BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Nuclear Tap Dance

When will the other shoe drop?

In May of this year, one potential piece of Barack Obama’s “comprehensive” peace plan emerged.  It was given very little coverage outside of the Middle East.  On May 5, 2009, the US Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller urged Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea to sign the non-proliferation treaty. One hundred eighty six nations have.  This includes Iran, which is flagrant violation; and Libya, which was “scared straight” by former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

At that time Uzi Even, a former Knesset member and scientist at the nuclear reactor in Dimona, said the statement by the assistant secretary of state is indicative of a change in the US’ policy towards Israel regarding its nuclear capabilities.  “In the past there was an informal agreement between the US and Israel; the Americans knew Israel possessed nuclear arms but looked the other way,” he said, “now the US is breaching this agreement.”   This would not be the last time the Obama regime has unilaterally attempted to re-write its relationship with Israel.

Even suggests that Israel must change its deliberately vague nuclear policy and sign the NPT, which would place Dimona under international supervision.  This would also allow Israel to develop nuclear weapons, at least theoretically.  However, Israel declaring its nuclear program is unlikely to have a positive effect on the stability of the region.  Arab states would then argue that Israel must disarm before any other issues can be discussed – including the dismantling of the Iranian program.

The other shoe drops

This past week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit appealed to the UN Security Council to put Israel’s nuclear program under international supervision and set a timeframe for a nuclear-free Middle East.  In a letter to the 15-member council last week, Aboul Gheit highlighted that Israel has not signed onto the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) adding: “Israel’s nuclear capabilities cannot evade world attention.”

The resolution, passed at the end of the annual general assembly of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on September 24, also demands that Israel open its nuclear reactor in Dimona to international inspectors.  Thus, the Egyptians have successfully put Israel’s nuclear program on the agenda.

In the first resolution, a majority of 49 countries passed.   The majority included all the members of the Arab League and the bloc of developing nations.  Opposing the resolution were 45 Western countries, including the European Union and the United States.  There were 16 abstentions.
Although the US and Europe attempted to back Israel, the result was a foregone conclusion.  The institutions the West created in the aftermath of the Second World War were hijacked years ago.  Gotemoeller’s little speech was picked up by Egypt and they ran with it.

Bargaining Chips

If Israel were to sign the NPT treaty, it would theoretically open the door to IAEA inspections.  This means Dimona, the site of most of Israel’s nuclear research activities, as well as several smaller facilities, such as Nahal Sorek. The reasoning goes like this: if Israel were to sign and admit inspectors, it would put pressure on Iran to give IAEA inspectors access to Iranian facilities, and also put pressure on them to start abiding by previously agreed upon limitations.  However, reason and Iran seldom go together.

If it were reasonable, wouldn’t it have responded to the first round of sanctions? What about the second round and third rounds of sanctions, which it ignored?  Reason would also dictate that with 120,000+ US troops based in countries on its eastern and western borders, Iran would act cautiously.  That hasn’t fazed the Iranians, either.  In fact, America, weary of both wars, their costs and their casualties, would like nothing better than to leave both Iraq and Afghanistan.  It knows it cannot do either, as Iran is poised to fill the vacuum should America leave precipitously.

However, let’s get back to the dance.  Increasingly, the Americans and the moderate Arab camp are viewing the Israeli nuclear program as a bargaining chip.  Why not?  It’s a good one that the so-called moderate Arab states can collect on twice.   If Israel is compelled to “come clean” on its nuclear program and weapons, immense pressure could be brought to bear on Iran. While Israel would still retain a strategic advantage, the extent of its capabilities would become known, giving the moderate camp more leverage on a host of issues: weapon purchases, their own nuclear plans and a Palestinian state.

If there were a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, it would benefit Israel and all other nations as well.  If such a prohibition were coupled with a ban on the development of biological and chemical agents, along with missile technology, it would actually be to Israel’s advantage.  Unfortunately, the US and its European allies seem to have lost the testicular fortitude necessary to take action when even their most basic ideas and values are under attack. Obama only wags his finger at tyrants in Damascus and Teheran and mutters “tsk, tsk, tsk” under the chorus of change.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Middle East, Obama | , , , | 1 Comment

Why has Obama Failed?


On August 29, 2009, I posted on this blog a somewhat long piece entitled “The September Deadline.”   The majority of the article elaborated on Israel’s military options, as the impending IEAE report and G20 conference in Pittsburgh had not yet taken place. Since the various Israeli military options have been discussed, there is no point in re-hashing them.  However, it is worthwhile to look at the failed diplomatic efforts and ask the question, “Why has Obama so far failed in the Middle East?”

The Promises of Obama’s Spring

Just five months ago, the Middle East was awash in optimism. President Obama had given his “historic” speech in Cairo.  Lebanon seemed to cast off the shackles of Hezbollah with the electoral victory of the March 14 coalition (backed by the US, Egypt and Saudi Arabia).  A week later, demonstrations and riots engulfed Iran in the wake of its bogus exercise in democracy.

Things looked promising for the so-called “moderate Arab camp.”  Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was compelled to acknowledge that a Palestinian state would be established in the West Bank and Gaza.  This is something that previous Likud leaders, such as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, never would have stated.  To his credit, Netanyahu’s speech was not a blank check to either Obama or Abu Abbas.

But what happened next?  The promises of spring withered under the relentless Middle East summer.  Obama’s speech received lukewarm acceptance within the moderate Arab camp.  They were not as easily charmed as the doe-eyed sophomores at Al Azhar University.  Hariri’s coalition shattered against the implacable opposition of Hezbollah, and his Druze allies deserted.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad answered demonstrators with a bloody crackdown and sweeping arrests.
Obama’s Folly

Why has Obama been unable to deliver significant concessions from the moderate Arab camp – his erstwhile allies – that would move the peace process forward?  Why does Hezbollah continue to exercise power completely out of proportion to the results of the Lebanese elections?  Why, instead of sitting down to negotiate over its nuclear ambitions does Iran instead test missiles?

In a word, this is because President Obama has no clear-cut conception of how to conduct foreign policy.  He wavers back and forth between the “One World” approach and the idealistic naiveté Jimmy Carter.  His folly is thinking that geopolitics is the same as Chicago ward politics.  Obama wants to use multilateral diplomacy, close cooperation with allies and negotiations with adversaries.  He ignores the fact that multilateral diplomacy seldom works until the all the antagonists are sufficiently weakened by a conflict.

China and Russia have made significant economic, military and technological investments in Iran.   They will not abandon their global aspirations; the change they believe in is written in the Pinyin and Cyrillic alphabets, respectively.

Western Europe is in an economic shambles.  It does not have the economic muscle, and hence lacks the diplomatic and military muscle, to do much more than hold Obama’s coat while he fumbles for his watch.

Similarly, direct talks with Iran and Syria have failed to materialize.  Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran have accomplished more in thirty years of opposition to American policy than have any previous coalition of Arab/Muslin leaders.  Why would they cooperate with America, which they believe is corrupt and evil?  Especially now, when there is a president in the White House who they view as weak and overly infatuated with himself?

Damascus is not a Chicago union hall filled with overweight, middle-aged ex-steel workers.  Teheran is not the Harvard Club where fine points of constitutional law are debated.  These are capitals of independent states with their own ambitions, foreign policies and admittedly, a string of successes in opposing America.   They are dictatorships whose strongmen rule via the torture chamber and truncheon, not the ballot box and debate.   Obama has frittered away what little political capital he had in vain a vain attempt to change the reality of weltpolitik.  At best, he has a year to change his policies and tactics accordingly.

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Middle East, Obama | , , | 3 Comments