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Entries in Israel (6)

Monday
Mar052012

Obama and Netanyahu Emphasize Unity on Iran; Differences Remain

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Amid rising concerns about the prospect of the Iranian government making a nuclear weapon, President Obama on Monday assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “the United States will always have Israel’s back when it comes to Israel’s security.”

In contrast to the tense Oval Office meeting last May, when the president and prime minister were more focused on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Obama and Netanyahu on Monday sounded united, though behind the scenes they are working through some contentious issues on how to best discourage Iran from continuing with any plans to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

Echoing remarks he delivered Sunday to the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama reiterated that diplomacy is the best way to resolve the issue, but that all options, including military action, are on the table.

“We do believe that there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue,” the president said. “We will continue to tighten pressure when it comes to sanctions, I reserve all options. And my policy here is not going to be one of containment; my policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.  And as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are at the table, I mean it.”

The U.S. and Israel differ on timelines and red lines. President Obama believes there is still time for diplomatic and economic pressures to work.

“Both the prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically.  We understand the costs of any military action, and I want to assure both the American people and the Israeli people that we are in constant and close consultation,” Obama said.

Obama’s continued call for diplomacy comes as the Israelis have asked for the White House to more starkly threaten military action against Iran if it continues to violate its international agreements to refrain from building a nuclear weapon. While the U.S. has called for Iran to not manufacture a weapon, Israel wants to go even further and prevent Iran from having the capability to build a weapon, and has asked the U.S. to push Iran to end its program of enriching uranium.

The president on Monday did not go that far, but said it is “profoundly in the United States' interest as well to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” and added that “we do not want to see a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world.  We do not want the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists.”

In his remarks Netanyahu emphasized unity, saying that Israel and America stand together. The prime minister underscored that Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to defend itself.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar052012

What Will Happen to the US If Israel Attacks Iran?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- President Obama is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday to try to talk him out of an immediate strike on Iran's nuclear sites.

But if Israel does decide to bomb Iran, what will it mean for the United States?

According to former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, Americans should brace for a painful impact.  Within a week of the first Israeli attack, says Clarke, a worst case scenario would bring soaring gas prices, terror attacks in U.S. cities, worldwide cyberwar, dead and wounded U.S. sailors, and the real possibility of broad American military involvement.

Gas Prices Could Double

According to U.S. government estimates, about 20 percent of the oil traded worldwide passes through the Persian Gulf, bordered by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.  If Israel were to bomb Iran, oil prices would immediately go up.  If Iran responded by attacking oil tankers going through the Persian Gulf, says Clarke, gasoline prices for U.S. consumers could double.

"You could see very quickly Iranian commandos and their small boats attacking tankers, attacking oil platforms," said Clarke.  "You could see mines being laid in the Gulf."

The result, said Clarke, "would be a huge crisis in energy."  President Obama would tap the U.S.'s strategic petroleum reserve, alleviating some of the price rise.  The spike in prices "might not last long if the U.S. and its allies are able to take control of the Gulf," said Clarke.  "But that could take more than a week and under some scenarios it could take almost a month."

Terror Threat Against Americans

If Israel were to bomb Iran, American officials fear there could be a new wave of terrorism directed by Tehran, especially if the U.S. gets pulled in to the conflict.

"If we, the United States, we're bombing Iran, then I think they'd certainly want to try to do something on our homeland because we were bombing their homeland," said Clarke.

Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah have already shown a willingness to act outside their own borders, both with deadly attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s and the apparent attempted hits on Israeli targets in a number of countries earlier this year.

"Both have strong inroads in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, where they could strike Israeli, Jewish, and U.S. targets," said Clarke.

Israeli embassies and consulates and Jewish places of worship in the U.S. have been put on alert.

The World's First International Cyberwar

An Israeli attack on Iran would likely set off the world's first international cyber war.  Before striking, Israel will try to blind the air defenses of Iran and its neighbors with cyber warfare.  And the U.S. might end up using capabilities it has kept secret until now.

"The United States has a very powerful ability to cause this sort of disruption to electric power grids, communications networks," said Clarke.  "It hasn't done it because it doesn't like to expose its tricks as it's afraid once it does it, people will figure out how the United States does it.  But in a war with Iran, they would be willing to run that risk."

Iran would also attempt to hit back.  Said Clarke, "Iran also has a cyber command, which might try to retaliate by attacking U.S infrastructure such as the power grid, trains, airlines, refineries."

U.S. Navy Casualties in the Gulf

Should the U.S. become involved in the Israeli-Iran conflict militarily, says Clarke, it will be impossible to avoid American casualties.

"The Iranians have hundreds if not thousands of small boats, armed small boats, commando small boats, that will operate in the Gulf," said Clarke.  "They can get in, they can swarm a U.S. destroyer.  The Iranians now also have cruise missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles."

Clarke said there is a potential for the U.S. to sustain significant damage to a few ships and lose some sailors, just as it did during the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s.  Two U.S. ships were hit during that conflict, with a loss of nearly 40 American lives.

The U.S. Enters the War

According to Clarke, Israel can't do long-term, severe damage to Iran's nuclear infrastructure, so its chief purpose in bombing Iran would be to trigger Iranian retaliation and draw the U.S. into the war to defend Israel, and to finish off what Israel started.

If Israel bombs Iran, Clarke says the cascade of events will lead to attacks on Israeli cities.

"Advisors to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak are saying that if Israel bombed Iran, the retaliation on Israel would be tolerable," said Clarke.  "But if Hezbollah in Lebanon launched thousands of extended range, improved accuracy rockets on Israel, hundreds of Israelis would die.  In such a small country, that would be devastating."

The casualties, in turn, would bring the inevitable call to Washington for help.

"You will very quickly see a phone call from Prime Minister Netanyahu to the President," said Clarke, "and he will say to him, 'Only the United States, Mr. President, can find and destroy these mobile missile launchers.  Only you can save the lives of Israelis who are dying as I speak in our cities."

Clarke said that message would probably spur any U.S. president into action -- but especially one who is up for reelection within months.  "It's likely to get a yes answer from the president," predicts Clarke, "and bring the U.S. into the war." 

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb142012

Heightened Security in US Over Iran Threat

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With Iran allegedly striking out at Israeli citizens and Jewish targets around the world, Israeli and American security officials in the U.S. are on high alert.

"We expect it and we are ready," one senior Israeli official told ABC News.

Israeli officials told ABC News that the level of personal security on high-ranking Embassy officials as well as other lower profile officials in the U.S. is at its highest in at least five years, a response to what they called "a coordinated series of attacks." When Israeli officials travel to and from events, ABC News has observed a notable increase in the security presence.

Federal officials told ABC News that there is so far no specific intelligence of any threat to Israeli interests in the U.S. They also noted that in cities like New York and Washington, D.C., "the targets are much harder" than in countries like India, Georgia and Thailand, where Iran has allegedly attacked or attempted to attack in the past two days. But they also added that Iran can be "belligerent."

Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in D.C., agreed that the recent incidents in India, Georgia, Thailand and Azerbaijan have "all the hallmarks of a concerted campaign" that could extend to U.S. soil.

"The recent attack on a Saudi official in Washington shows a willingness to attack in the United States," said Cilluffo. "This could be an indicator of a much broader campaign and it is right to take precautionary measures."

Those measures include routine sweeps of cars, residences, and consulates around the country, as well as the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

In New York City, where fixed police posts at the Israeli consulate have been a feature for years, additional sweeps of residences and cars are being performed in conjunction with New York City Police Department Bomb Squad members and members of other specialized police units.

"The NYPD adjusts its counterterrorism posture to include information about events overseas," said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne. "That's why the public may have noticed increased NYPD presence in recent weeks at Israeli government facilities and synagogues, although there has been no specific threat in New York."

In Philadelphia, police have issued awareness bulletins asking members of the patrol force to stay vigilant. That city also maintains a permanent presence at Israeli facilities.

In Los Angeles, officials said they have been watching Israeli facilities for weeks now and have stepped up their physical security and intelligence monitoring.

Around the country, private security industry officials who specialize in adding security to Jewish cultural and religious institutions report numerous requests for additional security.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec012011

Al Qaeda Leader Zawahiri Says He Has US Hostage 

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a newly released audio message, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri claims that his organization is holding hostage Warren Weinstein, a 70-year-old American who went missing last August in Pakistan. Zawahiri's statement is the first official claim of responsibility by any group in relation to the kidnapping.

"I tell the captive soldiers of al Qaeda and the Taliban and our female prisoners held in the prisons of the crusaders and their collaborators, we have not forgotten you and in order to free you we have taken hostage the Jewish American Warren Weinstein," says Zawahiri in the 30-minute statement, which appeared on jihadi websites Thursday and otherwise focuses mainly on the situation in his native Egypt.

The leader of al Qaeda addresses Weinstein's family, telling them that "your government tortures our prisoners, but we have not tortured your prisoner." He also warns them not to trust President Obama's assurances that everything is being done to secure Weinstein's release, accusing the president of wishing "[Weinstein] would be killed to get rid of his problem."

In exchange for Weinstein's release, Zawahiri requests the lifting of the Israeli "siege" of the Gaza strip, the complete end of "bombings by America and its allies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza," the release of all al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners and the closing down of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo bay, Cuba, in addition to the release of members of Osama bin Laden's family.

"Obama has the power, capacity and authority to free [Weinstein]," says Zawahiri. "He could also leave him in captivity for years and, if he does something stupid, kill him."

In August, Pakistani police arrested three men in connection with the kidnapping. Weinstein, a private U.S. citizen who has lived in Pakistan for seven years, was sleeping in his bed when assailants burst into his home to snatch him. The former USAID worker is currently employed by the private U.S.-based development firm J.E. Austin Associates.

All three suspects are from the same province in which Weinstein lived, an area far from the turbulent tribal regions near the Afghan border more usually associated with violent attacks. The men were arrested after investigators managed to track their cell phone numbers, the Lahore police chief said without elaborating.

Some in Pakistan have speculated privately that Weinstein was not a development worker, but instead worked in intelligence for the U.S. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah publicly announced his suspicions, telling local media that Weinstein was involved in "quite suspect" intelligence-gathering for the U.S. government and comparing him to Raymond Davis, the American CIA contractor who was jailed in Pakistan earlier this year for shooting two men on the streets of Lahore.

U.S. diplomats said Weinstein is not connected to any U.S. intelligence groups.

Weinstein is the first private citizen to be kidnapped in Pakistan since al Qaeda operatives abducted and murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.

On the new tape, Zawahiri also acknowledges for the first time the death of his number two, al Qaeda deputy leader Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan's tribal area in August. One senior U.S. official described his death at the time as "a tremendous loss for al Qaeda, because Zawahiri was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organization, especially since bin Laden's death." According to U.S. officials, Atiyah was the "operational leader" of the terror group.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun132011

American Law Student Arrested as 'Spy' in Egypt

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An American law student has been detained by Egyptian authorities on charges he is a "highly trained" spy working for Israel, Egyptian media reported Monday.

The U.S. State Department confirmed Sunday's arrest of 27-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen Ilan Chaim Grapel in a statement, but declined to comment concerning allegations voiced in Egyptian state media that he was working for the Israeli intelligence force, Mossad, "with the aim of harming [Egypt's] economic and political interests."

Grapel's mother, Irene Grapel, told ABC News the charges against him were "complete fabrications."

"I was dumbfounded," said Irene Grapel of when she learned her son had been detained. "I don't know where to put the next step."

Irene Grapel said her son had traveled to Egypt to work with a non-profit organization that helped other African refugees in Egypt. "He volunteered his time to go there," she said.

Both Irene Grapel and the State Department said Ilan Grapel had been visited by U.S. officials and appeared to be in good health in captivity. Irene Grapel said that speaking with her son Monday was "just great."

"My imagination was running wild last night, thinking of what they could be doing to him," she said. Before the popular revolt against former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, those detained by Egyptian police were sometimes subjected to harsh interrogation and torture.

Grapel, from New York, served in the Israeli military as a paratrooper and was injured in combat in 2006 in the Lebanon War. His mother said he is currently enrolled in Emory Law School and had received a small stipend from the school for his work in Egypt. School officials were not available to confirm Grapel was part of a program, but the year previous a man by the same name won a grant to work with the Supreme Court of Israel, according to the school's website.

Ilan Grapel's mother said it was likely many pictures Grapel took and posted on Facebook of the widespread protests in Egypt, coupled with his history in the Israeli military, that prompted his detention. A picture of Grapel smiling in his Israel Defense Forces uniform was featured in several Egyptian news reports.

Egypt's state news reported Grapel was to be detained fifteen days, but that time could be lengthened if Egyptian authorities wished to question him further. An official with the Israeli Foreign Ministry told The Jerusalem Post early Monday they had yet to receive details of an arrested Israeli citizen.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb132011

Concerns Arise Over US Relations with New Egypt

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- While crowds from around the globe have been celebrating the end to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule as leader of Egypt, questions have arisen about Egypt's uncertain future, its relationship to the U.S. and the political stability of the Middle East.

The major issue: U.S. national security and whether Egypt's role in counterterrorism has been compromised.

"Whether it's our security here, their security, Saudi Arabia's security, Gulf Oil production -- all of these things are at potentially greater risk if al Qaeda can now start infiltrating into Egypt," Michael O'Hanlon of the nonprofit public policy organization the Brookings Institution said.

The second major concern is the future of the Arab world, now that movements of the people -- so well-connected and organized in relatively peaceful protests -- in Tunisia and Egypt have led to historical regime change.

Egypt, with 80 million citizens, is the largest Arab nation, and is viewed globally as the gateway to the Arab world. If notions of revolution spread east to the oil producing nations -- or to Jordan, Syria, or Yemen -- the new Egypt could define a new Middle East.

A third concern is long-term peace with Israel. Today the Jewish state is more isolated and vulnerable, feeling that if the peace is broken, the stakes could be very high if war returns to the Middle East region.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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