A possible military confrontation with Iran may be postponed until 2013, senior defense officials said in recent weeks amid growing signs that the West’s economic crackdown on Iran is bearing fruit. In addition, while skeptical, the defense establishment is waiting to see what the outcome will be of the talks expected to begin in mid-April between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 group comprised of the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China. “It could happen this year, but also 2013 is a possibility,” a senior official said recently. “We will need to wait to see the effect sanctions and diplomacy have on Iran and what the regime decides to do.” On Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acknowledged that sanctions were hurting Iran but that it was not yet clear if they would succeed in ultimately stopping Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. What could potentially change Israel’s timeline would be an Iranian decision to begin enriching uranium to higher military-grade levels and to begin building a bomb. Western intelligence agencies closely track Iran’s enrichment program as well as the so-called weapons group, which would assemble the device if ordered to do so by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Israel and the US are in agreement that Khamenei has yet to give the order to go to the “breakout stage” by beginning the enrichment of high-grade uranium and the building of a nuclear device. Intelligence officials in Israel and the US have voiced confidence that they would know if Iran decides to move to the stage of manufacturing a nuclear weapon. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan recently said that if Iran was, for example, to begin enriching uranium to 90-percent levels and was not stopped, then Israel would need to use military force to stop it. The current disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem is over the point of no return for such a strike. The US, like Dagan, argues that the threat will only become imminent once Iran begins enriching high-grade uranium, a clear indication that it is moving toward weaponization. Israel, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, argues that – due to Iran’s move into a so-called immunity zone, or point when its facilities will be fortified and protected – an Israeli strike might not be viable for much longer, and therefore one might be needed even before high-grade enrichment begins.
Russian warships launch drill from Tartus versus US-Israeli-Greek naval exercise DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 3, 2012, 10:09 AM (GMT+02:00)
On guard at the Russian missile destroyer SmetliviyNot 24 hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that a pre-emptive strike (by the US and/or Israel) would violate international law, Moscow put muscle into his warning: Tuesday, April 3, the Russian guided missile destroyer Smetliviy arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus from its Black Sea base for a naval exercise. The warship’s support group is on the way. debkafile’s military sources report that the Russian flotilla carried a threefold message for Washington: 1. The Russian-Iranian strategy of propping up the Assad regime which has brought the Syrian ruler close to victory over his foes, will continue: Diplomacy will be propelled by military impetus. 2. Russia is providing the Assad regime with defense systems capable of repelling foreign military intervention. 3. Consigning the Smetliviy warship to Syria illustrates Moscow’s new rapid response policy: Russia is launching a naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean to match the “Noble Dina” air and naval maneuver the US, Israel and Greece are conducting across a broad expanse of sea between Crete and the Israeli bases at Haifa and Ashdod. Israeli warships and air force jets may therefore find themselves not just operating alongside US naval and aircraft but confronted suddenly by one of the largest destroyers in the Russian fleet (NATO-coded ASW-submarine warfare), whose decks are the launching base for anti-air, anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles. The Smetliviy’s support group, believed to be a supply vessel and a submarine, passed through the Bosporus Saturday, March 31 on their way to Tartus. Monday, April 2, debkafile reported: Russia and Iran set to counter US/Israeli strike against Iran. US-led Mediterranean naval drill
Hamas leader admits 'Palestinian' identity is inventedUS Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has come under a lot of fire for saying that the "Palestinians" are an invented people. Most have ridiculed Gingrich by pointing out there are clearly millions of Arabs living in so-called "Palestine." But Gingrich wasn't talking about the physical presence of those people today, but rather the national identity they have adopted and the fact that most immigrated to the land not so long ago. In a televised address on Al-Hekma TV last week, Hamas Minister of the Interior and of National Security Fathi Hammad basically backed up Gingrich's assessment, acknowledging that the roots of most "Palestinians" are elsewhere in the Middle East, and that the Palestinian label is only a thin veneer. Those pushing for a Palestinian state try to paint the Palestinian Arabs as somehow distinct from the Arabs round-about, and therefore in need of their own state. Not so, said Hammad. "Every Palestinian, in Gaza and throughout Palestine, can prove his Arab roots - whether from Saudi Arabia, from Yemen, or anywhere. We have blood ties." More than that, Hammad stated that the true regional background of most "Palestinians" is not in "Palestine." "Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis," exclaimed the Hamas minister. Hammad's remarks were undoubtedly never intended for a Western audience. Rather, he was pleading with Egypt and other neighboring states to supply Hamas-ruled Gaza with free fuel, which Hammad said Hamas would use "in order to continue to wage Jihad." [h/t Elder of Ziyon]
Poll: Majority of U.S. Jews Still Support Obama
Despite his rocky relationship with Israel, a new survey finds that 62% American Jews still favor Obama for re-election.
ReutersDespite his rocky relationship with Israel and with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a surveyreleased Tuesday finds that AmericanJews still favor President Barack Obama for re-election. The survey, conducted among 1,004American Jews by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute, found that Obama has the same level of support, 62 percent, among American Jewish voters as during a comparable point in the 2008 race. Three-in-ten Jewish voters said they prefer a Republican candidate over the incumbent president. Of those who supported Obama in 2008, an overwhelming majority say they would like to see him re-elected, 86 percent, while seven percent of Jewish voters who supported him in 2008 say they instead would support a Republican candidate in 2012. Jewish voters who supported John McCain in 2008 demonstrate similar loyalty in their voting preferences, the survey found, with 92 percent reporting that they would prefer it if a Republican candidate won the election. The survey also found that Israel is relatively low on the list of voting priorities forAmerican Jewish voters. Only four percent of respondents said that Israel was the issue that would be most important to their vote. Instead, Jewish voters’ top priorities center around economic issues such as the economy (51 percent), the growing gap between the rich and the poor (15 percent), and health care and the federal deficit (10 percent). The survey also found that by a margin of more than 2-to-1, American Jews say good diplomacy rather than military strength is the best way to ensure peace (63 percent vs. 25 percent, respectively). However, in the case of Iran, if diplomacy and other deterrents fail, most AmericanJews say they would support military action. Nearly six-in-ten (59 percent) agreed that the U.S. should take military action to prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon if economic sanctions are unable to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, compared to 37 percent who disagreed. The 2012 Jewish Values Survey was conducted by Public Religion Research Institute among a random sample of 1,004 self-identified Jewish adults (ages 18 and older) who are part of the Knowledge Networks’ KnowledgePanel. Interviews were conducted online between February 23 and March 5, 2012. A report on Sunday said the Obama administration is blaming Israel for the recent rise in global crude oil prices. The rise in fuel prices is deemed as harming the U.S. economy and has also hurt Obama in the polls as he seeks re-election in November. The report in The World Tribune cited a leading U.S. analyst, Robert Satloff, who returned from talks with Israeli officials. Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that the Israeli leadership saw Washington as attributing the higher gas prices to “Israel’s posturing” on Iran. He added that the officials told him the Obama administration was staging a campaign to undermine Israel. “I cannot underscore how deep and visceral the comments of the leaking that came out of Washington were,” Satloff said, noting Israel is alarmed by what officials determined were leaks by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama of purported Israeli preparations to attack Iran. The Israeli concerns come in the wake of a report in Foreign Policy magazine last week, according to which Israel has purchased an airfield in Azerbaijan on Iran's northern border, prompting the United States to watch very closely. The Americans believe Israel may use the site as a springboard for an attack on Iran's nuclear plants, or as a landing and refueling spot following one. The site could also be used for aircraft needed for search, rescue and recovery in the wake of an attack. Azeri president Ilham Aliyev later dismissed the speculation and said, “Azerbaijan's territory will never be used to launch an attack against its neighbor, Iran.”