Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi, seized by Israel's Mossad in Ukraine, indicted in Israeli court today for developing electrical systems for missiles and mortars, and for membership in Hamas

Despite all the denials that he is not and was not ever a member of Hamas, and was nothing more than a simple electrical power plant engineer, the Gaza Plant’s Power Deputy Director of Operations, Dirar Abu Sisi — who was abducted from a train in the Ukraine on 18-19 February and flown to Israel within hours in the custody of Israeli Mossad agents — was indicted today on shockingly serious charges of developing missiles to fire at Israel.

The indictment was filed Monday, as had been predicted last week, and in a Beersheva court. Abu Sisi has been held for a month in Ashkelon’s Shikma Prison, apparently after nearly two weeks of interrogation by Israel’s General Security Services (GSS or Shin Bet or Shabak) near Petach Tikva.

Haaretz reported today that “Ukraine says Abu Sisi’s disappearance is under investigation. Israel has not provided details on how the Palestinian came into its custody, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week it was a ‘legal arrest’.” This report is posted here. The Haaretz report notes that Hamas has said that Abu Sisi is not a member of the organization — which is banned in Israel as a terrorist organization.

Continue reading Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi, seized by Israel's Mossad in Ukraine, indicted in Israeli court today for developing electrical systems for missiles and mortars, and for membership in Hamas

Missiles for … medical equipment?

Here is a news item that leaves me almost at a loss for words — The Associated Press reported today that “A US government team is evaluating Nicaragua’s proposal to destroy hundreds of Soviet-made missiles in exchange for hospital equipment, authorities said on Tuesday. President Daniel Ortega met the leader of the US delegation, John Feeley, head of Central American affairs at the US State Department, shortly after the Pentagon team of US hospital administration specialists arrived Monday for a 10-day review of Nicaragua hospitals to see what medical equipment was needed. The US government has long pressured Nicaragua to destroy the shoulder-fired SAM-7 anti-aircraft missiles as part of a global effort to eliminate weapons that could fall into the hands of terrorists. Nicaragua has already destroyed about half its original stockpile of 2,000 missiles and it is offering to destroy 651 of the remaining 1,051 SAMs in exchange for ‘modern medical equipment and medications’, Ortega’s office said in a press statement”. This AP story was published in the Jerusalem Post here.

Israel says IAEA report "determines Iran is engaged in weaponization"

Immediately after the end of Shabbat on Saturday night, when things in Israel begin to stir, the Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing its concern about Iran, and urging hard pressure:
“International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei’s 22.2.08 report reaffirms the concerns of the State of Israel and the international community that Iran is continuing its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  The report also makes it clear that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium and carry out other activities in violation of UN Security Council decisions. The report determines that Iran is engaged in weaponization, i.e. nuclear weapons development activity. This determination, along with others in the report, strengthens Israel’s view regarding the need for further comprehensive and thorough investigation of Iran’s overall nuclear activities. Since Iran continues to obstruct IAEA investigations and persists in flouting UN Security Council decisions, Israel believes that the international community must increase pressure on Iran in order to ensure that it will be denied the possibility of attaining nuclear weapons”.  This statement was sent by email from the Israeli Government Press Office to journalists accredited in Israel.

It is not at all clear that the IAEA report — which has been leaked to several news agencies, but not published yet, as it was issued to a restricted circulation only — says this at all.

However, the Israelis are really going out on a limb, if it doesn’t say this. The UN News Centre [the UN uses British-English spellings] reported that IAEA Director General ElBaradei told journalists (apparently in Vienna on Friday) that “We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran’s enrichment programme”. However, ElBaradei also said that the IAEA has yet to get to the bottom of Iran’s alleged past weaponization studies, and he noted that although the IAEA has no indication that such studies pertained to nuclear material, it is crucial to clarify the issue. This UN News Centre story is posted here.

The IAEA website gives a fuller version of ElBaradei’s remarks to journalists: “In addition to our work, to clarify Iran´s past nuclear activities, we have to make sure, naturally, that Iran´s current activities are also exclusively for peace purposes and for that we have been asking Iran to conclude the so called Additional Protocol, which gives us the additional authority to visit places, additional authority to have additional documents, to be able to provide assurance, not only that Iran´s declared activities are for peaceful purposes but that there are no undeclared nuclear activities. On that score, Iran in the last few months has provided us with visits to many places, that enable us to have a clearer picture of Iran´s current programme. However, that is not, in my view, sufficient. We need Iran to implement the Additional Protocol. We need to have that authority as a matter of law. That, I think, is a key for us to start being able to build progress in providing assurance that Iran´s past and current programmes are exclusively for peaceful purposes. So we have the Protocol issue and we have the weaponization, alleged weaponization studies. I should however add that in connection with the weaponization studies, we have not seen any indication that these studies were linked to nuclear material. So that gives us some satisfaction but the issue is still critical for us to be able to come to a determination as to the nature of Iran´s nuclear programme. As a result of Iran running an undeclared nuclear programme for almost two decades, there has been confidence deficit on the part of the international community about the intentions, future intentions of Iran´s nuclear programme. Therefore the Security Council asked Iran to suspend its enrichment-related activities. I hope that Iran will continue to work closely with the Security Council, to create the conditions for Iran and the international community to engage in comprehensive negotiation that would lead to a durable solution. A durable solution requires confidence about Iran´s nuclear programme, it requires a regional security arrangement, it requires normal trade relationship between Iran and the international community. As the Security Council stated, the ultimate aim should be normalization of relationships between Iran and the international community. Definitely the Agency will continue to do as much as we can to make sure that we also contribute to the confidence-building process with regard to the past and present nuclear activities in Iran, but naturally, we can not provide assurance about future intentions. That is inherently a diplomatic process that needs the engagement of all the parties.” These statements by ElBaradei are posted on the IAEA website here.

The IAEA website explains elsewhere that this “Additional Protocol is a legal document granting the IAEA complementary inspection authority to that provided in underlying safeguards agreements. A principal aim is to enable the IAEA inspectorate to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities. Under the Protocol, the IAEA is granted expanded rights of access to information and sites”. This information is posted here.

Just after the revelations of Iran’s undeclared nuclear activities (Iran argued it was not legally obliged to declare them at that point) in 2003 — after damaging revelations exposed by the armed opposition MEK movement — Iran did drafted an Additional Protocal agreement that was approved by the IAEA Board of Governors in November 2003, and signed it in December 2003 — but it has not yet been ratified by the Iranian Majlis. Iran is not the only country in the world that has not finished the process of concluding an Additional Protocol agreement with the IAEA (see list here ), but it is the only country under such suspicion.

However, these cool-headed aims of the IAEA do not apparently go very far towards reassuring Israel today.

Israel didn’t like Saddam Hussein one bit — they bombed his nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, then he shot missiles at Israel during the 1991 U.S.-led Desert Storm operation to get Iraq out of Kuwait, and a child was suffocated by a gas masque, while another citizen had a heart attack, among other casualties — but Israel never led a public campaign as strong or as frenzied against him as it is doing against Iran now.

At the Jerusalem Conference held in Jerusalem this week, Member of Knesset for the National Union Partier and Reserve Brigadier General Effie Eitam said in an interview with this reporter that “Many Israelis understand we are at square one as far as our survival in this region is concerned, like the first two decades of Israel’s existence, with the combination of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranians, and the deployment of missiles on our borders….” Eitam added that “the Palestinians, if they ever had any independent agenda, they abandoned it a long time ago, and are functioning now as agents of the most bitter enemy of Israel — Iran … And Israel in the near time will have to take action on the ground — not surgery, not talking — to break down this iron hold on our neck. The entire population fears the missiles on our northern and southern border”.

In a panel discussion at the Jerusalem Conference, the former head of Israel’s Arrow-Homa Anti-Missile Defense Program, Uzi Rubin, said that “Israels foes have traded airpower and aerial domanance for rockets and missiles — there is no spot in Israel, even in Eilat, which is free of a missile threat”. Participating in the same panel, Effie Eitam said that it is important for Israel now to let it be known that “a country that puts our civilians under threat will be punished. Eitam said that “We missed an opportunity, in the last war, because we assented to a pattern of behavior [of threats to civilians]. During the Gulf War, tens of missiles were shot at us, and nobody knew what kind of warheads they carried — chemical, nuclear or conventional. The State of Israel did not demand a price for that, and this gave the impression that the State of Israel is not willing to defend itself…Now, we’re protecting our heads with a pillow….that simply depends on some kind of technology”. He called for a new military policy “if someone threates us, and our civilians, and our sovereignty … Our enemies should be in a position where they wouldn’t dare attack our cities”. Yes, he said, we need deterrence, yes, absolutely. But if our enemy would know that our response would be a terrible response, that he would suffer terribly…if he knew he would pay a terrible price, then he would think long and hard before attacking us”.

It is clear, from here, that the effort to push for a new stage of UNSC sanctions against Iran may also well be an effort to keep Israel from attacking Iran.

Inexorable logic — either the U.S. downsizes (and keep its anti-missile program away), or Russia will upgrade

Reuters has picked up a report on the Itar-Tass news agency quoting First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying on Friday that Russia must achieve nuclear arms parity with the United States: “Military potential, to say nothing of nuclear potential, must be at the proper level if we want … to just stay independent … The weak are not loved and not heard, they are insulted, and when we have parity they will talk to us in a different way“.

Reuters reported, from Tass, that Ivanov told veterans and members of Russia’s military-industrial commission that “every year Russia would be now commissioning six or seven of its newest ‘Topol-M’ nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. The missiles — the first developed by Russia after the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union — can carry up to six warheads and are mounted on mobile launcher vehicles”. The Reuters report can be seen here.

Russian irritation with U.S. postures has been evident and growing in recent years, but the U.S. has appeared to be surprised by this — and continues not making concessions to Russia’s views and positions, within the Conference on Disarmament at the UN in Geneva, and elsewhere.