While secret war between Israel and Iran has been going on already years with assassinations, Stuxnet and other cyberwar projects, war games, military demonstrations etc its pleasure to find out that secret diplomacy has also been implemented. The delegations from Israel and Iran led by senior officials had secret talks during a nuclear non-proliferation meeting in Brussels this week.
Officials from Israel and Iran had an informal discussion with representatives from about 10 Arab states, US officials and European moderators to explore the possibility of holding a UN-sponsored conference on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. The secret talks in Brussels, Belgium,two-day event was billed as an academic seminar.
According an article in The Guardian a historic conference bringing Iran and Israel together with Arab states to discuss a ban on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the Middle East is scheduled to take place in Helsinki in December, it has emerged. The Finnish organisers of the UN-backed bid to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction are said to be cautiously optimistic that the conference will go ahead despite high tensions in the Gulf. The Finnish team has held about 70 meetings with officials in the region and made repeated trips to Israel and Iran since the veteran diplomat Jaakko Laajava was appointed “facilitator” of the consensus in October. So far, none of the countries invited to Helsinki has turned the invitation down.
A media blackout was imposed on the discussions but according some leaks in contrast with the saber rattling of both sides’ leaders the event went in a businesslike manner without denunciations and empty rhetoric at the conference.
On 5th November 2012, Israeli daily YNet reported that Barack Obama’s senior advisor, Valerie Bowman Jarrett, is secretly assisting the U.S. administration to communicate with the representatives of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei. Last month, The New York Times reported that the US government is engaged in secret talks with Iran aimed at establishing a direct line of communication once the US presidential elections are over.
On the brink of war
“Deterrence worked with the Soviets, because every time the Soviets faced a choice between their ideology and their survival, they chose survival, but militant jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet suicide bombers. Yet Iran produces hordes of them.” (Benjamin Netanyahu)
In August 2012, Iran converted some 38 per cent of its uranium enriched to 20 per cent into fuel rods for its civilian research reactor. This move somewhat postponed the critical moment after which Israel would evaluate that Iran has enough uranium to produce a nuclear weapon. Defense Minister Ehud Barak estimates that Israel ‘postpones’ nuclear Iran red line by ‘8 to 10 months’.
While military strike still is a serious thread the secret war has been going on the whole time. From Israeli side well known actions are assassinations of some key figures in Iran’s nuclear program, Stuxnet and some strange blasts and explosions in Iran’s nuclear facilities.
This secret war has been recently also spreading. According to intelligence officials, Iran’s security services have concluded that Azerbaijan, its Muslim neighbor to the north, has been enlisted by Israel in a campaign of cyber attacks, assassinations and detailed military planning aimed at destabilizing and ultimately destroying Tehran’s nuclear program.This doubt has launched an Iranian counter espionage offensive to destabilize the government of President Ilham Aliev and cast a suspicion also on ethnic Azeris living mostly along the northern border and in Tehran. Azeris are Iran’s largest minority group (some 16 % of population). Iranian officials have publicly blamed these attacks on the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency. But US officials say Iran has recently concluded that the assassinations and other acts of sabotage has been orchestrated with the help of Azerbaijan. Last January, apparently after the debate on the Azeri issue ended among Iran’s regime, Tehran’s own intelligence service authorized attacks against the Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan and other Jewish targets in Baku, the Azeri capital. reports that Israeli officials have been assessing Azeri airbases as refueling zones for its warplanes should a strike against Iran be ordered. (BTW this kind of cooperation with Saudi Arabia I earlier reported in my article Saudi-Israeli cooperation for attacking Iran )
On Aug. 15, a cyber-attack hit Saudi oil giant Aramco with devastating results, 30,000 computer workstations were rendered useless and had to be replaced. A few days later in Qatar, a similar virus attacked the RasGas natural-gas company, a joint venture between Exxon Mobil and the state-owned Qatar Petroleum, which operates the world’s largest natural-gas field. Hizbullah followed up the cyberattack with a drone mission on 6th Oct. 2012. An Iranian-built surveillance drone dubbed Ayoub flew from Lebanon into southern Israel before being shot down by the Israeli air force. Officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force told the Al Arabiya newspaper that the target was the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona, the centerpiece of Israel’s nuclear program.
In my earlier article I conclude some aspects related to Israeli strike to Iran Nukes as follows:
- War games are a puzzle not only with tactical alternatives, timing, more or less accurate intelligence and means available but also with known and un-known risks. There is also some other risks than Iran’s counter strike such as
- Air strike would not eliminate the knowledge about how to build a nuclear weapon that Iran already has.
- Bombing would pass those nuclear sites that foreign intelligence services do not know about.
- Attack could create unneeded tensions between US and China and Russia, who are needed to successfully resolve this issue via non-military means
- Israel might have best available missile defense. However the capacity can not absorb 40.000 missiles by Hizbollah in short period of time and some % will cause serious damage.
The bottom line
Of course its is unrealistic to wait that there would be a Middle East ban on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in near future. However from my point of view even discussing the possibility between Iran and Israel at the anticipated Helsinki event would be giant progress and will give hope that a non military development might be possible.
Some of my related articles:
- Cyber war has became a tool between political and military options
- End Game Approaches on Nuclear Iran