Wednesday, June 25, 2008
First, earlier this month Israel staged major war exercises that analysts are calling a dress rehearsal for an attack on Iran. Here are two excerpts from a report on Monday in the Middle East Times:
JERUSALEM -- The Israeli government has been forced to acknowledge a top-secret meeting held last Friday between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Aviam Sela, the chief architect of Israel's 1981 attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, after the media got wind of the details.On the NIE controversy, it is by no means clear to me that the Israelis are "of the firm belief that Iran is approximately two years away" from being ready to develop nuclear weapon. What is clear is that the nuclear-armed Israeli leadership is trying hard to sell that story and they are not the only ones. As WorldNetDaily reported last December, "Editorials in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times also questioned the NIE report. The Los Angeles Times quoted an expert questioning whether the report sufficiently stressed Iran's enrichment activities."
Unlike the recent ostentatious military exercise that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) carried out over eastern Greece - involving over 100 F15 and F16 fighter jets - which was meant to be picked up by Western intelligence agencies and thereby spread Israel's message to the Europeans, the Americans, and the Iranians in particular, that Israel meant business about halting Iran's nuclear program, Friday's tete-a-tete was not meant to hit the headlines.
The Mediterranean exercise also included Israeli helicopters that could be used to rescue downed pilots. The helicopters and refueling tankers flew more than 900 miles, which is about the same distance between Israel and Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, American officials said.
Apart from sending Iran a very loud message, some experts say that another Israeli objective was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and all other details of a possible strike against Iran's nuclear installations and its long-range conventional missiles. ...
Israel is of the firm belief that Iran is approximately two years away from developing the technology that would enable it to develop nuclear weapons.
This is contrary to last December's U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran which assessed that Iran had ceased is nuclear weapons program.
The Israelis were visibly dismayed by this assessment and Olmert followed up the NIE's report with a quick visit to Washington where he outlined Israel's concerns and attempted to override the view of America's intelligence agencies with the Jewish state's perspective. ...
Many analysts are now commenting that it is not a question of if, in regard to an Israeli offensive operation against Iran, but when.
Second, arch-Zionist and former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton is predicting an Israeli attack after the presidential election but before the inauguration. Here's an excerpt from yesterday's edition of the Telegraph of London:
Mr Bolton, an unflinching hawk who proposes military action to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons, bemoaned what he sees as a lack of will by the Bush administration to itself contemplate military strikes. ...My last item is a wild card bit--Bush has nominated a Jew to head the US Air Force. Here's part of how the Jerusalem Post reported the story earlier this month in "Jewish general named new USAF chief" (emphasis added):
Israel, however, still had a determination to prevent a nuclear Iran, he argued. The "optimal window" for strikes would be between the November 4 election and the inauguration on January 20, 2009.
"The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defences by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations .
"They're also obviously looking at the American election calendar. My judgement is they would not want to do anything before our election because there's no telling what impact it could have on the election."
But waiting for either Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, or his Republican opponent John McCain to be installed in the White House could preclude military action happening for the next four years or at least delay it.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates launched the US Air Force in a new direction Monday by announcing an unusual choice as the service's next uniformed chief and by declaring an immediate halt to personnel reductions that he said had put the Air Force under too much wartime strain.Here's some of what the Jewish Daily Forward reported (emphasis added):
Before flying to Israel [sic!] to explain his moves to airmen and their commanders, Gates recommended that US President George W. Bush nominate Gen. Norton Schwartz, a Jewish 35-year veteran with a background in Air Force special operations, as the new Air Force chief of staff, replacing fired Gen. Michael Moseley. ...
"It's not a mainstream kind of thing" to choose an officer with Schwartz's extensive background in special operations, McPeak said. But Schwartz also has a variety of other experience, including holding senior positions on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "It's good to have that" broader perspective on the Air Force, said McPeak. ...
Schwartz had been thought to be in line for retirement, and his replacement as head of the US Transportation Command, Lt. Gen. William Fraser III, had been announced in April. ...
When the Jewish Community Centers Armed Forces and Veteran's Committee presented its Military Leadership Award to Schwartz in 2004, he said he was "Proud to be identified as Jewish as well as an American military leader."
When he was a cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in the early 1970s, Norton Schwartz did not hide his religion under his blue-and-white uniform.On the reference to "the recent mishandling of nuclear material" and how that may or may not be related to Schwartz's predecssor's removal and an attack on Iran see "B-52 Nukes Headed for Iran, Not For Decommissioning: Airforce Refused."
A member of the academy’s Jewish choir before graduating in 1973, according to one of his classmates, Schwartz has since risen up the ranks and on June 9 was appointed Air Force chief by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
If confirmed by the Senate, Schwartz will be expected to immediately deal with an armed service that has been badly embarrassed by the recent mishandling of nuclear material. But Schwartz, one of only a few Jews in the top ranks of the military, will also have to face off with the difficult questions of religion at his alma mater. During the past decade, the Air Force Academy has developed a reputation for being a hotbed of evangelical Christian proselytizing, drawing numerous constitutional complaints. Opponents of this trend see a ray of hope in Schwartz’s appointment.
“He has the capacity to bring change and change this general feeling that the Air Force Academy likes you more if you’re an evangelical Christian,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
With his appointment, Schwartz becomes the third Jew in the top ranks of the military, alongside Lieutenant General Steven Blum, who heads the National Guard, and General Robert Magnus, who is the assistant commandant of the Marines. ...
Two months ago, the Defense Department announced that Schwartz was to retire at the end of the year from his position as head of the Transportation Command, which manages global air, land and sea transportation for the Defense Department. But it was soon after this that the Secretary of Defense learned that the Air Force had sent four fusing devices for ballistic missile nuclear warheads to Taiwan instead of sending helicopter batteries. This followed an incident last summer in which a B-52 bomber mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles flew to Louisiana from North Dakota. Gates ordered an internal probe, and on June 5 he ousted the top military and civilian officials at the helm of the Air Force. Four days later, he tapped Schwartz to be secretary of the Air Force.
Schwartz’s Jewish identity did not go unnoticed after his appointment, particularly given the current military tensions with Iran. Press TV, an Iranian English language media outlet, wrote an article last week, titled “U.S. Names Jewish as Air Force Chief.”
There have long been rumors that Schwartz’s predecessor, Michael Moseley, was opposed to a military attack on Iran. The appointment of Schwartz has prompted speculation in the Iranian press and on some blogs that the Bush administration is yet again seriously considering the military option to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
See also: Podhoretz Predicts US Attack on Iran