JFP 2/5: ABC called on Iran hype; U.S. on Israeli strike; Romney slams Afghan pullout
Just Foreign Policy News, February 5, 2012
ABC called on Iran hype; U.S. on Israeli strike; Romney slams Afghan pullout
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Afghan shift: The U.S. is right to curtail combat earlier
Americans who believe the U.S. has put enough lives and money into Afghanistan should be pleased by Defense Secretary Panetta's statement that the U.S. role will be shifted from combat to training sooner than planned, to mid-2013, says the paper in an editorial. The US is no longer fighting al-Qaida; instead, it has become involved in a civil war. As long as the Karzai government continues to rely on U.S. forces for its existence it is much less likely to arrive at the political compromises required to achieve a new working arrangement with the Taliban.
Ray DuBois and David Vine: Bipartisan Strategy Takes Shape To Close Overseas U.S. Bases
A growing group of politicians across the political spectrum has called for reducing U.S. military installations and forces overseas to produce significant savings. The coalition includes Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul and outgoing House Democrat Barney Frank. Conservative Sen. Tom Coburn and the liberal Center for American Progress agree that cutting deployments in Europe and Asia by a third would save $70 billion by 2021. Obvious places to begin: Closing Futenma and re-evaluating the entire Marine presence on Okinawa; scaling back the base buildup on Guam; closing additional facilities in Western Europe; halting the construction of "enduring" infrastructure projects in Afghanistan; rethinking the scope and size of bases in Honduras and elsewhere in Latin America.
"Occupy AIPAC": March 2-6
On Saturday, March 3rd, there will be a conference on reforming U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East away from AIPAC's priorities and towards supporting peace and popular aspirations in the region: no war with Iran, free Palestine, support the Arab Spring. Co-sponsored by CodePink/Women for Peace, the Institute for Policy Studies, and Just Foreign Policy.
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1) The January 31 ABC World News broadcast featured a blatantly propagandistic report on the supposed threat from Iran, FAIR reports. "America's top spy warns that Iran is willing to launch a terrorist strike inside the U.S." announced Diane Sawyer. "We'll tell you his evidence." But the ABC report was actually very light on evidence.
2) Senior military officers say Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Dempsey told Israeli leaders Jan. 20 the U.S. would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, Gareth Porter reports for Inter Press Service. The message carried by Dempsey was the first explicit statement to the Netanyahu government that the U.S. would not defend Israel if it attacked Iran unilaterally, Porter writes.
3) Romney lambasted Defense Secretary Panetta's statement that U.S. troops could end their combat role in Afghanistan by mid-2013as "naïve" and "misguided," the New York Times reports. But President Obama seems eager to debate his Republican critics about a withdrawal timetable his advisers contend is strategically sound, and which also happens to be politically popular, the Times writes. The White House said Panetta's remarks reflected the president's resolve not to wage a "war without end" in Afghanistan. Republicans have struggled to turn Obama's handling of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to their advantage, largely because polls show that a majority of Americans favor getting out of both countries as quickly as possible, the Times says.
4) Since the U.S. will not get total surrender from Iran, it must decide what it can put on the table to assure that both sides can reach a deal that will be durable, write William Luers and Thomas Pickering in the New York Times. The shape of a final agreement with Iran is imaginable. The U.S. would agree to full recognition and respect for the Islamic Republic, and Iran would agree to regional cooperation with the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both sides would agree to address the full range of bilateral disputes.
The IAEA and the UN Security Council could accept an Iranian civil nuclear program in return for Iran's agreeing to grant inspectors full access to that program to assure that Iran did not build a nuclear weapon, Luers and Pickering write. Once international agencies had full access to Iran's nuclear program, there could be a progressive reduction of the Security Council's sanctions that are now in effect.
5) The murder of four Colombian union leaders in January prompted AFL-CIO President Trumka to urge President Obama to postpone indefinitely the implementation of the Colombia trade agreement, the Florida Independent reports. The AFL-CIO letter noted that a Human Rights Watch report "concludes that the U.S. State Department is not enforcing the human rights conditions imposed upon U.S. aid to Colombia." In a letter to members of Congress, Colombian labor leaders wrote: "Union leaders and labor activists continue to be assassinated, threatened, and intimidated, and the perpetrators enjoy almost complete impunity."
6) A senior Israeli official claimed the missile testing site near Tehran destroyed in a huge explosion three months ago was developing missiles that could reach the United States, the New York Times reports. But U.S. officials said the Israeli assertions were at best premature, and at worst badly exaggerated. Rocket experts say the maximum range of Iran's known ballistic missiles is roughly 1,200 miles. That means they could reach targets in the Middle East, including Israel, as well as Turkey and parts of Eastern Europe.
7) Lt-Gen Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former chief of staff of the IDF, says almost the entire senior hierarchy of Israel's military and security establishment is worried about a premature attack on Iran and apprehensive about the possible repercussions, The Independent reports. Gen. Lipkin-Shahak said there had been little analysis of what happens the "day after" when Iran and its paramilitary allies retaliate. "It is quite clear that much if not all of the IDF leadership do not support military action at this point," Gen. Lipkin-Shahak said.
8) Former IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz said Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel, Ynet News reports. "Iran poses a serious threat, but not an existential one," he said. "The use of this terminology is misleading. If it is intended to encourage a strike on Iran, it's a mistake. Force should be exerted only as a last resort." If a strike is carried out, he added, it should not be led by Israel.
9) President Obama plans to curtail a plan costing as much as $21.1 billion to expand the U.S. military's presence in Guam and instead will rotate some of the Marines through the Asia-Pacific region, Bloomberg reports. The Obama administration's change in plans on locating forces in Guam follows objections in the Senate over the cost.
The Obama administration's plans to move forces out of Japan no longer are contingent on progress in building a new site for the Futenma air station on Okinawa, Bloomberg says.
10) Both leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee said $1.3 billion of annual U.S. aid to the Egyptian military is in real jeopardy due to the Egyptian government's harassment of American NGO workers, Josh Rogin reports for Foreign Policy. Freedom House argues Egypt has not met the legal obligations for receiving the $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid this year. Freedom House also said Egypt should not receive the $300 million it receives from the U.S. in economic and social assistance, mainly because this money goes through the Ministry for International Cooperation, which is led by the Egyptian official believed to be driving the NGO harassment.
1) ABC's Iran Propaganda
Alarmist reporting on 'terrorist' threat
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, 2/2/12
The January 31 ABC World News broadcast featured a blatantly propagandistic report on the supposed threat from Iran.
The newscast focused on that day's Senate testimony by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who told lawmakers that the U.S. intelligence community believes that Iran may be "now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime."
"America's top spy warns that Iran is willing to launch a terrorist strike inside the U.S." announced anchor Diane Sawyer at the top of the program. "We'll tell you his evidence." The ABC report was actually very light on evidence. It did, however, pass along numerous incendiary allegations from government officials--without the skeptical scrutiny that is real journalism's primary function.
Echoing the government, Sawyer set up the report with an assertion that Iran is "more determined than ever to launch an attack on U.S. soil." Correspondent Martha Raddatz, claiming that the "the saber-rattling coming from Iran has been constant," told viewers that Clapper delivered "a new bracing warning.... Iran may be more ready than ever to launch terror attacks inside the United States."
In its effort to substantiate Clapper's strong claim, ABC could only provide the most dubious evidence. As Raddatz announced:
"He pointed specifically to last year's plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States and to reports that Iran has been supporting Hezbollah cells in Latin America."
From the beginning, there have been serious questions about the Saudi ambassador assassination plot (IPS, 10/17/11, FAIR Blog, 10/12/11). As University of Michigan Iran expert Juan Cole (Informed Comment, 10/12/11) pointed out, the claim that the Iranian government tried to hire a Mexican drug gang to kill a diplomat "makes no sense." The Wall Street Journal (2/1/12) quoted Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace saying, "If that's the only data point, I think it's a stretch to conclude that the regime is now looking to commit acts of terror on U.S. soil." But in ABC's report, it's unquestioned fact.
The idea that Hezbollah has active cells in Latin America has been challenged as well--as PolitiFact noted (11/22/11), the State Department determined there are no such groups in our hemisphere.
How any of that might be connected to Iran is unclear, but ABC did its part by running footage of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting politicians the United States does not support: "Ahmadinejad recently traveled there, meeting leaders like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro who have little love from the U.S."
ABC also illustrated the supposed Iranian threat with stock footage of weaponry and soldiers from an Iranian military parade--suggesting without spelling it out that viewers ought to feel threatened by a military force roughly 1/40th the size of the United States' armed forces.
It's important to remember that U.S. officials have regularly threatened that "no options" are "off the table" in dealing with Iran. That is code for using nuclear weapons--and Barack Obama's repetition of that apocalyptic threat got a standing ovation during his January 24 State of the Union address (The Hill, 1/24/12).
It is hard to argue honestly that the real escalation is coming from the Iranian side. But that's why they invented propaganda.
ACTION: Tell ABC that its January 31 report on Iran failed to challenge official claims about the supposed threat from Iran. At a time of heightened tension, journalists should act to question official rhetoric--not generate propaganda.
ABC World News with Diane Sawyer
Phone: (212) 456-4040
2) Dempsey Told Israelis U.S. Won't Join Their War on Iran
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Feb 1
Washington - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Israeli leaders Jan. 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers.
Dempsey's warning, conveyed to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by President Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the United States is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran.
But the Israeli government remains defiant about maintaining its freedom of action to make war on Iran, and it is counting on the influence of right-wing extremist views in U.S. politics to bring pressure to bear on Obama to fall into line with a possible Israeli attack during the election campaign this fall.
Obama still appears reluctant to break publicly and explicitly with Israel over its threat of military aggression against Iran, even in the absence of evidence Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon.
Dempsey's trip was highly unusual, in that there was neither a press conference by the chairman nor any public statement by either side about the substance of his meetings with Israeli leaders. Even more remarkable, no leak about what he said to the Israelis has appeared in either U.S. or Israeli news media, indicating that both sides have regarded what Dempsey said as extremely sensitive.
The substance of Dempsey's warning to the Israelis has become known, however, to active and retired senior flag officers with connections to the JCS, according to a military source who got it from those officers.
The message carried by Dempsey was the first explicit statement to the Netanyahu government that the United States would not defend Israel if it attacked Iran unilaterally. But Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had given a clear hint in an interview on "Face the Nation" Jan. 8 that the Obama administration would not help defend Israel in a war against Iran that Israel had initiated.
Asked how the United States would react if Israel were to launch a unilateral attack on Iran, Panetta first emphasized the need for a coordinated policy toward Iran with Israel. But when host Bob Schieffer repeated the question, Panetta said, "If the Israelis made that decision, we would have to be prepared to protect our forces in that situation. And that's what we'd be concerned about."
3) Romney Criticizes Afghan Pullout Plan, But Obama Is Eager For The Debate
Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, New York Times, February 2, 2012
Washington - It did not take long for Mitt Romney to pounce on Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta's statement Wednesday that American troops could end their combat role in Afghanistan by mid-2013, 18 months sooner than expected. Within hours, Mr. Romney lambasted it as "naïve" and "misguided."
But President Obama, far from disavowing the Pentagon chief, seems eager to debate his Republican critics about a withdrawal timetable that his advisers contend is strategically sound, and which also happens to be politically popular. The White House said that Mr. Panetta's remarks reflected the president's resolve, supported by his experience in Iraq, not to wage a "war without end" in Afghanistan.
"The president made clear that U.S. forces are in Afghanistan to accomplish a mission, and they will not stay in Afghanistan forever, and they will not stay in Afghanistan any longer than is necessary to accomplish that mission," said the press secretary, Jay Carney, when asked about Mr. Romney's charges.
Though Republican candidates have often successfully used foreign policy against Democrats, they have struggled to turn Mr. Obama's handling of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to their advantage, largely because polls show that a majority of Americans favor getting out of both countries as quickly as possible.
Mr. Romney charged that the United States, by putting a more precise timeline on its military planning, was giving the Taliban and others a chance to wait out the Americans. "Why in the world do you go to the people that you're fighting with and tell them the date you're pulling out your troops?" he said during a visit to a warehouse in Las Vegas. "It makes absolutely no sense." [One reason: if they're fighting you to get you to leave, and you can convince them that you are in fact leaving, then they have less reason to fight you - JFP.]
Mr. Romney issued a similar criticism last October, when Mr. Obama announced the pullout of the last soldiers from Iraq, declaring that the decision was either "naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude" and that it would jeopardize the hard-won gains made by American soldiers. But he said little more about Iraq, even as that country's security deteriorated sharply late last year.
Part of the reason may be the general public weariness with these wars, even among some in the Republican Party. Last June, 79 percent of Americans said that they approved of Mr. Obama's plan to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan - beginning in 2011, with a pullout of 33,000 by the end of this summer - according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. Just 17 percent said they disapproved.
Given those feelings, Mr. Romney's swift denunciation could play into Mr. Obama's hands, foreign policy and political analysts said. His comments "demonstrate a political tin ear here at home," said Brian Katulis, a national security expert at the Center for American Progress, which has close ties to the White House.
Mr. Panetta's announcement, Mr. Katulis said, is a reminder to the Afghans that they must govern and secure themselves once American troops leave. But, he added, "it wouldn't surprise me that there's a second-level objective here, which is to demonstrate to the American public that there is a clear plan coming from the administration, while we don't know what the other side is offering."
Tensions over timing were also apparent on Capitol Hill. David H. Petraeus, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the former commander in Afghanistan, played down Mr. Panetta's remarks in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, saying they did not represent a new development.
But Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, a Republican and the chairman of the committee, disputed that, saying that it was "never our understanding" that American troops would step back from a combat role as early as 2013. "That was a change," Mr. Rogers said.
For the Obama administration, the primary mission in Afghanistan was to destroy the capacity of Al Qaeda to carry out terrorist attacks, which officials said they had largely accomplished. Mr. Romney, officials said, seems to be arguing in favor of extending the war with an unclear goal.
"We're focused on defeating Al Qaeda, whereas other people seem focused on the size and number of U.S. troops deployed overseas," said a senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
4) Envisioning a Deal With Iran
William H. Luers and Thomas R. Pickering, New York Times, February 2, 2012
[Luers served as US ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Venezuela, and was president of the UN Association from 1999 to 2009. Pickering, under secretary of state for political affairs in the Clinton administration, served as US ambassador to Russia, Israel, Jordan and the UN.]
"IF you deal in camels, make the doors high," an Afghan proverb cautions. As the dangers mount in the confrontation between the United States and Iran, both sides will have to raise the doors high for diplomacy to work, and to avoid conflict.
A diplomatic strategy must begin with the United States' setting its priorities and then defining a practical path to achieve them. To achieve its top priorities, it will have to learn what Iran needs. Since the United States will not get total surrender from Iran, it must decide what it can put on the table to assure that both sides can reach a deal that will be durable.
American leaders have been masterly at diplomatic strategies - "building high doors" - to make deals. Franklin D. Roosevelt opened relations with the Soviet Union in 1933 to balance the ascendance of menacing forces in Germany and Japan. He was acting for geopolitical reasons, and in spite of his objection to Communism. Richard M. Nixon opened relations with China to enhance American leverage in dealing with the Soviet Union. He re-framed - but did not give up on - the American commitment to Taiwan to accomplish his objective. In each case, the presidents were acting against the advice of most of their close advisers.
In our own time, President Obama's initial instincts on Iran were correct: only he can lead the United States to agreements with Iran that advance American national interests.
The first question is how to get such diplomacy started, and on that, Nixon's strategy toward China is instructive.
Before traveling to Beijing in 1972, Nixon outlined on his ubiquitous yellow pad three analytical pillars of his strategy: What do they want, what do we want and what do we both want? The Chinese, he continued, wanted to "build up their world credentials," to recover control of Taiwan and to get the United States out of Asia, while the United States wanted to succeed in Indochina, establish communication "to restrain Chinese expansion in Asia" and, in the future, "reduce threat of confrontation by China Super Power." The United States and China both wanted "to reduce danger of confrontation and conflict, a more stable Asia, a restraint on U.S.S.R."
In the Shanghai Communiqué, issued at the culmination of the meeting in Beijing, the continuing differences were highlighted, but both sides agreed to expand the common ground between them.
In developing a diplomatic strategy toward Iran, President Obama might respond to Nixon's three questions as follows: Iran wants recognition of its revolution; an accepted role in its region; a nuclear program; the departure of the United States from the Middle East; and the lifting of sanctions. The United States wants Iran not to have nuclear weapons; security for Israel; a democratic evolution of Arab countries; the end of terrorism; and world access to the region's oil and gas. Both Iran and the United States want stability in the region - particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan; the end of terrorism from Al Qaeda and the Taliban; the reincorporation of Iran into the international community; and no war.
With those assumptions as a skeleton, the shape of a final agreement with Iran is imaginable. The United States would agree to full recognition and respect for the Islamic Republic, and Iran would agree to regional cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both sides would agree to address the full range of bilateral disputes.
The International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council could accept an Iranian civil nuclear program in return for Iran's agreeing to grant inspectors full access to that program to assure that Iran did not build a nuclear weapon. Once international agencies had full access to Iran's nuclear program, there could be a progressive reduction of the Security Council's sanctions that are now in effect. Iran would agree to cease making threats against Israel, and the United States would agree to support efforts toward achieving a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.
It would be important to make arrangements for Israel's security; the exact shape of those measures would have to be worked out in the negotiations. An agreement in which there would be full access to Iran's nuclear program, with a monitored limitation of 5 percent enrichment, would offer Israel additional reasons for confidence in the deal.
Both sides would agree to cooperate in reducing the influence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan; in combating drug trafficking; and in keeping open the routes through which energy flows to the world from the Persian Gulf. Both sides would agree that while wide differences between the two nations remained, those differences must be resolved peacefully.
The China analogy for American-Iranian relations falls short in some areas. The most important is that Mao was ready for an American approach, while Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is not. Instead, he is convinced that the United States will not work with Iran until his regime is gone.
For Iran's leadership, the notion that the United States is bent on overthrowing its rulers is rooted in historical experience: the United States did overthrow Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, supported the Shah afterward, supported Saddam Hussein's war against Iran in the 1980s, and now backs increasing efforts to weaken and isolate Iran.
Reducing the malign influence of this legacy on the thinking of Ayatollah Khamenei will be essential to achieving any deal. Simply "keeping the door open to diplomacy" will not be sufficient. So the Iranian leader must be approached directly, but discreetly, by someone he trusts who conveys assurances from President Obama that covert operations and public pressure have been demonstrably reduced. The interlocutor might be a leader from a country in the region, enlisted when the American president felt the time was right.
Ayatollah Khamenei will have to be convinced by actions, not just messages. Just as Nixon halted covert action in Tibet before approaching China, a similar signal will be needed with Iran.
There is no guarantee that diplomacy will succeed. But that is also true of war. And only diplomacy can offer Iran's current rulers a stake in building a secure future without a nuclear bomb. Only diplomacy can achieve America's major objectives while avoiding the mistakes committed in Iraq or Vietnam.
5) AFL-CIO urges Obama to postpone Colombia Free Trade Agreement after union leader murders
Marcos Restrepo, Florida Independent, 02.03.12 | 10:01 am
The murder of four Colombian union leaders in January prompted Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, to urge President Obama to postpone indefinitely the implementation of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, approved by the U.S Congress in October.
The letter states that through January, one union member was killed by Colombian troops, a second was shot to death along with his wife, a third worker was "brutally murdered" and a fourth union member employed by the National Industry of Sodas (Coca-Cola) was "murdered by gunfire."
Over 2,900 union members have been murdered in Colombia over the last 25 years, a number that makes the South American nation the most dangerous in the world for union members.
The approval of the trade agreement was delayed several years due to the murder of union members, but was sent by the Obama administration to Congress for final approval after a Labor Action Plan was put in place to deal with anti-union violence.
In a letter to members of Congress issued last week, Colombian labor leaders wrote:
We applaud the creation of the April 7, 2011, U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan that intends to take important steps in addressing endemic labor issues in Colombia. However, the Plan continues to face serious challenges in its implementation. Union leaders and labor activists continue to be assassinated, threatened, and intimidated, and the perpetrators enjoy almost complete impunity.
Wednesday's letter from the AFL-CIO to Obama adds that a Human Rights Watch report "concludes that the U.S. State Department is not enforcing the human rights conditions imposed upon U.S. aid to Colombia."
6) U.S. Plays Down Warning by Israeli Over Iran's Missiles
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, February 2, 2012
Jerusalem - A senior Israeli official said Thursday that the missile testing site near Tehran that was destroyed in a huge explosion three months ago was developing missiles with a range of about 6,000 miles that could reach the United States.
The assertion went far beyond what rocket experts have established about Iran's missile capabilities, and American officials questioned its accuracy.
The Israeli, Moshe Yaalon, a deputy prime minister and minister for strategic affairs, said the blast at a missile base of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps hit a system "getting ready to produce a missile with a range of 10,000 kilometers."
Mr. Yaalon was trying to make the point that the Iranian nuclear program is a threat not only to Israel but to other nations, creating "a nightmare for the free world." He said that it was a concern to Arab states as well as to the United States and Israel.
American officials said they believed that Mr. Yaalon's assertions were at best premature, and at worst badly exaggerated.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity because assessments of Iran's missiles are largely classified, the officials said that Iran might harbor the ambition of having missiles that could reach the United States, but that it was not close to achieving that goal. They declined to say what kind of work was being done at the base where the blast took place.
Today, the maximum range of Iran's known ballistic missiles is roughly 1,200 miles, rocket experts say. That means they could reach targets in the Middle East, including Israel, as well as Turkey and parts of Eastern Europe.
Iran is known to be working on missiles with a range of 2,000 miles, which are considered medium range. The United States defines long-range or intercontinental ballistic missiles as having ranges greater than 3,400 miles.
A range of 10,000 kilometers, slightly more than 6,200 miles, would let a missile fired from Iran fly halfway around the globe to reach the United States.
7) Israel's military leaders warn against Iran attack
Former Israeli defence chief says that a strike on Iran would plunge the Middle East into war
Kim Sengupta, Donald Macintyre, The Independent, Thursday 02 February 2012
Tel Aviv/Jerusalem - Almost the entire senior hierarchy of Israel's military and security establishment is worried about a premature attack on Iran and apprehensive about the possible repercussions, a former chief of the country's defence forces told The Independent yesterday.
Lt-Gen Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who is close to Defence Minister Ehud Barak, said there had been little analysis of what happens the "day after" when the Tehran regime and its paramilitary allies retaliate. He warned that an assault may lead to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad benefiting from popular anger against foreign aggression.
General Lipkin-Shahak stressed that Iran with a nuclear arsenal would be a hugely destabilising factor in the region. But, he said: "It is quite clear that much if not all of the IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] leadership do not support military action at this point."
The risks of military action underlined by the highly decorated former commander show the apparent divisions within the establishment over the best way to combat Iran's nuclear programme. The Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mr Barak are reported to be veering towards military action while fellow ministers as well as the defence and intelligence communities have reservations about this path.
The General's comments follow the public intervention in the Iran debate by a former head of Mossad, Israel's intelligence service. Meir Dagan said that following such a course of action would plunge the region into war with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
General Lipkin-Shahak said that depending on intelligence does not always work. "Let's not forget that an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, was held for five years just five, six kilometres from our border, and despite doing our best we had not been able to free him, despite the fact we were getting lots of intelligence reports." Israel was forced to obtain the soldier's release by freeing more than 1,000 Hamas detainees.
"Even if there was 100 per cent intelligence, even if the Americans knew the exact locations of the sites, it could be very difficult to hit what is inside. The Iranians are not stupid, we should not underestimate their intelligence."
8) Former IDF chief: Iran doesn't pose existential threat
Shiri Hadar, Ynet News (Yedioth Ahronoth), 02.02.12, 20:04
Former IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General (res.) Dan Halutz said during the Herzliya Conference on security that Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel.
"Iran poses a serious threat, but not an existential one," he said. "The use of this terminology is misleading. If it is intended to encourage a strike on Iran, it's a mistake. Force should be exerted only as a last resort." If a strike is carried out, he added, it should not be led by Israel.
9) Obama Said To Curtail $21 Billion Plan To Expand Military Presence In Guam
Roxana Tiron and Gopal Ratnam, Bloomberg, Feb 3, 2012 11:12 AM CT
President Barack Obama plans to curtail a plan costing as much as $21.1 billion to expand the U.S. military's presence in Guam and instead will rotate some of the Marines through the Asia-Pacific region, people familiar with the matter said.
The administration now intends to send about 4,500 U.S. Marines stationed in Japan to Guam and to rotate an additional 4,000 through Australia, Subic Bay and perhaps a smaller base in the Philippines and Hawaii, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan hasn't been announced.
The U.S. is realigning forces in the Asia-Pacific as the Obama administration refocuses attention on the region after more than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, the Pentagon is seeking to cut about $490 billion from projected defense spending over a decade.
Some of the Marines going to Guam under the administration's revised plan will be based in the U.S. territory in the Pacific temporarily, known as on rotation, instead of being permanently stationed there, the people said.
As part of a 2006 agreement with Japan, 8,600 Marines and 9,000 dependents were to be transferred from Okinawa in Japan almost 1,500 miles (2,413 kilometers) south to Guam by 2014.
The Obama administration's change in plans on locating forces in Guam also follows objections in the U.S. Senate over the cost of building infrastructure in the island territory.
In May, three senators called on the Pentagon to re-examine military basing plans in East Asia, saying billions of dollars may be saved in South Korea, Japan and Guam.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, joined Senators John McCain of Arizona, the panel's senior Republican, and Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat and the chairman of the personnel subcommittee, in calling for reducing the planned Marine Corps expansion on Guam.
Instead, the lawmakers called for rotating combat units based elsewhere and for examining the feasibility of moving Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa, Japan, to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, while avoiding building a replacement facility. Local officials have complained about noise, pollution and safety issues at Futenma.
In approving the Pentagon's fiscal year 2012 budget, Congress blocked funding for the relocation of Marines to Guam until the Defense Department provided a master plan. The Pentagon had to consider "alternatives that may provide the needed Marine forward presence at much less expense," McCain said in a Senate speech in September.
McCain said at the time that he expected the redeployment of forces from Japan to Guam to cost $18 billion to $23 billion. The Government Accountability Office estimated in a June 27, 2011 report the cost of the Guam military buildup to be about $23.9 billion, including the $21.1 billion U.S. share as well as contributions from Japan.
The Obama administration's plans to move forces out of Japan no longer are contingent on progress in building a new site for the Futenma air station on Okinawa, according to the people familiar with the plan. The change may require renegotiating existing agreements with Japan, they said.
Japan is expected to recoup as much as $3.3 billion of the Guam relocation cost over time in the form of repayments from the U.S. government and rents paid by the Marines through their housing allowances, according to the GAO.
10) Levin And McCain: Egypt's Military Aid Really Is In Jeopardy
Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy, Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 4:22 PM
Both leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee told The Cable that $1.3 billion of annual U.S. aid to the Egyptian military is in real jeopardy due to the Egyptian government's harassment of American NGO workers.
Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking Republican John McCain (R-AZ) both said on Tuesday that a withholding of military aid to Egypt was now on the table due to the Egyptian military's role in the Dec. 29 raids on several NGO groups in Cairo, including three U.S. government-funded organizations: the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Freedom House.
The anger in Washington at the Egyptian government reached a boiling point this week when it was revealed on Jan. 26 that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's son Sam LaHood, the head of IRI's Cairo office, had been barred from leaving Egypt by the government, along with five other U.S. citizens.
The issue has already led to a divorce between the Egyptian government and its Washington lobbyists. The lobbyists said they dumped the Egyptian government over the NGO issue, while the Egyptian embassy claimed it dumped the lobbyists in order to save money.
Both Levin and McCain are set to meet with a visiting delegation of high-level Egyptian military officers next week in Washington, and they both said they will deliver the message that U.S. military aid to Egypt is tied to this issue.
"They should know that this action on their part jeopardizes a normal relationship between us," Levin said in a brief interview on his way out of the Democratic caucus lunch. "They know that, and that includes the impact it could have on aid."
McCain, who happens to be the chairman of the board of IRI, said in his own after-lunch interview that U.S. military aid to Egypt is "certainly a topic that [the Egyptians] have put on the table."
Freedom House put out a fact sheet on Tuesday, written by its manager of congressional affairs, Sarah Trister, which argues Egypt has not met the legal obligations for receiving the $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid this year.
"Per the FY 2012 State and Foreign Operations Bill, before the administration can release the $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt, it must certify that the government of Egypt is 'supporting the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections; implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law.' At this point, it is clear these conditions are not being met," Trister wrote.
Moreover, the Freedom House fact sheet made the case that Egypt should not receive the $300 million it receives from the United States in economic and social assistance, mainly because this money goes through the Ministry for International Cooperation, which is led by the Egyptian official believed to be driving the NGO harassment: Fayza Abul-Naga.
"The ministry that receives this funding, the Ministry for Planning and International Cooperation, is headed by a Mubarak holdover who has been directing the assault against civil society," Trister wrote, referring to Abul-Naga.
Reuters reported Tuesday that the Egyptian Justice Ministry sent back a letter from the U.S. embassy requesting the Americans trapped in Cairo be allowed to leave.
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