09 August 2006

Is Israel's Aim in Lebanon to Clear Path for US War on Iran?

In yet another excellent analysis, Jonathan Cook informs us that the latest draft of the UN Resolution was put together with Israeli help:

"If there were any remaining illusions about the purpose of Israel's war against Lebanon, the draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a "cessation of major hostilities" published over the weekend should finally dispel them. This entirely one-sided document was drafted, noted the Hebrew-language media, with close Israeli involvement. The top adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert talked through the resolution with the U.S. and French teams, while the Israeli Foreign Ministry had its man alongside John Bolton at the UN building in New York.

The only thing preventing Israeli officials from jumping up and down with glee, according to Aluf Benn of the daily
Ha'aretz newspaper, was the fear that "demonstrated Israeli enthusiasm for the draft could influence support among Security Council members, who could demand a change in wording that may adversely affect Israel." So no celebration parties till the resolution is passed."

Cook also states:

"So in the coming days, in the wake of this U.S.-Israeli concoction of an impossible peace, we are going to be hearing a lot more nonsense from Israel and the White House about Iran's role in supposedly initiating and expanding this war, its desire to "wipe Israel off the map," and the nuclear weapons it is developing so that it can achieve its aim."

This is also the viewpoint of Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service:

"In planning for the destruction of most of Hezbollah's arsenal and prevention of any resupply from Iran, Israel appears to have hoped to eliminate a major reason the George W. Bush administration had shelved the military option for dealing with Iran's nuclear program – the fear that Israel would suffer massive casualties from Hezbollah's rockets in retaliation for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

One leading expert on Israeli national defense policy issues believes the aim of the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah was to change the Bush administration's mind about attacking Iran. Edward Luttwak, senior adviser to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, says Bush administration officials have privately dismissed the option of air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities in the past, citing estimates that a Hezbollah rocket attack in retaliation would kill thousands of people in northern Israel.

But Israeli officials saw a war in Lebanon to destroy Hezbollah's arsenal and prevent further resupply in the future as a way to eliminate that objection to the military option, says Luttwak.

The risk to Israel of launching such an offensive was that it would unleash the very rain of Hezbollah rockets on Israel that it sought to avert. But Luttwak believes the Israelis calculated that they could degrade Hezbollah's rocket forces without too many casualties by striking preemptively.

"They knew that a carefully prepared and coordinated rocket attack by Hezbollah would be much more catastrophic than one carried out under attack by Israel," he says. "

Porter gives more evidence:

"Gerald M. Steinberg, an Israeli specialist on security affairs at Bar Ilon University who reflects Israeli government thinking, did not allude to the link between destruction of Hezbollah's rocket arsenal and a possible attack on Iran in an interview with Bernard Gwertzman of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York last week. But he did say there is "some expectation" in Israel that after the U.S. congressional elections, Bush "will decide that he has to do what he has to do."
Steinberg said Israel wanted to "get an assessment" of whether the United States would "present a military attack against the Iranian nuclear sites as the only option." If not, he suggested that Israel was still considering its own options.

Specialists on Iran and Hezbollah have long believed that the missiles Iran has supplied to Hezbollah were explicitly intended to deter an Israeli attack on Iran. Ephraim Kam, a specialist on Iran at Israel's Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies, wrote in December 2004 that Hezbollah's threat against northern Israel was a key element of Iran's deterrent to a U.S. attack.

Ali Ansari, an associate professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and author of a new book on the U.S. confrontation with Iran, was quoted in the Toronto Star July 30 as saying, "Hezbollah was always Iran's deterrent force against Israel."

Iran has also threatened direct retaliation against Israel with the Shahab-3 missile from Iranian territory. However, Iran may be concerned about the possibility that Israel's Arrow system could intercept most of them, as the Jaffe Center's Kam observed in 2004. That elevates the importance to Iran of Hezbollah's ability to threaten retaliation.

The first hint of Iranian concern about the possible strategic implications of the Israeli campaign to degrade the Hezbollah missile force in southern Lebanon came in a report by Michael Slackman in the New York Times July 25. Slackman quoted an Iranian official with "close ties to the highest levels of government" as saying, "They want to cut off one of Iran's arms."
The same story quoted Mohsen Rezai, the former head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, as saying, "Israel and the U.S. knew that as long as Hamas and Hezbollah were there, confronting Iran would be costly" – an obvious reference to the deterrent value of the missiles in Lebanon. "So, to deal with Iran, they first want to eliminate forces close to Iran that are in Lebanon and Palestine."

Israel has been planning its campaign against Hezbollah's missile arsenal for many months. As Matthew Kalman reported from Tel Aviv in the San Francisco Chronicle on July 21, "More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists, and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's main purpose in meeting with Bush on May 25 was clearly to push the United States to agree to use force, if necessary, to stop Iran's uranium enrichment program. Four days before the meeting, Olmert told CNN that Iran's "technological threshold" is "very close." In response to a question about U.S. and European diplomacy on the issue, Olmert replied: "I prefer to take the necessary measures to stop it, rather than find out later that my indifference was so dangerous."

At his meeting with Bush, according to Yitzhak Benhorin of Israel's YnetNews, Olmert pressed Bush on Israel's intelligence assessment that Iran would gain the technology necessary to build a bomb within a year and expressed fears that diplomatic efforts were not going to work.

It seems likely that Olmert discussed Israel's plans for degrading Hezbollah's missile capabilities as a means of dramatically reducing the risk of an air campaign against Iran's nuclear sites, and that Bush gave his approval. That would account for Olmert's comment to Israeli reporters after the meeting, reported by the Israel's YnetNews, but not by U.S. news media: "I am very, very, very satisfied."

Bush's refusal to do anything to curb Israel's freedom to wreak havoc on Lebanon further suggests that he encouraged the Israelis to take advantage of any pretext to launch the offensive. The Israeli plan may have given Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld new ammunition for advocating a strike on Iran's nuclear sites."

As part of this strategy to isolate Iran and build up the battle for the 'hearts and minds' of people in the West, we saw this report in the Sunday Times:

Iran's plot to mine uranium in Africa
Jon Swain, David Leppard and Brian Johnson-Thomas

"IRAN is seeking to import large consignments of bomb-making uranium from the African mining area that produced the Hiroshima bomb, an investigation has revealed."

However, this has now been refuted by this story from the Dow Jones Newswires:

"The U.K. Sunday Times newspaper reported Saturday that a smuggled shipment of uranium 238 was intercepted in Tanzania last October. The report cited a "senior Tanzanian customs official" and an unpublished report by the U.N. from July 18.

The article said the shipment came from a closed mine in Lubumbashi, Congo, then was driven via Zambia into Tanzania, and uncovered during a scan at the port of Dar es Salaam while awaiting shipment by boat to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

"Anyone who knows about uranium knows that it is not exported in raw form in trucks. It must be treated and purified, and we don't enrich uranium in Congo," Sakanyi said.

The paper cited a Tanzanian customs official, who it did not identify by name, as saying that the uranium was hidden inside a cargo of 50-kilogram drums of coltan, a mineral used to make computer chips.

The Sunday Times said the uranium was suspected of being extracted illegally from the Shinkolobwe mine, which was closed in 1961.

U.N. spokesman Jean-Tobias Okala in Kinshasa said Monday he couldn't confirm the uranium shipment. The large U.N. peacekeeping force is overseeing elections in Congo and Okala said tracking of any such shipments would be outside of his jurisdiction.

Uranium 238 can be used to breed plutonium, which is used both in nuclear warheads and as fuel for nuclear reactors.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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