MI chief: Iran waiting with nuclear bomb
Major-General Amos Yadlin tells Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that while Tehran possesses full technological capabilities needed to manufacture atomic weapon, it prefers to act slowly so as not to evoke West's wrath
|Director of Military Intelligence Major-General Amos Yadlin spoke before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday and warned yet again against Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran is biding its time on manufacturing a nuclear weapon for diplomatic reasons, he said, adding that Israel could still prevent the Islamic republic from gaining atomic capabilities.
"It all boils down to fissionable matter," he explained. "The Iranians have finished developing surface-to-surface missile which can carry a nuclear warhead and Tehran has mastered uranium enrichment technologies and can pursue nuclear military capabilities, but ultimately it is a decision the Iranian regime has to make.
Yadlin at the committee meeting (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"The Iranian strategy is not to get one nuclear bomb as soon as they can, so as not to give the world a reason to act against them," said Yadlin. "They are trying to get within short term reach of a bomb and they are enriching uranium in a rate meant to make it very hard to incriminate them."
Tehran's uranium enrichment rate, added the MI chief, stands at 4.5% – below nuclear weapon grade.
"They have 4000 centrifuges in a facility monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They have the knowledge to enrich uranium to 93%, making it weapon grade. The rate they are going, they will only need a few months to go from 4.5% to 93%."
Despite painting a bleak picture, Yadlin stressed that the fight to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power has yet to be lost: "The Iranian threat is a threat to world order, not just to Israel. That is why we must present the world with incriminating evidence of their real intentions. The right combination of sanctions and incentives could lead to a change in Iranian policies."
Where’s the money going?
Who will be monitoring where funds earmarked for Gaza reconstruction end up?
|In recent years, billions of dollars have poured into Gaza from hundreds of countries and international organizations. The money, sent with the intention of encouraging Gaza economic development and quality of life, has remained largely unaccounted for by the international community. How much money has actually reached Palestinian civilians remains unknown, as no external audits have been made available from any major aid agency.
Only recently have there been questions from top political leaders, primarily from the United States, about the way in which donation funds will be transferred into Gaza. At an Egyptian donor’s conference organized by Norway and Egypt in early March, more than 75 international donors and organizations met to announce their financial support of the reconstruction in Gaza. Over $5.2 billion were pledged at the conference, surprising the Palestinian Authority that originally called for $2.8 billion needed to build up Gaza.
In light of the US pledge of $900 million, the second largest following Saudi Arabia‘s $1 billion, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that no US funds earmarked for Gaza would end up in the “wrong hands.” By wrong hands, Clinton meant Hamas. Over $300 million dollars of the US pledge money will be going to Gaza reconstruction, while the rest has been earmarked to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.
However, there is another set of “wrong hands” in this scenario through which the transfer of funds may very well pass through, hands that are not considered a neutral player in the Arab-Israeli conflict. US State department spokesman Gordon Duguid stated that Gaza aid would be provided through USAID, in coordination with UN agencies that will most likely include UNRWA.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief Works Agency established in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, has shown dangerous partiality to Hamas terrorists.
In 2004, former UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen revealed to the Canadian Broadcasting Company that UNRWA may very well employ Hamas members. “I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don’t see that as crime,” Hansen stated. He further added that “We do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another.”
UNRWA has employed several high profile terrorists, includeing top Islamic Jihad rocket maker, Awad al-Qiq, killed in an Israeli air strike last May. Al-Qiq was the headmaster and science instructor at an UNRWA school in Rafah. Another terrorist, Hamas’ interior minister and head of the Executive Force Said Siyam was a teacher for over two decades in UNRWA schools.
During Operation Cast Lead, UNRWA officials accused Israel of firing into an UNRWA school, killing dozens of Palestinian civilians seeking refuge there. Later, UN official Maxwell Gaylord reversed the UN’s stance on one of the most publicized incidents of the war, stating that the shelling and fatalities had actually taken place outside of the school.
Jonathan Halevi, a former IDF intelligence officer who specializes in Palestinian terrorist organizations, recently told Fox News that he estimates that 60% of homicide bombers are educated in UNRWA schools. UNRWA textbooks, which are provided by local governments and not neutral UN bodies, blatantly deny the Jewish connection to Israel.
In any case, the US remains UNRWA’s largest sponsor, providing the organization with over 75% of its initial budge according to UNRWA‘s former senior legal advisor James Lindsay. Lindsay, who served as an attorney for the US Justice Department for two decades asserted in his January publication for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that UNRWA is providing services to those who are actually not in need of them.
The almost 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan have Jordanian citizenship and are fully eligible for government services, but are continuing to receive assistance from UNRWA, which regards them as refugees, according to Lindsay‘s report.
Michael Danby, a longstanding legislator in the Australian Parliament has also accused UNRWA of being “notoriously corrupt. “ Since 2007, Australia has provided $30 million in funding for the Palestinians through the UNRWA agency, which Danby accused of diverting funds to “arms purchase, terrorist operations, and anti-Israel incitement as well as into the pockets of the PA leadership.“
“It is a betrayal of that generosity (by Australians) for this money to be wasted, stolen, or misspent on rockets, guns, and terrorism,” Danby told the Australian Federal Parliament on February 26.
Other countries actively fundraising for Gaza include France, which hosted a Paris donors conference for Palestinian Authority‘s President Mahmoud Abbas in December 2007. The conference raised over $7.4 billion in Palestinian aid (for a three year period: 2008-2010) from over 90 countries and international organizations. During 2008, over $3 billion were distributed through the PA.
But that’s not all. By mid-January 2009, TV stations across the Arab world collected over half a billion dollars in a telethon for Gaza, according to Johan Eriksson, a spokesperson for the UN.
As the Gaza Strip will soon teem with money, world donors and leaders must ask the following question: Who will monitor the transfer of these funds and account that they are indeed effectively used for Gaza reconstruction, and not for restoring Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure?
Anav Silverman is the International Correspondent for Sderot Media Center: www.sderotmedia.com .
Obama sharpens tone on Israel, calls for two-state solution
DEBKAfile Special Report
March 25, 2009, 3:13 PM (GMT+02:00)
Asked if the rise of a Netanyahu government would make peacemaking more difficult, US president Barack Obama told a televised news conference Wednesday night, March 25: "It's not easier than it was, but I think it's just as necessary." He added: What we do know is that the status quo is unsustainable, that it is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in their own states with peace and security.
Obama noted uncertainty not only about the makeup of the new Israeli government – Netanyahu must submit his lineup to the president before April 3 – but also the Palestinian Authority "which is badly divided."
Tuesday night, Labor leader Ehud Barak won his party round to joining the Netanyahu government.
DEBKAfile's sources report: The US president has kicked off a tough campaign on the Israel-Palestinian conflict that will build up until Passover Eve on April 8 for three reasons:
1. In the face of Tehran's chilly response to his taped message calling for diplomacy, administration spokesman promised several more gestures. These gestures will be outlined in the coming DEBKA-Net-Weekly out Friday, March 27.
2. Friday, March 27, Obama will unveil his new strategy for the Afghanistan war that will also embody steps on Iran and the Middle East at large.
3. He has scheduled a major address to the Muslim world from Istanbul on April 7. Part of his speech will be devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Our political analysts do not expect Obama to be kind to the Jewish State and its new government. He may feel it necessary to respond to the Iranian supreme ruler Ali Khamenei's stipulation that change in Washington must also affect "unconditional US support" for Israel.
Obama: Palestine a priority
A televised news conference on Tuesday in the US highlighted what are the current priorities for President Barack Obama - the US economy and the birth of "Palestine."
Almost the entire press conference focused on the economy and Obama's spending bills, but the single question about foreign policy revolved around the recent election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel's prime minister and the perception that that will greatly impede peace efforts.
Asked if Netanyahu's ascendancy will make reaching a final status Middle East peace deal more difficult, Obama said that it certainly won't help, but that only means he will need to be more persistent than his predecessors.
Obama said he does not yet know the final make-up of the new Israeli and the next Palestinian governments, but what he does know is that the "status quo is unsustainable."
The solution: "It is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in their own states with peace and security."
The mainstream US media appears to be on board with Obama's list of priorities, as one Los Angeles Times blogger noted that even though there are wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that played prominently in Obama's election campaign, they were not mentioned once by reporters at the press conference.
Obama is weighing military, diplomatic cooperation with Tehran
March 25, 2009, 8:08 AM (GMT+02:00)
The additional "gestures" Barack Obama's spokesmen promised Iran would follow on the presidential new year message may presage a dramatic U-turn on Iran, including even an astonishing offer of US-Iranian military and diplomatic cooperation - that is if the Islamic Republic decides to play ball.
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The coming DEBKA-Net-Weekly out this Friday will discuss this and other surprising steps which Obama has in store.
'Allegations of civilian shootings in Gaza categorically false'
Allegations that IDF soldiers deliberately shot and killed Palestinian civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead have been found to be categorically untrue by official army investigations, an IDF source told The Jerusalem Post
The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the results of the investigations have not yet been officially released to the public. He stressed, however that the investigations were close to completion.
The investigations examined claims made by graduates of the Rabin Pre-military Academy during a conference held last month, which were later written up and printed in an academy pamphlet.
Sections of the Israeli media then seized on the claims, and the allegations went on to make headlines around the world.
IDF reservists enter the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead.
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office
During the conference, one soldier claimed a marksman opened fire on a mother and two of her children, in full knowledge that they were civilians, after a squadron commander told them to walk into a no-entry zone.
"All of the soldiers who were involved in the conference were questioned - not as a punishment - but in order to understand whether they had witnessed these things. From all of the testimonies we collected, we can safely conclude that the soldiers who made the claims did not witness the events they describe," the source said.
"All of it was based on rumors. In the incident of the alleged shooting of the mother and her children, what really happened was that a marksman fired a warning shot to let them know that they were entering a no-entry zone. The shot was not even fired in their general direction," the source said.
"The marksman's commander ran up the stairs of a Palestinian home, got up on the roof, and asked the marksman why he shot the civilians. The marksman said he did not fire on the civilians. But the soldiers on the first floor of that house heard the commander's question being shouted. And from that point, the rumor began to spread," the source added.
Aftermath of IAF strike in Rafah at the start of Operation Cast Lead.
"We can say with absolute certainty that the marksman did not fire on the woman and her children. Later, the company commander spoke with the marksman and his commander. We know with certainty that this incident never took place," he said.
The source said that a second allegation of killing of civilians was also false, though he could not provide further details at this stage. "We investigate every allegation in order to see whether these incidents took place, and to draw conclusions if necessary," the source stressed.
"Unfortunately, due to competition, sections of the press picked up this story and ran with it. It is a shame the media promoted this sort of spin all over the world," he added. It is unlikely the damage to Israel's image from the allegations can be repaired, irrespective of the results of the investigation, he noted.
"It is a shame that the media allowed Palestinian manipulations to spread," he said.
"Look at the allegation that we killed 48 civilians in a UN school in Gaza. In reality, seven people were killed, and four to five of them were terrorists. The UN apologized, but the damage is done," the source said.