The Economist on the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire

May 23, 2021 • 9:30 am

Reader Diana MacPherson sent a link to an Economist article with this note:

I subscribe to The Economist so I can read these articles which are often behind a paywall, which is a shame because I find The Economist to be one of the last true bastions of balanced journalism. Their Israel and Hamas coverage I find quite good. Here is their take on the ceasefire which I have put in a mediocre PDF since it’s behind a paywall. Note that they don’t pander to Hamas and talk about them as the ones who have ruined peace in the past.

Fortunately, the entire article is online; you can read it by clicking on the screenshot below. And Diana’s right in saying they don’t pander to Hamas and do indict them for ruining the peace. Still, I want to make a few tangential comments.

Excerpts from the article are indented. As you can see from the sub-headline and from the article’s last paragraph (below), they are not optimistic about the prospects for peace, nor am I. I predict six months as a maximum for the ceasefire.

Yet there were new elements to this round of violence. A wave of clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel itself unnerved Mr Netanyahu. There are new types of pressure from abroad, too. Whereas President Joe Biden emphasised “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself”, some fellow Democrats called for putting conditions on American aid to Israel.

But for now, none of that is likely to stop the cycle of violence. Israel and Hamas will come out of this battle much as they went in. Nothing has been gained; nothing has been resolved. And yet they are likely to do it again.

(Try this link if the screenshot below doesn’t work.)

Now my comments. First, on the casualty data:

THE FIGHTING lasted less than two weeks, but there was no shortage of explosions. By the end Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, had fired some 4,000 rockets at Israel. Most were intercepted by Israel’s missile defences. Israel responded with hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, a cramped enclave ruled by Hamas, which had no shield. More than 200 people were killed, all but 12 of them Palestinian.

This is pretty accurate: Hamas fired 4,360 rockets at Israel. Of these, 680 fell into Gaza, killing an unknown number of Palestinians who are surely included in the casualty totals. The Palestinian Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, announced that a total of 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children (people under 18) and 39 women. The Health Ministry implies that the dead are all civilians, but that is dubious given the imbalance of sexes. Of the 177 adults killed, 138 were men (78%) and 39 (22%) were women. If these are truly civilian deaths, then there must be a severe sex-ratio imbalance in the Gaza population! More likely is that the male toll includes Hamas fighters. A separate fighting group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) did announce that 19 of its fighters were killed by Israelis.

Thirteen Israelis were killed by Hamas, none of them members of the IDF (Israel does separate out military deaths from civilian deaths). While this disproportionality is used as a reason to indict Israel, that is somewhat misguided given the way “disproportionality is used in wartime, but I’ve discussed this before and won’t get into it here. I’ll only add what I said before: Palestine, like Israel, does have an Iron Dome to protect its civilians: the dome is the mantra “Don’t fire rockets at Israel.”

More:

Since the Islamist group [Hamas] grabbed control of Gaza in 2007, the two sides have fought four wars and several smaller battles, costing thousands of lives (again, mostly Palestinian).

This refers not to a battle with Israel, but to the Fatah-Hamas battle for Gaza.  Remember that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 as a voluntary good-will gesture in connection with the Oslo Accords. PM Sharon also evicted 7,000 Jews from Gaza at that time, leaving it “Judenrein” (“Jew free”). The Jews didn’t want to leave, and many had to be physically carried out of their homes by Israeli soldiers, homes that were destroyed by the soldiers as well.  However, the agricultural and industrial infrastructure of Gaza, previously owned by Jews, was donated by Israel to Gaza and the Palestinians, who promptly destroyed this infrastructure simply because it was Jewish. Have people forgotten this?

As I said, the article doesn’t gloss over the actions of Hamas, including storing weapons at schools and hospitals and their use of human shields. I have just one more comment on one of its statements:

Both sides are content to leave Gaza a festering pit of misery that periodically erupts. Hamas’s control in some ways suits Mr Netanyahu, inasmuch as it weakens the Palestinian leadership and dims the prospect of a Palestinian state. Israel will still try to keep the group down, though. It and Egypt have kept Gaza under blockade since 2007, making it harder for Hamas to arm itself—and making life grim for ordinary Gazans. Restrictions on travel mean they cannot leave. The isolated, impoverished territory draws comparisons to an open-air prison.

Let’s be clear here: Israel is not depriving Gaza of food, medicine, or other amenities and necessities of life. The blockade, which is enforced by Israel and Egypt (Egypt is stricter!) is meant only to prohibit the importation into Gaza of weapons or of material that can be made into weapons. The EU, the UN, and many GMOs pour millions and millions of dollars into Gaza (more is coming soon), and if there is a reason for a grim life for ordinary Gazans, let us rememeber that much of that is due not to the blockade of weapons, but to the appropriation of donated money to build rockets, tunnels, and to line the pockets of corrupt Hamas officials. Those who continually indict Israel for turning Gaza into an “open-air prison” often seem to forget that this is largely due to the leadership of Gaza by Hamas.

Finally, my friend Malgorzata had a comment on the first sentence above: “Both sides are content to leave Gaza a festering pit of misery that periodically erupts.” Here’s what she wrote me:

This is simply stupid. Israel doesn’t want these eruptions. Israel would be happy if Gaza was a prosperous place with contented, productive people. That was the idea in 2005: a dream that Gaza would develop into “Singapore of the Middle East”. Israel still is helping Gazans not only with medical treatment of Gazans who need more specialized help, but also by training its doctors, and farmers, thinking up new crops they could export, and so on. It’s Hamas and PIJ, and Iran in the first place, who are happy with the misery in Gaza.

Discussion: Is Iran making a nuclear bomb?

January 1, 2021 • 1:00 pm

I am not going to give a lot of references here, but rather simply state what I feel is going on—based on what I’ve read in the past—and then open it up for discussion.

My thesis is that yes, Iran, despite its repeated denials, is indeed proceeding posthaste to build nuclear weapons, and has or will soon have both the warheads themselves and the delivery capability. The country’s denials are absolutely worthless, and the “inspections” by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are just about as worthless, as inspectors aren’t allowed to visit all sites and also have to give advance warning.  (Remember, Iran still has a deal with China, Germany, Russia, France, and the UK.)

What will Iran do with a bomb? Aim it and fire it at Israel. Israel knows this well, and that’s why they’re busy infiltrating Iran’s nuclear program, stealing documents, (probably) killing Iranian nuclear scientists, and playing computer-hob with Iran’s enrichment facilities.  Nevertheless, Iran is getting closer and closer to a bomb, even given the Trump-administration’s sanctions as well as Israel’s stealthy program to prevent Iran from getting a bomb.

If it does get a bomb, and it surely will, only Ceiling Cat knows what will come. One scenario is that once Iran is close, Israel will launch a non-nuclear strike against Iran, using fancy non-nuclear bombs, like bunker busters, to destroy its nuclear facilities. This would of course launch a war in the Middle East, which is where I always thought the next big war would happen.

In response to assertions that it would be suicidal for Iran to launch a unilateral strike, and so it has no impetus to build a bomb, I say that one could make the same claim about North Korea, which of course is also pursuing a nuclear program only sixty miles from South Korea—well within range of U.S. missiles fired from submarines. I doubt that fanatical regimes, like North Korea and the theocracy of Iran have the same strategy as the nuclear-armed countries of the West, though I would hope so.

To sum up, I think Iran is single-mindedly pursuing the attainment of a nuclear weapons program, all the while denying it, claiming that its enrichment of uranium is for peaceful civilian use. If you believe those denials, you are fooling yourself. The inspections, too, are a joke, and if you think they’ll keep Iran’s nuclear program “peaceful”, you’re also fooling yourself. Even according to the IAEA, Iran already has 12 times more enriched uranium than permitted under the existing deal, and enriched to a higher degree than allowed.

Has there ever been a country that started a nuclear weapons program and then dismantled it without getting a bomb? Perhaps, but I don’t know of one. And Iran, like North Korea, is not such a country.

I’ll finish with this quote from an article at Reuters:

How close is Iran to having a bomb?

The breaches lengthened the breakout time but estimates still vary. Many diplomats and nuclear experts say the starting point of one year is conservative and Iran would need longer.

David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who tends to have a hawkish position on Iran, estimated in November that Iran’s breakout time could be “as short as 3.5 months”, although this presumes Iran would use 1,000 advanced centrifuges that were removed under the deal.

That discussion presumes that Iran is indeed trying to build a nuclear bomb.

As the Republicans say when they set up their anti-abortion tables outside colleges, “Change my mind.” And yes, I know I’m going against a lot of expert opinion here.

The complex cockpit of an F-15 fighter jet

July 19, 2020 • 2:30 pm

If you think computer-assisted and computer-display modern cars are complicated (I do; I have a low-tech 2000 Honda), then you’re going to be blown away by this new 14-minute video about now the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle jet fighter is controlled.  Col. Themely, who has flown these things in extenso, tells us what all the buttons are displays are for, though some of the displays aren’t activated because they’re classified. The amount of redundancy and safety features is impressive. Though the plane has been around since 1967, with continual upgrades, it remains a marvel of human ingenuity. And remember, every bit of this plane was made out of material wrested from the Earth, and designed by a mess of neurons in our heads.

Now guess what all this costs? After you’ve watched the video, click below the fold to find out, but guess first.  Oh, and the top speech is Mach 2.7, or 2071 miles per hour (3346 km/hr).

Today Ars Technica brings you inside the pilot’s seat of an F-15C Eagle fighter jet to break down every button in the cockpit. Join retired United States Air Force pilot Col. Andrea Themely as she walks you through everything at your disposal, from emergency features and communication controls to navigation features and weapons and defense. With 1100 hours of experience piloting F-15’s, Col. Themely expert eye is ready to guide you each step of the way.

Click “read more” to see what one of these bad boys costs. Continue reading “The complex cockpit of an F-15 fighter jet”

Post by Matthew Cobb: A Resistance attack on a convoy of Jews heading to Auschwitz

April 19, 2020 • 9:30 am

Tonight marks the 77th anniversary of a daring and unique rescue, when members of the Belgian Resistance tried to free a train full of Jews being transported to Auschwitz. Matthew wrote about it in one of his books (see below), and kindly offered to provide a piece for readers. The story is largely unknown but deserves to be remembered. Without further ado:

 

Bravery in the midst of horror: the attack on Convoy 20 to Auschwitz

Matthew Cobb

77 years ago, on the evening of 19-20th April 1943, an audacious operation to save Jews being deported to Nazi Germany took place in Belgium. This was the only known organized attempt in the whole of Occupied Europe to stop the deportation of Jews. What follows is an extract from my book The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis (2010). These passages are based on Marion Schreiber’s excellent 2000 work, translated in 2004 as The Twentieth Train: The True Story of the Ambush of the Death Train to Auschwitz.

During the Occupation, Belgian Jews were herded into a concentration camp in Mechelen near Antwerp and housed in the old Dossin barracks.

By the end of the war, over 26,000 Mechelen inmates had been deported to Auschwitz, all of them Jews, apart from 365 Gypsies. Nearly 16,000 of them, including virtually all the children, were gassed as soon as they arrived in Auschwitz. Conditions in the Mechelen camp were appalling. The Nazis subjected their prisoners to systematic humiliation and degradation, drawing swastikas on Torah scrolls and religious books, making Hasidic Jewish men cut off their distinctive hairstyles and repeatedly threatening people with dogs.

Incredible as it may seem, treatment of the Gypsies was even worse – they had no access to toilets, and were let out of their cells for one hour a day, during which they were beaten.

In early 1943 a young Jewish Communist called Hertz Jospa hatched a plan to attack one of the rail convoys and free the deportees. The Belgian Resistance felt the plan was ‘too daring and too dangerous’ – they thought such an operation would require at least twenty men armed with grenades and firearms to hold off the Nazi guards, and the Resistance would then have the responsibility of looking after hundreds of refugees. However, one of Jospa’s comrades, Youra Livchitz, a handsome young Jewish physician, was enthused by the idea, and managed to persuade some résistants to give him a revolver.

Meanwhile, Jospa began to organize support for the operation. Twenty thousand francs were collected, enough to give each freed deportee fifty francs – the price of a tram ticket. Coincidentally, Communist prisoners in the Mechelen camp were planning to escape when the next convoy left. With the help of a secretary who worked in the camp, the Communists manipulated the list of deportees so they would all be in the same wagons. When a message was smuggled into the camp, announcing that the convoy would be attacked, the prisoners gathered the saws, files and knives they had been hiding.

Then, on 16 April, the inmates were told the next convoy would be leaving three days later, on the eve of Passover. The Nazis had planned it so that over 1,600 Jews would spend one of the most important days in their religious calendar riding in cattle-wagons towards their death.

Despite having only three days’ notice of the operation, Livchitz was able to persuade two young men to join him: his childhood friend Jean Franklemon, a Communist actor and musician who had fought in Spain, and Robert Maistriau, four years younger, who had gone to the same school.

Livchitz, Franklemon and Maistriau during the war.

Neither had previously been involved in any action against the Occupation. Armed only with the revolver, a torch covered with red silk and some bolt-cutters, the three young men rode off on their bicycles to the place Livchitz had decided would be the site of the attack. As Maistriau later recalled: ‘We felt a mixture of adventure, a desire to help and also to cause trouble for the Germans. At that point, nothing could have stopped me. We were full of hope.’

The revolver and the lamp used in the attack, now housed in the Dossin memorial museum at Mechelen.

At ten o’clock on the evening of 19 April, right on schedule, Convoy 20 pulled slowly out of the Mechelen camp on its way to Auschwitz. Thirty wagons long, hauled by a huge steam locomotive, the convoy carried 1,631 people, including 262 children, many of them travelling without their parents. The oldest person, Jacob Blom, was ninety years old; the youngest, Suzanne Kaminski, had been born in the camp less than six weeks before. Her short life would end in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

Even before the train arrived at the spot where Livchitz and his comrades were waiting, two young men and a woman had escaped, having broken through the bars of the small windows and jumped to safety. That was just the beginning.

As the train chugged around a curve, the driver saw the red warning lamp Livchitz had placed in the middle of the track. He slammed on the brakes, bringing the convoy to a halt with a terrifying mixture of screaming metal and hissing steam that paralysed Maistriau with fear. He gathered his wits and ran to the last wagon, cut open the lock, slid back the door and called on the prisoners to jump out. There was an argument, as some deportees shouted: ‘It’s forbidden: The Germans will kill us.’ Hena Waysng, a thirty-year-old woman in the wagon, remembered what happened:

All of a sudden, the train stopped. We didn’t know what was happening or where we had stopped. In the wagon, people started shouting, pushing. Then a passenger who was by the narrow window shouted: ‘Over here, over here!’ A young résistant opened the door and gave money to those who were in front and shouted: ‘Get out, get out!’ I was frightened and I didn’t dare jump. But in a flash I realized that my two sons would always be on their own if I didn’t have the courage. So I jumped.

Meanwhile, Livchitz was firing from the bushes, convincing the German guards at the front of the train that they were being attacked by a large group of partisans. Eventually, the soldiers realized that they were in no real danger and men were sent out to chase Livchitz, who very sensibly fled. Maistriau and Franklemon freed seventeen deportees, gave each of them fifty francs and showed them how to get to the nearest tram station.

Once their charges were safe, the two young men returned to where they had hidden their bicycles and rode off, exhausted. Livchitz, unable to get to his bike because of the Germans searching for him, had a two-hour walk home.

Eventually, the train steamed off, but all along the way, thanks to the work of the Communist partisans, it leaked prisoners as people escaped through doors and windows, using the equipment the partisans had smuggled on board the train. Twenty-three people were killed either when jumping or as the German guards shot at them, but in total two hundred and thirty-one more men, women and children escaped from the convoy.

Exactly as the Resistance had feared, many of the escapees had little choice but to throw themselves on to the mercy of local people. But the Belgians proved more welcoming than many expected – amazingly, not one of the deportees was denounced.

Things did not go so well for Livchitz and Franklemon, both of whom were betrayed and arrested later in the year. Livchitz was executed in 1944. Before he was finally captured, Livchitz gave another bravura display, managing to escape from Gestapo headquarters after hours of torture – he overcame his guard, put on the Nazi’s uniform and walked calmly out of the building. Maistriau survived the war, dying in 2008. Franklemon died in 1977, Jospa in 1966.

The story of Convoy 20 was unique. The combination of an attack by a handful of brave men, a well-planned escape by the deportees and amazing luck all round was never repeated. To which the question must be asked: Why not?

Here are the faces of some of those who were on the train, from an installation in Brussels (2009):

If you understand French, here is an eye-witness account from Simon Gronowski, who was a child on the train and describes what happened:

In 1993 a memorial to the attack was erected by the side of the railway tracks:

 

Hero dog in al-Baghdadi chase finally named

October 29, 2019 • 9:00 am

Up to now, the Belgian Malinois hero dog who chased Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi down the tunnel has not been named. In fact, on the CBS News I just watched in my cabin, the dog was still anonymous. I was concerned about its fate as it was apparently wounded when al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest (taking three of his kids with him), but the dog is going to be okay.

And, mirabile dictu, the dog has been named, and her name is CONAN. In fact, Conan has her own Wikipedia entry already. Here’s a bit of it, along with her picture.

President Donald Trump posted the declassified picture of Conan on Twitter and called her a “wonderful dog” in the tweet. The name was classified at the time, but it was revealed as Conan to Newsweek.

Meet Conan:

These dogs are apparently very good at recognizing scents, and the Wikipedia article on the breed says that one named Cairo took part in the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. They’re also used to guard the White House and track down poachers in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

The tweet below gives some amazing facts about these military dogs, including the fact that they can parachute into battle sites wearing goggles, infrared cameras, and waterproof gear.

And here’s one of the hero dogs parachuting from a plane. Imagine the training it takes to get a dog to do that—and tolerate it!

https://twitter.com/RussCanRead/status/1188816257614827520

The ABC News video above says that Conan will get an invitation to the White House, as she should, but Trump will only use that to tout his own wonderfulness. If I were the President, I would feed Conan a lovely filet of beef rather than the McDonald’s hamburgers that guests often get in the White House.

al-Baghdadi finally meets his end

October 27, 2019 • 1:30 pm

As many sites have reported (the NYT is one), ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 48, was hunted down by U.S. special forces and killed (or rather, committed suicide). He detonated a suicide belt, taking three of his children with him. As the NYT reports,

“Last night, the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice,” Mr. Trump said in an unusual nationally televised address from the White House. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”

Mr. Trump said Mr. al-Baghdadi was chased to the end of a tunnel, “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” as he was pursued by American military dogs. Accompanied by three children, Mr. al-Baghdadi then detonated a suicide vest, blowing up himself and the children, Mr. Trump said.

I can’t say I’m unhappy that he’s gone. Although I’m a pacifist, and would prefer that he be captured and tried, he was also an enemy. But I see Trump’s gloating as unseemly for several reasons.

1.) al-Baghdadi did not die “like a dog”: that is offensive to dogs. What does that mean, anyway? In fact, the only U.S. injury in the operation was a wounded U.S. attack dog. That dog was a hero and should be honored. Further, how many dogs would take their puppies with them?

2.) Is it really cowardly to blow yourself up? Perhaps “whimpering and screaming and crying” is cowardly, but suicide as an alternative to capture is not something I consider cowardly. If al-Baghdadi is a coward, so was Chilean President Salvador Allende, a socialist who did a lot for his country, but killed himself in a coup (engineered by the Chilean military and the CIA) as the military approached the Presidential Palace. After giving a final radio address, Allende killed himself with an AK-47. Was that cowardly? I think not.

3.) Finally, the credit for the al-Baghdadi operation should go primarily to the U.S. military. Trump, as Obama did with bin Laden, simply gave the go-ahead. But Trump is going to be trump-eting this as evidence for his “stable genius” until the next election. Compare the President’s gloating and swaggering now with the low-key way that Obama announced the death of bin Laden.

A war with Iran?

September 16, 2019 • 8:30 am

During the Trump presidency, the most worrisome thing I’ve pondered has been the possibility that Trump would lead us into a war. Given that he’s an unstable narcissist and, unfortunately, also the Commander in Chief, he could easily ignite a conflagration. Iran is the most likely target, as the country has been responding by seizing ships after Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with the resultant tightening of sanctions on Iran. Now the attack on the Saudi oil refinery, which has seriously crippled their oil production, is being implicitly blamed by the U.S. on Iran, although the Houthi militia in Yemen (backed by Iran) claimed responsibility.

The data aren’t yet in; the U.S. says the direction of the attacks indicate the drones (and perhaps cruise missiles) came from Iran, but the New York Times notes that some of the tanks have damage on the western side, inconsistent with an attack from Iran. Recovery of the drones or missiles could settle the question, and, to be sure the U.S. still hasn’t explicitly blamed Iran for the attacks. But we know what Trump is thinking.

Regardless, an attack on an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia is not a reason to go to war with Iran. I haven’t followed Iran’s activities during the period when the deal was in force (and of course there’s intelligence information we don’t know), so I don’t have strong feelings about whether our pulling out of the deal was right. But I do think that, even if we stayed with the deal, Iran would eventually produce a deliverable nuclear weapon—just like North Korea.

But we don’t need another Middle East war, especially one over oil, and especially on Trump’s watch.

Two rockets fired at Tel Aviv from Gaza

March 14, 2019 • 4:00 pm

As of this hour, you wont find this news  in the New York Times (I guess it’s not fit to print) or in HuffPost, but it’s in The Jerusalem Post and Fox News. Still, it’s worth noting, because the rockets, which weren’t intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome, were fired from Gaza. No rockets have been fired at Tel Aviv since 2014.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

Three points:

a. You won’t see the Left getting themselves worked up about this because the target was, after all, only Israel. Who cares if their civilians are targeted? But if Israel fired rockets at civilians in Gaza, well, all hell would break loose.

b.  Why is this reported only by right-wing sites and Israeli newspapers? (Eventually the NYT may grudgingly report it, but it doesn’t fit their “optics” about Israel.)

c. Please note that targeting civilians with rockets is a war crime, one of many that Palestinians commit regularly. Will the Palestinian Territories be called out for this? Don’t hold your breath.

Welcome to the new arms race

February 1, 2019 • 8:19 am

From CNN (click on screenshot):

 

From CNN:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday that the US is suspending the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a key pact with Russia that has been a centerpiece of European security since the Cold War.

“Russia’s violations put millions of Europeans and Americans at greater risk,” Pompeo said, adding, “It is our duty to respond appropriately.” Pompeo, speaking from the State Department briefing room, said the US had provided “ample time” to Russia to return to compliance. “For years, Russia has violated the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty without remorse,” Pompeo said.. . . The suspension, which raises concerns about a renewed arms race with Moscow and has put European allies on edge, goes into effect on Saturday. Pompeo’s announcement starts a 180-day clock to complete withdrawal unless Russia returns to compliance with the 1987 agreement.

What do we have to lose by keeping our end of the bargain? We already have enough missiles to destroy the major cities of Russia several times over, and they can’t be stopped because they’re on submarines (sea-launched nukes aren’t even covered by the treaty).

This is unlike our withdrawing from the Iran deal, where we had little to lose by withdrawing from a treaty the other side was violating. In this case, we risk an arms race, which means an increased threat of nuclear war and an increase in the already-bloated defense budget to build new missiles.

Meanwhile, Trump is trusting North Korea to get rid of its nukes should we reach an agreement, which is about the dumbest thing he’s done with respect to foreign policy.

 

Iran probably continuing its nuclear program

January 25, 2019 • 1:30 pm

When John Kerry negotiated the nuclear arms deal with Iran four years ago, waiving sanctions on Iran in return for their dismantling refinement facilities and cutting back on production of refined nuclear material, I was dubious. I didn’t trust the government of Iran, for after all they would benefit greatly from the cachet of having the Bomb. They’d also scare the bejeesus out of Israel, which would be the first target of an Iranian bomb.  But it wasn’t politically correct to criticize a no-nukes deal negotiated by a Democratic government, so I crossed my fingers, hoped, and remained silent.

Trump decided to scrap that deal, and Iran is considering restarting its old program. Well, that’s not exactly true: it had never kept to the bargain in the first place. In other words, I was right, but take no pride in it. This news comes from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), and you can find the report and a video here, as well as a transcript here.  This was in fact admitted by the head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi. As the introduction to the video and transcript reports:

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was interviewed on Channel 4 TV (Iran) on January 22, 2019. He said that the negotiations surrounding the JCPOA had required Iran to destroy the Arak reactor’s calandria [the core of a nuclear reactor] by filling it with cement, but that Iran had secretly acquired replacement tubes ahead of time so that the reactor’s functionality would not be ultimately affected. He also said that pictures that had circulated that showed the Arak reactor’s pit filled with cement had been photoshopped. He explained that Iran has no intention to build a nuclear weapon, and that the Arak reactor is nonetheless incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. In addition, Salehi said that the yellowcake production facilities in Ardakan are operational and that Iran has been authorized to produce two additional IR-8 centrifuges. Salehi added that Iran has advanced rapidly in the field of nuclear propulsion.

Now if Iran lied about destroying the calandria, why should we believe them now when they say they have “no intention to build a nuclear weapon”? If you believe that, I’d call you credulous.

Interviewer: But you did say that you had poured cement into the tubes…

Ali Akbar Salehi: Not into the tubes over there. We poured it into the calandria we pulled out [of the reactor]. Inside the calandria, there are tubes where the fuel goes. We had bought similar tubes, but I could not declare this at the time. Only one person in Iran knew this. We told no one but the top man of the regime [Khamenei]. When our team was in the midst of the negotiations, we knew that [the Westerners] would ultimately renege on their promises. The leader warned us that they were violators of agreements. We had to act wisely. Not only did we avoid destroying the bridges that we had built, but we also built new bridges that would enable us to go back faster if needed. There were a series of tubes, 3 or 4 meters long and 2 or 3 centimeters in diameter. You can imagine there tubes. They have a beginning and an end. We had bought the same quantity of similar tubes. When they told us to pour cement into the tubes, we did…

Now Iran’s excuse that the U.S. would ultimately violate the agreement, and so Iran was justified in cheating, won’t wash. The U.S. wasn’t violating the agreement at the time, nor was there any indication that we’d get a President like Trump who would. Now that Trump has scrapped the deal, Iran can do what it wants. But it was doing what it wanted the whole time, and at the end of that road are nuclear missiles aimed at Israel.

All I can say is, “Oy vey.” Was Trump wrong to scrap the deal? I don’t see how given that the Iranians had scrapped it a long time ago. I haven’t seen anything in the New York Times about this, but it’s certainly news worth reporting. And if the Times didn’t, well, that’s more evidence of deficient and biased reporting. As the kids say, “Whatever.”