|Southwest Asia News Digest
Will Bibi and Obama Bomb Iran This Summer?
June 4 (EIRNS)A recent article in Ha'aretz by Amir Oren warned that "between the end of June and Gates' retirement, and the end of September and Mullen's retirement, the danger that Netanyahu and [Ehud] Barak will aim at a surprise in Iran is especially great, especially since this would divert attention from the Palestinian issue." This warning of an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities at Natanz and other locations has been buttressed by senior U.S. military and intelligence sources, who have warned, in the past 24 hours, that U.S. military forces have been conducting big contingency planning drills over the past several weeks, for a U.S. intervention, following Israeli strikes on targets in Iran. These sources say that a target date for such a joint Israel-U.S. attack on Iran would be July and August of this year.
A number of other recent developments further fill out this picture of a potential Armageddon provocation by Netanyahu, Barak, and Obama.
First, on June 3, Britain's Guardian reported on an interview with recently retired Mossad head Meir Dagan, who attacked Netanyahu and Barak as "irresponsible and reckless." Ha'aretz columnist Avi Shavit explained: "Dagan is extremely concerned about September 2011. He is not afraid that tens of thousands of demonstrators may overrun the settlements. He is afraid that Israel's subsequent isolation will push its leaders to the wall and cause them to take reckless action against Iran."
Dagan told reporters that when he was head of Mossad, he and Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin and Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi could collectively veto any reckless behavior by Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak, but they have all been replaced by weaker figures who would not buck attack orders from the Prime Minister. "I decided to speak because when I was in office, Diskin, Ashkenazi and I could block any dangerous adventure. Now I am afraid that there is no one to stop Bibi and Barak."
Second, the Obama White House launched a panicked, clumsy preemptive attack over the past week against New Yorker magazine writer Seymour Hersh, to spike his June 6 article, "Iran and the Bomb," which provided previously unpublished details of a 2011 updated National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear weapons program. The new NIE, updating the December 2007 NIE, concluded that there was still no compelling evidence that Iran had resumed its quest for nuclear weapons, which had been frozen in late 2003, following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
As Hersh documented, the 2011 NIE was delayed for more than four months, due to political pressures on the intelligence analysts to reverse the earlier findings. But the intelligence community experts, with backing from such senior officials as DIA Director Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, stood behind the analysts, and refused to bend to political pressures. DIA, in particular, assessed that the Iran nuclear weapons effort had been principally directed against Iraqnot Israel, and that the March 2003 invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein had taken the Iraq threat off the table, and Iran had shelved the nuclear weapons effort. Hersh quoted former DIA humint director Col. Patrick Lang that the intelligence community had "refused to drink the Kool Aid this time."
A senior U.S. intelligence official, after initially dismissing the imminent threat of an Israeli military strike on Iran, made a compelling case for why Israel might launch such an attack in the near term. If Israel concluded that the recent computer virus, which greatly disrupted the work at the Natanz facility, had been countered, and a new generation of centrifuges had been successfully installed, Iran could be 12-18 months away from a nuclear weapons breakout. That alone would suppress any Israeli institutional resistance to an attack on Iran.
The source added that U.S. intelligence believes that Israel's military capabilities have been seriously diminished, and that an Israeli attack on Natanz and other facilities would most likely do only minimum damage. Therefore, the U.S. would have only two options in the event of such an Israel attack: Sit it out and make it clear that the attack was not sanctioned by Washington, or launch U.S. military operations to "finish the job."
Contingency plans for the latter option are definitely in place, the source explained, and it would thus be up to President Obama to make the call. While there is no love lost between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama's decisions are all calibrated to ensure his 2012 reelection, and he would be very reluctant to buck the Israeli Lobby and leave Israel to fend for itself.
Bahrain Youth To Resume Demonstrations After Emergency Law Is Lifted
June 2 (EIRNS)On June 1, the Bahraini government lifted the emergency law it had imposed on the country in March. It had been announced in advance by the February 14 youth coalition that they will be back demonstrating, demanding that the regime leave, and that some political reforms be implemented, including reversing two death sentences. Many injuries have been reported in various rallies around the country, with the police crackdown reportedly violent. The protests were concentrated in Bani Jamra, Krzakan Aldraz, and Al-Sanabis; also the island of Sitra has witnessed heavy confrontation.
For the last three months, Bahrain has been under Saudi occupation. Among the atrocities that the Saudi-backed Bahraini regime has committed were the destruction of many mosques and religious centers, and detention of up to 1,000 people, one-quarter of whom are under 25 years of age. And further, according to the Herald Sun and sundry other sources, men in jail have been abused and raped, as well as severely tortured.
The leaders of the main Shi'a party, Al-Wefaq, Ali Salman and Khalil Al-Marzouq, former Deputy Speaker of the representative council, along with a leading human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, were summoned by the government for several hours and later released. This comes at a time when the Crown Prince is supposedly leading mediation between the leading Shi'a parties and the government.
On the other hand, the atrocities that Bahrain has suffered come with the direct British involvement: Agence France Presse wrote on May 29 that "Defense Minister Nick Harvey told Parliament last week that some members of the Saudi force deployed in Bahrain may have undergone some British training." The Defense Ministry claimed that British involvement in training foreign forces was intended to engender a culture of respect for human rights.
Former Mossad Chief: Israel Can't Withstand War in Wake of Strike on Iran
June 2 (EIRNS)Former Israeli Mossad chief Meir Dagan issued a warning that Israel would not withstand a regional conflict ignited by an Israeli strike of Iran's nuclear facilities. According to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Dagan said that Israel did not have the capability to stop Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Earlier in April, Dagan called the possibility of a future Israeli Air Force attack on Iranian nuclear facilities "the stupidest thing I have ever heard."
Speaking to a conference in Tel Aviv yesterday, Dagan said Israel doesn't "have the capability to stop the Iranian nuclear program, only to delay it. If anyone seriously considers [a strike], he needs to understand that he's dragging Israel into a regional war that it would not know how to get out of. The security challenge would become unbearable."
Dagan added, the "military option is the last alternative, not preferred or possible, but a last resort. Every other alternative must be weighed before the use of force."
Referring to those who criticized him for speaking out on these matters soon after his retirement, Dagan said: "I feel obligated to express my opinion on certain matters. The prime minister and defense minister are the ones in charge, but sometimes good sense and a good decision don't have anything to do with being elected."
Dagan's comments follow another warning issued the day before by Ha'aretz correspondent Amir Oren, who wrote that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak might take advantage of the fact that the Obama Administration security team is in transition with new Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Central Intelligence Agency director, to launch a strike against Iran. "The conclusion is that between the end of June and [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates' retirement, and the end of September and [Chairman of the Joints Chiefs Adm. Michael] Mullen's retirement, the danger that Netanyahu and Barak will aim at a surprise in Iran is especially great, especially since this would divert attention from the Palestinian issue."