Saving the Shi’a oil and wine: Revelation 6

How the Iran-Iraq war shaped oil markets regionally and globally

Napoleon once notably said, “A revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets”. Forty years ago, when Iraqi tanks rolled across the Iranian border on September 22, 1980, after early skirmishes and Iraqi complaints of incursions into disputed border regions, they invited the not yet two year-old Iranian revolution to unsheathe those bayonets. The consequences have shaped the Middle East and the world oil system ever since.

Energy was in the firing line immediately. The oil-rich province of Khuzestan was the main target of Saddam Hussein’s aggression. The giant Agha Jari oil-field and the huge Abadan refinery on the Iranian side of the Shatt Al Arab were immediate targets. Just eight days into the war, Iran bombed and badly damaged the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad. The Iraqis would attack the under-construction Bushehr nuclear power plant several times during the conflict.

In April 1982, Iran’s ally, Syria, shut down the Iraqi pipeline through its territory to the Mediterranean. With Iraq’s narrow Arabian Gulf frontage also unusable, the country’s oil exports were mostly cut off. They would not revive until a new pipeline through Turkey was finished in 1986. Output, which had hit a record 3.5 million barrels per day in 1979 just before the war, would not exceed that until 2015, under a very different management.

Meanwhile, Iran’s exports, which had collapsed during the revolution, were also hit by air attack. They revived from 1982 but have never come close to regaining the levels of 1973-78 in the last years of the Shah.

During 1984-88, both sides attacked shipping throughout the Gulf in the “Tanker War”, with hundreds of ships damaged. The American and Soviet navies ended up protecting reflagged neutral tankers, and the US involvement marked a major escalation in its direct military presence in the Gulf.

Eventually, the bloody stalemate on the ground and growing disillusionment, the American threat and the 1986 collapse in oil prices, together forced Ayatollah Khomeini to accept a ceasefire in 1988.

The political ramifications were also profound. The demands of national defence allowed the Iranian revolutionaries to consolidate power. Much of the regime’s current paranoia, its attempts at self-sufficiency and its attempts to engage its enemies in the theatres of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen rather than on Iranian soil, stem from the wartime experience.

Today’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was president for most of the war; current president Hassan Rouhani was on the supreme defence council and an early player in the US’s Iran-Contra scandal. Much of the esprit de corps and personal relationships of the Revolutionary Guards, including men such as former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and foreign expeditionary mastermind Qassem Soleimani, were forged on the battlefields. These have now burgeoned into corrupt business networks that distort the Iranian economy.

The war has three major energy lessons. The first is the great vulnerability of the Middle East’s oil industries to military action. Despite inadequate and uncoordinated deployment of their (for the time) very modern air-forces, both sides inflicted severe tit-for-tat damage on each other’s facilities. Through air, naval and political action, they were able to choke the enemy’s economic lifeline.

The second lesson is the cost of modern warfare, which far outweighs the value of capturing petroleum assets. Iraq emerged with $86 billion (Dh315.8bn) in debt, a ratio to gross domestic product of 278 per cent. With a large and unemployed army, Saddam was tempted to solve his economic problems by bullying his Gulf neighbours to cut production, then to invade Kuwait in 1990, bringing down on Iraq a yet greater catastrophe.

The scars of those two decades of dictatorship, war and sanctions on Iraq’s mutilated economy and politics have never healed. But the George W. Bush administration in 2003 had not learnt the lesson. They expected a swift reconstruction of Iraq’s oil sector after the US invasion, which would contradictorily bankroll the country’s reconstruction and bring down world prices.

Iran has rebuilt better. Its semi-isolation from the world economy, partly by choice, partly because of international and US sanctions, has been detrimental. Yet it has encouraged a rather diversified industrial base and export industry.

The third lesson is the unpredictable and chaotic long-term political and energy market impacts of conflict.

How would the energy world have evolved if Saddam had not launched his war? The early-1980s oil price spike would not have happened. The market to the mid-1980s would then have been much more oversupplied, with both Iran and Iraq pumping at normal levels. Non-Opec production, such as the North Sea, would not have developed as far and fast; the subsequent oil bust might not have been as long and punishing.

Saudi Arabia would have continued to face two strong rivals within Opec – in the case of Iraq, likely a growing one. If the pragmatism of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the post-war president, had taken hold earlier, Iran might have achieved what it has often promised but not managed, and become a significant gas exporter to its neighbours.

Without the Tanker War intervention and President Bill Clinton’s “dual containment” of the 1990s, the US military build-up in the Gulf, with all its consequences, may not have occurred. The Gulf would have continued to be geopolitically and economically important, and the looming threat of revolutionary Iran’s bayonets would have remained. But the region may not have obsessed military and oil market strategists to the neglect of eastern Europe and east Asia.

Forty years on, these consequences are apparent, even if the counterfactuals must remain speculation. Generations in Iraq and Iran have grown up under the shadow of the human, environmental and financial cost of Saddam’s criminal blunder and Khomeini’s intransigence. Perhaps no other event in human history has so well illustrated the fragility of oil wealth.

Robin M. Mills is chief executive of Qamar Energy and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis

Updated: September 27, 2020 06:39 PM

Khamenei is Correct: Babylon the Great is a Failed Model

US a truly failed model in running a society: Leader

TEHRAN, Aug. 23 (MNA) – Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said the US is a real model of failure in governing human society.

Mehr News Agency

Human values such as health, justice and security are being trampled on more in the United States than anywhere else,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a video conference meeting with President Rouhani and his cabinet members on Sunday on the occasion of the National Government Week.

“The social gap in the US is terrible; the number and proportion of hungry and homeless people in the United States is higher than the rest of the world,” he added.

Referring to the statistics revealed by US presidential candidates in their campaigns, the Leader said, “One out of every five American children is hungry, while insecurity and crime rates in the United States are also very high.”

Murder, warmongering and creating insecurity are common actions carried out by the Americans in Syria, Palestine, and Yemen, and before that in Iraq, Afghanistan and areas such as Vietnam and Hiroshima.”

“The fact that the US is headed by people who are a source of humiliation for that country is another sign of the defeat of western models and the decline of western civilization in the world.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Leader called on the government to pave the way for boosting domestic production and reduce reliance on external sources.

“Production is key to employment, to livelihood, to reducing inflation, and to boosting the national currency’s value; therefore, we need to exert every effort possible regarding domestic production,” he said.

Addressing the cabinet members, the Leader stressed, “Try to remove the production obstacles; many of such issues pertain to excessive imports, parts [supply] challenges, and inconsistencies in downstream sectors,”

Hailing the considerable developments, including those made by the Defense Ministry and armed forces, advising to turn into domestic capabilities to supply the needs of the industry.

Iran says sabotage caused fire at Natanz nuclear site. Israel?

Iran admits sabotage caused fire at Natanz nuclear site

Iran’s nuclear body has said that a fire last month at a major nuclear facility was caused by sabotage.

But the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) did not say who it believed was behind the incident at the Natanz uranium enrichment site.

Some Iranian officials have previously said the fire might have been the result of cyber sabotage.

There were several fires and explosions at power facilities and other sites in the weeks surrounding the incident.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, a AEOI spokesperson, told state TV channel al-Alam on Sunday that “security authorities will reveal in due time the reason behind the [Natanz] blast”.

• What is behind mysterious ‘attacks’ at key sites?

• Why do the limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment matter?

The fire hit a central centrifuge assembly workshop. Centrifuges are needed to produce enriched uranium, which can be used to make reactor fuel but also material for nuclear weapons.

Mr Kamalvandi said last month that Iran would replace the damaged building with more advanced equipment, but acknowledged that the fire could slow down the development and production of advanced centrifuges “in the medium term”.

An article by Iran’s state news agency Irna previously addressed the possibility of sabotage by adversaries such as the United States and Israel, but did not accuse either of the countries directly.

Why is Natanz significant?

Natanz, about 250km (150 miles) south of the capital Tehran, is Iran’s largest uranium enrichment facility.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg published details of a report by the the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, which concluded that Iran was attempting to boost uranium enrichment at the plant.

If true, the move would be in violation of a 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with several world powers.

As part of the deal, Iran agreed only to produce low-enriched uranium, which has a 3-4% concentration of U-235 isotopes and can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. Weapons-grade uranium is 90% enriched or more.

Iran also agreed to install no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at Natanz until 2026, and not to carry out any enrichment at its other underground facility, Fordo, until 2031.

In exchange for concessions to it’s nuclear programme, Iran was granted relief from international sanctions.

In November, Iran unveiled advanced centrifuges at Natanz

But last year, Iran began rolling back its commitments after US President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear accord and reinstated crippling economic sanctions.

In November, Iran said it had doubled the number of advanced centrifuges being operated at Natanz and had begun injecting uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges at Fordo .

Natanz is one of several facilities being monitored by the IAEA to ensure Iran’s compliance with the 2015 deal.

The IAEA’s new director general Rafael Grossi has said he will visit Tehran on Monday to request access to two suspected former nuclear sites.

The IAEA has criticised Iran for not answering questions about possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at these sites in the early 2000s.

Iran has previously insisted its nuclear programme is not intended for military use. Officials have also denied that Mr Grossi’s visit is related to moves by the United States at the UN Security Council to reimpose international sanctions on Tehran, state media reported.

Babylon the Great Finally Leaving the Iraqi Horn

US President Donald Trump (Photo: AFP)

Donald Trump meets Iraq PM, says US troops to exit ‘at some point’

The US leader also said that military considerations as well as oil projects and development were on the agenda for his meeting with PM Kadhemi, who took office in May.

The US leader also said that military considerations as well as oil projects and development were on the agenda for his meeting with PM Kadhemi, who took office in May.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday said that American troops would leave Iraq but gave no timetable for the withdrawal, as he met the country’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi for the first time in Washington.

The meeting comes with attacks on American targets by pro-Iranian fighters on the rise and the Iraqi government facing calls to expel the 5,000 US troops deployed in the country as part of anti-jihadist efforts.

Trump said alongside PM Kadhemi at the White House, “So at some point, we obviously will be gone,”

“We’ve brought it down to a very, very low level”, he added.

The US leader also said that military considerations as well as oil projects and development were on the agenda for his meeting with PM Kadhemi, who took office in May.

PM Kadhemi said at the White House that he was “grateful” for US support in the war against the Islamic State jihadist group, which “strengthens our partnership for the best interest for our nation.”

The US military withdrew from Iraq in late 2011, leaving a small mission attached to the US embassy.

Kadhemi faces challenges from factions of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a coalition of Iraqi Shiite paramilitary groups with close ties to Iran.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “armed groups not under the full control of the prime minister have impeded our progress,” calling for them to “be replaced by local police as soon as possible.”

On being asked about the plan for cutting the 5,000 US troops now in Iraq, Pompeo said that he had no numbers and urged people “not to focus on that.”

PM Kadhemi has angered armed groups by seizing border posts where they ran lucrative smuggling networks and imposed taxes on traders.

Attacks have risen in recent weeks, with the Iraqi army reporting another rocket attack on Tuesday evening targeting Baghdad airport, where US troops are based. The projectile did not cause damage or casualties, the army said.

Earlier in May, an American soldier and a British soldier, as well as one US contractor, were killed after rockets hit an Iraqi military base north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Baghdad and Tehran must be “state-to-state and not via militias,” the source quoted Kadhemi as saying, adding that groups that “draw their strength from Iran” had bombed Iraqi targets and embezzled money.

In January, the attack at the Baghdad International Airport also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

The Iranian attack came after a US drone attacked on January 3 a convoy at Baghdad International Airport that killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

(With inputs from agency)

Babylon the Great Concedes to Iraq and Iran

US-led site handover to Iraq proceeds after attacks by suspected Iran-allied fighters

The U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State coalition handed over an ammunition storage site at Camp Taji to the Iraqi security forces, Aug. 16, 2020. The coalition has delivered $11 million worth of ammunition to the Iraqis this year, they said in a statement.

TWITTER

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq transferred about 50 ammunition storage bunkers and facilities to Iraqi forces at Camp Taji, part of a continuing force consolidation as the Islamic State fight wanes and conflict with Iran-backed fighters ramps up.

The handover Sunday was long-scheduled, officials said, but it came hours after two small rockets struck near the base on Saturday night, the latest attack targeting bases where coalition forces are housed, which the U.S. has blamed on Iranian proxy groups.

The rocket strike at the base north of Baghdad did not impact near coalition forces, Army Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a spokesman for the coalition, said on Twitter on Saturday.

Also last week, three rockets fell on Balad Air Base, the Iraqi government said Thursday, then on Friday three more fell on Baghdad’s international airport, it said. On Sunday, one landed inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, where diplomatic and military mission headquarters are based. None of the attacks resulted in significant damage, the Iraqi government said on Twitter.

The strikes all came after the U.S. seized more than 1 million barrels of Iranian oil from four tankers bound for Venezuela last week.

The U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State coalition handed over an ammunition storage site at Camp Taji to the Iraqi security forces, Aug. 16, 2020. The coalition has delivered $11 million worth of ammunition to the Iraqis this year, they said in a statement.

TWITTER

They also come ahead of expected U.S.-Iraq talks, which Central Command boss Gen. Frank McKenzie said would likely involve the long-term presence of American and allied troops.

“I think that is a grave concern to the Iranians because that works against what they want, which is for Iraq to be pretty directly under their control and for us to be out of the theater,” the Marine general said in an online panel hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace on Wednesday.

McKenzie acknowledged that the rocket attacks have forced the coalition to pull back from the ISIS fight somewhat and divert resources to self-protection. He also expected Iran to launch a fresh “response” after failing to expel the U.S. from Iraq earlier this year.

“I do not know what the nature of that response will be, but we will certainly be ready for it, should it occur,” he said.

U.S.-Iran tensions have risen steadily over the past two years, as President Donald Trump’s administration has tried to pressure Tehran into renegotiating an Obama-era nuclear treaty that Trump withdrew the U.S. from.

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Sporadic rocket attacks have become commonplace since last fall, and in January a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, leading Tehran to respond with a barrage of ballistic missiles that hit U.S.-occupied bases in Iraq and left more than 100 American troops with traumatic brain injuries.

Meanwhile, the coalition has removed forces from smaller Iraqi bases, a long-planned effort which officials have said was sped up by the increased threat from Iran-backed militias.

Two American troops and a British soldier were killed at Taji in March, but many of the coalition troops that were once at the base to train Iraqi forces have since gone elsewhere in Iraq or been sent home. There remains a small presence of troops who coordinate logistics and security operations, the coalition said.

Some 5,200 American troops remain in Iraq, but as the government forces take on more responsibility for fighting ISIS, the number of U.S. and coalition troops is expected to shrink, McKenzie said last week.

“We don’t want to maintain a huge number of soldiers forever in Iraq,” McKenzie said.

garland.chad@stripes.com
Twitter: @chadgarland

The Shi’a Horn Strikes Babylon the Great

Iraq: 2 bombs strike US supply convoy

People gather at the scene of a bomb attack in Tayaran Square in Baghdad, Iraq on 15 January 2018 [Haydar Hadi/Anadolu Agency]

August 14, 2020 at 12:31 pm

Two bombs have hit convoys supplying US-led coalition forces in Iraq’s southern governorate of Dhi Qar, security sources reported on Wednesday.

“A bomb has targeted a convoy carrying logistical support equipment for the US army on the highway at Al-Batha intersection in the western city of Nasiriyah,” Dhi Qar police commander, Hazem Al-Waeli, was quoted in a statement as saying.

The explosions, which caused no casualties but did some material damage, are the latest in a string of such incidents in recent weeks. On Sunday, another convoy carrying supplies to coalition forces was attacked in southern Iraq.

The attacks have escalated following the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander, Qassem Soleimani, and the leader of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, in a US drone strike in Baghdad at the start of the year.

Several thousand US forces are still based in Iraq, leading a coalition whose mission is said to be “to fight Daesh”. But following the recent attacks, the troops have withdrawn from seven sites across the country.

On Wednesday, a senior US army official said the number of American troops in Syria and Iraq would be reduced over the coming period, he did not stipulate how many would be withdrawn.

Since October 2019, Iraq has witnessed more than 30 attacks targeting US military and diplomatic bases, but missile attacks have become more rare in recent months.

The Sunni and Shi’a Horns Divide (Daniel)

President Trump says UAE to open diplomatic ties with Israel | Newser

President Donald Trump, accompanied by F=from left, U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook, Avraham Berkowitz, Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s White House senior adviser Jared Kushner,…   (Associated Press)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.

The announcement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state to do so and only the third Arab nation to have active diplomatic ties to Israel.

Trump tweeted a statement from the countries, acknowledging the deal. He then told reporters in the Oval Office that it was “a truly historic moment.”

“Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates,” he said.

The recognition grants a rare diplomatic win to Trump ahead of the November election as his efforts to see an end to the war in Afghanistan have yet to come to fruition while efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians have made no headway. Israel and the UAE also have been among Trump’s closest foreign allies.

For Israel, the announcement comes after years of boasting by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government enjoys closer ties to Arab nations than publicly acknowledged. Netanyahu has sought to build settlements on lands sought by the Palestinians and embraced a Trump proposal that would allow him to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank while granting Palestinians limited autonomy in other areas.

For the UAE, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai and the rolling, oil-rich sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, it further burnishes its international campaign to be seen as a beacon of tolerance in the Middle East despite being governed by autocratic rulers. It also puts the UAE out first in a regional recognition race among neighboring Gulf Arab states.

And for the Palestinians, who long have relied on Arab backing in their struggle for independence, the announcement marked both a win and setback. While Thursday’s deal halts Israeli annexation plans, the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Arab governments not to normalize relations with Israel until a peace agreement establishing an independent Palestinian state is reached.

“Israel got rewarded for not declaring openly what it’s been doing to Palestine illegally & persistently since the beginning of the occupation,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi wrote on Twitter. She also said the UAE has come forward with its “secret dealings/normalization with Israel.”

“Please don’t do us a favor. We are nobody’s fig leaf!” she wrote.

The militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the deal by the Emiratis “a stabbing in the back of our people.”

The joint statement from the U.S., the UAE and Israel said delegations would meet in the coming weeks to sign deals on direct flights, security, telecommunications, energy, tourism and health care. The two countries also will partner on fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

“Opening direct ties between two of the Middle East’s most dynamic societies and advanced economics will transform the region by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation and forging closer people-to-people relations,” said the statement by Trump, Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the day-to-day ruler of the UAE. It said the leaders had a three-way call discussing the deal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the deal.

“This is a remarkable achievement for two of the world’s most forward leaning, technologically advanced states, and reflects their shared regional vision of an economically integrated region,” he said in a statement. “It also illustrates their commitment to confronting common threats, as small — but strong — nations.”

He added: “Blessed are the peacemakers. Mabruk and Mazal Tov.”

Netanyahu tweeted an Israeli flag with a short message in Hebrew: “Historic Day.”

Among Arab nations, only Egypt and Jordan have active diplomatic ties with Israel. Egypt made a peace deal with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994. Mauritania recognized Israel in 1999, but later ended relations in 2009 over the Israel’s war in Gaza at the time.

In addition to Trump, the main U.S. mediators for agreement were the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, special Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

The UAE is a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. Formed in 1971, the country like other Arab nations at the time did not recognize Israel over its occupation of land home to the Palestinians.

“Arab oil is not dearer than Arab blood,” the UAE’s founding ruler, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, once pronounced when agreeing to an oil boycott over U.S. military support to Israel in the 1973 Mideast war.

The UAE relied on white-collar Palestinians in creating its nation. Over time, it maintained its stance that Israel allow the creation of a Palestinian state on land it seized in the 1967 war.

But in recent years, ties between Gulf Arab nations and Israel have quietly grown, in part over their shared enmity of Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Prince Mohammed also shares Israel’s distrust of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the militant group Hamas that holds the Gaza Strip.

The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency acknowledged the deal, framing it as not just a move that helps the UAE and Israel, but one that also carries benefits for the Palestinians. Top Emirati official Anwar Gargash said the move dealt a “death blow” to moves by Israel to annex Palestinian lands.

It remains unclear what prompted Israel and the UAE to make the announcement now. In June, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the U.S. warned in an Israeli newspaper op-ed that Israel’s planned annexing the Jordan Valley and other parts of the occupied West Bank would “upend” Israel’s efforts to improve ties with Arab nations.

The agreement gives Netanyahu a domestic boost at a time when Israel’s shaky coalition government is plagued by infighting and facing the possibility of early elections in the coming months. Netanyahu has seen his popularity plummet as the country grapples with a renewed coronavirus outbreak and skyrocketing unemployment as the result of earlier lockdown measures.

Netanyahu also delivered a valuable diplomatic achievement to his good friend, Trump, ahead of U.S. elections.

Still, by dropping the annexation plan Netanyahu may be hedging his bets ahead of a possible change in the White House. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has made clear that he would oppose any moves by Israel to unilaterally redraw the Mideast map and annex lands sought by the Palestinians.

Netanyahu also risked criticism inside his own hard-line Likud Party, whose members strongly supported annexation. Netanyahu appears to be betting that Likud members — and the small, but influential settler movement — will agree the peace agreement delivers more benefits than unilateral annexation. Opinion polls have shown that annexation is not a high priority for the vast majority of the Israeli public.

Abandoning its annexation plan changes little on the ground. Israel already holds overall control of the West Bank and continues to expand its settlements there, while granting the Palestinians autonomy in a series of disconnected enclaves. Some 500,000 Israelis now live in the rapidly expanding West Bank settlements.

Next year, Israel will take part in the UAE’s delayed Expo 2020, the world’s fair being hosted by Dubai. A secret synagogue also draws practicing Jews in Dubai. The UAE also has announced plans to build the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, which will house a mosque, a church and a synagogue.

Israelis traveling with Western passports routinely enter the UAE without a problem, though one still can’t make a phone call between the two countries. Israelis also work in Dubai’s gold and diamond trade as well.

Emirati officials also have allowed Israeli officials to visit and the Israeli national anthem was played after an athlete won gold in an Abu Dhabi judo tournament. Israel also has a small mission representing its interests at the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi.

___

Lee reported from Bled, Slovenia, and Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

How Israel is Provoking the Iranian Nuclear Horn

From Condemnation To Praise: Why Israel’s Bombing of Iraq’s Osirak Nuclear Reactor Stands Test of Time

Dov LipmanAugust 11, 2020

Imagine this: It’s August 1990. Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq, begins to act on his plan for world domination by invading Kuwait. Billions around the world must sit silently and watch as Hussein takes over country after country, because they know that Hussein will unleash his nuclear weapons against any nation that tries to stop him.

Thankfully, this nightmare scenario never materialized.

The United States was able to lead an international coalition to push Iraq’s armed forces out of Kuwait in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and Hussein’s expansionism came to a screeching halt.

But this dictator was only able to be prevented from carrying out his maniacal plans because of one country:  Israel.

Timeline: from diplomacy to air strike

Iraq had established a nuclear program during the 1960s, and by the mid-1970s looked to expand it through the acquisition of a nuclear reactor. To that end, Iraq purchased a nuclear reactor from France in 1976. Located 17 kilometers southeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the Osirak reactor was immediately recognized by Israeli officials to constitute a serious threat to Israel and the world.

A nuclear reactor in the hands of a dictator like Saddam Hussein presented an immediate and grave dilemma. Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan initiated diplomatic efforts with France but failed to receive assurances that the reactor program would be halted. Additionally, Israel failed to convince the French government to stop providing aid for the Iraqi nuclear program.

Once diplomatic efforts failed, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin concluded that Israel would have to take military action. In 1979, Israeli secret agents planted a bomb that destroyed the reactor’s first set of core structures as they were being prepared to be shipped to Iraq. Israel engaged in additional covert efforts to try to set the Iraqi nuclear program back.

But in October 1980, Israeli intelligence reported that by June 1981 the reactors would be fully operational, after which nuclear weapons could be developed. While the earliest estimates for Iraq being able to obtain a nuclear bomb were a year or two later, Begin was concerned that delaying the attack until the reactor was fully operational could lead to lethal doses of radioactive contamination reaching Baghdad, killing innocent civilians.

Begin thus ordered the Israel Air Force to bomb the reactor on June 7, 1981. Israel chose to bomb on a Sunday, a day off for foreign workers and consultants, to reduce the number of casualties.  The Israeli air strike of Osirak became known as Operation Opera.

Fourteen Israeli fighter planes flew 1,600 kilometers to reach their target. While flying through Jordanian airspace, the pilots spoke in Saudi-accented Arabic telling the Jordanian air controllers that they were Saudis on a routine patrol that had veered off course. Then, when they flew through Saudi airspace, the pilots pretended to be Jordanians.

Israeli Air Force F-16A Netz ‘243’, aircraft flown by Colonel Ilan Ramon in Operation Opera. This was the eighth and last to drop its bombs onto the reactor. (Wikimedia commons)

Once they reached Iraq, the fighter planes dropped 16 bombs on the reactor in two minutes, evaded anti-aircraft fire, and safely returned to Israel.

Though Iraq vowed to rebuild the reactor, France ultimately pulled out of the project in 1984 and the facility was never repaired.

Israel’s “clear violation” of international conduct

The United Nations passed two resolutions rebuking Israel for the attack. UN Security Council Resolution 487, passed on June 19, 1981, condemned the attack as a “clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct.” The United States voted in favor of the resolution. On November 13, 1981 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 36/27, criticizing Israel for the “premeditated and unprecedented act of aggression,” and demanded that Israel compensate Iraq for the damage and loss of life caused by the attacks.

Both resolutions called on Israel to refrain from attacks of this kind in the future. US President Ronald Reagan wrote in his diary that he believed the Israeli attack would lead to “Armageddon” and US ambassador to the UN Jean Kirkpatrick compared Israel’s attack to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The New York Times called the attack “an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression.” The Los Angeles Times went even further, calling it “state sponsored terrorism.”

Many of Israel’s critics pointed to the fact that Iraq had signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that put the reactor under the watch of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which would prevent the country from using the reactor to develop nuclear weapons.

US: Bombing Osirak was a ‘good thing’

But Roger Richter, a former IAEA inspector, told the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the most sensitive facilities in the reactor were not subject to any safeguards. While Iraq and France insisted that the reactor was constructed for peaceful purposes, SRATFOR, a private American intelligence agency, reported that prior to Israel’s attack the Osirak reactor “was believed to be on the verge of producing plutonium for a weapons program.”

(Photo: Wikimedia commons)

Quite remarkably, while Israel’s attack left the reactor crippled but still standing, coalition forces led by the United States Air Force completely destroyed the reactor during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Following that war, US Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney thanked the Israeli pilot who commanded the Israeli mission for “the outstanding job” that Israel’s air force did in 1981.

US President Bill Clinton said this at the 2005 World Economic Forum in Davos regarding the Israeli attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor: “Everybody talks about what the Israelis did at Osirak in 1981, which I think, in retrospect, was a really good thing.  You know, it kept Saddam from developing nuclear power.”

The entire episode – from the difficult decision to bomb the Osirak reactor, to the international condemnation, to the gratitude a decade later – has reinforced Israel’s doctrine to not be held back by likely worldwide condemnation and to act, even at great risk, when it identifies real and present danger to its people and its survival.

Pivotal Vote on the Iranian Horn (Daniel 8 )

img_1259Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran

Israel Prepares to Attack the Iranian Nuclear Horn

Countdown to Israeli Action on Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot (L) give a press conference in Tel Aviv, on December 4, 2018. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP

Recent mysterious explosions at Iran’s nuclear facilities, which some have attributed to Israel, return to prominence a calculation not seriously considered since 2015: Iran’s dwindling “breakout” clock.

The ensuing damage might successfully turn back time on that clock. But if not, Israel might have to consider military action; a decision lent urgency by the looming American election.

The disastrous 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) emboldened Iran’s aggression and enabled its eventual nuclear capability. President Donald Trump rightfully withdrew from the agreement and replaced it with a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, but Iran responded by attacking US and allied assets, and evidently has been accelerating its nuclear program.

The Trump administration ultimately responded to Iran’s aggression with an airstrike in January that killed Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force and the mastermind behind Tehran’s regional aggression.

However, the United States has had no answer to Iranian nuclear expansion. Having now reportedly produced enough low-enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, with further enrichment, Iran could reach nuclear weapons capability in 3 to 4 months. This “breakout” window would shrink further if Iran installs advanced centrifuges.

Slowing Iran’s Nuclear Advance

Sanctions haven’t slowed this nuclear advance. Neither will extending Iran’s arms embargo, expiring this October under the JCPOA, which the Trump administration should pursue regardless.

Only credible military threats have convinced Iran to postpone its nuclear ambitions, such as in 2003, after America’s toppled the Taliban and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s literal red-line drawing at the United Nations in 2012, which Iran was careful not to cross.

Sabotage has proven effective at slowing Iran’s nuclear clock, too. Israel has reportedly pursued this strategy repeatedly, with the 2009 Stuxnet cyberattack, the 2010-12 killing of Iranian nuclear scientists, and now perhaps the explosions targeting Iran’s centrifuge construction facility. Covert disruption has the significant benefit of deniability and minimizing the risk of major retaliation.

With Iran’s nuclear clock once again ticking loudly, the question is whether sabotage will continue to buy time. Early reports suggest the explosions at Iran’s Natanz Centrifuge Assembly Center set back Iran’s longer-term plans for an industrial nuclear program (to produce multiple nuclear bombs in short order), but it remains unclear if it also delayed Iran’s breakout time.

While the former is important, it is the latter that more likely determines if some time has been bought. If not, then Israel might not only consider further sabotage but another approach that could more significantly delay a nuclear Iran: overt military action.

Historically, Israel has conducted major military action when time leaves it no other alternative, such as its strikes on nuclear reactors in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007. Israel might be inclined to reserve this option until sabotage has proven no longer materially effective or an Iranian breakout seems imminent.

Looming US Elections

But there is another clock that might push Israel to act overtly sooner: the US political calendar.

American backing could be critical to mitigating the scope and intensity of Iran’s retaliation to an overt Israeli strike and subsequently pressing Iran not to renew its nuclear pursuit. Trump could well do just that; he reportedly instructed former National Security Advisor John Bolton to “tell Bibi [Netanyahu] that if he uses force, I will back him.”

If Trump wins a second term, Israel might feel it has more time – or it might worry that he will pursue a new deal with Iran.

US President Donald Trump salutes at the grave site of former president Andrew Jackson, March 15, 2017. Image: Tennessee National Guard Public Affairs Office

If Joe Biden becomes president, he likely will reengage President Barack Obama’s JCPOA and strongly oppose Israeli action, effectively taking the military option off the table until at least 2025.

Meanwhile, more JCPOA restrictions, including on advanced R&D and ballistic missiles, will lapse by the end of the next president’s term, bringing Iran too close to nuclear capability. Israel might find this risk unacceptable.

Thus, Israel might determine the next four months are its best opportunity to cripple Iran’s nuclear program – a choice Trump might welcome as it would scramble the electoral picture. Alternatively, Israel could wait to see who wins the American election and decide what to do.

Israeli Action

Some American analysts contend that Israel lacks the capability or will to attack Iranian nuclear facilities overtly, or it would have done so already. Yet, we should heed the repeated assertations by senior Israeli military and political leaders of intent to strike militarily when necessary. History suggests that such action – and Israel’s national security, if not very existence – necessitates it.

An overt Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would continue its growing role of rolling back the Iranian threat and advancing US interests. To support its partner, Washington should accelerate weapons deliveries that Israel needs for a military campaign and to blunt Iranian retaliation.

It is possible that if military action is required, the United States will act first. American presidents since Bill Clinton have pledged, in Obama’s 2009 words, “to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”

If the United States, with its immense capabilities, does conduct military action, it is likely to inflict greater damage to Iran’s nuclear program and set it back further than Israel could, while reducing Tehran’s will or capability to retaliate.

Yet, absent American action, or regime collapse in Tehran, Israel can be expected to conduct whatever covert or overt action is necessary to prevent a nuclear Iran.

Michael Makovsky is President and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Defense Post.

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