Sunday, August 29, 2004

Pakistan-Iran agree to enhance trade volume in steel industry

Pakistan-Iran agree to enhance trade volume in steel industry - PakTribune: "Pakistan-Iran agree to enhance trade volume in steel industry
Sunday August 29, 2004 (1345 PST)

TEHRAN, August 30 (Online): Iran will provide technical assistance of experts to Pakistan in the exploration, expansion and modernization of steel production plants at Pakistan Steel, Karachi.
The above proposal was agreed in a meeting of Chairman, Pakistan Steel Mills, Ltd Gen Abdul Qayyum (Retd) with the Iranian Deputy Minister for Mines and Industry, Mr. Mostafa Moazenzadeh here on Sunday. Both wee discussed ways and means to benefit from each other's experience in the field of steel.

Chairman Steel Mills General Qayyum expressed the feeling of goodwill to Iranians on the behalf of Pakistani people and informed the Iranian Deputy Minister about the economic vision of President Musharraf and the resolve and commitment of internationally reputed Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Shaukat Aziz to make Pakistan prosperous and welfare state.

He said that Pakistan was the first country who started importing iron ore from Iran an couple of years ago and Pakistan steel is keen to import more iron ore from Iran provided it met the international quality standard.

He highlighted relatively low quantum of trade between Iran and Pakistan at US $ 92 million exports from Pakistan to Iran and US $ 265 million imports from Iran during the financial year 2003-04.

The4 Chairman Steel Mills and Iranian Minister for Mines agreed to expand the scope of bilateral trade between the two states.

The Iranian Minister assured that chairman Pakistan Steel Mills that Iran would honour its contractual obligations for supply of iron ore to Pakistan and expressed the optimism that the private companies working in the field of steel in Iran would like to make investment in various economic, industrial and mining sectors in Pakistan.

The Iranian Deputy Minister agreed to the proposal by Chairman PSM Qayyum to send a delegation of experts to Pakistan to examine and discuss the areas of cooperation between Iran and Pakistan steel industry.

Beside, the Iranian Minister accepted the proposal to train Pakistan Steel Engineers and technicians in Isphahan Steel Industry which was founded by ex-Soviet Union and later expanded by the Iranian Authorities.

He also accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan in the near future."

Statement of Mr. David Szady on Changes the FBI is Making to the Counterintelligence Program

Statement of Mr. David Szady on Changes the FBI is Making to the Counterintelligence Program: "April 9, 2002


Statement for the Record of
David Szady
Assistant Director, Counterintelligence Division
Federal Bureau of Investigation


on
Changes the FBI is Making
to the Counterintelligence Program


Before the
United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
Washington, D.C.

Mr. Chairman, Senator Hatch, and other members of the Committee, I would like to express my appreciation to you for inviting me to share my thoughts and provide you with an update on the changes we are making to the Counterintelligence program at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). I am pleased to be appearing jointly today with Kenneth Senser, Assistant Director of the FBI's recently established Security Division. By necessity the cooperation between our two Divisions is complementary and seamless. Our Director is committed to protecting the full range of U.S. national security interests and has made counterintelligence, along with counterterrorism and prevention, his highest priorities.

Because the world has changed so dramatically, the FBI is making significant changes to its Counterintelligence program. Our end goal is more effective and efficient detection, prevention, and disruption of hostile foreign intelligence activity directed against the United States and its interests. The FBI appreciates your support as we continue to implement these changes across our organization. First, I would like to provide a very brief assessment of the characteristics of the foreign intelligence threats of the 21st Century, for they provide a basis for understanding our new national, centrally managed counterintelligence strategy.

The Threat Environment

The United States today faces an intelligence threat that is far more complex than it has ever been historically. The threat is increasingly asymmetrical insofar as it seeks to exploit the areas where there is a perception of weakness within the U.S. national security approach and organizations. Traditional notions of counterintelligence that focus on hostile foreign intelligence services targeting classified national defense information simply do not reflect the realities of today's complex international structure. Foreign targeting of the elements of national power, including our vibrant national economic and commercial interests, continues to evolve. While traditional adversaries were limited to centrally controlled national intelligence services, today's adversaries include not only these traditional services but also non-traditional and non-state actors who operate from decentralized organizations. Moreover, the techniques and methodologies used to target classified, sensitive, and commercially valuable proprietary information march forward with the advance of technology.

This new environment and the uncertain future that accompanies it present the FBI with new challenges. The FBI's role as the leader of the nation's counterintelligence efforts requires that we understand all dimensions of the intelligence threats facing the nation and match them with new and innovative investigative and operational strategies. The FBI must continually assess and measure its performance against ever-evolving threats found in these new and different environments. The constant parade of new technologies, the vulnerabilities created by them, the extraordinary value of commercial information and the globalization of everything are but a few examples. The FBI must focus its resources on those actors that constitute the most significant intelligence threats facing the nation, wherever that might come from and in all of these new arenas.

The FBI Response

In response to the increasingly complex intelligence threat environment, the FBI is taking measures that re-orient its counterintelligence strategy, prioritize intelligence threats, and make the requisite organizational and managerial changes to ensure U.S. national security interests are protected. The following initiatives are underway:

Nationally-Directed Strategy

We recognize that in order to mitigate the intelligence threats our country is now facing, we must continually redesign our Counterintelligence program. Historically, when the threat lines were more clearly drawn, counterintelligence at the FBI was largely decentralized, with field divisions setting local priorities and assigning resources accordingly. To effectively recognize and counter the extremely diverse intelligence threats now evolving, a new more centralized and nationally directed, focused, and prioritized program is more effective. By centralizing our program we will ensure the ability of the FBI to be more proactive and predictive in protecting the critical national assets of our country. Centralization cements accountability regarding counterintelligence program direction, control and leadership. Moreover, a centralized counterintelligence program facilitates the FBI's cooperative and collaborative interaction with other members of the United States Intelligence Community. The counterintelligence environment must be transparent.

Our National Strategy will be totally integrated with the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX), or CI-21, to ensure that our efforts are focused on policy driven priorities and that we are positioned to protect identified critical national assets. Our efforts will also be seamless with the CIA to ensure that our counterintelligence efforts extend worldwide.

As part of this nationally directed strategy, I have undertaken a comprehensive strategic planning effort that is providing the FBI with the framework in which to prioritize and address intelligence threats. This framework is based on community-wide analysis and direction and recognizes that there can never be unlimited resources so we must be focused on the greatest threats. This will better position the FBI for the future by changing our performance expectations, management practices and processes and workforce. The central elements of this initiative are:

Development of clear strategic objectives and operational priorities in support of those objectives. As the Assistant Director of Counterintelligence for the FBI, I have responsibility for meeting these objectives and will be held accountable for their successful implementation. Some characteristics of this effort include the establishment of:
A highly trained and specialized Counterintelligence workforce with a management team that reinforces counterintelligence as a specialized priority career within the FBI.
A much stronger operational component within the Counterintelligence Division to include a stronger program management role and specific accountability at Headquarters.
An ongoing system of accountability that clearly defines responsibilities for all elements of counterintelligence both at Headquarters and in the field; and
An enhanced communication strategy that is more effectively communicating counterintelligence policy, plans, priorities, and management concerns throughout the counterintelligence program.
Greatly enhanced analytical support that relies more extensively on highly specialized disciplines and that is interwoven into the intelligence community as a whole.
Organizational Changes

Accepting responsibility to prevent and disrupt foreign intelligence threats and espionage from threatening U.S. national security requires the Counterintelligence Division to adopt a more proactive posture, the kind envisioned by CI-21. In order to fully evolve to this posture, the FBI is developing operational strategies that strategically align our resources in a manner consistent with community-wide national priorities. A fully proactive posture also requires candor in acknowledging our limitations and constraints, and courage in committing ourselves to confront and overcome them. One organizational change I have made consistent with this goal is the establishment of a Counterespionage Section within the Counterintelligence Division from existing base resources. This new section is responsible for managing all of our major espionage investigations. The section also evaluates and prioritizes all existing espionage cases to ensure effective allocation of financial and human resources and expertise to these top priority cases. I want to ensure that these cases are being handled and managed by the most highly skilled and trained FBI personnel.

Resources

In order to meet the challenges ahead of us, I am ensuring that the most important resources the Counterintelligence Division has, its human resources, have the appropriate tools available to effectively implement our mission. While the FBI has historically provided counterintelligence training to new special agents and support personnel and provided specialized courses as advances training, a systematic approach to a comprehensive counterintelligence training regimen applicable throughout an Agent's career has not been in place. The FBI is currently studying its counterintelligence training program. Agents and analysts assigned to work counterintelligence should have a systematic and integrated training program that allows them to continually refine their operational, investigative and analytical skills as their careers advance and a program to ensure that FBI counterintelligence personnel have the same knowledge and understandings as those elsewhere in the community.

Analysis is another area of my focus. Counterintelligence analysis is central to our program, as it not only provides tactical support to ongoing investigations and operations, but is also integral to providing strategic analysis in assessing the foreign intelligence threat we face. With the dissolution of the Investigative Service Division (ISD), many of the counterintelligence analysts have returned to the Counterintelligence Division. It is my job, working with our training Academy and our new college of analytical studies, to have in place a world class analytical function that operates seamlessly within the larger community effort. I think today's challenges require much greater reliance on, and bring in much greater numbers of, outside subject matter experts to bolster our efforts and understanding.

Information management and intelligence sharing are also two areas that we are improving in concert with the directives established by Director Mueller regarding these subjects. The technology being put in place at the FBI will vastly increase our capability to maximize the value of what we know and, even more basic, to know what we know. These new technologies will be the thread that ties the sum of the community body of knowledge together.

Summary

Counterintelligence and counterterrorism are the FBI's leading priorities. If we are to successfully mitigate the asymmetrical intelligence threats facing us today and in the future, a new approach, new ways of thinking and better technology are required. We are in the process of redesigning the counterintelligence program at the FBI. It will be much more centralized to ensure the program is nationally directed, prioritized, and that appropriate management and accountability measures are in place. The Counterintelligence Division will continue to work closely with the Security Division to ensure that our activities are complementary and that the FBI is able to comprehensively address any internal threats. Through our ongoing comprehensive strategic planning process, we are ensuring that our counterintelligence priorities, performance expectations and management practices are designed in a manner that is responsive to ensuring our national objectives are achieved. We are working to not only ensure that counterintelligence personnel have the best possible tools to conduct their work, but also to enhance the training and experience amongst counterintelligence personnel and to bolster counterintelligence as a specialized and vital career within the FBI.

"

israelinsider: diplomacy: Israel and its supporters flatly deny "dubious" claims of espionage

israelinsider: diplomacy: Israel and its supporters flatly deny "dubious" claims of espionage: "Israel and its supporters flatly deny "dubious" claims of espionage
By israelinsider staff August 29, 2004

Israeli and American Jewish leaders categorically rejected the possibility that Israel was operating a spy in the United States. "Israel is not aware of having received information from this man," a Jerusalem source told Haaretz. "Nobody used him, people hardly knew him, and we don't understand this fantasy," another source said. "Since the Pollard affair, no intelligence man would dare think of gathering information in the U.S."

On Friday, CBS News ran a report claiming that the FBI had been conducting a long investigation into alleged improprieties by a Pentagon staffer, who supposedly passed classified material to representative of AIPAC. The staffer, a non-Jewish analyst named by the Washington Post as Larry Franklin, is a reserve colonel in the U.S. Air Force who has in the past been assigned to Israel.

Israel's defense establishment said it conducted a thorough examination over the weekend with all security and intelligence bodies to verify the reports that a Pentagon employee passed secret information to Israel. "The examination revealed what we expected," said a senior defense official. "There are no sanctioned espionage operations going on against the United States. There is no truth to these reports." Another officials characterized the whole affair as a "lie" -- a charge that showed up in a headline on Israel's leading newspaper.

Knesset Member Yuval Shteinitz, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Israeli Parliament, said: "Speaking as someone who is completely responsible for the supervision of Israel's secret services, this did not happen and never will. There are no spies in the Pentagon and not in the United States."

The most authoritative on-the-record Israeli statement to date comes from Military Intelligence chief Major General Aharon Ze'evi, who on Sunday flatly denied that Israel is collecting intelligence information in the United States. "We are not running any operatives or collecting intelligence in the U.S.," he said. "The U.S. is an ally. I believe that this is an internal problem."

The reference to an "internal problem" was raised repeatedly in Israel today, alluding to a perceived power struggle within the U.S. government over who was to blame for 9/11 and also divisions concerning responsibility for faulty intelligence preceding the war against Iraq.

Eytan Gilboa, a respected Israeli commentator on American affairs, suggested that the revelation was timed on the eve of the Republican convention to embarrass or even slander President Bush or was part of a power struggle between officials representing the traditional pre-9/11 State/CIA approach to the Middle East and the counter-terrorist policies advocated by the Pentagon and the Vice President. Another factor was that both the CIA and the FBI are engaged in a "battle for survival" after repeated U.S. commissions have attacked them for failing to prevent 9/11. Israel, according to Haaretz, has been "caught in the crossfire" between these agencies and their Pentagon rivals. The word "scapegoat" has been bandied about on Israeli radio talk shows.

Minister in charge of Diaspora Affairs, Natan Sharansky became the first Israeli Cabinet minister to speak in public about the matter, raised the same point in an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation televisionk, insisting that to the best of his knowledge, Israel strictly enforces a ban on spying in the United States. "I hope it's all a mistake or misunderstanding of some kind, maybe a rivalry between different bodies," he said, singling out "the Pentagon and the CIA."

"There are absolutely no attempts to involve any member of the Jewish community and any general American citizens to spy for Israel against the United States," Sharansky said.


U.S. officials involved in the Mideast diplomatic process also appear puzzled. "The whole thing makes no sense to me," said Dennis Ross, special envoy on the Arab-Israeli peace process during the Clinton presidency and the first Bush administration and. "The Israelis have access to all sorts of people. They have access in Congress and in the administration. They have people who talk about these things," said Ross, now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Indeed, suspicions have been voiced that the whole affair is either "a storm in a cup of water, as former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Meir Rosenne. Some even suggested that the leak was an intentional smear against Israel or the "Jewish lobby," especially as it coincided with the eve of the Republican National Convention.

Uzi Arad, a former senior official in Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, expressed his view that the allegations were leaked to hurt the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. "They way it was reported, they pointed out in which office [Franklin] worked," Arad told Israel Radio. "They pointed at people like Doug Feith" -- a senior official in Pentagon policy-setting, and a Jew -- and other defense officials who have long been under attack within the American bureaucracy."

AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, forcefully denied any wrongdoing. "Any allegation of criminal conduct by AIPAC or our employees is false and baseless. Neither AIPAC nor any of its employees has violated any laws or rules, nor has AIPAC or its employees ever received information they believed was secret or classified," the group said in a statement. AIPAC is cooperating fully with the governmental authorities. It has provided documents and information to the government and has made staff available for interviews."

Pentagon officials also have downplayed the significance of the allegation, stressing that Franklin was not in a position to significant influence over U.S. policy. "The Defense Department has been cooperating with the Department of Justice for an extended period of time," a Pentagon statement said. "It is the DOD's understanding that the investigation within DOD is very limited in its scope."

There are indications that if a charge is filed -- and after a reported year of investigation there has been apparently insufficient evidence to make an arrest -- it would probably be something far less serious than espionage, and may even be reduced to a technicality.

On the other hand, the Washington Post reports that there may be plans to investigate more senior Defense officials,
Newsweek said the investigation was launched after agents monitoring a conversation between an Israeli Embassy official and an AIPAC lobbyist noticed a Pentagon employee walking in. The FBI shortly thereafter began to follow Franklin and even allegedly saw him trying to pass a classified US policy document on Iran to one of its surveillance targets. But his alleged confederate was "too smart" and refused to take it, the Newsweek report states. It was not explained how the refusal to accept to document supports claims that classified information was in fact passed through AIPAC.

Israeli officials were dismissive of the whole affair, saying that Israel had far more to lose than to gain from spying on the United States. One official, who spoke to The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity, said that the entire story was dubious from the start, noting that the two nations are very close strategic allies with enormous sharing of intelligence, especially as it pertained to Iran, the apparent subject of the classified document in question.

"We have very good, excellent working relations with the Americans, and we are very discreet about it. There is no need to operate [spies] in the Pentagon or anywhere else in the United States," the senior official said. "Also, it wouldn't be in our interest to take actions that would jeopardize these relations that we've built up over the years," he added.

Nevertheless, the suspicions of undue Israeli influence persist, and have already caused tremors in the American Jewish community stung since the Jonathan Pollard affair by allegations of "dual loyalty."

In this respect, Sharansky noted, the fact that the FBI has an investigation does great damage. "It revives the old charge that Israel is not an ally but a treacherous country, and the old saw that American Jews have a 'divided loyalty' problem." Sharansky said. "There is no doubt that these publications are damaging, [and] even though they are false, they are damaging," he said.

Likud MK Ehud Yatom, chairman of the Knesset subcommittee on covert intelligence, said he anticipated that the claims against Israeli would be soon withdrawn. "I imagine that within a few days the United States will come out with an announcement that Israel has no connection whatsoever with the supposed spy and his activities," he told Israel Radio.

Despite all the denials, Haaretz reports that senior members of the U.S. intelligence community have repeatedly suspected Israel of spying on the United States.

One American official, who declined to be identified, drew attention to the huge difference between the current investigation and the Pollard affair. "Pollard brought a box of documents out every day. He was paid by the Israelis. It was run out of the [Israeli] Embassy in Washington. This is a guy who probably mishandled information. Suddenly everyone is jumping the gun saying, 'This is like Pollard.' It is irresponsible to be saying this," the official said.

Former Mossad head Danny Yatom revealed that former CIA Director George Tenet believed that Israel was engaged in such activity in 1997-98; Yatom flew to the U.S. for a one-on-one meeting with Tenet to prove that the charges were baseless. Tenet dropped his suspicions as a result and wrote Yatom a letter of apology.

Still, AIPAC was already anticipating the negative fallout. In a memo sent via e-mail to members, AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr and President Bernice Manocherian wrote: "We will not let any innuendo or false allegation against AIPAC distract us from our central mission -- supporting America's interests in the Middle East and advocating for a strong relationship with Israel."

The letter called for greater support: "In the coming days and weeks, it will be critical for members like you to continue to demonstrate your confidence as Americans, supporters of Israel and members of AIPAC."

An AIPAC official told the Washington Post:, ?Our folks are pretty outraged about this. We?ve had these kinds of accusations before, and none of them has ever proven to be true.?

One U.S. Jewish official, quoted anonymously, said he let out an audible sigh of relief upon learning that Larry Franklin was not Jewish."

DEBKAfile - Suspected Israeli Spy in Pentagon: First the Leak, Then the Fallout

DEBKAfile - Suspected Israeli Spy in Pentagon: First the Leak, Then the Fallout: "Suspected Israeli Spy in Pentagon: First the Leak, Then the Fallout

DEBKAfile Special Analysis

August 28, 2004, 6:45 PM (GMT+02:00)


FBI team leader Szady


It is very likely that one or more arrests will ensue from the leaked report run by CBS News Friday, August 27, of a high-profile FBI probe against a Pentagon official on suspicion of passing secrets to Israel through two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC. Without such arrests, the report would lose its credibility.

The vigorous denials by Israel and AIPAC indicate that both expect the reported investigation to move into the detention stage. Within hours of the first disclosure, the name of Larry Franklin, a desk officer-analyst who works with two top Pentagon officials, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, turned up “unofficially” in the Washington Post as the suspected Israeli mole. So too did the name Dave Szady, as head of the FBI inquiry team.

Depending on who is arrested and the nature of the charges, the investigation is fraught with a high degree of damage to President George W. Bush’s Middle East policy and his core advisory team, eight weeks before he stands for re-election. Already, there are marks of strain in US-Israel relations and Bush’s ties with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon are bound to be affected. The harm is visible even before the investigation has determined whether it will lead to a charge of espionage or lesser offenses of improper disclosure or the mishandling of classified materials.

An AIPAC official said to the Washington Post:, “Our folks are pretty outraged about this. We’ve had these kinds of accusations before, and none of them has ever proven to be true.”

The pro-Israel lobby has categorically denied the accusation against two of its employees but prepared for the worst by hiring outside counsel.

The Pentagon quickly asserted that the suspected official was in no position to influence US policy and the investigation in the department was very limited in scope. Jerusalem officials heatedly maintained that no Israeli intelligence-gathering resources had been active in Washington for many years.

These statements are but initial knee-jerk reactions to the first disclosure in the pre-arrest stage of the affair. But even the first report is remarkable for its multi-targeted sweep. Impugned is

the top policy advisory level of the Department of Defense - from deputy defense secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, through Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy and William J. Luti, deputy undersecretary of defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs. He oversaw the Pentagon’s “Office of Special Plans,” which conducted some early policy work for the 2003 invasion of Iraq including issues of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s links to al Qaeda.

The unit’s work is a vital White House policy tool on the Iran question as well as Iraq. It is one of the two Pentagon offices that Bush administration critics accused Pentagon hawks of setting up to bypass the CIA and other intelligence arms. The possibility cannot be ruled out that by leveling a single sensational accusation, some American intelligence element believing itself sidelined struck out against Bush, his top team and his policies by the simple device of tarring Israel and the influential organization representing its cause in Washington – in one fell swoop.

Without being spelled out, the implication has been planted that, 19 years after the Jonathan Pollard affair, Israel is still running moles to dig out American secrets in order to manipulate US policies for its own rather than American interests. The media will recall that some of Pollard’s intelligence-military controllers had been allies of Ariel Sharon in his former service as defense minister. If Franklin is proved beyond doubt to have been an Israeli spy and the two AIPAC employees, his contacts for transferring secrets to Israel, Sharon will automatically come under a cloud, inferentially accused of harking back to his old ways. All this innuendo will cause Israel incalculable damage in the United States, even before the FBI establishes whether or not it has a case.

Therefore, the way the new spy sensation unfolds is important as much for its political fallout and nuanced marginal notes as for the legal case.

The timing of the disclosure should be instructive. Was it leaked for the ulterior motive of hurting the Bush run for re-election against Senator John Kerry, by suggesting that his key decisions on the Iraqi war were determined not only by the neocons of his administration but by a foreign mole? Or was the motive quite different? Might it not have been designed for showing the president as having rid himself of the influence of the Pentagon team and Israel by the very fact of the probe against that team, Israel and its foremost Washington lobbyist, APAIC?

This tactic is not unknown. A former Republican president, Ronald Reagan, though indisputably a friend of Israel, fought hard against AIPAC over the sale of US AWACs to Saudi Arabia and dealt harshly with the spy Pollard.

If the White House is indeed conforming to this pattern, it would mean that the Bush administration has given up on Sharon and his chances of forcing through his disengagement plans and is ready to drop their collaborative relations.

A falling out between Bush and Sharon would cause great celebration in Tehran. Even the initial disclosure must have given Iran’s hard-line clerics cause to rub their hands in glee after a highly profitable week. Israel’s Arrow anti-ballistic missile system missed its aim against a Scud missile performing similarly to their Shehab-3, the weapon that is the backbone of Iran’s deterrent force against American military forces in Iraq and its insurance against Israel demolishing their nuclear weapons production facilities. Two days later, the Israeli mole in the Pentagon affair erupted, an event that will be seen in Tehran as tying the Bush administration’s hands in a way that will hamper its ability to take action against Iran’s advancing nuclear weapons program."

Israel to US: Now for Iran

Aljazeera.Net - Israel to US: Now for Iran: "Israel to US: Now for Iran
By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

Sunday 29 August 2004, 14:00 Makka Time, 11:00 GMT
Tehran maintains its nuclear programme is for civil purposes

Having succeeded in getting the United States to invade and occupy Iraq, Israel is now making efforts to instigate the Bush administration to deal with the "Iranian threat".


This week, a high-ranking Israeli official urged the US "and the rest of the free world" to deal with the "Iranian threat before it is too late".

The remarks - reminiscent of the vitriolic propaganda campaign against Iraq prior to the Anglo-American invasion of the Arab country last year - coincided with the publication of an article by a leading Israeli military historian Martin Van-Creveld, suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might very well order an attack on Iranian nuclear plants.

Writing in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune on 21 August, Creveld opined that an Israeli or American (or a joint Israeli-American) attack on Iranian nuclear plants may be carried out before the US November elections.

Israel reportedly possess a big arsenal of nuclear weapons - estimates range from 100 to 400 weapons and bombs - along with efficient delivery systems, including a fleet of long-range American-supplied F-15 fighter bombers as well as the medium range ballistic missile Yeriho.

Justification

Seeking to justify Tel Aviv's fixation on Iran, Israeli leaders are citing three reasons why Iran ought to dispose of its alleged would-be nuclear capability.

"Israel simply wants to keep five hundred million Muslims in this region under the mercy of its nuclear arsenal"

Abdul Sattar Qassem,
Political Science Professor,
Najah University, Nablus,

These include the Islamist nature of the Iranian regime, Iran's refusal to recognise Israel and the Islamic republic's alleged support of resistance groups fighting Israeli occupation and colonisation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem as well as part of Southern Lebanon.

However, according to Abdul Sattar Qassem, Professor of Political Science at the Najah University in Nablus, these are only "pretexts".

"I believe that Israel is the most dangerous state in the world today. Imagine what state the stability and security of the world would be in if the messianic Jewish extremists of Gush Euminim reached power in Israel and suddenly found themselves in control of Israel's massive nuclear arsenal."

Maintaining supremacy

Qassem believes that the sole motive behind Israel's currently evolving showdown with Iran is the Israeli determination to "maintain its nuclear monopoly and strategic supremacy in this region".

"Israel simply wants to keep five hundred million Muslims in this region under the mercy of its nuclear arsenal. The appearance of any possible strategic deterrence would upset Israel's strategic calculations and might rectify the strategic balance of power in the Middle East."

Creveld tacitly agrees, saying that "Iran would be crazy" not to try developing a nuclear capability, given Israel's aggrandising nuclear armaments, including the reported deployment of nuclear-equipped submarines in the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea and perhaps the Persian Gulf.


Israel reportedly makes nuclear
weapons at its Dimona reactor

"It all depends on Ariel Sharon - an old war-horse who back in 1982 led Israel into a disastrous invasion of Lebanon. One can only hope that this time he will think twice," the military historian said.

In the public relations battle, Israel argues that Iran is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state, a claim that is much less than true since Iran has said repeatedly that it would accept any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would be acceptable to the Palestinians.

Furthermore, Iran could also make a similar argument, quoting statements by Israeli ministers and officials calling for the extermination of millions of Muslims.

No easy target

Israeli strategists recognise that attacking and destroying Iranian nuclear installations would not be an easy job.

These facilities, they admit, are widely dispersed, well-guarded and housed in underground bunkers.

"It wouldn't be as easy as the attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor," said Ephraim Ascolai, a nuclear weapons expert at the Jafee Centre for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, alluding to the Israeli attack on the Osirak reactor in 1981.

But in an interview with Aljazeera.net, Ascolai pointed out that an Israeli attack on Iranian facilities was not unthinkable.

He argued, however, that the "Iranian nuclear crisis" was not an exclusively Israeli problem, but a world problem.

"You see, this is not only between Israel and Iran. The US, Australia and Europe have a vital interest in stopping Iran from going nuclear," he said.

Facing retaliation

Israel faces a host of problems carrying out a successful attack on Iranian nuclear plants, not the least of which being the would-be expected Iranian retaliation.


Iran Defence Minister Shamkhani
has warned Israel of retaliation

Iranian Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani has said on more than one occasion that Tehran would carry out a massive retaliation if Israel attacked Iran.

In a recent interview with Aljazeera, Shamkhani warned that his country would not sit down idly awaiting an Israeli strike and would resort to a pre-emptive option against Israel and the US.

"The concept of a pre-emptive strike is not an American exclusivity," he said.

True, Shamkhani's statements do have a large rhetorical content since a non-nuclear Iran possesses no strategic deterrent against a supposedly nuclear Israel, backed by its guardian-ally, the US.

But it would be utterly naive to assume that the Iranians would do nothing in the face of a flagrant and unprovoked Israeli or American attack on their country.

Leaving to US

In addition, Israel would have serious logistical problems carrying out an attack on the Iranian installations.

Turkey, with its at least nominally Islamic government, is unlikely to allow Israel to use its airspace to launch attacks on a neighbouring Islamic country with which Ankara has been seeking to improve and upgrade political and economic relations.

Moreover, using the "Jordanian-Iraqi conduit" would further enforce convictions, already salient among most Arabs and Muslims, that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq was carried out first and foremost to serve Israel's regional strategic interests.

"I think the safest thing for Israel is to let the Americans do it"

Ira Sharkansky,
Political Science Professor,
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This, coupled with US brazen support of Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank, would likely bring American credibility in this part of the world to an all-time low.

In that light, Israel's most workable approach would be to leave it to the Americans, according to Ira Sharkansky, Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"I think the safest thing for Israel is to let the Americans do it," he told Aljazeera.net.

Egging on

And Israel, directly and through its powerful lobby in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has been making strenuous efforts to get Washington to "do something" about Iran.

It is not clear yet what the repercussions of the reported FBI apprehension of an Israeli spy operating in the Pentagon will be for Israel's efforts to get the US to attack Iran.

According to American TV network CBS, which broke the story on 27 August, the agent passed sensitive documents pertaining to Iran to Israel, through two AIPAC representatives.

The agent, a senior analyst working at the bureau of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, reportedly had a close association with two Pentagon Jewish officials, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, both of whom are strong advocates of a tough American policy on Iran."