Showing posts with label israel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label israel. Show all posts

Monday, March 05, 2012

Obama, Netanyahu face struggle over Iran "red lines"

Barack Obama
Barack Obama
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are deeply at odds over how fast the clock is ticking toward possible military action against Iran's nuclear program, and their talks on Monday are unlikely to change that.

Even though Obama has offered assurances of stiffened U.S. resolve against Iran before the White House meeting, the two allies are still far apart on explicit nuclear "red lines" that Tehran must not be allowed to cross, and they have yet to agree on a time frame for when military action may be necessary.

Obama wants Israel to hold off on attacking Iran's nuclear sites, insisting there is still time for sanctions and diplomacy to work. But he also vowed in a speech on Sunday to the largest U.S. pro-Israel lobby that he would be ready to act militarily - with all "elements of American power" - to prevent the Islamic republic from building an atomic bomb.

Israeli leaders, who see Iran's nuclear advances as a looming existential threat and reserve the right to act alone in self-defense, have made clear they are operating on a far shorter, more urgent timeline.

Their most immediate concern is that Iran be prevented from reaching nuclear weapons capability, not just from developing an actual device, and they worry that time is running out for an effective Israeli attack as Tehran buries its nuclear facilities deeper underground.

While Obama and Netanyahu - who have had a strained relationship - will share intelligence information on Monday, a source close to the administration said there was little reason to believe they would make significant progress toward bridging key differences on a common threshold for military action.

"They'll be looking for mutual understandings and may find a few, but the biggest problem is they're working on different clocks," the source said.


Obama's meeting with Netanyahu comes amid U.S. fears that Israel might opt to strike Iran on its own if it is not convinced of Washington's determination to do whatever is needed to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Iran remains defiant but says it wants nuclear technology strictly for peaceful purposes.

The geopolitical drama is being played out in the midst of a U.S. presidential campaign, with Republican presidential contenders accusing the Democratic president of being too tough on Israel and not tough enough with Iran.

Israel comes to Monday's talks with a firm belief that Iran has decided to seek to develop nuclear weaponry and is gathering the necessary components before attempting a "breakout."

Israeli officials maintain that once Iran moves forward, it could enrich uranium to weapons grade and have a rudimentary nuclear device within months, though constructing a deployable warhead would take longer, perhaps until mid-decade.

U.S. officials do not believe the situation is that close to the brink. They say that while Iran may be maneuvering to keep its options open there is no clear intelligence that the country has made a final decision to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Both sides agree that it is impossible to know the full extent of Iranian intentions. American spy agencies are wary about drawing any categorical conclusions after an embarrassing intelligence lapse that led to erroneous accusations of Iraqi nuclear arms work, which the Bush administration used to help justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Still, Obama - in an Atlantic magazine interview published on Friday - insisted that Iran "is not yet in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time in which we will know that they are making that attempt."

And Obama warned in Washington on Sunday against "loose talk" of war with Iran, saying such "bluster" was counterproductive because it has been driving up global oil prices and boosting demand for Iran's oil exports.

That may have been a message to Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, whose have engaged in a strident exchange of recriminations with Iranian officials in recent months.

Daniel Levy, an analyst at the New America Foundation think tank, said Obama had "offered clarity and commitments on mainstream Israeli concerns without capitulating to the Netanyahu narrative, which is far more dismissive of diplomacy."

Speaking in Ottawa, the right-wing Israeli leader ignored Obama's appeal to let sanctions run their course and focused on the president's insistence on keeping the military option open and backing Israel's right to defend itself.

It was unclear whether Obama's sharpened rhetoric against Iran and calls for restraint by Israel would be enough to delay any Israeli military plans against Tehran, which has called for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned that Iran is approaching a "zone of immunity," when Tehran is able to shield its nuclear facilities from Israeli air strikes. The United States, however, would still likely have the firepower for a more sustained air assault to destroy the sites.


Obama took a significant step forward in Israel's eyes when, in the Atlantic interview, he ruled out accepting, then acting to "contain," a nuclear-armed Iran.

While U.S. officials insist that Obama will not publicly lay down any new red lines for Iran during Netanyahu's visit, they do not rule out the possibility that the president might try to mollify some Israeli concerns in private.

"They're going to sit down and they're going to talk through the tactics involved," Obama re-election campaign strategist David Axelrod told the ABC "This Week" television program.

Still, U.S. officials doubt that Netanyahu will provide Obama with any guarantee that Israel will consult Washington - its biggest source of military assistance - before launching any strikes on Iran.

Even if Obama assures Netanyahu that the United States has the firepower to deliver a devastating blow to Iran's nuclear program further down the line, the Israelis have made clear they cannot rely on that commitment alone.

One line of thinking within the Obama administration is that keeping it in the dark about any Israeli military plans might be best for the United States since any sign of complicity would inflame anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.

Dennis Ross, Obama's former Middle East adviser, suggested, however, that the "noise" from Israel over a possible strike was geared more toward pressuring the international community for tightened sanctions than foreshadowing an imminent attack.

"Now that it's an issue of the world against Iran, Israel likes it that way and would not be inclined to act precipitously," Ross said last week.

But others who know Netanyahu well say he is approaching the Iranian challenge with a sense of historic responsibility to ensure Israel's survival, what some have called the "Holocaust factor."

He has made clear that Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear weapons power, will do what it takes to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Iran sends rare letter to U.S. over killed scientist

irani president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
(Reuters) - Iran said on Saturday it had evidence Washington was behind the latest killing of one of its nuclear scientists, state television reported, at a time when tensions over the country's nuclear program have escalated to their highest level ever.

In the fifth attack of its kind in two years, a magnetic bomb was attached to the door of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan's car during the Wednesday morning rush-hour in the capital. His driver was also killed.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton denied responsibility and Israeli President Shimon Peres said Israel had no role in the attack, to the best of his knowledge.

"We have reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA," the Iranian foreign ministry said in a letter handed to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, state TV reported. The Swiss embassy represents U.S. interests in a country where Washington has no diplomatic ties.

The spokesman for Iran's Joint Armed Forces Staff, Massoud Jazayeri, said: "Our enemies, especially America , Britain and the Zionist regime (Israel), have to be held responsible for their actions."

Iran in the past has accused Israel of causing a series of spectacular and sometimes bloody mishaps to its nuclear programme. Israeli officials do not comment on any involvement in those events, although some have publicly expressed satisfaction at the setbacks.

Feeling the heat from unprecedented new sanctions, Iran's clerical establishment has brandished its sword by threatening to block the main Mid-East oil shipping route, starting to enrich uranium at an underground bunker and sentencing an Iranian-American citizen to death on spying charges.

State TV said a "letter of condemnation" had also been sent to Britain, saying the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists began after the head of Britain's MI6 spy service announced intelligence operations against states seeking nuclear weapons.

The West says Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at building a bomb. Tehran says it has the right to peaceful nuclear power.

Tehran has urged the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to condemn the latest killing.

After years of international sanctions that had little impact on Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama signed new measures on New Year's Eve that, if fully implemented, would make it impossible for most countries to pay for Iranian oil.

Washington is requiring that countries gradually reduce their purchases of Iranian oil in order to receive temporary waivers from the sanctions.

The European Union is expected to unveil similar measures next week, and announce a gradual oil embargo among its member states, who collectively buy about a fifth of Iran's exports.

The combined measures mean Iran may fail to sell all of the 2.6 million barrels a day of exports it relies on to feed its 74 million people. Even if it finds buyers, it will have to offer steep discounts, cutting into its desperately-needed revenue.

On Tuesday shipping sources told Reuters Iran was storing an increasing supply of oil at sea - as much as 8 million barrels - and was likely to store more as it struggles to sell it.

Iran denies it is having trouble: "There has been no disruption in Iran's crude exports through the Persian Gulf ... We have not stored oil in the Gulf because of sanctions as some foreign media reported," oil official Pirouz Mousavi told the semi-official Mehr news agency on Friday.

The sanctions are causing real hardship on the streets, where prices for basic imported goods are soaring, the rial currency has plummeted and Iranians have been flocking to sell rials to buy dollars to protect their savings.

The pain comes less than two months before a parliamentary election, Iran's first since a presidential vote in 2009 that was followed by eight months of street demonstrations.

Iran's authorities successfully put down that revolt by force, but since then the "Arab Spring" has shown the vulnerability of authoritarian governments in the region to protests fueled by anger over economic difficulty.


Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz leading to the Gulf if sanctions are imposed on its oil exports, and has threatened to take unspecified action if Washington sails an aircraft carrier through the strait, an international waterway.

Military experts say Tehran can do little to fight the massive U.S.-led fleet that guards the strait, but the threats raise the chance of a miscalculation that could lead to a military clash and a global oil crisis.

The Pentagon said on Friday that small Iranian boats had approached close to U.S. vessels in the strait last week, although it said it did not believe there was "hostile intent."

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear dispute. Iran says it would retaliate if attacked.

The tension has caused spikes in global oil prices in recent weeks, although prices eased at the close of last week's trading on the prospect of reduced demand in economically stricken European countries. Brent crude fell 82 cents to settle at $110.44 a barrel on Friday.

The chances for an imminent easing of tension look even more remote as the nuclear deadlock continues because of Iran's refusal to halt the sensitive nuclear work.

Last week Iran began enriching uranium underground - the most controversial part of its nuclear programme - at a bunker deep below a mountain near the Shi'ite holy city of Qom.

Nuclear talks with major powers collapsed a year ago. Iran says it wants the talks to resume, but the West says there is no point unless it is willing to discuss a halt to uranium enrichment, which can be used to make material for a bomb.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Israel frees 550 Palestinians in Shalit swap

Palestinians are waiting to welcome their people
RAMALLAH/GAZA: Israel released 550 Palestinian prisoners Sunday in the second stage of a deal with Hamas that brought home soldier Gilad Shalit after five years of captivity in the Gaza Strip.

While many of the 450 prisoners freed on October 18 in the first phase of the Egyptian-brokered prisoner swap were serving life sentences for deadly attacks, none in the second group was convicted of killings.

Nearly all of the prisoners passed through a crossing into the West Bank and were greeted by thousands of Palestinians who danced and cheered in the city of Ramallah.

Though Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, had reached the deal with Israel, most of the crowd waved flags from the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the dominant party in the West Bank.

In Gaza, two buses with 41 prisoners, escorted by the International Committee of the Red Cross, passed through the Rafah crossing and were met by hundreds of relatives waving flags representing the different Palestinian factions.

"My feelings of joy are mixed with sorrow because we left behind beloved brothers, we hope all of them will be freed," said Samer Aweidat, who was released after serving four years of a six-year sentence for weapons possession and being a member of a miltant group.

Israel's Supreme Court opened the way for Sunday's release to go ahead by turning down a petition Friday from Israelis opposed to freeing the prisoners, whose terms ranged from a few months to 18 years.

They were convicted of crimes that included attempted murder, planting bombs and membership of militant groups. Shalit was abducted in June 2006 by militants who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip and surprised his tank crew, killing two of his comrades. He was held incommunicado in the Hamas-ruled territory and a huge majority of Israelis backed the deal that brought him home two months ago.

Hani Habib, a political analyst in Gaza, said that Israel, given the opportunity to pick which prisoners would be freed in the second stage, chose inmates from Fatah rather than Hamas.

"Israel was interested in turning the victory that has been achieved into a Palestinian discomfort and a Palestinian division with its discrimination," he said.

Hamas said it would petition Egypt to pressure Israel into freeing all the Palestinian women in its jails, something it had wanted to happen in Sunday's release.

News by Timesof India

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sarkozy addresses Netanyahu of "liar" to Obama in private

AFP - Nicolas Sarkozy has called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of "liar" during a private conversation, November 3 at the G20 in Cannes, with Barack Obama, who answered duty "to deal with it every day," says Freeze website images. "I can not see, is a liar," he told the French president. "You're tired of it, but I have to deal with it every day!" Replied his American counterpart, depending on the site that specializes in media analysis, which reports their words without specifying whether there is a sound recording of these statements. Sarkozy-Obama Exchange, held in camera, should have remained confidential but reached the ears of journalists incidentally, as Stop on images.

The organization released to the media with a small lead boxes to the translation of the press conference Obama-Sarkozy, some journalists have quickly connected headphones or headsets cell phone, managing to capture some echoes of the private conversation depending on the site. Questioned by AFP, several journalists have confirmed this. "I am aware of the buzz. We must see what is the reality of the thing. I have no idea. I will not comment on that. We are on the buzz," responded the carrier word of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Valero, asked during a press briefing, journalists and referring to the Presidency of the Republic for which it "confirm or deny" those words.

"All this makes us lose sight of the essential. All we want is to keep working to get things done because things are not moving" towards peace in the Middle East, said M . Valero, adding he had no knowledge of reactions so far. In Israel, Netanyahu's office was immediately refrained from any reaction, as well as the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The correspondent of the Israeli public radio in France, Gideon Kutz, who covered the summit in Cannes, for his part said that his colleagues who have heard about the private exchanged by MM. Sarkozy and Obama had agreed not to do is "by correction and not to embarrass the Press" at the Elysee.

Freeze frame still says, without citing specific statements that Barack Obama would be criticized for Nicolas Sarkozy in the interview for not having warned that France would vote in favor of the accession of Palestine to UNESCO, while the United States were strongly opposed.
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Israel and Egypt are preparing for a prisoner exchange

AFP - Israel and Egypt were preparing Thursday to a exchange of prisoners between Israeli-American citizen accused of spying Ilan Grapelli and 25 Egyptians detained in Israel. The exchange is expected Thursday afternoon. The Israeli authorities will carry on the bus the prisoners to Egyptian Taba, a border to the Egyptian Sinai, while Ilan Grapelli, 27, will be repatriated to Israel by plane from Cairo. The Egyptian prisoners were imprisoned for drug trafficking, weapons or illegal infiltrations into Israeli territory. Among them are three children who had infiltrated into Israel, told AFP Siwan Weizman, spokesman for the prison administration.

They were gathered Thursday morning in a Beer Sheva prison pending their transfer to Eilat in southern Israel. They will then be transported to Taba where they should arrive at 5:00 p.m. (1500 GMT), said the spokesman. At the same time, the plane carrying Ilan Grapelli, who was arrested four months ago in Cairo, fly to the Egyptian capital to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. According to Israeli media, the device landed around 18:00 local. Ilan Grapelli will then be brought to Jerusalem where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday before leaving for New York.

The Egyptian prisoners will be entitled to receive offficielle in a hotel in Taba which must involve the Governors of North and South Sinai, as well as representatives of the Bedouin community living on the peninsula. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeals on Wednesday night against the exchange by a party of the extreme right by claiming that it did not intervene in a decision under political power. Ilan Grapelli, who holds dual Israeli and American citizenship, was presented by the Egyptian authorities as a "Mossad officer" seeking to "undermine the economic and political interests of the country." He was accused of coming to Egypt at the beginning of the revolt that caused the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak to "incite chaos and sectarian strife."

Israel has denied all these allegations by talking "error" on the part of Egypt. This exchange of prisoners came after the one that led to the release last week of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held for more than five years in the Gaza Strip in exchange for a first contingent of 477 Palestinian prisoners.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Giland Shalit freed in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians.

giland shalit

TEL NOF AIR BASE (AFP) - Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, appeared frail but happy, was released Tuesday after more than five years in prison by Hamas in exchange for about 500 Palestinian prisoners, under an unprecedented agreement . Event "Gilad is returned home," said the spokesman of the army, General Yoav Mordechai, by calling it "good" health status of the soldier kept secret throughout his time in captivity at the hands the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in power in the Gaza Strip. "I feel in good health" after the "long years," said Gilad Shalit himself in his first statement on Egyptian television, according to the Arabic translation of his words in Hebrew. Outlining a smile sometimes, it is nevertheless appeared pale and sometimes had to catch his breath.

Transferred from Gaza to Egypt before returning home, he thanked all those who participated in its expansion adding: "I missed my family, my friends." He also hoped that his release against that of hundreds of Palestinians "would help to achieve peace." Aged 25 years, Gilad Shalit, who also French nationality, then arrived in Israel where he met his parents in the Tel Nof Air Force Base (South), in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff, General Benny Gantz. "Gilad Hello, welcome to your return to Israel. It's good to have you home," he said Netanyahu quoting the words of a famous folk song, according to his office.

The Israeli authorities had promised a "discreet reception respecting the needs of the soldier and his family." Shalit, automatically recognized as a victim of post-traumatic stress, then return to his home in Mitzpe Hila in the Upper Galilee (north). "As good as you're back home," we read on the fronts of houses and trees in Mitzpe Hila, to celebrate the return of Gilad Shalit home. Several villagers broke into tears at the onset of its first images on television. Egyptian television was the first to show it at the time of transfer of Gaza to Egypt, wearing a cap and civilian clothes, surrounded by security personnel.

In a speech on the basis of Tel Nof, Netanyahu vowed that Israel would "continue to combat terrorism. Any terrorist who will resume its activities, the blood will fall on the head." Releasing a total of 1,027 prisoners, many with blood on his hands, Israel has agreed to pay the highest proportion to retrieve one of his soldiers. For the first time in 26 years that a captured Israeli soldier is brought alive in his country. Captured by a Palestinian commando June 25, 2006 on the edge of the Gaza Strip, the soldier was traded against a first group of 477 Palestinians - mostly lifers - including 27 women.

A second group of 550 Palestinian prisoners must be released within two months, in accordance with the agreement reached on October 11 through Egypt between Israel and Hamas. Just after the announcement of his transfer to Israel, the first group of prisoners were released in the West Bank and Gaza, welcomed by the Palestinian leadership and their families amid scenes of jubilation. A convoy of eight buses carrying some 300 Palestinian prisoners freed entered Rafah in the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

Hundreds of relatives and dignitaries, including the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, welcomed them before they go to Gaza, where some 200,000 people were waiting as Hamas. In the West Bank, a convoy of buses carrying released Palestinians arrived in Ramallah, where ex-prisoners were welcomed by President Mahmoud Abbas. Of the 477 prisoners, 133 are allowed to return home in Gaza controlled by Hamas, and 15 117 in the West Bank to East Jerusalem. In contrast, 204 Palestinians will be banned: 164 to Gaza and 40 abroad (Turkey, Qatar and Syria).

Palestinians released, who had embarked in the convoy had been handcuffed hands and feet. More than 1,000 policemen were deployed along the routes of the convoys. Six right-wing activists who tried to stop the train by lying on the road to protest the release of "terrorists" were arrested, according to Israel Radio. In Paris, President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed the "immense relief" of France after the release of Gilad Shalit and announced that he would "soon" received in Paris. London, Berlin and Rome would also welcomed.
News by AFP