Tag Archives: sanctions

Israel believes it could carry out strikes on Iran with under 500 civilian fatalities

Israel believes it could carry out strikes on Iran with under 500 civilian fatalities

By Adrian Blomfield,

Ehud Barak raised the prospect of military action with Iran once again as he hinted that splits in the international community over imposing sanctions regarded as crippling enough by Israel could leave the Jewish state with no option but to take matters into its own hands.

The warning came as a report by UN weapons inspectors into Iran’s nuclear activities was made public, concluding that the Islamist regime is closer to building an atom bomb than ever before.

Mr Barak conceded that the price of air strikes against Iran would be high, with Iran retaliating by firing long-range missiles at Israeli cities and encouraging its allies Hizbollah and Hamas to unleash their vast rocket arsenals at the country.

But he insisted that claims of huge destruction in Israel were overblown and that the country could survive the retaliation.

“There is no way to prevent some damage,” he said. “It will not be pleasant. There is no scenario for 50,000 dead, or 5,000 killed – and if everyone stays in their homes, maybe not even 500 dead.”

Mr Barak said the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report represents “the final opportunity” for the United Nations Security Council to punish Iran with sanctions of sufficient severity to force Iran into abandoning its nuclear ambitions.

Demanding that the international community finally take action to target Tehran’s vital energy sector, he called for a naval blockade to prevent Iran exploiting oil.

Although such a measure would undoubtedly do serious harm to Iran’s energy-dependent economy, even the United States is said to be concerned about the impact it would have on oil prices at a time of heightened vulnerability for the world economy.

Mr Barak predicted that opposition by Russia and China would make it impossible to achieve consensus in the Security Council for such sanctions, leaving military action increasingly as the only option.

“I don’t think it will be possible to form such a coalition,”
he told Israeli radio.

“As long as no such sanctions have been imposed and proven effective, we continue to recommend to our friends in the world and to ourselves not to take any action off the table.”

Mr Barak’s comments crown a week of increasingly bellicose language in Israel that is widely seen as more an attempt to force the United Nations Security Council into using the toughest possible sanctions against Iran rather than presaging imminent military action.

Even so, his rhetoric will cause alarm, with Russia and even some European states warning against the folly of unilateral Israeli action.

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said on Tuesday that though concerns remained high about Iran’s nuclear programme, “we have to do everything we can to avoid the irreparable damage that military action would cause”.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said a military strike on Iran could be a “catastrophe” for the Middle East.

“We should exhale, calm down and continue a constructive discussion of all issues on the Middle East agenda, including the Iranian nuclear program,” said Mr Medvedev, a day after an Asian security summit in St Petersburg that included Iran.

US officials said they hoped the IAEA report would increase leverage for tougher sanctions, rather than short term pressure for air strikes.

The “war camp” in the Israeli cabinet is believed to be in a minority that is championed primarily by Mr Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister.

But many Israeli politicians will agree with the defence minister’s assertion that the IAEA report represents “the last opportunity for coordinated, lethal sanctions that will force Iran to stop”.

Israel believes that Iran is intent on moving the bulk of its nuclear production underground within months, after which it will be harder than ever to launch effective military action.

SOURCE

“War With Iran” Bill Passes House Committee

AIPAC’s “War With Iran” Bill Passes House Committee

Wasting no time after its success in getting the administration to oppose Palestinian statehood at the United Nations, and still celebrating the UNESCO funding cut-off, AIPAC has returned to its #1 priority: pushing for war with Iran.

The Israelis have, of course, played their own part in the big show. In the last few weeks, it has been sending out signals that it is getting ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities (and embroil the United States in its most calamitous Middle East war yet).

But most observers do not believe an Israeli attack is imminent. (If it was, would Israel telegraph it in advance?) The point of the Israeli threats is to get the United States and the world community to increase pressure on Iran with the justification that unless it does, Israel will attack.

Naturally, the United States Congress, which gets its marching orders on Middle East policy from the lobby which, in turn, gets its marching orders from Binyamin Netanyahu, is rushing to do what it is told. (If only Congress addressed joblessness at home with the same alacrity and enthusiasm.)

Accordingly the House Foreign Affairs Committee hurriedly convened this week to consider a new “crippling sanctions” bill that seems less designed to deter an Iran nuclear weapon than to lay the groundwork for war.

The clearest evidence that war is the intention of the bill’s supporters comes in Section 601 which should be quoted in full. (It is so incredible that paraphrasing would invite the charge of distorting through selective quotation.)

It reads:

(c) RESTRICTION ON CONTACT. — No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that — (1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and (2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations. (d) WAIVER. — The President may waive the requirements of subsection (c) if the President determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees 15 days prior to the exercise of waiver authority that failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.

What does this mean?

It means that neither the president, the Secretary of State nor any U.S. diplomat or emissary may engage in negotiations or diplomacy with Iran of any kind unless the president convinces the “appropriate Congressional committees” (most significantly, the House Foreign Affairs Committee which is an AIPAC fiefdom) that not engaging with Iranian contacts would present an “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.”

To call this unprecedented is an understatement. At no time in our history has the White House or State Department been restricted from dealing with representatives of a foreign state, even in war time.

If President Roosevelt wanted to meet with Hitler, he could have and, of course, he did repeatedly meet with Stalin. During the Cold War, U.S. diplomats maintained continuous contacts with the Soviets, a regime that murdered tens of millions and, later, with the Chinese regime which murdered even more. And they did so without needing permission from Congress. (President Nixon was only able to normalize relations with China by means of secret negotiations which, had they been exposed, would have been torpedoed by the Republican right.)

But all the rules of normal statecraft are dropped when it comes to Iran which may, or may not, be working on developing a nuclear capacity. Of course if it is, it is obviously even more critical that the American government officials speak to Iranian counterparts.

But preventing diplomacy is precisely what Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Howard Berman (D-CA), leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee which reported out this bill, seek. They and others who back the measure want another war and the best way to get it is to ban diplomacy (which exists, of course, to prevent war).

Think back, for example, to the Cuban missile crisis. The United States and the monstrous, nuclear armed Soviet regime were on the brink of war over Cuba, a war that might have destroyed the planet.

Neither President Kennedy nor Premier Khrushchev knew how to end the crisis, especially because both were being pushed by their respective militaries not to back down.

Then, at the darkest moment of the crisis, when war seemed inevitable, an ABC correspondent named John Scali secretly met with a Soviet official in New York who described a way to end the crisis that would satisfy his bosses. That meeting was followed by another secret meeting between the president’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and a Soviet official in Washington. Those meetings led to a plan that ended the crisis and, perhaps, saved the world.

Needless to say, Kennedy did not ask for the permission of the House Foreign Affairs Committee either to conduct secret negotiations or to implement the terms of the deal. In fact, it was decades before the details of the deal were revealed.

It is this latitude to conduct diplomacy that the lobby and its cutouts on Capitol Hill want to take away from the White House. And it’s latitude that is especially essential if it is determined that Iran is trying to assemble a nuclear arsenal.

Writing in the Washington Post last week, Fareed Zakaria explained that the best way to approach Iran is not to ban diplomacy but to intensify it, nukes or no nukes.

Obama should return to his original approach and test the Iranians to see if there is any room for dialogue and agreement. Engaging with Iran, putting its nuclear program under some kind of supervision and finding areas of common interest (such as Afghanistan) would all be important goals…

Strategic engagement with an adversary can go hand in hand with a policy that encourages change in that country. That’s how Washington dealt with the Soviet Union and China in the 1970s and 1980s. Iran is a country of 80 million people, educated and dynamic. It sits astride a crucial part of the world. It cannot be sanctioned and pressed down forever. It is the last great civilization to sit outside the global order. We need a strategy that combines pressure with a path to bring Iran in from the cold.

In other words, it is time for more diplomacy not less — even if that means offending a powerful lobby that is hell-bent for war.

SOURCE

SANCTIONS: The Tool of the Powerless

North Korea Tests ‘Super-EMP’ Nuke

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By Ken Timmerman

Gary Samore, a top Obama administration national security official, warned of new sanctions if North Korea conducted a third round of nuclear tests on Monday, as reports surfaced that North Korea has miniaturized its nuclear warheads so they can be delivered by ballistic missile.

North Korea’s last round of tests, conducted in May 2009, appear to have included a “super-EMP” weapon, capable of emitting enough gamma rays to disable the electric power grid across most of the lower 48 states, says Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, a former CIA nuclear weapons analyst and president of EMPact America, a citizens lobbying group.

Samore, who handles arms control and non-proliferation issues, warned that “additional strong sanctions will be imposed on the North with the support of Russia and China.”

North Korea’s nuclear tests have been dismissed as failures by some analysts because of their low explosive yield. But Dr. Pry believes they bore the “signature” of the Russian-designed “super-EMP” weapon, capable of emitting more gamma radiation than a 25-megaton nuclear weapon.

Pry believes the U.S. intelligence community was expecting North Korea to test a first generation implosion device with an explosive yield of 10 to 20 kilotons, similar to the bomb the U.S. exploded over Nagasaki in 1945. He said, “So when they saw one that put off just three kilotons, they said it failed. That is so implausible.”

The technology for producing a first generation implosion weapon has been around since 1945, and is thoroughly described in open source literature.

South Korean defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, told his country’s parliament on Monday that North Korea had succeeded in miniaturizing its nuclear weapons design, allowing them to place a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.

His analysis coincided with Congressional testimony in March by Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who stated that North Korea “may now have several plutonium-based warheads that it can deliver by ballistic missiles.

The Soviet Union conducted an atmospheric test of an EMP weapon in 1962 over Kazakhstan whose pulse wave set on fire a power station 300 kilometers away and destroyed it within 10 seconds.

Such a weapon — equal to a massive solar flare such as the “solar maxima” predicted by NASA to occur in 2012 — poses “substantial risk to equipment and operation of the nation’s power grid and under extreme conditions could result in major long term electrical outages,” said Joseph McClelland of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Senate testimony last month.

Pry said that a group of Russian nuclear weapons scientists approached him in 2004 when he served as staff director of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, to warn the United States that the technology to make that weapon “had leaked” to North Korea, and possibly to Iran.

They told us that Russian scientists had gone to North Korea to work on building the super-EMP weapon,” Pry told Newsmax. “The North Koreans appear to have tested it in 2006 and again in 2009.”

North Korea’s main partner in its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs is Iran. Dr. William Graham, chairman of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, warned Congress three years ago that Iran had conducted missile launches in an EMP mode, detonating them high in the atmosphere.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has introduced legislation known as the SHIELD Act that would require U.S. utilities to harden large transformers and other key elements of the nation’s power grid to protect them from a devastating EMP attack or a geomagnetic storm.

The House last year passed a similar measure by unanimous consent, but the bill died in the Senate, where Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D, N.M., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ariz., the chair and ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, insisted that the threat from cyberattack was more dangerous than the possibility of an EMP strike or a solar flare.

John Kappenman, the chief science adviser to the EMP commission, believes it would require just $1 billion to harden an estimated 5,000 power transformers around the country to shield them from the impact of an EMP-like event.

“We built this infrastructure without any awareness of this threat,” he told Newsmax. “We have no design code that takes this threat into account. We’ve been doing everything to design the grid to make it greatly more coupled, and therefore more vulnerable, to this threat.”

He compared the national power grid to a series of giant skyscrapers, “and only now we’ve discovered that it’s located on a big fault line.”

President Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, warned in a March 10, 2011 Op-Ed co-authored with his British counterpart of the potentially catastrophic impact of a solar maxima event in the next 12 to 18 months.

“Space weather can affect human safety and economies anywhere on our vast wired planet, and blasts of electrically-charged gas traveling from the Sun at up to 5 million miles an hour can strike with little warning,
” Holdren wrote. “Their impact could be big — on the order of $2 trillion during the first year in the United States alone, with a recovery period of 4 to 10 years.”

Rep. Trent Franks, who authored the SHIELD Act, warned of “catastrophic consequences” should Congress fail to act.

“The U.S. society and economy are so critically dependent upon the availability of electricity that a significant collapse of the grid, precipitated by a major natural or man-made EMP event, could result in catastrophic civilian casualties,
” he said. “This vulnerability, if left unaddressed, could have grave, societal altering consequences.”


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