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Iran will not be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015

Secretary Clinton said on Monday that Iran's ability to produce a nuclear weapon has been delayed by sanctions.

The timing of this statement is a bit awkward and insensitive considering the plane crash in Iran the day before, which resulted in the death of at least 77 people. After all, "Aircraft accidents are not uncommon in Iran, where international sanctions have prevented the country from buying new aircraft parts from the West" (FP).

Anyway, this is good news from Israel via the NY Times:

Israel's departing intelligence chief said he believes Iran will not be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015 at the earliest, Israeli news media reported Friday, in a revised and surprisingly upbeat assessment of Tehran's nuclear capabilities. (...)

Israeli predictions for Iran's ability to make a nuclear bomb, which Israel considers an existential threat, have gradually lengthened in recent years.

In the early 2000s, Israeli intelligence branches spoke of Iran's making a bomb before the end of the decade. As recently as 2009, Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, said he thought Iran could do it by 2011. Last month, Moshe Yaalon, Israel's minister of strategic affairs, said he believed Iran was at least three years away from a nuclear bomb.

About a year ago, Mr. Dagan told a parliamentary committee that Iran would not have the ability to fire a nuclear missile until 2014, Yediot Aharonot reported. He is said to have based his latest estimate on an assumption that no further preventive actions are taken.

Sarkozy pilots Middle East cease-fire talks, fills US power vacuum

Israel’s land invasion continues with the Jewish state showing little sign it is ready to negotiate a truce.  While Hamas has indicated it is prepared to begin negotiations, Israel does not intend to sit at the table with Hamas in any future negotiations, reports Haaretz:
Israel will instead seek separate agreements with moderate Arab states, with the Palestinian Authority and with the international community.

"The international community will initiate the agreements and will impose it on Hamas," [a Haaretz] source said. "The agreements will be with both the PA and Egypt and then if Hamas will not agree it will pay the price, mostly by even greater [diplomatic] isolation."
Despite disallowing signals from Israel about the prospects of their short-term success, the ever-ambitious Sarkozy is taking advantage of the US power vacuum to assume diplomatic leadership in the talks, hoping to capitalize on France’s controversially reinvigorated ties with Syria, Time reports:   
Continue reading "Sarkozy pilots Middle East cease-fire talks, fills US power vacuum"

Ground War in Gaza

The Washington Post's Grif White reports that Israeli troops have moved into the Gaza strip. Some notes:

Two weeks after the start of Israeli operations in Gaza in 2006, Hezbollah launched a strike into Israel that killed three soldiers, and two were taken hostage, purportedly to swap for Lebanese hostages still held by Israel. This set off the 2006 Lebanon War. Israeli ground forces did not have their best day in that war, but Hamas is no Hezbollah. Meanwhile, the AFP has a report in which various analysts predict that Hezbollah will not get itself involved in the current conflict.

Israel is signalling that this will be a longer operation. From the Post piece: One spokeswoman, Maj. Avital Leibovich, said on CNN that it would be a "lengthy operation" because "we have many, many targets."

These targets could include others than Hamas. In a Terrorism Focus series on the fall-out of the Iraq war, earlier in December, Michael Scheuer wrote about the growing foothold of Salafists in the Gaza Strip:
In Palestine, there seems to be a minor Salafi presence in the West Bank but a steadily growing military and proselytizing presence in Gaza. The above noted “Army of Islam” and several other Salafi organizations have created training facilities in Gaza and have displayed them to the international media, defiantly proclaiming, “We are coming Jews!” (Reuters, September 2; see also Terrorism Focus, September 24; for other Salafi groups active in Gaza, see Terrorism Monitor, April 17). They have, to date, conducted some attacks on the Israeli army when its units were engaged in raids in Gaza, and have attacked Christian and American targets in Gaza (Reuters, September 1; Jerusalem Post, October 21). The Salafi groups in Gaza claim they receive funding locally and “are linked to the brothers of the al-Qaeda organization only from an ideological point of view” (, September 2). That said, their members have been reported chanting slogans supporting bin Laden and al-Qaeda while they are undergoing training activities (al-Arabiyah TV, September 3).
For the times when the road to Jerusalem went through Baghdad...

What are your thoughts?

"Germany's Iran Lobby"

Benjamin Weinthal writes about the German reception of the book "The Israel Lobby" by professors Walt and Mearsheimer. He compares the big interest in the power of the Israel lobby in the US with the lack of interest in the power of the Iran lobby in Germany.

Writing in the Jewish Press (via Achse des Guten) he asks a good question, but I disagree with his answer. Weinthal praises a journalist famous for his polemicism, who accuses his fellow Germans of wanting Israel to "disappear" so that they (we) are not reminded of Auschwitz anymore:

How does one explain this disconnect between the pathological obsession with dead Jews and the painful indifference toward the survivors of the Holocaust, their children and grandchildren, and Israel as an oasis of security for Jews? The German Jewish Journalist Henryk M. Broder remarked recently, during a panel discussion in the Jewish Community Center in Berlin, that the inaction of a large segment of German society is due to covert admiration for Iran, a kind of Schadenfreude (malicious joy). For the Iranians vow to carry out the Nazi plan of extermination. and Israel, as the permanent reminder of Auschwitz, with the concomitant emotions of guilt and shame for Germans, will disappear. A better social-psychological explanation has yet to surface to explain German indifference to the Iran Lobby.