Iran’s nuclear ambitions


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for attacks on Israeli embassy staff in Georgia and India on Monday Feb. 13 that wounded at least two people. “Iran is behind these attacks. It is the biggest exporter of terror in the world,” Netanyahu told members of his Likud party. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland seemed much on the same wavelength two days later.

The Iranian regime has not to blame others for finger pointing it. In fact, since some time the most senior authorities in Iran have been threatening to retaliate against presumed Israeli covert operations targeting nuclear scientists in Iran.

Following the assassination in Iran on Jan. 11 of Mostapha Ahmadi Roshan, vice-president of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility, the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei blamed the “international terror network led by the CIA and the Mossad”, threatening that “we would never refrain from punishing the culprits and those behind them.” 

Iran’s Intelligence Minister warned that “the British, the Americans and the Mossad would taste the firm and heavy response of the Islamic Republic.”

General Massoud Jazaeri, second in command of the Armed forces of the regime stressed that “capabilities stemming from the Islamic Revolution’s strategic depth – a term normally used for proxies in the Near East, notably the Hizballah – were being considered.”

Subsequently a Lebanese man arrested in Thailand and suspected of having relations with the Hizballah led the Thai police to a hideout containing bomb making facilities. An Iranian injured in an explosion in Bangkok on February 14 was detained by the police for further inquiries. 

So Iran’s being behind the Monday embassy explosions is only logical conclusion. Retaliating against the assassination of nuclear scientists is however a mere pretext, rhetoric fit for internal use: the true issue is Iran’s covert nuclear. So regardless of who is really behind the assassination attempts, the clerics’ rhetoric is a political one first and foremost.

Two issues are at stakes: the nuclear impasse, and the internal dissent.

Engulfed in a deep internal crisis, the clerics see no way out except what they call a “life insurance” in the form of military nuclear might. At the same time, they have to keep opposition under control.

On the first issue, terrorist acts against Israeli embassies and other similar attempts are meant to send a “strong” message to the West. Not being able to step back from a strategic agenda for survival, the regime resorts to terrorism as “a legitimate foreign policy tool,” in terms used by Victoria Nuland.

The obvious message is: “Yes we can.” In other words, “do not underestimate our capability of nuisance, especially in an election year in the United States.” Iran’s ruling clique believes that the West might back off with a much feared wave of destabilizing terrorist acts in sight.

But the second issue, internal opposition, is also a source of concern. That is why the clerics try to make the most out of the assassinated scientists’ affair. In an interview with the NBC, Ali Larijani, advisor to the supreme leader, alleged that the main opposition, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) cooperated with the Mossad to assassinate the Iranian scientists. A shear lie meant only to send another hurried message to the US State Department, which under recommendations by the Appeal’s Court of DC is studying the removal of the MEK from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO), an act considered a redline by the regime in power as it would send an encouraging message to a hostile population waiting for their turn at the regime.

Iran’s leaders resort to terror because the tool has proven its effectiveness in the past. An explosion perpetrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon in 1983 that killed 241 US marines and 58 French paratroopers prompted the withdrawal of the International Peace Force from the country. A wave of bloody street bombings in Paris in 1986 and French nationals taken hostage by proxies in Lebanon made the French government muzzle Iranian dissidents and leave the Lebanese territory open to Iranian influence.

As of the FTO list, Hillary Clinton has been sitting on the decision to de-list the Iranian opposition since about two years, in spite of Justice’s recommendation, for the obviously political reason of not wanting to antagonize Iran.

So it is a logical conclusion for the clerics that terror pays. The best way to correct their impression is to stick to a principled approach:

Regardless of reasons, terrorist acts should be punished with extreme firmness. A few months ago the highest officials in the US affirmed that an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US had been defused, but no action was taken. Leaving terrorist acts unpunished for political considerations is a fatal negligence of principles.

On the Iranian opposition, whatever the nature of their struggle against the regime, the court has cleared them of terrorism. Keeping them on the FTO list is yet another negligence of principles. That is playing into the clerics hands.

Principles apart, from a political point of view there is no sense in kowtowing to a regime on the brink of internal chaos and unable to hold falling pieces together. It is losing a strategic ally in the region, the Syrian regime, and the increasing pressure of international sanctions is beyond the endurance limit of a population opposed to the regime it considers responsible for all the misery. Sources from inside Iranian ruling circles point to a state of extreme stress around the supreme leader, even from close aides, in dealing with crushing effects of recent sanctions adopted against the country because of its unlawful behavior in dealing with the nuclear issue.

So harsh words and saber rattling should deceive nobody.

U.N. Watchdog Reports Iran’s Increased Capability


Iran significantly increased its ability to make nuclear fuel this summer, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog said in a new report. According to The New York Times, the report released Friday by the International Atomic Energy Agency detailed an increase in the number of centrifuges installed, which are used to enrich uranium. The current number of more than 8,300 centrifuges is more than 1,100 above the June total.

Despite the boost, the report revealed that the pace at which Iran was enriching uranium had slowed. IAEA inspectors could not determine the reason behind the slowdown, nor did Iran offer any explanation. Still, outside experts say that if the uranium amassed by Iran was purified further, it could create fuel for nearly two nuclear warheads.

Though Iran recently opened some important sites to inspectors after barring their entrance for more than a year, the Islamic Republic continues to withhold crucial documents detailing the military’s involvement with the nuclear program and refuses to allow investigators to interview personnel suspected of involvement in weapons development. The U.S. State Department said the report “clearly shows that Iran continues to expand its nuclear program and deny the IAEA most forms of cooperation,” according to The Times.

Happy birthday to me


Not long ago, a guy I know, a good guy who to all outward appearances seems happy and successful, replied to a birthday e-mail I sent him at work — “go
home and blow out some candles” — with this:

“I’m 40-f—ing-8, give me a break. They tell me that’s close to 50, but I refuse to believe it.” (Only he didn’t leave any letters out of “f—ing.”)

I wrote back: “you’ve got your hair, a flat stomach, and a wife. I’d say life is good.”

To which he replied: “At 20 you won’t settle for less than several million, two best-sellers and a house in Majorca. At 48, what you said sounds really good.”

Expectations are strange things. When we’re kids, and when we’re parents of kids, we have no compunction about shooting for the stars. Every child is encouraged to believe that becoming a Michael Phelps or a Golda Meir, or however your tribe fills in the blank, is within the realm of possibility. B’nai mitzvah speeches and commencement addresses are universally about holding fast to your dreams.

But nevertheless, somewhere along the line we’re supposed to learn that the secret to happiness is adjusting our expectations to reality. Maturity means accepting that failing to get the gold or the Golda isn’t the same thing as failure. The good life is to be found in wanting what you have.

To be sure, the self-help sections of bookstores are filled with inspirational messages and 10-point-plans to the contrary. If only we visualize what we want, if only we believe in ourselves, if only we buy this book, then love and riches, fame and health, six-packs and serenity will be ours, no matter how far along in the life cycle we are.

But by and large, despite those enticing pitches, adulthood turns out to mean acceptance — of how you played the hand you were dealt, of mortality, of beshert — even if it sometimes includes flashes of 40-f—ing-8-like fury at the way the world turns out to work.

I wonder whether that rage would be mitigated if, instead of everyone being brought up to think we could be president, we were raised to believe, as Buddhists are, that desire is the source of suffering. I wonder if the gross domestic product would really shrivel, or the upward mobility of classes would stall, or the amount of art and justice in the world would decline, if we grew up already knowing how things more often than not turn out to be — if we understood early on the unreliability of the meritocracy, and the odds against our dreams, and the huge role in life of dumb luck — if the rough passage signaled in the cry of “40-f—ing-8” were not something kept hidden from children, like the true identity of the tooth fairy, the mutability of beauty, the lifelong wrestling with the meaning of existence that lies ahead of them.

In “The Uses of Enchantment,” child psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim explains that the purpose of fairy tales is to give children an arena — a proxy world — in which to come to grips with evil, to come to terms with loss, to train their emotions for the inevitable struggles and disappointments of life. Anyone who has read the cruel original fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm will recognize the sense of this. But anyone who knows these stories only from their Disney versions will recognize how diligently we now go out of our way to insulate kids from the disturbing stuff that Bettelheim says is good for them.

Yes, I know that Bambi’s mother is killed, and plenty of other modern classics include scary separations from parents. The murder of Harry Potter’s parents by Lord Voldemort is of course the setup for the series. But (spoiler alert) no one in those seven volumes is forced to reconcile with the whole panoply of less lethal but no-less-soul-crushing disappointments — being downsized, pink-slipped, passed over, left — of which many, maybe most, lives are constructed. We are all broken vessels.

Recently I found myself reading the ” target=”_blank”>jewishjournal.com/sowhatsnew. He can be reached at martyk@jewishjournal.com.