NEWS: Adoption of nuclear first-strike posture

U.S. plan envisioned nuking Iran, Syria, Libya

Despite years of denials, a secret planning document issued by the U.S. military’s nuclear-weapons command in 2003 ordered preparations for nuclear strikes on countries seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including Iran, Saddam Hussein-era Iraq, Libya and Syria.

A briefing (pdf) on the document obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, showed that the document itself was created to flesh out a 2001 Bush administration revision of long-standing nuclear-weapons policy, known as the Nuclear Posture Review. That review was a Defense Department-led attempt to wean nuclear policy off a Cold-War focus on Russia and China, but the shift raised questions about what purpose nuclear forces would serve apart from deterring an attack. In March 2002, leaks indicated that the review would recommend preparations for nuclear attacks against WMD-aspirant states. Arms Control Today pointed out at the time that planning to attack non-nuclear states that were signatories to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty reversed decades of U.S. nuclear policy. [complete article]

See also, Nuke planning against DPRK, Libya & friends (Arms Control Wonk).

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ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Cheney takes a sabbatical

Pre-emptive caution: the case of Syria

It was President Bush who, a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rewrote America’s national security strategy to warn any nation that might be thinking of trying to develop atomic weapons that it could find itself the target of a pre-emptive military strike.

But that was the fall of 2002, when the world looked very different from how it does in the fall of 2007. Now, the case of Syria, which Israeli and American analysts suspect was trying to build a nuclear reactor, has become a prime example of what can happen when Mr. Bush’s first-term instincts run headlong into second-term realities.

Five years later, dealing with nations that may have nuclear weapons ambitions — but are also staying within the letter of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — looks a lot more complicated than it once did. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — If it depends on journalists like David Sanger, he’s probably right in predicting that, “It may be months or years before all the mysteries surrounding the attack on Syria become clear.” Meanwhile, Sanger seems happy to keep on drinking the White House Kool-Aid. Should we be concerned about the chances for a U.S. attack on Iranian nuclear facilities? Far from it, Sanger reports, since those ubiquitous senior officials he’s been hanging out with assure him that the administration is far too prudent. “Iran, they say, has too many ways to strike back at American interests — in Iraq, in the oil markets and throughout the Middle East.” Does the vice president know that? In Sanger’s analysis, Cheney in conspicuously absent. The administration is now being controlled by pragmatic realists, while the president is focused on his diplomatic achievements.

Getting a deal with North Korea to disgorge its own nuclear fuel and weapons may require looking past whatever North Korea might have sold to another country. And it may mean engaging the Syrians, even before they answer the question of what, exactly, they were building in the desert.

Who could have predicted such a sunny turn of events? The only question now is, how can the Israelis be persuaded to sign up with the diplomatic program. What Sanger implies is that a White House, sobered by experience, may offer Israel wise council but that there’s not much chance they’ll listen.

And as for those readers who still have nagging questions about what happened on September 6, the latest word from Israel is that it is “plausible” and “logical” that a nuclear reactor under construction was hit. The IAEA has put in a request for information.

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OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: The phoenix of preventive war arises from Syrian ashes

Preemption, Israeli style

Last month, one of the more mysterious episodes in the history of the Arab-Israel conflict began to leak slowly into the news. Although the facts are still unconfirmed, what seems to have happened has major implications not only for the region but even more for the laws of war and preemption that President Bush has been trying to redefine ever since his 2002 national security strategy paper.

First, Syrian spokesmen complained that Israeli planes had violated their country’s airspace on Sept. 6 — and had been driven off, or so they said. Within a few days came stories — mostly from anonymous sources — that the planes had fired into Syria; these were followed by still other stories that a target had in fact been hit. But what was it?

After further journalistic digging, the most plausible accounts said that the Syrian targets were related to nuclear weapons activity and may even have been manned by North Koreans. Later reports suggest some dispute within the U.S. government about how far Syria had progressed in achieving its nuclear ambitions, but these same reports confirm that this is what Israel was targeting.

The obscurity of this episode results in part from uncharacteristically tight lips in Jerusalem and Damascus. But that is not the whole of the reason. There has also been a deafening silence from the international community and especially from the other states of the region. This highly unusual reaction is one of the oddest parts of the whole episode and, in some ways, the most meaningful. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — The neoconservatives and their Iraqi allies famously predicted that American soldiers would be greeted in Baghdad with sweets and flowers. As if to outdo themselves in making wild predictions, with Iran now the target, the suggestion being floated by Joshua Muravchik and other neocons is that alarming predictions about the consequences of a US/Israeli attack on Iran are being vastly overstated. The lesson from Syria, so we are supposed to believe, is that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities will be greeted by deafening silence.

Eager to boost her stock in the Israel lobby and implying to neocons that there is such a thing as life-after-Cheney, Hillary Clinton was unequivocal in expressing her support for the Israeli attack:

“We don’t have as much information as we wish we did. But what we think we know is that with North Korean help, both financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that.”

Clinton’s Iran vote: the fallout

Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd voted against it. Senator Barack Obama said he would have voted against it if he had voted. Former Senator John Edwards implied he would have voted against it if he could vote.

And Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton? She voted in favor of the measure in question, which asked the Bush administration to declare Iran’s 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. Such a move — more hawkish than even most of the Bush administration has been willing to venture so far — would intensify America’s continuing confrontation with Iran, many foreign policy experts say.
[...]
Think of it as Iran declaring that the United States military is a terrorist organization because it carries out President Bush’s orders. Such a move, say some Iran experts — including some advisers to the Clinton campaign who declined to publicly criticize their possible boss — runs the risk of further alienating the Iranian population, because many Iranians are tied to the Revolutionary Guard or its many offshoots and enterprises in some way.

“What Senator Clinton and the other legislators who voted for this bill don’t seem to realize is that the Revolutionary Guards are not Al Qaeda,” said Karim Sadjapour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “They’re not a group of voluntary jihadists signing up to fight the United States. Many are conscripts taken from the regular army.” [complete article]

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