Thursday, August 14, 2003

Knee-jerk Bush critics will no doubt poke fun or scorn at these post-Iraq multilateralist efforts. As someone almost said once, let them eat yellowcake. An improving climate in transatlantic relations as the bitterness over Iraq recedes makes this strategy the best bet for the next six months, and probably beyond. U.S. officials believe they can use that time to put new obstacles in the way of the Iranian and North Korean programs.

But Sharon's presentation to Bush challenges the assumptions and viability of the emerging U.S. nonproliferation strategy on Iran. U.S. intelligence estimates that put Iran's covert nuclear weapons drive about four years short of being able to turn plutonium into a workable nuclear warhead overstate the time factor by at least 100 percent, Sharon argued. One to two years is his projected timeline.

To be sure, Sharon would face formidable logistical and political problems in trying to update Israel's successful preemptive 1981 strike against Iraq's Osirak reactor. His Oval Office briefing may have been designed to pressure Bush to move more forcefully on Iran rather than to advertise an impending Israeli action.

Israeli leaders have consistently warned Americans for two decades that Iran's Islamic regime is a mortal enemy for the Jewish state and must not be underestimated. Sharon's account, while apparently more urgent and dramatic than past presentations, fits a pattern of Israel "treating a nuclear-arming Iran as an immediate existential threat," says one U.S. official, while Washington does not.

But it is Israel's experience with Osirak that makes Sharon's alarming words impossible to ignore. The trigger for that strike was intelligence that the Iraqi reactor was about to be loaded with nuclear fuel. Hitting it after the loading would have risked spreading radioactive contamination across a wide area in the Middle East. And after the 1991 Gulf War it was discovered that outside assessments -- including Israel's -- underestimated how close Saddam Hussein had been to getting the bomb.
Poor Jim Hoagland must be a sad man. He describes how Ariel Sharon--certified war criminal--brought with him a three-star general who "showered" Bush with a dossier on Iran's progress on allegedly developing nuclear weapons. Jimmy praises and is supportive of Ariel Sharon's attempt at pushing the United States at launching a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear reactors. So how to analyze of Sharon's presentation to the President? I vaguely remember how Israel wanted a war on Iraq, badly and how they pushed for this war with unsubstantiated and unconfirmed intelligence coming from Tel Aviv itself.
The OSP [Office of Special Plans] was an open and largely unfiltered conduit to the White House not only for the Iraqi opposition. It also forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon's office in Israel specifically to bypass Mossad and provide the Bush administration with more alarmist reports on Saddam's Iraq than Mossad was prepared to authorise.

"None of the Israelis who came were cleared into the Pentagon through normal channels," said one source familiar with the visits. Instead, they were waved in on Mr Feith's authority without having to fill in the usual forms. The exchange of information continued a long-standing relationship Mr Feith and other Washington neo-conservatives had with Israel's Likud party.

In 1996, he and Richard Perle - now an influential Pentagon figure - served as advisers to the then Likud leader, Binyamin Netanyahu. In a policy paper they wrote, entitled A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the two advisers said that Saddam would have to be destroyed, and Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran would have to be overthrown or destabilised, for Israel to be truly safe.
So whatever may come from Israel that involves any Arab, Muslim or hostile country can be labeled permantently garbage. Yes, showing nice photographs and charts is neat, but can exxagerated and be used to deceive. Not to mention that Israel itself has more than 200 nukes and jails anyone who blows the whistle and confirms it.

I think it's sad to say that Iran can legitimize their nukes by claiming that Israel has nuclear weapons. Those who want to assert that it's surrounded by hostile nations must wake up. Especially, the Middle East has to be nuke-free. Secondly, the Bush administration is excited about re-introducing nuclear wars, by developing mini-nukes even though they are a potentially more destructive force than the bombs dropped on Japan.

As Hoagland demonstrates, knee-jerk (using Jim's term now) Bush apologists just don't get it. The vital need for multilateralism was one of the compelling reasons not to go to war in Iraq in the teeth of almost unanimous world-wide opposition. We needed (and need) the help of our allies in responding to real global threats, as in North Korea and apparently in Iran. We didn't need to undermine our allies and our alliances by determining to pursue a foolish war and an unmanageable peace in Iraq, and we certainly didn't need to be misled into this folly by the Oval Office and #10 Downing Street who "sexed up" the threat to make the war palatable to the people. It's sad that this president has frittered away our national credibility and shredded our global alliances pursuing the financial interests of Halliburton and other GOP contributors. It makes the task of responding to legitimate global threats all that more difficult, as those of us who opposed the insanity of the Iraq invasion pointed out at the time. Hoagland needs to get his knees checked before he offers such inane commentary on those who, with obvious justification, oppose this administration's version of foreign policy.

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