Archive for the ‘Israel and Nork nuke facility in Syria’ category

Israel Has a Playbook for Dealing With North Korea

September 8, 2017

Israel Has a Playbook for Dealing With North Korea, Bloomberg, Zev Chafets, September 7, 2017

Saddam’s nuclear dream ended in ashes. Photographer: Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea is now truly dangerous — unlike Iraq and Syria, it already has nuclear weapons — and it won’t get less so as time goes on. Trump has said this in no uncertain terms. But so far it is just words. The president may mean it. He also may not. Perhaps he will come to regret tangling with Kim. Maybe he will see it as a beginner’s mistake. He may be tempted to reverse course and try to save face with make-believe sanctions, empty United Nations resolutions or fruitless negotiations. I’m not judging him. I haven’t been in his shoes, and I wouldn’t want to be.

But if the American president does back down, if Kim Jong Un stays in power, keeps his nuclear warheads and ballistic weapons, and gets away with threatening the U.S. and its allies with nuclear destruction, every friend and foe of Washington will be revisiting its strategic playbook. For Israel, so far away from Korea yet so close to Iranian aggression, that book begins with the Begin Doctrine.

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Israel and North Korea are on opposite sides of the Asian landmass, separated by 5,000 miles as the ICBM flies. But Israelis feels close to the nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang. They have faced this sort of crisis before, and may again.

Some history: In the mid-1970s, it became clear to Israel that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was working on acquiring nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them. Saddam had already demonstrated an uninhibited brutality in dealing with his internal enemies and his neighbors. He aspired to be the leader of the Arab world. Defeating Israel was at the top of his to-do list.

After coming to office in 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin tried to convince the U.S. and Europe that Saddam was a clear and present danger to the Jewish state, and that action had to be taken. Begin was not taken seriously.

But Begin was serious, and in 1981 he decided that Israel would have to stop the Iraqi dictator all by itself. His political opponents, led by the estimable Shimon Peres, considered this to be dangerous folly. Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, the legendary former military chief of staff, voted against unilateral action on the grounds that it would hurt Israel’s international standing. Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann, the former head of the air force (and Dayan’s brother-in-law) was also against a military option. He thought the mission would be unacceptably risky.

Begin had no military expertise. But his family had been wiped out in the Holocaust. He looked at Saddam, who was openly threating Israel, and saw Hitler. To Begin, sitting around hoping for the best was not a strategy; it was an invitation to aggression. If there was going to be a cost — political, diplomatic, military — better to pay before, not after, the Iraqis had the bomb.

In the summer of 1981, Begin gave the order. The Israeli air force destroyed the Osirak reactor. The United Nations Security Council condemned the attack. The Europeans went bonkers. The New York Times called it “inexcusable.” But the Israeli prime minister wasn’t looking to be excused by the Times or the Europeans or even the usually friendly Ronald Reagan administration. He enunciated a simple rationale that would come to be known as the Begin Doctrine: Israel will not allow its avowed enemies to obtain the means of its destruction.

The wisdom of this doctrine became clear a decade later, during the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein made good on his threat to fire Russian-made SCUD missiles at Israeli cities. The SCUDs landed, and caused some damage and a fair amount of panic, but they were not armed with unconventional warheads. Israel had taken that option off the table.

Similarly, in 2007, Israel confirmed what it had suspected for five years: Syria, with North Korean help, was trying to build a nuclear reactor. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a Begin disciple, sent Mossad chief Meir Dagan to Washington, to ask for American intervention. The CIA chief, Michael Hayden, agreed with Israel’s contention that Damascus (with Iranian financing) was constructing the reactor. But Hayden convinced President George W. Bush that bombing the site would result in all-out war, and who wants that?

Acting on its own, Israel destroyed the Syrian site (reportedly killing a group of North Korean experts in the process). Hayden was wrong about how Syria would react, as he later admitted. If Israel had been reasonable and listened to the CIA, Bashar al-Assad would have nuclear weapons right now.

A few years later, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak spent billions of dollars preparing and training to take out the Iranian nuclear program. Barak, not a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party, explained: “There are instances where it appears it is not necessary to attack now, but you know that you won’t be able to attack later.” In such cases, he said, the “consequences of inaction are grave, and you have to act.”

Israel was prevented from kinetic action by the Barack Obama administration, which along with five other powers cut a deal with Iran in 2015 — over Israel’s vociferous objections. Netanyahu warned that the deal was full of loopholes; it would allow Iran to hide its nuclear program and continue building new means of delivery. This was confirmed in 2016 when Iran tested a new missile. “The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2000 kilometers,” said Iranian Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, “is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance.”

Since then, Iran has stepped up its aggressive enmity toward the Zionist Entity. It has not only continued its nuclear cooperation with North Korea, it has also copied Pyongyang’s tactic of creating a huge artillery threat against civilian populations (through its proxy force Hezbollah in Lebanon and now Syria). This conventional threat to Seoul is what has convinced a great many American commentators that any attack on North Korea would lead to an “unthinkable” number of casualties.

Ruling out harsh thoughts is a luxury Israel doesn’t have. It has installed an efficient missile defense system (something not beyond the means of the South Koreans and the U.S.). It is also training to neutralize the threat of a bombardment. The IDF is currently conducting its biggest military exercise in 19 years. The announced goal is to prepare for war with Hezbollah. Israel does not intend to allow itself to be held hostage by an Iranian threat to its civilian population, or to have its hands tied by the theory of unthinkability.

This week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem published a condemnation of North Korea: “Only a determined international response will prevent other states from behaving in the same way.” Clearly, “other states” was a reference to Iran. It was also a message to the U.S.

Israel, by long experience, knows there is no such thing as an “international” community when it comes to security. What is happening now in East Asia is an American production. The Donald Trump administration has been very clear, not to say belligerent, in demanding that North Korea forgo its nuclear weapons and ambitions.

This was also the policy of previous American administrations — but Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama didn’t really mean it. They let things slide, drew imaginary lines, held talks that went no place and hoped for the best.

The best didn’t happen. It almost never does. North Korea is now truly dangerous — unlike Iraq and Syria, it already has nuclear weapons — and it won’t get less so as time goes on. Trump has said this in no uncertain terms. But so far it is just words. The president may mean it. He also may not. Perhaps he will come to regret tangling with Kim. Maybe he will see it as a beginner’s mistake. He may be tempted to reverse course and try to save face with make-believe sanctions, empty United Nations resolutions or fruitless negotiations. I’m not judging him. I haven’t been in his shoes, and I wouldn’t want to be.

But if the American president does back down, if Kim Jong Un stays in power, keeps his nuclear warheads and ballistic weapons, and gets away with threatening the U.S. and its allies with nuclear destruction, every friend and foe of Washington will be revisiting its strategic playbook. For Israel, so far away from Korea yet so close to Iranian aggression, that book begins with the Begin Doctrine.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Powers may end up with Iranian model for NKorea

September 3, 2017

Powers may end up with Iranian model for NKorea, DEBKAfile, September 3, 2017

(Obama’s “deal” with Iran (also known as the Iran scam) worked perfectly — for Iran. An even better deal for North Korea? Great idea. Not. Perhaps the “Israeli option” is the only realistic option available. Please see also, Germany’s Merkel: Iran deal a model for solving North Korea problem. — DM)

The only time military action was applied against a North Korean nuclear facility was on Sept. 6, 2007 when the Israeli Air Force and special forces blew up the plutonium reactor under construction by North Korea in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zour, in Operation Orchard. This plant was intended to be Iran’s main supplier of plutonium and had it been finished, would have accelerated Tehran’s advance towards a hydrogen bomb.

The North Korean leader will want much more than the deal won by Tehran, for a 10-year moratorium against a $150 billion pledge and many other rewards. Kim, whose arsenal is far more advanced, will certainly go a lot higher. His leverage for extortion is unassailable. He can either bargain for a mountain of cash or carry on looming over his Pacific neighbors and the United States, armed with advanced ballistic missiles and a nuclear bomb. He would then be faithful to the legacy of his father Kim Jong-Il, who declared in 1995 that a nuclear program was the only guarantee of his dynasty’s survival.

For now, both Iran and North Korea, long in cahoots on their weapons programs, are riding high.

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Even North Korea’s 150-kiloton hydrogen bomb and avowed ability to fit it onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, as Kim Jong-un demonstrated Sunday, Sept. 3, have so far drawn nothing more decisive from the world’s powers that words of condemnation and threats of stronger sanctions..

President Donald Trump called North Korea a rogue state whose words and actions were “hostile and dangerous to the United States” and convened a meeting with his national security team. Yet stronger sanctions are on the table, including stopping trade with countries doing business with North Korea.

Japan’s Shinzo Abe, already rattled by the North Korean missile that flew over his country, said the latest nuclear test, the most powerful thus far, “is completely unacceptable and we must lodge a strong protest.

South Korea said that its northern neighbor’s defiant sixth nuclear test should be met with the “strongest possible” response, including new UN Security Council sanctions to “completely isolate” the country.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Sunday to “appropriately deal with” the latest nuclear test by North Korea. The state news agency Xinhua said, “The two leaders agreed to stick to the goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and keep close communication and coordination to deal with the new situation.”

But still, there is no sign of all these powers getting together for tangible, effective concerted action.

Since the Kim regime’s the first underground nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006, almost every conceivable penalty and deterrent has been tried to rein in the rogue nation’s gallop towards a nuclear weapon, barring full-blown military aggression.

None worked, mainly because they were imposed piecemeal and never fully followed through. But most of all, this was because the big powers never lined up as one and pooled all their resources at the same time for concerted action. Sanctions were never comprehensive and so were never a solution.

The only time military action was applied against a North Korean nuclear facility was on Sept. 6, 2007 when the Israeli Air Force and special forces blew up the plutonium reactor under construction by North Korea in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zour, in Operation Orchard. This plant was intended to be Iran’s main supplier of plutonium and had it been finished, would have accelerated Tehran’s advance towards a hydrogen bomb.

The Israeli example has long been set aside, mainly since it was overtaken by Obama’s pro-Iran policy. Successive governments led by Binyamin Netanyahu also set this precedent aside over heavy resistance among Israel’s politicians and some of its generals to an attack on Iran’s nuclear program before it matured.

North Korea’s latest nuclear test was estimated by experts to be five times more powerful than the WWII bomb which destroyed Nagasaki. The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty said it was evidence that Pyongyang’s nuclear program is “advancing rapidly.”

The leading world powers’ only real weapon against this advance is unity. But because this is so elusive, their governments – and because a military attack is seen as the worst option – those governments are apparently moving towards getting reconciled to living with a nuclear-armed Kim regime.

Against Iran, six world powers (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany), did team up and so were able to negotiate the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which left its weapons and missile programs intact although relatively free of effective oversight.

If a similar lineup confronted Kim front-un with a collective seven-day ultimatum to dismantle those programs or else face their destruction, he might decided to sit down and talk.. As things stand today, he is free to shoot ballistic missiles over Japan and detonate a hydrogen bomb like a child’s firecrackers, while the world begs him on bended knee to come and discuss freezing his belligerent programs on the Iranian model.

The North Korean leader will want much more than the deal won by Tehran, for a 10-year moratorium against a $150 billion pledge and many other rewards. Kim, whose arsenal is far more advanced, will certainly go a lot higher. His leverage for extortion is unassailable. He can either bargain for a mountain of cash or carry on looming over his Pacific neighbors and the United States, armed with advanced ballistic missiles and a nuclear bomb. He would then be faithful to the legacy of his father Kim Jong-Il, who declared in 1995 that a nuclear program was the only guarantee of his dynasty’s survival.

Attempts to starve his country and force the regime into submission have fallen short. Even South Korea does not dare stop sending aid to allay its compatriots’ endemic famine. For now, both Iran and North Korea, long in cahoots on their weapons programs, are riding high.