pneumatic or hydraulic pressure. But experts say the large size of the order suggests very strongly that they are for centrifuges to churn out enriched uranium…

In Shanghai, Roc-Master official Liu Xiaofeng initially said he didn’t recall the transaction. But when pressed, he replied, “It’s our company’s secret information, so I don’t think we need to tell the media anything about it.”

The Clock Keeps Ticking down to a Nuclear Iran

I know we have all been reading these stories for years, but Iran keeps getting closer to a nuclear bomb and sooner or later, it is going to get there:

…the US and Europe said they share UN fears that Teheran may be secretly working on developing nuclear missiles, expressing support for new sanctions if Teheran continues to defy Security Council demands.

Their comments reflected the change in tone of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under new director-general Yukiya Amano in its assessment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Amano… expressed the possibility that Iran may be working on making a nuclear warhead, with the IAEA suggesting for the first time that Teheran had either resumed such work or never stopped it three years ago, as thought by US intelligence agencies.

Iran denies any interest in developing nuclear arms. But the report said Iran’s resistance to agency attempts to investigate for signs of a nuclear cover-up “give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

An unusually strongly worded statement delivered by Spain on behalf of the EU to the IAEA’s 35-nation board criticized Teheran…

“The EU shares the agency’s concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” according to the statement.

Beyond making the same point, US chief delegate Glyn Davies said the IAEA is justified in being concerned that Teheran — accused of repeatedly concealing suspicious nuclear activities or revealing them only to pre-empt being found out — “about the possible construction in secret of other new nuclear facilities in Iran.”

British Officer: ‘UK Combat Doctrine Influenced by IDF’

The BBC reports that Colonel Richard Kemp, a top British military officer, noted that the ‘UK combat doctrine has been Influenced by IDF.’ The BBC report stated:

Col. Kemp said the advice he received from the Israeli armed forces on how to tackle Afghan suicide bombers had been invaluable, and formed the basis of official army guidelines used by soldiers on the ground there.

He added that UK soldiers did not have to deal with the same amount of criticism from the international community as does the IDF.

“When we go into battle we do not get the same knee-jerk, almost Pavlovian response from many, many elements of the international media and international groups, humanitarian groups and other international groups such as the United Nations which should know better… of utter automatic condemnation. We don’t have to put up with that.”

Col. Kemp, previously cited on the IRIS blog here and here, was reported to have spoken the above comments cited by the BBC while speaking out yet again for the Israel Defense Forces, this time at a UK Zionist Federation dinner on Sunday in London according to this report from The Jerusalem Post:

“I was a professional soldier for 30 years in the British army and it was my honor and privilege to work alongside the IDF on a number of occasions during that time,” he said.

“I found in my time that the British forces and British government had no stronger ally than Israel and the IDF.”

The former commander… said he wrote the British army’s doctrine on suicide bombing based on help he received from an Israeli army expert on the issue.

“I went to Afghanistan to take over the British forces in 2003 and it was the first time I found myself in a situation where we faced suicide bomb attacks.

“I found that no one in the British forces had worked out a means to try to tackle suicide bomb attacks and how to train our soldiers to handle that situation,” Kemp said.

“…I spoke to a friend at the Israeli embassy and asked if he could help. I thought he would have me meet the defense attache’ at the embassy, but within days a brigadier-general, the top expert the IDF had on suicide bombing, came from his base in the Golan to London specifically to spend about four hours giving me a full briefing on the subject.

“As a result I devised a policy that subsequently became the British forces’ doctrine for dealing with suicide bombing,” he said…

The colonel said that some of the challenges British forces face in Iraq and Afghanistan are comparable to the challenges Israel faces in Gaza and Lebanon…

Comparing the predicament of British forces currently fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan to what Israel is up against, he said, “They fight among the people, they use their own population as weapons of war and that was certainly true of Hamas in the Gaza conflict. They deliberately sacrificed their own people, deliberately did their best to lure Israeli forces to attack their civilian population, and the same thing happens in Afghanistan.

“Taliban forces use the same tactics of trying to draw our forces onto their civilian population that they pretend to protect.”

The colonel repeated his opinion that the IDF went to considerable lengths to protect human life during Operation Cast Lead.

During the Gaza conflict Kemp said… that the IDF was going out of its way to save Palestinian lives, while Hamas were deliberately using civilians as human shields. He also said the IDF was a world leader in humane warfare that seeks to protect civilian lives as much as possible.

“Israeli forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare,” Kemp told the UN Human Rights Council last year.

Analysis: Iran Moves Closer to Nuclear Bomb

The Washington Post reports that Iran notified the United Nations nuclear watchdog on Monday that it intends to begin producing higher-grade enriched uranium. The announcement signals that Iran is moving closer to building a nuclear bomb.

The report notes that:

…Producing higher-grade enriched uranium marks a new and potentially dangerous turn in Tehran’s confrontation with the West over its nuclear ambitions.

….It means that Iran will be a significant step closer to possessing the raw material needed to build a nuclear bomb.

Indeed, Iran does not have the expertise to build the specialized fuel rods needed for the research reactor — only France and Argentina are expert at it — so the main consequence of Iran’s decision appears to be moving up the enrichment ladder. If Iran tried to fuel the reactor itself, absent international assistance, it would be risky to the reactor and for public safety, according to David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

Albright said 70 percent of the work toward reaching weapons-grade uranium took place when Iran enriched uranium gas to 3.5 percent. Enriching it further to the 19.75 percent needed for the reactor is an additional “15 to 20 percent of the way there”.

Once the uranium is enriched above 20 percent, it is considered highly enriched uranium. The uranium would need to be enriched further, to 60 percent and then to 90 percent, before it could be used for a weapon. “The last two steps are not that big a deal,” Albright said. They could be accomplished, he said, at a relatively small facility within months.

U.S. National Intelligence Director Dennis C. Blair told the House intelligence committee last week that “Iran has the scientific, the technical, the industrial capacity to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon in the next few years and eventually to produce a nuclear weapon. The central issue is a political decision by Iran to do so.”

The Iranian government took the dramatic action just one week after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to open the door to new negotiations on fueling the research reactor. The IAEA, along with Russia, France and the United States, had offered to provide reactor fuel by using the bulk of the low-enriched uranium produced by Iran, but the negotiations broke down late last year. The countries made the gesture in hopes of reducing Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium — and because the fuel would be returned in metal alloy rods that could not be turned into weapons material.

What will it take for someone to stand up and stop Iran from getting the bomb?