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Israel may launch missile strike on Iran, report warns

Paul Woodward, Online Correspondent


Last Updated: March 18. 2009 10:10AM UAE / March 18. 2009 6:10AM GMT A leading foreign policy think tank in Washington said a strike by Israel on Iran will give rise to regional instability and conflict as well as terrorism.


A study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said that due to the complexity and risk involved in an air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel may opt to strike with ballistic missiles if there are no other means to curtail the Islamic republic's nuclear programme. The study said that in the event of such an attack a strike on the Bushehr nuclear reactor would cause the immediate death of thousands of people in the area. Thousands or even hundreds of thousands would subsequently die of cancer and radioactive contamination would "most definitely" heavily affect Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE.


During a visit to the United States, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that while Israel was interested in exhausting diplomatic options against Iran's nuclear programme, the army must nevertheless prepare itself for a military attack, Haaretz reported.


On her blog at Foreign Policy, Laura Rozen reported on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to Israel earlier this month.


"An Israeli diplomat apprised of Clinton's recent Jerusalem meeting said that Netanyahu was forthright in telling her that Iran is his top priority.


" 'Netanyahu brought up Iran,' the Israeli diplomat told Foreign Policy. 'He told her it was the be all and end all. And [he said] that there is a reverse link: If [Washington] wants anything to move on the Palestinian front, we need to take head on the Iranian threat, diplomatically, with sanctions, and beyond that.'


"Clinton responded, 'I am aware of that,' the Israeli diplomat relayed.


" 'They both had a perfect excuse not to say anything blunt,' the diplomat continued, 'Until Iran gets through the elections in June, nothing can be done.'...


" 'As for substance, there is no policy, which is more or less in a mild way, something she admitted,' in her meeting with Netanyahu, the diplomat said. 'Again, not in those very words. She was there to let those there understand that the Obama administration is in an exploration phase. You've got to give her credit for one thing. There is nothing new here. The players are the same. The plot is the same. The solutions are the same.' "


The Washington Times reported that a man tipped to become one of Mr Netanyahu's closest advisers is seen as a security risk.


"Uzi Arad, who is expected to serve as national security adviser in the next Israeli government, has been barred from entering the United States for nearly two years on the grounds that he is an intelligence risk.


"Mr Arad, a former member and director of intelligence for the Mossad, Israel's spy service, is mentioned in the indictment of Lawrence Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst who pleaded guilty in 2005 to providing classified information about Iran in a conversation with two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee...


"The choice of Mr Arad for national security adviser has been reported in the Israeli press and was confirmed by sources close to Mr Netanyahu, who has been tasked with forming the next government."


In a UPI two years ago, Mr Arad was said to advocate "maximum deterrence" towards Iran.


"Israel should threaten to strike 'everything and anything of value,' he said.


"Should Israel threaten to hit their leadership? Yes. Their holiest sites? Yes. Everything together? Yes, Arad recommended."


When interviewed on Israel National News TV last year and asked whether it was time for Israel to abandon the pursuit of a two-state solution, Mr Arad said: "We want to relieve ourselves of the burden of the Palestinian populations - not territories. It is territory we want to preserve but populations we want to rid ourselves of."


Meanwhile, the likely member of Mr Netanyahu's soon to be formed cabinet who has gained widest international attention is the ultra-nationalist, Avigdor Lieberman, who is expected to become Israel's new foreign minister.


"On Sunday, Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party became the prime minister-designate's first official coalition partner," JTA reported.


"The agreement gives Lieberman's hawkish, mainly Russian-immigrant party no less than five ministries - foreign affairs, internal security, infrastructure, tourism and immigrant absorption - as well as Lieberman-approved candidates for justice minister, deputy foreign minister and chair of the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee.


"Some analysts already are calling the emerging government the 'Biberman administration' - a combination of Netanyahu's nickname, Bibi, and Lieberman...


"Lieberman also calls for strengthening executive power in Israel through government reform. He advocates a system that in an emergency allows the president to override Knesset legislation. Some critics see the idea as the thin end of a wedge that could lead to dictatorship in Israel."



The Los Angeles Times noted: "Lieberman's ascent to Israel's top diplomatic post could complicate its ties with other countries. He is viewed by many abroad as a xenophobe, having risen to prominence by advocating loyalty oaths for Israel's Arab citizens and a redrawing of borders to exclude some Arab communities from the country.


"Although neither proposal is likely to be implemented, Lieberman's appointment would solidify Israel's shift to the right and away from commitment to achieving a peace accord that would give the Palestinians an independent state.


"Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, signaled his concern Monday.


" 'We will be ready to do business as usual, normally, with a government in Israel that is prepared to continue talking and working for a two-state solution,' he told reporters in Brussels. 'If that is not the case, the situation would be different.'


"Riad Malki, foreign minister of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, called the emerging Israeli government 'anti-peace.' Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab member of parliament, called for an international boycott of Lieberman. 'No minister should meet him,' he said, 'especially no Arab minister.' "


The Financial Times said: "If Mr Lieberman is confirmed as foreign minister it would represent Arabs' worst fears about the direction they perceive Israel to be taking: Mr Lieberman is regarded in the Arab world as racist towards Arabs and someone who has no intention of making peace with the Palestinians.


"Arab leaders, due to meet at an Arab League summit at the end of this month, had already been warning that while an Arab peace initiative, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, was still on the table it would not remain there forever. The initiative offers Israel normal relations with Arab states if it returns all lands occupied during the 1967 war.


"Mr Lieberman's appointment would cause particular problems for Egypt and Jordan, the two Middle East states that have formal relations with Israel. Egypt, which came under severe pressure during the Gaza onslaught because of its ties to the Jewish state, has played a vital role mediating between Israel and Palestinian factions. But Cairo is likely to be loath to have to deal with Mr Lieberman as foreign minister."

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