In October 12, 2012, I speculated there was a strong likelihood that Saudi Arabia was bankrolling Israel’s Mossad. Those funds paid for, among other things, the assassinations of several of Iran's top nuclear experts over the past couple of years. That cooperation was, I wrote the latest bizarre development in a clandestine alliance between the Zionist State of Israel and Saudi Arabia, guardian of Islam’s most holy site. Now, there is new confirmation from Israel of that report.Read More
You want chutzpah? This is chutzpah: an Oped piece this week in the New York Times by a prominent Israel journalist, Ari Shavit, lambasting George W. Bush—not Barack Obama—for the fact that Iran is on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power. Instead of going after Iraq in 2003, says Shavit, instead of fatally draining Americas’s resources and prestige, Bush should have organized a coordinated coalition of powers to throttle a much weaker Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Where’s the chutzpah? Well, for one thing, if you want to blame an American president for failing to prevent nuclear weapons being introduced into the Middle East—and then passively accepting their presence--the list of culprits begins with Dwight D. Eisenhower, and continues through just about every American President since. Please read on.Read More
Just a hunch, but Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin may have another surprise chess move to play—one that may catch Israel and its U.S. ally completely off guard.
An air of inanity pervades the debate about Syria—obscuring the
underlying fears and motives, the real forces behind a surrealistic, blood-soaked
drama worthy of Kafka, Ionesco, or Pinter.
It’s evident, for instance, that the 800-pound guerrilla hovering behind the debate is Israel and its American backers, one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington.
What has not been made clear is that, lurking in the background, is another shadowy hulking presence: Israel’s nuclear weapons capacity, which—as I’ve previously blogged--Israel has never officially acknowledged and most U.S. administrations have done their best to ignore. As have the mainstream press and the gaggle of statesmen, commentators and “experts” with weighty proposals on how to resolve the current crisis.
For instance, Senator Joe Manchin III, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, would give Bashar al-Assad 45 days to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and begin ridding the country of its weapons stockpiles. Only if Assad refuses would the American president be authorized to take military action.
“We need some options out there that does something about the chemical weapons,” Mr. Manchin said. “That’s what’s missing right now.”
That proposal, however, comes across as hopelessly naïve when you understand why Syria’s leaders opted for chemical weapons in the first place.
It was not with the intention of deploying CW against their own people. It was instead an attempt to develop an affordable and meaningful deterrent to Israel’s daunting military might, particularly to Israel’s nuclear capability.
That’s the bottom line of several serious studies of Syria’s weapons program, done over the past few years by American and other experts. As a study published by the European Union’s non-proliferation consortium in July 2012, concluded, “Syria’s CWs are not tactical or battlefield weapons, but rather a strategic deterrence against Israel’s conventional superiority and its nuclear weapons arsenal.IWhile Israeli leaders have always portrayed their country as an embattled David, confronting an existential threat from an Arab –and now,Iranian—Goliath, Syria’s perspective has been totally different.
As the rulers in Damascus have seen it, Israel, thanks to its sophisticated industrial base, and unwavering financial and political support from the United States, has been able to develop by far the most powerful military forces in the region—with its own nuclear trump card.
The Syrians, on the other hand, have suffered one humiliating setback after another, from the failure to defeat Israel in 1948, to Israel’s on-going occupation of the Golan Heights, which they took in 1967, to Israel’s repeated forays into South Lebanon.
The Syrians, however, came to realize they could never equal Israel’s military might. They opted instead for a practical alternative: chemical weapons. If not strategic parity, CW would at least give Syria, if the chips were down, a fearful enough weapon to brandish against Israel’s nuclear capabilities.
As the European Union’s study said, “With meager resources, an inadequate military culture and a weakening, less-than-reliable Soviet patron, Syria was in no position to maintain its policy of conventional parity. That became amply clear at the turn of the 1990s, when Syria approached economic bankruptcy, witnessed the collapse of the USSR and had to adapt to rising US influence in the region.”
Syria’s determination to maintain its chemical arsenal could only have increased after 2007 when Israeli planes bombed what was apparently a Syrian attempt to construct a nuclear reactor.
One Israeli analyst claimed that CWs and associated delivery systems became, for lack of better options, the ‘core’ of Syria’s security strategy, a ‘wild card’ that would create enough uncertainty in the minds of Israeli decision makers to prevent an escalation of an existential nature.
Another analyst who has a unique view of Syria’s CW strategy is M. Zuhair Diab, an international security analyst now living in London. From 1981 to 1985 he was a diplomat with the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As he put it in a study in 1997.
“Syria seeks to neutralize Israel’s ability to employ nuclear blackmail to coerce it into accepting unfavorable conditions for a peace settlement. Syria’s increased bargaining leverage with Israel as result of its CW capability has been demonstrated by Israel’s inability to dictate its terms in the peace negotiations between the two sides. Indeed, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin recognized that a condition ofstrategic stalemate had emerged between Israel and Syria.”
Syria has not signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Whenever the issue comes up, Syria’s leaders have invariably cited Israel’s nuclear weapons program, and the fact that Israel refused to sign the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In other words, Syria is not going to unilaterally lay down its most potent weapon.
Think what you will of the men governing Syria, but how can Israel or its American backers, answer that argument? Particularly if they still refuse to admit officially that Israel even has nukes?
The analysis of Syria’s CW program by the former Syrian diplomat, was written in 1997, 14 years before the outbreak of the civil war which is currently ripping apart his country. At that time, according to him, there were only two realistic scenarios for Syrian tactical use of CW. They both involved defending against Israel.
“1) if Israel launches an offensive involving first use of CW, forcing Syrian units to retaliate in-kind; or 2) if the defensive perimeter of Damascus, the Syrian capital, (italics added) collapses as a result of an Israeli incursion through the Golan Heights or a flanking maneuver through the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.”
With the existence of the Assad regime now at stake, the Syrian military’s doctrines on whom they might target with CW may have changed. But not the trip wire that might provoke them to unleash CW: a serious threat to the Syrian capital.
What is striking about the study from the former Syrian diplomat I’ve just cited is the fact that, according to some sources, the reason that Syrian military units may have resorted to CW on August 21, was as a desperate measure to drive rebel forces from a strategically key suburb of Damascus.
The issues in Syria we are told by the Obama administration and its allies, are clear -cut. America has no choice but to act. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The current face-off between the U.S. and Syria is the product of blurred rhetoric, diplomatic double talk, and shocking miscalculations from both sides. The upshot: the U.S. and a few of its allies are ready—once again to unleash a volley of sophisticated weapons against another Middle East dictator, with no solid legal basis nor any realistic goals in mind.
For example, one of the questions many are asking is: knowing how devastating the U.S. response would be, why would Assad risk using chemical weapons?
The answer is that Assad didn’t know what the U.S. response would be.
Indeed, President Obama was less than precise when he made his statement at a press conference August 20, 2012 that the introduction of chemical weapons in Syria., might change his decision not to order a U.S. military engagement.
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
Furthermore, we are told that many of Obama’s aides were taken aback by that new and vague policy declaration, the President in effect painting himself into a very imprecise corner.
Just the same, after Obama had issued that warning. why would Assad have risked using chemical weapons in the horrific this past week, killing hundreds of his own people.
One part of the answer is that Assad’s forces had apparently already used chemical weapons, in much smaller doses over the past few months, triggering little more than a tepid response from America and its allies, Obama declaring a vague intention to arm the rebels---though such arms have yet to get through.
Another part of the answer is that the August 21 chemical attack may have been a dumb miscalculation on the part of one or more of Assad’s commanders, rather than the result of an order from Assad himself. That, according to Foreign Policy magazine, was the conclusion that U.S. intelligence drew after listening to intercepts as “an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people.”
Thus, it is not at all clear that the slaughter was not the work of one or more Syrian officers overstepping their bounds. “Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? "It's unclear where control lies," one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. "Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?"
It was thus revealing when the New York Times reported today that
“American officials said Wednesday there was no “smoking gun” that directly links President Bashar al-Assad to the attack, and they tried to lower expectations about the public intelligence presentation…But even without hard evidence tying Mr. Assad to the attack, administration officials asserted, the Syrian leader bears ultimate responsibility for the actions of his troops and should be held accountable.
“The commander in chief of any military is ultimately responsible for decisions made under their leadership,” said the State Department’s deputy spokeswoman, Marie Harf — even if, she added, “He’s not the one who pushes the button or says ‘go’ on this.”
Of course, using that same doctrine—others might argue—as they often do--that American Presidents, like George W. Bush, or yes, even Barack Obama, should be held responsibility for the atrocities committed in the field by their forces.
But that’s probably not something the White House would like to discuss at this time.
A new chapter has been revealed in the fascinating saga of Israel’s invisible nuclear weapon’s program. According to documents recently released by the National Security Archives, in 1963-64 Argentina played a major role in providing Israel with 80-100 tons of uranium oxide (“yellowcake”) vital for Israel’s clandestine nuclear program.
(It’s not mentioned in the press release, but Argentina’s
aid may well have been tit-for-tat—since Israel was also an important supplier
of weapons to Argentina.)
Equally fascinating as the news of Argentina’s assistance to Israel, is the fact that those “secret” shipments were fairly quickly discovered by Canadian intelligence officials in 1964, who ultimately passed on the news to their British and American colleagues, who passed it on to their civilian leaders.
That news, of course, cast strong doubts on Israel’s claims that its nuclear program was completely peaceful.
So, what happened? According to the NSA release, “In response to U.S. diplomatic queries about the sale, the government of Israel was evasive in its replies and gave no answers to the U.S.'s questions about the transaction.”
Over the following months and years, the U.S. and its allies showed no appetite to seriously challenge Israel’s on-going evasions.
Indeed, the story of the Argentina yellowcake sale to Israel has remained largely unkown, not just because of Israel’s passion for secrecy, but because the U.S. government and its close allies kept secret for years what they knew at the time.
As I’ve previously blogged, that policy was nothing new, but the continuation of a refusal by the U.S. and its partners to refuse to publicly recognize Israel’s nuclear weapons program—that began under Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950’s---and continues to this day.
The official deception is chronicled by in
Seymour Hersh’s authoritative “The Samson Option,” written in 1991.
As Hersh wrote, it was impossible for the Israelis to to hide the massive new construction of their nuclear weapons facility from America’s high-flying U2 spy plane.
In late 1958 or early 1959, CIA photo intelligence experts, spotted what looked almost certainly to be a nuclear reactor being built at Dimona.
They rushed the raw images to the White House, expecting urgent demands from the Oval Office for more information. This was, after all, a development that could initiate a disastrous nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
But there was absolutely no follow-up from the White House. As one of the analysts later told Seymour Hersh “Nobody came back to me, ever, on Israel.” Though the analysts continued regular reporting on Dimona, there were no requests for high-level briefings. “ ‘Thank you,’ and ‘this isn’t going to be disseminated is it?’ It was that attitude.”
“By the end of 1959,” writes Hersh, “the two analysts had no doubts that Israel was going for the bomb. They also had no doubts that President Eisenhower and his advisers were determined to look the other way.”
The reason was evident: Eisenhower publicly was a strong advocate of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). If he was formally to “know” of Israel’s nuclear program, he would be obliged to react--against Israel. Which, in the U.S. could mean serious political consequences.
It was only in December 1960, that the Eisenhower administration, nearing its end, leaked word about Dimona and France’s involvement to the New York Times. The administration hoped that, without having to make any official accusations itself, it could oblige the Israeli government to sign the NPT.
But Ben Gurion flatly denied the Times report. He assured American officials –as well as the Israeli Knesset--that the Dimona reactor was completely benign. French officials guaranteed that any plutonium produced at Dimona would be returned to France for safekeeping (another lie).
The Eisenhower administration, however, had no stomach to take on Israel and its American lobby. Despite the reports of CIA analysts, Ben Gurion’s denials went unchallenged.
That hypocrisy would remain official America’s policy to this day--even as U.S. presidents decried the attempts of countries like Iran, North Korea, Syria, India, Pakistan, Libya and Iraq to themselves develop the bomb
One Final Thing:
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