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Netanyahu speech: putting war off

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Obama interferes in Israeli elections. Does he also use taxpayer money to pay for it?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel yesterday gave the speech everyone was waiting for. The Netanyahu speech to the UN probably relieved some hearers, and certainly frustrated others. Because the Netanyahu speech put off war until next year. Can he afford to wait? Must he wait?

The Netanyahu speech: details and diagrams

The Netanyahu speech covered more than Iran and enriched uranium. Before the Netanyahu speech came the Abbas speech. In it, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the “Palestinian Authority,” re-wrote thousands of years of Middle Eastern history, as usual. To that Netanyahu said:

We won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the UN.

In other words, Netanyahu called Abbas a liar. He also talked about Jewish history, the Holocaust, Iran’s history in the region, and Iranian attitudes. He took pains to say that Iranian leaders do not think as Soviet leaders did. You cannot deter Iran from making a bomb. That is, you cannot make them afraid. You can only make sure they can’t do it even if they try.

Then Netanyahu said what everyone, including putative President Barack Obama, was waiting to hear: when would he take his country to war with Iran? What would provoke him?

The Netanyahu speech gave the surprise answer: not until next year.

Netanyahu did not say this out loud. He brought a simple progress diagram: an outline of a bomb, with two progress lines on it. He labeled one “70 percent” and the other, toward the neck of the bomb, “90 percent.” But these were not uranium enrichment levels. They were progress marks. Netanyahu said the Iranians have made 70 percent of the progress they must make to make at least one nuclear bomb.

Then he took his red felt-tip marker and drew his red line: below the neck of the bomb, and slightly below the 90 percent progress mark.

Draw that red line, Netanyahu urged the USA and the UN, and “Iran will back down.” Netanyahu said nothing about going to war himself. He made no threats. Threats are almost never wise. (If you threaten to shoot, you might have to do it.) To some, the Netanyahu speech gave the world one last chance to force the Iranians’ hands short of war. But to others, the Netanyahu speech put off, yet again, doing anything that would decide the issue.

Where does Iran stand?

The Netanyahu speech held almost no details on where Iran really stands. CNAV heard him say “20 percent” at least once. That’s the level at which the Iranians have now enriched a stockpile of uranium—20 percent uranium-235, the rest uranium-238. (U-238 will not split; U-235 will.) The uranium one digs out of the ground is only 3.5 percent rich.

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), in June of 2012, gave a more precise figure: 19.75 percent rich. At that level you can run a nuclear reactor, either for civilian power, or on a nuclear-powered ship. Weapons-grade uranium is 93 percent rich. Once you have a stock of 20 percent rich uranium, you at least have the raw material to enrich to 93 percent.

Does Iran have enough 20 percent rich uranium on hand? That depend on whom you ask. ISIS worried, back in June, that Iran could have its stock of 20 percent by year-end. ISIS also warned that the Fordow enrichment site was in such a deep bunker that even the US military might not have the muscle to crack it open.

The Netanyahu speech says that Iran would have that 20 percent stock by next spring, or no later than next summer. The Arms Control Association is not so sure. They say Iran would need 200 kilograms of 20 percent rich uranium before they would risk enriching any of it to the 90 or 93 percent weapons grade. They also have 6,876 kilograms of out-of-the-ground 3.5 percent rich uranium. That could produce enough weapons-grade stock for several bombs. But that would take a lot more time.

(Who are the Arms Control Association? They are a US-based non-partisan group calling for all the world to lay aside nuclear weapons. Wikipedia knows little about them. Would they cover up for Iran? They’ve shown no sign  of that so far. And they still suggest the Iranians should cooperate better with UN agencies.)

So the experts don’t agree. And the Netanyahu speech seems to accept the ACA report, or at least get the same answers from reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency and others.

Why won’t Netanyahu act?

Members of the Israel Defense Forces on the Golan Heights. The Netanyahu speech suggests those troops won't march soon.

Two Tzahal (Israel Defense Force) soldiers walk casually on the Golan Heights. Photo: CNAV.

Everyone expected the Netanyahu speech to beat the war drums. It did not. Netanyahu put off going to war for the rest of the year at least. Ynet News sees it that way. He will not act before the US election. He might not act until the next Presidential term.

Why not? CNN says that Netanyahu does not have US support even for this mild speech. So he has no deal with Obama, unless CNN are missing something.

Might Netanyahu feel that Obama will lose the election, and so he can best wait until Mitt Romney becomes President in his place? Kevin Jackson at The Washington Times speculated on whether Barack Obama, in buying an expensive palace in Hawaii, signaled that he knew he would lose. Obama seems to want that house ready to live in by 2012, not 2016. Could he be admitting to himself that he won’t be living in Washington after this year? Or is he merely fitting out a “Second White House,” like Nixon’s San Clemente home? No man can say. So that’s a mighty risky thing to gamble your country’s fate on!

Yoel Meltzer, also at Ynet, says Netanyahu often puts off until tomorrow what people like Meltzer think he should do today. Meltzer cites Netanyahu’s first term as Prime Minster, and many things that happened then: the Oslo Accords, and pulling out of Gaza. Meltzer sharply criticizes Netanyahu for not accepting a recent report saying that Israel has full right to the lands in Judea and Samaria (“The West Bank”). Is this more of the same? Meltzer thinks so, and he worries.

Even the United Nations, not exactly a good friend of Israel, has recently stated that by February 2013 Iran will have everything [they need] to build a nuclear bomb.

But the Netanyahu speech puts that off until March or April, or even May or June. Why?

Mike Evans at the Jerusalem Prayer Team could probably say why. Eleven days ago, Evans reported “massive troop movements” in Israel. But on September 6, Evans reported something else: Israel is not ready for war. Half the people of Israel did not have gas masks. Evans has said nothing further about this issue since. So Israel is still not ready.

Maybe that’s why the Netanyahu speech hid a conciliation inside a yell for help. Maybe the drills, military and civilian, told a painful truth: if war broke out in the next forty days, Israel might win, but hundreds of thousands would die. Netanyahu might have said earlier that he would accept that. The Netanyahu speech strongly suggests that he will not.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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richardlevin70

This is something very disturbing, as it shows the Israel of today is different from the one of the Six Days War. This is because Israel haven’t had a real war in a long long time.

I am sure that when you visited Israel you noticed it is not that different from the US. You can take a walk through Tel Aviv and see peaceful people everywhere. Stores, restaurants, young couples walking hand by hand and children playing on the street. Now imagine the damage a chemical or nuclear attack would cause.

The common Israeli citizen doesn’t have a bomb shelter or even a gas mask, unlike a state like Iran where 90% of its population lives for the chance of conflict, much like North Korea. I would think much of the Iranian leadership actually -hopes- Israel attacks soon, so they can put to use the military power they have been preparing for years.

So one must understand Mr. Netanyahu, even if his decision feels like it has a touch of fear.

On a side note, I seriously doubt Mr. Netanyahu is waiting for Mitt Romney will offer him a better deal, since as time goes it seems less likely he will become president.

Fergus Mason

“When I visited Israel, I did notice both military and militia presences in the following places:

On the Golan Heights…”

Actually the Golan Heights are in Syria, not Israel.

Fergus Mason

“I do know what an Avtomat Kalashnikova Model 47 looks like.”

Actually I suspect you’ve never seen one; they’re rather rare. You probably saw AKMs or clones thereof. Close enough for government work though, as the saying goes.

AlexM

Or perhaps its because most Israelis (or any sane person) would prefer to avoid a war?

Fergus Mason

“Or perhaps its because most Israelis (or any sane person) would prefer to avoid a war?”

Could be. Also there’s the fact that the current chief of Mossad, his two immediate predecessors, most of the IDF general staff, the CIA, DIA, SIS and the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff all think that Iran is a rational actor who poses no existential threat to Israel and should not be attacked. At some point even Benny Netanyahu has to start listening to people who know what they’re talking about.

Fergus Mason

““Iran” and “rational actor” are a name, and a phrase, that do not belong in the same sentence without a negative.”

The CJCS disagrees, and unlike you he has access to intelligence briefings. Mossad disagree as well, and I assume you’re not going to call them clowns?

Fergus Mason

“Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave ample evidence of the motive”

Yes, but Mahmoud Ahmedinejad doesn’t actually run Iran, so who cares what he says?

Fergus Mason

“The Supreme Leader let him say it, and has never once contradicted him.”

True. I suspect that the Supreme Leader is happily letting Ahmedinijad dig his own grave. Khameni is a religious conservative and he’s not believed to have much time for crackpottery like the Mayor of Tehran promotes.

Fergus Mason

“Ever heard of the phrase “good cop-bad cop”?”

Yep. It’s somewhere down the bottom of my bag of unlikely clichés along with “whore with a heart of gold” and “celibate, heterosexual Roman Catholic priest.”

Fergus Mason

“He carried a World War Two-era M-16 carbine.”

No he didn’t.

Fergus Mason

“I saw him with my own eyes.”

I don’t doubt that for a minute. However can you please tell me who used the M16 rifle (it’s not a carbine) in WWII? Bet you can’t.

Don Galore

One assumes he meant the M-1 Carbine

Fergus Mason

One assumes he probably did. Terry, if you ever want to discuss military matters and aren’t quite sure of the details, just drop me an email and let me know what you plan to say. I’ll be glad to help you out. I’m sure you’d do the same for me if I had questions about one of your areas of expertise.

JT

You have to remember one thing – Terry really, really, really wants there to be a war in the Middle East. It forms a HUGE part of his belief system.

And it’s not because he’s pro-Israel, or anti-Islam. It’s simply that he’ll see it as the battle of Armageddon and therefore the end of the world.

Who cares if millions have to suffer, just so he can live his little fantasy.

Fergus Mason

“Those things include an absolute one-world dictatorship”

Call me Mr Picky, but I don’t see much of a unifying trend going on in world politics. Such multinational blocs as did exist have either fallen apart – the USSR, Yugoslavia – or are splitting at the seams as members demand a return of powers to national governments – the EU. If anything the world’s population are becoming more nationalistic, and the idea that we’re all going to sign up for absolute rule from Nick Carpathia’s New Babylon is, frankly, delusional and becoming more so by the week. There is not going to be a one-world dictatorship. Ever.

Fergus Mason

“The United Nations, with its Agenda 21, by itself might be as much unifying infrastructure as the absolute one-world dictator would need.”

Uh, no it won’t. Exactly what “infrastructure” does it have, eh? Terry, the UN is barely capable of writing the minutes of its own meetings. To suggest that it can unify every country in the world with absolutely no popular mandate to do so is pretty far out there.

“Imagine a United Nations with certain United States institutions transformed directly into United Nations institutions”

No. My imagination just isn’t capable of doing that, and I am a huge fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Fergus Mason

“If the people of the Weimar Republic had shown as much imagination as you deride me for showing, the history of the world would have been far different.”

I’m not deriding you for showing imagination, Terry. Imagination’s great. However it’s not always the best tool to use when assessing the real world: sometimes dispassionate analysis is best.

Actually a partnership suggests itself. How about we team up and write a series of slightly improbable but explosively gripping technothrillers? We could be the next Tom Clancy, except with 3D characters and a grasp of military technology that isn’t taken straight from a General Dynamics publicity brochure. You provide the sweeping plot outline and the upright Jack Ryan-style POTUS, and I’ll handle the gritty military detail and write all the non-US characters. What do you think? We could be rich!

Fergus Mason

“You’re probably joking.”

Pretty much. We probably could do it though. Much as I disagree with most of what you write, you do write effectively and well, and I like to think I’m not too bad myself.

How about this: Bonkers US President initiates nefarious plot to form UN Army (I’ll let you flesh out the reasons and details.) Corrupt defence contractors supported by bought-off Special Forces units and uncritical peons drive loyalist US forces into a mountain refuge in some place you can pick better than me. British, German and Russian troops, for reasons that the heroic dissident leader disagrees with but grudgingly acknowledges, come to the aid of the loyalists. Cue much intrigue, nuclear standoffs, kinky sex involving female politicians (I’ll write those bits – we need it to capture the Jackie Collins market) and firefights between armed citizens and the President’s Yemeni mercenary secret police. Finally a force of high-school students (if that’s not too reminiscent of the Taliban,) Gulf War veterans and National Guardsmen (assisted by the SAS, Panzergrenadiers and anti-Putin Spetsnaz soldiers who secretly support restoring the Romanovs) storm the White House, defeat the last remnants of Blackwater mercenaries and corrupt BATF agents, install the heroic dissident leader as President – he immediately resigns and calls for new elections, of course – and proclaim a new world order based on sovereign nations dealing with each other voluntarily but uniting against threats to freedom.

How does that sound? We’d both hate exactly 50% of the book, naturally, but give it a shiny cover with a Kalashnikov, some exploding helicopters and our pen name in gold leaf and I bet it would fly off the airport bookshelves, and Amazon would melt trying to deliver enough copies. And as we dragged our sacks of cash to the bank I’d forgive you for writing President Harack Bussein Omaba and you’d forgive me for creating Congresswoman “Filthy Fiona” Felcher (D-CA.)

Fergus Mason

Well, I was going to ask where your plot suggestions are (you want half the money but expect me to write the whole book?) but then I realised we need to sort out the pen name first. You want to pick the forename or surname?

Fergus Mason

“If the people of the Weimar Republic had shown as much imagination as you deride me for showing, the history of the world would have been far different.”

Terry, be realistic. If the UN tried to turn the US Army into the UN Army the US government would tell them to ram it. The US Army would tell them to ram it. And – oh wait, you’re planning to turn military control of the world over to an organisation that most of the human race (not me personally, but the great majority of people) fears and despises? – the UN Security Council and General Assembly would tell them to ram it too.

It is quite simply never going to happen. To imagine that it could is to stride boldly out of reality, cross the land of fantasy with a hop, skip and jump, and dance merrily into the wild and wacky world of Left Behind.

Fergus Mason

“If the UN decided tomorrow to turn the US Army into the UN Army, the man now holding office as President would say, “OK, so long as I get to play SecGen.” And TPTB would say, “OK, fine.””

And the soldiers would say, “Hang on, I enlisted in the US Army, not this. See you later guys, contract’s void, I’m off home.” Don’t forget that after Vietnam the US Army moved to teh British model of a volunteer army.

“As to the rest of the world fearing and despising the generals?”

Ah, no. It’s your entire military they fear and despise.

“put European generals in their places.”

You think European generals would agree? They’d rather command their own troops in their own armies, thanks very much. Even the comparatively modest plans to create a Eurocorps have achieved precisely damn all except some tokenism and a natty capbadge, because guess what? German troops don’t like taking orders from French officers and, admittedly for very different reasons, vice versa.

“And didn’t you remember that other little refinement I mentioned? Zampoliti. Officers with the job of telling company commanders and on up what’s “politically correct” and what’s not.”

Oh great. So what, Terry, you’re proposing an army with US troops led by European officers and controlled by Russian political commissars? Sorry, we gave up on colonial militias about the time we threw off the White Man’s Burden and stopped painting the map pink. It would have the combat effectiveness of a troop of Brownies. It would lose its first battle with the Icelandic Coastguard.

Fergus Mason

“Hm-m-m-m. Your argument assumes primarily that the soldiers would not agree. That might—I say again, might—give the White House a motive to stop soldiers and sailors and airmen from voting in this upcoming election.”

Who cares? Deny them the vote all you like; the power of a military unit does not lie in the electoral participation of its members. When Mr Carpathia rebadges them as UN troops and replaces their officers with Belgian ones it’s going to be 30 of them with rifles against Captain Tintin and Junior Commissar Putinka. Let me know who’ll be outvoted then.

My argument, in fact, assumes primarily that the scenario you suggest is totally infeasible and is never, ever even going to be attempted.

“About all you can really say is that Barack Hussein Obama does not have the kind of personality cult that would let him get away with such a transformation. But that’s not to say that he did not try.”

No, I could say a lot more than that, starting with the fact that it would take much more than a US president with a personality cult to turn the US Armed Forces into the UN Armed Forces. Don’t forget that “TPTB” at the UN are the permanent members of the security council. Is France, which obstinately maintains a nuclear deterrant at ruinous cost for the sole purpose of staying militarily independent, going to turn over its security to the US Army? Main non. Is Russia going to give the keys to its Cold War rival? Nyet. Will China stand down the PLA and let the Americobelgian International Brigade take their place? Whatever “no” is in Mandarin. Will the UK end its prized thousand-year military history to hand over to an army that closed down a perfectly good bar in HQ ISAF, Kabul, and turned it into the (400-yard square) camp’s third “spiritual welfare facility”? Terribly kind of you to offer, old chap, but I think I’ll pass for now.

“the Soviet Army and Navy had those politicos in every Army command larger than a platoon, and every Navy command larger than a squadron of fast patrol boats. Did you doubt their effectiveness then?”

Yes. So did the Soviet Army. That’s why every General Secretary starting with Krushchev steadily downgraded their power and importance, until by the early 1980s about all they were allowed to do was give the men a weekly lesson in Marxist-Leninist doctrine, which they all slept through, while the officers drank vodka in the Mess and told each other Zampolit jokes.

Fergus Mason

“You cannot assume a priori that such a fundamental transform could never happen. You have to show why it could never happen. That’s a tall order. Circumstances might not permit it now. Maybe you’ve shown that much. But circumstances have a way of changing.”

I’m not assuming it a priori; I’m concluding it based on my knowledge of global politics, international organisations and the militaries of the UNSC’s permanent members. True, nobody can ever predict every future circumstance. However can you think of one that would remove every fatal objection I’ve put forward? I can’t. The fact is that the permanent members of the UNSC have such wildly divergent interests that there is no way they are ever going to decide to put the world’s security in the hands of the armed forces of one member which three of the four others don’t much like and the fourth has serious concerns about.

“About the Zampoliti: didn’t the Zampolit aboard a Soviet SSBN have the “second missile key” required to arm the missiles?”

No, although I think I know what you mean. Only one key was required to arm and launch the missiles. The KGB representative on board (not the Zampolit) had a second key required to arm the warheads, which were under KGB control.

“In the US Navy, the Exec carries that “second key.””

Well, sort of. It’s actually a bit more involved than that and the missiles can’t be armed without an external signal sent through the Permissive Action Link; the officer’s keys are an anachronism really and the missiles might as well be remotely launched from NEACP.

The Royal Navy have a much better system. If the V Boat sticks its mast up and BBC Radio 4 is off the air (I’m not kidding) the Captain and XO find the most up to date newspaper on board, have a quick read and send the last country to upset HMG a bucketful of sunshine. Well, almost. Google “Letters of last resort.” I’m really not kidding about Radio 4 though.

“And Lieutenant Viktor Ivanovich Belenko, who escaped with his MiG-25 to Hakodate, Japan, described the Zampoliti as having the power to make or break anyone’s career.”

Indeed. That’s very different from having any actual command authority though. An unpleasant junior civil servant in Army Personnel Centre Glasgow had the power to make or break my career, but I’m damned if I’d have taken any orders from her. In any case Byelenko was a rather odd individual. His MiG was way more interesting than he was. It was actually quite alarming in how effective and robust it was despite deliberate use of low-tech materials and systems. I mean, who’d have thought of building a vacuum tube AI radar in 1968? Hah, EMP that, imperialist lackeys! Genius. Soviet/Russian designs really can be very good. Did you know that the US Army’s standard ribbon bridge is so close a copy of the Soviet PMP that the sections are interchangable? I wish we’d copied it too, but instead we got a sort of giant Lego set with a penchant for removing fingers.

“The original political commissars could make or break their commanders.”

Yes – until 1942, when the Army rebelled at being interfered with by political hacks and the commissars were stripped of “dual command” for good.

“Of course, they’re not called “deputy commanders for political work” anymore. They’re called “deputy commanders for educational work.””

They haven’t been called Deputy Commanders for anything since 1942, because they’re not deputy commanders. The official title was Political Officer and it was abolished in 1991.

Fergus Mason

“Some day, a leader will arise who will overcome every obstacle you have named. Of course, I can’t identify that leader now. But he’ll come.”

It’s possible. However it’s several orders of magnitude less likely than us all being fragged by some chunk of rock from the Kuiper Belt.

“And he’ll surprise everybody.”

For all the reasons I’ve already stated he would certainly astonish me.

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