Addressing a packed crowd of policy enthusiasts at the Brookings Institute on Tuesday, Lt. General Daniel Holoutz, Former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, spoke about Israeli security and threats posed by a potentially nuclear Iran. Click here to watch the full press conference.
Low-level diplomatic talks between world powers and Iran have failed, according to Israeli officials. Sunday on Israel Radio, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon suggested that, if all world powers involved in the talks would collectively declare failure, “it will be clear that all options are on the table.” This comment, referring directly to the threat of a preemptive attack on the Iranian nuclear program, has amplified the rumors that Prime Minister Netanyahu has all but made the final decision to attack Iran unilaterally in the coming months.
Although the American press has taken a break from counting down the hours until a potential nuclear Iran, such a threat remains a top priority for both the Netanyahu and Obama administrations. The trigger points for an attack by either of these two parties may differ, but leaders of both countries have insisted that “no options are off the table” and that a policy of containment is neither viable nor acceptable.
Ehud Barak, Netanyahu’s Minister of Defense, spoke last week at the Aspen Ideas Festival about the differences in Netanyahu’s and Obama’s policies toward a nuclear Iran (he was interviewed by Tom Friedman of the New York Times, whose recent op-ed on what the Egyptian elections mean for Israel is worth a read). In his interview with Friedman, Barak noted similarities such as, “We all say that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable,” and he insisted that both parties believe that negotiations and sanctions should be dramatically accelerated and should be prioritized over any military action. However, he was quick to point out that the consequences of a successful Iranian nuclear weapons program would rest squarely on the shoulders of Israelis. Therefore, he concluded, “We cannot afford delegating this decision even in the hands of our most trusted and trustworthy allies, which is you,” meaning the U.S.
North Korea’s much-anticipated rocket launch, publicized as a means to collect data about North Korea’s agricultural resources in order to inform the nation’s response to natural disasters but likely a guise to test the country’s long-range rockets, failed and fell apart before reaching orbit on Friday. The failure apparently surprised North Korean leaders, who had been so certain of its success that international press was invited into the country. BBC correspondent Damian Grammaticas reflected the experience of the journalists in a tweet: “Now in bizarre situation our NKorea minders asking ME to tell THEM if rocket has launched. Went up 4 hours ago but they have no information.”
North Korea is planning a rocket launch this week and, according to a new intelligence report from South Korea, may be planning its third nuclear test further down the road. The move would violate U.N. resolutions and North Korea’s promise to refrain from engaging in nuclear and missile activity.
North Korean leaders say this week’s rocket launch, which was scheduled to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of North Korea’s founder, is intended to collect data about North Korea’s agricultural resources in order to inform the nation’s response to natural disasters. However, U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials fear the launch is a guise to test long-range missiles, and new South Korea intelligence suggests that a third nuclear test will follow the rocket launch.
Today, we take a moment around the world to commemorate those who have been killed by landmines. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines estimates that landmine explosions caused injury or death to 4,000 to 5,000 people just in 2011 and that millions more suffer from the agricultural, economic, and psychological impacts of the weapon. UNICEF notes that 30 to 40% of landmine victims are younger than 15.
Landmines are used during times of war, and can lie dormant for decades near the surface of the earth until they are triggered by a person or animal. There are between 70 and 80 million landmines in the ground in one-third of the world’s nations and, while landmines cost only $3 each to create, they can cost up to $1000 to remove. Because of this, people can still become casualties of war long after a truce has been secured. Additionally, landmines restrict population movement and land cultivation and keep infrastructure from being repaired. These problems are amplified in post-conflict and impoverished areas, where landmines are most often found.
Earlier this week, President Obama met with leaders of 53 other countries at the second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea. This summit followed the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, during which leaders began a campaign to secure vulnerable nuclear materials by the end of 2014.
Amid the “loose talk of war” over Iran’s potential nuclear weapons program, Israelis and Iranians have tried to speak out for peace and distance themselves from the rhetoric of their leaders. A public opinion survey conducted in Israel showed that only 19% of Israelis believe Israel should strike Iran’s nuclear facilities without the support of the U.S., and 34% think that Israel should not strike Iran under any circumstances. On Saturday, hundreds of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv (with similar rallies in over 15 cities in England) to protest against the possibility of war with Iran.