JFP 2/21: Does AIPAC want war? Capability "Red Line" May Tip AIPAC's Hand

Just Foreign Policy News, February 21, 2012
Does AIPAC want war? Capability "Red Line" May Tip AIPAC's Hand

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

Does AIPAC want war? Lieberman Capability "Red Line" May Tip AIPAC's Hand
If AIPAC embraces the Lieberman bill at its March policy conference, it will show that AIPAC has shifted to openly calling for war.
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/2012218134736845243.html

Juan Cole: Top Ten Ways Iran is Defying US, EU Oil Sanctions and How You are Paying for It All
The same Republicans who complain that President Obama hasn't been hard enough on Iran are cynically planning to campaign against him on his having caused higher petroleum prices, ignoring the role of sanctions on Iran and tensions with that country in the price run-up!
http://www.juancole.com/2012/02/top-ten-ways-iran-is-defying-us-eu-oil-sanctions-and-how-you-are-paying-for-it-all.html

Ira Chernus: Media May Give Hamas Extreme Makeover
Chernus notes signs of a shift at the New York Times and Washington Post towards acknowledging that Hamas is not the monolithic demon that they previously portrayed; he suggests that such a shift will increase political space for the U.S. to get serious about pressing the Israeli government to compromise with the Palestinians.
http://www.truth-out.org/media-may-give-hamas-extreme-makeover/1329333787

Michael Calderone: Iran Nuclear Coverage Echoes Iraq War Media Frenzy
One national security reporter, who has covered the intelligence community and Iran, says that pre-Iraq War coverage and recent Iran coverage are "terrifyingly similar": "you're seeing, in some corners of our profession, we're making the same mistakes we made a decade ago," the reporter said. "We're taking things at face value and we're rushing to get ahead of a story that we don't know where it's going."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/17/iran-nuclear-iraq-media-coverage_n_1280772.html

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. media takes the lead on Iran
The key difference between the anti-Iran hysteria in the U.S. media today and the anti-Iraq hysteria in the U.S. media in 2002-3 is that this time it's the media, not the government, leading the assault.
http://www.salon.com/2012/02/14/us_media_takes_the_lead_on_iran/singleton/

Glenn Greenwald: Erin Burnett: Worst of the worst
CNN's Erin Burnett hypes the Iran threat, without noting that is no evidence that Iran is planning to attack the United States, nor that Iran plans to build a nuclear weapon.
http://www.salon.com/2012/02/17/erin_burnett_worst_of_the_worst/singleton

Matt Taibbi: Another March to War?
There's a weird set of internalized assumptions that media members bring to stories like this Iran business. our newspapers and TV stations may blather on a thousand times a day about attacking Iran and bombing its people, but if even one Iranian talks about fighting back, he is being "aggressive" and "threatening"; we can impose sanctions on anyone, but if the sanctioned country embargoes oil shipments to Europe in response, it's being "belligerent."
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/another-march-to-war-20120217

Glenn Greenwald: Diane Sawyer and Brian Ross belong in a fear-mongering museum
An ABC News report from Diane Sawyer and Brian Ross hypes the Iran threat. On its website, ABC informs us that "Federal officials told ABC News that there is so far no specific intelligence of any threat to Israeli interests in the U.S.," but that didn't make it into the TV broadcast. Greenwald notes the similarity to feverish claims of Iraqi threats that never materialized. As usual, no context is provided of the history of Israeli and U.S. threats and attacks against Iran.
http://www.salon.com/2012/02/15/diane_sawyer_and_brian_ross_belong_in_a_fear_mongering_museum/singleton

Gideon Levy: Iran uses terror to target civilians, and so does Israel
Who is against terror? We will all raise our hands. But people who are truly against terror must also say: against all terror, against any terror, be it Iranian, Palestinian or Israeli.
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/iran-uses-terror-to-target-civilians-and-so-does-israel-1.413211

II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) The U.S. is stepping up efforts to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran, the Guardian reports. General Martin Dempsey, chair of the joint chiefs of staff, said in a television interview that "a strike at this time would be destabilizing."
2) Defense Secretary Panetta said U.S. intelligence shows Iran is enriching uranium but that Iran has not made a decision on whether to proceed with development of an atomic bomb, AP reports. Panetta and U.S. lawmakers insist sanctions are taking an economic toll on Iran. But Israel is not speaking with one voice on the issue. Prime Minister Netanyahu said sanctions haven't been effective yet, while his defense minister and vice premier said the penalties are strong and have the Iranians panicking.

3) A new resolution on Capitol Hill backed by AIPAC is part of a growing effort to shift the longstanding U.S. red line from Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon to having the capability to build one, JTA reports. Such a shift would bring U.S. policy in line with Israel's approach, JTA says. But the bill has already provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war, JTA says. Delay in the bill over language may presage tensions with Democrats as AIPAC leads the drive among pro-Israel groups to ratchet up pressure on Iran this year, JTA says. AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an "ask" in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying, JTA says.

4) Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the Iranian military is unlikely to intentionally provoke a conflict with the West, Bloomberg reports. Iran could probably has the ability to "temporarily close the Strait of Hormuz," Burgess said in testimony prepared for a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It could also employ its terrorist surrogates worldwide. However, it is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack."

5) The World Bank board said it expects to pick a successor to President Robert Zoellick by the time of its April 20-22 meetings, Bloomberg reports. While the bank promised a "merit-based and transparent" selection process, the president's position has always been held by a U.S. citizen. The campaign will test the capacity of emerging markets to close ranks behind a candidate eight months after they failed to line up behind an IMF nominee, Bloomberg says.

6) Regional business leaders in Latin America are joining presidents in advocating the decriminalization of illegal drugs as a means of fighting the drug cartels, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The issues of drug trafficking and citizen security are no longer just state problems, says César Zamora, Nicaraguan businessman and vice president of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America. They're also problems for Latin American businesses. "The drug war is weakening state institutions, infiltrating judicial systems and undermining rule of law," all of which is bad for business, Zamora says.

Israel/Iran
7) U.S. defense officials and military analysts say an Israeli attack to set back Iran's nuclear program would be a huge and highly complex operation, the New York Times reports. "All the pundits who talk about 'Oh, yeah, bomb Iran,' it ain't going to be that easy," said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, who retired last year as the Air Force's top intelligence official. Some Washington analysts question whether Israel even has the military capacity to carry it off.

8) A military attack on Iran is out of Israel's league and could prove a tragedy for Israel for generations, writes Yoel Marcus in Haaretz. What price is Israel ready to pay in its relations with the United States after an attack without U.S. consent or coordination?, Marcus asks.

Pakistan
9) Pakistani President Zardari said Pakistan will not provide the U.S. airbases to launch attack on Iran, The Nation reports in Pakistan. "Pakistan and Iran need each other and no foreign pressure can hinder their ties," Zardari said.

Afghanistan
10) NATO acknowledged that it killed eight young Afghans in an airstrike in eastern Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. But it continued to dispute whether the eight were civilians. The Afghan government described those killed as civilians and children. Afghan relatives of those who died and Mohammed Tahir Safi, an adviser to President Hamid Karzai and the leader of the Afghan investigation team, said that those killed were young boys who had taken their sheep and goats to graze outside the village.

Libya
11) Amnesty International says armed militias that helped bring down Kadafi are now "largely out of control," the Los Angeles Times reports. Scores of people have been killed, thousands have been tortured and homes were looted and burned as militias carried out revenge attacks against alleged Kadafi supporters, Amnesty said. Amnesty found that militias seized and detained people without legal justification, torturing them behind bars using electric shock, whips and metal chains. Amnesty says the new government "appears to have neither the authority nor the political will to rein in the militias."

Mexico
12) Throughout the drug war, Mexico's military has shrugged off allegations that soldiers have tortured or executed suspected members of drug cartels, the Wall Street Journal reports. But three high-profile cases being investigated outside the military's own secret courts have prompted the army's top commander to admit the military may have committed serious human-rights abuses.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) US military chief cautions against Israeli attack on Iran
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, says a strike 'at this time would be destabilising'
Harriet Sherwood and Jill Treanor, The Guardian, Sunday 19 February 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/19/us-military-chief-israel-iran

The United States is stepping up efforts to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, with a strong public warning by the US military's most senior figure and the dispatch of two high-ranking officials to Jerusalem.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said in a television interview that it was "not prudent at this point" to attack Iran, and "a strike at this time would be destabilising".
[...]

2) Panetta says Iran enriching uranium but no decision yet on proceeding with a nuclear weapon
Associated Press, February 16
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/panetta-says-iran-enriching-uranium-but-not-decision-yet-on-proceeding-with-a-nuclear-weapon/2012/02/16/gIQATK8zHR_story.html

Washington - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that U.S. intelligence shows Iran is enriching uranium in a disputed nuclear program but that Tehran has not made a decision on whether to proceed with development of an atomic bomb.

Fears of a nuclear-armed Iran produced tough talk from Panetta and the nation's top intelligence officials, all of whom offered insights and observations on the secretive regime in separate congressional hearings. Their testimony came amid increasing international fears of a Mideast conflagration as Iran boasted of major advances in producing nuclear fuel and threatened an oil embargo in retaliation for economic and diplomatic sanctions.
[...]
"We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This isn't just about containment. We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," Panetta told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. "We will not allow Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz. And in addition to that, obviously, we have expressed serious concerns to Iran about the spread of violence and the fact that they continue to support terrorism and they continue to try to undermine other countries."
[...]
Panetta, the former CIA director, said U.S. intelligence shows that Iran is continuing its uranium enrichment program. "But the intelligence does not show that they've made the decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon. That is the red line that would concern us and that would ensure that the international community, hopefully together, would respond," he said.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said the decision on a nuclear weapon would be made by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, raising questions about the role of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the process.

"He (Khamenei) would base that on a cost-benefit analysis in terms of, I don't think he'd want a nuclear weapon at any price," Clapper said. "So that I think plays to the value of sanctions, particularly the recent ratcheting up of more sanctions and anticipation that that will induce a change in their policy and behavior."

Clapper said it's "technically feasible" that Tehran could produce a nuclear weapon in one or two years if its leaders decide to build one, "but practically not likely."
[...]
Panetta and lawmakers insist the sanctions are taking an economic toll on Iran, reflected in their erratic response. But Israel is not speaking with one voice on the issue. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the sanctions haven't been effective yet, while his defense minister and vice premier said the penalties are strong and have the Iranians panicking.
[...]

3) Effort to change U.S. red line on Iran has Senate Dems worried about war
Ron Kampeas, JTA, February 17, 2012
http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/02/17/3091713/iran-resolutions-bumpy-road-reveals-senate-dems-war-jitters

Washington -- Is America's red line on Iran moving?

A new bipartisan resolution introduced Thursday on Capitol Hill is part of a growing effort to shift the longstanding U.S. red line from Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon to having the capability to build one. Such a shift would bring U.S. policy in line with Israel's approach.

The resolution -- a nonbinding Senate statement backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – calls on the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring even the capability to build nuclear weapons.

It was introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and has 32 co-sponsors, roughly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. In order to garner Democratic support, the resolution's authors had toned down its original language.

"I'm trying to build a bipartisan consensus around something we all believe in," Graham said when asked by a reporter why he had removed language that seemed to threaten Iran with military force.

But the bill [has] already provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war.

As it now stands, the resolution "affirms that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."

The language that was removed would have affirmed "that it is within the power and capabilities of the United States Government to prevent the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."

Noting the "power and capabilities" of the United States seemed too close to saber rattling for some Democrats, insiders said. A number of senators asked Graham to include an explicit denial that the resolution authorized military action; he flatly refused.
[...]
Were it not for the back and forth over the language, the resolution would have been introduced a week ago. The delay and the sensitive negotiations over language may presage tensions with Democrats as AIPAC leads the drive among pro-Israel groups to ratchet up pressure on Iran this year.

Jewish Democratic insiders note that the Democratic party remains spooked over the political fallout of its acquiescence a decade ago in the buildup to the Iraq War. "There are clearly plenty of people, especially in the Democratic Party, who are reluctant to drive to war with great rapidity," a Jewish Democratic activist said.

AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an "ask" in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying.

As it is, the resolution has failed so far to attract the support of some key Democrats on the committees critical to its passage, Foreign Affairs and Armed Services. Among those missing are pro-Israel stalwarts like Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Fifteen of the resolution's 32 backers are in the Democratic caucus, a figure that includes Lieberman, who caucuses with the party.

An official with a pro-Israel group said that more senators are expected to sign on in coming weeks.

The resolution's sponsors seemed eager to suggest that the resolution reinforces Obama administration policy. Graham began the news conference by sounding a note that others among the eight senators present would repeat: "President Obama has stated that it's unacceptable for Iran to obtain a nuclear capability."

In fact, Obama has never used the "nuclear capability" phrasing, speaking instead of Iran "getting," "obtaining" or "acquiring" a nuclear weapon as a red line.

"America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal," Obama said last month in his State of the Union address.
[...]

4) Iran Unlikely to Strike First, U.S. Intelligence Official Says, Bloomberg, February 16, 2012
Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg, February 17, 2012, 3:56 PM EST
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-16/iran-unlikely-to-strike-first-u-s-intelligence-official-says.html

Feb. 16 -- The Iranian military is unlikely to intentionally provoke a conflict with the West, the top U.S. military intelligence official said today.

Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said Iran probably has the ability to "temporarily close the Strait of Hormuz with its naval forces," as some Iranian officials have threatened to do if attacked or in response to sanctions on its oil exports by the U.S. and European Union.

"Iran has also threatened to launch missiles against the United States and our allies in the region in response to an attack," Burgess said in testimony prepared for a hearing today of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It could also employ its terrorist surrogates worldwide. However, it is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack."
[...]

5) World Bank Will Choose Successor to Zoellick by Meetings Starting April
Sandrine Rastello, Bloomberg, Feb 17, 2012 3:07 PM CT
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-17/world-bank-will-choose-successor-to-zoellick-by-meetings-starting-april-20.html

The World Bank board of directors said it expects to pick a successor to President Robert Zoellick by the time of its April 20-22 meetings.

The Washington-based lender will accept nominations until March 23 and look for candidates with skills including "a proven track record of leadership" and "experience of managing large organizations with international exposure, and a familiarity with the public sector," the institution said in an e-mailed statement.

While the bank promised a "merit-based and transparent" selection process, the president's position has always been held by a U.S. citizen. The Obama administration said it will have a candidate "in the coming weeks.'

Zoellick, 58, said earlier this week he would step down when his five-year mandate ends June 30. Officials from Brazil and China pushed for a selection procedure that could lead to a president who is not a U.S. citizen.
[...]
The campaign for the helm of an institution that made $57 billion in loans in the last fiscal year will test the capacity of emerging markets to close ranks behind a candidate eight months after they failed to line up behind an International Monetary Fund nominee. The U.S. grip on the job was part of an informal agreement that also has a European head the IMF.
[...]

6) New voice in drug-war debate: businessmen who are feeling the pinch
The drug trade has had a negative impact on the business climate in Central America, and the private sector is starting to speak out in favor of new approaches to the war on drugs.
Tim Rogers, Christian Science Monitor, February 16, 2012
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2012/0216/New-voice-in-drug-war-debate-businessmen-who-are-feeling-the-pinch

Managua, Nicaragua - Legalizing drugs in an effort to combat organized crime, narcotrafficking and gang violence in Latin America has gained traction in recent months. Presidents from Guatemala and Colombia have raised the possibility of legalization in their countries and the region, with politicians from Costa Rica, Mexico and El Salvador joining the debate.

Though decriminalization doesn't guarantee an end to violent organized crime in the Americas, it could free up government resources and potentially divert profits away from traffickers, supporters say. And it's not only Latin American governments that are seriously contemplating the idea: regional business leaders are starting to speak out in favor of the controversial policy change as well.

The issues of drug trafficking and citizen security are no longer just state problems, says César Zamora, Nicaraguan businessman and vice president of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA). They're also problems for Latin American businesses and economies. "The drug war is weakening state institutions, infiltrating judicial systems and undermining rule of law," all of which is bad for business, Zamora says.

The AACCLA and other business leaders' entrée into the drug debate represents a dramatic shift in priorities for commercial lobbying organizations that have spent the better part of two decades focusing almost exclusively on promoting free-trade agreements between Latin America and the United States. It reflects the evolving challenges to doing business in a globalized economy, and in a region plagued by violence.

The renewed debate over the legalization of drugs in the Americas is largely a result of Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina. He met with Salvadorian president Mauricio Funes on Monday, and proposed decriminalizing the drug war in Central America as a way to undercut the viciously violent cartels and gangs that are moving narcotics through the region and leaving high body counts in their wake.

Mr. Funes initially backed Perez's initiative in Guatemala City, but by the time he returned home that evening he was backpedaling. "I am not in agreement with decriminalization of production, trafficking or consumption of drugs," he said in an attempt to "avoid erroneous interpretations."

Funes's response is not entirely surprising. The region is still largely dependent on the US, an opponent of legalization, for training and investment in the region's war on drugs, efforts to strengthen government institutions, and fight impunity.

Mr. Perez is one of few sitting presidents in Latin America to explicitly call for the decriminalization of drugs. In 2009, three former Latin American presidents from Brazil, Colombia and Mexico wrote a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling the drug war a failure. A year later, former Mexican president and long-time drug war supporter Vicente Fox came out against the approach to curbing trafficking and violence as well.
[...]
Carolina Castellanos, director of Guatemalan- American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM Guatemala) says leaders of the private sector in Guatemala have been communicating by email this week to discuss the merits of President Pérez's proposal as well.

"Latin America can't continue to keep supplying the dead to reduce the consumption of drugs in the United States," Zamora says. "There is no way to stop the trafficking; it's a problem of supply and demand."

Iran
7) Iran Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets
Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, February 19, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/world/middleeast/iran-raid-seen-as-complex-task-for-israeli-military.html

Washington - Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran's air defenses, attack multiple underground sites simultaneously - and use at least 100 planes.

That is the assessment of American defense officials and military analysts close to the Pentagon, who say that an Israeli attack meant to set back Iran's nuclear program would be a huge and highly complex operation. They describe it as far different from Israel's "surgical" strikes on a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 and Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981.

"All the pundits who talk about 'Oh, yeah, bomb Iran,' it ain't going to be that easy," said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, who retired last year as the Air Force's top intelligence official and who planned the American air campaigns in 2001 in Afghanistan and in the 1991 Gulf War.
[...]
The possible outlines of an Israeli attack have become a source of debate in Washington, where some analysts question whether Israel even has the military capacity to carry it off. One fear is that the United States would be sucked into finishing the job - a task that even with America's far larger arsenal of aircraft and munitions could still take many weeks, defense analysts said. Another fear is of Iranian retaliation.

"I don't think you'll find anyone who'll say, 'Here's how it's going to be done - handful of planes, over an evening, in and out,' " said Andrew R. Hoehn, a former Pentagon official who is now director of the Rand Corporation's Project Air Force, which does extensive research for the United States Air Force.

Michael V. Hayden, who was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009, said flatly last month that airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Iran's nuclear program were "beyond the capacity" of Israel, in part because of the distance that attack aircraft would have to travel and the scale of the task.
[...]
Given that Israel would want to strike Iran's four major nuclear sites - the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo, the heavy-water reactor at Arak and the yellowcake-conversion plant at Isfahan - military analysts say the first problem is how to get there. There are three potential routes: to the north over Turkey, to the south over Saudi Arabia or taking a central route across Jordan and Iraq.

The route over Iraq would be the most direct and likely, defense analysts say, because Iraq effectively has no air defenses and the United States, after its December withdrawal, no longer has the obligation to defend Iraqi skies. "That was a concern of the Israelis a year ago, that we would come up and intercept their aircraft if the Israelis chose to take a path across Iraq," said a former defense official who asked for anonymity to discuss secret intelligence.

Assuming that Jordan tolerates the Israeli overflight, the next problem is distance. Israel has American-built F-15I and F-16I fighter jets that can carry bombs to the targets, but their range - depending on altitude, speed and payload - falls far short of the minimum 2,000-mile round trip. That does not include an aircraft's "loiter time" over a target plus the potential of having to fight off attacks from Iranian missiles and planes.

In any possibility, Israel would have to use airborne refueling planes, called tankers, but Israel is not thought to have enough. Scott Johnson, an analyst at the defense consulting firm IHS Jane's and the leader of a team preparing an online seminar on Israeli strike possibilities on Iran, said that Israel had eight KC-707 American-made tankers, although it is not clear they are all in operation. It is possible, he said, that Israel has reconfigured existing planes into tankers to use in a strike.

Even so, any number of tankers would need to be protected by ever more fighter planes. "So the numbers you need just skyrocket," Mr. Johnson said. Israel has about 125 F-15Is and F-16Is. One possibility, Mr. Johnson said, would be to fly the tankers as high as 50,000 feet, making them hard for air defenses to hit, and then have them drop down to a lower altitude to meet up with the fighter jets to refuel.

Israel would still need to use its electronic warfare planes to penetrate Iran's air defenses and jam its radar systems to create a corridor for an attack. Iran's antiaircraft defenses may be a generation old - in 2010, Russia refused to sell Iran its more advanced S-300 missile system - but they are hardly negligible, military analysts say.

Iranian missiles could force Israeli warplanes to maneuver and dump their munitions before they even reached their targets. Iran could also strike back with missiles that could hit Israel, opening a new war in the Middle East, though some Israeli officials have argued that the consequences would be worse if Iran were to gain a nuclear weapon.

Another major hurdle is Israel's inventory of bombs capable of penetrating the Natanz facility, believed to be buried under 30 feet of reinforced concrete, and the Fordo site, which is built into a mountain.

Assuming it does not use a nuclear device, Israel has American-made GBU-28 5,000-pound "bunker buster" bombs that could damage such hardened targets, although it is unclear how far down they can go.

Earlier this month, a Bipartisan Policy Center report by Charles S. Robb, the former Democratic senator from Virginia, and Charles F. Wald, a retired Air Force general, recommended that the Obama administration sell Israel 200 enhanced GBU-31 "bunker busters" as well as three advanced refueling planes.
[...]

8) Striking Iran's nuclear program is out of Israel's league
An attack on insane Iran is out of our league and could prove a tragedy for generations to come.
Yoel Marcus, Haaretz, February 17, 2012
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/striking-iran-s-nuclear-program-is-out-of-israel-s-league-1.413751

[...]
Unlike a film, where the director decides on the script and happy end, we're living with lots of question marks. While the team that's called a government makes threats as Rambo does, it's not clear if it knows how the Iranian adventure will end. We're not the ones who can stop Iran's nuclear trance; all we can do is delay it, at the price of turning Israel into a target of Iranian revenge for generations to come.
[...]
With all due respect to our exaggerated self-confidence, we're out of our league here. And it's no coincidence that the former Mossad chief and senior defense officials are warning our leaders against attacking Iran. Some of them are revealing that Iran has 200,000 long-range missiles, not to mention Syria's large arsenal of chemical weapons, which could fall into the hands of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

When you read those figures, it's clear that Israel must think twice before taking suicidal steps against Iran. Israel is showing a great degree of arrogance; after all, even America couldn't stop the manufacture of nuclear weapons in North Korea, India and Pakistan, regions that are combustible to the whole neighborhood. And America is walking on tiptoe when it comes to Iran, whose lethal influence in the regions of oil and extremist Islam is liable to undermine world peace.

Before Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak lead us to an irreversible military operation, the cabinet must ask questions that receive unequivocal answers before each member votes.

1. Are we capable of stopping Iran's nuclear program entirely, as we did in Iraq by bombing the nuclear reactor before it was completed? And can we do it even though Iran learned its lesson from that operation and has dispersed its facilities deep inside rocky ground all over the country, and even the Pentagon has announced that none of its bombs penetrate so deep?

2. Is it possible that the attack will only delay the development of the bomb and lead us into a long war with Iran?

3. Are we prepared to have Jewish organizations and Israeli embassies all over the world become revenge targets (as in Argentina )?

4. Do we understand the significance of having dozens of missiles launched daily on Tel Aviv by Iran and its allies, which will empty the city, end tourism and spark a flight from the country?

5. Is the government aware of the global worldwide economic damage that would be caused by a unilateral Israeli operation and the reaction by an insane Iran?

6. What price is Israel ready to pay in its relations with the United States after an attack without U.S. consent or coordination?
[...]

Pakistan
9) Pakistan won't help US attack Iran, says Zardari
The Nation (Pakistan), February 18, 2012
http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/national/18-Feb-2012/pakistan-won-t-help-us-attack-iran-says-zardari

Islamabad - Pakistan will not assist the US if it attacks Iran, Islamabad Friday assured Tehran.

Pakistan will not provide Americans airbases to launch attack on its neighbour, President Asif Ali Zardari said after the third trilateral summit of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
At the summit the three states expressed their resolve to work collectively for peace and stability in the region and enhancement of mutual cooperation in different sectors, particularly economy and trade.

Addressing a joint news conference, along with his Iranian and Afghan counterparts Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamid Karzai, President Zardari emphatically stated that Pakistan's relationship with the brethren countries cannot be undermined by the international pressure of any kind. "Pakistan and Iran need each other and no foreign pressure can hinder their ties."
[...]

Afghanistan
10) 8 Young Afghans Killed in Strike, NATO Acknowledges
Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, February 15, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/16/world/asia/nato-acknowledges-bombing-killed-eight-young-afghans.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - NATO acknowledged on Wednesday that it killed eight young Afghans in an airstrike in eastern Afghanistan last week and vowed to try to help the isolated home village of those who were killed.

The airstrike on Feb. 8 involved a remote, mountainous area of Najrab district in Kapisa Province. Investigations by the Afghan government and NATO led to somewhat different conclusions about what had led to the bombings.

The Afghan government described those killed as civilians and children. NATO officers insisted that while those who had been killed were young men, perhaps even boys, they were armed and that based on the observations of soldiers on the ground and aircraft camera footage, they appeared to pose a threat to forces operating in the area. The divergent accounts leave open the question of whether this was a case of civilian casualties, but make clear that teenagers died.
[...]
"We accept that eight young Afghans died that day," said Air Commodore Mike Wigston, who led the investigation team and is director of air operations for the NATO joint command here. "The decision to bomb this group was made because they were seen as adult-sized and moving in a tactical fashion, and the commander was worried they were in a good position to attack" nearby NATO forces, Commodore Wigston said.

Local Afghans and NATO officers agreed that in the hours before the attack, NATO and Afghan forces were searching for weapons caches in the area, but then the versions diverge.

Afghan relatives of those who died and Mohammed Tahir Safi, an adviser to President Hamid Karzai and the leader of the Afghan investigation team, said that those killed were young boys who had taken their sheep and goats to graze outside the village. They were cold and gathered under a rock and lighted a small fire to warm themselves. That was the place where they were struck by bombs. Photographs of the dead shown by Mr. Safi at a news conference this week included some of badly bloodied young boys and a couple of young men who might have been older. The father of one of the boys who was killed said that his son was 12 and that two nephews who were killed were younger.
[...]
Several questions remain unanswered. It is unclear whether NATO pilots were able to see clearly the size of the people they were bombing in the camera footage, and it is also unclear what happened to the weapons the boys were believed to be carrying.

Commodore Wigston said NATO had sent the camera footage to a forensics lab. "We have had conflicting statements on the ages," he said. "Our view is that initial assessment suggests they that they are closer to 15 to 16 with one older."
[...]

Libya
11) Libyan militias torture alleged Kadafi supporters, report says
Emily Alpert, Los Angles Times, February 16, 2012 | 1:07 pm
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/02/libya-militias-torture-moammar-kadafi-supporters-amnesty-international.html

Los Angeles - Armed militias that helped bring down Moammar Kadafi are now repeating many of his abuses, Amnesty International warned Thursday in a report that comes a year after the start of the uprising against the Libyan strongman.

The armed groups were heralded as heroes when Kadafi was toppled, but are now "largely out of control," the group wrote. Scores of people have been killed, thousands have been tortured and homes were looted and burned as militias carried out revenge attacks against alleged Kadafi supporters, it said.

Amnesty International also found that militias seized and detained people without legal justification, torturing them behind bars using electric shock, whips and metal chains.

The Times has witnessed rebels taking "justice" into their own hands, locking suspected Kadafi loyalists in underground tunnels.

One man said that he had been detained after a street scuffle. "They accused me of being a Kadafi supporter, and before I even started the court proceedings for breaking the man's nose, they took me to their brigade house and kept me there for two weeks of interrogation," a Tripoli telecommunications employee told The Times anonymously in December.

The Libyan transitional government told the militias to hand in their weapons and clear out in December, but the order was ignored. Amnesty International wrote that the new government "appears to have neither the authority nor the political will to rein in the militias."
[...]

Mexico
12) Rights Abuses by Mexico Military in Spotlight
Nicholas Casey, Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2012
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204062704577223622375042352.html

Mexico City - Throughout Mexico's drug war, the country's military has shrugged off allegations that soldiers have occasionally tortured or even executed suspected members of drug cartels, saying that the majority of the charges were made up by zealous activists or the cartels themselves.

But three high-profile cases this month that are being investigated outside the military's own secret courts have prompted the army's top commander to say the military may have committed serious human-rights abuses.

One case concerns a colonel who prosecutors are investigating for allegedly ordering the killings of military deserters and the burning of their bodies after they allegedly joined a drug cartel in 2010. The two other cases concern military commanders who allegedly ordered the killings of civilians.

The three cases emerged in articles in Reforma, a top Mexican newspaper. The Supreme Court, which is charged with determining if the cases would be tried in civilian court, acknowledged the cases' existence and said it was investigating them.

Civilian prosecutors are also investigating a number of soldiers for their alleged participation in those same killings.
[...]
In statements to The Wall Street Journal, the military said abuse allegations from Mexican citizens had risen in recent months and said it was committed to investigating all charges and defending human rights.
[...]

-

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just Foreign Policy News is here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews


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