Kommersant Reveals NATO’s “Reverse Multimodal Transit” from Afghanistan Will Be Through Russia

“Kommersant”: The U.S. will withdraw from Afghanistan via Russia, bypassing Uzbekistan?

Own sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry told the correspondent of the Moscow newspaper “Kommersant” that Russia and NATO came to the final negotiations on the so-called “reverse multimodal transit” from Afghanistan . “We are discussing this issue with NATO – confirmed a senior diplomat .- The multimodal transit back – it’s a way to increase the extraction efficiency of the NATO contingent in Afghanistan, using different modes of transport within the same route.” According to others, in the near future disposal of the Government on this subject must approve Vladimir Putin.

Routes

Figure © «Kommersant»

Now, the magazine writes, when the acute issue of withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. forces and NATO, the Western countries think about the safe route of return transit, which would have a good bandwidth. “This theme is also important because of Uzbekistan, whose territory is actively used for the supply of goods to Afghanistan, does not want to miss them in the opposite direction,” – writes “Kommersant” .

“The Uzbeks are afraid of importation of drugs and weapons. Go after entire trains with military equipment, to check which is not so simple “ - said in an interview with an unnamed Russian diplomat said.

Moscow appears to be similar does not suffer from phobias. Negotiations on this subject, talk to her friends Russian diplomats began eighteen months ago with the proposal of the American side to think of such a scheme, which would reduce the time of rail transportation. “The idea was to pick up in Central Russia, the city where you could create a logistical base to the customs terminal – Foreign Ministry official said .- Goods from Afghanistan would be thrown back by air, and then went by train to Riga or Tallinn.” According to interlocutors, “b” for the organization of trans-shipment point considered several options. Decided to stay at Ulyanovsk, whose airport is suitable for such purposes in terms of location of railway lines.

Thus, under the new scheme, according to the newspaper “Kommersant”, the goods will be NATO, bypassing Uzbekistan, delivered aircraft, including Russian, from Afghanistan to Russia, which will form the trains for shipment to Europe. “It will save much time and money Westerners. Planes have to fly at much shorter distances, and therefore do not need to refuel on the way “- explains the interest of NATO officials in a similar route, the Russian Foreign Ministry official.

Apart from the obvious economic benefits of transit through Russia, the publication mentions political gain. “Moscow has always been able to say that taking an active part in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan, providing a seamless supply partners, first of all necessary forces and then to comfort care,” – writes “Kommersant” .

Note earlier refusal to grant its territory of Uzbekistan for the return transit of troops and equipment from NATO in Afghanistan is not reported. In contrast, post-Soviet states of Central Asia, in particular, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, were considered by observers as the most likely U.S. allies in the issue of how to supply troops in Afghanistan by the northern route of supply and withdrawal of troops after the war. One of the indirect evidence for this is that yesterday the U.S. State Department lifted restrictions on military assistance to Uzbekistan. The relevant document was signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The international news agency “Fergana”

Kyrgyzstan Letting Qatar In the Door

Kyrgyzstan to visit representatives of the “Qatar Holding” to study the investment

In the near future in Kyrgyzstan will be sent to a special group of representatives of “Qatar Holding” for a detailed study of opportunities and investment projects. This was on February 2 in Bishkek, said managing director, “Qatar Holding”, the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Qatar, Ahmad Mohammad Al Sayed during a meeting with Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov, reports today, February 3, Department of Information Policy of the Government.

Babanov and Qatari delegation discussed bilateral cooperation and future investment projects.

Ahmad Mohammad Al Sayed expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome and noted that it is – the first official delegation of the State of Qatar in Kyrgyzstan. He conveyed a message from Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, in which Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov are invited to visit Qatar on an official visit at any time, the report said.

“Kyrgyzstan has significant hydropower, natural and mineral resources. We offer Qatar consider education an investment fund that would be a convenient platform for bilateral cooperation,” – said Babanov.

In the discussion of investment projects of their interest in a joint Kirghiz-Qatari investment fund with a capital of at least $ 100 million

The parties also called for an intensification of efforts towards the development of tourism, investment in aviation, mining and energy sectors. Omurbek Babanov also spoke about the broad possibilities of Kyrgyzstan in the production of organic food. Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Qatar has expressed interest in developing relations in this sphere, the report said.

Bitter Winter, Ukraine Uses More Gas, Gazprom Gas Shortfalls In Europe

Bitter cold kills 101 people, disrupts normal life

Bitter cold kills 101 people, disrupts normal life 

 

 

 

 

Heavy snowstorms, dumping 41 centimeters on Kyiv from Jan. 20 through Jan. 22, ushered in a cold wave of bitter sub-zero temperatures that is expected to last through Feb. 14.Kostyantyn Chernichkin

Bitter cold kills 101 people, disrupts normal life

Today at 00:33 | Olga Rudenko

Sub-zero weather may last through Feb. 14.

European Commission confirms reduction of Russian gas supply to Europe

European Commission confirms reduction of Russian gas supply to Europe 

  

 

 

European Commission spokeswoman Marlene Holzner officially confirmed that Russia has reduced gas deliveries to Europe.

Interfax-Ukraine

European Commission spokeswoman Marlene Holzner officially confirmed that Russia has reduced gas deliveries to Europe at a Friday briefing in Brussels.

Poland, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Italy have all experienced shortfalls, she said. Austria had received 30% less gas than ordered, Italy 24% less and Poland 8% less, according to Thursday figures.

Russia has not supplied a sufficient explanation for this, Holzner said. The EC is maintaining contact with representatives of Russia in Brussels.

All that is known so far from Russia is that the country is having an extremely cold winter this year and that it needs more gas than usual to meet its own needs, she said.

Meanwhile, the EU does not yet consider this to be an emergency situation. All EU countries can purchase gas from other EU members or take advantage of the gas accumulated in underground storage facilities, Holzner said.

“I can also say that those measures we undertook after the 2009 gas crisis work very well,” she said.

She pointed to Poland, which buys gas from Germany, as an example. However, since there is no gas pipeline within the EU capable of providing the country with enough gas, Poland selects part of Russian transit gas intended for Germany and pays for it as gas supplied by Germany.

This is provided for “in the second energy package,” Holzner said.

Besides that, the EU’s internal infrastructure – gas pipelines that connect member states – supplies gas from Western Europe to Eastern Europe. There are new storage facilities in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and compressor facilities at gas distribution stations in Baumgarten, Austria were enhanced with EC funding, she said.

There is also a regulation in force since 2009 that requires each EU member state to have at least 30 days’ worth of gas reserves, Holzner said.

There is no reason to launch the crisis mechanism at this point, since that would require two conditions: a significant increase in consumption and a failure of market mechanisms – that is, when enterprises are no longer in the condition to ensure deliveries. The crisis mechanism works in a three-stage procedure, starting with the enterprise and only at the third stage involving the EU.

Gazprom blames Ukraine for breaching gas contract

Photo: EPA

“Ukraine is now consuming gas at the annual volume of 60 billion cubic meters which is much higher than originally contracted,” head of Russia’s Gazprom exports Alexander Medvedev told reporters in Moscow on Thursday.

The Ukrainian side has repeatedly indicated its intention to cut Russian gas imports to 27 billion cubic meters this year from the originally contracted 52 billion cubic meters.

Ukrainian Energy Minister Yury Boyko said, in turn, that the increase in Ukraine’s consumption of gas was due to abnormally cold temperatures.

(RIA-Novosti)

NATO Meeting In Chicago To Take-Up Issue of Post 2014 Stay-Behind Forces

NATO mulls paying for Afghan forces after 2014

The Associated Press

BRUSSELS—NATO’s top official said Friday that the alliance expects regional powers to contribute to a multibillion dollar fund to finance the Afghan army and police after they assume full responsibility for the war in 2014.

Since Afghanistan — one of the world’s poorest nations — cannot foot the estimated $6 billion (euro4.6 billion) annual bill, NATO nations will have to pay the bulk of it. But austerity measures and budgetary cuts caused by the financial crisis in the United States and Europe are making it difficult to raise the money within the alliance.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he was appealing to the entire international community to help finance the force.

Asked whether he was specifically referring to China, India and Russia, he replied: “It’s a call on the whole of the international community to contribute to financing the Afghan security forces because I think it is also in the interest of countries in the region to see a stable and secure Afghanistan.”

“So my call on the international community also includes countries in the region,” he said.

Fogh Rasmussen said defense ministers had also discussed the “sustainable size” of the future Afghan army and police, but that a final decision will be left to the NATO summit in Chicago next May.

The two-day meeting in Brussels of ministers from NATO’s 28 nations and 22 other countries taking part in the war in Afghanistan is meant to pave the way for the Chicago summit.

The Afghan army and police are scheduled to grow to more than 350,000 members by 2014. But some have projected that the force can be safely reduced in order to reduce its costs.

“A reasonable number would be 230,000,” French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said after the meeting.

The Taliban insurgents are estimated to have about 20,000 armed men.

A related unresolved question that also will be taken up in Chicago is the number of U.S. and other foreign troops that might remain behind and what missions they would be assigned.

The debate on the costs of the Afghan security forces came after NATO allies agreed broadly on Thursday to step back from the lead combat role in Afghanistan and let local forces take their place as early as next year, a shortened timetable that startled officials and members of the U.S. Congress.

Longuet said Paris would start drawing down its 3,600-strong contingent in March, and expects the withdrawal to be completed by mid-2013.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta caused a stir when he said that he foresaw American and NATO forces switching from a combat role to a support role by mid- to late-2013. He said this was a natural transition in line with the NATO goal, announced in November 2010, of having every Afghan province placed in government control by the end of 2014.

Until that remark, however, it was widely assumed that NATO forces would remain in the lead until the end of 2014, when most foreign forces are scheduled to be withdrawn.

His remark prompted some Republicans in Washington to complain that the Obama administration was unwisely telegraphing its intentions to the Taliban.

NATO Wants To Cover the World With Drones

Global Hawk RQ-4B reconnaissance drone:  Range: 8,700 nautical miles

NATO nations finally agree deal on drone project

BRUSSELS

Feb 3 (Reuters) – NATO agreed on Friday to implement a drone-based high-altitude surveillance project after two decades of wrangling over how to share the funding.

The Alliance Ground Surveillance project (AGS) project, which is scheduled to come into use from 2015, will have its main base at Sigonella in Italy and several associated command-and-control base stations.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that under an agreement reached at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels, a group of nations would acquire five Global Hawk RQ-4B reconnaissance drones produced by U.S. firm Northrop Grumman and powered by Rolls-Royce engines.

Northrop Grumman ISS International is the main contractor, while the German arm of EADS, Italy’s Galileo Avionica — a unit of Finmeccanica — and the Canadian arm of General Dynamics are also involved.

The 13 countries participating in the project are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the United States.

U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta welcomed the deal.

“It’s good deal, big deal, done deal,” he was quoted as saying in a Twitter message posted by the U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Rasmussen, who has been a champion of such cooperative defence projects, said NATO’s operation in Libya last year had shown the need for such a capability.

“This will give our commanders the ability to see what is happening on the ground, at long range, over periods of time, around the clock, in any weather,” he said.

The drones fly at 60,000 feet and can stay aloft for over 24 hours.

The U.S. Air Force recently decided to scrap its Northrop Grumman drone programme and keep its Cold War-vintage U-2 spy planes flying into the 2020s, according to a government official and a defense analyst.

Jewish Led Bipartisan Study Pushes US Govt. To Enable Israeli Bombing Preparations

[The Republicans are pushing the position of total war as the only alternative to Obama's plans, both in the Middle East and in Afghanistan.  They are behind the push to bomb Taliban bases in Pakistan.  If the Neocon right-wing hyper-patriots have their way we will see global thermonuclear war in our lifetimes.]

http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/sites/default/files/BPC%20Iran%20Report.pdf

TaSk Force co-chairS
Senator Charles Robb

Christopher Carney
Former U.S. Representative from
Pennsylvania

Ambassador Eric Edelman
Former Under Secretary
of Defense

Secretary Dan Glickman

Larry Goldstein
Founder of Energy Policy Research

Stephen Rademaker
Former Assistant Secretary of State

Mortimer Zuckerman

Stuart Levey
provided valuable commentary and insight. Robert Kagan helped shape the report
by asking pointed questions and offering thoughtful comments. We are indebted to
Michael Rubin for his extensive edits and comments in the drafting of the report.

US push to give Israel smart bombs for Iran attack

A GBU-31 bunker-buster bomb.

A GBU-31 bunker-buster bomb.

A bipartisan US policy group wants to provide Israel with 200 additional bunker-buster bombs to increase the credibility of a military strike aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear program.

The proposal is part of a report issued today by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Project, a non-profit research group in Washington.

The group, led by former Democratic Senator Charles Robb of Virginia and retired General Charles Wald, a former deputy commander of US European Command, called for providing Israel 200 GBU-31 bunker-buster bombs and two or three KC-135 aerial refueling tankers. Israel already has about a dozen of the tankers needed to enable Israeli warplanes to strike targets in Iran, according to the report.

“The pressure on Iran to negotiate in good faith will be maximised to the extent Iran believes that not just the United States, but also Israel, is capable of and prepared to deliver a crippling blow to its nuclear program,” the group said.

A more credible military threat from Israel is required, because Iran “could have the capacity to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear device in as little as two months” and “develop nuclear weapons capability” this year, according to the report.

“This program is the most immediate national-security threat to the United States,” Robb said in presenting the report at a news conference.

“While we do not advocate an Israeli military strike, we believe a more credible Israeli threat can only increase the pressure on Iran to negotiate,” Wald said in a written statement.

The report was issued as policy makers in Congress express increased concern about Iran’s nuclear program.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday that this will be “a critical year” for preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address last month, said he will “take no options off the table” to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.

To thwart Iran, the Bipartisan Policy Center endorsed a “triple-track” strategy of diplomacy, economic sanctions, and “credible, visible preparations for a military option of last resort.”

While Israel already has about 100 GBU-28 bunker-buster munitions, the addition of 200 precision-guided GBU-31 bombs — which have a Boeing GPS tail-kit — would increase the likelihood that any strike “would score a direct hit on its target,” the report said.

Alireza Nader, an analyst at the Rand Corporation, who was co- author of a study on Israel and Iran, said sending Israel more bombs would be a mistake.

“It’s actually counterproductive,” Nader said. “It might compel the Iranian government to accelerate the nuclear program. They see a potential weapons capability as a deterrence against the United States and Israel.”

Nader said diplomacy and sanctions are a wiser course, with recent sanctions having “raised the cost of weaponisation for the Islamic Republic” as its economy weakens.

The National Security Project group, while endorsing more sanctions, expressed skepticism about their effectiveness in curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

“Even new ‘crippling’ sanctions are unlikely to threaten the viability of the Iranian regime — the one motivation for Tehran to negotiate in good faith,” its report found.

Other members of the National Security Project task force include Dan Glickman, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; Ambassador Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary of defence for policy; retired General Ron Keys, a former commander of Air Combat Command; Stephen Rademaker, a former assistant secretary of state for arms control and nonproliferation; and Mortimer Zuckerman, chief executive officer and board chairman of Boston Properties Inc.

Bloomberg

http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/sites/default/files/BPC%20Iran%20Report.pdf

The Pakistan-Iran pipedream

The Pakistan-Iran pipedream

Due to external pressures, Pakistan may well abandon the pipeline project altogether.

For a government often accused of indecision and weakness, Islamabad has been strikingly defiant about its determination to pursue a natural gas pipeline deal with Iran.

Pakistan’s strident tone has not changed in light of Washington’sheightened sanctions regime vis-à-vis Iran, which bans countries from having commercial transactions with Tehran. The foreign ministry has declared that the sanctions do not affect the pipeline project. Other Pakistanis, however, fear that the sanctions may well present problems. One prominent lawyer has suggested Islamabad go so far as to lobby the UN to ensure the pipeline project stays alive.

Underlying Pakistan’s hearty embrace of the pipeline is the perception that the deal will ease the country’s crippling energy crisis. In reality, the pipeline is no silver bullet for energy insecurity – and it may well not even be consummated.

To be sure, in a country with a daily gas shortfall of one billion units per day, the pipeline would provide desperately needed supply. As Iwrote last year, the project is expected to furnish 750 million cubic feet of natural gas to Pakistan daily, with power generation capacity projected at 5,000 megawatts – roughly equivalent to Pakistan’s entire energy shortfall. Additionally, despite what Washington may think, there are no better pipeline alternatives. The US constantly pushes for the TAPI pipeline, a project that has gathered steam lately with Turkey’s decision to come on board and recent India-Pakistan negotiations on the scheme. Still, given the security situation in Afghanistan, it is hard to imagine the pipeline not getting blown up by insurgents somewhere along its envisioned route.

That all said, one must pose a critical question: whose energy security would be enhanced by those added 750 million cubic feet? Not the masses of impoverished Pakistanis – and half the entire country - who rely on traditional, non-commercial fuels such as biomass and firewood. All the talk you hear about Pakistan’s need for natural gas? It’s all tied to the commercial sector; it’s in this sphere where natural gas constitutes 50 percent of the total energy mix. In essence, the energy woes of millions will not be affected – much less alleviated – by an increase in natural gas supply.

And then there is the issue of demand management. Suppose that natural gas suddenly courses into Pakistan. While the expectation is that this would instantaneously light up homes, fire up factory machinery, and boost a flagging economy, the reality is very different. Unless this new infusion of supply is managed properly, it would simply be squandered, wasted, and stolen – just as precious supply often is today. One can make the same argument about water - if the western rivers of the Indus Basin were to triple in size, sending water cascading into the parched nation, benefits would not materialize so long as it was siphoned off by wealthy landowners; lost to leaky canals; and wasted in irrigation. This is a basic reality: without good resource governance, supply boosts will yield few dividends. So far, Pakistan’s chief efforts at improving energy governance have consisted of scoff-inducing measures such as bans on neon billboards and an end to all-night wedding parties.

Keep in mind the geopolitical context as well. Due to external pressures, Pakistan may well abandon the pipeline project altogether. Washington has intimated that it may offer Pakistan cheap gas in an effort to wean Islamabad off the pipeline. While this may seem a silly strategy, don’t forget the media reports from last September revealing that Washington was making headway in getting Pakistan to scupper the deal. Yes, Pakistan-US ties have grown tenser since then, yet one sobering takeaway from the troubled relationship is that Washington typically gets what it wants.

Pakistan may also succumb to pressure from Riyadh – Iran’s chief regional rival, and not only a close ally of Pakistan, but also a chief exporter of oil to Pakistan. One cannot rule out the possibility of Washington leaning on the House of Saud to pressure Pakistan to distance itself from the Iran pipeline.

Make no mistake; Pakistan is in fervent need of energy, and ample amounts will need to come from abroad. Yet it may behoove Islamabad to look elsewhere – such as India, where momentum is building for enhanced energy cooperation. A deal was reached last fallto export  a modest quantum of Indian electricity over the border, while just days ago the two sides agreed to establish a Joint Working Group on Petroleum to explore energy trade.

For all the heady talk about the Pakistan-Iran pipeline, Pakistan has yet to begin construction of its 700-kilometer portion. It has made much more progress laying the groundwork for energy activities with India. It’s high time that this latter opportunity be seized.

US tells Israelis it won’t join their war

[The Pentagon chiefs prevented Zionist President Bush from launching a war against Iran and they will not let it happen now.  There are too many things planned elsewhere to let this Middle Eastern center of Russian "Jew" expatriates ruin them.]

US tells Israelis it won’t join their war

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) General Martin Dempsey told Israeli leaders on January 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers.

Dempsey’s warning, conveyed to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by President Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the US is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran.

But the Israeli government remains defiant about maintaining its freedom of action to make war on Iran, and it is counting on the influence of right-wing extremist views in US politics to bring pressure to bear on Obama to fall into line with a possible Israeli attack during the election campaign this autumn.

Obama still appears reluctant to break publicly and explicitly with Israel over its threat of military aggression against Iran, even in the absence of evidence Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon.

Dempsey’s trip was highly unusual, in that there was neither a press conference by the chairman nor any public statement by either side about the substance of his meetings with Israeli leaders. Even more remarkable, no leak about what he said to the Israelis has appeared in either US or Israeli news media, indicating that both sides have regarded what Dempsey said as extremely sensitive.

The substance of Dempsey’s warning to the Israelis has become known, however, to active and retired senior flag officers with connections to the JCS, according to a military source who got it from those officers.

A spokesman for the JCS, Commander Patrick McNally, offered no comment on Wednesday when Inter Press Service (IPS) asked him about the above account of Dempsey’s warning to the Israelis.

The message carried by Dempsey was the first explicit statement to the Netanyahu government that the United States would not defend Israel if it attacked Iran unilaterally. But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had given a clear hint in an interview on “Face the Nation” on January 8 that the Obama administration would not help defend Israel in a war against Iran that Israel had initiated.

Asked how the United States would react if Israel were to launch a unilateral attack on Iran, Panetta first emphasized the need for a coordinated policy toward Iran with Israel. But when host Bob Schieffer repeated the question, Panetta said, “If the Israelis made that decision, we would have to be prepared to protect our forces in that situation. And that’s what we’d be concerned about.”
Defense Minister Barak had sought to dampen media speculation before Dempsey’s arrival that the chairman was coming to put pressure on Israel over its threat to attack Iran, but then proceeded to reiterate the Netanyahu-Barak position that they cannot give up their responsibility for the security of Israel “for anyone, including our American friends”.

There has been no evidence since the Dempsey visit of any change in the Netanyahu government’s insistence on maintaining its freedom of action to attack Iran.

Dempsey’s meetings with Netanyahu and Barak also failed to resolve the issue of the joint US-Israeli military exercise geared to simulate a missile attack, “Austere Challenge ’12″, which had been scheduled for April 2012 but had been postponed abruptly a few days before his arrival in Israel.

More than two weeks after Dempsey’s meeting with Barak, the spokesman for the Pentagon, John Kirby, told IPS, “All I can say is that the exercise will be held later this year.” That indicated that there has been no major change in the status of US-Israeli discussions of the issue since the postponement of the exercise was leaked on January 15.

The postponement has been the subject of conflicting and unconvincing explanations from the Israeli side, suggesting disarray in the Netanyahu government over how to handle the issue.

To add to the confusion, Israeli and US statements left it unclear whether the decision had been unilateral or joint as well as the reasons for the decision.

Panetta asserted in a news conference on January 18 that Barak himself had asked him to postpone the exercise.

It now clear that both sides had an interest in postponing the exercise and very possibly letting it expire by failing to reach a decision on it.

The Israelis appear to have two distinct reasons for putting the exercise off, which reflect differences between the interests of Netanyahu and his defense minister.

Netanyahu’s primary interest in relation to the exercise was evidently to give the Republican candidate ammunition to fire at Obama during the fall campaign by insinuating that the postponement was decided at the behest of Obama to reduce tensions with Iran.

Thus Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, explained it as a “joint” decision with the United States, adding, “The thinking was it was not the right timing now to conduct such an exercise.”

Barak, however, had an entirely different concern, which was related to the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) readiness to carry out an operation that would involve both attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities and minimizing the Iranian retaliatory response.

A former US intelligence analyst who followed the Israeli military closely told IPS he strongly suspects that the IDF has pressed Barak to insist that the Israeli force be at the peak of readiness if and when they are asked to attack Iran.

The analyst, who insisted on anonymity because of his continuing contacts with US military and intelligence personnel, said the 2006 Lebanon war debacle continues to haunt the thinking of IDF leaders.

In that war, it became clear that the IDF had not been ready to handle Hezbollah rocket attacks adequately, and the prestige of the Israeli military suffered a serious blow.

The insistence of IDF leaders that they never go to war before being fully prepared is a primary consideration for Barak, according to the analyst. “Austere Challenge ’12″ would inevitably involve a major consumption of military resources, he observes, which would reduce Israeli readiness for war in the short run.

The concern about a major military exercise actually reducing the IDF’s readiness for war against Iran would explain why senior Israeli military officials were reported to have suggested that the reasons for the postponement were mostly “technical and logistical”.

The Israeli military concern about expending scarce resources on the exercise would apply, of course, regardless of whether the exercise was planned for April or late 2012. That fact would help explain why the exercise has not been rescheduled, despite statements from the US side that it will be.

The US military, however, has its own reasons for being unenthusiastic about the exercise. IPS has learned from a knowledgeable source that, well before the Obama administration began distancing itself from Israel’s Iran policy, US Central Command chief James N Mattis had expressed concern about the implications of an exercise so obviously based on a scenario involving Iranian retaliation for an Israeli attack.

United States officials have been quoted as suspecting that the Israeli request for a postponement of the exercise indicated that Israel wanted to leave its options open for conducting a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the spring. But a postponement to the fall would not change that problem.

For that reason, the former US intelligence analyst told IPS he doubted that “Austere Challenge ’12″ will ever be carried out.

But the White House has an obvious political interest in using the military exercise to demonstrate that the Obama administration had increased military cooperation with Israel to an unprecedented level.

The Defense Department wants the exercise to be held in October, according to the military source in touch with senior flag officers connected to the Joint Chiefs.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

(Inter Press Service)