Tests of a missile-defense system meant to shieldIsrael from Iranian attack were aborted over the past week on three occasions because of various malfunctions, Israeli defense officials said Thursday.
In the latest case, an upgraded version of the Arrow II – a system being developed by state-run Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. and Chicago-based Boeing Co. – was tested off the coast of California on Wednesday, they said.
But communication glitches between the missile and the radar led U.S. defense officials to abort the test before an intercepting missile could be fired, they said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of the tests, which were carried out in the U.S. because that would allow for greater distances than would be possible in Israel, Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said.
The Arrow is part of a multilayered missile defense system Israel is working on to protect it from all forms of attack, ranging from short-range rocket fire from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip to longer-range threats from Iran.
Dror said tests of the same Arrow system in Israel earlier this year were “very successful.” He said malfunctions of systems still in their experimental stage were to be expected and said other tests were called off on Friday and Monday.
The defense officials said the improved Arrow II was meant to intercept a dummy Iranian Shihab missile, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. But U.S. officials blocked the launch of an intercepting missile because of the communications glitch, the Israelis said.
Iran’s Shihab-3 has a range of up to 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers), putting Israel well within striking distance.
Isaac Ben-Israel, a retired general and weapons expert, said the interceptor wasn’t fired because it is too expensive to use in a test that isn’t expected to go according to plan. He said such glitches are common when developing new systems and he did not consider it a significant setback.
“I expect that within a short period of time, after they determine exactly what happened, they will repeat this experiment and then we will know if it works or not,” Ben-Israel said.
Israel sees Iran as its biggest threat, because of its nuclear program and development of medium-rangeballistic missiles. Those fears have been compounded by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s persistent anti-Israeli rhetoric.
Israel, like many in the international community, rejects Iran’s claims that its nuclear program is only to produce energy.
An operational version of Arrow II is partially deployed, and the U.S. and Israel are in the preliminary stages of developing an upgraded Arrow III.
The homegrown “Iron Dome” system is designed to bring down short-range rockets of the kind Palestinian and Lebanese militants use. Last week, Israeli officials reported a successful live test of the system.
The Arrow project was spurred largely by the failure of the U.S. military‘s Patriot missiles to intercept Iraqi Scud rockets that struck Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.
Secretary of state warns Iran that the United States would extend a “defense umbrella” over its allies in the Persian Gulf if the Islamic Republic obtains a nuclear weapons capability.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran Wednesday that the United States would extend a “defense umbrella” over its allies in the Persian Gulf if the Islamic Republic obtains a nuclear weapons capability.
Appearing on a Thai TV program, Clinton said the U.S. would also take steps to “upgrade the defense” of America’s Gulf allies in such an event, a reference to stepped-up military aid to those countries.
Clinton’s reference to a U.S. “defense umbrella” over the Persian Gulf represented a potentially significant evolution in America’s global defense posture. Washington already explicitly maintains a “nuclear umbrella” over Asian allies like Japan and South Korea, but seldom, if ever, has any senior U.S. official publicly discussed the concept in relation to the Gulf.
The secretary’s remarks also suggested the course the Obama administration might pursue if, as many analysts predict, an unchecked Iran succeeds in obtaining a nuclear weapons capability before President Obama’s term expires — in effect, how the United States might live with a nuclear-armed Iran. Clinton’s comments evoked a vision of the U.S. countering such a threat by bolstering regional defenses and reminding Iran of the dangers of mutually assured destruction — but not by seeking regime change in Iran or by taking military action to destroy the country’s nuclear apparatus.
“We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment that if the United States extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it’s unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer because they won’t be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon,” Clinton said.
A senior aide to Clinton, speaking to reporters on background while the secretary’s traveling party flew from Bangkok to Phuket, said Clinton’s comments did not reflect her acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran nor a literal accounting of what the U.S. would do if Tehran did acquire nuclear weapons.
Rather, the aide said, the secretary was only articulating what arguments the Obama administration makes to influence Iran’s calculus. The aide also said Clinton’s use of the term “defense umbrella” was not synonymous with the term “nuclear umbrella,” even though the context of her comments centered on Iran’s potential acquisition of nuclear weapons.
In Jerusalem, though, Dan Meridor, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, told Army Radio: “I was not thrilled to hear the American statement from yesterday that they will protect their allies with a nuclear umbrella, as if they have already come to terms with a nuclear Iran. I think that’s a mistake.”
Asked about the Obama administration’s attempts to engage Iran, Clinton said she “had hoped we would get a positive response … but then their elections happened.” Clinton told her Thai TV interviewers there was “no doubt” that “irregularities” occurred in Iran’s disputed presidential election and that the regime then “brutally repressed” those citizens that protested the announced outcome.
Because of these events, the secretary said, the Iranian regime has been “preoccupied” and thus not responded to American overtures. “The nuclear clock is ticking,” she said, noting that Tehran has continued to pursue its nuclear programs and adding that the U.S. and its allies in the nuclear diplomacy surrounding Iran “will not keep the window open forever.” She repeated previous pledges to work to impose “crippling” sanctions if Iran does not halt its enrichment of uranium.
The leader of an Arab Christian evangelical group filed suit against the city of Dearborn, Mich., claiming the city violated his First Amendment right to distribute literature on public property.
The incident occurred last month at the city’s annual Arab International Festival, an event that attracted 300,000 visitors and has provided a favorite evangelizing venue for the group, Arabic Christian Perspective, whose members have attended for the past five years.
George Saieg, Arabic Christian Perspective’s founder, says trouble started when he called the Dearborn police to let them know his group would be returning to the festival.
City police told Saieg that, unlike in previous years, his group would not be allowed to distribute material on the sidewalks, and that Arabic Christian Perspective could either rent a stand at the festival or be assigned a specific location at which it could distribute its literature.
“I told him, we are between 70 to 90 people. We cannot be in one corner of the festival,” Saieg told FOXNews.com. “But he did not give me any choice but that.”
With the help of the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian legal group, Saieg sought a temporary injunction to stop the city from preventing his group from distributing materials on the sidewalk. But the petition was denied, and the group was permitted to distribute literature only at one location within the festival.
Saieg alleges in his complaint that the spot was a particularly bad one, and that his group was able to distribute only 5,000 packets of literature and Bibles — a fraction of the $50,000 worth of materials that they had prepared. In past years, he said, when they were allowed to distribute on the sidewalks, they were able to give out most of their literature.
Now Saieg is suing to get the city’s action declared unconstitutional and to make sure that it has access to the sidewalks at next year’s festival.
But city officials say they acted correctly.
“One federal judge has already agreed with us and denied a temporary injunction,” Mary Laundroche, Director of the Dearborn Office of Public Information, told FOXNews.com. “The judge agreed with us that what normally would have been public sidewalks were actually part of the festival life during the festival.”
She added that members of Arabic Christian Perspective were free to preach on the sidewalks, just not to distribute materials.
“They were free to go throughout the crowd and talk with people at any time. They were just prevented from distributing materials, which was a public safety issue — they could block vehicle and pedestrian traffic.”
She said the city allowed all groups to rent tables at the fair, and several local Christian groups did so.
“They [Arabic Christian Perspective] could have followed the guidelines and rented a booth,” Laundroche said. “Another Christian group had come to volunteer at the festival, and they were very well received. The organizers said how much they appreciated their services.”
Organizers also said there have been complaints about Arab Christian Perspective in the past.
“They are very aggressive. A lot of our participants felt that they were trying to convert the younger generation, and they did not appreciate that,” Fey Beydoun, the executive director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event, told FOXNews.com.
She said that restricting Arabic Christian Perspective members from the sidewalks was not a matter of discrimination.
“There were no groups at all that were allowed to pass out materials on the sidewalk. We had approximately eight other Christian groups that were allowed to pass out materials at their tables,” she said.
Saieg said he has photos in his legal complaint that show other groups handing out literature on the sidewalks. Beydoun said if that is true, “it could have been an oversight on our part.”
She added that some local Christian leaders have taken issue with Saieg’s brand of evangelizing.
“They littered this place with their literature,” the Rev. Haytham Abi Haydar, who heads the Arabic Christian Alliance Church, told FOXNews.com.
“Just look at the conclusion of these guys — that Muslims are trying to create Shariah Law in the U.S., [which creates] fear with Christians. But Muslims are not here to radicalize or evangelize the U.S. … [Saieg's] philosophy and his ideas are not welcome here.
“It is unfortunate that we have another Christian person who is not welcome here, but the Christian community here — believe it or not — has told George Saieg that he is not welcome.”
Whether Saieg is welcome or not, two First Amendment experts said sidewalks are usually considered “traditional public fora” in which distributing materials is considered protected speech, and the city’s defense of its action does not appear constitutionally strong.
“It is a bedrock First Amendment principle that public sidewalks must generally be open for the exchange of information and ideas,” said Tim Zick, a law professor at the College of William and Mary and author of “Speech Out of Doors: Preserving First Amendment Liberties in Public Places.”
“Distributing literature is, without question, a form of protected speech,” Zick said. “Indeed, some of the earliest free-speech cases upheld the right to distribute literature on the public streets and sidewalks, to audiences that were not always pleased with the messages.”
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh said allowing religious groups to rent stalls did not preclude them from distributing literature on the sidewalks.
“The existence of an option to rent a stall doesn’t let the city take away a group’s right to leaflet,” he said. “Leafleting can reach a broader audience than the stall can, since leafleters can walk around.
“Leafleting is also free. City of Ladue v. Gilleo, a 1994 Supreme Court precedent, makes clear that such cheap means of speech generally can’t be restricted on the grounds that the speaker can still use other, materially more expensive (and less effective) forms of speech,” Volokh said.
Aaron Caplan, a law professor at the Loyola Law School Los Angeles, said the case is ultimately likely to turn on many factual questions.
“I think it turns on whether access is controlled — are there gates, tickets, booths, do we expect certain patterns of traffic? I think the central question on both of these theories is going to be, is this really a non-exclusive license that [organizers] get at festivals, or is it a non-exclusive license that [organizers] often get for street fairs?” Caplan asked.
Saieg alleges in his complaint that the sidewalks were not fenced off, and that Dearborn never specified in their permit that the sidewalks were to be part of the festival.
“If you go to the city’s actual ordinance about public fora, it provides for open access, and would have allowed Arabic Christian Perspective to conduct its activities there,” Saieg’s attorney, William Becker, said. “But the restrictions adopted by the city are unconstitutional on their face, and as applied.”
The city will file its response to Saieg’s complaint next month.
“Often times, these cases become very fact specific,” Caplan said. “I think the judge is going to have a lot of factual questions before the case really begins.”
Iran is capable of assembling an atomic bomb within six months, German intelligence analysts told the German weekly newsmagazine Stern.
“If they want to, they will be able to set off a uranium bomb within six months,” an analyst with Germany’s intelligence service, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), told the magazine.
German intelligence officials told Stern believe Iran has “mastered” every stage of uranium enrichment and that they have activated enough centrifuges to produce sufficient quantities of weapons-grade uranium for at least one atomic bomb.
“Nobody would have thought this possible some years ago,” an intelligence official told Stern.
The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran for defying its demands to suspend uranium enrichment.
Some analysts say Iran may be close to having the required material for producing a bomb, but most say the weaponization process would then take one to two years due to technical and political hurdles.
“Weaponizing” enrichment would not escape the notice of UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), unless it was done at a secret location.
Until now there have been no indications of any such covert diversion, a point made by the IAEA’s incoming director-general shortly after his election earlier this month.
Current IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said it is his “gut feeling” that Iran is seeking at least the capability to build nuclear weapons, in order to protect itself from perceived regional and U.S. threats.
Libyan leader: Peaceful nuclear program should be encouraged
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says Iran should be encouraged to pursue its nuclear program as long as it is for peaceful purposes.
Israel and the US will hold a joint test of the Arrow missile over the Pacific Ocean in what will be the first trial of the system with a target with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers, further than the test sites over the Mediterranean could allow.
According to a US defense official quoted by Reuters, the test, which will take place sometime in the coming days off of the coast of central California, will be the third trial of the Arrow conducted by Israel in the United States. He said the Federal Aviation Administration had warned aircraft to stay clear of the area.
Israel is “limited to the range of the missile they can test in the eastern Mediterranean. There’s a safety issue,” US Army Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly, the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “That’s the primary purpose of them coming to the United States to use our test range.”
O’Rielly added that the test would also afford “the opportunity to have the Patriot system, the THAAD system and the Aegis system all interacting with the Arrow system so that we’re demonstrating full interoperability as we execute this test.”
The unnamed US official also said that although the test would be carried out under American auspices and would make use of the “sensor assets” of US missile systems, it was still mainly Israel’s test.
In April, the Israel Air Force conducted its 17th test of the newly upgraded Arrow 2 missile. Officials said it was capable of intercepting an Iranian nuclear missile.
April’s test was the first time a modified version of the Arrow 2 was launched and operated in conjunction with a new and more advanced model of the Green Pine radar system.
The high-powered American X-Band radar, deployed in the Negev Desert in late 2008 as a farewell gift from then-US president George W. Bush, also participated in the test and tracked the incoming target.
The test was conducted jointly by the IAF and the US Missile Defense Agency. Israel Aerospace Industries is developing the Arrow in cooperation with Boeing.
In May, The Jerusalem Post reported that the US will provide the full funding for the development and production of the next-generation Arrow 3 anti-missile system.
The Arrow 3 will be a longer-range version of the Arrow defense system currently in IDF operation. It will be capable of intercepting incoming enemy missiles at higher altitudes and farther away from Israel.
Prince Saud al-Faisal says non-Arab countries should not interfere in area
CAIRO – Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat urged Arabs on Tuesday to stand up to Iran’s ambitions in the region, including its nuclear program.
Prince Saud al-Faisal told a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo that non-Arab countries should not interfere in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories – all places where the predominantly Persian Iran has been accused of supporting militants.
Arabs fear that the Obama administration’s expected efforts to engage Tehran might lead to a deal that would bring U.S. and Iran closer at the expense of Arab interests.
Saud stressed that resolution of disputes among Arabs depended on “a unified and a joint vision” in dealing with the “Iranian challenge in regard to the Arabian Gulf security and the nuclear issue.”
The Arabian Gulf is also known as the Persian Gulf.
Growing influence of Shiite Iran
The predominantly Sunni Arab Middle East has been wary of the growing influence of Shiite Iran, and Saud’s comments were a clear call for Arab unity.
His remarks came a day after he and his Arab counterparts expressed their concerns about Iran to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The ministers and Clinton met on the sidelines of an international conference in Egypt that raised $5.2 billion in pledges to rebuild the devastated Gaza Strip after Israel’s recent offensive.
Last week, Clinton announced the appointment of veteran diplomat Dennis Ross as her special adviser on matters related to the Gulf, including overtures to the Iranians.
Clinton assured the Arab ministers that Washington is carefully considering its moves and will consult fully with Gulf allies on Iran issues.
Arab League chief Amr Moussa said after the ministers’ meeting in Cairo that Arabs must be kept informed about Iran.
“I demand that no foreign (power) talks to Iran without Arabs being aware of it and having a role in the process,” Moussa said.
Wants Iran on the agenda
Bahrain had asked the ministers to put Iran on the agenda of the Arab League meeting, amid growing concerns in the tiny Gulf kingdom that Iran still holds longtime claims to the island. Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni elite, but its Shiite majority has close ties to Iran.
Also Tuesday in Cairo, Saud and his Egyptian counterpart met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in efforts to bridge the rift between the two U.S.-allied Arab powerhouses and the Iran-backed Syria.