Ronen Bergman on Iran-Israel Relations

Question: When will Iran have a nuclear weapon?

Ronen Bergman: If you ask Israeli intelligence, who are naturally alarmists, they would tell you end of 2009, beginning of 2010. If you ask CIA, they would say 2011 to 2015. German intelligence state 2013.

So, the difference is not just because of different interpretations of intelligence but because of the lack of intelligence. The Iranians are masters of disinformation and field security. 

So, it’s not very clear what is the situation, but it’s very clear that they are making great advancement. They are boasting with it publicly. And they are far, 3 to 5 years, from assembling the first nuclear device and another 2 years from the ability to adjust this device to the size of a warhead.

Question: Does the threat of mutually assured destruction not apply? 

Ronen Bergman: I always tell my friends who are not Jewish and not Israelis that if they want to ever understand Israeli character, Israeli nature, if they want to estimate or forecast Israel's next move, they wouldn’t be able to do so if not getting a deeper understanding of the profound meaning of the Holocaust as a major phenomena in the collective identity of all Israelis, not just as a historical memory but as a living trauma.

I’m a second Holocaust to the generation. Both my parents are survivors. So, for someone like me, you would expect to have repercussion of this memory.

But even people in Israel who are fifth generation or don’t have any sort of connection, a family connection, to Holocaust victims, they bear this with them day after day.

There’s no day that I walk the streets of Tel Aviv and people who deem me as someone who possibly understands something about Iran, asking me not “if” but only “when,” when will President Ahmadinejad drop the bomb? They are completely, positively sure that he would do it once he has the chance.

I can understand this but, at the same time, I would estimate that the Iranians are not going to use any atomic weapon on Israel. They prove to be pragmatic and rational when it came to the main interest that they are defending, and this is the existence of the regime. They know that by using nuclear weaponry on Israel it means necessarily mutual destruction. They know that Israel can launch a counterstrike. They don’t want to be nuked.

Every pistachio being exported from Iran, the number two in the regime, Hashemi Rafsanjani, gets the commission. He is rich. He likes life. He doesn’t want to be nuked.

These people might be supportive of suicide terrorism, but they are not suicidal themselves. I say it is highly unlikely for them to use any sort of nuclear strike.

Now, the question arises, of course, why would they need a nuclear weapon? And the answer is they want to have the nuclear umbrella over their heads in order to defend themselves, to have an insurance policy, to be able to execute whatever foreign policy they deem right, of export of terrorism, subversion, to help insurgencies in Iraq or in Afghanistan, to have Hamas, to have Hezbollah. Meaning, to export their revolution to other places while not being afraid that the Americans would do to them what they did to Saddam Hussein. This is their insurance policy.

Now, you would say, probably, “So, you must be very relaxed if you believe that the Iranians are not going to use the bomb.” And I would say, no.

If I would be the Israeli Prime Minister, I would do whatever I can to prevent them. Why? A) Because I don’t want to live in a Middle East that is dependent on mutual nuclear deterrence. B) Because I don’t want to be hysterical to someone less pragmatic and less rational than the supreme leader [Ali Khamenei] takes over. C) I don’t want to be hysterical of the possibility of proliferation of a warhead to a terrorist organization.

And the most important is that Arab countries that not happily and not gladly accepting the fact that Israel holds a nuclear arsenal would never ever accept a Shiite country with this kind of weapon and immediately start a new nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, possibly Algeria, would immediately try to have their own bomb. This would put the Middle East into a decade of ongoing war and distant peace to an unknown date.

Question: In a military confrontation with Iran, would Israel be the aggressor?

Ronen Bergman: Well, it depends on how you define aggressors. If we’re talking about only on a direct strike, yes. I would assume, I would assess that Israel will be the first to strike.

But war can be launched in many other ways. To have Hezbollah as an Iranian division on Israel's northern body, attacking Israel for the last 24 years, this is another sort of war. Having Iranian trainers, revolutionary guards in the Gaza Strip, training Hamas to execute better suicide bombing, this is another source of launching war. And helping Iraqi insurgencies, making sure that they send as many American troops home in body bags, is a sort of declaring war against the US.

So, I think that this is an ongoing war without getting into a question on who started it. But this is an ongoing war, and the Israeli likely attack on the nuclear facilities of Iran, it’s just one step more in that ongoing war.

Recorded: Sep 19, 2008


Ronen Bergman on the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.