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Revealed: How Close Did Israel Come to Counterattacking Iraq in 1991?

By the Jerusalem Post

Israel's defense minister during the 1991 Gulf War, Moshe Arens, approved a counterattack on Iraq after it had fired Scud missiles at Israel. However, Defense Ministry records newly declassified on Thursday regarding Arens also indicate that his plans were delayed by then-US Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, who stalled for time.

The newly revealed records, which include interviews with Arens and with then-IDF chief-of-staff Dan Shomron, also appear to reveal that, behind Arens' back, Shomron opposed the counterattack when discussing it with prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.

It is known that President George H.W. Bush pressured Shamir not to respond to Iraqi Scud attacks, for fear that an Israeli intervention would scuttle the broad anti-Iraq coalition Bush had assembled. The coalition included many Arab countries standing with the US for the first time, and was viewed as a coup by Bush both for fighting against Iraq and for strategic influence in the region after the war.

Past theories about why the right-wing Shamir heeded the US request to refrain from responding have ranged from his agreeing with the US analysis; his feeling the US could attack Iraq more strongly than Israel; and his hope to curry favor with the US post-war on diplomatic issues.

But until the new records were released, it had not been revealed how close Israel came to counterattacking Iraq, including Shomron presenting a plan to Arens which the defense minister approved. As Arens recalls the events, he was ready for Israel to attack and merely wanted to coordinate the timing and placement with Cheney to avoid miscommunication.

In his telling, Cheney never told Arens that the US would not permit Israel to counterattack. Rather, Cheney played for time by saying he needed to check with Bush, then later by promising to send a US air force coordinating officer to meet with Arens, but sending him only after a delay and then requesting to send a different officer to replace him. Arens said that these events occurred after the 1991 Gulf War had already been happening for a few weeks.

He approved a counterattack, thinking that even if the US did not approve – with the US already having clearly won – Arab states who might have pulled out of the coalition at the start of the war would find it too hard to pull out at this later point.

Cheney's delaying Arens is significant especially since under George W. Bush, the former president's son who was himself president from 2001 until 2009, Cheney was known for heavily supporting Israeli positions. The records also appear to show Shomron presenting a counterattack plan to Arens and keeping quiet about his opposition, only for Shomron to privately recommend later to Shamir that he not attack.

When asked how he could present a counterattack plan and then recommend against it, Shomron replied that "it was two sides of the same coin." On one side he said his job as an IDF officer was to present contingencies for operations should the political echelon order an attack, and to carry out that attack if ordered. Further, until that moment, no Scud missiles had caused serious casualties in Israel, but if that changed Shomron wanted to be ready to respond.

On the other side, he said that when asked whether the attack made sense, he suggested that the minuses of angering the US and potentially disturbing the coalition outweighed whatever gains might be achieved.

Arens, upon being shown Shomron's telling of his meeting with Shamir, expressed surprise, saying that he had never heard about this and that Shomron had given him no signs that he opposed the counterattack. "If he opposed, he needed to say something to me," said Arens.

While previously it has been thought that Shamir stood relatively alone against his advisers in advocating restraint, it has now been revealed that Shomron was privately also urging him to shelve the counterattack.

Israeli Marijuana is Growing, But Exports Have Nowhere to Go

By the Jerusalem Post

With dozens of Israeli growers and manufacturers receiving licenses to produce medicinal cannabis, bureaucratic roadblocks and ministerial infighting could leave the marijuana to eventually rot or be sold on the black market, costing companies more than NIS 1 billion.

Last week, the cabinet hinted that it would approve exports of medicinal cannabis during the 2019 state budget vote, only to dash hopes by leaving the measure out.

The government reportedly told Israeli medicinal marijuana companies that their exports would be approved by 2018, according to industry employees. That persuaded the companies to embark on multi-billion-shekel investments, some of which could now be in jeopardy.

"Now we have a big problem because it will be three months from now and [the growers] still won't have export licenses," said Hagit Weinstock, an attorney who represents 60 Israeli cannabis growers and producers.

With tons of marijuana being grown across Israel and potentially no option to export it, another industry-related employee threatened that the product would eventually be sold on the black market. "They have no other choice because people are growing tons of cannabis," Weinstock said. "What are they going to do with it? Are they going to be drug dealers? It's a ridiculous argument," Weinstock said. "We're talking about billions of shekels every year. [The industry] can make billions," but the Treasury is holding back because it wants "to save millions."

The ministry has estimated that Israeli exports could amount to NIS 1 billion-NIS 4b. annually. And in February 2017, a government committee took the first step toward approving medical marijuana exports. The Knesset has yet to hold a general vote on the legislation.

Despite the regulatory gridlock, Israeli cannabis firms are still meeting with companies in Germany, Canada and the Czech Republic. "Israel is a great spot," Weinstock said. "It's the capital of cannabis and they're doing clinical research. And there's no other place in the world where you can do clinical research for your production," she said, adding that in the United States the FDA still prohibits clinical research.

An estimated 50 Israeli medical marijuana companies work in cultivating plants or producing delivery devices such as inhalers, along with exporting cannabis cosmetics and skin-care products. In 2016, international investors poured more than $100 million into Israeli marijuana firms, according to Reuters.

An Israeli academic, Hebrew University Prof. Raphael Mechoulam, was the first person to identify the main psychoactive constituent in cannabis, THC, more than 40 years ago.

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