In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the state of the economy, and the Obama Administration’s childlike foreign policy. The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Benjamin Netanyahu has decided that he’s been treated like trailer trash long enough:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled a planned trip to Washington next week to take part in President Barack Obama’s 47-country nuclear security summit conference.
The ostensible reason for the very public cancellation?
He made the decision after learning that Egypt and Turkey intended to raise the issue of Israel’s presumed nuclear arsenal at the conference, a senior government official said on Friday.
Israel is believed to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East but has never confirmed or denied that it possesses atomic weapons. It has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
That’s the official reason – and there may be a grain of truth to it. It’s Obama’s summit. But given the treatment Obama has given Israel lately, I’m sure Netanyahu has no illusions about his previously staunch US ally stepping in and stopping any such attempted hijacking of the summit by Egypt and Turkey. Of course, Israel wouldn’t be the only nation there which hasn’t signed the NPT (India and Pakistan).
Probably more importantly though, the summit and nuclear non-proliferation are a pet project of Obama’s. Israel is choosing to display its displeasure with Obama and the way it has been treated recently (see visa story below as well) by visibly and publicly downgrading their level of participation to Deputy Prime Minister level. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
In hardball, both sides get a chance on the mound.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Well, it’s good to see the Obama administration is taking steps to warm up the relationship with Israel after the recent molehill they managed to turn into a mountain. Joshua Pundit reports:
NRG/Maariv (Hebrew link only, sorry) reported today that the Israeli government was stunned when every nuclear technician at Israel’s Dimona reactor who had submitted visa requests to visit the United States for ongoing university education in Physics, Chemistry and Nuclear Engineering had their visa applications summarily rejected, specifically because of their association with the Dimona reactor.
This is a new policy decision of the Obama administration. Up until now, it was routine for Israeli nuclear scientists and technicians to receive such visas and to study at US universities.
Israeli security officials have confirmed that these technicians are being denied visas solely because of their employment at the Dimona reactor.
Not only are employees at Dimonas taboo, but reportedly the US has an unofficial embargo on selling anything to be used at the site.
Professor Zeev Alfasi, the head of Nuclear Engineering at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev stated that “the United States doesn’t sell anything nuclear-related to the Dimona reactor, and that means absolutely nothing. Radiation detectors, for example have to be purchased now in France because the USA refuses to sell these to Israel.”
This is how you treat allies when relations are a bit rocky. And apparently, this is how you “edge” the world closer to abandoning nuclear weapons.
I’m sure this will be studied in foreign policy schools for years to come as the way diplomacy among allies is conducted. And I’m very sure that Israel will respond to this fine treatment with a renewed desire to settle the Palestinian problem once and for all.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
You have to wonder why this announcement as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her visit, wasn’t treated the same was as a recent announcement in Israel was treated:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Iran’s Russian-built nuclear power plant will be launched this summer, even as the United States called for Russia to delay the start-up. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Moscow on an official trip, urged Russia not to launch the plant until Tehran proves that it’s not developing atomic weapons.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at a joint press conference with Clinton, immediately responded that Russia would put the reactor online.
All smiles in Russia.
No courage in the face of an enemy, but willing to kick an ally at the first perceived “insult”.
Amateur hour in the US and the Kremlin knows it. I mean, look at the “respect” the American position was given.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
Written by Yosi Klein Halevi, it explores a theme I contended a few days ago – that the recent confrontation was premeditated. He also briefly points out that another Israeli reporter is wondering the same thing I did:
The administration, according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Yedito Aharonot, is making an even more insidious accusation against Israel. During his visit, wrote Yediot Aharanot, Biden told Israeli leaders that their policies are endangering American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. The report has been denied in the White House. Whether or not the remark was made, what is clear today in Jerusalem is that Obama’s recklessness is endangering Israeli–and Palestinian–lives.
The last line is indicative of the entire tone of the essay. Halevi is merciless in his denunciation of the Obama administration’s handling of the recent confrontation. “Recklessness” is not a term a contributing editor at TNR is likely to throw around lightly – especially when applying it to a Democratic president.
Astonishingly, Obama is repeating the key tactical mistake of his failed efforts to restart Middle East peace talks over the last year. Though Obama’s insistence on a settlement freeze to help restart negotiations was legitimate, he went a step too far by including building in East Jerusalem. Every Israeli government over the last four decades has built in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem; no government, let alone one headed by the Likud, could possibly agree to a freeze there. Obama made resumption of negotiations hostage to a demand that could not be met. The result was that Palestinian leaders were forced to adjust their demands accordingly.
Obama is directly responsible for one of the most absurd turns in the history of Middle East negotiations. Though Palestinian leaders negotiated with Israeli governments that built extensively in the West Bank, they now refused to sit down with the first Israeli government to actually agree to a suspension of building. Obama’s demand for a building freeze in Jerusalem led to a freeze in negotiations.
Finally, after intensive efforts, the administration produced the pathetic achievement of “proximity talks”—setting Palestinian-Israeli negotiations back a generation, to the time when Palestinian leaders refused to sit at the same table with Israelis.
Ignorance? Amateurism? Halevi thinks it’s probably the latter – sort of:
That Obama could be guilty of such amateurishness was perhaps forgivable because he was, after all, an amateur. But he has now taken his failed policy and intensified it. By demanding that Israel stop building in Ramat Shlomo and elsewhere in East Jerusalem—and placing that demand at the center of American-Israeli relations—he’s ensured that the Palestinians won’t show up even to proximity talks. This is no longer amateurishness; it is pique disguised as policy.
While I agree with the assessment that it was “pique disguised as policy”, but I think it was as much ignorance and amateurism. Perhaps your remember Honduras. Halevi lays out the history explaining why the demands of the Obama administration are clueless and have actually set the peace process on it’s rear.
But Halevi isn’t done with the Obama administration – he has more:
In turning an incident into a crisis, Obama has convinced many Israelis that he was merely seeking a pretext to pick a fight with Israel. Netanyahu was inadvertently shabby; Obama, deliberately so.
According to a banner headline in the newspaper Ma’ariv, senior Likud officials believe that Obama’s goal is to topple the Netanyahu government, by encouraging those in the Labor Party who want to quit the coalition.
The popular assumption is that Obama is seeking to prove his resolve as a leader by getting tough with Israel. Given his ineffectiveness against Iran and his tendency to violate his own self-imposed deadlines for sanctions, the Israeli public is not likely to be impressed. Indeed, Israelis’ initial anger at Netanyahu has turned to anger against Obama. According to an Israel Radio poll on March 16, 62 percent of Israelis blame the Obama administration for the crisis, while 20 percent blame Netanyahu. (Another 17 percent blame Shas leader Eli Yishai.)
The “popular assumption” goes directly to what I said a couple of days ago. Despite White House denials, most of Israel is convinced this was a pathetic attempt at muscle flexing. Instead, it probably impressed no one and has instead alienated the Israeli pubic – a citizenry which is, in the majority, for a two-state solution.
Brilliant. Now the talks are back to square one after Rahm Emanuel bragged that the two-state solution would be realized in Obama’s first term (it better be since hopefully that’s all he’ll get).
As it turns out, this has become a fiasco. Instead of a cool head prevailing and calming the waters, the situation was inflamed and escalated. Now the Palestinians have used it as a reason to desert the process and the administration is stuck demanding Israel do something it has always refused to even talk about. It’s interesting that a denunciation of these idiotic demands by the administration isn’t just coming from the right, but from leftist publications such as The New Republic.
Even they could no longer ignore the amateur in the White House.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
An odd set of circumstances and an ill timed Israeli announcement has evoked a very high profile and seemingly bitter denunciation of Israel by the US. And, instead of stepping it down, after the initial condemnation, the US seems to be continuing to step it up.
It all comes after a visit to Israel by VP Joe Biden coincided with an Israeli announcment that it had approved the construction of 1600 housing units in Jerusalem. The US chose to take that personally – literally. Variously described as an “insult”, a “slap in the face” and “affront” to the Vice President and the administration, the problem was escalated by a phone call by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to PM Benjamin Netanyahu. This weekend David Axelrod kept the controvery alive on the Sunday talk shows.
So what’s up with all of this? Certainly its fair to say that Biden was embarrassed by the announcement, something he had no idea was going to be made, much less coincide with his visit. And it is certainly clear, after you read about the announcment and how it was made, that no one was more embarrassed and surprised than Netanyahu. As he’s admitted subsequently, that it was ill timed and shouldn’t have been made while Biden was there.
End of problem? Hardly. It continues to grow, fester and escalate. But the announcement, other than its timing, isn’t something which should surprise anyone. We’re not talking about the West Bank here – where Israel has promised not to build. We’re talking about East Jerusalem in an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood. It is an area over which Israel has adamently refused to negotiate. This is not something of which the US is unaware:
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Thursday defended Israel’s decision to approve construction of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, saying sovereignty over the capital has never been negotiable and that Israel would not make any more concessions for peace.
Again, if true that “sovereignty over the capital has never been neotiable” why, other than the diplomatic embarrassment, has the decision suddenly become a matter of concern soliciting demands from Clinton to include one that reverses the housing decision?
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary thinks that part of the reaction is simply indicative of the personality of this administration. Its temperment, if you will:
It’s attack, attack, attack — just as they do any domestic critic (even the Supreme Court Chief Justice). It’s about bullying and discrediting, trying to force the opponent into a corner. And in this case, their opponent is plainly the Israeli government. For that is the party the Obami is now demanding make further concessions to… well, to what end is not clear. Perhaps we are back to regime change — an effort to topple the duly elected government of Israel to obtain a negotiating partner more willing to yield to American bullying.
The language the Obami employ – ”personal,” “insulting,” and “affront” – suggests an unusual degree of personal peevishness and hostility toward an ally. That, I suppose, is the mentality of Chicago pols and of those who regard Israel not as a valued friend but as an irritant. And it is the language not of negotiators but of intimidators.
I certainly think that’s part of it. But it still doesn’t explain it all. That’s more about style – and while I think it is a fair description of this administration’s style, I’m still not convinced that answers the mail in this regard. As Rubin goes on to remind us, 15 years ago the official US policy declared that Jerusalem should be the “undivided capital of Israel”. It seems a little odd to get this excited about the internal zoning decisions concerning that city if that’s our policy.
So what else is it? How does an embarrassing situation become escalated into a diplomatic confrontation with an ally? Well, there’s an interesting article in Foreign Policy magazine that says it is much more than just a matter of embarrassment. And, if I read it correctly, the US was, most likely, looking for the diplomatic equivalent of a fight with Israel if this is true:
On Jan. 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) “too old, too slow … and too late.”
The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus’s instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. “Everywhere they went, the message was pretty humbling,” a Pentagon officer familiar with the briefing says. “America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding.“
You connect the dots. Was this rather minor problem the perfect excuse to try and recover our image of strength? As many of us have been saying, 2009 was a year of assessment when other world leaders took stock of the new administration. It looks like the Arab world’s verdict is in.
The briefing went further to say that the weakness and Israeli “intransigence” (as described by the various Arab leaders) was actually putting the lives of our soldiers in the CENTCOM theater at further risk.
This briefing and its revelations has been mostly unreported, although Jake Tapper did hint at it when questioning David Axelrod on ABC’s “This Week”:
TAPPER: All right, last question. Vice President Biden went to Israel this week and he was greeted by a slap in the face, the announcement by the Israeli government of the approval of new housing units in an Arab section of Jerusalem. President Obama was said to be very upset about it. Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton made very strong comments about it. Will there be any consequences, tangible consequences beyond the tough talk? And does Israel’s intransigence on the housing issue put the lives of U.S. troops at risk?
AXELROD: Well, look, what happened there was an affront. It was an insult, but that’s not the most important thing. What it did was it made more difficult a very difficult process. We’ve just gotten proximity, so-called proximity talks going between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and this seemed calculated to undermine that, and that was — that was distressing to everyone who is promoting the idea of peace — and security in the region.
Israel is a strong and special ally. The bonds run deep. But for just that very reason, this was not the right way to behave. That was expressed by the secretary of state, as well as the vice president. I am not going to discuss what diplomatic talks we’ve had underneath that, but I think the Israelis understand clearly why we were upset and what, you know, what we want moving forward.
TAPPER: I hate to say this, but yes or no, David, does the intransigence of the Israeli government on the housing issue, yes or no, does it put U.S. troops lives at risk?
AXELROD: I believe that that region and that issue is a flare point throughout the region, and so I’m not going to put it in those terms. But I do believe that it is absolutely imperative, not just for the security of Israel and the Palestinian people, who were, remember, at war just a year ago, but it is important for our own security that we move forward and resolve this very difficult issue.
Tapper raised the issue brought up by the CENTCOM briefing and Axelrod simply avoided it.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians have taken the escalated diplomatic row as an excuse to bail on the peace talks again much to no one’s surprise.
Is this row all about posturing for the Arabs in reaction to the findings of the CENTCOM briefing? Is it an attempt to strengthen our image in those circles? If so this is a pretty poor way of doing that. It accepts the premise that Israel is the only problem and therefore it is only Israel that must concede to solve the problem. Read Clinton’s demands if you doubt that’s not the case. It also identifies as a problem something that has previously never been considered one.
In the meantime, much like the people of the US, Arab leaders are not going to be impressed by only talk – something the administration is long on. It is going to demand action – something which puts the administration in a very awkward position given what they’re now demanding vs. what Israel may be willing to do. And even if Israel capitulates, it will simply mean more demands – all to the detriment of our strongest ally in the region.
A very interesting situation brought on by perceived weakness and a diplomatic style akin to a pit bull at a cat show. It will be interesting to monitor the situation and see what comes of it, but, as one Israeli envoy noted, US/Israel relations are at their lowest ebb in 35 years. And I doubt this has substantially increased our image among the Arabs.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
After it appeared there might be a possibility the US might broker a “final accord” following the meeting in New York, Israel is pouring cold water on the idea:
Israel’s powerful foreign minister declared Thursday that there is no chance of reaching a final accord with the Palestinians any time soon, casting a pall over the U.S. Mideast envoy’s latest effort to get peace talks moving again.
Peacemaking policy in Israel is decided by the prime minister’s office, and not the foreign ministry. But Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman carries significant weight in Israeli decision-making, and his is a sentiment common among confidants of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Or, said another way, Lieberman is only saying what Netanyahu is thinking. With all the happy talk coming out of the Obama administration after the President managed to get Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the same room in New York, you’d have thought peace talks and happy days were just around the corner.
Not so says Lieberman:
Lieberman told Israel Radio on Thursday that anyone who thinks the two sides can soon reach a deal ending their decades-old conflict “doesn’t understand the situation and is spreading delusions.”
What the two sides should do, he said, was to come up with a long-term interim arrangement that would ensure prosperity, security and stability, and leave the tough issues “to a much later stage.”
This approach runs counter to U.S. efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal quickly. Obama has declared that establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel is a vital U.S. interest. Also, Israel would not find a Palestinian partner for putting off a resolution to the conflict indefinitely.
Lieberman’s view does not bode well for U.S. attempts to restart negotiations.
The non-negotiable point for both sides is settlements on the West Bank. Abbas won’t go to the negotiating table without them and Netanyahu refuses to freeze such settlements permanently. Without a resolution on that, there are no negotiations, and such a resolution seems improbable at the moment.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
The headline in the Washington Times this morning: “Exclusive: Obama Agrees To Keep Israel’s Nuke Secret”:
President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.
The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in May.
With that headline you have to ask “what secret?” Admittedly it is probably one of the world’s worst kept secrets. But it is interesting given our present stance on Iran that we’re exempting Israel from the same sort of international inspection regime – if, of course, the “secret” is true. And if true, and I’m sure Iran believes it is, why would Iran give up their pursuit of a nuclear weapon. They would most likely believe their acquisition of one would restore the regional balance. So why wouldn’t they agree to allow inspectors into a facility they had just voluntarily revealed to the IAEA. Why else reveal it? It certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t more hidden away in the mountains of Iran.
And why wouldn’t they agree to talks? It gives them the room, without sanctions, to continue what they’ve been doing for decades with no further penalty. String along the US and EU with “talks” while pursing the bomb.
I’d guess right now, Iran’s pretty happy with the way things are going.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
In all honesty, I don’t know – I would guess it would depend on a lot of things, but primarily the perceived level of the Iranian threat and the military assessment of whether such a strike would be a) viable and b) effective.
All that follows is speculation based on the military aspect of any such strike. I don’t doubt the Israeli will or ability but I do have grave doubts about about some specific and difficult problems within the situation that render the structure of the IDF incapable of performing the mission because of them.
We’re all familiar with the famous Osirik strike by the IDF in which Iraq’s nuclear capability was taken out in one fell swoop. Iraq had helpfully grouped all of its nuclear facilities in one area and the Israelis destroyed them. They did the same thing to a Syrian attempt last year.
So, as many ask, why can’t they do the same thing to Iran. Primarily because Iran took note of what happened in Iraq and purposely spread its nuclear facilities all around its country. It eliminated the possibility of a single strike crippling its efforts toward realizing its nuclear goals. As you can see on the map, hitting the key Iranian nuclear sites would require a bombing campaign, not just a single strike.
The recent revelation also points to another probability. It appears that Iran is building redundancy into their nuclear facilities. Nothing says there are only two enrichment facilities. In fact the existence of two argues that there may be more that haven’t been discovered yet. But it does make the point that even if key known facilities are hit and destroyed in Iran, there is absolutely no assurance that those strikes will have destroyed Iran’s capability.
Then there’s the distance involved. Even with Saudi Arabia supposedly telling Israel it will turn a blind eye to their incursions into Saudi airspace in order to hit Iran, we’re talking about a limited ability to do so without refueling. Israel has some converted Boeing 707s it uses for the job but certainly not enough to support a campaign of this size. And while it has developed technology with which it can mount external fuel tanks to weapons stations, that obviously trades fuel for weaponry, meaning more aircraft will be necessary to do the job.
That limitation, coupled with the way Iran has spread its nuclear facilities out, means Israel would have to commit to a bombing campaign as I mentioned earlier. Several hundred sorties are likely to be necessary to degrade all the facilities necessary to neutralize Iran’s nuclear capabilities. I say several hundred because part of getting the strike aircraft to their targets will entail other aircraft flying air defense suppression missions. What we call “wild weasel” missions would require other aircraft to clear a path for the strike mission by taking out Iranian air defense radar capability prior to the insertion of the strike package.
All of that requires tremendous coordination. Once the first strike goes in, whether successful or not, the defense level of the Iranians will rise to its highest levels. At that point, follow on strikes would find getting to their targets unscathed to be a much more difficult job. And, of course, there’s the necessity of staging search and rescue operations for downed pilots. Given the countries the IDF would have to fly over, even with permission, staging SAR would be next to impossible.
So, in my opinion, the combination of distance, the requirement of multiple sorties against spread out and redundant Iranian facilities and no assurance of success argues pretty strongly against an Israeli military strike. That’s not to say that the Israelis won’t figure out a way to do it, do it well and survive it. They’ve surprised us before, but I’d suggest the odds aren’t in their favor.
Of course, last but not least, any strike by Israel, whether or not successful, is an act of war which Iran will seize upon to not only step up its proxy war against Israel, but use as a basis for a direct attack on that nation at a future time and place of its choosing. The question will be when, not if and it will certainly include speculation as to the type of weaponry Iran will use to reap its revenge.
I listened to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu address the UN this past week. I heard the palpable disgust he has for the members of that body and their refusal to act to thwart Iran’s nuclear threat. But I also heard a little pleading in there as I think Israel has come to the realization that this is a situation in which they don’t have the military capacity to take care of business. He was quietly pleading with the US and the rest of the world to actually step-up and prevent a possible nuclear catastrophe that could, as Iran has claimed to desire, wipe his country from the map. Israel has come to the realization that their audacity and bravery won’t be enough this time. They need help.
[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!
That’s what the UK Times is reporting:
Iran has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb, Western intelligence sources have told The Times.
The sources said that Iran completed a research programme to create weaponised uranium in the summer of 2003 and that it could feasibly make a bomb within a year of an order from its Supreme Leader.
Of course, what we don’t know about Iran’s capability could fill a book. We’ve seen it variously reported that they a year away to ten years away – a good indicator that for the most part intelligence agencies haven’t a clue in reality.
However, as we know, nuclear bombs are old technology. The genie has been out of the bottle way too long to believe that Iran can’t build a bomb if it dedicates the time and resources to do so. And it certainly seems to have done both.
So now what?
That’s the salient question now. Let’s assume Iran has a bomb by this time next year – then what?
Well here’s the apparent game plan:
If Iran’s leader does decide to build a bomb, he will have two choices, intelligence sources said. One would be to take the high-risk approach of kicking out the international inspectors and making a sprint to complete Iran’s first bomb, as the country weathered international sanctions or possible air strikes in the ensuing crisis. The other would be to covertly develop the materials needed for an arsenal in secret desert facilities.
Last week, during a series of high-level US visits to Israel, officials outlined Washington’s plans to step up sanctions on Iran, should Tehran fail to agree on talks. Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, and General James Jones, the National Security Adviser, said that Iran had until the end of next month, when the UN General Assembly is to meet, to make a positive move towards engagement.
If Tehran fails to respond, Washington aims to build a tough international coalition to impose harsh sanctions focusing on petroleum products — an area where Iran is particularly vulnerable because it sends almost all of its crude abroad for refinement.
The feeling, of course, is if these sorts of sanctions can be imposed, it will hurt the regime even further by adding more unrest among a population already not happy with the election outcome. And, per the Times, hit directly at the Revolutionary Guards Council, which is the main exporter of terrorism through its surrogates in various parts of the world.
Of course what isn’t mentioned by the Times is the one big fly in the ointment of getting this done – China. No China, no sanctions. And China has developed a pretty close relationship with Iran based on petroleum trade. In 2004 it signed two huge oil and gas deals with Iran. Presently 45% of China’s crude imports come from the Middle East and that’s expected to rise to 70% by 2015. In 2008, China finalized a $70 billion deal to develop Iran’s Yadavaran oil field in exchange for the supply of liquefied natural gas. And much, much more.
So China is not going to be keen to cripple a nation which it has invested so much time and money in developing a relationship with – especially if it wants to maintain its own economy (and keep its own internal unrest to a simmer) during recessionary times.
Bottom line? My guess is a lot of tough talk and fist shaking at Iran, but in the end, nothing much happens and Iran ends up with its nuke. The play will be made in the UN where China has a seat on the Security Council and I’d almost bet the house that nothing comes out of that organization with any teeth whatsoever or China won’t vote for it.
Bottom bottom line – Israel, who we seem bound and determined to have worse relations with, is probably going to have to find a way to destroy the capability on their own. Militarily they’ve been quietly developing the strike capability for some time. And Saudi Arabia, which is very worried about an Iranian nuke and what it would do to the balance of power in the region, has given Israel a subtle nod that it would turn its back should the Israelis fly over their territory to strike Iran – unprecedented in the history of the region and an indication of the depth of fear the Saudis harbor.
But reliance on the UN and “sanctions”? I just don’t see that happening.