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Dore Gold


By Dr. Dore Gold, head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N

[Editor’s note: Dr. Gold will be speaking in Winnipeg on April 26. Details follow this article]

At first glance it seemed very strange that when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran was enriching its low-enriched uranium from 3.5%  up to 20 %, the Obama administration did not seize upon this declaration and use it to strengthen its case at the UN for instituting painful sanctions on Tehran.

Uranium that is enriched below 5% U-235 is not considered fuel for nuclear reactors and hence only has a civilian purpose. While enrichment to 20% can have medical applications, it puts Iran much closer to the 90% enrichment of uranium needed for an atomic bomb. The White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed Ahmadinejad's claim, saying: "Iran has made a series of statements that are based on politics, not on physics." In short, he said that it was impossible that Iran could enrich its uranium to the 20% level.
Yet seven days later the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published one of its regular reports on Iran and completely contradicted the White House.  The report took into account both IAEA data and the data of the Iranians and showed that Tehran had enriched 2,065 kilograms of uranium--enough for two atomic bombs when enriched further. IAEA inspectors told that on February 14, Iran took 1950 kilograms of its uranium to a smaller facility at Natanz, where it had enriched uranium to 19.8 %. It shared this data with the IAEA. 

In other words, Iran was preparing to enrich almost all of its uranium inventory to a level beyond the standard level for civilian use. The IAEA did not dismiss Iranian claims, as did the US, but rather appeared to be confirming them. It also added to its report one more frightening detail: "the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile." If that observation by the IAEA is true, then Iran should have no problem whatsoever reaching 20% enrichment of its uranium. 

Why was the US not interested in pointing out the gravity of what was happening in Iran?  One of the ironies about how many states behave is that they frequently don't want to admit that their adversaries had done something terribly wrong or violated an international treaty. Winston Churchill tells the story that if his predecessor, Prime  Minister Stanley Baldwin admitted that the Germans had violated the Versailles Treaty, then his party would not win re-election. Violations by the enemy means your own diplomacy failed and perhaps you were naive.

There are other problems with admitting the other side took a dangerous step. It forces a government to do something about the aggressive act that has occurred. The Reagan administration also did not want to accept that the Soviets had violated the ABM Treaty with its Krasnoyarsk Radar because that argument might have disrupted Soviet-American relations at the time and forced the US to take specific action. In 2010,  when Robert Gibbs rejects the idea that Iran can enrich uranium to 20%, he protects the Obama administration from having to respond.

During the 1990's, this was a problem as much for the Israeli government as it was for the Clinton administration. Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader was massively violating the 1993 Oslo Accords, especially in the delicate area of security.  In his 840 page book on his involvement in Arab-Israeli diplomacy, Dennis Ross tells of the American tendency to deal only privately with Arafat's violations because revealing them would have strengthened those who had their doubts about sincerity of the PLO within Israel and in the US Congress.

It doesn't take much imagination to figure out his concerns; Congress would have called for breaking relations with the PLO and the Israeli public would demand that their government halt any further implementation of the Oslo Accords. Although he does not say this, such a revelation of PLO violations might have brought down the Labor government and brought the Likud party to power.  In his book,  Ross also complains about Israel but then says that if  the US does not point out violations of agreements, then the parties never take their commitments seriously. This is one of his main lessons in his final chapter.

President Obama is at a crossroads with Iran. He tried his policy of engagement, reached out on repeated occasions to the Iranian leadership but they ignored him. He first set a September deadline for the Iranians to comply with five UN Security Council resolutions concerning their nuclear program. He also set a deadline of the end of December. On February 9, in answer to a question, Obama plainly did not rule out the policy of engagement even after Ahmadinejad announced the Iranian plan to enrich uranium to 20%: "They have made their choice so far, although the door is still open". 

In the weeks ahead, it will be essential for the administration to admit what Iran has done and move quickly to the most severe sanctions--with or without Russia and China. The administration's reluctance to jettison engagement is understandable from a historical perspective--it is hard for states to make a 180 degree change in policy. But time is running out and US leadership in dealing with the growing Iranian challenge is more vital than ever.

Upcoming Kanee Lecture April 26 to Feature Ambassador Dore Gold

On April 26, 2010 at 8:00 pm at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue  in Winnipeg, The Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada will host former Israeli  Ambassador to the U.N,  Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and a leading international authority on Iran.  He will be speaking on “The Iranian Threat: Myths and Realities.” For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit, or  call 477-7462.

A question and answer session will follow  Dr. Gold’s presentation, and copies of his latest book The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West will be available for purchase.

Dr. Gold was the eleventh Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations (1997-1999), and has previously served as Foreign Policy Advisor to then former Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Gold has served as an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who asked him to accompany his entourage to Washington and the 2003 Aqaba Summit with President George W. Bush.

Dr. Gold was a member of the Israeli delegation at the 1998 Wye River negotiations between Israel and the PLO, held outside Washington. He negotiated the Note for the Record, which supplemented the 1997 Hebron Protocol, and in 1996 concluded the negotiations with the U.S., Lebanon, Syria, and France for the creation of the Monitoring Group for Southern Lebanon. In 1991, he served as an advisor to the Israeli delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference. From 1985 to 1996 he was a senior research associate at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University, where he was Director of the U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy Project. Gold received his BA ('75), MA ('76), and PhD ('84) from Columbia University.

Dr. Gold has written numerous books and articles on the Middle East, including U.S. Military Strategy in the Middle East (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publications, 1993), Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism (Washington: Regnery, 2003), Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos (NY: Crown Forum, 2004), The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Regnery, 2007) and The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West (Regnery, 2009). His articles have appeared in Asahi Shinbun, Commentary, Daily Telegraph, Die Zeit, Ha'aretz, Jerusalem Post, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Ofra, and their two children, Yael and Ariel.

In a Jerusalem Issue Brief,  Dr. Gold wrote in September 2009, “There is an unwarranted complacency growing in the West about Iran. Some believe that if the world survived the advent of Pakistani and North Korean nuclear weapons and the sky did not fall, then an Iranian bomb will be no more threatening. The cases are, of course, very different: Pakistan's bid for nuclear power was based largely on its preoccupation with India, while North Korea has been focused on regime survival and its interests on the Korean Peninsula (not with conquering Japan). In contrast, Iran is a true revolutionary power whose aspirations extend into Iraq, to Bahrain, and the other oil-producing states. It is involved in both the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies, supplying weapons and training, while its support for terrorism reaches into Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. Now Iran is heavily involved in South America and East Africa, with growing security and economic ties. With Iran threatening the flow of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz as well, through which roughly 40 percent of the world's oil flows, the nuclearization of Iran has global - and not just Middle Eastern - implications.”       

Dr. Gold will be the fifth speaker in The Florence and Sol Kanee Distinguished Lecture series, conceived by Abe Anhang and the late Harold Buchwald as a means of provide top quality speakers visiting our community and a way for the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada to honour Florence and Sol Kanee for their many contributions to our community. Previous Kanee Distinguished lecturers were Sir Martin Gilbert, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Professor Shlomo Avineri and Rabbi Chaim Rozwaski. This will be his first appearance in Winnipeg.   

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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