We are searching data for your request:
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.
7/14/15 Israeli rEaction to the agreement with Iran
by Marc Schulman
After weeks of negotiations, an agreement has been reached between the P5 +1 and Iran. Yesterday, as it was already clear that an agreement was very near, the political recriminations began in Israel. Leaders of the opposition, MK Yair Lapid (of the Yesh Atid – There is a future – party) and MK Yitzhak Herzog (HaMachane HaTzioni – The Zionist Camp – party) vigorously attacked the agreement, and also verbally assaulted Prime Minister Netanyahu (with MK Yair Lapid calling on PM Netanyahu to resign, since he failed to stop the deal with Iran.) Former National Security Advisor, Uzi Arad, who had previously worked for Netanyahu, called for a National Commission of Inquiry.
On the Israeli government’s side reaction to the reaching of an understanding with Iran, even before there was word of an agreement, Prime Minister Netanyahu bashed the negotiators, declaring at a meeting of the the Likud:
“Even over the weekend, as Iran continued to receive more and more concessions at the negotiating table, Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani led a march of hatred in the streets of Tehran in which the masses cried, ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’. If the concessions continued even after these unequivocal calls for the destruction of those conducting the negotiations, it seems there are those who are ready to make an agreement at any price – and this bad agreement is unavoidable.”
This morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu charged that the agreement with Iran was “a mistake of historic proportions.” One of Netanyahu’s own Likud party ministers is said to have confided – “we do not know the details of the deal, but we have been told to oppose it.”
Knesset Minister Gilad Erdan, one of the central leaders of the Likud party and Israel’s Minister for Internal Security (i.e. Police forces) called on the leaders of opposition to stop tweeting attacks of the agreement in Hebrew, and start making public announcement in English opposing the deal.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely tweeted that this agreement was “an historic surrender of the West to the axis of evil, led by Iran and Israel will labor as hard has she can to stop approval of the agreement.”
Minister Naftali Bennett, Israel’s current Education Minister, and head of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) Party stated: “On this day a nuclear power has been born, and it will go down as one of the darkest days in world history”
On the other hand – now that there is a done deal – Shelly Yachimovich, one of the leaders of the Zionist Camp opposition party, sent out a tweet calling on the Prime Minister to stop attacking the agreement and begin working on improving our relations with the Untied States.
Israel’s military and diplomatic correspondents do not seem to share the level of concern expressed by Israeli politicians. Many seem to believe that the deal with Iran is not a great deal, by it is not a bad deal either. These core correspondents regard the fact that this new agreement pushes off the existence of an Iranian nuclear program by over 10 years is a significant accomplishment. Ultimately, journalists all ask the question – What choice was there?
Speaking on Israeli radio this morning, the military correspondent of the Haaretz newspaper, Amos Harel, maintained that the Israeli military does not see the agreement as a major problem. Considering all of the events in the Middle East over the course of the past two years Israel’s strategic position has improved and Iran can be considered just one of the potential threats facing Israel in the future.
It also appears that the average Tel Aviv resident does not seem to share the profound concerns of the government. When I first learned an agreement was going to be announced this morning I mentioned the impending reality to a friend who I was sitting near. The Hebrew word for Greece is Yah-vahn and Iran is E-rahn. My friend thought I was talking about an agreement with Greece. When I enunciated more clearly – Iran – he just shrugged. Another acquaintance who is more politically connected stated: “What was the choice?”
I spoke this afternoon via phone with MK and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid. MK Lapid stated: “I think this is a bad day for the Jewish people and the Jewish State. The P5 + 1 has moved from a policy of preventing a nuclear Iran to a policy of containment without telling anyone”. MK Lapid went on to say that what is most troubling about the agreement is the issue of verification and the lack of a snap inspection regime – “If Iran was willing to keep the agreement it would not mind if they had snap inspection.” “The strange inspection arrangement in the agreement” MK Lapid continued, “will allow them to lie and cheat, which is what they have been doing for the last 20 years.”
Then, MK Lapid surprised me, by saying he will work with members of Congress to oppose the agreement. He said he would not go behind anyone’s back while doing it. However, he was very clear that he was planning to use the example of the failure in the agreement to permit clear snap inspections, as an illustration of why this deal is so poor.
It is clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to fight to the very end in Congress to try to stop the agreement. While some Israeli leaders think that this could be a self-defeating battle, it is clear that the Prime Minister does have wide support, both within his party – and even among the opposition – to fight against the agreement, whatever the cost.
Iran's Proxy War Against Israel
Last year, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei admitted for the first time that his country was supplying the Palestinian terrorist groups with weapons. "Iran realized Palestinian fighters' only problem was lack of access to weapons" — Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters, May 22, 2020.
The [earlier] denial exposes the extent of Iran's scheme to deceive the international community not only regarding its supply of weapons to the Palestinian terrorist groups, but also concerning its plan to acquire a nuclear bomb and bolster its production of nuclear material.
Iran. repeatedly violated the terms of the [2015 JCPOA] nuclear deal, according to the UN's nuclear monitoring Atomic Energy Agency.
Were it not for Iran's financial and military aid, the Palestinian terrorist groups would not have been able to attack Israel with thousands of rockets and missiles.
In the past, Iran used its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, to attack Israel. Iran is now using its Palestinian proxies to achieve its goal of eliminating Israel and killing Jews. This is a war not only between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist groups. Rather, it is a war waged by Iran against Israel.
The Western powers that are currently negotiating with Iran about the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal are emboldening the mullahs and allowing them to continue their war of "kill[ing] all the Jews."
Were it not for Iran's financial and military aid, the Palestinian terrorist groups would not have been able to attack Israel with thousands of rockets and missiles. Pictured: A barrage of rockets launched toward towns in Israel by the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations from the Gaza Strip early on May 12, 2021. (Photo by Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)
The Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) organization announced on May 11 that its members fired a burst of "Badr-3" missiles into Israel, killing two women and injuring dozens others. The announcement was made by PIJ's military wing, Al-Quds Brigades, after the group and other terror factions in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, fired hundreds of rockets into Israel within 24 hours.
The "Badr-3" missile is an Iranian-made missile that appeared for the first time on the battlefields of the Middle East in April 2019, when the Iranian-backed Houthi militia used it during the fighting in war-torn Yemen.
The "Badr-3" missile carries an explosive warhead weighing 250 kg, and has a range of more than 160 km, according to Debka, an Israeli website that reports on military issues. "The missile explodes within 20m of target and releases a 1,400-piece shower of shrapnel fragments," the website reported.
PIJ was the first terrorist organization to use the Iranian missile against Israel in 2019.
Until a few years ago, PIJ, Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups used to receive rockets and other weapons directly from Iran -- smuggled in by sea or across the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. For some years now, however, according to Israeli intelligence sources, these terrorist groups have used years of experience with Iranian and other rockets to develop their own versions.
Over the past 15 years, Iran became the most dominant weapon supplier to Hamas and PIJ. The major smuggling route was from Iran to Sudan, on to Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, and from there to the Gaza Strip. These weapons include long range rockets, mortar shells, anti-tank missiles, tons of standard explosives and raw materials for explosive production.
Last year, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei admitted for the first time that his country was supplying the Palestinian terrorist groups with weapons. "Iran realized Palestinian fighters' only problem was lack of access to weapons," Khamenei said in an online speech.
"With divine guidance and assistance, we planned, and the balance of power has been transformed in Palestine, and today the Gaza Strip can stand against the aggression of the Zionist enemy and defeat it."
Khamenei went on to offer the reason why Iran was sending rockets, missiles and tons of explosives to the Gaza Strip: "The Zionist regime is a deadly, cancerous tumor in the region. It will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed."
Khamenei's admission shows how the mullahs in Tehran have been lying to the West for many years. In 2011, Mohammad Khazaee, the Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations, sent a letter to the President of the United Nations Security Council in which he vehemently denied that Iran was smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip:
"The Islamic Republic of Iran categorically rejects the allegations concerning the so-called smuggling of advanced weapons into the Gaza Strip, which are based on false and misleading information provided by the Zionist regime. Iran's support for the peoples of Palestine has been of a moral, humanitarian and political nature."
The denial exposes the extent of Iran's scheme to deceive the international community not only regarding its supply of weapons to the Palestinian terrorist groups, but also concerning its plan to acquire nuclear weapons and bolster its production of nuclear material.
So while the Obama administration was sending $400 million of cash to Iran, the Iranians were continuing to supply rockets and missiles to their proxies in the Gaza Strip so that they could use them to destroy the "Zionist entity."
In 2015, the Obama administration, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany reached a deal with Iran, whereby it agreed to limit its nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. Iran, however, repeatedly violated the terms of the nuclear deal, according to the UN's nuclear monitoring Atomic Energy Agency.
The same Iran that lied about the smuggling of the weapons into the Gaza Strip also managed to deceive the US and the world powers regarding its willingness to adhere to the nuclear deal.
Last month, a report published by the Israeli Walla news website revealed that in 2006, Iran opened a route to smuggle missiles and ammunition to the Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip through Yemen and Sudan. The smuggling operations were led by Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was assassinated by Israel in 2010.
On April 9, Mahmoud Mardawi, a Hamas leader and former member of the group's military wing, Izaddin al-Qassam Brigades, told the Al-Monitor news website:
"Hamas wants to explore all sources of military supplies from every country and movement, mainly from Iran. We will not stop knocking on doors to find parties to provide us with weapons."
An arms smuggler who deals with Hamas told Al-Monitor that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps sent weapons to the Palestinian terrorist groups through the Suez Canal all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, where Iranian ships dock off the coast of the Gaza Strip in Egyptian territorial waters. When night sets, he revealed, Hamas frogmen transport the weapons in closed containers.
Earlier this year, the secretary-general of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziyad al-Nakhaleh, disclosed that Qassem Soleimani, the slain commander of Iran's Quds Force, "personally" managed a complex operation to send weapons to the Gaza Strip. Nakhaleh said that Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone attack on January 3, 2020 near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq, traveled to several countries to supply weapons for the Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.
Were it not for Iran's financial and military aid, the Palestinian terrorist groups would not have been able to attack Israel with thousands of rockets and missiles. Like their patrons in Tehran, Hamas and PIJ do not recognize Israel's right to exist and are committed to its destruction.
In the past, Iran used its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, to attack Israel. Iran is now using its Palestinian proxies to achieve its goal of eliminating Israel and killing Jews. This is a war not only between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist groups. Rather, it is a war waged by Iran against Israel.
The Western powers that are currently negotiating with Iran about the revival of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal are emboldening the mullahs and allowing them to continue their war of "kill[ing] all the Jews."
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.
© 2021 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
- For the first time, there is a “warm peace” between Israel and an Arab state, where both sides see the mutual advantage from their scientific, economic, cultural, and strategic cooperation.
- In contrast, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians maintained “cold relations” with Israel that were meant to extract the maximum concessions from Israel while minimizing normalization with it.
- With this diplomatic achievement, Israel is taking a huge step towards one of its long-term strategic goals – integration into the region.
- The pragmatic Arab camp members feel that the radicals are weaker. Israel is perceived as a powerful country that dares to act against the extremists and will not change its position.
- The agreement is a historic achievement for Israel, the UAE, the United States, and the pragmatic camp. It creates a potential for further achievements at the regional level and in the Palestinian context, as progress continues in the normalization process.
A Historic Turning Point
The normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with American mediation, is a strategic and historic turning point in Israel’s relations with both the Arab world and Palestinians. The main components of change are:
- For the first time, there is a “warm peace” between Israel and an Arab state, where both sides see the mutual advantage from their scientific, economic, cultural, and strategic cooperation. In contrast, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians maintained “cold relations” with Israel that were meant to extract the maximum concessions from Israel while minimizing normalization with it.
- With this diplomatic achievement with the United Arab Emirates, Israel is taking a huge step towards one of its long-term strategic goals – integration into the region. Although Israel’s ties with the pragmatic Arab camp have been known for some time, this is the first time Israel will have normalized relations with a significant country from the pragmatic states, in a way that reflects how vital it is for the members of this camp to have a relationship with Israel.
- The positive reactions to the agreement by most of the countries of the pragmatic camp indicate that this is not a controversial move for them. This dramatic change was possible due to the threat that the pragmatic camp members feel from the various elements in the radical camp – from Iran and its satellites, from Sunni extremists, and, in particular, from the Muslim Brotherhood, headed by Erdogan’s Turkey.
- The pragmatic camp members feel that the radicals are weaker, which allows them to break through barriers in their relationship with Israel. They also believe that they cannot rely on American support if Democrats win the November 2020 elections. All this sharpens their need to ally with Israel, which is perceived as a powerful country in the region that dares to act against the extremists and will not change its position.
The UAE was encouraged to make this dramatic move in normalizing relations with Israel by the Trump administration, who deferred the declaration of Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria as proposed in the U.S. “deal of the century” peace initiative and by the U.S. agreement to sell advanced weapons to the Emirates. The Emirates seized the opportunity as long as Trump is president and as a way to improve his chances of being re-elected.
The “Glass Ceiling” Has Been Shattered
The imaginary “glass ceiling” that allegedly prevented the normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel as long as Israel does not surrender to the Palestinian demands has been shattered. This demand was formulated by an Arab dictate to Israel, better known as the “Arab Peace Initiative.” It turned out that the claim regarding the existence of this ceiling was an unfounded threat that served the Palestinians and the advocates of Israeli concessions.
Against this background, there is a possibility that the success of this process will convince other countries in the pragmatic camp to normalize their relations with Israel fully or partially during the current Trump administration. Saudi Arabia’s agreement to permit direct flights between Israel and the Emirates over its territory could be an example of a partial normalization of relations.
Impact on the Palestinians
In the Palestinian context, the move has brought about a significant and multidimensional change. It is no wonder that the Palestinians are furious at the latest development, although, at least for a long time, they will not face the significant threat of Israel declaring sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and other parts of Judea and Samaria.
The significant changes brought about by the new development in the Palestinian context are:
- It critically damaged the Palestinians’ ability to exert pressure on Israel within the terms of a peace agreement to return to the pre-1967 lines with minor modifications and to demand the establishment of a Palestinian state that will not recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
- Before the presentation of the U.S. Peace Initiative, there were two main options on the table in the Palestinian context. The first one was the adoption of the paradigm of a two-state solution in its Palestinian version, backed by the Democrats in the United States, Europe, and the Israeli Left. The second option was the continuation of the status quo.
- The agreement with the Emirates enables two options – either to continue the status quo or to implement Trump’s peace initiative, including the application of Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria. At this point, the status quo may continue for a long time, especially if the Democrats win the elections. However, the possibility of applying sovereignty remains a future alternative, and its status may be strengthened if the Emirates change their position regarding the agreement.
- The Palestinians have actually lost one of their main levers of influence – the ability to prevent normalization between Israel and the Arab states. In recent years, this Palestinian lever had already been weakened, but with the new development, it almost evaporated. The other Palestinian lever – the ability to impose a veto and prevent changes on the ground without Palestinian consent – eroded as well, it but still exists.
- As a result, the Palestinians now face Israel from a position of greater weakness. They still have several tools left, such as the support of growing groups in the U.S. Democratic Party, the blind European support, and the support of the radical camp (Iran and its satellites, Turkey, and Qatar). The Palestinians also have the ability to use force and to leverage their presence on the ground, which forces Israel, which does not want to rule over them, and the international system to deal with their cause.
The pragmatic Muslim camp no longer considers itself dependent on the Palestinians, while it takes care of its own vital interests. The pragmatic Muslim camp members will hold the Palestinian cause as a low priority, and they are fed up with the Palestinian leadership. The severity of this development is heightened in light of the tremendous effort that Mahmoud Abbas has invested in recent years in preventing such Arab-Israeli normalization. He recognizes that the chances of the realization of normalization are increasing. This is the background for the great frustration and fury of the Palestinians. If more countries follow the UAE path, the Palestinians will completely lose their ability to veto normalization.
In this situation, the Palestinians might feel increasing pressure to re-examine the path they have chosen so far and their adherence to the problematic and false narrative they continue to adopt, according to which there is no Jewish people and Jews do not have a history of sovereignty in the Land of Israel. The need to make such a re-examination will increase if Trump wins the upcoming election. Adherence to this narrative has already cost the Palestinians the loss of American aid as well as the imposing of Israeli and international sanctions.
Up until now, the Palestinians responded by increasing their adherence to this narrative, for example, by strengthening the commitment to pay salaries to terrorists, adopting a policy of Palestinian anti-normalization with Israel, and severing ties with Israel in security and civilian matters, including refusal to receive tax money collected for them by Israel. It is likely that they will continue to act this way in the future, but there is still a chance that other voices will be heard among them as well. Self-examination might also influence the nature of the leadership that directs the Palestinians in this path. This self-examination might lead to two opposite directions – either establishing a more radical leadership that favors a violent struggle without the sophistication that characterizes Mahmoud Abbas, or a more moderate one.
The alternative rationale for the current Palestinian way of thinking may emerge precisely from the agreement by setting the goals of economic well-being and a democratic regime as more urgent and essential than liberating all of Palestine in stages. The United States and the UAE may present new options to the Palestinians as a tempting alternative to the current failure. It is highly doubtful whether the conditions for such a change are ripe however, they may be ready to at least raise the idea and open discussions on the matter.
Israel Is Joining the Regional Pragmatic Camp
One of the significant results of the UAE-Israel understanding is the strengthening of the regional pragmatic camp, with Israel openly joining its ranks. There is no doubt that Israel sees this step as a very desirable change, which will improve the ability of this pragmatic camp to curb the hostile radical camp. This change is part of a general trend empowering the pragmatic camp and weakening the radicals during the Trump era through sanctions on Iran and its allies, the growing threat to the regimes that rely on Iran in the region, the Israeli activity against the Iranian penetration into Syria, and more.
The question is how this change will be leveraged by the pragmatists and what will be the commitments demanded of Israel. It is already clear that the pragmatists will try to leverage this normalization to obtain advanced weapons from the United States. They will expect Israel to suppress excessive opposition to the arms deals, despite Israel’s fundamental and well-known opposition to arms sales that could jeopardize its qualitative military edge.
It is likely that some countries will also expect to receive “soft” Israeli assistance, for example, in intelligence, consulting, and military technology, to improve their performance in their confrontation with their radical rivals. If this assistance provided by Israel were helpful, it would be the best proof of the benefits for these countries to maintain normal relations with Israel. This goes beyond the benefits the pragmatists will derive from civilian cooperation with Israel in science, economics, medicine, tourism, and the like.
However, where the pragmatists have the most expectations from cooperation with Israel is in dealing with Iran and curbing Iran’s pursuit of regional hegemony and the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The pragmatists expect Israel to persuade the United States to adhere to its policy of restraining Iran. At the same time, they expect Israel to continue to act on its own to ensure that these goals are achieved. Israel is willing to do so in any case and has already proven its importance in this regard. However, the pragmatists will value Israel’s activities even more if Biden wins the elections.
Israel Suspends Applying Sovereignty in Parts of the West Bank
An interesting question is whether the strategic benefits of the agreement, as detailed so far, justify the price Israel allegedly paid to achieve it, that is, its agreement to suspend declaring sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria as well as the Jordan Valley, as part of the prime minister’s agreement to the U.S. peace plan.
It appears that Israel did not have the opportunity to adopt such a policy. Already in the second half of May 2020, during his visit to Israel, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo learned from his talks with alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Ganz and Minister of Foreign Affairs Gaby Ashkenazi about their reservations regarding this step. In addition, the U.S. administration decided not to support the implementation of the plan since it received adverse reactions from Arab and international players. Moreover, the administration feared that the implementation of the plan could damage Israeli and American interests, as well as Trump’s chances of being re-elected.
Obviously, it was not logical or possible for Israel to apply sovereignty without American support. Therefore, the move was postponed and, in effect, became irrelevant. As I wrote then, 2 one of the ways to persuade Israel to abandon the idea of declaring sovereignty was to promote normalization. This way, by giving up on the impractical option, Israel had an excuse, which allowed all parties to take this important step and even present it as an achievement for the Palestinians. In other words, this is a considerable strategic achievement for Israel in return for an imaginary price.
The realization of the idea of sovereignty could have been an even more significant strategic achievement. However, Israel would have had to pay an exorbitant price for it. In any case, as stated, it could not have been realized without American support. The normalization is a win-win-win situation because the other partners to the agreement – the Emirates and the United States – also achieved important goals without paying a heavy price. The common interest for all the parties to the agreement is strengthening the pragmatic camp in the region against its radical enemies. This common interest brought about this agreement at this time.
In conclusion, the agreement is a historic achievement for Israel, the UAE, the United States, and the pragmatic camp. It creates a potential for further achievements at the regional level and in the Palestinian context. To realize this potential, it is vital to continue progress in the normalization process, with a significant commitment to success and meaningful investment in the process.
World reacts to Iran's nuclear deal
President Barack Obama says a nuclear deal with Iran is an "important first step" toward addressing the world's concerns over the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear program.
A protester's sign is seen outside the White House after President Obama spoke to the nation about the Iran nuclear deal, hammered out in Vienna. (Photo: EPA)
Reaction to Iran's nuclear deal with six world powers arrived from across the world Tuesday. Below is a sample of what was said.
"There is a real opportunity for Iran to benefit from this agreement in terms of its economy." — David Cameron, prime minister
"Congrats to all negotiators on Iran nuclear deal, helping bring Iranian people back into the international community." — Richard Branson, entrepreneur
"Tehran Stock Exchange has closed up by just 0.35% but the real story is in the volumes which are up around 110% on yr's average." — Golnar Motevalli, Iran-based Bloomberg journalist
"The sanctions regime was never successful, but at the same time it affected people's lives." — Hassan Rouhani, president
"When willing to make a deal at any cost, this is the result. From early reports, we can see that the deal is a historic mistake." — Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister
"We are confident that the world today breathed a sigh of relief." — Vladmir Putin, president.
"Well, there is white smoke from the Coburg Palace in Vienna. It is undoubtedly the most important diplomatic achievement for years." — Carl Bildt, politician
"We are quite assured that the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue with greater momentum, supporting the just issues of peoples and working for peace and stability to prevail in the region and the world." — Bashar Assad, president
"I hope — and indeed I believe — that this agreement will lead to greater mutual understanding and cooperation on the many serious security challenges in the Middle East." — Ban Ki Moon, secretary general
"After two years of humiliating concessions by President Obama, he has made his deal with Iran. He should have walked away. Iran joins the sad list of countries where America's red lines have been crossed." — Chris Christie, governor, New Jersey
"Every path to a nuclear weapon has been cut off." — President Obama
"The agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See. It constitutes an important outcome of the negotiations carried out so far, although continued efforts and commitment on the part of all involved will be necessary in order for it to bear fruit" — Rev. Federico Lombardi, spokesman
Israeli ambassador: The four major problems with the Iran deal
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech after a nuclear agreement was announced in Vienna. (Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press)
Ron Dermer is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
Israel has long been concerned that the “P5+1” powers would negotiate a bad deal with Iran. But the deal announced today in Vienna is breathtaking in its concessions to an Iranian regime that is the foremost sponsor of terror in the world, is on a march of conquest in the Middle East, is responsible for the murder and maiming of thousands of U.S. soldiers, and vows and works to annihilate the one and only Jewish state.
There are four major problems with this deal. First, it leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. This is not the hoped for “dismantle for dismantle” deal, in which the sanctions regime would be dismantled in exchange for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear-weapons making capability. Rather, this deal leaves Iran’s nuclear capabilities essentially intact (the conversion of the Arak heavy-water facility being the notable exception). In fact, this deal allows Iran to improve those capabilities by conducting research and development on advanced centrifuges and building intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear warheads.
To keep Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions in check over the next decade, the P5+1 countries — the five U.N. Security Council members plus Germany — are relying on intelligence and inspectors. Here, the historical record does not bode well. The United States and Israel have two of the finest intelligence agencies in the world. But it was years before either knew that Iran had secret facilities at Natanz and Fordow .
As for inspections, Iran has been deceiving the International Atomic Energy Agency for years and has consistently refused to come clean about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program — a commitment that Iran has once again been permitted to dodge before signing this agreement.
Given this history of deception, it is particularly disturbing that the promised “anytime, anywhere” inspections regime has degenerated into what has been aptly described as “sometime, somewhere” inspections.
The second problem with this deal is that the restrictions being placed on Iran’s nuclear program are only temporary, with the most important restrictions expiring in 10 years.
There is no linkage whatsoever between the removal of these restrictions and Iran’s behavior. In 10 years, Iran could be even more aggressive toward its neighbors, sponsor even more terrorism around the globe and work even harder to destroy Israel, and the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would still be automatically removed.
A much more dangerous Iran would then legally be allowed to build a massive uranium enrichment program that would place it just weeks away from having the fissile material for an entire nuclear arsenal. As President Obama himself has admitted, the breakout time would then be “almost down to zero.”
That is why this deal does not block Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb. It paves it. By agreeing to temporary restrictions on its nuclear program today, Iran has cleared its path to many nuclear bombs tomorrow. Iran won’t have to sneak into or break into the nuclear club. Under this deal, it could simply decide to walk in.
That leads to the third problem with the deal. Because states throughout our region know that the deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb, a number of them will race to get nuclear weapons of their own. The most dangerous region on earth would get infinitely more dangerous. Nuclear terrorism and nuclear war would become far more likely. In fact, if someone wanted to eviscerate the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, this deal is definitely a great place to start.
Finally, the deal transfers to the Iranian regime’s coffers $150 billion that is now frozen in foreign bank accounts. Iran has a $300 billion to $400 billion economy. A $150 billion cash bonanza for the regime is the equivalent of $8 trillion flowing into the U.S. treasury.
Those funds are unlikely to be spent on new cancer research centers in Tehran or on funding a GI bill for returning members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Instead, tens of billions are likely to flow to the Shiite militias in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and other Iranian terror proxies in the region.
Billions more will go to strengthening Iran’s global terror network, which it has used to perpetrate terror attacks on five continents in more than 30 cities, from Buenos Aires to Burgas, Bulgaria, to Bangkok.
Rather than force Iran to face the hard choice of guns or butter, this deal will enable it to have more dangerous guns, more lethal rockets, more sophisticated drones and more destructive cybercapabilities. Removing the arms embargo on Iran magnifies this problem by orders of magnitude.
Any one of these problems would be sufficient to make this a bad deal. But all four make this deal a disaster of historic proportions.
Israel has the most to gain if the Iranian nuclear issue is peacefully resolved. But this deal does not resolve the issue. It makes things much worse, increasing the chances of conventional war with Iran and its terror proxies today and dramatically increasing the chances of a nuclear-armed Iran and a nuclearized Middle East tomorrow.
Would Iran Deal Imperil Jews' Loyalty to Democratic Party?
If nothing else, the coming political battle between President Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress over the potential Iran nuclear deal underscores one of the biggest anomalies in American politics. Republicans have become much stronger backers of Israel than Democrats over the years, yet American Jews have remained Democrats for the most part.
However, given the stakes for Israel with respect to Iran, it&rsquos an open question as to whether long-standing Jewish support for the Democratic Party will be threatened. One worrisome sign for the Democrats is a recent Gallup Poll finding declining support for Obama among Jewish Americans who strongly backed the president in both of his presidential elections. But while there is a lot of recent history showing that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not made a political difference to Jews, many of whom have been critical of Israel in that regard, the potential Iranian threat may well be different.
Historically, political polarization has increased markedly on one of the most basic polling measures with respect to support for Israel. In July 2014, by a margin of 73 percent to 44 percent, Republicans were more apt than Democrats to say they are sympathetic to Israeli rather than the Palestinians in the Middle East conflict. When this question was first asked in the late 1970s, about equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats said they were more pro-Israel: 49 percent and 44 percent, respectively. The pro-Israel partisan gap widened substantially in the last decade following the 9/11 attacks as Republicans became much more likely to back Israeli over the Palestinians while Democratic opinion changed little.
Republicans are not only politically more supportive of Israel in the Middle East conflict, they are much more likely than Democrats to believe that God gave Israel to the Jewish people. A 2013 Pew Research survey found a 58 percent majority of Republicans holding this view, compared with only 36 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Independents. Analysis of the survey suggests that this is partly because Republicans are more likely to believe in God than Democrats. But even when the comparison is limited only to people who believe in God, Republicans are still significantly more inclined than Democrats to hold the view that God gave Israel to the Jewish people.
Remarkably, despite growing support for Israel among Republicans over the past decade, there is little sign that Jews have become more attracted to the Republican Party in recent years. In its most recent in-depth analysis of trends in party affiliation, the Pew Research Center wrote, &ldquoJews continue to mostly align with the Democratic Party. Nearly twice as many Jews identify as Democrats or lean Democratic (61 percent) than identify as Republicans or lean Republican (31 percent),&rdquo and this pattern is little different than it was in the early 1990s (65 percent-32 percent in 1992).
While most Jews are indeed strong backers of Israel, the polling data suggests that the generally liberal ideology of Jewish Americans continues to align with their long-standing affinity to the Democratic Party. In the Pew Research Center&rsquos 2014 aggregate surveys, 41 percent of Jewish respondents described themselves as liberals, compared with 24 percent of the public at large.
Relatedly, views of some Israeli policies may well be a factor that ameliorates the partisan issue for Jews. A major groundbreaking Pew Research Center survey of 3,475 American Jews in 2013 reported that &ldquoabout seven-in-ten Jews surveyed say they feel either very attached (30 percent) or somewhat attached (39 percent) to Israel.&rdquo
At the same time, the survey reported that &ldquomany American Jews express reservations about Israel&rsquos approach to the peace process. Just 38 percent say the Israeli government is making a sincere effort to establish peace with the Palestinians. (Fewer still &ndash 12 percent &ndash think Palestinian leaders are sincerely seeking peace with Israel.) And just 17 percent of American Jews think the continued building of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to Israel&rsquos security 44 percent say that settlement construction hurts Israel&rsquos own security interests.&rdquo
Nonetheless, Obama&rsquos proposed deal with Iran, in light of Israeli concerns about it, could significantly weaken long-standing Jewish American allegiances to the Democratic Party. Gallup recently reported approval of Obama among Jews declining from 64 percent in 2013 to 54 percent in 2015, and went on to note that highly religious Jews in the Gallup sample were least positive about the president.
Gallup speculated that whether this trend will continue or reverse itself &ldquowill depend in part on the future of the relationship between Obama and Israeli leadership. This in turn will reflect the status of the pending agreement with Iran that would restrict that country's nuclear activity in return for a further loosening of economic sanctions.&rdquo Indeed, while largely liberal American Jews have expressed humanitarian-based criticism of Israel&rsquos handling of the Palestinian situation, their reaction might be just the opposite to a potential threat to it posed by the Iranian deal.
The truth about Israel's secret nuclear arsenal
D eep beneath desert sands, an embattled Middle Eastern state has built a covert nuclear bomb, using technology and materials provided by friendly powers or stolen by a clandestine network of agents. It is the stuff of pulp thrillers and the sort of narrative often used to characterise the worst fears about the Iranian nuclear programme. In reality, though, neither US nor British intelligence believe Tehran has decided to build a bomb, and Iran's atomic projects are under constant international monitoring.
The exotic tale of the bomb hidden in the desert is a true story, though. It's just one that applies to another country. In an extraordinary feat of subterfuge, Israel managed to assemble an entire underground nuclear arsenal – now estimated at 80 warheads, on a par with India and Pakistan – and even tested a bomb nearly half a century ago, with a minimum of international outcry or even much public awareness of what it was doing.
Despite the fact that the Israel's nuclear programme has been an open secret since a disgruntled technician, Mordechai Vanunu, blew the whistle on it in 1986, the official Israeli position is still never to confirm or deny its existence.
When the former speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg, broke the taboo last month, declaring Israeli possession of both nuclear and chemical weapons and describing the official non-disclosure policy as "outdated and childish" a rightwing group formally called for a police investigation for treason.
Meanwhile, western governments have played along with the policy of "opacity" by avoiding all mention of the issue. In 2009, when a veteran Washington reporter, Helen Thomas, asked Barack Obama in the first month of his presidency if he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, he dodged the trapdoor by saying only that he did not wish to "speculate".
UK governments have generally followed suit. Asked in the House of Lords in November about Israeli nuclear weapons, Baroness Warsi answered tangentially. "Israel has not declared a nuclear weapons programme. We have regular discussions with the government of Israel on a range of nuclear-related issues," the minister said. "The government of Israel is in no doubt as to our views. We encourage Israel to become a state party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]."
But through the cracks in this stone wall, more and more details continue to emerge of how Israel built its nuclear weapons from smuggled parts and pilfered technology.
The tale serves as a historical counterpoint to today's drawn-out struggle over Iran's nuclear ambitions. The parallels are not exact – Israel, unlike Iran, never signed up to the 1968 NPT so could not violate it. But it almost certainly broke a treaty banning nuclear tests, as well as countless national and international laws restricting the traffic in nuclear materials and technology.
The list of nations that secretly sold Israel the material and expertise to make nuclear warheads, or who turned a blind eye to its theft, include today's staunchest campaigners against proliferation: the US, France, Germany, Britain and even Norway.
Whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. Photograph: AP
Meanwhile, Israeli agents charged with buying fissile material and state-of-the-art technology found their way into some of the most sensitive industrial establishments in the world. This daring and remarkably successful spy ring, known as Lakam, the Hebrew acronym for the innocuous-sounding Science Liaison Bureau, included such colourful figures as Arnon Milchan, a billionaire Hollywood producer behind such hits as Pretty Woman, LA Confidential and 12 Years a Slave, who finally admitted his role last month.
"Do you know what it's like to be a twentysomething-year-old kid [and] his country lets him be James Bond? Wow! The action! That was exciting," he said in an Israeli documentary.
Milchan's life story is colourful, and unlikely enough to be the subject of one of the blockbusters he bankrolls. In the documentary, Robert de Niro recalls discussing Milchan's role in the illicit purchase of nuclear-warhead triggers. "At some point I was asking something about that, being friends, but not in an accusatory way. I just wanted to know," De Niro says. "And he said: yeah I did that. Israel's my country."
Milchan was not shy about using Hollywood connections to help his shadowy second career. At one point, he admits in the documentary, he used the lure of a visit to actor Richard Dreyfuss's home to get a top US nuclear scientist, Arthur Biehl, to join the board of one of his companies.
According to Milchan's biography, by Israeli journalists Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, he was recruited in 1965 by Israel's current president, Shimon Peres, who he met in a Tel Aviv nightclub (called Mandy's, named after the hostess and owner's wife Mandy Rice-Davies, freshly notorious for her role in the Profumo sex scandal). Milchan, who then ran the family fertiliser company, never looked back, playing a central role in Israel's clandestine acquisition programme.
He was responsible for securing vital uranium-enrichment technology, photographing centrifuge blueprints that a German executive had been bribed into temporarily "mislaying" in his kitchen. The same blueprints, belonging to the European uranium enrichment consortium, Urenco, were stolen a second time by a Pakistani employee, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who used them to found his country's enrichment programme and to set up a global nuclear smuggling business, selling the design to Libya, North Korea and Iran.
For that reason, Israel's centrifuges are near-identical to Iran's, a convergence that allowed Israeli to try out a computer worm, codenamed Stuxnet, on its own centrifuges before unleashing it on Iran in 2010.
Arguably, Lakam's exploits were even more daring than Khan's. In 1968, it organised the disappearance of an entire freighter full of uranium ore in the middle of the Mediterranean. In what became known as the Plumbat affair, the Israelis used a web of front companies to buy a consignment of uranium oxide, known as yellowcake, in Antwerp. The yellowcake was concealed in drums labelled "plumbat", a lead derivative, and loaded onto a freighter leased by a phony Liberian company. The sale was camouflaged as a transaction between German and Italian companies with help from German officials, reportedly in return for an Israeli offer to help the Germans with centrifuge technology.
When the ship, the Scheersberg A, docked in Rotterdam, the entire crew was dismissed on the pretext that the vessel had been sold and an Israeli crew took their place. The ship sailed into the Mediterranean where, under Israeli naval guard, the cargo was transferred to another vessel.
US and British documents declassified last year also revealed a previously unknown Israeli purchase of about 100 tons of yellowcake from Argentina in 1963 or 1964, without the safeguards typically used in nuclear transactions to prevent the material being used in weapons.
Israel had few qualms about proliferating nuclear weapons knowhow and materials, giving South Africa's apartheid regime help in developing its own bomb in the 1970s in return for 600 tons of yellowcake.
Pictures of the secret Dimona nuclear reactor in Israel, showing where the plant has allegedly been camouflaged. Photograph: space imaging
Israel's nuclear reactor also required deuterium oxide, also known as heavy water, to moderate the fissile reaction. For that, Israel turned to Norway and Britain. In 1959, Israel managed to buy 20 tons of heavy water that Norway had sold to the UK but was surplus to requirements for the British nuclear programme. Both governments were suspicious that the material would be used to make weapons, but decided to look the other way. In documents seen by the BBC in 2005 British officials argued it would be "over-zealous" to impose safeguards. For its part, Norway carried out only one inspection visit, in 1961.
Israel's nuclear-weapons project could never have got off the ground, though, without an enormous contribution from France. The country that took the toughest line on counter-proliferation when it came to Iran helped lay the foundations of Israel's nuclear weapons programme, driven by by a sense of guilt over letting Israel down in the 1956 Suez conflict, sympathy from French-Jewish scientists, intelligence-sharing over Algeria and a drive to sell French expertise and abroad.
"There was a tendency to try to export and there was a general feeling of support for Israel," Andre Finkelstein, a former deputy commissioner at France's Atomic Energy Commissariat and deputy director general at the International Atomic Energy Agency, told Avner Cohen, an Israeli-American nuclear historian.
France's first reactor went critical as early as 1948 but the decision to build nuclear weapons seems to have been taken in 1954, after Pierre Mendès France made his first trip to Washington as president of the council of ministers of the chaotic Fourth Republic. On the way back he told an aide: "It's exactly like a meeting of gangsters. Everyone is putting his gun on the table, if you have no gun you are nobody. So we must have a nuclear programme."
Mendès France gave the order to start building bombs in December 1954. And as it built its arsenal, Paris solds material assistance to other aspiring weapons states, not just Israel.
"[T]his went on for many, many years until we did some stupid exports, including Iraq and the reprocessing plant in Pakistan, which was crazy," Finkelstein recalled in an interview that can now be read in a collection of Cohen's papers at the Wilson Centre thinktank in Washington. "We have been the most irresponsible country on nonproliferation."
In Dimona, French engineers poured in to help build Israel a nuclear reactor and a far more secret reprocessing plant capable of separating plutonium from spent reactor fuel. This was the real giveaway that Israel's nuclear programme was aimed at producing weapons.
By the end of the 50s, there were 2,500 French citizens living in Dimona, transforming it from a village to a cosmopolitan town, complete with French lycées and streets full of Renaults, and yet the whole endeavour was conducted under a thick veil of secrecy. The American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in his book The Samson Option: "French workers at Dimona were forbidden to write directly to relatives and friends in France and elsewhere, but sent mail to a phony post-office box in Latin America."
The British were kept out of the loop, being told at different times that the huge construction site was a desert grasslands research institute and a manganese processing plant. The Americans, also kept in the dark by both Israel and France, flew U2 spy planes over Dimona in an attempt to find out what they were up to.
The Israelis admitted to having a reactor but insisted it was for entirely peaceful purposes. The spent fuel was sent to France for reprocessing, they claimed, even providing film footage of it being supposedly being loaded onto French freighters. Throughout the 60s it flatly denied the existence of the underground reprocessing plant in Dimona that was churning out plutonium for bombs.
Producer Arnon Milchan with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the premiere of Mr and Mrs Smith. Photograph: L Cohen
Israel refused to countenance visits by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), so in the early 1960s President Kennedy demanded they accept American inspectors. US physicists were dispatched to Dimona but were given the run-around from the start. Visits were never twice-yearly as had been agreed with Kennedy and were subject to repeated postponements. The US physicists sent to Dimona were not allowed to bring their own equipment or collect samples. The lead American inspector, Floyd Culler, an expert on plutonium extraction, noted in his reports that there were newly plastered and painted walls in one of the buildings. It turned out that before each American visit, the Israelis had built false walls around the row of lifts that descended six levels to the subterranean reprocessing plant.
As more and more evidence of Israel's weapons programme emerged, the US role progressed from unwitting dupe to reluctant accomplice. In 1968 the CIA director Richard Helms told President Johnson that Israel had indeed managed to build nuclear weapons and that its air force had conducted sorties to practise dropping them.
The timing could not have been worse. The NPT, intended to prevent too many nuclear genies from escaping from their bottles, had just been drawn up and if news broke that one of the supposedly non-nuclear-weapons states had secretly made its own bomb, it would have become a dead letter that many countries, especially Arab states, would refuse to sign.
The Johnson White House decided to say nothing, and the decision was formalised at a 1969 meeting between Richard Nixon and Golda Meir, at which the US president agreed to not to pressure Israel into signing the NPT, while the Israeli prime minister agreed her country would not be the first to "introduce" nuclear weapons into the Middle East and not do anything to make their existence public.
In fact, US involvement went deeper than mere silence. At a meeting in 1976 that has only recently become public knowledge, the CIA deputy director Carl Duckett informed a dozen officials from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the agency suspected some of the fissile fuel in Israel's bombs was weapons-grade uranium stolen under America's nose from a processing plant in Pennsylvania.
Not only was an alarming amount of fissile material going missing at the company, Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (Numec), but it had been visited by a veritable who's-who of Israeli intelligence, including Rafael Eitan, described by the firm as an Israeli defence ministry "chemist", but, in fact, a top Mossad operative who went on to head Lakam.
"It was a shock. Everyody was open-mouthed," recalls Victor Gilinsky, who was one of the American nuclear officials briefed by Duckett. "It was one of the most glaring cases of diverted nuclear material but the consequences appeared so awful for the people involved and for the US than nobody really wanted to find out what was going on."
The investigation was shelved and no charges were made.
A few years later, on 22 September 1979, a US satellite, Vela 6911, detected the double-flash typical of a nuclear weapon test off the coast of South Africa. Leonard Weiss, a mathematician and an expert on nuclear proliferation, was working as a Senate advisor at the time and after being briefed on the incident by US intelligence agencies and the country's nuclear weapons laboratories, he became convinced a nuclear test, in contravention to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, had taken place.
It was only after both the Carter and then the Reagan administrations attempted to gag him on the incident and tried to whitewash it with an unconvincing panel of enquiry, that it dawned on Weiss that it was the Israelis, rather than the South Africans, who had carried out the detonation.
"I was told it would create a very serious foreign policy issue for the US, if I said it was a test. Someone had let something off that US didn't want anyone to know about," says Weiss.
Israeli sources told Hersh the flash picked up by the Vela satellite was actually the third of a series of Indian Ocean nuclear tests that Israel conducted in cooperation with South Africa.
"It was a fuck-up," one source told him. "There was a storm and we figured it would block Vela, but there was a gap in the weather – a window – and Vela got blinded by the flash."
The US policy of silence continues to this day, even though Israel appears to be continuing to trade on the nuclear black market, albeit at much reduced volumes. In a paper on the illegal trade in nuclear material and technology published in October, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) noted: "Under US pressure in the 1980s and early 1990s, Israel … decided to largely stop its illicit procurement for its nuclear weapons programme. Today, there is evidence that Israel may still make occasional illicit procurements – US sting operations and legal cases show this."
Avner Cohen, the author of two books on Israel's bomb, said that policy of opacity in both Israel and in Washington is kept in place now largely by inertia. "At the political level, no one wants to deal with it for fear of opening a Pandora's box. It has in many ways become a burden for the US, but people in Washington, all the way up to Obama will not touch it, because of the fear it could compromise the very basis of the Israeli-US understanding."
In the Arab world and beyond, there is growing impatience with the skewed nuclear status quo. Egypt in particular has threatened to walk out of the NPT unless there is progress towards creating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. The western powers promised to stage a conference on the proposal in 2012 but it was called off, largely at America's behest, to reduce the pressure on Israel to attend and declare its nuclear arsenal.
"Somehow the kabuki goes on," Weiss says. "If it is admitted Israel has nuclear weapons at least you can have an honest discussion. It seems to me it's very difficult to get a resolution of the Iran issue without being honest about that."
7/14/15 Israeli Reaction to the agreement with Iran - History
In the late 1970s, Iraq purchased an &ldquoOsiris class&rdquo nuclear reactor from France (some things never change). Israeli military intelligence assumed this was for plutonium production to further an Iraqi nuclear weapons program. Israeli intelligence also believed that the summer of 1981 would be the last chance to destroy the reactor without exposing the Iraqi civilian population to nuclear fallout. After that point, the reactor would be loaded with nuclear fuel.
Israel prevented a nuclear Iraq
Just like Iran today, Iraq protested that its interest in nuclear energy was peaceful. At the time, Iraq was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), placing its reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Some experts remained unconvinced that the IAEA monitoring program was sufficient to guarantee that weapon research was not being conducted. They also claimed that an Osiris class reactor was not particularly useful to countries with no established reactor programs, but capable of producing plutonium.
Israel first pursued a diplomatic solution to the situation. The villain of the Temple Mount and Israel&rsquos foreign minister Moshe Dayan went to the United States for help. However, Israel failed to obtain assurances that the reactor program would be halted.
In meetings with Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger and Secretary of State Alexander Haig, there was agreement about the Israeli assessment regarding the Iraqi nuclear threat. American representatives even verified Israeli assessments that Iraq was working to reach nuclear capability and exploit the ability to influence and destroy Israel. Despite the American consensus, the Americans refused to act. Perhaps because they did not truly grasp the danger or did not want to upset Iraq, which was fighting America&rsquos enemy, Iran.
"Yitzchak Shamir, negotiated with French presidents Valery Giscard-D&rsquoEstaing and his successor François Mitterand. The French proved intransigent, looking out for their own economic interests as Iraq was by far their top customer for military hardware. The payments to France came mostly in the form of oil. [Then as now the French Government couldn't care less about dead Jews]
"According to Shamir, French Minister for Foreign Affairs Claude Cheysson told him that there were only two major Arab powers: Iraq and the PLO. Despite Shamir&rsquos personal affinity toward the French, as they had sheltered him while he was a member of the pre-state uprising against the British occupation of Israel, he was extremely disappointed when he realized that France was unwilling to cooperate and prevent Saddam Hussein&rsquos Iraq from becoming a nuclear state, despite urgent and emotional pleas by the Israelis that Iraq was preparing a nuclear holocaust against Israel and the Jewish people.". (Source: Yitzhak Shamir, &ldquoThe Failure of Diplomacy,&rdquo Israel&rsquos Strike Against the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor 7 June, 1981, Jerusalem: Menachem Begin Heritage Center: 2003, 13-14.)
Just like today with Iran, there were political considerations. This time, however, the politics were in Israel:
"According to Moshe Nissim, it was the need to contend with the danger of an atom bomb in the hands of a dangerous and irresponsible Arab ruler who would not hesitate to use it against Israel that convinced Begin of the urgency and necessity to destroy the Iraqi reactor. In addition, Begin knew the Likud had a chance of losing the upcoming elections. If Labor, led by Shimon Peres, came into power, Begin feared the plans to prevent Iraq from obtaining a nuclear arsenal would be shelved. Begin, however, was not about to let Israel&rsquos security be weakened due to election consideration." (Moshe Nissim, &ldquoLeadership and Daring in the Destruction of the Israeli Reactor,&rdquo Israel&rsquos Strike Against the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor 7 June, 1981, Jerusalem: Menachem Begin Heritage Center: 2003, 21)
"4 pm, the evening before the Shavout holiday, 1981, orders were given to begin operations. At 5:35.a squadron of IAF F-16 fighter aircraft flew over Iraqi skies and dropped a number of bombs. The nuclear reactor was completely destroyed. Mission accomplished. One after another, the pilots shouted the code word &ldquoAlpha&rdquo into their radios, signaling their success. Zev Raz, Amus Yadlin, Chagi katz, Amir Nahumi, Yiftach Spector, Yisraeli Shapir, and Ilan Ramon- changed history, erasing the nuclear threat of the enemy."
Iraq established a nuclear program in the 60&rsquos and with the cooperation of the USSR built a nuclear reactor ten km&rsquos southeast of Baghdad. 16 years later, Iraq began to broaden their nuclear programs and were supported by France who provided them with a nuclear reactor. The reactor consisted of two buildings, the &ldquoTamuz&rdquo 1- the first reactor that produced uranium, and the &ldquoTamuz&rdquo 2. The Israeli government convened to discuss the growing nuclear threat in that region. Israel was doubtful about Iraq&rsquos claims that the nuclear program was for the benefit of its citizens. Their doubt increased when the IDF Intelligence Branch published intelligence reports that Iraq&rsquos operations posed a real threat to Israel&rsquos very existence- and Israel was forced to draw up plans to destroy the reactor."
On the 14th of May, Prime Minister Menachem Begin, authorized the bombing of the nuclear reactor. Ezer Wiezmen, then the Defense Minister, opposed the operation and resigned from the government two weeks later.
During a cabinet meeting the plan was formally authorized by Begin.
&ldquoA large clock is hanging over us, ticking. Iraq&rsquos intent to produce nuclear weapons poses a great danger to every man woman and child in the state of Israel&rdquo, the prime minister remarked.
The plan was kept in complete secrecy, imagine that happening today.
From the get-go, it was understood that the most effective way to implement a successful mission would be one conducted by the Israeli Air Force. It was decided that the operations would be done by F-16 fighter aircraft that the IAF had received the year before. An Israeli Air Force squadron of 8 F-16&rsquos heavily armed and several F-15&rsquos providing air cover and fighter support would implement the mission. One of the primary focuses during the planning stage was which direction the planes would fly. (11,000 km each way), over hostile territory and with a limited supply of fuel dictated the flight path. The plan was set for the seventh of June, zero hour-30 minutes before sunset.
&ldquoWe flew over the Tigris river, looking down we saw the nuclear reactor. Our target lay before us clear as day.&rdquo
The pilots who participated in the mission were selected for their impeccable flight records, trained in secret, and requested to implement the operations with no second thoughts. In the afternoon hours of the 6th of June, the plan was set in motion. All the members of the F-16 squadron were called up for duty. On the morning of June 7th, 1981, 8 F-16 fighter aircraft left Israeli airspace heading west towards the Tigris River, next to Baghdad. The flight to Iraq took upwards of an hour. Radio transmission was silenced. The Iraqis were caught completely off guard. The Iraqi radar system was incapable of picking up on the impending danger.
Major General Amus Yaldun, one of the eight combat pilots that participated in the mission and now head of the IDF Intelligence Branch, related, during an interview with IAF journalists, about the famous flight.
&ldquoEach aircraft flew with three full tanks of gas, two air to air missiles and two bombs each weighing one ton. We flew in two groups of four. The first group was led by Colonel (res.) Zev Raz, the &ldquoFirst Jet&rdquo squadron leader, and the second group was lead by Brigadier General (res.)Amir Nehomi, commander of the &ldquoNorthern Knights&rdquo. I was number two in the first quadroon. We headed south of the Jordon River, passing over the Saudi desert. We reached the Tigris River in a short amount of time.
"The blast of the first bombs echoed in the distance. One of them hit the center of the reactors roof. Once the bombs were releases, I felt the impact of the explosions shaking my plane. This was the end of the Iraqi nuclear reactor &ldquoTamuz&rdquo 1.&rdquo The Israeli planes made a roundabout turn west, heading home. &ldquoThe direction home was facing the sun as to prevent the enemy from following us. We received report of the second squadron&rsquos attack on the reactor.
"We felt great. A- Because of completing the mission and B- Because all of us, the whole squadron, had come home in peace.&rdquo
At the time, the attack was widely criticized. Israel responded that its actions were self-defensive and thus justifiable under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Critics rejected the idea of &ldquopre-emptive self-defense&rdquo. France, in particular (again no surprise), was outraged over the loss of a French national as a result of the attack, and since the raid diplomatic ties between France and Israel have remained strained.
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 487, calling upon Israel &ldquoto place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards&rdquo, and stated that Iraq was &ldquoentitled to appropriate redress for the destruction it suffered&rdquo. Israel has not complied with these requests. The United States supported the resolution condemning the Israeli action &mdash but not the country as other nations tried to do. Their course of action was to withhold a contingent of aircraft already promised to Israel.
Files released by the British National Archives in 2011 show that Britain&rsquos ambassador to Washington, Sir Nicholas Henderson, was with US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger as the news came of the bombing came in:
&ldquoWeinberger says that he thinks Begin must have taken leave of his senses. He is much disturbed by the Israeli reaction and possible consequences,&rdquo Sir Nicholas cabled London.
Britain&rsquos ambassador in Baghdad, Sir Stephen Egerton, disclosed that the Iraqis had been just as surprised when the Israeli F15 fighters appeared in their skies.
&ldquoThe diplomatic corps had a ringside view of the belated ack-ack and missile reactions to the raid when we were gathered for the Italian national day reception on the Bund [waterside],&rdquo he wrote.
Of course, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution trashing Israel for saving herself.
Over twenty years later, when the world began to face a terrorist threat as never before, it began to realize the service performed by Israel, the IAF, and Menachem Begin.
Just imagine a world with Iraq or, God forbid, a terrorist with their hands on a nuclear weapon. If it wasn&rsquot for Menachem Begin, a Prime Minister with guts to give the orders to protect Israel, knowing (but not caring) that the world would absolutely freak, and the heroes of the IDF who flawlessly performed their mission, this scary world have happened already.
Eventually, Israel also destroyed a nuclear plant in the middle of the Syrian desert, preventing Assad from gaining nukes. When Israel wanted to destroy Iran&rsquos nuclear facilities, Barack Obama warned the Jewish State not to protect herself. Instead, the anti-Israel president negotiated a deal that essentially delays the Iranian Nuclear weapons program for up to ten years. As soon as the delay is over, Iran would need three months to jump to nuclear weapons.
In the end, if Israel hadn&rsquot acted when the U.S. invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein would have already had nuclear weapons, as would Assad.
President Biden is expected to put the U.S. back into that flawed Iran deal. If he does reenter the deal, and Iran develops its nuclear weapons. They will use them against the Big Satan and the Little Satan, the U.S., and Israel.
Jeff Dunetz is editor/publisher of the blog "The Lid." The political columnist for The Jewish Star, and co-host of the weekly radio show, Host of The Lid Radio show on SHR Media, and is a Leader At Large of Herut NA-the Unapologetic Zionists.
Netanyahu denounces Iran nuclear deal but faces criticism from within Israel
Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has denounced the historic deal on Iran’s nuclear programme as it became clear that Israel would continue to pressure allies in the US Congress to derail the agreement.
Heading a chorus of condemnation from Israeli politicians – including members of his rightwing coalition – Netanyahu said the agreement was a “capitulation” and a mistake of historic proportions.
“Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday at a meeting with the Dutch foreign minister, Bert Koenders, in Jerusalem.
“Many of the restrictions that were supposed to prevent it from getting there will be lifted. Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and in the world. This is a bad mistake of historic proportions.”
Netanyahu led a procession of senior Israeli politicians seemingly bent on outdoing each other with their rhetoric over the deal as Israel remained markedly alone in the stridency of its criticism.
The former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the hard right Yisrael Beitinu, described the deal as a “surrender to terror”, while the defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, said it was built on Iran’s “lies and deceit”. He labelled the agreement “a tragedy for all who aspire for regional stability and fear a nuclear Iran”.
Most apocalyptic was the education minister, Naftali Bennett, leader of the far right Bayit Yehudi, who warned: “The history books have been rewritten again today, and this period will be deemed particularly grave and dangerous.”
He said: “Western citizens who get up for another day at work or school are not aware of the fact that about half a trillion dollars has been transferred to the hands of a terrorist superpower, the most dangerous country in the world, who has promised the destruction of nations and peoples.
“Today it may be us, tomorrow it may reach every country in the form of suitcase bombs in London or New York. Israel has done everything possible to warn of danger and in the end it will follow its own interests and will do whatever it takes to defend itself.”
Netanyahu’s is determined to encourage allies in the US Congress to try to block the deal. However, the comprehensive answers in the document to Democrats’ concerns – not least on the mechanism for reintroducing sanctions should Iran backslide on its commitments – are likely to make that effort an uphill struggle.
Barack Obama made clear on Tuesday that he would veto any attempt to block the deal in Congress.
Criticism of Netanyahu’s handling of the Iranian issue has grown over the past two days. Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, denounced Netanyahu’s diplomatic campaign as a “colossal failure”.
“I also am not thrilled by Obama’s polices. But Netanyahu crossed a line that caused the White House to stop listening to Israel,” Lapid said. “In the last year we weren’t even in the arena, we had no representative in Vienna, our intelligence cooperation was harmed, and the door to the White House was closed to us.
“He [Netanyahu] should resign, because if you promise for years that only you can prevent this deal and then it’s signed, you’re responsible,” Lapid declared.
That criticism was echoed by other senior opposition figures, including the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog, who – while opposing the deal – criticised Netanyahu’s alienation of Obama’s White House. Shelly Yachimovich, a Zionist Union member of the Knesset, said Netanyahu should “immediately cease and desist from confronting the Americans”.
She said: “Now that this dangerous, damaging agreement with Iran has become a fait accompli, Netanyahu must stop disseminating prophecies of doom, come to his senses and regroup, in order to improve Israel’s position and defend its interests when the agreement is implemented.”
Iran vowed revenge on Israel after the blackout at its Natanz nuclear facility.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (second from right) listens to the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi while visiting an exhibition of Iran's new nuclear achievements in Tehran on April 10. | Iranian Presidency Office via AP
Updated: 04/12/2021 03:31 PM EDT
United States and Iranian officials appear determined to resume nuclear talks this week in Vienna, despite an alleged weekend attack on an Iranian atomic facility that Tehran blamed on Israel.
Israel has not publicly admitted or denied a role in the explosion and blackout at the Natanz nuclear facility. A U.S. official told POLITICO there were no indications in intelligence reports that Israel was coordinating such an operation with the U.S., and it seemed unlikely that Israel had notified American officials beforehand. But a person familiar with the issue warned that while plans for an Israeli attack were certainly not widely known in the U.S. government, it’s still possible that there was a notification, possibly a veiled one, at some level.
Israel has a long history of staging attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, which it views as an existential threat. Israel is believed to have been behind a blast that struck an Iranian military ship just last week.
The Israeli government opposes the Biden administration’s efforts to return the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, insisting the agreement didn’t do enough to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week warned the U.S. that his country would not feel itself bound by a revived agreement.
News of the alleged strike came as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was visiting Israel.
Austin did not mention Iran in remarks alongside Netanyahu on Monday, but during the visit he has reiterated America’s commitment to Israel’s security. During a gaggle with reporters traveling with him, he declined to say whether the strike would impact the nuclear negotiations.
As of Monday afternoon, there was no indication that either U.S. or Iranian officials would back out of indirect talks to return to the deal that were scheduled to resume later this week, likely Wednesday, in Vienna.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif vowed revenge on Israel but also said the attack would not lead Tehran to pull out of the talks.
“The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions.… We will not fall into their trap…” Zarif was quoted as saying in media reports. “We will not allow this act of sabotage to affect the nuclear talks.… But we will take our revenge against the Zionists.”
Zarif also claimed that the sabotage would add to Iran’s leverage. “If they think that we would have had the lower hand in the negotiations, they should know that this desperate act made our stance even stronger in the negotiations,” he was quoted as saying by Iranian state media.
U.S. officials denied that America played any role in the alleged attack.
“The U.S. was not involved in any manner,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts.”
She noted that the United States is prepared to keep talking about the deal. “Our focus is on the diplomatic path forward,” she said.
Acts of sabotage could set back Iran’s nuclear program by several months, and analysts expect Israel will not stop its efforts to physically derail Tehran’s ambitions. Supporters of negotiating with the Islamist regime in Tehran argue, however, that only an agreement will freeze Iran’s program for a much longer stretch of time while giving international inspectors access to it.
The latest alleged attack and previous ones, including assassinations of Iranian scientists, have exposed major vulnerabilities in Iran’s security infrastructure. Still, Iran may simply build back what’s been destroyed in a more updated fashion that’s harder for outsiders to reach.
In a letter of complaint about the alleged attack to the United Nations secretary general dated Monday, Zarif hinted at this.
“This most recent cowardly act of nuclear terrorism will only strengthen our determination to march forward and to replace all the damaged centrifuges with even more advanced and sophisticated machines,” Zarif wrote. “Even the most insane criminals will finally — and soon — realize that they must never threaten Iranians.”
Iran’s economy has been damaged badly due to sanctions imposed by the United States as well as the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s an open question how much more financial pain Tehran is willing to endure before agreeing to return to compliance with the nuclear agreement.
A recent International Monetary Fund report indicates a startling decrease in Iran’s accessible gross official reserves, from $122.5 billion in 2018 to $4 billion in 2020.
Iran hawks in the U.S., including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, seized on the figures in the report’s statistical appendix to argue that Washington should not lift the sanctions.
As the indirect discussions between the United States and Iran have continued, with European officials serving as the main intermediaries, opponents of returning to the agreement have become more vocal.
On Wednesday, for instance, Pompeo, who led the State Department under President Donald Trump, is planning to deliver a speech attacking President Joe Biden and his aides’ efforts to return to the nuclear agreement.
The 2015 nuclear deal involved several countries, including the United States and Iran. It lifted an array of U.S. and international economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for strict limits on its nuclear program, which Tehran has always insisted was meant for peaceful scientific purposes.
In May 2018, Trump pulled out of the agreement, saying it had too many provisions that expired too soon and that it should have covered Iranian activities beyond just the nuclear program. He reimposed the U.S. sanctions that had been lifted and added new ones as well.
Iran has since taken several steps to resume its nuclear work that have put it out of compliance with the deal, such as enriching uranium to 20 percent purity. But it has never formally quit the agreement.