Tag Archives: Persian Gulf

#Obama Concealed Iranian Attack on #US Drone in International Airspace for Votes

By In other news you have to wait for after an election to find out about… two Iranian jets fired on a US drone in international airspace.

The unarmed, unmanned drone was conducting “routine surveillance” over the Persian Gulf when it was “intercepted” by Iran.

two Iranian jets fired twice, missing on both attempts — the drone headed away from the Iranian coast, landing safely soon after at an undisclosed location. The Iranian jets pursued the drone for a short period before giving up.

Little said the U.S. government has protested to the Iranians. Asked about how the U.S. could respond, he said: “We have a wide range of options from diplomatic to military.”

Bowing usually works for Obama. He could try bowing to the Iranian planes.

He would not say whether there were actually plans for a military response. Asked if this should be considered an act of war, Little said he didn’t want to get into “legal characterizations” of the event.

Right.

So why didn’t we hear about it before? Because it was classified due to concerns about national elections.

The shooting in the Gulf, which occurred just before 5 a.m. (0900 GMT) on Nov. 1, was unprecedented, Pentagon press secretary George Little said. The incident was not disclosed sooner because the military does not discuss classified surveillance missions, but agreed to answer questions after news reports revealed the shooting.

Right again. So which part of this report impacted national security exactly? Were the Iranians unaware of what they had done? No, it would have been bad timing before the election and it would have undermined Valerie Jarrett’s dirty nuclear deal with Iran.

Maybe Iran doesn’t know how much their pilots suck, since they ended up purging the pre-revolutionary air force?

Little said the drone was about 16 miles (26 kilometers) off the Iranian coast when the Russian-made SU-25 Frogfoot warplane intercepted it and opened fire. He said it was the first time an unmanned U.S. aircraft was shot at in international airspace over the Gulf.

According to the Pentagon, the Iranian war plane made at least two passes by the slower-moving drone, firing “multiple rounds.”

Little said that once the Predator drone came under fire, it began to move further out and the Iranian aircraft continued to pursue it “for some period of time before letting it return to base.” The Iranian plane did not follow the drone all the way back to its base, Little said, declining to say where that base was.

He said there was no other U.S. aircraft nearby that could respond to the attack, and added that the U.S. believes Iran was trying to shoot the drone down.

I suppose it’s hard to tell under such confusing circumstances.

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The Dangers of Accepting Iran as a Nuclear Threshold State

It has already been noted many times that one key difference between Israel and the U.S. over Iran is that Washington can wait far longer than Israel before it decides that it has no choice but to use force in order to destroy the Iranian nuclear program. In the simplest of terms, while the U.S. can keep trying negotiations and sanctions until five minutes before midnight, when Iran crosses the nuclear finishing line, Israel would have to already act at 11:30. In mid-August, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempseyremarked “we admit that our are clocks ticking at different paces.”

There are multiple reasons given why the U.S. can afford to wait. The most commonly discussed explanation is the much greater firepower of the U.S. Air Force in comparison with the Israel Air Force. Presumably, against a fleet of B-2 bombers, there is no “zone of immunity” that Iran can create for its Iranian nuclear facilities. Dempsey gave another explanation, “Israel sees the Iranian threat more seriously than the U.S. sees it, because a nuclear Iran poses a threat to Israel’s very existence.”

A third reason given by the U.S. for why it can wait has to do with its confidence that it will have the intelligence it needs to detect that Iran has crossed the nuclear threshold. In early March 2012, President Barack Obama told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, “Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is not in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time in which we will know that they are making that attempt.” Perhaps Obama was thinking that as long as Tehran did not kick out the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency and shut down their cameras, as it made a final dash to nuclear weapons in what experts call “nuclear breakout,” the U.S. would not have to consider the use of force against Iran.

Although he did not say this explicitly, Obama left open the possibility that in the meantime, Iran could move forward with its program in the coming months, while facing sanctions and diplomatic pressure, as long as it didn’t actually cross the nuclear weapons threshold, it would not face an American attack. As noted in this column previously, there is a huge risk with accepting an Iranian threshold strategy, which former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out in 2010. At that time he said that if Iran reached the nuclear “threshold,” but did not assemble the bomb, the U.S. would not know that it had completed the final assembly of an atomic weapon.

In the meantime, Iran has been working to shorten this threshold phase, making the intelligence challenge even greater. By producing a growing stock of 20 percent enriched uranium, it has cut in half the time needed to enrich uranium to the 90% weapons-grade level. In the meantime, by next spring its stock of low enriched uranium will be sufficient for at least eight atomic bombs, upon further enrichment. In July, the head of the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran, Fereydoun Abbas-Divani, boasted that Iran now has the technology to move quickly toward producing weapons-grade uranium.

According to IAEA reports, Iran has been working on warheads outfitted to carry an atomic weapon for the 1300 kilometer range Shahab-3 missile. If all that is left to complete an operational nuclear weapon is a few more weeks of work, then letting Iran reach a threshold capacity is very dangerous for obvious reasons: When nuclear breakout occurs, Iran can quickly build a substantial nuclear arsenal.

But waiting for the very last minute to act against Iran when it actually crosses the nuclear threshold also carries a steep diplomatic price for the United States. Over time, many states, especially in the Persian Gulf, will conclude that the U.S. will never take any action against Iran, even though the Iranian threat is growing. This was illustrated in another interview Goldberg conducted with the UAE ambassador to Washington, Yusuf al-Otaiba, who warned him: “There are many countries in the region, who if they lack the assurance the U.S. is willing to confront Iran, they will start running for cover towards Iran.”

What the UAE ambassador was essentially saying was that as time goes on, if there are growing doubts about American resolve to destroy the Iranian nuclear program, and Tehran succeeds in “decoupling” (to use a Cold War term) the Arab states from Washington, then the U.S. alliance structure in the Arabian Peninsula might eventually collapse. Students of international politics probably recall the distinction drawn by US academics, like Kenneth Waltz, between states that seek to unite and “balance” a common threat by creating an alliance and states that give up and get on the “bandwagon” of their adversaries. Accepting Iran with a threshold nuclear capacity will eventually result in Arab states getting on the Iranian bandwagon.

Indeed, senior Arab officials in the Persian Gulf point out that Qatar’s alliance with the U.S. began to change after the Bush administration released the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). In particular, many were disturbed by the language used in its summary which contended that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. As a result of the NIE, the Qataris immediately began to doubt the resolve of the U.S. to deal with the Iranian challenge. Consequently, Qatar changed its policy toward Washington, and adopted a pro-Iranian orientation, presumably in order to safeguard its security.

Because of the Syrian crisis, it appears that Qatar has shifted back to the Sunni bloc for now. But that tactical change does not eliminate the fact that there is a big risk for the West if it accepts a threshold policy for Iran: what happened with Qatar in 2007 could easily spread to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states, which would seek to reduce their ties with Washington over time and acquiesce to Iran’s demands for much higher oil prices in OPEC.

For all these reasons, letting Iran reach the status of a nuclear threshold power is a big mistake. In January 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that the U.S. objected to Iranian nuclear weapons capabilities and not just to the production of the weapons themselves. But how is the U.S. translating that position into practical policy, especially when it comes to the use of force, when it becomes clear to the White House that diplomacy has reached a dead end? For Iran, Washington’s tolerance of a nuclear threshold capacity allows it to build up the size of its future nuclear forces, to split the U.S. from its Arab allies over time, without having to risk an American military strike. If this situation continues, it will become far harder in the future for any state to stop Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

Cooling off Israel and Riling up Americans

by Shoshana Bryen

While noting in The Washington Post that Israel “cannot afford to outsource its security to another country,” Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israeli Military Intelligence, contends that President Obama can/should frame “a nuclear-armed Iran as an impermissible threat to the national interests of the United States and its allies in the Persian Gulf.”  This, he says, would have the effect of “cooling off” Israel and, presumably, permitting more time for U.S.-led diplomacy.  He requests that the President:

  1. Notify the U.S. Congress in writing that he reserves the right to use military force to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a military nuclear capability.
  2. Signal its intentions via a heightened US military presence in the gulf, military exercises with Middle East allies and missile defense deployments in the region.
  3. Provide advanced military technology and intelligence to strengthen Israel’s military capabilities and extend the window in which Israel can mortally would Iran’s program.
  4. Speak publicly about the dangers of possible Iranian nuclear reconstitution in the wake of a military strike.
  5. Publicly commit to the security of U.S. allies in the Gulf.

He’s thinking — reasonably enough — like an Israeli.  But all of those actions that would “cool off” Israel, would rile the American public, particularly if the public believes eventual American military action against Iran is only in the security interest of another country and not essential to our own.  Here, in fact, is where the President and Israel have an enormous gap in perception — none of MG Yadlin’s five recommendations adequately explains why Iran is a threat to the United States, only that the U.S. is prepared to go to war again over something.

The President has sent strong and unmistakable signals that he understands that Iran poses an unacceptable threat to Israel, which under certain circumstances the United States would eliminate for Israel. Not bad for Israel, but Americans have been engaged in two wars (and several semi-wars) over eleven years and unless someone convinces us that another war is necessary, our government ought not to be making promises to someone else. This, the President has failed to do.

How could the President ensure that Americans understand the danger posed by Iran to the United States and our interests abroad and thus provide himself the flexibility to act if/when it becomes necessary? He could:

1. Explain specifically why Iran is a threat to the United States. Talk about how the war against the U.S. engendered by the 1979 Iranian Revolution never ended.  It is not ancient history. Explain the expansionist nature of the Iranian regime.

2. Stop saying, “The tide of war is receding,” particularly while announcing that the U.S. is committed to ensuring the safe passage of oil through the Strait of Hormuz despite Iranian threats.  This may require military action — it may well require a war — though not on behalf of Israel.  Oil through the Strait benefits sellers (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE) and buyers who are primarily not us (China, India, Japan, South Korea and European countries that are much more dependent on Middle East oil than the 18% the U.S. imports from there).  Americans might, actually, agree that to a war that secures Israel, but would they agree to a war that benefits Saudi Arabia and China? It isn’t clear, but the case for why the U.S. might find itself at war in the Strait has not been made.

3. Prepare the American people for a rise in oil prices and prepare for an exponential rise in domestic oil production. The Obama administration has consistently and publicly balanced America’s need for oil at an acceptable price with threats to Iran.  At the moment, the Administration is talking about opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — “to keep Iran from profiting from the rising price of oil.” Nonsense. There isn’t enough oil in the Reserve to do it; but there is quite enough to ensure that Americans don’t feel a higher pinch at the gas pump. If the President was serious about cutting off Iran’s ability to export oil and thus serious about minimizing its income, he wouldn’t have given waivers to 20 importing countries, including China and India — two of Iran’s biggest clients.

4. End the waivers.

5. Discuss Iranian-supported Hezb’allah in its proper context as an enemy of the United States.  Hezb’allah is, in fact, on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, but U.S. fully recognizes and works with and provides aid to the Hezb’allah-controlled government in Beirut. Lebanon was a party to Eager Lion 2012, the U.S. Special Operations exercise in Jordan in May. This makes it hard to protest the EU decision not to list Hezb’allah as a terrorist organization. The Europeans asked for “proof” of its terrorist nature but the U.S. didn’t mention that until September 11, 2001, Hezb’allah was responsible for killing more Americans than any other group.  The 241 Marines killed in the barracks in Lebanon, the 16 Americans killed in the bombing of our Beirut Embassy, Navy Diver Robert Dean Stethem and Col. Rich Higgins, USMC are not ancient history either. They should have been on the tip of the Administration’s tongue. Instead, it simply supports Israel’s contention that Hezb’allah threatens Israel.

Seriously preparing Americans for the possibility of American intervention in Iran as an American national security interest would have the salutary effect MG Yadlin seeks for Israel, with the added benefit of honesty and clarity for our own citizens.  It hasn’t happened.  And since the President continues to discuss Iran primarily in terms of a threat to others — while fairly loudly insisting that “others” not do anything about it — it is unlikely he will fulfill the general’s conditions for “cooling off” Israel.

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.  She was previously Senior Director for Security Policy at JINSA and author of JINSA Reports form 1995-2011.