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DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

Can the U.S. dissuade Iran from building a nuclear weapon without having to resort to the use of military force?

American presidents have a mixed record of success in the post-World War II world of influencing the decision making of our adversaries and avoiding war. Where they have succeeded—the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is the prime example—it was because they were prepared to use the full force of American power; and the adversary had no doubt that they would do so.

When it comes to Iran, Israel’s threat to use unilateral force complicates U.S. decision making, but it should not prevent Washington from taking the lead and doing what is necessary.  (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)

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17 Responses

  1. Anti-Zionism is the central issue in the Islamic world.

    According to MEMRI Special Dispatch Series No. 325, “Former President Ali Akhbar Rafsanjani, in the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) sermon given on December 14, 2001, said that if one day the world of Islam comes to possess nuclear weapons, Israel could be destroyed. Rafsanjani said that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would leave nothing standing, but that retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely do damage to the world of Islam.”

    Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah was quoted in the Lebanese Daily Star in 2002 as encouraging Jews to move to Israel. “If they gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide”. The issue for Nasrallah is not the continuing existence of Israel but rather the troubling presence of Jews in the world.

    Those who are interested in committing genocide are not concerned about saving their own lives. Khruschev wanted to live; he wanted the people of the USSR to live. Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad wnt to kill Jews. Like Hitler, they are willing to pay with their own lives and the lives of their people to do what they think is virtuous.

  2. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense Industry Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
    Remembering the bay of pigs as a deterrent but will it work today so far from our shores ?

    Posted by Paul Daly

  3. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense Executive Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    This President does not have clue to what is going on.We have a disaster in North Africa.We have a disaster in Arab lands from Lebanon to Iran.Our policy in Iraq & Afghanistan is in shambles.The country is bankrupt but he goes on Vacations to Europe and dinner date to NY city with his wife.

    He has no idea about Diplomacy or war time strategy.
    God help us.

    Posted by Allen Bahn

  4. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: The Political Coffeehouse

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    Ed, after reading the Topic just posted by Sue and the other Ed, ED, it seems that nothing will stand in Iran’s way of developing nukes.

    Iran has just announced its call to all ME nations to begin “killing all of the Jews”, and to annihilate Israel.

    This rogue country is itching to go to war. Sanctions clearly won’t work. Barack Obama may wish to talk Iran to death , but clearly the time for talking ended several years ago, and Barack Obama lacks the Inner Courage to do anything except move his mouth.

    Posted by Spencer A. Lehmann, RHU

  5. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Tea Party Connect – From A Business View

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    The folks controlling Iran (Islamic Arabs) state that they will sacrifice (martyr) the country in order to bring about the second coming of their god. They feel that by spreading the blood of Jews through out the middle east will help bring about their dream of the second coming of their god.
    They are determined to nuke Israel. So war there is unstoppable. Our best option is to hit them first, there by mitigating what will be out right slaughter otherwise!

    Posted by Jeff Witt

  6. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: The Intelligence Forum

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    I doubt that the Iranians will use their nascent nuclear facilities for direct attacks. Most likely, Iran will offer its military research in trade for other crucial programs, such as internet malware. Remember what Stuxnet did to the Iranian milling equipment? This is the next step.

    Posted by Charles Horner

  7. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: The Heritage Foundation

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    The Cuban Missile Crisis might have brought us to the brink of nuclear war with the USSR, and the Soviets did pull their missile arsenal out of Cuba. That was only a few months less than 50 years ago. The Castro regime is still in place, perhaps because the US agreed to a “hands off Cuba” policy in exchange for USSR weapons withdrawal. There were retreats on both sides; the US ignored the downing of a U2 over Cuba. A post-crisis air attack on a US ship in the Gulf was also dismissed as unrelated. US radio news broadcasts insisted that the aircraft attacking the ship were not Cuban; I then asked myself, “then to what other nation could they possibly belong?” At the height of the crisis, USAF strategic bombers were deployed to remote corners of many American civilian airports. Some of those deployments might have only been for propaganda purposes, but the American people might never know whether they would have been used against Cuba or the USSR itself.

    Now, there is a new threat from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and his possible collaboration with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.The point to be made is simply that Iran may look at the Cuban Missile Crisis as an example of what might be gained from the US in a game of “chicken.”

    Posted by Ronald Bouwman

  8. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense Executive Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    Ed,

    Thanks for your thoughtful question, which I took to be less political and more solution probing, kind of like, what holistic set of thinking can we bring to bear on a truly difficult challenge?

    To your point about learning from the past:

    I recently had the opportunity to attend a Missile Crisis debrief 50 years after president Kennedy suggested that it be analyzed so as to harvest the value of the lessons that could be learned from it. The title of the forum was: Penetrating the Iron Curtain: Resolving the Missile Gap with Technology. It was an interesting forum that was pulled together from Unclassified and recently declassified documents. I have it all on CD that was provided at the time. This does you no good. The number of documents is massive. Fortunately the Central Intelligence Agency’s information management services have hosted all this data as a part of their Historical Review Program at: http://www.foia.cia.gov/MissileGap.asp

    If you haven’t spent some time looking at some of their other historical collections you might want to check out their archive. After review of the repository that is organized chronologically within a collection, if you have a question, you can e-mail: HistoricalCollection@UCIA.gov

    There is some interesting Mindset orienting information in the book Berlin 1961…, looking at all this information can help us to learn the deeper lessons rather than glossing over some key aspect that we might miss if we allow ourselves to fall prey to something called hindsight bias.

    brought out by the authors of Counterstrike is the notion of National Resilience where the nation as a whole understands that acts against the country are not the fault of this political party or that political party but rather of our adversary, and the country has done the right things to prepare for

    Another very interesting point, the importance of building a national resilience was underscored by the authors of the book “Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda” by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker. In Volume 18, Number 3, of the Intelligencer there is a brief article “Making Intelligence Relevant in Light of the Shift Towards “Resiliance”” by Brian Nussbaum. Brian’s article in the intelligencer points to 4 key elements: 1) A shift from “threats” to hazards; 2) from Threat assessment to Risk Assessment; 3) In addition to supporting prevention and protection, enhancing response and recovery; 4) increased information sharing with the public on key elements.

    There is a decent piece on resilience thinking at: http://www.hsaj.org/?fullarticle=6.1.2

    Does a national resilience dissuade the adversary? One needs to look closely at their motivations to understand if lessening of infighting from increased resilience would have that effect.

    To your point about dissuading Iran or more generally any state or even more generally any state or organization from developing or procuring a WMD such as a Nuclear Capability?

    There was quite a bit done between 2001 and now on developing the notion of deterrence, not completely like MAD but with greater fidelity looking to understand the culture and motivations of those who would strive to develop and possibly use such WMD. There are now many resources out there here are a couple these are not authoritative but they are a reasonable place to start.

    http://www.homelandsecurity.org/journal/articles/davis.html

    http://www.twq.com/05summer/docs/05summer_whiteneck.pdf

    I am not sure that I have directly answered your question, to summarize, my thinking however, I think that there is a holistic set of things that can be done that would have a hope for containing proliferation if not stopping capability development.

    Thanks again for the question. I’d be interested in others informed thinking on this either furthering my thinking here, exploring other areas or rational notions to the contrary.

    Posted by Garrett Thurston

  9. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Republican Professionals

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    It all depends on the U.S. leadership. This is a very critical issue in the upcoming election, and I’m glad you brought it up, Ed.

    Does Obama’s have the knowledge, leadership and diplomacy skills to negotiate nuclear arms control with Iran? Unless we are being hit with propaganda, Iran’s objective is to destroy Israel, not to simply protect itself from Israel. As an observer, I see Obama as one who has turned power of foreign policy over to his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, while he assures we have gays in the military. Is that what Iran sees too? It really doesn’t matter though. I feel it’s a foregone conclusion that Obama is a 1-term President.

    That brings us back to the Republican candidates. Based on the outcome of the Nevada caucus, barring a long shot and a miracle it looks like we’re down to two Republican hopefuls, Gingrich and Romney. The Iran issue just may be the deciding factor.

    Let’s face the facts. Big money determines who gets elected. Many think this is terrible, but it isn’t as long as big money has an interest in world financial stability. Romney has the support of big money. Gingrich has the support of the T party. Need I say more? So the issue is this – does Romney have the knowledge, leadership and diplomacy skills to successfully negotiate or otherwise coerce Iran into establishing a military policy in harmony with stability?

    Posted by Jim Clements

  10. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense Executive Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    I find it intriguing that when faced with the current crisis in Iran, we turn to the Cuban Missile Crisis to gain insight, yet ignore any mention of the 12th Imam. Why do we westerners eternally believe that the whole world thinks in our terms, share our values, and believe in the same things we do? Things like MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) worked against a western enemy. Why do we automatically believe it will work against ALL enemies?

    I spent some time in Iraq training the NEW Iraqi Army. I lived pretty much 24/7 with a young native Iraqi who was my I-T (Interpreter-Translator). This wonderful young man risked his family’s safety, as well as his own, to help us. Yet he still described the most wonderful part of his life as those hours he spent on his knees praying. He looked forward to Eternal Paradise and viewed this life as a simple foyer, an anteroom to Paradise. And he was on OUR SIDE!

    I would suggest we seek solutions for the current situation by studying our CURRENT adversary, trying to find lessons learned from HIS past, and looking for guidance from a Persian perspective.

    In my humble opinion, looking for lessons learned from the Cuban Missile crisis to solve our current situation is as applicable as seeking trade advantages in the region using wampum.

    Posted by Robert Coleman

  11. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: ICAF Alumni Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    Good morning Ed,

    I don’t think that there is good miltary solution to resolve Iranian problem. Of course, Israel or/and US can bomb nuclear facilities in Iran, but nobody can be sure that single attack will destroy key facilities. At the same time expecting new economy crisis nobody have enough money to conduct long range war in this region.

    I think that decision can be found in economic. Cut oil prices and Iranian will not have resources to continue programs. In this case economy crisis will support US effords. From my point of veiw politicians should study Pressident Reigan’s policy of destroying USSR economically.

    Yours Faithfully
    Giorgi

    Posted by Giorgi Kbiltsetskhlashvili

  12. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Council for Emerging National Security Affairs

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    There are multiple scenarios here: 1- Israel actually does attack Iran’s nuclear site and Iran retaliates. The U.S. would then be drawn into an Iran-Israeli conflict that Israel actually provoked. This scenario is real because of Bush’s policy of “preemptive war”, and it fully justifies Israel’s action. But how does this war end, what are the political consequences for lost U.S. influence in the region (as Arab states balk at U.S. involvement), and will an Israeli strike actually be effective in stopping or preventing nuclear weapon development (it would be a waste if they hit the wrong site, or weren’t deep enough in their strike)?

    Scenario 2 is easier: Sanctions take longer but they eventually erode the Ayatollah’s influence and desire for a nuclear weapon. This may take years longer and may require regime change in the state (another difficult scenario). The wild cards here are China and Russia, who may ignore sanctions (oil anyone?) in order to boost their economies and minimize the sanctions’ effectiveness.

    Posted by Norman Carter

  13. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense Executive Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    Robert, I couldn’t agree with your post more. I am somewhat embarrassed that I did not explore that perspective further.

    I think that your suggestion is one of those things that might take a worthy notion as laid out in Counterstrike…, one of deterrence and make it operational.

    In short a summary from the following link starts to introduce deterrence.

    http://www.lawfareblog.com/2012/01/counterstrike-the-untold-story-of-americas-secret-campaign-against-al-qaeda/

    Schmitt and Shanker begin by noting that the Cold War was defined by strategic thinking. Other than in specific (and often bloody) hotspots around the globe, the Cold War was waged by bureaucrats and their academic adjuncts, armed with formal models and the new science of deterrence. This is an intellectually compelling framing. Counterstrike is thus about the search for contemporary analogues to the Cold War strategic paradigm. And while a decade of counter-terrorism may not yet have yielded a Schelling or a Kennan, the tale that Schmitt and Shanker tell is an encouraging one. Over time, the national security bureaucracy has matured and deepened in its ability not just to carry out “kill-or-capture” missions, but to understand how those operations contribute to the larger objective of deterring Al Qaeda.

    The precise contours of the “new deterrence,” as the authors call it, have yet to be worked out. But Counterstrike supplies highly readable, personality-driven accounts of how officials from the intelligence, military and policy communities have proved wrong the naïve assumption that suicide terrorists are impervious to deterrence. Whether by openly declaring that state sponsors and financial backers of terror will be held accountable for the violent acts they underwrite, by becoming more savvy about undercutting Al Qaeda’s “message” within Muslim communities, or by depriving terrorists of strategic victories by cultivating a more resilient American public, these officials have brought traditional deterrence concepts to bear on contemporary national security dilemmas.

    Posted by Garrett Thurston

  14. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense Executive Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    As I had mentioned in passing in my last post there is a decent amount of information out there on the concept of deterrence and that there was some really good thinking out there around that..

    For Example: Robert Trager and Desseslava Zagorcheva [in “Deterring Terrorism - It can be Done” International Security Journal (Harvard-MIT publication, Vol.30. No. 3, 2006)]

    If I understand your point, “Why do we westerners eternally believe that the whole world thinks in our terms, share our values, and believe in the same things we do?”

    It is that we try to solve problems without stepping outside of our cultural biases. I don’t think that problem is endemic to Westerners but the point is completely valid.

    We should consider understanding problems more totally, understanding in detail well known information about groups of people. Taking specific data to start to be able to make reasonable solution-oriented judgments about the who, what, when, where, and why, using any data collected on a group combined with their social, and cultural facets to help form the proper context for shaping holistic solutions. It is a keen means of trying to see things from their mindset vs. our own. These are what Richards J. Heuer would call cultural biases in contrast to cognitive biases.

    Robert Greene also talks about this in an illustrative historical Afghanistan vignette about William Macnaghten that occurred on December 23, 1841…Basically Macnaghten was unceremoniously torn to shreds. What follows is from: http://books.google.com/books?id=dBldXrykXI8C&lpg=PT291&dq=Afghanistan%20English%20%22William%20Macnaghten%22%20robert%20Greene&pg=PT291%23v=onepage&q&f=false (on Page 166 you can read the section on “The Mirrored Enemy.”)

    “The knowledge that would have averted the catastrophe was at Macnaghten’s fingertips long before he launched the expedition. Englishmen and Indians who had lived in Afghanistan could have told him [William Macnaghten] that the Afghan people were among the proudest and most independent on the planet. To them the image of foreign troops marching into Kabul would constitute and unforgivable humiliation. On top of that, they were not a people yearning for peace, prosperity, and reconciliation. In fact, they saw strife and confrontation as a healthy way of life.

    Macnaghten had the information but refused to see it. Instead he projected onto the Afghans the values of an Englishman, which he mistakenly assumed were universal. Blinded by narcissism, he misread every signal along the way. As a result his strategic moves—leaving the British army occupying Kabul, halving the Ghilzyes’ stipend, trying not to overplay his hand in putting down the rebellions—were exactly the opposite of what was needed. And on that fateful day when he literally lost his head, he made the ultimate miscalculation, imagining that money and an appeal to self-interest would buy loyalty among the very people he had so humiliated.

    Blindness and narcissism like this are not so rare; we find them every day. Our national tendency is to see other people as mere reflections of our own desires and values. Failing to understand the ways they are not like us, we are surprised when they do not respond as we had imagined. We unintentionally offend and alienate people, then blame them, not our inability to understand them, for the damage done.

    Understand: If you let narcissism act as a screen between you and other people you will misread them and your strategies will misfire. You must be aware of this and struggle to see others dispassionately. Every individual is like an alien culture. You must get inside his or her way of thinking, not as an exercise in sensitivity but out of strategic necessity. Only by knowing your enemies can you ever hope to vanquish them.”

    Posted by Garrett Thurston

  15. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense Executive Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    This is an excellent article that sort of captures the classified strategy by Barry Pavel and Matthe Kroenig: We “crafted a briefing to make the case that a combination of efforts – economic, diplomatic, military, political, and psychological … could in fact establish a new strategy and create a new and effective posture of deterrence against terrorist groups.”

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/09/09/unilaterally_assured_destruction

    An unrelated point I want to make that I also neglected to drive home about the lessons from the Missile and Berlin crisisses, is that there were misreads of intent because of just the lack of appreciation of the cultural biases. There is a wonderful passage where Khrushchev is invited to Camp David by Eisenhower and Khrushchev thinking it is some kind of gulag initially is offended and almost calls off the trip. Once Khrushchev’s staff did their research they realized it was actually quite an honor. This is a very simple case but there may have been many missed opportunities because of cultural differences.

    Terrorists are human beings who have incentive structures and things that they value. The thought is that you look at deterrence and the levers that you have before you to help affect it holistically: Economic, Diplomatic, Military, Political, and Psychological. How do you threaten, bluff, punish, and reward, to corner, combat, and minimize the desire to prosecute terrorist acts.

    From: http://jackmalcolm.com/blog/2011/09/even-terrorists-may-be-persuadable/
    If you want to deter someone, you have to understand their values, and careful examination of the terrorists’ methods of operations and their motives led them to list the following:
     Calculus of chances for success of their attacks
     Personal glory
     Personal reputation
     Support among Muslim populations
     Publicity
     Network cohesion and dependability
     Trust in fellow cell members
     Well-being of their family
     Enhancement of the Muslim community
     Material assets
     Growing membership for the movement
     Strategic success

    Here are some ways the new mindset of deterrence can work: If a suicide bomber thinks he’ll only kill himself, he probably won’t do it. If terrorists know that imams will denounce the fact that their operations kill mostly Muslims, they may hold back. If they know that failure can make them look ridiculous (e.g. “Underwear Bomber”), they might become much more cautious. It’s also possible that back-channel messages to AQ leadership have made clear which lines must not be crossed.

    Posted by Garrett Thurston

  16. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense Executive Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    I think Garett’s answer is very good. Given his points, I do not believe many parties are truly non-deterrable. That said, they can be extremely difficult to deter, and the things that might be necessary we almost certainly would not do or we may not know how to do. For example, at this point, a nuclear arsenal of some sort is engrained into the North Korean leadsrship’s DNA. Embargoes of various kinds have been and will be ineffective, because the regime is quite willing to allow its population to starve, and various parties have been willing to sell NK what it needs. An embargo is just a form of blockade, and no blockade has been or can be completely effective.

    The same may obtain with the Iranians. The population is not as passive as the NK populations seems to be, but I can see no large and solid Iranian bloc that is opposed to “nuclear development.” That could change if things get tight enough economically for them, and we are hoping for that outcome. But population bombing also tells us that populations are as apt to pull together under foreign pressure as they are to pull apart. The most likely outcome, I believe, is that Iran will end up a nuclear state. The real security incentives are simply too great, in spite of the fact that it damages their security in some ways. We will have to figure out what a Cold War with Iran means.

    From everything I have seen, there is no military option other than occupying the country or regime change from causes. Air strikes do not seem to buy us much with respect to Iran’s nuclear progress, and they absolutely guarantee an Iranian population solidly behind its leadership. That is why the Israeli public claims of being near to pulling trigger, I believe are propaganda in the end.

    Obviously, I am not privy to whether Iran’s nuclear infrastructure contains vulnerable links that would bring the whole thing down for a meaningful length. But maybe those vulnerable links do exist and the Israelis know about them. But, you have to ask yourself, if you really do have good targets and you intend to hit them, why in the world would you speak publicly of that possibility? So I think the Israeli attack scenario is very unlikely, at least involving kinetic weapons. Cyber on steroids, maybe.

    I’ve had to do research on this general problem of deterrance, and I believe the data support the view that for regimes like NY and Iran, the only way to deter them is to pose an effective threat to the regime’s hold on power. “Effective” is the key word here. It is pretty hard to have high confidence in our ability to reliably take down very hardened regimes like these. And, therefore, it is hard to make that threat as credible as it needs to be to move these guys..

    Kenneth Watman
    Posted by Kenneth Watman

  17. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: ICAF Alumni Network

    Discussion: DISSUADING IRAN FROM BUILDING A NUCLEAR
    WEAPON: THE LESSON OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

    Hi everybody….Is it possible to know why do the US have to dissuade Iran from building a nuclear weapon ? And this if Iran has the capability of having this weapon, where i fear that the informations in the media could be very similar to the weapons of mass destruction of Saddam Hussein, or to his support to Al Kaeida whereas all the analysers of all secret services in the US never found any relation….but at countrary the truth and the whole truth is that al Kaeida was supported by the USA under the name of the moujahidin. Why it did not dissuade Israel? why it did not with Pakistan…with India…And why and till when should we always think in an unbalanced way toward crisisis and problems in this world. Why does it have to always be the interests of the US and not to take in consideration the interests of others as well.We cannot anymore continue thinking in this sole and only box. We have to see others interests and from their point of view not the US one….And definitly not from the sionist one.

    With my warmest regards.

    Michel M Nahas
    Posted by Michel Nahas

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