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U.S. - CANADA IN IRAN'S NUCLEAR CROSSHAIRS?

 Thousands of Israelis along the Mediterranean Coast were startled by a resounding boom that was heard far and wide on the morning of July 12th -  it was far greater than an Israeli jet breaking the sound barrier. Defense officials were quick to announce the testing of a 'navigational rocket system' at the Palmahim launch site.  The Israeli media promptly reported, that according to foreign  sources, it was Israel's Jericho ballistic missile that purportedly has a range of over 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles). Jericho, like its biblical namesake, can bring 'the walls tumbling down' with its  warhead of one ton of explosives. It obviously provides another arrow in Israel's quiver for coping with Iran's nuclear weapons sites. Moreover the Jericho test served as a message to America and the West; Israel will not be lulled by the election of Iran's new President-elect ,Hassan Rouhani, who talks about 'interaction with the West through moderation' while supporting Iran's nuclear weapons program. 

Americans living on the east coast of the U.S. (and Canada) could be within Iran's nuclear crosshairs within two years’ time.

 Coincidentally, the test came on the same day the U.S. Defense Department confirmed the assessment of America's intelligence agencies that Iran is preparing to test an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) as early as 2015. It would mean an Iranian ICBM could target the Atlantic Seaboard of America and Eastern Canada. According to the U.S. assessment, 'Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch programs and continues to increase the range, lethality and accuracy of its ballistic missile force'. If this U.S. assessment is right, Americans living on the east coast of the U.S. (and Canada) could be within Iran's nuclear crosshairs within two years’ time. 

 This will obviously get President Obama's attention, but will it jolt him into jettisoning his futile 'engagement' with Iran and issuing an ultimatum? Look for Rouhani to come up with some more soothing words to entice the West into more diplomatic stalling.

 Netanyahu losing sleep over Iran... 

 It is a fact that years ago Prime Minister Netanyahu predicted that Iran would not stop at producing nuclear missiles that could hit 'the little Satan' but would also develop a nuclear ICBM that could target the 'big Satan' as well. Although America's intelligence community has vindicated Netanyahu, the Israeli leader is not sleeping any better at night. Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to Washington, painted an insider's picture. Interviewed by Haaretz, Oren was asked if Netanyahu has the right stuff to go to war against Iran, if need be. This was the outgoing ambassador's assessment:

Eshkol ordered the IDF's successful preventative strike against the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq that had massed on Israel's borders threatening to annihilate the Jewish state.

 “I think so. He doesn't sleep at nights. He carries on his shoulders a huge responsibility, and he has restraint. Netanyahu doesn't get drawn into superfluous wars. However, this restraint is actually a sign of strength - like that of Eshkol (Israel's prime minister at the time of the Six Day War in 1967). Netanyahu thought Eshkol was an outstanding leader. One of the reasons was that Eshkol first exhausted the diplomatic channel but in the end he was not deterred. He did not evade his responsibility and took the decision'. (Eshkol ordered the IDF's successful preventative strike against the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq that had massed on Israel's borders threatening to annihilate the Jewish state. DE)  

 Why is the U.S. doing it?... 

Israel's policy of don't ask, don't tell … has proved to be a rational approach by both sides except for one thing - American officials have repeatedly leaked that Israel was responsible.

 In the current chaos in Syria, Israel has a two track policy - it will not intercede on either the side of the rebels or President Bashar Assad's regime. However, Jerusalem has adopted a policy of acting when its red lines are crossed, such as Assad's supply of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah in south Lebanon, or the arming of Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons. When Israel does strike, it does so in a clandestine fashion and then stays mum. This is for good reason. If Israel were to claim responsibility, it would embarrass Assad and possibly force him to retaliate against Israel. On the other hand, Assad is also under pressure from Iran and Hezbollah to transfer the weapons. So Israel's policy of don't ask, don't tell enables Assad to ignore the Israeli strikes and refrain from a major retaliation. It has proved to be a rational approach by both sides except for one thing - American officials have repeatedly leaked that Israel was responsible. This time ''multiple Pentagon officials' told CNN:

 “A series of explosions on July 5th at a critical Syrian port (Latakia) was the result of airstrikes by Israeli warplanes. The officials declined to be named because of the sensitive nature of the information.”

 The air strike reportedly destroyed sophisticated Yakhont surface-to-ship missiles that could threaten not only Israeli vessels, but also the rigs at Israel's off-shore oil and gas fields.

Why are 'multiple' Pentagon officials deliberately leaking information that could spark a major flare-up between Israel and the Syrian Army?

 Question: Why are 'multiple' Pentagon officials deliberately leaking information that could spark a major flare-up between Israel and the Syrian Army? It's not as if one loose cannon did not realize the danger in what he was leaking. At least two officials were involved, and if so, their instructions must have been given by a Pentagon bigwig. And if it's the fourth time the U.S. has outed Israel, it looks as if it’s part of a policy rather than snafus. It is hard to find an explanation for such a baffling U.S. policy. Then again, an understanding of how things work in the Middle East has never been a strong suit of the Obama administration.   

 Stand-off in Egypt... 

... the main threat to democracy in Egypt is not the Egyptian Army but the Muslim Brotherhood

 Israel is quietly cooperating with General al-Sisi, Egypt's strong man, who is trying to keep the radical Muslim Brotherhood at bay amid the ongoing power struggle between moderate and radical Muslims. From Israel's perspective, the focus is on Sinai where Jihadists, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Bedouin radicals have been launching attacks on Egyptian army forces. So far the Egyptian military has prevented the terrorists from reaching the Israeli border and only one rocket was fired harmlessly into Israeli territory. In return, Israel has allowed more Egyptian military forces into Sinai above and beyond the demilitarization accord. This includes Apache helicopters and thirty-one tanks. Netanyahu and al-Sisi see eye-to-eye on it not being in their countries' interests to allow the Jihadists to take over Sinai. Israel has also been quietly telling Obama officials that the main threat to democracy in Egypt is not the Egyptian Army but the Muslim Brotherhood, even if its leader Mohammed Morsi won the presidential election a year ago. On this score, Israel did not oppose the latest supply of F-16 aircraft to the Egyptian Army. In addition, Saudi Arabia has also chipped in with eight billion dollars in emergency aid for Egypt. Some of the Gulf States have also backed al-Sisi with billions more. The hope is that the Egyptian Army will succeed in stabilizing the country and lay the groundwork for an early election. What Washington needs to realize is that the Egyptian Army is the only thing preventing a bloody civil war between moderate Egyptians and Islamist fanatics bent on imposing sharia law and turning Egypt into another Iran.

 IDF's more bang for the shekel...

“The threat of a conventional Arab war, such as the Yom Kippur War that involved massive tank battles, has been substantially reduced.”

 What is behind the IDF's version of more bang for the buck? Two squadrons of aircrafts are being cut, whole units of the massive armored corps of some 3,000 tanks are being put out to pasture, and some 5,000 permanent personnel are being retired early. It is the outcome of two factors: the government's recent decision to slash over three billion shekels from the defense budget and more in the future, from the defense budget. Paradoxically, it is also the result of the Arab Spring that began over two years ago. At the outset, Israel was worried over the rise of the hostile Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the fate of the peace treaty. Although the U.S. and the West were reveling over the coming of democracy to the Middle East, Israel fretted over a wave of Islamist violence sweeping the region. But two years later, the threat of a conventional war being launched against Israel has been substantially lessened. First, the civil war has seriously weakened the Syrian Army that posed a military threat on Israel's northern border. So far, America's ally, Egypt, has maintained close military cooperation, while Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are lined up against Iran. So as Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has put it, “The threat of a conventional Arab war, such as the Yom Kippur War that involved massive tank battles, has been substantially reduced.” What remains is the nuclear threat from Iran,  rocket attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and from Hamas in Gaza. Then there are missile defenses like Iron Dome, David's Sling and the Arrow that provide a three-tier system designed to cope with anything from Iran's ballistic missiles to the home-made qassam rockets from Gaza. These require highly trained and expensive equipment, not masses of tanks. Then there's the need for greater and more accurate firepower, take Jericho for example, and F -35 stealth fighter bombers that are in the pipeline. And who knows, maybe Israel is developing more secret weapons that will help Netanyahu sleep better at night. 

David Essing

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