Buying time

Coping with Iran


Buying time
by Shaul Mofaz & Nicholas Burns

On August 1, 2008, Shaul Mofaz, deputy prime minister and transportation minister of Israel, and Nicholas Burns, who until recently was undersecretary of state for foreign affairs, addressed a special policy forum at The Washington Institute. Mr. Mofaz and Ambassador Burns, who both led the U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue focusing on Iran, spoke about the challenges caused by Iran and its nuclear program. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks. Online audio of this event is also available at

Iran's nuclear program is geared toward attaining military weapons capability -- something that constitutes an existential threat to the state of Israel. With such ability, Iran not only could attack Israel directly, it could also increase financial and material support under its nuclear umbrella for terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah, as well as for Syria. Iran has already provided Hizballah with long-range missiles that can hit most Israeli territory, and one day, Iran could also use this power against the United States and Europe.

In the next year and a half, there will be a new reality in the region. From Israel's point of view, an Iranian nuclear breakthrough is unacceptable. No enrichment should take place anywhere on Iranian soil, and at present, it is estimated that Iran will be capable of enriching low-grade uranium in 2009, and will be able to do so at military levels by 2010.

Iran's main strategy is to buy time, and so far, it is succeeding. Time is a decisive element in changing the picture and removing the Iranian threat. Based on Tehran's past actions, most anticipate that Iran will turn down the recent offer made by the Europeans and the United States at the Geneva meeting, and will choose instead to wait out the end of the current U.S. administration. The window of opportunity to influence Iran is becoming smaller, and is about to close. It is a race against time, and Iran is winning.

A strategic approach, therefore, is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities. Several conclusions were reached during the July meeting of the U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue, one being that the world must present a united front against Iran. This includes international compliance with imposing financial sanctions on Iran, as well as barring the trade in conventional weapons with the regime.

Diplomacy should to be the primary method for halting Iran's nuclear program. In order for diplomacy to succeed, pressure on Iran's weaknesses must be drastically increased. Diplomacy, however, has its limits. The primary duty of Israel, like all states, is to protect the lives of its citizens; therefore, all options are on the table. If Israeli, U.S., or European intelligence gets proof that Iran has succeeded in developing nuclear weapons technology, then Israel will respond in a manner reflecting the existential threat posed by such a weapon. Israel takes Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad's statements regarding its destruction seriously. Israel cannot risk another Holocaust.

Israel also understands that its quarrel is with the current Iranian regime, not with the Iranian people. Only thirty years ago, Israel had excellent diplomatic relations with Iran, including extensive security cooperation. The current regime is not only hostile toward Israel, but also toward the rest of the world.

The Middle East is becoming the world's most important region, and is increasingly the focus of U.S. foreign policy. Current issues include fighting the war in Iraq, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and preventing Hizballah and Syria from undermining democracy in Lebanon. In addition, the United States is concerned with the oil trade and its improving relations with moderate Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Over time, however, Iran has become the regional focus.

Iran is the most difficult and complex challenge in the Middle East today. It is a primary supporter of regional terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hizballah, and Islamic Jihad, and it also funds the Shiite militant groups fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. Evidence also suggests that it has connections to the Taliban. U.S. policy should be geared toward preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capability, preferably through negotiations and by working with the UN Security Council.

The United States ought to pursue three initiatives to deal with Iran: tougher sanctions, more diplomacy, and developing a bilateral relationship. Although the United States and Europe have been maintaining strict sanctions on Iran, the trade void is being filled by other nations, particularly Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. In order for sanctions to be successful, these nations need to participate fully, especially since financial sanctions are necessary for diplomacy to work.

Now is the time for diplomacy, not war. Based on the evaluations of Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency, we have reason to believe there is still time for diplomacy. Diplomacy requires the parties to be tough-minded and creative. U.S. representation at the recent Geneva meeting was a positive step, and Condoleezza Rice should be lauded for breaking with twenty-eight years of American conventional wisdom when she advised negotiating with Iran. That diplomatic opening is still there, and it would be folly to give it up now. All options must be kept on the table in order to force Tehran to respond to international objections. At this point, however, war with Iran is neither inevitable nor desirable.

A significant difficulty with Iran is that the relationship between Washington and Tehran, unlike Pyongyang and Havana, has been completely nonexistent. The United States has not had any permanent media correspondents, businessmen, or diplomats in the country since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. As a result, the two countries know nothing about each other. Another difficulty is the history of grievances between the two, such as the Mossadeq coup and the Iranian hostage crisis. In order to develop relations, however, both need to stop focusing on this legacy of bitterness and look forward to the future.

The situation may change when Iran holds presidential elections in 2009, because the country is not a political monolith. Although Ayatollah Ali Khamenei exercises a great deal of control, there are still relative differences between him, Ahmadinezhad, Ali Larijani (speaker of the Iranian parliament), and other influential Iranians, such as former presidents Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatami.

Iranians have been equivocating, even though reasonable proposals have been on the table for two years. The United States backed Russia's proposal that Iran be provided with nuclear power plants and fuel, thereby invalidating the claim that the world wants to deny Iran atomic energy. The Iranians need to answer the questions being asked about its nuclear program by the international community. At the present, the ball is in Iran's court.

This rapporteur's summary was prepared by Lauren Cohen.



Interesting to know

by Abarmard on

As I have mentioned, not everyone is being fooled by these guys. You can't fool all the people all of the time:



change of shoot then talk policy?

by Anonym7 (not verified) on

Generally these fascists (Mofaz, Benny Morris, .., AIPAC) shoot first and then talk, I wonder why they are talking /threatening so much this time, almost in daily basis.
Myabe they have learned something (albeit not enough) from their recent miserable failure in Lebanon.


Let's tweak Mr Burns' memory a bit

by Jaleho on

Hopefully he'd remember the REAL reason that US invaded Afghanistan, in addition to putting more military base and pressure on Iran.

I'd recommend that he reads the book "Taliban" by Rashid and a quick look at references here and short parts of it that follows:




[edit] Central Asia

Unocal was one of the key players in the CentGas consortium, an attempt to build the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline to run from the Caspian area, through Afghanistan and probably Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. One of the consultants to Unocal at that time was Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Afghanistan then to Iraq and currently to the UN.

In the 1980s CIA chief Bill Casey
had revived the agency's practise of gaining intelligence from
traveling businessmen. Marty Miller, one of Unocal's top executives,
conducted negotiations in several Central Asian countries from 1995,
and voluntarily provided information gained on these trips to the CIA's
Houston station.[2]

In 1996 Unocal opened an office in Kandahar, Afghanistan, while the Taliban were in the process of taking control of the country.

Unocal rented a house in central Kandahar directly across the street
from one of [Osama] bin Laden's new compounds. They did not choose this
location deliberately. Most of the decent houses in town straddled the
Herat Bazaar Road. Also near was the Pakistani consulate, which housed
officers from [the Pakistani military Inter-Services Intelligence, the] ISI. Charlie Santos ...[3]

In 1997,

Robert Oakley [ex-US ambassador to Pakistan, now Unocal's ad hoc
advisory board] advised Miller to reach the Taliban by working through
Pakistan's government [then led by Benazir Bhutto].
He also suggested that Unocal hire Thomas Gouttiere, an Afghan
specialist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, to develop a job
training program in Kandahar that would teach Pashtuns the technical
skills needed to build a pipeline. ... Unocal agreed to pay $900,000
via the University of Nebraska to set up a Unocal training facility on
a fifty-six acre site in Kandahar, not far from bin Laden's compounds.
... Gouttiere traveled in and out of Afghanistan and met with Taliban
leaders. ... In December 1997 Gouttiere worked with Miller to arrange
for another Taliban delegation to visit the United States. ...[4]

Unocal seems to have had a deeper role. Intelligence "whistleblower"
Julie Sirrs claimed that anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud told
her he had "proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the
Taliban take Kabul [in 1996]".[5]
And French journalist Richard Labeviere said, referring to the later
1990s, "The CIA and Unocal's security forces ... provided military
weapons and instructors to several Taleban militia[s] ..."[6]

The Taleban and Unocal were in negotiations in Texas to discuss
arrangements for the gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan in 1997
and a deal was struck but later failed [7].

The failure was believed to be because the deal was going to be struck with Bridas, an Argentinian company [8].

The CentGas pipeline was not built, due to inability of CentGas and the Taliban
to come to a mutually acceptable economic understanding although
rumours about a deal with Argentinian company Bridas were widespread [9].

The Argentinian economy collapsed soon after this deal had been struck [10]

Unocal is also the third largest member of the recently completed and opened Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.


Islamist vernacular redux

by Fred on

By assuming “IR”  is to mean the Islamist Republic and not Iran,  the rhetorical offer of Googling on the record facts of Islamist leaders’ three decades long publicly threatening the existence of Israel is appreciated.  
 “Shut your eyes to the realities... Your hate to (sic) IR is so much that you are kissing the wrong ass"



by Jaleho on

the funniest new thing in the article is Nicholas Burns' claim of "Iran has also connections with Taliban".

Burns "forgets" that just before US changed its PRO-TALIBAN policies in Afghanistan, Iran almost OFFICIALLY went to war with Taliban. And way before that, Ahmad Shah Massoud with Iran's support, was fighting Taliban inside Afghanistan for years! That is, all those years that US was spending money to CREATE Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Afghanistan, and Unocal oilmen were inviting Taliban leaders to Texas for Trans-Afghanistan pipeline, Iran was fighting Taliban!

Too bad Burns could not claim that Iran supported Saddam, another US former lackey later transformed to US enemey! The 8 year Iran-Iraq war would have made Burns TOO OBVIOUS of a clown or else he would have made such claims too!

But you never know, Burns never feels bad about making a PUBLIC ASS out of himself by pretending that people forget historical facts. That's why he NOW talks more about DIPLOMACY with Iran (despite Mofaz and Israeli beggars typical push and beg for US action.) He is hopeful for direct relations, cut his arrogant behavior and went and sat on the same table with Iranian terrorists, haha! Clearly, Burns "forgets" that Iran's steady policy has FORCED him to talk nicer, few years ago he talked just like the other clown, BOLTON! They kept on ridiculing EU for "carrots" and gloated about their "hard stick". Their present admission to IMPOTENCE is indeed another funny FORCED departure from previous barkings!


PS. The above was a bit more of Islamist vernacular for Fred. Oh, and we also tend to consider Israel as a US CONDOM whose time to be flushed is overdue as of fall of Soviet Union. Zionism indeed will be wiped out of history, map, whatever you like to call it. Slow count down has begun, wake up!




by XerXes (not verified) on

"I know what you're thinking. Do they have six thousand Shahab missiles or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a advanced guided missiles, the most powerful weapon in the world, and would blow your land clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"


Its Iraq all over again

by Alborzi (not verified) on

Israel has more than 300 atomic weapons, with some
of them in Persian Gulf on Israeli submarines. This would give them redundancy, in case of a surprise attack they would destroy Tehran, Mullahs may be anything but they are not suicidal, also in case of surprise attack the Americans would aid. To boot the Iranian design is even smaller than the one in Hiroshima, its unimaginable that the Americans (ergo Israelis) have not improved their designs in 60 years. Its a case of crocodile tears, do not fall for the propaganda.


To; Fred (Re: Islamist vernacular )

by mostaghel on

This is the best phrase I have heard that truly applies to your outpouring of venom and it comes from Abarmand (and I modify for completion):

You hate IRI (and Iranians) so much that you are kissing ALL the wrong ass(es) !



by Abarmard on

Would you like me to go through the google search and find you all the threats from Iran, as you claim, verses threats from israel? Starting from Rafsanjani era, when no one had even heard of Ahmadinejad?


Shut your eyes to the realities... Your hate to IR is so much that you are kissing the wrong ass!

Na ghom khubeh na kashun... Wake up


Islamist vernacular

by Fred on

Never mind all the publicly enunciated on the record promises and musings to wipe Israel off the map by at least Khomeini, Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad,” So far all I have heard have been threats from Israel towards Iran and its territorial integrity. Isn't that interesting?” 

And in the Islamists’ vernacular, to all those who do not agree: “So shove it: Vaseline not provided.”


Who the hell is Israel to...

by David Milani (not verified) on

Who the hell is Israel to tell another nation what they can or cannot have?

Isreal is a military terrorist state. It has been threatenning Iran for the past few years. If Israel is foolish enough to attack Iran, Iran will have no choice but defending itself in the most decisive manner.

In reality though, Israel would not dare attack Iran. Like all cowardly people, Israeli military generals such as Mofaz, as they have proven in the past six decades, would only attack defenseless people as they do everyday in Palestine and as they did in the summer of 2006 in Lebanon when they murdered thousands of defenseless people including hundreds of women and children and destroyed billions of dollard of infrastructure by their bombings of Beirut and other Lebanese cities.

AmirAshkan Pishroo

What about the doctrine of MAD

by AmirAshkan Pishroo on

Emphasizing Israel's point of view in the way Burns does as the " Iranian nuclear breakthrough is unacceptable"  – is plainly false.

The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) certainly continues to be applicable in the case of Iran and Israel, although it has forgotten from public discourse:

The doctrine assumes that neither side will dare to launch a first strike because the other side will launch too resulting in the destruction of both parties. The payoff of this doctrine is expected to be a tense but stable peace.


Re: Israeli Mollah and his American Housekeeper ! (to: Mostaghel

by soufi on

They are more like "Israeli Akhond and his American Bitch"  !!!.


So far all I have heard

by Abarmard on

Have been threats from Israel towards Iran and its territorial integrity. Isn't that interesting?

Actually besides Israelis that I have spoken to, who support a preemptive strike against the Iranian nation, I have yet to see one single Iranian who say, let's bomb Israel, regardless of their political sides or ideological beliefs!

Therefore the real danger against the peace and stability is coming from the Israeli government, and if as it claims it is a democratic state, then from Israeli nation.

Those who understand Iran and the Islamic Republic, or have a small common sense left in them would know that there is no reason for Iran to so called bomb Israel. On the other hand, since Iran is becoming a regional power and its policies are not in total line with the United States (YET), it makes sense that the Israeli officials who are in for the US middle eastern reign would want to stop her advancements.

Now, I would tell these guys that your policies have all hit the bottom and beside very a few Israelis inside and out of Israel, no one or country believe what you say. So shove it: Vaseline not provided.


dig be dig migeh root sia!

by ajeneh (not verified) on

What a character!


Nicholas Burns must be joking

by Roshanbeen (not verified) on

Since when The Mafia hitman Said Hariri is democratic figure?? LOL


Mofaz and Burns

by Anonymous8 (not verified) on

the age of Israel being relevant is over. how many times are they going to say Iran will "go past the point of no return?" Israel just wants unchallenged power to bomb anybody in the middle east whenever it feels like. Sorry, you can't keep us down forever.


A War of Self-Destruction

by Roshanbeen (not verified) on

A War of Self-Destruction
Posted on Aug 4, 2008

By Chris Hedges

An attack on Iran, which Israeli and Bush administration officials appear set to carry out if Iranian uranium enrichment is not halted, would ignite a regional war in the Middle East and lead to economic collapse and political upheaval in the United States.

“In short and simple terms, we would be plunged into a depression that would make the Great Depression of the 1930s in which I spent my childhood look like boom times,” said William R. Polk, former professor of history at the University of Chicago and a member of the Policy Planning Council under President Kennedy. “Industries would fail, banks would collapse, government revenues would dry up, universities would have to close, health care, even as limited as it now is for roughly 75 million Americans, would virtually cease. In short, something like [what] the South suffered at the end of the Civil War would plague the country.”

The passage of vast amounts of oil and liquefied gas through the Persian Gulf would be disrupted. Iranian attacks, carried out with rocket- and bomb-equipped speedboats and submarines, would be deadly and effective. A classified Pentagon war game in 2002 simulated these swarming attacks by Iranian speedboats packed with explosives in the gulf; the Navy lost 16 major warships, according to a report in The New York Times. Iranian oil, which makes up 8 percent of the world’s energy supply, would instantly be taken off the market. And oil would jump to over $500 a barrel and perhaps, as the conflict dragged on, to over $750 a barrel. Our petroleum-based economy would come to a halt.

Israel would be hit by Iranian Shahab-3 ballistic missiles. Hezbollah, with its new store of Iranian-supplied rockets that allegedly can reach any part of Israel, including Israel’s nuclear plant at Dimona, would enter the conflict. Israel would lash back. Terrorist attacks on U.S. targets would become frequent. U.S. casualties in Iraq would mount as the Iranians rained missiles down on U.S. bases and installations, including our imperial city, the Green Zone. Chaos and mayhem would grip the Middle East. The world financial markets would go haywire.

“Even at today’s price, as you know, 14 airlines have gone out of business while others are hovering on the brink of bankruptcy and most have curtailed service and laid off personnel,” said Polk, one of the country’s leading scholars of the Arab world. “At double or triple today’s price, none could fly unless nationalized. A whole range of other industries would be quickly drawn into the quicksand. Ironically, war would push America into a form of socialist economy.”

The U.S. economy is already tottering. We recently witnessed the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history, and there are fears that as many as 150 banks could fail over the next 12 to 18 months. There will be 6.5 million foreclosures over the next five years, according to Wall Street analysts. The government is furiously pumping billions of taxpayer dollars into private corporations to keep them afloat. The Congress bailed out the shareholders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These bizarre “government-sponsored enterprises” own or guarantee half the mortgages in the country—some $5.1 trillion. The Federal Reserve evoked rarely used emergency powers to put billions of taxpayer dollars at risk to stop the meltdown of a non-bank, Bear Stearns, which it never regulated. More than $300 billion has been written down so far. Losses, by the time we are done, could exceed $1 trillion.

The already staggering debt generated by the war in Iraq would mushroom with an attack on Iran. Fighting wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, we would soon be struggling to pay off a debt of at least two or three times the present amount. This is a weight the U.S. economy cannot bear, especially as the dollar tumbles against the euro and other major currencies. The government has borrowed abroad roughly a quarter of our annual national income in order to pay for the Iraq debacle. We have been told for the first time by a sovereign fund (South Korean, one of the world’s largest) that it will no longer buy U.S. Treasury bonds. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the final cost of the war in Iraq, once all the hidden costs are added up, could be as high as $7 trillion.

“Financial capitalism is crashing,” wrote independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. “So the lights are on late in Washington’s Federal Reserve, SEC and Treasury Department trying to figure out how socialism (your tax dollars and credits) can once again bail out these big-time gamblers with our money. ... Reckless, self-enriching capitalists get on your knees and thank the rescuing Washington socialists, for without them, you would surely be in chains.”

A war with Iran would also have grave political consequences. The specter of millions of Americans driven out of their homes, no longer able to afford basic necessities, out of work and enraged, would, as it has throughout history, embolden messianic right-wing and proto-fascist movements. Given the potential for social unrest, basic freedoms would be curtailed and in some cases abolished in the name of order and national security. The radical fringes of the Christian right could rise up with a vengeance. They would happily ally themselves with an assortment of oddballs, lunatics and corporate behemoths from Blackwater mercenaries to frightened capitalists at Halliburton. It was economic collapse, along with a climate of fear and instability, that was used to build the fascist and communist movements that plagued Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union during the last century. These same forces led to the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. We are not immune to these distortions.

But maybe those who advocate a war with Iran know all this. Maybe this is what they want. Maybe they understand that a war with Iran would finally kill off our weakened and anemic democracy. Maybe they see this as the dawn of a new era, an era when the last impediments to a global totalitarian capitalism can finally be removed and we can all be ground under the corporate jack boot, from Shanghai to New Delhi to Ohio. There are huge corporations that make obscene profits from human misery. They run our health care industry. They run our oil and gas companies. They run our bloated weapons industry. They run Wall Street and the major investment firms. They run our manufacturing firms. They also, ominously, run our government.

Farhad Kashani

Only an Iranian like Mofaz

by Farhad Kashani on

Only an Iranian like Mofaz knows how the IRI operates!

The IRI has been beating on the war drum with Israel and the U.S for 30 years now, unfortunately, our people gonna pay the price for it.


Nuke the Mullahs

by Uncle Jewhood (not verified) on

Kill all the mullahs to death...

Mola Nasredeen

put all mullahs on a ship and drown them at the sea, this is one

by Mola Nasredeen on

solution. Brother Shaul, there is another alternative too: DEPORT them, build settlements in Palestine just for them and move them there. This would be the worst punishment for them.



by Farhad_70 (not verified) on

Shaul Mofaz is a criminal who must be tried in an international court of justice for crimes against humanity. He is among the top brass in the Israeli
murder machine (military) responsible for killing hundreds of people including women and children in Palestine and Lebanon. To see the kind of "bravery" the likes of general Mofaz committ on a daily basis,
watch this piece on Youtube (if you havent already)


This is just one of thousands of reported and (mostly) unreported examples. It is the tip of the iceberg. If this is how a soldier of Mofaz's army treats his prisoner out in the open, you can imagine what they do when no one can see inside Israli political prisons.

Mofaz's whole life has been dedicated to war and murder. Now he is sitting there trying desparately to look like a statesman talking about peace! Could it get any more rediculous than this? It is a pity that a respected American statesman of Mr Burns calibre is sitting next to a clown like Mofaz. Our statesmen can do much better than this if they mean to promote peace.


Mofaz is an Iranian himself

by Negin (not verified) on

Did you know that Shaul Mofaz was born in Iran and is of Iranian decent? Check this out for more information:
آيا مي دانيد كه شائول موفاز خود يك ايراني است؟ او متولد تهران است و خانواده او ايراني هستند. براي اطلاعات بيشتر به وب سايت زير رجوع كنيد


Re: Believing in the tooth fairy

by soufi on

Lest assume that the "Amercain Housekeepr" (he looks more like an "American  house-cleaner") is correct in terms of distribution of power and views on issues amongst the Iranian leadership. What if Ahmadinejad gets re-elected in 2009? And furthermore, what if Khamenei is still in power in 2009?


Israeli Mollah and his American Housekeeper !

by mostaghel on



JJ, why is this printed on

by Anonymous-today (not verified) on

I thought this site was geared to contributors in the civil society, at least in theory. Why are you printing opinion piece by Shaol Mofaz who is a sitting member of Israel’s cabinet, a member of the ruling party and is expected to run for the prime minister in the fall? Are you going to print excerpts from Ahamdinejad's blog too or is this just an offer extended to the Israelis and their allies? After all Mr. Mofaz's country holds a nuclear arsenal and is not a signatory to the IAEA. By printing this piece here you are giving legitimacy to Isreal's position, which regardless of what you and I think of the Mullahs has no moral or legal ground to stand on when it comes to cooperating on the nuclear issue.


Believing in the tooth fairy

by Fred on

Retired Under Secretary Burns says: “The situation may change when Iran holds presidential elections in 2009, because the country is not a political monolith. Although Ayatollah Ali Khamenei exercises a great deal of control, there are still relative differences between him, Ahmadinezhad, Ali Larijani (speaker of the Iranian parliament), and other influential Iranians, such as former presidents Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Muhammad Khatami.”


Akhonde Esraili vs Nowkarash

by mostaghel on

What a sad day for the USA !