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Thread: Iran, Syria, Israel and US Nuclear Tensions in the Mid-East

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    Default Iran, Syria, Israel and US Nuclear Tensions in the Mid-East

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    Top Ten Warning Signs That Would Indicate the United States is About to Bomb Iran

    Signs That the United States is About to Bomb Iran
    http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/topt.../20060222.aspx
    Strategy Page

    Before any major military operation, there are always tell tale signs. With all the talk about Israel or the United States bombing Iran's nuclear weapons program, it would be wise to check for the signs before taking the pundit prattle too seriously.

    1. – The U.S. Navy stages a "surge exercise" and moves six carrier battle groups into the Indian Ocean.

    2. – A "regularly scheduled exercise" moves Patriot Missile Batteies to Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. These exercises happen from time to time, but if they happen when other things are happening…

    3. -- Movement of B-52 and B1B bombers to the island of Diego Garcia (in the Indian Ocean).

    4. -- Deployment of F117 stealth bombers and F-22 fighters to anywhere in the Persian Gulf.

    5. -- Deployment of B-2 Stealth Bombers to Guam, where there are special facilities for maintaining these aircraft.

    6. -- Lockdown of Whitman Air Force Base (where most B-2 bombers are stationed) in Missouri.

    7. -- Increased delivery of Pizza to Pentagon

    8. –Sudden loss of cell service near some air force bases (from which heavy bombers would depart). At the same time, there would be sightings of Middle Eastern looking guys around these bases, trying to get their cell phones to work, while being observed by what appears to be FBI agents.

    9. Deployment of KC-135/KC-10 aerial tankers to Diego Garcia, Guam and the Persian Gulf.

    10. America asks nations neighboring Iran for basing and over flight rights.

    These warning signs are no secret, and intelligence officers regularly run down their check lists. As a result, nations will sometimes stage a false alert by deliberately performing many of the items on someone's check list, with no intention of following through.

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    Israelis ‘blew apart Syrian nuclear cache’
    Secret raid on Korean shipment

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle2461421.ece
    The Sunday Times
    Sunday, September 16, 2007

    Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv, Sarah Baxter in Washington and Michael Sheridan

    IT was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.

    At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.

    Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.

    The Israeli government was not saying. “The security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,” said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. “We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.”

    The Syrians were also keeping mum. “I cannot reveal the details,” said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. “All I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.” The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group, appeared to be crumbling in the face of widespread scepticism.

    Andrew Semmel, a senior US State Department official, said Syria might have obtained nuclear equipment from “secret suppliers”, and added that there were a “number of foreign technicians” in the country.

    Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: “There are North Korean people there. There’s no question about that.” He said a network run by AQ Khan, the disgraced creator of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, could be involved.

    But why would nuclear material be in Syria? Known to have chemical weapons, was it seeking to bolster its arsenal with something even more deadly?

    Alternatively, could it be hiding equipment for North Korea, enabling Kim Jong-il to pretend to be giving up his nuclear programme in exchange for economic aid? Or was the material bound for Iran, as some authorities in America suggest?

    According to Israeli sources, preparations for the attack had been going on since late spring, when Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, presented Olmert with evidence that Syria was seeking to buy a nuclear device from North Korea.

    The Israeli spy chief apparently feared such a device could eventually be installed on North-Korean-made Scud-C missiles.

    “This was supposed to be a devastating Syrian surprise for Israel,” said an Israeli source. “We’ve known for a long time that Syria has deadly chemical warheads on its Scuds, but Israel can’t live with a nuclear warhead.”

    An expert on the Middle East, who has spoken to Israeli participants in the raid, told yesterday’s Washington Post that the timing of the raid on September 6 appeared to be linked to the arrival three days earlier of a ship carrying North Korean material labelled as cement but suspected of concealing nuclear equipment.

    The target was identified as a northern Syrian facility that purported to be an agricultural research centre on the Euphrates river. Israel had been monitoring it for some time, concerned that it was being used to extract uranium from phosphates.

    According to an Israeli air force source, the Israeli satellite Ofek 7, launched in June, was diverted from Iran to Syria. It sent out high-quality images of a northeastern area every 90 minutes, making it easy for air force specialists to spot the facility.

    Early in the summer Ehud Barak, the defence minister, had given the order to double Israeli forces on its Golan Heights border with Syria in anticipation of possible retaliation by Damascus in the event of air strikes.

    Sergei Kirpichenko, the Russian ambassador to Syria, warned President Bashar al-Assad last month that Israel was planning an attack, but suggested the target was the Golan Heights.

    Israeli military intelligence sources claim Syrian special forces moved towards the Israeli outpost of Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights. Tension rose, but nobody knew why.

    At this point, Barak feared events could spiral out of control. The decision was taken to reduce the number of Israeli troops on the Golan Heights and tell Damascus the tension was over. Syria relaxed its guard shortly before the Israeli Defence Forces struck.

    Only three Israeli cabinet ministers are said to have been in the know � Olmert, Barak and Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister. America was also consulted. According to Israeli sources, American air force codes were given to the Israeli air force attaché in Washington to ensure Israel’s F15Is would not mistakenly attack their US counterparts.

    Once the mission was under way, Israel imposed draconian military censorship and no news of the operation emerged until Syria complained that Israeli aircraft had violated its airspace. Syria claimed its air defences had engaged the planes, forcing them to drop fuel tanks to lighten their loads as they fled.

    But intelligence sources suggested it was a highly successful Israeli raid on nuclear material supplied by North Korea.

    Washington was rife with speculation last week about the precise nature of the operation. One source said the air strikes were a diversion for a daring Israeli commando raid, in which nuclear materials were intercepted en route to Iran and hauled to Israel. Others claimed they were destroyed in the attack.

    There is no doubt, however, that North Korea is accused of nuclear cooperation with Syria, helped by AQ Khan’s network. John Bolton, who was undersecretary for arms control at the State Department, told the United Nations in 2004 the Pakistani nuclear scientist had “several other” customers besides Iran, Libya and North Korea.

    Some of his evidence came from the CIA, which had reported to Congress that it viewed “Syrian nuclear intentions with growing concern”.

    “I’ve been worried for some time about North Korea and Iran outsourcing their nuclear programmes,” Bolton said last week. Syria, he added, was a member of a “junior axis of evil”, with a well-established ambition to develop weapons of mass destruction.

    The links between Syria and North Korea date back to the rule of Kim Il-sung and President Hafez al-Assad in the last century. In recent months, their sons have quietly ordered an increase in military and technical cooperation.

    Foreign diplomats who follow North Korean affairs are taking note. There were reports of Syrian passengers on flights from Beijing to Pyongyang and sightings of Middle Eastern businessmen from sources who watch the trains from North Korea to China.

    On August 14, Rim Kyong Man, the North Korean foreign trade minister, was in Syria to sign a protocol on “cooperation in trade and science and technology”. No details were released, but it caught Israel’s attention.

    Syria possesses between 60 and 120 Scud-C missiles, which it has bought from North Korea over the past 15 years. Diplomats believe North Korean engineers have been working on extending their 300-mile range. It means they can be used in the deserts of northeastern Syria � the area of the Israeli strike.

    The triangular relationship between North Korea, Syria and Iran continues to perplex intelligence analysts. Syria served as a conduit for the transport to Iran of an estimated £50m of missile components and technology sent by sea from North Korea. The same route may be in use for nuclear equipment.

    But North Korea is at a sensitive stage of negotiations to end its nuclear programme in exchange for security guarantees and aid, leading some diplomats to cast doubt on the likelihood that Kim would cross America’s “red line” forbidding the proliferation of nuclear materials.

    Christopher Hill, the State Department official representing America in the talks, said on Friday he could not confirm “intelligence-type things”, but the reports underscored the need “to make sure the North Koreans get out of the nuclear business”.

    By its actions, Israel showed it is not interested in waiting for diplomacy to work where nuclear weapons are at stake.

    As a bonus, the Israelis proved they could penetrate the Syrian air defence system, which is stronger than the one protecting Iranian nuclear sites.

    This weekend President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent Ali Akbar Mehrabian, his nephew, to Syria to assess the damage. The new “axis of evil” may have lost one of its spokes.

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    A tale of two dictatorships: The links between North Korea and Syria
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle2452356.ece
    The Sunday Times
    Sunday, September 16, 2007

    Michael Sheridan, Far East correspondent

    Deep in a tunnel under Mount Myohang, in North Korea, its regime has preserved as a museum piece the Kalashnikov assault rifle and pistols sent as gifts from President Hafez al-Assad of Syria to Kim Il Sung in the early years of their friendship.

    Today North Korea and Syria are ruled by the sons of their late 20th century dictators, men who share more than just a common fear of the United States and a fondness for authoritarian family rule.

    In recent months, Kim Jong Il and Bashar Assad have quietly ordered an increase in military and technical co-operation which has caught the attention of western and Israeli intelligence.

    Syria possesses the biggest missile arsenal and the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the Middle East, built up over the last two decades with arms bought from North Korea.

    North Korea, which exploded a nuclear device in October last year, has become critical to Syria’s plans to enhance and upgrade its weapons.

    Syria’s liquid fuelled Scud-C missiles depend on “essential foreign aid and assistance, primarily from North Korean entities,” said the CIA in a report to the US Congress in 2004.

    “We are looking at Syrian nuclear intentions with growing concern,” the CIA director also confirmed to Congress.

    Both North Korea and Syria are secret police states and among the hardest intelligence targets to crack.

    But earlier this year, foreign diplomats who follow North Korean affairs took note of an increase in diplomatic and military visits between the two.

    They received reports of Syrian passengers on flights from Beijing to Pyongyang, almost the only air route into the country. They also picked up observations of Middle Eastern businessmen from sources who watch the trains from North Korea to the industrial cities of northeast China.

    Then there were clues in the official media.

    On August 14, the North Korean minister of foreign trade, Rim Kyong Man, was in Syria to sign a protocol on “co-operation in trade and science and technology.” His delegation held the fifth meeting of a “joint economic committee” with its Syrian counterparts. No details were disclosed.

    The conclusion among diplomats was that the deal involved North Korean ballistic missiles, maintenance for the existing Syrian arsenal and engineering expertise for building silos and bunkers against air attack.

    Syria possesses between 60 and 120 Scud-C missiles which it bought from North Korea over the last 15 years.

    In the 1990s it added cluster warheads for the Scud-Cs that experts believe are intended for chemical weapons.

    Like North Korea, Syria has an extensive chemical weapons programme including Sarin, VX and mustard gas, according to researchers at the Centre for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute in the US.

    The Scud-C is strategically worrying to Israel because Syria has deployed it with one launcher for every two missiles. The normal ratio is one to 10. The conclusion: Syria’s missiles are set up for one devastating first strike.

    The second cause for concern is that the Scud-C is a notoriously inaccurate weapon. It is better for scattering chemical weapons than hitting one target.

    Diplomats believe North Korean engineers have worked on modifying the Scud-Cs to extend their 300 mile range. That means they can be based in the deserts of eastern Syria – the area of the September 6 Israeli strike.

    More worrying for Israel were reports from diplomats in Pyongyang that Syrian and Iranian observers were present at missile test firings by the North Korean military last summer and were given valuable telemetry data.

    North Korean scientists are working on a new-generation Scud-D which would extend the range of an accurate missile strike and is of intense interest to Syria.

    For years, the US and Israel believed Syria was committed to a calculated strategic balance. They saw North Korean weapons sales to the Middle East as purely a source of revenue - apart from seafood, minerals and timber, North Korea is impoverished and has little else to sell.

    But the political risk assessment has changed. Both dictators see their regimes under threat from the United States. Both are capable of unpredictable action and little is known about the internal pressures upon their regimes.

    In 2003, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said Syria had tested chemical weapons.

    In the same year the North Koreans twice privately threatened American negotiators with “transfer” of their nuclear weapons technology to other states.

    The nuclear threat in Syria was long believed dormant, as Damascus appeared to rely on a chemical first-strike as an unconventional deterrent.

    But in a period of détente the US and its allies concurred when China sold a 30kw nuclear reactor to Syria in 1998 under IAEA controls.

    American intelligence officials believe Syria then recruited Iraqi scientists who fled after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Like other countries in the region, it is believed to have renewed its pursuit of nuclear research.

    (The Iraq Survey group, however, concluded that there was no evidence that any of Saddam’s actual weapons were hidden in Syria).

    With such warnings, the Israelis and Americans intensified their scrutiny of dealings between the two – and their joint missile technology ventures with Iran, another North Korean customer.

    The triangular relationship between North Korea, Syria and Iran continues to perplex diplomats and intelligence analysts.

    One fact is that Syria has served as a conduit for the transport to Iran of an estimated 50 mln pounds worth of missile components and technology sent by sea from North Korea to the Syrian port of Tartous, diplomats said.

    Another fact is that Damascus and Tehran have set up a 125 mln pounds joint venture to build missiles in Syria with North Korean and Chinese technical help, they said.

    North Korean military engineers have worked on hardened silos and tunnels for the project near the cities of Hama and Aleppo, the diplomats added.

    Since the Israeli strike in eastern Syria on September 6, all sides have kept silent about the nature of the target.

    North Korea is at a sensitive stage of negotiations to end its nuclear weapons programmes in exchange for security guarantees and economic aid. So diplomats think it unlikely that Kim has authorized a radical step such as selling nuclear components to Syria.

    But nothing in the negotiations inhibits North Korea from aggressively pursuing its non-nuclear weapons sales abroad and from building alliances with other foes of the United States.

    And two intriguing messages from the North Koreans in the aftermath of the Israeli strike were tell-tale clues to their intense interest in the action.

    On September 10, four days after the raid, Kim sent a personal message of congratulations to Assad on the Syrian dictator’s 42nd birthday.

    “The excellent friendly and co-operative relations between the two countries are steadily growing stronger even under the complicated international situation,” Kim said.

    The next day, in a message that went largely un-noticed as the United States commemorated September 11, 2001, the North Koreans condemned the Israeli action as “illegal” and “a very dangerous provocation.”

    A foreign ministry spokesman said North Korea “extends full support and solidarity to the Syrian people.”

    The statement was judged important enough to become the top item issued by North Korea’s state-run news agency that day.

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    Robert Gates Mostly Mum on North Korea-Syria Nuclear Cooperation
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,296960,00.html
    Fox News / Associated Press
    Sunday, September 16, 2007

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. is keeping close watch on Syria and North Korea, the Pentagon chief said Sunday, amid suspicions the Koreans are possibly cooperating with Syria on a nuclear facility.

    "I think it would be a real problem," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said when asked how the Bush administration would view such an effort.

    A senior U.S. nuclear official said Friday that North Koreans were in Syria and that Syria may have had contacts with "secret suppliers" to obtain nuclear equipment.

    Andrew Semmel, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation policy, did not identify the suppliers, but said North Koreans were in Syria and that he could not exclude that the network run by the disgraced Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan may have been involved.

    Gates was asked in a broadcast interview whether Syria was involved in a covert nuclear program with North Korea's assistance.

    "I'm not going to get into things that may involve intelligence matters, but all I will say is we are watching the North Koreans very carefully. We watch the Syrians very carefully," Gates said.

    He added, "If such an activity were taking place, it would be a matter of great concern because the president has put down a very strong marker with the North Koreans about further proliferation efforts. And obviously, any effort by the Syrians to pursue weapons of mass destruction would be a concern for us."

    A state-run newspaper in Syria said in an editorial Sunday that "the magnitude of these false accusations might be a prelude to a new aggression against Syria." Al-Thawra said suggestion of such nuclear cooperation was "a flagrant lie."

    North Korea's minister to the country's U.N. mission in New York, Kim Myong Gil, has dismissed the Syria allegation as "groundless," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted Kim as saying.

    This week, negotiators from six nations plan to meet in Beijing to discuss ways to disable North Korea's nuclear reactor.

    North Korea agreed in a February accord to scrap its nuclear programs in return for political concessions and aid. The North has shut down its Yongbyon nuclear facility and negotiators are now discussing the next phase of the agreement: disclosing and disabling all nuclear facilities, which the North recently agreed to do by the end of the year.

    Gates spoke on "FOX News Sunday."
    Transcript: Robert Gates on 'FOX News Sunday'
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,296954,00.html

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    Report: Israeli Jets Destroyed Syrian Nuke Cache
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,296939,00.html
    Fox News / The Sunday Times
    Monday, September 17, 2007

    It was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F-15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way.

    At a rendezvous point on the ground, a Shaldag air force commando team was waiting to direct their laser beams at the target for the approaching jets. The team had arrived a day earlier, taking up position near a large underground depot. Soon the bunkers were in flames.

    Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.

    The Israeli government was not saying. “The security sources and IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are demonstrating unusual courage,” said Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. “We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.”

    The Syrians were also keeping mum. “I cannot reveal the details,” said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. “All I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.” The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite group, appeared to be crumbling in the face of widespread scepticism.

    Andrew Semmel, a senior US State Department official, said Syria might have obtained nuclear equipment from “secret suppliers”, and added that there were a “number of foreign technicians” in the country.

    Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: “There are North Korean people there. There’s no question about that.” He said a network run by AQ Khan, the disgraced creator of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, could be involved.

    Click here to read the full story in the Sunday Times.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle2461421.ece

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    Israel's Military Intelligence Chief Silenced Over Syria Strike
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,....world/mideast
    Fox News / Associated Press
    Monday, September 17, 2007

    JERUSALEM — Israel's chief of military intelligence was ordered not to discuss an alleged air raid on Syria before a powerful parliamentary panel, tightening the veil of secrecy the government has thrown around the issue.

    Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, said he instructed Israel's military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin to avoid any mention of Syria at a committee meeting Sunday. Panel members regularly report to journalists during and after committee meetings.

    In a statement some participants saw as an oblique reference to the alleged Syria raid, Yadlin told the meeting, "Israel's deterrence has been rehabilitated since the Lebanon war, and it affects the entire regional system, including Iran and Syria," according to a lawmaker who was present.

    The lawmaker spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the meeting's contents to the media.

    Foreign news reports have suggested that Israel struck a Syrian site designed to make non-conventional weapons, possibly a nuclear installation built with North Korean help.

    John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told Israeli Channel 10 TV he thought Israel might have been attacking a nuclear installation, "a message not only to Syria, but to Iran."

    "I think it would be unusual for Israel to conduct a military operation inside Syria other than for a very high value target, and certainly a Syrian effort in the nuclear weapons area would qualify," Bolton said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

    Bolton, who has long called for a hard line against the Syrian and Iranian regimes, did not indicate he had firsthand information about the incident.

    Meanwhile, South Korea's Foreign Minister Song Min-soon dismissed allegations Monday that North Korea was cooperating with Syria on a nuclear weapons program.

    "Now, no one is talking about the suspicions regarding North Korea and Syria with a clear basis," Yonhap news agency quoted Song as telling reporters. The Foreign Ministry said it could not immediately confirm the report.

    Song went on to say that Syria does not have a nuclear facility as far as he knows, according to Yonhap.

    A state-run newspaper in Syria said in an editorial Sunday referring to the nuclear allegations that "the magnitude of these false accusations might be a prelude to a new aggression against Syria." Al-Thawra said suggestion of such nuclear cooperation was "a flagrant lie."

    In the past, Israel often has been swift to announce such operations. This time, Syria cryptically announced the incident, saying its air space had been entered and that Israel had "dropped munitions." Syria has offered no evidence of any Israeli attack.

    One possible explanation is that Israel was on an intelligence-gathering mission, testing Syria's air defenses, scouting an air corridor for a future strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, or hitting a shipment of arms destined for Hezbollah, a close ally of Syria and Iran.

    Syria and Israel fought each other in the 1967 and 1973 Mideast wars. Their last direct military confrontation was in neighboring Lebanon in 1982, when Israel's air force shot down dozens of Syrian warplanes and Israel destroyed Syrian tanks.

    Israel has dismissed recent calls by Syria to restart peace talks, citing the Damascus regime's continued support for Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah.

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    Report: U.S. and Israel Shared Intelligence Leading up to Air Strike on Syria
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,....world/mideast
    Fox News / Washington Post
    Friday, September 21, 2007

    WASHINGTON — The United States likely shared intelligence with Israel leading up to an Israeli air strike in Syria as questions simmer over possible North Korean-Syrian cooperation on a nuclear weapons program, according to a new report.

    The Washington Post reported Friday, citing anonymous sources, that the intelligence provided to Israel appears to have corroborated evidence that Israel developed on its own that North Korea was providing some sort of assistance to Syria in developing a nuclear weapons program.

    • Click here to read the full report in The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...l?hpid=topnews

    Questions remain, however, over what exactly the evidence was that the United States provided; what evidence the Israelis had to support their claim; what type of collaboration between Syria and North Korea, if any, was taking place; and what exactly Israelis intended to destroy in their Sept. 6 fighter jet attack.

    The newspaper reported that U.S. officials were concerned over the allegations, but did not want to play a leading role in the matter because they believed it could seriously endanger its ongoing negotiations on denuclearizing North Korea.

    President Bush declined to discuss the issue at his news conference Thursday, but warned North Korea against any efforts at spreading nuclear devices.

    "To the extent that they are proliferating, we expect them to stop that proliferation if they want the six-party talks to be successful," Bush said, referring to the ongoing negotiations among the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

    Syria and North Korea have denied any nuclear cooperation.

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    Olmert Says Israel Not Interested in War With Syria
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,....world/mideast
    Fox News / Associated Press
    Monday, September 24, 2007

    JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday said Israel is not interested in violent conflict with Syria, adding that he is confident that recent tensions with Israel's archenemy will subside, Israeli media reported.

    Olmert's comments, made before a closed meeting at the Israeli parliament, were his latest attempt to ease worries about a possible conflict with Syria after a reported Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sept 6. Israel has never publicly acknowledged an incursion.

    Olmert told parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel has been monitoring Syrian troop movements in recent weeks, Army Radio reported.

    "We're not interested in friction, and I think the Syrians aren't either," the report quoted him as saying, citing unidentified meeting participants. "I think the tensions in the area will gradually subside."

    At the time of the alleged air raid, Syria accused Israel of invading its airspace and dropping unspecified munitions. Israel has refused to comment on the incident and imposed a news blackout on the matter.

    But Mideast defense officials have told The Associated Press an Israeli airstrike targeted a Syrian "technology installation" in tandem with commando forces on the ground.

    Foreign news reports have cited officials and experts as saying the attack targeted either arms meant for Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon or some sort of nonconventional weapon, perhaps a joint Syrian-North Korean nuclear project. Syria has denied both, and North Korea has denied a nuclear link with Damascus.

    "Israeli warplanes' intrusion into the territorial airspace of Syria and bomb-dropping are an outright violation of Syria's sovereignty and a grave crime that destroys regional peace and security," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper as saying on Monday.

    The North also claimed that the United States defended the Israelis' "brazen behavior" in allegedly launching the airstrike, Yonhap said.

    Israel considers Syria one of its greatest enemies and accuses Damascus of backing the militant organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, which have bases there. Despite the recent tensions, Olmert last week called for the reopening of peace talks, without conditions, between the two adversaries.

    Past negotiations broke down seven years ago over Syria's demand for the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

    Israel offered to go back to the international border, but Syria insisted on also controlling another small strip of territory — the east bank of the Sea of Galilee, which Israel captured during the 1948-49 war that accompanied its creation. Talks also faltered over the extent of peaceful relations Syria would offer.

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    Strange Days In Syria
    http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/isra.../20070925.aspx
    Strategy Page
    September 25, 2007:

    Strange days in Syria. Everyone is talking about the September 6 Israeli raid into Syria, but no one is admitting anything. Syria has complained about Israeli aggression, as has North Korea. Syria has been a customer for North Korean weapons, including ballistic missiles, for decades. The rumors and leaks indicate that someone, perhaps the CIA or NSA, discovered North Korean nuclear weapons technology in Syria. Israeli commandoes raided the compound where the nuclear weapons work was being done, took radioactive material, and analysis (all nuclear material has a unique chemical "fingerprint") determined it was North Korea. Israeli jets them bombed the compound. Why all the reluctance to release details? No one is saying, and the speculation, as one would expect, is all over the lot. Interestingly, the Arab press was largely silent on this one. This was understandable, as Syrian is seen as a puppet of Iran, and thus a traitor to the Arab world.

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    I think attacking Iran is a really, really bad idea. Especially with this administrations war-planning track record...

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    Here's a couple related articles. I know they're a bit dated though they're not really specific anyways...

    LAST STAND
    The military’s problem with the President’s Iran policy.

    by SEYMOUR M. HERSH

    The New Yorker: Issue of 2006-07-10

    On May 31st, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced what appeared to be a major change in U.S. foreign policy. The Bush Administration, she said, would be willing to join Russia, China, and its European allies in direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program. There was a condition, however: the negotiations would not begin until, as the President put it in a June 19th speech at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, “the Iranian regime fully and verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.” Iran, which has insisted on its right to enrich uranium, was being asked to concede the main point of the negotiations before they started. The question was whether the Administration expected the Iranians to agree, or was laying the diplomatic groundwork for future military action. In his speech, Bush also talked about “freedom for the Iranian people,” and he added, “Iran’s leaders have a clear choice.” There was an unspoken threat: the U.S. Strategic Command, supported by the Air Force, has been drawing up plans, at the President’s direction, for a major bombing campaign in Iran.

    Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President’s plans, according to active-duty and retired officers and officials. The generals and admirals have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear program. They have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States.

    A crucial issue in the military’s dissent, the officers said, is the fact that American and European intelligence agencies have not found specific evidence of clandestine activities or hidden facilities; the war planners are not sure what to hit. “The target array in Iran is huge, but it’s amorphous,” a high-ranking general told me. “The question we face is, When does innocent infrastructure evolve into something nefarious?” The high-ranking general added that the military’s experience in Iraq, where intelligence on weapons of mass destruction was deeply flawed, has affected its approach to Iran. “We built this big monster with Iraq, and there was nothing there. This is son of Iraq,” he said.

    “There is a war about the war going on inside the building,” a Pentagon consultant said. “If we go, we have to find something.”

    In President Bush’s June speech, he accused Iran of pursuing a secret weapons program along with its civilian nuclear-research program (which it is allowed, with limits, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). The senior officers in the Pentagon do not dispute the President’s contention that Iran intends to eventually build a bomb, but they are frustrated by the intelligence gaps. A former senior intelligence official told me that people in the Pentagon were asking, “What’s the evidence? We’ve got a million tentacles out there, overt and covert, and these guys”—the Iranians—“have been working on this for eighteen years, and we have nothing? We’re coming up with jack shit.”

    A senior military official told me, “Even if we knew where the Iranian enriched uranium was—and we don’t—we don’t know where world opinion would stand. The issue is whether it’s a clear and present danger. If you’re a military planner, you try to weigh options. What is the capability of the Iranian response, and the likelihood of a punitive response—like cutting off oil shipments? What would that cost us?” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his senior aides “really think they can do this on the cheap, and they underestimate the capability of the adversary,” he said.

    Cont'd 1/5 (it's a long one!)
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 09-27-2007 at 11:58 AM.

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    In 1986, Congress authorized the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to act as the “principal military adviser” to the President. In this case, I was told, the current chairman, Marine General Peter Pace, has gone further in his advice to the White House by addressing the consequences of an attack on Iran. “Here’s the military telling the President what he can’t do politically”—raising concerns about rising oil prices, for example—the former senior intelligence official said. “The J.C.S. chairman going to the President with an economic argument—what’s going on here?” (General Pace and the White House declined to comment. The Defense Department responded to a detailed request for comment by saying that the Administration was “working diligently” on a diplomatic solution and that it could not comment on classified matters.)

    A retired four-star general, who ran a major command, said, “The system is starting to sense the end of the road, and they don’t want to be condemned by history. They want to be able to say, ‘We stood up.’ ”

    The military leadership is also raising tactical arguments against the proposal for bombing Iran, many of which are related to the consequences for Iraq. According to retired Army Major General William Nash, who was commanding general of the First Armored Division, served in Iraq and Bosnia, and worked for the United Nations in Kosovo, attacking Iran would heighten the risks to American and coalition forces inside Iraq. “What if one hundred thousand Iranian volunteers came across the border?” Nash asked. “If we bomb Iran, they cannot retaliate militarily by air—only on the ground or by sea, and only in Iraq or the Gulf. A military planner cannot discount that possibility, and he cannot make an ideological assumption that the Iranians wouldn’t do it. We’re not talking about victory or defeat—only about what damage Iran could do to our interests.” Nash, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “Their first possible response would be to send forces into Iraq. And, since the Iraqi Army has limited capacity, it means that the coalition forces would have to engage them.”

    The Americans serving as advisers to the Iraqi police and military may be at special risk, Nash added, since an American bombing “would be seen not only as an attack on Shiites but as an attack on all Muslims. Throughout the Middle East, it would likely be seen as another example of American imperialism. It would probably cause the war to spread.”

    In contrast, some conservatives are arguing that America’s position in Iraq would improve if Iran chose to retaliate there, according to a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon’s civilian leaders, because Iranian interference would divide the Shiites into pro- and anti-Iranian camps, and unify the Kurds and the Sunnis. The Iran hawks in the White House and the State Department, including Elliott Abrams and Michael Doran, both of whom are National Security Council advisers on the Middle East, also have an answer for those who believe that the bombing of Iran would put American soldiers in Iraq at risk, the consultant said. He described the counterargument this way: “Yes, there will be Americans under attack, but they are under attack now.”

    Iran’s geography would also complicate an air war. The senior military official said that, when it came to air strikes, “this is not Iraq,” which is fairly flat, except in the northeast. “Much of Iran is akin to Afghanistan in terms of topography and flight mapping—a pretty tough target,” the military official said. Over rugged terrain, planes have to come in closer, and “Iran has a lot of mature air-defense systems and networks,” he said. “Global operations are always risky, and if we go down that road we have to be prepared to follow up with ground troops.”

    The U.S. Navy has a separate set of concerns. Iran has more than seven hundred undeclared dock and port facilities along its Persian Gulf coast. The small ports, known as “invisible piers,” were constructed two decades ago by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to accommodate small private boats used for smuggling. (The Guards relied on smuggling to finance their activities and enrich themselves.) The ports, an Iran expert who advises the U.S. government told me, provide “the infrastructure to enable the Guards to go after American aircraft carriers with suicide water bombers”—small vessels loaded with high explosives. He said that the Iranians have conducted exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow channel linking the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea and then on to the Indian Ocean. The strait is regularly traversed by oil tankers, in which a thousand small Iranian boats simulated attacks on American ships. “That would be the hardest problem we’d face in the water: a thousand small targets weaving in and out among our ships.”

    America’s allies in the Gulf also believe that an attack on Iran would endanger them, and many American military planners agree. “Iran can do a lot of things—all asymmetrical,” a Pentagon adviser on counter-insurgency told me. “They have agents all over the Gulf, and the ability to strike at will.” In May, according to a well-informed oil-industry expert, the Emir of Qatar made a private visit to Tehran to discuss security in the Gulf after the Iraq war. He sought some words of non-aggression from the Iranian leadership. Instead, the Iranians suggested that Qatar, which is the site of the regional headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, would be its first target in the event of an American attack. Qatar is a leading exporter of gas and currently operates several major offshore oil platforms, all of which would be extremely vulnerable. (Nasser bin Hamad M. al-Khalifa, Qatar’s ambassador to Washington, denied that any threats were issued during the Emir’s meetings in Tehran. He told me that it was “a very nice visit.”)

    A retired American diplomat, who has experience in the Gulf, confirmed that the Qatari government is “very scared of what America will do” in Iran, and “scared to death” about what Iran would do in response. Iran’s message to the oil-producing Gulf states, the retired diplomat said, has been that it will respond, and “you are on the wrong side of history.”

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    In late April, the military leadership, headed by General Pace, achieved a major victory when the White House dropped its insistence that the plan for a bombing campaign include the possible use of a nuclear device to destroy Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran. The huge complex includes large underground facilities built into seventy-five-foot-deep holes in the ground and designed to hold as many as fifty thousand centrifuges. “Bush and Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning,” the former senior intelligence official told me. “And Pace stood up to them. Then the world came back: ‘O.K., the nuclear option is politically unacceptable.’ ” At the time, a number of retired officers, including two Army major generals who served in Iraq, Paul Eaton and Charles Swannack, Jr., had begun speaking out against the Administration’s handling of the Iraq war. This period is known to many in the Pentagon as “the April Revolution.”

    “An event like this doesn’t get papered over very quickly,” the former official added. “The bad feelings over the nuclear option are still felt. The civilian hierarchy feels extraordinarily betrayed by the brass, and the brass feel they were tricked into it”—the nuclear planning—“by being asked to provide all options in the planning papers.”

    Sam Gardiner, a military analyst who taught at the National War College before retiring from the Air Force as a colonel, said that Rumsfeld’s second-guessing and micromanagement were a fundamental problem. “Plans are more and more being directed and run by civilians from the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” Gardiner said. “It causes a lot of tensions. I’m hearing that the military is increasingly upset about not being taken seriously by Rumsfeld and his staff.”

    Gardiner went on, “The consequence is that, for Iran and other missions, Rumsfeld will be pushed more and more in the direction of special operations, where he has direct authority and does not have to put up with the objections of the Chiefs.” Since taking office in 2001, Rumsfeld has been engaged in a running dispute with many senior commanders over his plans to transform the military, and his belief that future wars will be fought, and won, with airpower and Special Forces. That combination worked, at first, in Afghanistan, but the growing stalemate there, and in Iraq, has created a rift, especially inside the Army. The senior military official said, “The policymakers are in love with Special Ops—the guys on camels.”

    The discord over Iran can, in part, be ascribed to Rumsfeld’s testy relationship with the generals. They see him as high-handed and unwilling to accept responsibility for what has gone wrong in Iraq. A former Bush Administration official described a recent meeting between Rumsfeld and four-star generals and admirals at a military commanders’ conference, on a base outside Washington, that, he was told, went badly. The commanders later told General Pace that “they didn’t come here to be lectured by the Defense Secretary. They wanted to tell Rumsfeld what their concerns were.” A few of the officers attended a subsequent meeting between Pace and Rumsfeld, and were unhappy, the former official said, when “Pace did not repeat any of their complaints. There was disappointment about Pace.” The retired four-star general also described the commanders’ conference as “very fractious.” He added, “We’ve got twenty-five hundred dead, people running all over the world doing stupid things, and officers outside the Beltway asking, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ”

    Pace’s supporters say that he is in a difficult position, given Rumsfeld’s penchant for viewing generals who disagree with him as disloyal. “It’s a very narrow line between being responsive and effective and being outspoken and ineffective,” the former senior intelligence official said.

    But Rumsfeld is not alone in the Administration where Iran is concerned; he is closely allied with **** Cheney, and, the Pentagon consultant said, “the President generally defers to the Vice-President on all these issues,” such as dealing with the specifics of a bombing campaign if diplomacy fails. “He feels that Cheney has an informational advantage. Cheney is not a renegade. He represents the conventional wisdom in all of this. He appeals to the strategic-bombing lobby in the Air Force—who think that carpet bombing is the solution to all problems.”

    Bombing may not work against Natanz, let alone against the rest of Iran’s nuclear program. The possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons gained support in the Administration because of the belief that it was the only way to insure the destruction of Natanz’s buried laboratories. When that option proved to be politically untenable (a nuclear warhead would, among other things, vent fatal radiation for miles), the Air Force came up with a new bombing plan, using advanced guidance systems to deliver a series of large bunker-busters—conventional bombs filled with high explosives—on the same target, in swift succession. The Air Force argued that the impact would generate sufficient concussive force to accomplish what a tactical nuclear warhead would achieve, but without provoking an outcry over what would be the first use of a nuclear weapon in a conflict since Nagasaki.

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    The new bombing concept has provoked controversy among Pentagon planners and outside experts. Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago who has taught at the Air Force’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, told me, “We always have a few new toys, new gimmicks, and rarely do these new tricks lead to a phenomenal breakthrough. The dilemma is that Natanz is a very large underground area, and even if the roof came down we won’t be able to get a good estimate of the bomb damage without people on the ground. We don’t even know where it goes underground, and we won’t have much confidence in assessing what we’ve actually done. Absent capturing an Iranian nuclear scientist and documents, it’s impossible to set back the program for sure.”

    One complicating aspect of the multiple-hit tactic, the Pentagon consultant told me, is “the liquefaction problem”—the fact that the soil would lose its consistency owing to the enormous heat generated by the impact of the first bomb. “It will be like bombing water, with its currents and eddies. The bombs would likely be diverted.” Intelligence has also shown that for the past two years the Iranians have been shifting their most sensitive nuclear-related materials and production facilities, moving some into urban areas, in anticipation of a bombing raid.

    “The Air Force is hawking it to the other services,” the former senior intelligence official said. “They’re all excited by it, but they’re being terribly criticized for it.” The main problem, he said, is that the other services do not believe the tactic will work. “The Navy says, ‘It’s not our plan.’ The Marines are against it—they know they’re going to be the guys on the ground if things go south.”

    “It’s the bomber mentality,” the Pentagon consultant said. “The Air Force is saying, ‘We’ve got it covered, we can hit all the distributed targets.’ ” The Air Force arsenal includes a cluster bomb that can deploy scores of small bomblets with individual guidance systems to home in on specific targets. The weapons were deployed in Kosovo and during the early stages of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the Air Force is claiming that the same techniques can be used with larger bombs, allowing them to be targeted from twenty-five thousand feet against a multitude of widely dispersed targets. “The Chiefs all know that ‘shock and awe’ is dead on arrival,” the Pentagon consultant said. “All except the Air Force.”

    “Rumsfeld and Cheney are the pushers on this—they don’t want to repeat the mistake of doing too little,” the government consultant with ties to Pentagon civilians told me. “The lesson they took from Iraq is that there should have been more troops on the ground”—an impossibility in Iran, because of the overextension of American forces in Iraq—“so the air war in Iran will be one of overwhelming force.”

    Many of the Bush Administration’s supporters view the abrupt change in negotiating policy as a deft move that won public plaudits and obscured the fact that Washington had no other good options. “The United States has done what its international partners have asked it to do,” said Patrick Clawson, who is an expert on Iran and the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a conservative think tank. “The ball is now in their court—for both the Iranians and the Europeans.” Bush’s goal, Clawson said, was to assuage his allies, as well as Russia and China, whose votes, or abstentions, in the United Nations would be needed if the talks broke down and the U.S. decided to seek Security Council sanctions or a U.N. resolution that allowed for the use of force against Iran.

    “If Iran refuses to re-start negotiations, it will also be difficult for Russia and China to reject a U.N. call for International Atomic Energy Agency inspections,” Clawson said. “And the longer we go without accelerated I.A.E.A. access, the more important the issue of Iran’s hidden facilities will become.” The drawback to the new American position, Clawson added, was that “the Iranians might take Bush’s agreeing to join the talks as a sign that their hard line has worked.”

    Clawson acknowledged that intelligence on Iran’s nuclear-weapons progress was limited. “There was a time when we had reasonable confidence in what we knew,” he said. “We could say, ‘There’s less time than we think,’ or, ‘It’s going more slowly.’ Take your choice. Lack of information is a problem, but we know they’ve made rapid progress with their centrifuges.” (The most recent American intelligence estimate is that Iran could build a warhead sometime between 2010 and 2015.)

    Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council aide for the Bush Administration, told me, “The only reason Bush and Cheney relented about talking to Iran was because they were within weeks of a diplomatic meltdown in the United Nations. Russia and China were going to stiff us”—that is, prevent the passage of a U.N. resolution. Leverett, a project director at the New America Foundation, added that the White House’s proposal, despite offering trade and economic incentives for Iran, has not “resolved any of the fundamental contradictions of U.S. policy.” The precondition for the talks, he said—an open-ended halt to all Iranian enrichment activity—“amounts to the President wanting a guarantee that they’ll surrender before he talks to them. Iran cannot accept long-term constraints on its fuel-cycle activity as part of a settlement without a security guarantee”—for example, some form of mutual non-aggression pact with the United States.

    Leverett told me that, without a change in U.S. policy, the balance of power in the negotiations will shift to Russia. “Russia sees Iran as a beachhead against American interests in the Middle East, and they’re playing a very sophisticated game,” he said. “Russia is quite comfortable with Iran having nuclear fuel cycles that would be monitored, and they’ll support the Iranian position”—in part, because it gives them the opportunity to sell billions of dollars’ worth of nuclear fuel and materials to Tehran. “They believe they can manage their long- and short-term interests with Iran, and still manage the security interests,” Leverett said. China, which, like Russia, has veto power on the Security Council, was motivated in part by its growing need for oil, he said. “They don’t want punitive measures, such as sanctions, on energy producers, and they don’t want to see the U.S. take a unilateral stance on a state that matters to them.” But, he said, “they’re happy to let Russia take the lead in this.” (China, a major purchaser of Iranian oil, is negotiating a multibillion-dollar deal with Iran for the purchase of liquefied natural gas over a period of twenty-five years.) As for the Bush Administration, he added, “unless there’s a shift, it’s only a question of when its policy falls apart.”

    It’s not clear whether the Administration will be able to keep the Europeans in accord with American policy if the talks break down. Morton Abramowitz, a former head of State Department intelligence, who was one of the founders of the International Crisis Group, said, “The world is different than it was three years ago, and while the Europeans want good relations with us, they will not go to war with Iran unless they know that an exhaustive negotiating effort was made by Bush. There’s just too much involved, like the price of oil. There will be great pressure put on the Europeans, but I don’t think they’ll roll over and support a war.”

    The Europeans, like the generals at the Pentagon, are concerned about the quality of intelligence. A senior European intelligence official said that while “there was every reason to assume” that the Iranians were working on a bomb, there wasn’t enough evidence to exclude the possibility that they were bluffing, and hadn’t moved beyond a civilian research program. The intelligence official was not optimistic about the current negotiations. “It’s a mess, and I don’t see any possibility, at the moment, of solving the problem,” he said. “The only thing to do is contain it. The question is, What is the redline? Is it when you master the nuclear fuel cycle? Or is it just about building a bomb?” Every country had a different criterion, he said. One worry he had was that, in addition to its security concerns, the Bush Administration was driven by its interest in “democratizing” the region. “The United States is on a mission,” he said.

    A European diplomat told me that his government would be willing to discuss Iran’s security concerns—a dialogue he said Iran offered Washington three years ago. The diplomat added that “no one wants to be faced with the alternative if the negotiations don’t succeed: either accept the bomb or bomb them. That’s why our goal is to keep the pressure on, and see what Iran’s answer will be.”

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    A second European diplomat, speaking of the Iranians, said, “Their tactic is going to be to stall and appear reasonable—to say, ‘Yes, but . . .’ We know what’s going on, and the timeline we’re under. The Iranians have repeatedly been in violation of I.A.E.A. safeguards and have given us years of coverup and deception. The international community does not want them to have a bomb, and if we let them continue to enrich that’s throwing in the towel—giving up before we talk.” The diplomat went on, “It would be a mistake to predict an inevitable failure of our strategy. Iran is a regime that is primarily concerned with its own survival, and if its existence is threatened it would do whatever it needed to do—including backing down.”

    The Iranian regime’s calculations about its survival also depend on internal political factors. The nuclear program is popular with the Iranian people, including those—the young and the secular—who are most hostile to the religious leadership. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, has effectively used the program to rally the nation behind him, and against Washington. Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics have said that they believe Bush’s goal is not to prevent them from building a bomb but to drive them out of office.

    Several current and former officials I spoke to expressed doubt that President Bush would settle for a negotiated resolution of the nuclear crisis. A former high-level Pentagon civilian official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the government, said that Bush remains confident in his military decisions. The President and others in the Administration often invoke Winston Churchill, both privately and in public, as an example of a politician who, in his own time, was punished in the polls but was rewarded by history for rejecting appeasement. In one speech, Bush said, Churchill “seemed like a Texan to me. He wasn’t afraid of public-opinion polls. . . . He charged ahead, and the world is better for it.”

    The Israelis have insisted for years that Iran has a clandestine program to build a bomb, and will do so as soon as it can. Israeli officials have emphasized that their “redline” is the moment Iran masters the nuclear fuel cycle, acquiring the technical ability to produce weapons-grade uranium. “Iran managed to surprise everyone in terms of the enrichment capability,” one diplomat familiar with the Israeli position told me, referring to Iran’s announcement, this spring, that it had successfully enriched uranium to the 3.6-per-cent level needed to fuel a nuclear-power reactor. The Israelis believe that Iran must be stopped as soon as possible, because, once it is able to enrich uranium for fuel, the next step—enriching it to the ninety-per-cent level needed for a nuclear bomb—is merely a mechanical process.

    Israeli intelligence, however, has also failed to provide specific evidence about secret sites in Iran, according to current and former military and intelligence officials. In May, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Washington and, addressing a joint session of Congress, said that Iran “stands on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons” that would pose “an existential threat” to Israel. Olmert noted that Ahmadinejad had questioned the reality of the Holocaust, and he added, “It is not Israel’s threat alone. It is a threat to all those committed to stability in the Middle East and to the well-being of the world at large.” But at a secret intelligence exchange that took place at the Pentagon during the visit, the Pentagon consultant said, “what the Israelis provided fell way short” of what would be needed to publicly justify preventive action.

    The issue of what to do, and when, seems far from resolved inside the Israeli government. Martin Indyk, a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, who is now the director of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, told me, “Israel would like to see diplomacy succeed, but they’re worried that in the meantime Iran will cross a threshold of nuclear know-how—and they’re worried about an American military attack not working. They assume they’ll be struck first in retaliation by Iran.” Indyk added, “At the end of the day, the United States can live with Iranian, Pakistani, and Indian nuclear bombs—but for Israel there’s no Mutual Assured Destruction. If they have to live with an Iranian bomb, there will be a great deal of anxiety in Israel, and a lot of tension between Israel and Iran, and between Israel and the U.S.”

    Iran has not, so far, officially answered President Bush’s proposal. But its initial response has been dismissive. In a June 22nd interview with the Guardian, Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, rejected Washington’s demand that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment before talks could begin. “If they want to put this prerequisite, why are we negotiating at all?” Larijani said. “We should put aside the sanctions and give up all this talk about regime change.” He characterized the American offer as a “sermon,” and insisted that Iran was not building a bomb. “We don’t want the bomb,” he said. Ahmadinejad has said that Iran would make a formal counterproposal by August 22nd, but last week Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme religious leader, declared, on state radio, “Negotiation with the United States has no benefits for us.”

    Despite the tough rhetoric, Iran would be reluctant to reject a dialogue with the United States, according to Giandomenico Picco, who, as a representative of the United Nations, helped to negotiate the ceasefire that ended the Iran-Iraq War, in 1988. “If you engage a superpower, you feel you are a superpower,” Picco told me. “And now the haggling in the Persian bazaar begins. We are negotiating over a carpet”—the suspected weapons program—“that we’re not sure exists, and that we don’t want to exist. And if at the end there never was a carpet it’ll be the negotiation of the century.”

    If the talks do break down, and the Administration decides on military action, the generals will, of course, follow their orders; the American military remains loyal to the concept of civilian control. But some officers have been pushing for what they call the “middle way,” which the Pentagon consultant described as “a mix of options that require a number of Special Forces teams and air cover to protect them to send into Iran to grab the evidence so the world will know what Iran is doing.” He added that, unlike Rumsfeld, he and others who support this approach were under no illusion that it could bring about regime change. The goal, he said, was to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.

    Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the I.A.E.A., said in a speech this spring that his agency believed there was still time for diplomacy to achieve that goal. “We should have learned some lessons from Iraq,” ElBaradei, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, said. “We should have learned that we should be very careful about assessing our intelligence. . . . We should have learned that we should try to exhaust every possible diplomatic means to solve the problem before thinking of any other enforcement measures.”

    He went on, “When you push a country into a corner, you are always giving the driver’s seat to the hard-liners. . . . If Iran were to move out of the nonproliferation regime altogether, if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon program, we clearly will have a much, much more serious problem.”

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    Another related Hersh article that I haven't read yet:

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2...5fa_fact_hersh

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    Some mad stuff in those warning signs indeed!

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    Yes, including "PIZINT" or pizza intelligence.

    I believe this was picked up on on the eve of the Invasion of Grenada when a spike in the take out orders of restaurants around the Pentagon was first noticed...

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