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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Iran and the military option

Obama and former Bush Defense Secretary Robert Gates left a lot of people in Israel longing for Donald Rumsefeld when he warned us - yet again - not to take military action against Iran.
Use of the military option to force Iran to halt its nuclear program would only yield temporary and ineffective results, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Sanctions would make more sense, he said.

Gates said a military attack on Iran would merely send the country's nuclear program further underground. Instead, the United States and its allies must convince Teheran that its nuclear ambitions would spark an arms race that would leave the Islamic republic less secure.

Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US should work with its allies on tougher international sanctions. Gates also said America should pursue partnerships with Russia on missile defense programs in the region to further isolate Iran and to give it economic and diplomatic reasons to abandon its nuclear interests voluntarily.
Sanctions - as we have seen for the last six years - don't work at all. Partly because there are an awful lot of countries that aren't willing to abide by them, and partly because the sanctions that might be most effective (like cutting off refined petroleum products) aren't even being tried.

As for an attack 'merely' sending Iran's nuclear program 'further underground' - what the hell does that mean?

Personally, I would be happy for anything that slows Iran's nuclear program, even if it 'only' delays it by 3-5 years to allow the West to get its act together and put a stop to it.

Gates was following up on the Obama administration's refusal to even put a timetable on its 'negotiations' with Iran.
Speaking to foreign journalists, White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said, "It's not appropriate at this time to be trying to establish timetables, but rather seeing how the engagement can move forward."

The US was not looking for "talk for the sake of talk," but "there are opportunities there for us to engage with the Iranian government," he said.
I feel like I woke up in the middle of a nightmare. So does our deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon:
Ayalon noted that "for the past four years, it is the continuing Iranian violation, the ongoing process of weaponization, that has prevented the Europeans from beginning a dialogue with Iran."

Similarly, senior defense officials have warned in recent days that Iran would exploit such a dialogue and could not be trusted to stop its nuclear program.
With the need for an Israeli strike against Iran looking clearer day be day, there is only one party that can issue credible threats against Israel making such a strike: The United States.
The upshot is that, barring military action by Israel (or a miracle), Iran will get the bomb, and sooner rather than later. What then? For some time now, many pundits with the ear of the Obama administration have finally recognized that neither carrots nor sticks nor any combination of the two can work. But instead of going on to support military action, they have fallen back on the position that we can “live with” a nuclear Iran.In line with the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), they soothingly tell us, the mullahs can be deterred by the fear of retaliation much as the far more heavily armed Soviets and Chinese were deterred during the cold war. They also say that Ahmadinejad—who in his fanaticism admittedly sounds as though he can hardly wait to use nuclear weapons against Israel—neither runs the regime nor speaks for it.

What they forget to mention, however, is that Ahmadinejad could never have issued his threats without permission from the Ayatollah Khamenei, who does run the regime, and who has himself described Israel as a “cancerous tumor” that must and will be excised. Besides, even Ahmadinejad’s predecessor as president and the current Speaker of the Assembly of Experts, the Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, known far and wide as a “moderate,” has declared that his country would not be deterred by the fear of retaliation:
If the day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession . . . application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.
If this is the position of even a reputed Iranian moderate, how could Israel depend upon MAD to keep the mullahs from launching a first strike? Much anxiety has been voiced over the nuclear arms race that would be triggered throughout the region if Iran were to get the bomb, but in all truth we would be lucky if there were enough time for such a race to develop.For consider: if the Iranians were to get the bomb, the Israelis would be presented with an almost irresistible incentive to beat them to the punch with a preemptive strike—and so, understanding this, would Tehran. Either way, a nuclear exchange would become, if not inevitable, terrifyingly likely, and God alone knows how far the destruction would then spread.

Measured against this horrendous possibility, even the worst imaginable consequences of taking military action before the mullahs get the bomb would amount to chump change. But to say it again, with American military action ruled out, the only hope is that such action—which could at the very least head off the otherwise virtually certain prospect of a nuclear war—will be taken by Israel.

Forget about the Palestinian and Syrian “tracks”: if there is a threat to Israel coming from Obama, it is that, having eschewed the use of force by the United States, he will follow through on his Vice President’s declaration that the Israelis would be “ill-advised” to attack the Iranian nuclear sites and will prevent them from doing the job themselves.
Maybe the Obama administration will live with a nuclear Iran. Israel won't.


At 5:53 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The US can warn Israel but it cannot prevent Israel from defending itself. Israel can and will stop Iran regardless of whether the world approves of it or not. Secretary Gates' comments are irrelevant to an Israeli decision to act.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


You are correct only so long as the US doesn't decide to shoot down Israeli jets overflying Iraq. Read the second article I linked.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - Israel has other strike options than through Iraq. The media has speculated on the most obvious. That's what Israeli military strategists want Iran and the US to do and it looks like its working!



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