Friday, January 18, 2008

Israel Readies Nuclear ICBM Capabilities

Via Pat Dollard, Israel's on the verge of joining the great powers in nuclear weapons delivery capabilities:

Israeli and US defense officials tied up the last ends during President George. W. Bush’s visit last week. The successful test of a propulsion system for the dual-stage missile from the Palmahim base Thursday, Jan. 17, was a breakthrough. Western military experts report the new system can propel the missile to any point on earth – an intercontinental capability owned only by the US, Russia, China and France, with important applications for Israel’s military and civilian satellite programs as well.

The test’s context was as much the huge Russian naval maneuver launched in the Mediterranean Tuesday, Jan. 16, as missile and potential nuclear threats from Iran. Eleven vessels were drawn for the war game from two Russian fleets, Atlantic Northwest and Black Sea. It is led by the Admiral Kuznetsov air carrier with 47 warplanes and 10 helicopters on board and the Moskva missile cruiser.

The Israeli propulsion test coincided with a tactical Russian missile launch and landed in the same part of the sea. It sent out a signal that the entire Mediterranean, including the permanent bases Moscow is in the course of establishing in the Syrian naval ports of Tartous and Latakia, are within range.

Our military sources report that US Sixth Fleet vessels cordoned off the landing area of the Israeli missile and prevented Russian ships from closely tracking its course.

Those sources stress that the missile tested Thursday was not the Jericho-3 described by “foreign sources” as having a range of 5,000 km, which is a three-stage missile, whereas the weapon tested had a dual-stage engine.

The day before the test, Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the US anti-missile missile authority commented that Iran was the most active country in flight-testing missiles last year, behind Russian and China. “They’re developing ranges of missiles that go far beyond anything they would need in a regional fight, for example, with Israel,” he said.

Western military sources sum up the test as demonstrating that while Iran was still in the development stage of its ballistic missiles, Israel had raced ahead and left the Islamic Republic standing.

Amid these developments, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni arrived in Moscow Wednesday, Jan. 16, and, in an unusual tone of reproof, remarked that the fuel rods Russia was letting Iran have to power its nuclear reactor in Bushehr could be used for making nuclear weapons. The third shipment went out this week.

She was challenging Russian president Vladimir Putin’s assurance last December, when the first delivery was made, that he had received Tehran’s guarantees that this was not happen. At the time, President Bush justified his approval of the consignment by arguing it would serve to convince Iran to give up uranium enrichment.

By challenging the two presidents, Livni made it clear that Israel has no intention of standing by for Iran to arm itself with a nuclear bomb. The public demonstration of Israel’s intercontinental missile capability gave her extra muscle.
Here's the U.S. statement on Iran, following President Bush's Mideast Summit:

US PRESIDENT George Bush has accused Iran of undermining peace in Lebanon, funding terrorist groups, trying to intimidate its neighbours and refusing to be open about its nuclear program and ambitions.

In a speech described by the White House as the centrepiece of his eight-day trip to the Middle East, Mr Bush said "Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere" and urged other countries to help the US "confront this danger before it is too late".

He focused not only on Iran's nuclear ambitions, but also its suspected support for militants in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories. He called Iran's Government "the world's leading sponsor of terrorism" and accused it of imposing repression and economic hardship at home.

Mr Bush has warned Iran that it faced "serious consequences" for a recent incident in which the Pentagon accused Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats of harassing US warships in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital passage for oil.

But details have emerged in recent days that raise questions about parts of the US account, including a Pentagon acknowledgment that a threatening radio message may not have come from the Iranians.

Iranian officials, meanwhile, pledged to answer all remaining questions about their country's past nuclear activities within four weeks. The timetable was announced by a spokeswoman for Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who wrapped up a two-day visit to Tehran that included meetings with the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

With Mr Bush in the middle of a trip to the region intended to build a united Arab front against Iran, the White House acknowledged that the announcement represented progress, but expressed scepticism about Iran's willingness to provide complete information and said it was still obliged to suspend its enrichment of uranium.

"Answering questions about their past nuclear activities is a step," said Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman. "But they still need to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing activity. Another declaration is no substitute for complying with the UN sanctions."

Bush Administration officials say many Arab states are wary of Iran's growing influence in the region, especially among Shiite communities in Sunni-dominated states such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Caroline Glick has more:

For the past several weeks, the leaders of the global jihad and their state sponsors in Syria and Iran have escalated their rhetorical and military attacks against Israel and the US. Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and his American lackey Adam Gadahn all issued video and audio appeals on the eve of Bush's trip. Their messages were devoted mainly to the campaigns against US forces in Iraq and against Israel. Bin Laden labeled Iraqi opponents of al-Qaida in Iraq apostates and called for Iraqis to rally around his allied forces. Gadahn called for Bush's assassination. All three men called for Israel's annihilation and for the unification of the forces of global jihad....

BUSH STATED that he has come to the Middle East to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians and to ensure US allies that the US is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet on both scores US actions do not accord with the president's message.

On the Palestinian front, his calls for Israeli concessions to the Palestinians and for Palestinian statehood make little sense given the central role that Palestinians play in the global jihad. Bush repeatedly stated that he will not support a Palestinian state that will serve as a base for terror operations against Israel. And yet, under the current circumstances when all Palestinian forces - from Fatah to Hamas to al-Qaida - are committed to Israel's violent destruction, there is no chance that a Palestinian state will be anything other than a base for terrorist attacks and not only against Israel.

Even if Israel were to conclude an agreement with Abbas that sets out the contours of a Palestinian state in the next year, such an agreement would not engender peace. Given the current jihadist state of Palestinian society as a whole, such an agreement would simply serve to empower jihadists still more.

As to Iran, Bush's decision to visit the Middle East was made immediately after the National Intelligence Estimate effectively removed his most potent threat against Iran's nuclear ambitions. The thought was that by visiting the region, Bush would be able to convince US Middle East allies that America is still serious about thwarting Iran's nuclear and regional ambitions despite the NIE.

Unfortunately, the US navy's refusal to open fire on the Iranian boats in the Straits of Hormuz and America's continued refusal to combat Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias in Iraq send the opposite message.

In their statements and actions in the run-up to Bush's visit, jihadist groups and state sponsors made clear that they are serious about fighting their war for regional and indeed global domination. Had Bush acknowledged their plans and expressed a strategic plan for countering their actions and intentions, his visit here could have gone a long way towards cementing alliances to combat and defeat them. Unfortunately, both Bush's statements and US actions on the ground give the jihadists every reason to believe that they will be able to continue their war without fear of America.
Well, it's a good thing Israel's not waiting around for a diplomatic breakthough.