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Monday, December 07, 2009

Harvard simulation: Iran wins, US loses, Israel?

On Sunday night, I briefly blogged a Harvard simulation that showed that the United States would fail to prevent a nuclear Iran. The Washington Post's David Ignatius was there and has more details.
The gamers framed their strategies realistically: Obama's America wants to avoid war, which means restraining Israel; Iran wants to continue its nuclear program, even as it dickers over a deal to enrich uranium outside its borders, such as the one floated in Geneva in October; Israel doesn't trust America to stop Iran and is looking for help from the Gulf Arab countries and Europe.

The Obama team was confounded by congressional demands for unilateral U.S. sanctions against companies involved in Iran's energy sector. This shot at Iran ended up backfiring, since some of the key companies were from Russia and China -- the very nations whose support the United States needs for strong U.N. sanctions. The Russians and Chinese were so offended that they began negotiating with Tehran behind America's back.

"We started out thinking we were playing a weak hand, but by the end, everyone was negotiating for us," said the leader of the Iranian team, Columbia University professor Gary Sick. By the December 2010 hypothetical endpoint, Iran had doubled its supply of low-enriched uranium and was pushing ahead with weaponization.

The trickiest problem for our imaginary Obama was his relationship with the fictive Netanyahu. As [US Middle East diplomat Nicolas] Burns and [former US ambassador to the United Nations Dore] Gold played these roles, they had two sharp exchanges in which America asked for assurances that Israel wouldn't attack Iran without U.S. permission. The Israeli prime minister, as played by Gold, refused to make that pledge, insisting that Israel alone must decide how to protect its security. Whereupon Burns's president warned that if Israel did strike, contrary to U.S. interests, Washington might publicly denounce the attack -- producing an open break as in the 1956 Suez crisis.

The two key players agreed later that the simulation highlighted real tensions that the two countries need to understand better. "The most difficult problem we have is how to restrain Israel," said Burns. "My own view is that we need to play for a long-term solution, avoid a third war in the Greater Middle East and wear down the Iranians over time."

Gold said the game clarified for him a worrying difference of opinion between U.S. and Israeli leaders: "The U.S. is moving away from preventing a nuclear Iran to containing a nuclear Iran -- with deterrence based on the Cold War experience. That became clear in the simulation. Israel, in contrast, still believes a nuclear Iran must be prevented."
Read the whole thing.

It's actually worse than Dore Gold describes it. Note that at the beginning of the excerpt, Ignatius describes the US goal as "avoid war." That means that the US is focused on restraining Israel and not at stopping Iran, because Israel is regarded as the party most likely to initiate war as it sees that no one else is stopping Iran. That's even worse than a "contain Iran" strategy, because it implies that the United States will not initiate military action against Iran under any circumstances, i.e. that the United States has no credible military threat against Iran. Without a credible military threat against Iran, Iran cannot be stopped.

The "avoid war" strategy concerns me a lot more than a break with the United States as happened in 1956 over Suez - that break is almost inevitable with Obama in power in Washington at a time when Israel is likely to feel that it must go to war. Honduras has shown that it's possible to survive a break in relations with the United States and still prosper and be a democracy. There is no way Israel will turn its right to defend itself over to the United States, especially with a pacifist like Obama in power.

What could go wrong?


At 12:45 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

I don't think Israel will leave that decision in Obama's hands. If it comes down to a choice between national survival and a rupture in US-Israel relations, Israel will definitely come down on the former side. While Israel would like American acquiescence to an attack on Iran, in the final analysis this is not really necessary. In short, while the US may be able to live with a nuclear Iran, Israel won't.

At 7:12 AM, Blogger Arizona Patriot said...

Please please please warn Israel.
I have fought Obama since the day he announced his running. A media reporter & the Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin warned us during the election who he was.
I spent hundreds of hours researching since then. Obama IS a muslim terorrist.
Saudi Arabia is in control of America today. In our whitehouse.
Obama has all but completely destroyed us here in America with more to come & he has plans on killing millions of us.
Israel is NOT safe as long as Obama is in our Whitehouse. He wants to destroy Israel as much as he wants to destroy America.
Our country is in total control of IslamoCommunists. Without a revolution, we are all doomed.
My blog as alot of facts about who Obama is, what his plans are, who is behind him, etc.
Pray for us please as I keep Israel in our prayers too.
Thank you.
Stephen Lumpkin
Arizona AMERICA not the U.S. Corporation.


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