What Does the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran Mean for Syria?

Ehsani writes:

Dr. Landis,

The latest NIE report on Iran is another significant event in the region. Some analysts describe the report as "sensational," and I agree. To underscore the importance of this development, President Bush decided to hold a press conference this morning to discuss the implications of its findings.

While the President tried to project the image that nothing has changed in his Administration’s policy towards Iran, the truth is that this report has dealt the existing policy a severe blow.

During the press conference, Bush admitted that he had learned about the NIE report a week before it became public yesterday.

The dumping of March 14th, the invitation of Syria to Annapolis and that of Iran to the G.C.C conference is a startling dynamic that is sweeping the region.

Syria stands to reap the benefits in a most spectacular fashion

Report May Reset Debate on Iran

Case for Military Strikes
Blunted by View That Work
On Atomic Weapons Ended
By JAY SOLOMON and SIOBHAN GORMAN
December 4, 2007; Page A3

WASHINGTON — A new report from 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its development of atomic weapons in 2003 — a surprising finding likely to shift the debate over Iran's nuclear ambitions both at home and abroad.

The National Intelligence Estimate, demanded by Congress in 2006, could undercut calls from hawks inside the Bush administration — as well as those on the presidential campaign trail — who have urged military strikes to combat Iran's program. U.S. diplomats say it also could undermine Washington's ability to use financial sanctions to pressure Tehran into giving up its long-term pursuit of nuclear technologies, especially if it emboldens Iran's allies such as China and Russia.

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE: IRAN
[Image]1
"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt, and Tehran's announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work." Read the full report summary (PDF)2 .

At the same time, the report could pose a challenge to the Iranian regime, which has expanded its strategic influence across the Middle East partly on the back of its nuclear ambitions. Much like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Tehran has employed belligerence over the nuclear issue to bolster its regional credentials by standing up to the U.S.

The NIE, the consensus view of U.S. intelligence agencies, says Tehran appeared committed to developing a nuclear weapon until 2003. It froze its activities following a mixture of diplomatic pressure and the prospect of U.S. military force and financial sanctions, the report says. The report also says Tehran's decision was driven in part by the exposure in 2002 of some of its covert programs.

"International isolation and international pressure," said one senior intelligence official, "created an atmosphere that clearly led to this decision."

The official said it wasn't clear whether the 2003 invasion of Iraq or other events — including Libya's decision to end its nuclear program and the dissolution of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan's nuclear-weapons network — influenced Iran's decision.

Regardless of the freeze, the NIE warns that Iran continues to enrich uranium at a rate that could allow it to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb sometime between 2010 and 2015. Iran continued through this year to install new centrifuge equipment but faced significant technical problems operating it, the report says.

Iran's decision to freeze its nuclear-weapons program took place two years before the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. While he has become the face of the country's nuclear ambitions, his ultimate influence over these matters is uncertain, since much power in Iran is held by a council of senior clerics.

•  The News: A report from 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concludes Iran halted its development of atomic weapons in 2003.
•  What It Means: The report could undercut calls for military strikes on Iran, and may undermine Washington's use of financial sanctions to pressure Tehran into giving up its nuclear program.
•  The Warning: The report says Iran continues to enrich uranium at a rate that could allow it to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb sometime between 2010 and 2015.

The White House sought to play down the significance of the estimate, arguing that its most significant finding was that Iran continues to press ahead with its uranium-enrichment work. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters the estimate suggests President Bush "has the right strategy" in confronting Iran.

The Bush administration and its Western partners, particularly France and the United Kingdom, have been working in recent months to pass a United Nations resolution penalizing Tehran for its uranium-enrichment work. Now, a number of U.S. officials believe China and Russia, and potentially other countries, will balk at coercive actions, citing the diminished threat.

Last week, talks between Iran's senior nuclear negotiator and the European Union collapsed in acrimony, with the Iranian, Saeed Jalili, bragging about his country's recent advances.

Congress mandated the report in a defense bill last year, and intelligence officials said yesterday it was also a part of their continuing review of their information on Iran. Such a report had already been requested by Senate Democrats earlier that year, and in a May 19, 2006, letter to President Bush, Democratic senators, including Harry Reid, now Senate majority leader, and Carl M. Levin of Michigan, now Senate Armed Services chairman, said the report was needed to "avoid repeating mistakes made in the run-up to the conflict in Iraq."

U.S. intelligence officials said the report was delayed because of the need to gather additional information. This was deemed crucial, these officials said, to avoid a repeat of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which is widely seen today as having overstated Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities ahead of the U.S. invasion.

The report's findings diverge from statements made by administration officials as recently as this year, and also from the most recent NIE on Iran, issued in 2005. In February, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told Congress that "we assess that Tehran seeks to develop nuclear weapons." President Bush in October said that denying Tehran a nuclear capability was central to any international effort to avoid "World War III."

Officials at U.S. spy agencies came to believe after their 2005 report was issued that Iran had suspended its weapons program. The differences between this assessment and the administration's public comments prompted them to make the report public, officials say.

Republican and Democratic presidential front-runners Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton have cited the Iranian nuclear threat as perhaps America's No. 1 security issue. Both candidates endorsed the administration's coercive actions against Iran.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com3

 

Syria ‘path to peace in the Mid-East’
December 03, 2007

JERUSALEM: Israel should drop its preconditions and immediately resume peace talks with Syria, a confidant of Israel’s Defence Minister said yesterday.

Labor Party legislator Danny Yatom also told Israel Radio that it would be easier to reach a deal with Syria than with the Palestinians, and that progress with Syria could accelerate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“I think the time has come to renew negotiations with Syria,” he said. “After Annapolis, we need to take advantage of the new atmosphere.”

Yatom was reportedly briefed by Defence Minister Ehud Barak after the minister returned from the international Middle East conference held last week in Annapolis, Maryland. The Annapolis conference focused on the Israeli-Palestinian track but Syria also sent a representative, raising hopes it could be persuaded to break its alliance with Iran if talks with Israel were to resume. An Annapolis follow-up conference, tentatively scheduled for Moscow in the northern hemisphere spring, may address the Israeli-Syrian conflict directly.

Yatom, a former chief of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, said the Government should drop a series of preconditions and start talks with Syria immediately. In the past, Israel has demanded the Syrian Government withdraw support for militant groups, including the Palestinian factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese guerilla group Hezbollah. In exchange for peace, Syria wants Israel to return all of the Golan Heights, a plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.

Yatom suggested negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians be conducted simultaneously, but said it would be easier to reach a deal with Damascus.

Secret ‘diplomatic’ overtures to Hamas
30/11/2007 By Anshel Pfeffer Jerusalem

A diplomatic back-channel is intensifying between Israeli and Muslim religious leaders, including figures identified with Hamas.

The aim of the talks, taking place with the full knowledge of the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, is to provide a wider consensus at the grassroots for an eventual accord.

While all eyes have been on preparations for this week’s Annapolis summit, talks have continued between senior religious figures on both sides.

Israel has insisted on not talking to Hamas politically until it recognises

Israel and renounces violence, but politicians are aware of the need to engage with Hamas on some level.

There is also a need to supply some degree of support for a possible peace deal within the Palestinian public, especially among the more Islamist elements. While a dialogue between Jewish and Muslim leaders has been taking place for over a decade, a senior Israeli government source told the JC this week that "it has greatly intensified over the past six months and is of a much serious order than in the past"…..

"We all feel that in the end, the success or failure of the Annapolis summit and subsequent negotiations, is tied to the goodwill of the public on both sides."

Abbas needed to gain support also within Islamist circles, he added. "Also, for many Israelis the fact that there is no consensus within the Palestinian people causes widespread scepticism and we are trying to disprove that."

Rabbi Melchior said that one aim was for a fatwa by senior Islamic clerics to affirm the right of a Jewish state to exist in the region.

Among others, the leadership of Israel’s Islamic Movement and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are involved. Both have close political and religious ties with Hamas. As Sunnis, they also have a joint interest in minimising Iranian-Shia influence in the region.

Comments (85)


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51. Alex said:

AIG

No. Of course not. Hizbollah’s weapons would be part of the final settlement between Israel/Syria/Lebanon. Hizbollah would give up all its weapons and become a political party… hopefully they would also change their name.

But that implies some reforms to Lebanon’s system. The Shiites (the largest group in Lebanon today) would need to get promoted somehow from their current #3 in rankings of the political leadership in Lebanon … Maronite President, Sunni prime minister .. Shiite speaker of Parliament.

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December 5th, 2007, 4:58 pm

 

52. Atassi said:

Alex implied “”But that implies some reforms to Lebanon’s system. The Shiites (the largest group in Lebanon today) would need to get promoted somehow from their current #3 in rankings of the political leadership in Lebanon … Maronite President, Sunni prime minister .. Shiite speaker of Parliament.””
Should the same reforms be applied to the Syrian systems too!!!. You can’t be an advocate to only apply the reform on the Lebanon system to satisfy the outside players..Can you Alex?

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December 5th, 2007, 5:13 pm

 

53. EHSANI2 said:

Since it was me that made the comment that “Syria stands to reap the benefits in a most spectacular fashion”, I think that I owe some of the readers a more detailed explanation.

During Bush’s press conference, he admitted that he first knew about the NIE report one week ago. We will never know of course whether he was blindsided or whether he was the architect behind the report. As many people know, The U.S. was already pushing for a third round of U.N. sanctions against Iran. Just two days earlier than the report came out, Undersecretary of State Burns met in Paris with British, French, Russian, Chinese and German counterparts to seek support for a new Security Council resolution. Now that the report is made public, diplomats seem to think that the findings may cripple U.S. attempts to win that third round of sanction. Given the above, it is more logical to assume that the White House was indeed blindsided rather than being the architect of the report.

Let us now go back to Syria.

Atassi makes a very good point when he argues that the elimination of the nuclear capability of Iran may actually harm Syria rather than help it in so far as its main patron is not the nuclear power it thought it was hiding behind. Moreover, hawks within the White House are unlikely to dramatically alter their strategy towards Iran as of yet. Indeed, Bush tried to offer a picture of nothing-has-changed during the conference.

While this is all true, it is also a fact that the political landscape in the U.S. has changed dramatically since. One only needs to watch the Democratic candidates debate the matter. Senator Clinton now finds herself facing heavy criticism for supporting a Senate resolution that her rivals said encouraged “saber-rattling rhetoric” from President Bush towards Iran.

Syria’s leadership has long felt that the hawks within the U.S. Administration want to weaken Syria to the point of pushing it to “sell out” to Israel and/or to go for a regime change altogether.
Not surprisingly, Damascus has tried to design its own master plan that would unsettle this train that it sees coming at her. Set below is a summary of what I think its plan entailed:

1- Do everything possible to slow down the Americans in Iraq.
2- Build on the existing relationship with Iran to help its weak military position
3- Design an improved alliance with powerful and Sunni Turkey.
4- Insure that Lebanon does not fall under the U.S. umbrella and that Hezbollah is not disarmed.
5- Cushion the negative impact of the sanctions by encouraging foreign investments.

I am sure that the above list is not conclusive and that one can think of other parts to the strategy.

The recent events in Lebanon, Annapolis and the NIE report cannot but leave one with the impression that Syria’s leadership has indeed passed this test in a “spectacular” fashion.

Where Syria continues to face enormous challenges, however, is to do with the performance of its economy and future energy needs.

According to the Al-Khaleej newspaper, a recently presented report shows that Syria had witnessed an average 2.9% economic growth rate in 2006. The report related this low growth to declining performance by the sectors of petroleum and agriculture.

This morning we learn that Iraq and Syria are planning to bold a pipeline before 2010 that will feed Syrian power plants with Iraqi natural gas. According to the Syrian oil minister, the country is struggling to cope with rising electricity consumption. Plans are underway to bring gas from Iran and Egypt too.

Recently, Mr. Dardari has admitted that close to $30 billion of investments are needed before the country can expand its economy at levels that keep being promised by the economic cabinet.

While Syria may have won the last political battle (not whole war), it continues to face formidable challenges from its economy and population demographics. The political tension with the west has impeded the country’s effort to attract investments in oil and gas exploration as well as many other industries. Its proven reserves of 3.2 billion barrels are expected to last about 10 years according to energy experts.

For Syria to truly feel confident about its future, not only better relations with the west and its Arab neighbors is required but a strategic rethinking of its economic policies is also needed. For the country to attract the huge investments needed, a confident and dramatic turn to capitalism and open markets is required.

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December 5th, 2007, 5:24 pm

 

54. Alex said:

Atassi .. old one : )

You asked me the same last year.

My answer was: Yes, in a way, but not that quickly.

Syria will take much more time to reach that stage … it is a bigger system and it is a more backward system … change is not that easy.

Even in Lebanon it is not that easy. If there was no need to disarm Hizbollah in order to achieve a settlement between Israel/Syria/Lebanon, I would not suggest taking a risk with changing Lebanon’s political system for now.

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December 5th, 2007, 5:46 pm

 

55. Atassi said:

EHSANI2,
Excellent as always, you have listed interesting views and points and thank you for enforcing the idea of economic power as a tool to survival in the regional political challenges.
But, I would not claim the recent events in Lebanon, Annapolis and the NIE report as a Win-Win. for Syria to come to Annapolis is a win for SA diplomacy and the western power!!. Please remember, Syria and its ambassador in DC were flagging the “ No way we will show up” unless it’s a comprehensive deal!! Nope.. Syria was forced to show-up anyway otherwise, they will be left singing the blues.
The Lebanon’s presidency battle has no clear winner since Mr Souliam has a very unique CV, anyone can claim him as his MAN. “ that why he is being elected “. Please keep in mind, Syria, Hizb Allah and Hamas are paws being used by a bigger players for challenging each other influences in the region only .. Nothing more nothing less, If you believe otherwise, you would be green in this business!!!

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December 5th, 2007, 5:53 pm

 

56. Alex said:

Atassi,

Why don’t you become a Saudi?

I have read you the past three years here always find great things to say about your favorite country in the world .. Saudi Arabia.

Everything to you is a proof that Syria is weak and that the Saudis are geniuses.

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December 5th, 2007, 5:58 pm

 

57. Atassi said:

touching a nerve 🙂
Alex,
I am proud of being Syrian , Even after 26 years in the US, I still have a deep root in Syria. never missed an opportunity to be a true Syrian.. You personally know it.
You owe me an apology

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December 5th, 2007, 6:20 pm

 

58. Alex said:

Atassi

When I communicate with your cousin (Ford Prefect) I wish he is Syria’s foreign minister. But when I read your predictable opinions here I think … “too bad. It will take longer than I expected to have democracy in Syria”

It is a night and day difference between the two of you… and you will never understand why.

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December 5th, 2007, 6:44 pm

 

59. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
I do not believe anymore that Syria is able to get Hizballah to disarm. Therefore, I think a peace deal is not possible according to your view since it involves Syria delivering something it can’t. In my view, Hizballah is out of business for a very long while, if not forever, so I am not worried at all about them.

I always find it amusing that you view reasonable views like that of Atassi as reasons for the delay in democracy in Syria. There is only one player that holds the responsibility for Syrian democracy, that is the Syrian regime. No else is to blame for lack of democracy or lack of economic progress.

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December 5th, 2007, 6:56 pm

 

60. EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

It is so kind of you to worry about Syria’s democracy and economic progress.

You make it sound like it is a light switch that we Syrians could simply push and voila…democracy is ushered.

Have you been following Putin’s Russia recently? Have you been reading his speechs? Do you find any similarities with the Syrian leadership?

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December 5th, 2007, 7:02 pm

 

61. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

And Alex,
I noticed one interest difference between us. When someone tells me he doesn’t understand what I am saying, I view it as being my problem; I haven’t explained things well.

You on the other hand think it is the problem of the person that didn’t understand and never examine your own explanations.

You find yourself quite a few times saying things like “you will never understand” to people who don’t agree with you. Perhaps the problem lies with your explanations that are just not good enough?

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December 5th, 2007, 7:06 pm

 

62. Alex said:

AIG,

That’s right. Syria is weak and … Hizbollah is even weaker.

I am happy for you that you are not worried at all about them.

And I am happy I gave you another reason to be amused.

And you are right .. the difference between you and me is that you are open minded + reasonable, and I am too defensive.

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December 5th, 2007, 7:19 pm

 

63. Atassi said:

I am impressed that you can differentiate between my cousin and my way of thinking!!! But I am puzzled by the fact you can only can comprehend and able to disgust one category of opinions!! Trust me on this, Both me and my cousin are true believers that Democracy and economic prosperity are two important historical rights to our fellow Syrians, it’s clear to for both of us that, Syrians MUST earn them back themselves..

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December 5th, 2007, 7:22 pm

 

64. Alex said:

Atassi,

Everyone wants “democracy” and “economic prosperity” for Syria .. you, your cousin, Ehsani, Another Israeli guy , Farid Ghadry, Dick Cheney

But that does not make you all similar.

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December 5th, 2007, 7:43 pm

 

65. ausamaa said:

Alex,

For once I have to agree with AIG when he says about you: “You find yourself quite a few times saying things like “you will never understand” to people who don’t agree with you.”

AIG and his likes are right! They read the papers, they watch TV, they have access to the internet, they have access to THE FACTS same as the rest of the people in the world. They DO UNDERSTAND what you are saying and they DO KNOW what they are doing.

You are just wasting your time with them; they DO KNOW. However, the intelligence of admitting to that in Public is a totaly different matter.

But we know that they know that we know that they know…..

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December 5th, 2007, 7:49 pm

 

66. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

EHSANI2,

You know, most Israelis really don’t care whether there is or is not democracy in Syria. They basically say that it would be a mistake to replace Bashar with the muslim brotherhood because Bashar is making sure that Syria is weak militarily and economically and we don’t know what to expect from the brotherhood.

And just to be clear, I agree with you 100% that Syrians, both local and expats, have very little influence on the regime and the fate of democracy in Syria is mostly in the hands of the regime. There is no button you can push to make Syria democratic. On the face of it, your prediction of no democracy in Syria in our life time looks correct.

But here is where I disagree with you. When you look at the whole picture, even as you present it, you see an incompatibility between the political stability you predict and the economic situation you predict. As I see it, something has got to give. Either Syria has to open up significantly, or it will enter an economical black hole that will lead to instability. This could lead to a Soviet Union style scenario in which contrary to anyone’s predictions, the regime may fall. What is your take on this?

And let me explain my position in regards to Alex. You accept the regime in Syria as inevitable; you accept it reluctantly not because it is good. That is a position I certianly understand. Alex’s position, on the other hand, is that there are somethings that are inherently good with the dictatorial and oppressive regime. I find this notion unsubstantiated and try as I might I cannot get from Alex a good explanation why he supports the regime and will not consider any opposition viable (except those in jail of course). There is an inherent contradiction in his position. He understands that benefits of a democratic regime, lives in one, yet wants to put a positive spin on dictatorial one.

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December 5th, 2007, 7:52 pm

 

67. Ford Prefect said:

Akbar Palace declares: “[T]he NIE report has the approximate value of a Food Store coupon booklet. The US intelligence agencies, specifically, the CIA has for years misinformed our leaders and the American people.”

Typical of the combined laughable arrogance and deadly ignorance of the current hapless junta running loose in certain hallways of the VP’s Office (after being kicked out of the Pentagon), AP conveniently forget to tell us that the NIE is produced by the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence – who is appointed by his hero President Bush. Not to mention that ODNI synthesizes intelligence from ALL 16 government agencies including all branches of the military and DHS, AP is ignorant enough to pin the NIE on the CIA only – especially now that there are no more arms to twist at the CIA to fake intelligence in favor of a certain White House agenda. This fact alone makes AP’s argument less worthy of any PayLess shoe coupons.

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December 5th, 2007, 8:02 pm

 

68. Atassi said:

Alex said,
“”Everyone wants “democracy” and “economic prosperity” for Syria .. you, your cousin, Ehsani, Another Israeli guy , Farid Ghadry, Dick Cheney

But that does not make you all similar””
===========================================
I don’t see your name listed!!, so I guess you are not seeking democracy” and “economic prosperity” for Syria !!

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December 5th, 2007, 8:04 pm

 

69. EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

The incompatibility that you alluded will be resolved this way:

SYRIA WILL OPEN UP SIGNIFICANTLY.

Things are cooking as we speak.

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December 5th, 2007, 8:07 pm

 

70. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

EHSANI2,

Could you please elaborate?

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December 5th, 2007, 8:14 pm

 

71. EHSANI2 said:

As far as I can tell from my contacts within the country, the business environment is changing rather dramatically. The business leaders seem to feel that the country has seen its worst days from a geopolitical standpoint. The economic policy makers have started to implement many of the “ideas” and “plans”. I am personally aware of some significant investments that are being contemplated.

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December 5th, 2007, 8:40 pm

 

72. Alex said:

Noooooo … Ehsani. you must be wrong.

What you mentioned is wrong… it sounds positive. Impossible.. can’t be true.

AIG, Bashmann … tell him how wrong he is.

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December 5th, 2007, 8:45 pm

 

73. SimoHurtta said:

Sim,
1) Wait and find out. People were saying exactly the same things about Osirak. Boy were they wrong.

Seems AIG that you really do favour new wars. Though I think these new wars will not any more be such “hero tales” as the Israeli history writing wants to portray the former ones.

What comes to Osirak. It was an small research reactor under IAEA control as you perfectly well know. Not a full scale nuclear bomb producing facility.

Of course AIG you know who sold Saddam the chemical weapons and gave the technology. You can’t be so badly “out of the loop”. Hint, same guys who donate Israel money and weapons.

Who helped Iran to create chemical weapons during Iran-Iraq war is even more interesting than who helped Iraq. The Israeli Iranian close WMD relations continued even after the war and those extremely shady “Iran Contra” businesses.

In 1998, a court in Israel convicted Nahum Manbar, an Israeli citizen, of selling 150 tons of chemical weapon materials to Iran between 1990 and 1995. Manbar reportedly also provided Iran with know-how and a list of equipment necessary to build factories to produce mustard gas and the nerve gases tabun, sarin and soman.
Manbar: victim of Israeli-Iranian covert relations

What Israel’s Top-Secret Manbar Trial Reveals About Extensive, Ongoing Israeli Arms Dealing With Iran

It is not clear who killed the civilians in Halabja, which was on the war frontier. There is also strong evidence that the Kurds were killed by Iranian chemical weapons and “we” know who helped Iran with their chemical weapon program and provided weapons. In any case it is rather hypocritical to blame the bad Iraqis and Iranians without admitting the role USA and Israel played in those events.

PS
AIG Debka has interesting “gossips” from “reliable” sources of the present US Israeli relations. Dispute over Iran’s nuclear program throws Israel-US relations into grave crisis.

PS 2
As Eshani2 said things are cooking
Petro-Canada Bids for Syrian Offshore Exploration, Zainab Says
Oil companies (especially US) love less democratic regimes. Wasn’t it BG Group who is planing to ship Gaza gas to Egypt instead of Israel. The Israeli generals want that gas, but are not willing to pay the Palestinians share (like normal).

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December 5th, 2007, 8:56 pm

 

74. Alex said:

AIG,

You tell me why do you think I “want to put a positive spin on dictatorial”

Sounds like i am manipulating things for a reason. Any guess?

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December 5th, 2007, 8:58 pm

 

75. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

EHSANI2,
We will just have to wait and see then what will materialize and what will not. There cannot be economic reforms without democratic reforms, and it will be interesting to see how the regime manages them. So far the the signals are going the other way, harsher treatment of dissidents and more censorship as well as dismal growth. How much growth do you predict next year?

Alex,
Instead of asking people to guess, perhaps you can be clear about your positions as is normal in educated discourse.

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December 5th, 2007, 9:18 pm

 

76. EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

I keep asking you. Have you been following Putin’s Russia? Brilliant similarities. Democracy? Hardly. Economic boom? Absolutely

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December 5th, 2007, 9:57 pm

 

77. Friend in America said:

This writer has never asserted Iran had an active nuclear bomb development program and repeated several times there would be no war with Iran. However, the nuclear issue is not over and Iran represents a serious concern for all in the ME. There is a different nuclear concern, and Ahmenajad has not backed off from his threat to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

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December 5th, 2007, 10:03 pm

 

78. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

EHSANI2,

I don’t get the analogy. Putin’s Russia boom is based on exporting energy and rebuilding some industries that historically the Soviet Union was strong in.

Syria will soon become a net oil importer and has few reserves. There are no historical industries Syria is strong in and it has no technological base to build on. In addition, Russia’s population is becoming smaller while Syria’s is growing very fast.

The analogy does not hold.

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December 5th, 2007, 10:08 pm

 

79. Alex said:

Ehsani

Don’t you get it? … the analogy does not hold.

Which reminds me, last week AIG told me that all my arguments did not hold water.

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December 5th, 2007, 11:25 pm

 

80. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Alex,
I argued why the analogy does not hold. There are huge differences between Syria and Russia.
Care to make a counter argument, or do you restrict yourself to proclamations?

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December 5th, 2007, 11:32 pm

 

81. Alex said:

No AIG,

I don’t care to make a counter argument. When you are trying to understand, I do make counter arguments, but when you do not try hard enough to see an obvious analogy, then there is nothing that Ehsani or I can say to make a difference.

Anyway .. Ehsani was trying to say that Syria is following the Russian model .. or in other words … the Chinese model .. which is what the regime hinted it wants to do for few years.

Of course now you will come back and tell us that there is a huge difference … Syrians speak Arabic and not Chinese, and they eat Hummos and not chicken noodle soup.

You are right … in advance. The analogy does not hold.

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December 6th, 2007, 12:04 am

 

82. EHSANI2 said:

AIG,

You said:

“There cannot be economic reforms without democratic reforms”

Russian democratic reforms have lately been in reverse. Their economic prosperity has made people ignore the former issue.

You now want to say that Russia is an exception because it exports oil. China of course is no different. One party rule and very little democratic reforms. Yet, the economy has prospered while it imports oil.

You have sold yourself the concept that a democratically elected government is the only way to prosperity. I was trying to tell you that there are many example to the contrary.

Is Dubai’s prosperity based on U.A.E’S democratic reforms?

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December 6th, 2007, 12:34 am

 

83. Friend in America said:

CWW (3:51PM) Your assessment of Iran’s leader rings true to those who still wince at the misassessment of Hitler’s intentions in the 1930’s and North Korea’s intentions in the winter of 1949-1950. But nothing is identical. The internal ‘checkmate’ inherent in Iran’s political structure has for the present quelled Ahmedinejad’s desire for a fight in which he sees himself as the glorious victor. He is not rationale and harbors ambitions to destroy others in the ME. He is not driven by reason.

Serv21: Consider a possible connection between the release of the NIE report and the Annapolis negotiations. By releasing the report the military option is no longer in the foreground of everybody’s minds. The finger can be taken off the trigger, so to speak.
It benefits Syria, for sure. Maybe Syria will now find a strong Hizbollah not so necessary to its security. Will Hizbollah then become a trading chip for Golan? Is Syria more able to become that intermediary country that some here think it is well suited to be? Maybe it is but it has to take a leadership position in Annapolis. These are just speculations but note, there was no necessity to make the NIE public – they rarely, rarely are. This NIE report is not “hot off the press.” It’s been around for several weeks. What is the significance of the timing and why was it released? Its release cost Bush dearly in credability around the world (at least at first blush), but did he earn respect behind those most important closed doors and did he demonstrate he is willing to take a big risk in order to encourage the ME peace process? By publically taking the risk, will the several participants have more confidence in plowing new ground in order to have peace in the ME? Just a thought.

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December 6th, 2007, 12:46 am

 

84. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ehsani and Alex,
For an analogy to be meaningful it has to have a wide basis. Otherwise, everything is analogous to anything.

Will Syria advance economically by being the worlds’s low cost manufacturer like China? Or will it advance by exporting oil like Russia? Will it instead chose to invest in order to become a tourist attraction and a financial center like the UAE? Or will it like India become an outsourcing center for the world? That is what I am asking.

Saying that it will advance economically and the analogy is Russia or China or the UAE conveys very little information. What is the competitive advantage of Syria that it is going to exploit to get economic growth? What is the Syrian 10 year plan? What makes you believe it is doable and it is just not words?

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December 6th, 2007, 3:39 am

 

85. Bashmann said:

For those thinking the US is changing strategy when it comes to Syria I say you are right, its getting tougher on the regime.

Stay tuned for a press release from the Whitehouse.

Ehsani,

You were right the “dynamic” is changing from the American administration point of view but its for the benefits of the Syrian opposition and human rights in Syria.

Cheers

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December 6th, 2007, 4:25 pm

 

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