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Iran & Israel Trade Warnings

Menashe Amir: "Lebanese rockets fired at Israel apparently an Iranian warning"

"Russians playing a very dirty role in sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran"

"Israel awaiting outcome of Obama negotiations before deciding whether to go it alone against Iran"

Iranian missiles

Terrorists in south Lebanon have again fired Katyusha rockets at Israel, apparently as a warning to Prime Minister designate Binyamin Netanyahu who has declared: "Iran will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons!" In another development, more key Iranian military advisers have reportedly been stationed in south Lebanon. These events come against the backdrop of the latest IAEA report that Iran is continuing its nuclear program. Menashe Amir, a leading Israeli expert on Iran, assesses the current situation.

In Amir's view the latest developments should be viewed within the context of psychological warfare. He adds that Iran's capability to cope with an Israeli attack is in doubt

The Lebanese media view the latest rocketing as an Iranian warning to Israel - this at a time that Iran has apparently stationed more military advisers in south Lebanon which is controlled by its Hezbollah surrogate. Is Iran now preparing for a military confrontation with the Jewish state that it declares should be 'wiped off the map!' Israeli expert Menashe Amir told IsraCast that Iran also contends that it is prepared to deal with any Israeli military threat. However, in Amir's view the latest developments should be viewed within the context of psychological warfare. He adds that Iran's capability to cope with an Israeli attack is in doubt.

Transcript of the interview

Welcome to our IsraCast listeners world-wide. We are speaking today with Menashe Amir, a leading Israeli expert on Iran. For the third time in two months, terrorists in South Lebanon have fired Katyusha rockets at Israel. One landed in an Arab village in the Western Galilee, lightly injuring three youngsters while seriously damaging their home. Another Katyusha apparently malfunctioned and landed inside Lebanon itself. No terror group has taken responsibility, but Menashe Amir, in your mind, if Hezbollah, Iran's surrogate, controls South Lebanon, do you see Iran’s fingerprints on this and the other Katyusha attacks recently?

Menashe Amir and David Essing at IsraCast Studios (Photo: Tomer Yaffe)

I don’t have any specific information in this regard, but I can quote some of the Lebanese newspapers today who said yes, there is an Iranian fingerprint. One Lebanese newspaper, Alnahar, wrote that it was a kind of a warning to Netanyahu and in the reaction to his statement on Friday that Iran is the biggest security problem for Israel. And also Al-Hayat and some other newspapers wrote that Iran wants to send a warning point to Israel, and there was also a Lebanese report that the number of the Iranian so-called military advisers in South Lebanon has been increased lately.

I believe in the end, Russia will not supply the anti-aircraft missiles to Iran because it realizes this is a decisive issue both for the US and Russia itself

Are the Iranians, do you think to your mind, ready for a military confrontation, if as you’ve just said, the next man who is going to be Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said emphatically, that Iran will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons?

Iran all the time declares that it’s ready to tackle any threats, any military threats from abroad, especially the Israeli threat. They say that they have made all the preparations, but it’s a war of psychological items, and the Iranian capability of confronting any Israeli possible attack is in doubt. 

Well, at the same time, the Iranians are trying very hard to get the Russians to complete the deal already signed to supply them with advanced S-300 missiles that conceivably could be used by the Iranians to protect their missiles’ sites though.

The Iranian Missile Range

This is the big question and I think that the Russians are playing a very dirty role in this regard; they want to take all of the advantages, financial advantages that they can take from Iran and at the same time to play with the Western countries and Israel in this regard. But my presumption is that in the end the Russians will deny selling these kind of missiles to Iran, because for Israel and the United States it is a decisive question and we have to take into consideration that Obama’s government in the United States is very serious regarding the Iranian threat. I have to emphasize that Obama hasn’t decided yet on his advisors to be sent to Iran and it proves how important this question is for the American administration.

Well, how do the Iranians though view this effort by the new American President Obama to engage them, do they not see this as an opportunity to stone-wall again, the way they did with the Europeans for years?

The Iranians haven’t decided yet what their diplomacy toward the American advances is, and they are not sure if beginning to talk with the American Obama’s administration will help them and they don’t forget that the Americans emphasized that. It will be a very short time for conducting this kind of negotiations, and besides that, the ideology of the Iranian régime is based on the hate to the United States and Israel, and once they will put it away, they may put away some parts of their ideology and it will be very difficult for them.

Well, when you refer to the time-frame, indeed is very short according to Israeli intelligence, which has said that Iran could pass the point of nuclear return by the end of the year or early in 2010, and I’ve just been reading that the American expert David Albright has said that Iran could have the ability to produce a nuclear weapon, sometime this summer.

Yes, there are these assumptions and this time, even the reports of Al Baradei print outs that Iran has 1,010 kilograms of enriched uranium, of course not 80% enriched, but only 3.5% enriched but through their installations in Natanz, they can continue to enrich it to a high level of making their first bomb, and this is a serious problem that the American administration has to take care of. Don’t forget that in four months Iran will have Presidential elections and maybe Obama waits until this time before he begins the negotiations with Iran because he wants to see who will be the next president.

But does it make any difference? Is Mahmud Ahmadinejad simply a figure-head for the Ayatollahs and the entire Iranian leadership wants to go ahead with the nuclear weapons’ program, or on the other hand, is he the driving force behind the nuclear weapons’ program and if he is defeated, this might signal that Iran lost a changed course?

No, I have already said, and the Obama administration knows the fact, that the President in Iran doesn’t decide about nuclear policy, but he has only a small role in this regard. And anyhow the Obama’s administration doesn’t want to interfere in the Iranian Presidential elections by beginning the negotiations before the elections. Maybe that’s the reason why they haven’t appointed yet the delegates to Iran.

Finally as we speak, Menashe Amir, the centrifuges are continuing to spin in Natanz and perhaps at other secret locations and the International community as such, although it has imposed three sets of sanctions, these sanctions have not really proven to be affective, have they!? So what would be your message as an expert on Iran to international leaders when it comes to deciding what should be done next?

The solution is very easy; the Obama administration has to begin a short-term negotiations with Iran, and once it does not get into any results, any positive results, then the Americans have to put all their weight up on the international community, especially Russia and China, to enlarge the sanctions against Iran, and to make them useful means as they have been applied against Libya, to enforce them to oblige them to stop their programs. This is the only way for anybody who wants to avoid any military attack against Iran. The strengthening of the sanctions, a serious kind of sanctions, may be useful and it will solve the problem of military attack.

So it’s still not game over.

Of course not and we still have a few months ahead, especially until the Obama’s beginning of negotiations with Iran and the Israelis are waiting to see what will happen and I hope that there will not be any need for Israel to act solely and without international support to solve a very heavy security threat.

David Essing

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