Sunday, January 03, 2010

Obama administration's take on Iran's nuclear program

The New York Times has for a long time functioned as the mouthpiece of choice for the White House. The January 2 article by David Sanger and William Broad represents the current state of US public policy on that issue.

There is not much new. Not much that could not be gleamed from observing the behavior of the administration up to now. But there are a few things that can be commented on.
The long-discussed sanctions would initiate the latest phase in a strategy to force Iran to comply with United Nations demands to halt production of nuclear fuel. It comes as the administration has completed a fresh review of Iran’s nuclear progress.
So we see the administration is still insisting on Iran suspending enrichment. That basically spells the whole game. There is one question that determines what course the conflict over Iran's nuclear program will take. That question is, does the US accept Iran enriching uranium.

As of now, the answer is no. The United States, and Iran's neighbors other than Israel have never been threatened by Iran enriching uranium. Israel believes, quite possibly with reason, that it cannot survive long term without a monopoly over the threat to use nuclear weapons in its region. If Iran enriches, even without making a weapon, that threatens Israel because Iran would have the ability in theory to build a weapon later to retaliate against an Israeli nuclear attack on one of its neighbors. Israel believes that to survive its nuclear threat must be unanswerable. Neither the US nor any of Iran's other regional neighbors is threatened by an Iranian virtual nuclear capability.

The US commitment to Israel prevents the US from accepting Iranian enrichment. When Ahmadinejad says that the US must choose between Israel and Iran, and when Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei says that "one of the main reasons behind the enmity of the global hegemony toward the Islamic Republic is the Palestinian issue", US policy towards Iran's nuclear issue provides an argument that they are right.
In interviews, Mr. Obama’s strategists said that while Iran’s top political and military leaders remained determined to develop nuclear weapons, they were distracted by turmoil in the streets and political infighting, and that the drive to produce nuclear fuel appeared to have faltered in recent months.
Preventing enrichment is not necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It is necessary to prevent Iran from developing the capability to build weapons in an emergency. There is not now, nor has there ever been any indication that Iran has decided to build weapons. This is a distinction that is well known by experts, the New York Times is also aware of the distinction but is transmitting a deliberately misleading explanation of Iran's goals.
Although repeated rounds of sanctions over many years have not dissuaded Iran from pursuing nuclear technology, an administration official involved in the Iran policy said the hope was that the current troubles “give us a window to impose the first sanctions that may make the Iranians think the nuclear program isn’t worth the price tag.”
There are no sanctions that will convince Iran to give up right to nuclear capability and I think US strategists fully understand that. As of today, partly because of the US positions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran does not have to worry about attacks from the US. One day those US positions will be gone, and the ability to build a weapon in an emergency may be what prevents the US from considering attacking Iran the way it attacked Iraq in 2003. The more the US insists Iran give up a potential weapons capability, the more important it is that Iran keep that capability.

US strategists understand that sanctions, especially targeted sanctions, will not deter Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability. What sanctions do, is allow the Obama administration to seem as if it is doing something, rather than ignoring Israel's security needs. What sanctions cost is that they increase the level of hostility between the US and Iran, which hurts Iranians and Americans, especially in the region.

Is this a tradeoff that the United States really wants to make? I'm not going to believe it until I see a commitment to sanctions that I have not seen yet. Sanctions strengthen the voices in Iran of parties that would rather see the US suffer humiliating failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Actual sanctions would be the first escalation of hostility since Bush deescalated hostility in the last two years of his presidency. Bush had good reasons, based on US interests, to de-escalate. I'm not yet convinced that Obama has decided to reverse that, rather than trying to bluff the Iranians.

It seems as if US strategists do not understand the basic point that no proposal that does not explicitly allow Iran to continue enrichment would be satisfactory to any section of Iran's decision making community. I don't think that's what's happening. I think US strategists do understand that Iran will not accept the kinds of deals the US is willing to make, but the US, to avoid publicly giving up on what Israel considers a strategic necessity, is stalling. It is also considering stalling in a way that risks the lives of US soldiers neighboring Iran.
While outsiders have a limited view of Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama administration officials said they believed that the bomb-development effort was seriously derailed by the exposure three months ago of the country’s secret enrichment plant under construction near the holy city of Qum. Exposure of the site deprived Iran of its best chance of covertly producing the highly enriched uranium needed to make fuel for nuclear weapons.
American officials say that the Qum plant is now useless to the Iranians. “They spent three years and tens of millions of dollars on a covert plant that they will probably never turn on,” said the senior official involved in the White House strategy.
I'm not sure if they're serious, but that's not what Qum is. Qum is part of the Iranian nuclear program that might or even might not survive a US attack. An Iranian nuclear weapons capability means that in an emergency, it could build a weapon. In that emergency, Iran expects to be bombed by the US. After the bombing is over, Iran expects to have some surviving facilities and assets, and expects to have information on those assets the US does not have. Maybe Qum, or usable parts of Qum would survive, since it is underground. Maybe some other facilities would be missed by the US concentrating on Qum. One way or another, after being bombed, Iran will reconstruct what it can and have the option of building a weapon.

The point of Qum is that US military planners cannot confidently tell the US President that Iran will remain unable to reconstitute its program for some given amount of time after the bombing. That lack of confidence, the inability for US planners to be sure Iran will not be able to retaliate with a nuclear weapon a year or two years after being bombed can be enough to deter an attack in the first place. That is the point of Qum. Qum is effective without ever being turned on.
In addition, international nuclear inspectors report that at Iran’s plant in Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges spin to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel, the number of the machines that are currently operating has dropped by 20 percent since the summer, a decline nuclear experts attribute to technical problems. Others, including some European officials, believe the problems may have been accentuated by a series of covert efforts by the West to undermine Iran’s program, including sabotage on its imported equipment and infrastructure.
R. Scott Kemp, a Princeton University physicist, said that another factor was in the basic design of the centrifuges, obtained from Pakistan nearly two decades ago. “I suspect design problems,” Mr. Kemp said. “The machines run hot and have short lives. They’re terrible. It’s a really bad design.”
It is possible that Iran's technical difficulties or Western covert operations have slowed down Iran's production. Another part of the story could be that Iran made a political decision to hold its production at a certain pace in agreement with the West. While the number of centrifuges went down, the production of LEU remained about constant. The monthly production of LEU did not go up substantially even as the number of centrifuges went up. There could well have been an agreement with the Bush administration that was part of a package including Iran restraining Sadr and capping LEU production while the US produced the 2007 NIE and stopped pressing for sanctions.
These factors have led the administration’s policy makers to lengthen their estimate of how long it would take Iran to accomplish what nuclear experts call “covert breakout” — the ability to secretly produce a workable weapon.

“For now, the Iranians don’t have a credible breakout option, and we don’t think they will have one for at least 18 months, maybe two or three years,” said one senior administration official at the center of the White House Iran strategy. The administration has told allies that the longer time frame would allow the sanctions to have an effect before Iran could develop its nuclear ability.
I'm not sure "covert breakout" is necessary. In an emergency, Iran would openly break out, within the terms of the NPT. Iran is very close to having overt breakout capability now, and certainly will be there by the time the US is able to attack if the US were to want to. By focusing on a new target of "covert breakout" capability, the US may be rationalizing in advance two or three years of preventing Iran from suspending enrichment.

[Edit: It struck me that what the administration is doing is fighting against the idea that Iran's reach for nuclear capability is a fait accompli. But this is still a matter of stalling. Every year it will get harder and harder to redefine nuclear capability in a way that allows the region to pretend Israel still has a monopoly on potential nuclear threats. Here's where I'll also point out explicitly that a one-state solution would not have this peculiar need Israel perceives of a nuclear monopoly - just as one-state majority-Black South Africa does not. Fitting with a common theme on this blog, keeping a majority-Jewish Israel in Palestine is hugely expensive for the US. The Iran nuclear issue is just another of those costs.]

What the administration is doing through the New York Times is refusing to abandon the idea that Iran will suspend enrichment. Everyone should understand that this means Iran will continue building its stockpile of LEU. The administration is threatening sanctions - which may be a bluff or may not be. And the administration is now publicly reasserting that there are covert programs on Iranian soil aimed at sabotaging the nuclear program.


N. Friedman said...


If we go by what was reported about Sarkozy's meeting with Obama at the end of the Summer, Sarkozy's France objects to any nuclear enrichment by Iran and that has nothing to do with Israel. Sarkozy, moreover, went out of his way to criticize Obama for not taking Iran's activities with sufficient seriousness - recall his comments in response to Obama's speech to the UN. So, if this were really all about Israel, as your theory suggests, why would France, which never stands with Israel, be concerned by enrichment by Iran?

I do not see your theory as well considered at all. It is certainly contrary to facts about which there is no dispute, such as many foreign countries, not just Israel's allies, want Iran stopped.

I think, instead, that you object to Israel and that is the be all and end all of your thinking. Your view is that everything bad in the Muslim regions, most especially the Arab regions, is due somehow only to Israel. My view, by contrast, is that some things are about Israel but not everything and surely not all matters which could have implications for US or other powers in the Persian Gulf or more generally.

You think that the US can really live with Iran enriching fuel if Iran is really working towards a nuclear bomb. Are you serious? You do not see that as an existential problem for US influence over the flow of oil and for efforts to curb terrorism, much of which is financed by Iran. You really think that Iran only wants to get rid of Israel and has no other hostile aims. You would see nothing hostile towards Europe if Iran has a bomb. Are you joking?

I think you need to ask yourself why Iran needs to have a deterrent from an attack by Israel? Israel is located nowhere near Iran - even though you spoke of Israel as if it were Iran's neighbor. There are, in fact, hostile countries to Iran which have the bomb and which are a lot closer to Iran than Israel. And, you think Iran thinks that Israel would attack Iran unless Iran actually threatens Israel. Are you joking? Do you think that Israeli Jews do not value their lives sufficiently to care about the destruction that would surely come in response? Israel is worried about its survival, not about whether Iran enriches fuel. Its survival is threatened by Iran having the bomb, not because it would limit Israel's influence - Israel not having any serious influence in the Gulf, in any event. Israel's primary influence is in its neighborhood, where it deters Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt from fighting.

Or, is the truth, that you favor Iran having the bomb because you think it would lead to Israel's demise, while you care nothing at all whether an Iranian bomb would have terrible consequences for Europe and the US? I think it is the latter. I think you are so obsessed with Israel that you cannot see straight.

lidia said...

"why Iran needs to have a deterrent from an attack by Israel?"

Hmm, because Israel THREATENS Iran (just as Israel threatens other ME states)

Or because Israel ATTACKED a lot of ME states?

Or because Israel is a racist state that does not have a moral problem with harming non-Jews?


NF REALLY thinks we all are idiots here :)

Arnold Evans said...


I find a lot of your comments funny.

N. Friedman said...


Good. I want people to laugh. Of course, we may have a different aim in how we want people to interpret that good humor.

N. Friedman said...


You asked for some evidence about Russia's interest in becoming closer to Israel, I note that such is what ITAR-TASS reports in an article titled Medvedev hopes for stronger Russian-Israeli relations. So says the Voice of Russia, as well, in a short new item titled Russian President speaks out for stronger Russia-Israel relations.

The New York Times reports what appears to be interest by both Russia and Israel in better relations in an article titled Mideast in Flux,
Israel’s Foreign Minister Cozies Up to Moscow

In some sense, it was. Mr. Lieberman is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, and the notably warm reception that he received in Russia could be a sign of things ahead. His hard-line positions have disquieted the Obama administration, but in Moscow, there was no such squeamishness.

Moreover, according to the article:

Even so, it appears that he believes that he has a better chance than other Israeli officials in wooing Moscow. And Mr. Putin indicated that Mr. Lieberman may be right.

“It is gratifying to realize that people who know more than hearsay about this country are appointed to such high posts in Israel,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Lieberman. “I hope that it will be an additional impetus for the development of Russian-Israeli relations.”

Analysts pointed to another aspect of this budding relationship: both the Kremlin and rightist Israelis nurture grievances about how they are seen in the United States and Europe.

Your view of the world would rule out serious Russian interest. My view is that countries, other than lunatic regimes, act to advance their interests. And, that normally means balancing power relations. And, for Russia, its influence in the Middle East would grow with good relations with Israel.

lidia said...

NYT and JP are good sourses for everyone wanting to know how many WMD Saddam had in 2002

it could be funny, but it is all bloody

N. Friedman said...


And, Itar-Tass and the Voice of Russia too? They presumably have some knowledge of Russia, being Russian news sources.

lidia said...

I have NEVER read anything about NF fantastic ideas in Russian, but I just have fonded an article in very pro-USA (and anti-Iran) Nezavisimaya Gazeta from the end of 2009, by the way it was also about the game Arnold had posted about. The article states:"USA will not be able to get hard sanctions against iran, Russia and China will answered to USA pressing by palying up their cooperation with Iran. But USA will aslo have problems with Israel, trying to stop it from war operation against Iran." and so on.

NOT A WORD about Russia asking Israel to help it against USA :)

The link

N. Friedman said...


So, Russian newspapers are also making stuff up when they quote Russian leaders. And, the lead line of the Voice of Russia story reads: "Russian President Dmitry Medvedev favors the expansion of comprehensive ties with Israel." That was on June 3, 2009.

Lest we dillydally on further idiocy, the Voice of Russia is the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service. In other words, it reports what the Russian government wants the world to see and hear.

Do you have any evidence that the Voice of Russia has misstated the preferences of the Russian government? Do you have any evidence that the Voice of Russia is mistaken? Somehow, I doubt it.

lidia said...

NF one more time thinks we are stupid - as if official words that almost EVERY statesman says about almost every other state means that Russia is going to take from USA the envialbe part of sugar daddy/mob muscle of Israel :)

N. Friedman said...


In other words, you have no interest in dealing with evidence.

I do not claim that the US will dump Israel and I do not think Russia thinks that will happen either. I think it exceedingly unlikely that the US would dump Israel because it would, as the world currently is, be terrible foreign policy, which would undermine the US. And, on top of that, it would be exceedingly unpopular in the US. But, were it to happen, I have no doubt whatsoever that Russia would jump at the opportunity to have close relations with Israel, and for the same reasons that the US has them now, namely, they are seen to be advantageous. That is the reason why all countries, other than countries run by lunatics, act.

lidia said...

NF sees "eveidence" - OK, if he has to console himself with SUCH "eveidence", I almost pity him - but I have no pity to spare for Zionists. Their victims are way too many

And yes, sure, if USA dump Israel it will HARM USA big time LOL

How one calls mania grandiosa by proxy? For NF Israel is not a shitty little state dependant on USA handouts, but an allmighty superpower

N. Friedman said...


No. Israel is a country with enemies that surround it. It is neither a superpower nor a basket case. In Middle East terms, it is among the strongest countries in that region, which is why the US has close relations with Israel, since Israel's strengths serve US interests.

In any event, when an official Russian website states that Russia wants better relations with Israel, that is evidence that Russia has stated that it wants better relations with Israel. Presumably, Russia wants such to be stated for some reason, otherwise the information would not appear on an official government website.

You, of course, have no evidence to say that the government of Russia website is wrong so you resort to stating what you think is an insult. Grow up.

Arnold Evans said...

Friedman, please maintain a polite tone.

It is an unfortunate, for you, fact that you are expressing a minority viewpoint here. I'm sensitive to that. I'm glad you post, even stuff that I don't consider worthy of response.

However, the same statement from you and from Lidia will offend me more from you. I'm sorry about that. I'm human.

So I'm asking as a favor to myself and to this blog that you take the high road and do not tell other readers to grow up. That's rude, please make an extra effort not to be rude.

I make this request of Lidia also, but your posts will probably be deleted before Lidia's just because I agree with Lidia so often.

I can guarantee though, that if you're not rude, not personally insulting, I will not ever delete any comment you leave here.

You really are welcome. I really do read your responses. Recently you seem to almost always miss the point of my arguments and I don't feel like repeating what I've already written when I make the arguments the first time but I am glad you are posting here regardless of that.

Oh, and since I'm here let's talk about Russia's desire for an alliance with Israel. (This seems like such a silly subject.)

OK. Any country can want improved ties with any other country. To say Russia wants an alliance, especially to say Russia would be willing or able to play the role the US plays as Israel's patron is a far stronger statement than is supported by any of the articles you present.

You've listed things you think the United States gets from Israel. I guess you find them impressive. To argue that the US supports Israel mainly or even substantially for objective strategic reasons is like saying the earth is 6000 years old. It is an exercise in patience to even indulge an argument like that.

US relations with the oil exporting countries of the region are much more difficult because of Israel. The US carries that burden but not because Israel somehow compensates the US for that support. The US carries that burden because of idiosyncrasies in the US political system and because many Americans believe in some sense it is the right thing to do.

At some point I'll write a post describing my understanding of exactly what fuels US support for Israel. It is actually somewhat complicated and interesting, and my view is probably a little different than it was a year ago.

But it is not for the technology, that another commenter pointed out would be available even if Israel had an Arab majority, even if many Jewish people were to move to other places (and more than anywhere else would probably come to the US!)

Russia would like good relations with Israel, as it would like good relations with Botswana, Iran, Bolivia, where ever. Where does Russia not want good relations?

If you're making the argument that Russia would like to have the US's relationship with Israel for strategic reasons, it is difficult for me to even engage that argument.

N. Friedman said...


You posit that the US relationship with Israel substantially complicates US relationships with Arab countries, vital to the US because Arab states sell oil that the US needs. That, of course, sounds logical - which explains your belief in it.

On the other hand, there is the fact of the close US relationship with most oil producing Arab countries notwithstanding Israel. So, if there is a significant complication as you believe, it has not kept the US from having good relations - in fact, extremely close relations - with quite a number of Arab oil producing countries. That is something that, while it does not invalidate your theory, complicates it substantially.

More importantly, there are several problems with your proposition. The first is the hidden assumption that there really is an important common Arab view that transcends mere rhetoric. That, I suggest, is definitely not the case. For this, I am relying on Elie Kedourie's monumental work, Islam in the Modern World and Other Studies.

Kedourie shows rather definitively that Arab states, at least in the period he addressed but, in all probability still, do not share common interests in the way your complication theory requires. That is the reason why Saudi Arabia, which certainly hates Israel, does not act on that hate but, instead, maintains close relations with the US.

Kedourie shows that Arab states have historically been primarily moved, even as it relates to Palestine, by parochial, local needs - most importantly, survival -, not greater Arab or Muslim interests. Which is to say, Arab states are primarily moved by factors that relate to their survival, not by their hatred of Israel.

That means, if he is correct and if his views still apply, that the rhetoric that is heard from Arab states regarding Israel does not drive Arab government policies quite the way you think it does. And, that fact is, of course, born out in the close relationship that the US has with a great many Arab states - relationships that Arab states seem mostly to want to maintain and, in fact, augment.

Second, there is the point that at the end of the Yom Kippur War, there was a push by Arab states - a push which turned out to be half-hearted because, as I noted, politics are driven by the need to survive, not pan-Arab ideology - to undo the results of that war. That push included using oil as a weapon.

You will recall that Kissinger called the bluff of the Arabs and the Arabs backed down rather quickly. Why? Two reasons: One. The Arab states have insufficient ability economically speaking, apart from oil, to support a boycott and survive at the same time. Two. Arab states, like most other states, are driven by the need to survive which is far more important than Israel, which is not a challenge to their survival.

Were the US to back down now in response to Arab demands, as you propose, that would entirely undermine US policy with the Arab states because they would, rather logically, conclude that the US is not strong enough to influence events and they would worry about their own survival. That exact mistake - the one you suggest the US adopt - is what led to the downfall of British influence in the Arab regions, as Kedourie shows rather definitively in his noted book - one you should read. Your suggested approach led to loss of influence because it showed that Britain could not control events in areas where Britain ruled - in particular, in Mandate Palestine - and were somehow dependent on Arab support, which was not forthcoming because Arab states had local, not region, concerns that dominated their actions. That, in turn, strengthened, as Kedourie shows, the efforts of people in the region, Arabs and Jews, over the British, who were seen as being unable to control events. And, that drove the cost of British influence way up.

I shall address your other points in one or more separate posts.

lidia said...

Arnold, I prefer to be polite myself, esp. in a place that I like a lot

I promise do not call NF names (only call him Zionist, but it is a fact).

I am glad you mostly agree with me, because I mostly agree with you. I'll do my best, really.

About NF I could only add that some Israeli Jews now are calling for boicot against USA and EU as a punishment for not strong enough support for Israel :) I would not tell you what I think about the brain power of such people, because I try to be polite

N. Friedman said...


You write: "To argue that the US supports Israel mainly or even substantially for objective strategic reasons is like saying the earth is 6000 years old."

Your theory seems to be that the US chooses not to advance its own interests, if we go by external factors that ought to influence the US. And, given that you seem to believe in "objective strategic reasons," I gather that you believe in the realist school of thought.

That theory posits, in its purest form, that governments act primarily due to external factors, not internal preferences or pressures (other than survival). The realist theory posits that internal factors rarely ever govern any foreign affairs and certainly not over the course of decades. In fact, if the realist theory is even half correct, your theory could not possibly be true.

Realist theory, in one of its many variations, is very much entrenched among those in the foreign policy establishment. In fact, a great many believers in one of the realist theories vocally believe in continuing the US alliance with Israel (e.g. Henry Kissinger, James Baker, etc., etc.) to one degree or another. Nearly none among the realists supports dismantling Israel or ending cordial relations with Israel or ceasing the sale of armaments to Israel or even ending aid.

In fact, the persons who have most vocally supported ending aid to Israel have been people like Richard Perle - i.e., famed or infamous, take your choice, neo-con. Perle is not a realist.

Such realists who support Israel have most likely, if your are correct, been somehow cowered into saying things they do not believe in; that, rather than having honest differences of opinion with your view or merely being mistaken in their opinions. My guess is that your opinion is simply wrong and such people merely hold different views than you do. They may or may not be mistaken but, of course, that is a different thing.

Be that as it may, you think that the Israel is primarily a burden to the US. I do not. I think that the US gains substantially from its relations with Israel. Otherwise, the US would drop Israel in a heartbeat. Yet, that is something the US has not done and is not likely to do, in my humble opinion.

And, in my humble opinion, European governments would not be seeking to improve ties with Israel, which most are doing notwithstanding substantial resistance from oil interests and various anti-Israel pressure groups. Again: realist theory holds that European governments would not be trying to extend their relationships with Israel if external factors were as you claim they are.

The reason that Europeans want better relations with Israel include, among others, that Israel is strategically situated and is a player in the Middle East. Hence, to have influence in the Middle East, European countries must have cordial relations with Israel. Moreover, European countries want to expand trade with Israel. Why? Because Israel is an invention powerhouse, more than any European country, bar none. And, that is in overall inventions, not per capita. Human resource is an important factor that drives policy.

Then, there is India. It also has expanded its relationship with Israel. Why? Because Israel has things important enough to India to outweigh India's close relationship with Arab countries. Which is to say, India is willing to trade with Israel whether Arab states like it or not because that is necessary to India's perceived interest - based on objective external factors.

N. Friedman said...


I continue my last post.

Now, you indicate that Israel's inventive prowess is something that could flourish under non-Jewish rule in the Middle East. I propose that such is not true. Assuming, arguendo, that Israel's demise would not lead to a civil war, one has to ask why Israel, but not Jordan or the UAE, etc., has prodigious inventiveness. In fact, it is worth noting that prior to 1990, Israel had little to speak of in the way of inventions. At the time, it was rather dependent on the US in a way it no longer is.

In fact, today's inventive capability is a product of a particular environment, not just people of scientific capability. Otherwise, the 300 million Arabs would today be major contributors to the world of invention. They are not. They are at the very bottom of the heap. That is due to a whole host of things but not due to any lack of intelligence among Arabs.

I point out to you the damage done by Russia to its intelligentsia, having made Russia inhospitable to Jews. Israel and the US have been the main benefactors of the exodus of Jews from Russia and the Ukraine and other parts of the former USSR. That, it seems to me, is your recipe for Israel, making it less hospitable for Jews.

One last point. Let us suppose you are correct and that there is no US interest in maintaining its relationship with Israel. While I think that is belied by facts, I ask you why the US ought not be in the forefront in supporting Israel. That it complicates relations with Arabs - but not enough to cause breaks in relations - is not much of a reason. Why should the US not side with Jews? I can see no good reason for the US to change policy towards Israel, at least to the extent that you posit. That, to me, sounds like a recipe for the US to undermine itself, as already asserted.

lidia said...

Just to let Arnold know - during the last years a lot (tens of thousands, I believe) Jews returned from Israel to Russia. of course, some of them are not-Jews for racist Israel (for ex, a daughter of a Jew and his non-Jewish wife with her husband and her two daughters)

N. Friedman said...


There is the question of Russian intentions. I reiterate that Russian aims are to advance Russian interests. That and little else - and certainly not Arab and not US and not Israeli interests. Russia's strategy to do that appears to include siding with countries that want to undermine US influence in the Persian Gulf area. That interest will remain primary to Russia, so long as the US remains the dominant player in the Persian Gulf region.

Your assumption is that Russian aims could never be advanced by taking the place of the US as close friend of Israel. Of course, that is premised on your prejudice that no country would support Israel for genuine external reasons. In that many countries do support Israel notwithstanding Arab pressure, your assumption is one that might need some reconsideration.

Russia's position, its long standing policy and the policy of the USSR before it, was to support Israel's continued existence. There is no pro-Israel pressure group that created that policy in either Russia or the USSR, yet it has been consistently held since 1949 - even during periods where the USSR broke off relations with Israel. So, presumably, Russia sees some benefit to Israel even if you do not. The question is whether Russia might see benefit to act as close friend of Israel.

It seems to me that the case for Russia to do so is much stronger than for the US. After all, the concern you most critically note is oil. Russia, you will note, is not subject to the same pressures as the US to Arab demands. Rather, any Russian support for Arab demands is premised on other concerns, most likely the aim to undermine the US. To the extent that support of Israel complicates US influence in the region, Russia has every good reason to become closer to Israel. So, it stands to reason that Russia could, in appropriate circumstances, become Israel's close friend.

Which is to say, I think your view is wrong.

Arnold Evans said...


The United States supported apartheid or pre-apartheid South Africa, and there were no mainstream calls for anything as radical as a one-state non-White democracy from before and after WWII until at earliest the 1980s.

The US motivation was essentially similar to its motivation in supporting Israel today, but there are specific differences that I keep saying I'll get around to posting about.

US support for White South Africa complicated its relations with other African countries, and it was a cost the US beared.

I'm curious again. What is your explanation for the US boycott of Iran? The laws establishing the boycott tie it to Iranian support for anti-Israel groups. Iran's leaders say it is because of Israel. What do you say? The US is foregoing a tremendous amount of potential profit to impose this boycott.

N. Friedman said...


I do not understand your analogy to South Africa. It sounds like Arab and left wing propaganda, propaganda which intentionally blurs facts to create an analogy which is not there.

In any event, the US support for South Africa had far less strategic importance to the US than its support for Israel, which is located near much of the world's oil supply.

N. Friedman said...


You ask: "I'm curious again. What is your explanation for the US boycott of Iran?"

The US finds the Islamist doctrine truly objectionable, just as much as it found communism objectionable. Arab states which ally with the US find Shi'a power and find Islamism, other than for rhetorical flourish, truly objectionable. Israel finds Islamism truly objectionable.

Further, the Iranian regime has done extraordinary things which place it outside of the pale of nations, such as sending agents to blow up community centers in South America and taking US government officials hostage.

You write: "The laws establishing the boycott tie it to Iranian support for anti-Israel groups. Iran's leaders say it is because of Israel. What do you say? The US is foregoing a tremendous amount of potential profit to impose this boycott."

I say, good for the US. It is standing on fine moral principle and, on top of that, it is standing for its actual interests, which is to eliminate Islamism, which is currently the most loathsome doctrine on Earth, since it propose to murder whole ethnic groups and to dominate the entire planet. In my mind, Islamism is as bad a doctrine as nazism. So, whatever it takes to drive the Islamists down is in the US interest.

lidia said...

NF, I feel, REALLY thinks that there are "Arab states" which are against Iran. Their puppet rulers - yeah, sure. But count them as "allies", while they are but a part of USA imperialism and are in power ONLY by USA money and arms (Israel helps too, of course) - it is so ....

N. Friedman said...


That a number of those states have a common interest with Israel vis a vis Iran is certainly the case. Nonetheless, I doubt that any of the Arab states would ally, at least in public, with Israel. And, I rather suspect that hostility towards Israel is sufficiently deep that, whatever benefit there would be in concerted efforts by Israel and Arab states that feel threatened by Iran, no meaningful cooperation is possible.

lidia said...

"That a number of those states have a common interest with Israel vis a vis Iran is certainly the case"

"State" usually does NOT mean "an USA/Israel puppet ruler", but Arnold has said as much...