Monday, November 24, 2008

Israel v. Iran (Take Israel -6 and the Under 12/15/8)

Word was supposedly delivered by both diplomats and W telling Israel to hold off: The US has requested that Israel refrain from embarking on any large-scale operations during the last weeks of the George W. Bush administration, Time magazine reported Monday evening.

To which I can hear the Israeli counterpart saying: “Define ‘large.’”

Further, if we publicly ask (or leaked that we asked) the Israelis one thing, we are privately telling them another. And what an odd request. Reword it: We all know you are going to go after Iran. You should. Just, you know, wait until I am out of office.

Really? You mean world events – the very existence of Israel, to whom W has been devoted – should just chill for a bit because we have this office-change thingey coming up? It reeks of Bambi invoking Rodney King in the Georgia/Russia cage match, “Can’t we all just get along?” This is remarkable, but consider the source: Time Magazine is just stupid enough to consider it real. And so are the Bambites - Israel will toast Iran, and W will just shrug his shoulders. Plausible deniability.

Now for the rest of the chatter.

The Brits, rarely one to speak internationally without purpose, tossed a log on the fire: Britain's foreign policy chief said on Monday that Iran's nuclear programme presents an immediate threat to the Middle East and the rest of the world.

That diplomatic code for – Hey, Israel, lock and load.

How immediate? Seems the IAEA is about to go public: Iran has now produced enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to a report leaked by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, due for presentation next week. While the dramatic development was headlined by the New York Times and Bloomberg news service, Israel had no official comment nor was the report given prominence in the Israeli media.

When Israel has “no official comment” I don’t expect them to be in good humor. If the idiots at IAEA confirm their expectations for a bomb, then there clearly is a target-rich environment for the Israelis. They are not going to let this progress much further.

DEBKAfile (yeah, I know, “the sky is falling” site) adds a little more information to the mix: The most up-to-date intelligence predictions of US nuclear experts is that by the end of 2009, Iran will have stocked enough weapons-grade fuel to build three nuclear bombs. / The first will be ready for assembly by the time Barack Obama is sworn in as US president on January 20, 2009; the second shortly after Israel’s February 10, 2009 general election produces a new prime minister, and the third by the end of the year.

If IAEA estimates January 20, then the true date is different. Only problem in estimating is that the Russians in Iran know how to do it. If it was just the Iranians, I think we could expect a Homer Simpson level of competence – so more like 2016 if all goes well. China's too busy right now planning the succession in North Korea. We can bet the Israelis have their own date in mind.

The issue is that once the bomb is assembled it theoretically becomes mobile. Israel needs to end the threat before that happens. Hence, a strike will occur, and I'b bet the “under” of whenever the nuanced people in this world think the operative date is.

Is Israel sitting quietly? Seems they have some folks in Iran: Iranian state radio reported Monday that the country has dismantled an espionage network that allegedly was linked to the Mossad. / The report featured the chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, who said the Guards' intelligence department recently discovered the network. / Jafari said the alleged network was trying to collect information on Iran's nuclear program and the Guards' military operations as well as details on military and security officials.

Back to DEBKA for some clarification: Jaafari said equipment was confiscated; but DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources note that he did not mention arrests, which officials were targeted, when the ring was discovered, whether it operated in Iran or outside or its number. He said more information would be forthcoming later.

Good points. I think the Iranians would have enjoyed marching some faces out there if they had any. At the very least, they would have mentioned numbers. So Israel probably has dozens of cells in Iran, and the Iranians stumbled upon one - but Israel knew so they the warm bodies left.

But what about the retaliation? EMET News helps us there: Meanwhile, the radar system which the United States agreed in July to deploy in Israel to counter a perceived missile threat from Iran, is to go operational in mid-December, army radio reported on Shabbat. The radar system, which has a range of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), has been installed in the Negev desert in southern Israel. Some 120 US troops have been deployed to Israel to set up and operate the system, public radio reported in late September. [Other reports have stated that the radar will be used by the US to spy on Russia, and will not be aimed at Iran. Because of US control of the project -- Israel will only receive information as deemed necessary by the US -- its actual use may never be known. The US had previously asked Jordan and Turkey to place the radar there.--ed]

You know what that means? It means the radar system is already operational. But there's a date.

That locks the Under/Over at “mid-December.” I'm betting the Under.

I wonder if W smiled without comment when he was asked to define “large.”

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