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Israel’s Historic Right to Judea and Samaria

By David Lev, Arutz Sheva

Dr. Alan Baker, an expert on international law and a member of the committee headed by Judge Edmond Levi recommending the extension of Israeli law to Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, said at a conference discussing the matter Tuesday night that Israel would be fully in its rights to do so.

“The task of the Levi Committee was to look at the construction situation in Judea and Samaria and make the appropriate recommendations on how to proceed,” Baker said at the event sponsored by the Women in Green organization. The recommendation to authorize all construction in Judea and Samaria made by the committee was a very important one, he said.

Until very recently, the guiding document for governments in Israel had been a 2004 report authored by leftist attorney Talia Sasson, who recommended the dismantling of many new communities, termed “outposts,” in Judea and Samaria. Sasson later ran for Knesset on the far-left Meretz party list.

Baker said that much of the trouble relating to these communities was due to Sasson’s bad faith in preparing the report. She had been asked by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to prepare a report on “unauthorized outposts, but when she produced the report she termed them ‘illegal’ outposts.” The government, Baker said, had no choice but to act on removing the communities, because “she turned anyone who builds there into criminals.”

Because of that report, Presidents Bush and Obama also adopted the attitude that the communities were illegal, Baker said. This attitude was mistaken, he claimed. “Not having authorization is not a crime…Our mission was to clarify the situation and make appropriate recommendations.”

The committee examined the rights of Israel to build in Judea and Samaria altogether. Leftist groups, said Baker, attempted to prove that only Arabs had the right to build on non-privately owned lands in the the region, but those proofs were rejected by the committee, he said.

“After and extensive investigation, we determined that Judea and Samaria were not legally ‘occupied.’ It was not under legal control of any entity,” including Jordan, whose declaration of sovereignty over the region was never recognized by international organizations like the UN, said Baker. As a result, “building by Israel in Judea and Samaria does not violate the Geneva Convention.”

In contrast, Israel, as the representative of the Jewish people, could claim an historic right to build in Judea and Samaria. “No one can deny this historic right. There are no pacts, treaties, or any other documents that attribute Palestinian rights to the region.” Baker added that he had presented the committee’s conclusions to many diplomats, and all accepted them – except for Israel.

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New Year, New Problem? Pakistan’s Tactical Nukes

Pakistan is developing a new generation of smaller “tactical” nuclear weapons. The dangers and challenges such arms present are very real.

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October of last year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Many Asian policymakers will read the lessons of that harrowing episode with some self-satisfaction.

When India and Pakistan conducted their nuclear weapon tests in 1998, foreign analysts repeatedly told them that, as poor countries with weak institutions, they could not be entrusted with such awesome weaponry. Nascent nuclear powers were simply less reliable stewards than their Cold War counterparts. Over a decade on, and multiple crises later — Kargil in 1999, a military standoff in 2001-2, and the Mumbai attacks of 2008 — India and Pakistan have experienced nothing quite as perilous as the Cuban scare.

U.S. officials claim that Pakistan readied nuclear weapons during the Kargil conflict without the knowledge of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. But, even at the height of their crises neither India nor Pakistan have attempted, as the U.S. did in 1962, anything quite as foolish as depth-charging nuclear-armed submarines or scrambling aircraft equipped with nuclear air-to-air missiles towards hostile airspace. The dawn of Asia’s nuclear age has been calmer than that of Europe, and far calmer than the nuclear alarmists predicted.

But, as Paul Bracken and others have warned, we should not get complacent. When India tested its Agni-V missile in April, I and others raised a number of potential issues: Indian scientists were making cavalier statements of nuclear posture best left to political leaders, and the development of multiple warheads for each missile (known as MIRVs) and missile defense technology could all be destabilizing if not handled extremely carefully. India has legitimate deterrence requirements vis-a-vis China, but it would be counterproductive for this to become an open-ended expansion.

Pakistan’s nuclear trajectory is, however, altogether more worrying.

This issue is usually framed in terms of numbers. Pakistan possesses what is thought to be the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world and if present trends continue, could equal or surpass Britain’s stockpile within a decade. So far, the Western world has viewed this expansion as a nonproliferation issue, not a security one. But, over the longer-term, that could change. As a recent report from the EU Non-Proliferation Consortium noted, “EU members might have military facilities within reach of Pakistani longer-range missiles … or temporary bases and personnel” and, “in the case of a deterioration in Pakistan’s relations with the West, this could be a subject of concern.” Pakistan is free to dismiss European and American anxieties, but this will only reinforce the country’s longer-term isolation.

There is also a second, more serious concern. Pakistan is developing a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) that target not Indian cities, but Indian military formations on the battlefield. The purpose of these, as former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Maleeha Lodhi explained in November, is “to counterbalance India’s move to bring conventional military offensives to a tactical level.” The idea is that smaller nuclear weapons, used on Pakistani soil, would stop invading Indian forces in their tracks.

The rise of tactical nuclear weapons has been well documented over the past two years. What has received less scrutiny, however, is the doctrine on which this rise has been based. Pakistan’s nuclear advocates make the case that their approach is no different than NATO’s Cold War nuclear posture towards the Soviet Union, and like NATO is the inevitable result of a conventionally weaker country trying to negate its more powerful adversaries’ conventional advantage. But the problem is that this comparison misses some key facts.

First, NATO never intended to physically block a Soviet invasion with tactical nuclear weapons. By the 1960s, it had become clear that NATO would still lose even if it unleashed nukes. This goes for Pakistan too. According to one calculation, it would take up to 436 Pakistani nuclear weapons just to halt a single Indian armored division — a clearly absurd number, that leaps higher still if one assumes lower yield weapons and more dispersed Indian formations. Moreover, as Michael Krepon recently wrote, “Pakistan lacks the real-time surveillance capabilities to destroy [moving] armored columns, except where they are funneling into bridge crossings of water barriers.”

Second, NATO came to understand that tactical nuclear use would devastate the countries supposedly being defended. As the saying went, “the shorter the [nuclear] range, the deader the Germans.” Substitute “Punjabis” for “Germans”, and you have a clearer idea of the problem. The key insight is that NATO’s focus was on using nuclear weapons to send political signals — namely, to signal resolve with actions short of a strategic nuclear exchange — not to win on the battlefield. This distinction tends to be lost in discussions of Pakistan.

Third, tactical nuclear weapons are understood to be especially credible precisely because their forward deployment makes them so vulnerable. NATO, aware of this “use them or lose them” dilemma, pre-delegated launch authority for at least some of its tactical nuclear weapons — specifically, atomic demolition munitions — in Germany in the late 1950s.

There is some evidence that Pakistan has or will soon follow suit. In 2005, for instance, Feroz Hassan Khan, a senior official in Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division (SPD), explained that “partial pre-delegation” of weapons would be an “operational necessity because dispersed nuclear forces as well as central command authority … are vulnerable.” The SPD is widely admired for its professionalism, but pre-delegation inevitably dilutes command and control of nuclear weapons, however competent officials might be.

The differences between NATO in the 1950s and Pakistan in the 2010s should be obvious. Despite Germany’s Cold War problems with domestic terrorism, and occasionally questionable base security in NATO countries, it was hardly as if the Rhineland was wracked with jihadists. NATO’s military officers were also unquestionably under the command of elected civilian leaders.

Fourth, and finally, NATO’s reliance on tactical nuclear weapons was short-lived. After 1979, the Alliance withdrew more and more of these weapons from Europe. In fact, from 1980 to 1990 NATO removed a third of its nuclear weapons from Europe, much of this coming in the early part of the decade when the USSR was unveiling a new offensive military doctrine (ironically, elements of which are echoed in India’s Cold Start army doctrine today). But NATO felt able to do this because its conventional military capabilities were improving, thanks to Western technological superiority over the Russians.

Pakistan, by contrast, is conventionally falling behind in terms of military spending and technology. The gap between Indian and Pakistani military spending continues to grow. This suggests that Pakistan will continue to emphasize tactical nuclear weapons, which will entrench the risks laid out here. To be sure, India has also shown an interest in short-range nuclear-capable missiles (for instance, the Prahaar), but with nowhere near the same enthusiasm, and in a context in which Indian civilians are wary to entrusting the armed forces with such weapons in an operational context.

The Pakistani military argues that it needs to defend against India’s Cold Start. But Cold Start — itself of questionable feasibility — is about shallow incursions, hardly comparable to nation-threatening Soviet thrusts to the Atlantic. As the nuclear historian George Perkovich recently wrote, “the willingness to risk a breakdown in nuclear deterrence would only be rational if the threat that is being countered or deterred is of an existential scale. To risk suicide to redress a threat that is not itself mortal would be irrational.” A state cannot just choose to costlessly re-define all lesser threats as mortal ones. Simply reducing the nuclear threshold lower and lower is an unsustainable and unnecessary strategy, and can make it more rather than less likely that deterrence will fail in the event of a crisis.

Pakistan already has sufficient numbers and types of nuclear weapons to ensure its survival, and, like NATO before it, to send political signals through limited nuclear use even if a war does break out. Yet Pakistan’s present course, premised on a series of misunderstandings of tactical nuclear weapons, will increase friction with those nations who count themselves allies of Pakistan and generate new risks quite out of proportion to anything the country might gain.

Shashank Joshi is a Research Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute.

Photo Credit: Inter Services Public Relations (Pakistan Military)

Diplomats claim Iranian nuclear program is on verge of breakthrough

Tehran may be only days from being able to create weapons-grade uranium

VIENNA (AP) — Iran is on the threshold of being able to create weapons-grade uranium at a plant it has heavily fortified against Israeli attack, diplomats told The Associated Press on Thursday, calling into question an Israeli claim that Iran had slowed its nuclear time table.

One of three diplomats who discussed the issue said Iran was now technically ready within days to ramp up its production of 20 percent enriched uranium at its Fordo facility by nearly 700 centrifuges. That would double present output, and cut in half the time it would take to acquire enough of the substance needed to make a nuclear weapon, reducing it to just over three months.

Such a move would raise the stakes for Israel, which has said it believes the world has until next summer to stop Iran before it can get nuclear material and implied it would have time to decide whether to strike Fordo and other Iranian nuclear facilities.

The two other diplomats who spoke to the AP could not confirm the 700 number. But both agreed that Tehran over the past few months had put a sizeable number of centrifuges at Fordo under vacuum. It takes only a few days to begin enrichment with machines that are under vacuum.

While experts agree that the Islamic Republic could assemble enough weapons-grade uranium to arm a nuclear weapon relatively quickly, they point out that this is only one of a series of steps need to create a working weapon. They say that Tehran is believed to be years away from mastering the technology to manufacture a fully operational warhead.

All three diplomats are from member nations of the IAEA, which is scheduled to release its latest report on Iran’s nuclear program as early as Friday. They demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss restricted information with reporters.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s assertion earlier this month that Iran has “essentially delayed their arrival at the red line by eight months,” is in line with the timeframe laid out by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September, when he spoke at the U.N. General Assembly.

IAEA officials said they would have no comment. A phone call to Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s IAEA representative, went to voice mail.

Based on intelligence from the United States and other IAEA member nations as well as its own research, the agency suspects that Tehran has done secret work on developing nuclear weapons. Washington and its allies also fear that Iran is enriching uranium to reach the ability to make such arms. But Tehran denies any interest in atomic arms, dismisses allegations that it has conducted weapons experiments and insists it is enriching only to make nuclear fuel and for research.

In Washington, President Barack Obama told reporters there is still time for the United States and Iran to reach agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama said there should be a way for Iran to enjoy “peaceful nuclear power” while still meeting international obligations and providing assurances that they are not developing nuclear weapons.

The Vienna-based IAEA, in its last report in August, said that Tehran had doubled the number of centrifuges at Fordo within three months to more than 2,000. Diplomats since then have told reporters that hundreds more have been installed, bringing the total to nearly 2,800, or full capacity for Fordo. But the number operating — about 700 — has not changed from early this year.

Iran has a far larger enrichment plant at Natanz, in central Iran, which churns out uranium enriched below 4 percent. But the 20-percent material being produced at Fordo is of greater concern to the international community because it can be turned into weapons-grade uranium of 90 percent purity much more simply and quickly — and because the facility, near the holy city of Qom, is well protected against attack.

Barak’s comments appeared prompted by the IAEA’s August report, which said Iran had turned much of its 20-percent uranium into reactor fuel plates that are difficult to retool into warhead material. As a result, it is still far short of the amount of more highly enriched uranium it would need to progress to weapons-grade levels.

But depending on how many more centrifuges it activates, it could quickly replace the converted material and reach the 140 kilograms — about 300 pounds — needed for at least one warhead.

Tehran “should be in a position to produce enough (material) for two or three” nuclear warheads by the summer, if does decide to double output in the next few weeks, said Olli Heinonen, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s deputy director general in charge of the Iran file until 2010.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.