* Israeli insiders: Netanyahu and Barak believe Obama would have no choice but to give backing for an Israeli attack before November’s U.S. presidential elections, but if Obama is re-elected he would greatly increase the pressure on Israel not to attack.
* It remains unclear whether Israel has the military capability to take on Iran’s nuclear threat alone. Nevertheless most Israelis say they would rather try to stop it, than to live under the impossible shadow of a nuclear Iran.
* The far left in Israel is speaking out against any military action by Israel. A petition signed by over 400 Israeli academics has called on pilots to refuse to obey orders to bomb Iran.
* Tom Gross: In recent days, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and prominent Iranian general Hajizadeh, all said that Israel must be destroyed. In spite of such incitement, many “experts” continue to deny that Iran constitutes a threat to Israel, just as experts in the past mistakenly dismissed the genocidal threats of other dictatorial madmen.
* Lee Smith: A Republican president is no more likely than a Democrat to stage a pre-emptive attack on Iran, and American support for an Israeli attack is the very best that Israeli leaders can hope to expect from the White House, regardless of which party inhabits it.
* Romney’s internal conversation with himself will look something like a combination of his two predecessors’: He doesn’t want to further burden the economy by destabilizing the Middle East and sending oil prices skyrocketing, and he doesn’t want to be tagged as a war-mongering Republican who bombed Iran only a few months after moving into his new digs. Like every other man who takes the job, Romney wants a second term.
* David Wurmser, who served in the Bush White House: Israel is mistaken if it thinks the U.S. will take an attack against Iran upon itself.
* Charles Krauthammer: Everyone wants to avoid military action, surely the Israelis above all. They can expect a massive counterattack from Iran, 50,000 rockets launched from Lebanon, Islamic Jihad firing from Gaza, and worldwide terror against Jewish and Israeli targets, as happened last month in Bulgaria.
* Yet Israel will not sit idly by in the face of the most virulent genocidal threats since Nazi Germany. The result then was 6 million murdered Jews. There are 6 million living in Israel today. Time is short. Last-ditch negotiations in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow have failed abjectly. All options are bad. Doing nothing is worse.
This is the latest in a series of dispatches about Iran, including items about its ever-growing nuclear threat.
(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)
* There is another shorter dispatch about Iran today, here:
If war with Iran comes, will the U.S. open its secret military depots in Israel?
1. Fayyad furious as Iran invites Hamas’ PM to attend non-aligned summit
2. Western anger as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he will go to Iran
3. Morsi set to become first Egyptian President in decades to visit Tehran
4. Iranian regime continues to threaten Israel with annihilation
5. Iran speeds up its nuclear program
6. British intelligence: Iran planning more terror attacks abroad
7. Israel: Sanctions, diplomacy have failed; now “closer than ever” to military action
8. Iran displays weapon upgrades in honor of ‘Defense Industry Day’
9. Globes: Attack on Iran will cost Israeli economy NIS 167bn
10. Facebook removes Hizbullah’s webpage
11. “The Cordesman criteria” (By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Aug 24, 2012)
12. “Why Romney won’t strike Iran” (By Lee Smith, Tablet magazine, Aug 22, 2012)
13. “In facing Iran, Israel is on its own and can’t rely on US” (By David Wurmser, Israel Hayom, Aug 24, 2012)
14. “How - and why - Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu became equals” (By Cliff May, National Post, Aug 23, 2012)
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
FAYYAD FURIOUS AS IRAN INVITES HAMAS’ PM TO ATTEND NON-ALIGNED SUMMIT
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has expressed his anger after the Iranian regime invited Hamas’ Gaza-based Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to attend the non-aligned nations summit in Tehran this week, instead of him.
Fayyad’s office released a press statement saying that the invitation is “a serious escalation by Iran against Palestinian unity and against the Palestinian Authority’s role as the guardian of the Palestinian people both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank including Jerusalem.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who had accepted an invitation to attend the summit, says he did so believing he would be heading the Palestinian delegation and now says he will not attend if Haniyeh does.
WESTERN ANGER AS UN SECRETARY GENERAL BAN KI-MOON SAYS HE WILL GO TO IRAN
The U.S., Israel and other democratic governments say they are shocked and disappointed that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also says he will attend the summit in Iran this week, which they say will be a propaganda event staged by the regime.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “The fact that the meeting is happening in a country that’s in violation of so many of its international obligations and posing a threat to neighbors sends a very strange signal with regard to support for the international order, and the rule of law.”
Israeli officials say the fact that Ban, as well as so many other world leaders, are planning to visit Tehran this week and in effect bestow legitimacy on the regime there, despite its appalling human rights record, shows that the Obama administration policy of trying to isolate Tehran has failed.
MORSI SET TO BECOME FIRST EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT IN DECADES TO VISIT TEHRAN
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has also said he will attend the conference of non-aligned nations in Tehran later this week.
Israel says that Tehran may use it as an opportunity to further destabilize Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak kept well clear of the Iranian regime, calling it a destabilizing force in the region and world.
In an interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, Iranian Foreign Minister Akbar Salehi has said that his country will be seeking to restore diplomatic relations with Cairo.
IRANIAN REGIME CONTINUES TO THREATEN ISRAEL WITH ANNIHILATION
In recent days:
* Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that “Israel is a malignant cancer” and an “insult to humanity” and said that “the black stain of Zionism must be removed”
* Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that “Israel will disappear from the map”
* And a prominent Iranian general, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, proclaimed that “Israel must be destroyed forever.”
In spite of such incitement, many “experts” continue to deny that Iran constitutes a threat to Israel, just as experts in the past mistakenly dismissed the genocidal threats of other dictatorial madmen.
IRAN SPEEDS UP ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAM
The New York Times reported on Friday that international nuclear inspectors will soon report that Iran has installed hundreds of new centrifuges in recent months and is speeding up production of nuclear fuel.
Also on Friday, Israel’s highest circulation paper, Israel Hayom, reported that new satellite photos show that Iran has covered two buildings at Parchin Military base with pink material, in which they are conducting experiments in nuclear weapons development.
In spite of the fact that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that a nuclear Iran would pose an enormous threat to the U.S. and the entire world, no country other than Israel appears to be prepared to stop Iran before it is too late.
It remains unclear whether Israel has the military capability to take on the Iranian nuclear threat alone. Yet most Israelis say they would rather try to stop it, than to live under the shadow of a nuclear Iran.
Only the far left in Israel is speaking out against any military action by Israel. A petition signed by over 400 Israeli academics has called on pilots to refuse to obey orders to bomb Iran.
BRITISH INTELLIGENCE: IRAN PLANNING MORE TERROR ATTACKS ABROAD
Meanwhile, the (London) Daily Telegraph, relying on sources from within British intelligence, reports that Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has ordered Unit 400 of the country’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, which runs special overseas operations, to intensify its campaign of terror attacks against the West and its allies in retaliation for their support of those who want to overthrow the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria.
Intelligence officials say Khamenei said he is contemplating attacks on “America, the Zionists, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others to show that they cannot act with impunity in Syria and elsewhere in the region.”
Last year, the U.S. accused the Quds Force of being behind a failed assassination attempt against the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington. It was also implicated in various bomb attacks against Israelis in a number of countries during the course of this year, and was planning to attack the Eurovision song contest in Azerbaijan.
ISRAEL: SANCTIONS, DIPLOMACY HAVE FAILED; NOW “CLOSER THAN EVER” TO MILITARY ACTION
Israel’s Channel 10 News’s military reporter Alon Ben-David claimed earlier this week that, since upgraded sanctions against Iran have failed to force a suspension of the Iranian nuclear program, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is determined to attack Iran before the U.S. elections,” and Israel is now “closer than ever” to a strike designed to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive. Ben-David was given extensive access to the Israel Air Force as it trained for a possible attack.
The report added that Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak believe Obama would have no choice but to give backing for an Israeli attack before the U.S. presidential elections in November, but if Obama is re-elected he would greatly increase the pressure on Israel not to go ahead. Netanyahu says Israel is determined to defend itself.
IRAN DISPLAYS WEAPON UPGRADES IN HONOR OF ‘DEFENSE INDUSTRY DAY’
On Tuesday Iran showed off its new range of rockets, in honor of “Defense Industry Day.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi unveiled upgrades to six missile systems. These include improved versions of a short-range missile purportedly featuring greater accuracy; and a new, more powerful naval engine. Earlier this month, Iran test fired a Fateh-110 missile, which boasts a range of almost 200 miles.
GLOBES: ATTACK ON IRAN WILL COST ISRAELI ECONOMY NIS 167BN
Israel’s business daily newspaper, “Globes,” reports that the direct and indirect financial damage to the Israeli economy from an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities will be 167 billion shekels. It estimates the direct damage from an attack at 47 billion, plus 24 billion a year in lost GDP for five years after an attack, due to the collapse of businesses. (Four shekels is about one U.S. dollar.)
Globes used as a baseline the 32-day Second Lebanon War in 2006, which cost Israeli 0.5% of GDP in lost growth.
In a separate report, Globes says that fears over a war with Iran are already hitting Israeli suppliers, since foreign customers are demanding guarantees of continued production in the event of war.
Other experts say that the cost to the Israeli economy of allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons will be much greater, given the economic and existential uncertainty Israel will then have to live with.
FACEBOOK REMOVES HIZBULLAH’S WEBPAGE
Announcing that it will adhere to the U.S. State Department List of Foreign Terror Organizations in determining whether entities are inciting to violence, Facebook has said it is removing the Hizbullah Facebook page and that of Hizbullah’s television channel, Al Manar.
This follows last month’s decision by Google and Apple to remove Al Manar’s apps.
Tom Gross adds: Facebook, Apple and Google all rely on Israeli-developed technology so it is puzzling why those who advocate a total boycott of the Jewish state were using them in the first place.
In a speech from Beirut last weekend, Hizbullah leader Nasrallah said that if Israel hit Iran’s nuclear program, his group would kill tens of thousands of Israelis by striking at “a number – not a large number – of strategic targets with precision rockets.”
The United States government last week said Hizbullah has trained and advised government forces inside Syria. Yesterday over 200 bodies were discovered in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus. They had been summarily executed, part of 550 Syrians killed so far this weekend, in what activists described as a scorched-earth campaign by Syrian troops aided by Iran and Hizbullah fighters.
I attach four articles below.
All four authors, Charles Krauthammer, Lee Smith, David Wurmser (who served as a special Middle East advisor in the Bush White House) and Cliff May, are subscribers to this list, as is Mitt Romney’s senior foreign policy campaign adviser Dan Senor, who is quoted in the second article.
-- Tom Gross
TIME IS SHORT
The Cordesman criteria
By Charles Krauthammer,
The Washington Post
August 24, 2012
Either Israel is engaged in the most elaborate ruse since the Trojan horse or it is on the cusp of a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
What’s alarming is not just Iran’s increasing store of enriched uranium or the growing sophistication of its rocketry. It’s also the increasingly menacing annihilationist threats emanating from Iran’s leaders. Israel’s existence is “an insult to all humanity,” says President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime.” Explains the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Israel is “a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off.”
Iran’s quest to possess nuclear technology: Iran said it has made advances in nuclear technology, citing new uranium enrichment centrifuges and domestically made reactor fuel.
Everyone wants to avoid military action, surely the Israelis above all. They can expect a massive counterattack from Iran, 50,000 rockets launched from Lebanon, Islamic Jihad firing from Gaza, and worldwide terror against Jewish and Israeli targets, as happened last month in Bulgaria.
Yet Israel will not sit idly by in the face of the most virulent genocidal threats since Nazi Germany. The result then was 6 million murdered Jews. There are 6 million living in Israel today.
Time is short. Last-ditch negotiations in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow have failed abjectly. The Iranians are contemptuously playing with the process. The strategy is delay until they get the bomb.
What to do? The sagest advice comes from Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman is a hardheaded realist – severely critical of the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq war, skeptical of the “war on terror,” dismissive of the strategic importance of Afghanistan, and a believer that “multilateralism and soft power must still be the rule and not the exception.”
He may have found his exception. “There are times when the best way to prevent war is to clearly communicate that it is possible,” he argues. Today, the threat of a U.S. attack is not taken seriously. Not by the region. Not by Iran. Not by the Israelis, who therefore increasingly feel forced to act before Israel’s more limited munitions – far less powerful and effective than those in the U.S. arsenal – can no longer penetrate Iran’s ever-hardening facilities.
Cordesman therefore proposes threefold action.
1. “Clear U.S. red lines.”
It’s time to end the ambiguity about American intentions. Establish real limits on negotiations – to convince Iran that the only alternative to a deal is preemptive strikes and to persuade Israel to stay its hand.
2. “Make it clear to Iran that it has no successful options.”
Either its program must be abandoned in a negotiated deal (see No. 1 above) on generous terms from the West (see No. 3 below), or its facilities will be physically destroyed. Ostentatiously let Iran know about the range and power of our capacities – how deep and extensive a campaign we could conduct, extending beyond just nuclear facilities to military-industrial targets, refineries, power grids and other concentrations of regime power.
3. Give Iran a face-saving way out.
Offer Iran the most generous possible terms – economic, diplomatic and political. End of sanctions, assistance in economic and energy development, trade incentives and a regional security architecture. Even Russian nuclear fuel.
Tellingly, however, Cordesman does not join those who suggest yielding on nuclear enrichment. That’s important because a prominently leaked proposed “compromise” would guarantee Iran’s right to enrich, though not to high levels.
In my view, this would be disastrous. Iran would retain the means to potentially produce fissile material, either clandestinely or in a defiant breakout at a time of its choosing.
Would Iran believe a Cordesman-like ultimatum? Given the record of the Obama administration, maybe not. Some (though not Cordesman) have therefore suggested the further step of requesting congressional authorization for the use of force if Iran does not negotiate denuclearization.
First, that’s the right way to do it. No serious military action should be taken without congressional approval (contra Libya). Second, Iran might actually respond to a threat backed by a strong bipartisan majority of the American people – thus avoiding both war and the other nightmare scenario, a nuclear Iran.
If we simply continue to drift through kabuki negotiations, however, one thing is certain. Either America, Europe, the Gulf Arabs and the Israelis will forever be condemned to live under the threat of nuclear blackmail (even nuclear war) from a regime the State Department identifies as the world’s greatest exporter of terror. Or an imperiled Israel, with its more limited capabilities, will strike Iran – with correspondingly greater probability of failure and of triggering a regional war.
All options are bad. Doing nothing is worse. “The status quo may not prevent some form of war,” concludes Cordesman, “and may even be making it more likely.”
“WHY ROMNEY WON’T STRIKE IRAN”
Why Romney won’t strike Iran: The three factors that explain why a Republican president is no more likely to stage a pre-emptive attack
By Lee Smith
August 22, 2012
Republican foreign-policy circles have hailed Mitt Romney’s choice of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running-mate, noting that he believes in free trade, a strong defense, and is thinking seriously about China. Moreover, unlike the current resident of the White House, Ryan is an unabashed advocate of American exceptionalism. “A world without U.S. leadership will be a more chaotic place,” Ryan said in a speech delivered to the Alexander Hamilton Society last June. “A place where we have less influence, and a place where our citizens face more dangers and fewer opportunities. Take a moment and imagine a world led by China and Russia.”
But let’s ask a practical question: How does Ryan’s selection affect Romney’s calculation in what is if not the most important foreign-policy issue for an American president, certainly the most pressing – the decision to use military force against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities?
The answer: It doesn’t.
During Romney’s trip to Israel last month, campaign adviser Dan Senor said: “If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision.” But that’s an important hedge, and it throws into sharp relief the real truth: A Republican president is no more likely than a Democrat to stage a pre-emptive attack on Iran, and American support for an Israeli attack is the very best that Israeli leaders can hope to expect from the White House, regardless of which party inhabits it.
The explanation is based on three interrelated factors: domestic American politics, Washington’s history with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the U.S. record of containing and deterring nuclear powers.
Domestic politics. Bush did not attack Iran because he was already waging war in two Middle Eastern theaters and did not want to go down in the history books as the president who only waged wars on Muslims. Barack Obama has not attacked Iran in his first term and is highly unlikely to do so in his second term because his Middle East policy is one of extrication from the region, not further military involvement. Correctly or not, the Obama White House suspects that an attack on Iran will not only eventually entail landing ground troops but will also further inflame the Muslim world against America, and Obama is the president of outreach to the Muslim world.
Romney’s internal conversation with himself will look something like a combination of his two predecessors’: He doesn’t want to further burden the economy by destabilizing the Middle East and sending oil prices skyrocketing, and he doesn’t want to be tagged as a war-mongering Republican who bombed Iran only a few months after moving into his new digs. Like every other man who takes the job, Romney wants a second term, and if he gets it, then there’s going to be another reason not to do it.
History’s lessons. The record shows that there is always a reason for American presidents of both parties to look the other way when Iran is up to no good. No American president has ever drawn red lines for Tehran and enforced them by showing that transgressions are swiftly and severely punished.
It’s true that it was a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who sat by idly when Ayatollah Khomeini and the founders of the Islamic Republic stormed the U.S. embassy and held Americans hostage for 444 days. But GOP hero Ronald Reagan provided the Iranians with arms – after the Islamic Republic’s Lebanese asset, Hezbollah, killed 241 U.S. Marines in the 1983 bombing of their barracks at the Beirut airport. When the FBI said Tehran was responsible for the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers, Bill Clinton failed to respond or even name Iran, lest it derail the “dialogue of civilizations” promised by the newly elected reform-minded president Muhammad Khatami. And the last Republican in the White House was no more proactive in countering Iran’s actual attacks on Americans: The more than 100,000 American servicemen and -women that Bush had dispatched to Iraq were targeted by the IRGC and their local allies, a fact that U.S. officials tended to obscure and did little to change when they did acknowledge it.
The current administration, unsurprisingly, hardly broke this mold. After the Obama White House revealed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps plot against the Saudi ambassador in Washington, it exacted no price from Iran for planning an operation in the American capital that might have cost the lives of hundreds of American citizens.
General nuclear deterrence. If you can kill Americans without any consequences and the Americans will in fact collaborate in covering up your malfeasance, you can certainly build a nuclear weapons facility without too much concern that the Americans are really keeping “all options on the table”; the White House is not and almost surely never will – no matter who’s calling the shots. Short of an American city suffering thousands of casualties in a nuclear attack that the Iranians boast of publicly, it is difficult to know what would compel a U.S. president to take military action against Iran.
Maybe U.S. policymakers just believe, in spite of what they say publicly, that Iran really isn’t that big a deal. Remember that even today, a number of American officials, civilian and military, cut their teeth on Cold War strategy, an era when the United States faced off against a real superpower. Washington and Moscow fought proxy wars against each other on four continents with the fear of an eventual nuclear exchange leading to mutually assured destruction looming in the background. Perhaps, if seen in this context, for American policymakers Iran just doesn’t rise to a genuine threat level.
The Obama Administration says its policy is not to deter and contain an Iranian nuclear weapons program but to prevent it. But that’s just what they’re saying. What they believe surely must be something else. If the United States was able to contain and deter the Soviets, we can certainly do the same with a crummy little third-world regime like Iran’s. Or perhaps American policymakers just see it like this: If we take military action against Iran, the likeliest scenario is a region-wide war and an Iranian terror campaign against the United States and its allies, especially Israel. If we do nothing, the worst-case scenario is that emboldened Iranian action leads to a region-wide war and global terror. Common sense tells you that if someone believes he will get the same results by doing nothing and doing something, then he will choose the path of least resistance, by doing nothing.
Surely by now Israeli leaders know that, given the various trend-lines of American policy toward Iran, no U.S. president is going to take military action against Iran. The most Israeli leaders can expect is for the White House to provide them with certain weapons and military hardware that might make the operation easier, and in the aftermath to provide plenty of diplomatic support.
Earlier this week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said of the Israelis: “They are living with an existential concern that we are not living with.” That’s an honest assessment, and so an honest conversation between allies could perhaps go like this: “It’s just not that big a deal to us, but if you guys feel you need to act, then go ahead. We’ll stand with you.” That seems to be what Senor was signaling when he said Romney as president would “respect” Israel’s decision.
If Israeli leaders really thought Romney was much more likely than Obama to bomb Iran, there wouldn’t be so much chatter now right now about how it’s become crunch time for Israel. Bibi Netanyahu would at least give Romney the benefit of a few months after the November elections. But the Israeli half of the conversation is no longer about pressuring their American allies. Rather, it seems to be preparing the Israeli public for an attack.
ISRAEL SHOULDN’T COUNT ON THE U.S. TO ATTACK IRAN
Sadly, in facing Iran, Israel is on its own and can’t rely on US
We’ve been here before, says former Bush administration official, David Wurmser • Time and again, the message was sent to hold fire, give diplomacy a bit more time – if it does not work, the whole world will be behind preemptive action • But Iran never budged or changed, the international community never really rallied, and the West never acted • And Iran came to understand that its nuclear program is not a genuine Western red-line.
By David Wurmser
August 24, 2012
Over the last few weeks, I have read with great curiosity statements by a parade of Israeli experts and former officials, all of whom assert with considerable confidence that at the end of the day, the United States is committed to denying Iran a nuclear capability, and that when the moment of truth arrives, Washington will act – unilaterally if necessary.
Having served in the previous White House – an administration generally accused of being too much the cowboy rather than being timid – and having been charged primarily with following Iran policy and even coordinating it with European capitals, I fear these Israeli officials are misguided. In the post I held, it became clear to me that the Bush administration would leave office in early 2009 having left the Iran portfolio open and unfinished, and that the following administration could in no way go where President Bush dared not venture.
Since 2003, the political opposition in Washington flatly rejected the very concept of preemptive war. Indeed, this rejection of preemption as legitimate became the eclipsing idea on foreign policy and battle cry for the opposition as it geared up for 2006 congressional and 2008 presidential elections. Along the way, rejection or preemption and unilateral action became the defining elements in the DNA of the democrats’ foreign policy establishment. But if the views of the Democratic establishment were all that constituted opposition to preemptive action, I would have had more confidence leaving office that this was an issue which either my remaining colleagues, or the following administration, would take care of.
But it wasn’t so. There was just as determined opposition from just about every quarter. In virtually every negotiation in which I was involved, my interlocutors in European capitals were laser-focused on securing from us a commitment that any move by them to toughen their policies on Iran would not be understood, or manipulated, into eventually legitimizing a military action against Iran.
Even the 2005 turnabout on Libya and the following agreements on North Korea were aggressively pursued and then posited by certain European diplomats as evidence that diplomacy can solve such problems and that preemptive military actions do more harm than good. In the background lurked always the nervousness that the United States might again “go off the rails,” and preemptively strike Iran.
More disconcerting, however, were those moments when it could no longer be denied that Iran respected agreements and the diplomatic process which produced them about as much as it upheld the finer points of diplomatic immunity in 1979. Those moments occurred almost like clockwork leading up to every September’s IAEA Board of Governor’s meeting from 2002 to 2007, when Iran was “boxed in” or told its case would be referred to the United Nations Security Council. These were moments of truth: diplomacy and pressures, including sanctions, were either going to produce a change in Iranian policy, or the international community, in unity, would move to the next level of confrontation. But every August, when it was inescapable that Iran had no intention of budging, the international community faced a choice: escalate or acquiesce in Iran’s new level of atomic mastery.
Like clockwork, the diplomats punted, digested the new level of nuclear mastery in Iran, and focused not on answering the choice Iran had forced on them, but instead turned their attentions primarily on formulating a somewhat tougher position which, though utterly inadequate to stop Iran, was calibrated mostly to deflate any momentum building within the U.S. administration to a more robust policy. In short, the international community had a containment strategy; not of Iran, but of U.S. hardliners they feared would push the United States into a preemptive war to stop Iran’s nuclear power.
NO APPETITE FOR PREEMPTION
Again, were the international diplomats only joined by the U.S. opposition party in opposing a more muscular response, it was my impression that a preemptive U.S. attack on Iran might still have been possible. But most unnerving was that most of the established bureaucracy within Washington, as well as half of the Republican establishment, was as determined as the opposition to prevent the United States from acting preemptively. Consistently, our diplomatic and security structures produced analysis after analysis “proving” that diplomacy was working, or that Iran had no intention of pursuing a nuclear option – the most famous incident of which was the infamous autumn 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, muchly revealed portions of which asserted Iran had abandoned a nuclear option, but less leaked portions of which were exposed by some in the press to have essentially concluded the opposite.
Some officials who had served in the Bush administration took to referring to this episode as a “soft coup” by leaders of the intelligence and diplomatic bureaucracy (though not by its rank and file intelligence officers, whose professionalism would have prevented them from asserting something so contradicted by indications) against the elected officials they did not trust. The 2007 NIE, however, served the same role as last-minute diplomatic initiatives did in so many of the previous rounds of potential escalation with Iran.
The period of September 2007 was another moment in which Iran had maneuvered itself into a moment of truth for the international community, and again that community – rather than force the choice on Iran – instead retreated into dedicating its full efforts to puncturing the momentum building within the Bush administration toward a more robust policy. In short, for the bureaucracy, and for many Republican officials within the administration, terminating the danger that “hardliners” would convince President Bush to act preemptively became the highest priority, not actually halting Iran.
For the opposition in Washington, the international community of diplomats, the Washington established bureaucracy, and even for half the Republican party, the end was always the same: prevent the hardliners from prevailing. The means were consistent: public press leaks about the “crazies” in the White House, leaks from within the intelligence community that Iran was not pursuing a bomb at this point, scholars and experts being mobilized to pronounce that “hardliners” in Iran were losing ground to “moderates” who were about to prevail and abandon the nuclear program, diplomats yielding to slightly tougher policies with promises of more to come to prove the moribund diplomatic process still had life, and so forth. And the message was the same to the targeted “hardliners” too: Hold your fire, give diplomacy a bit more time, because it is working, and Iran is budging, or its leadership is changing. And if it does not work in the end, then the whole world will be behind preemptive action. Trust us. But Iran never budged or changed, the international community never really rallied, and the West never acted. And Iran came to understand the nuclear program is not a genuine Western red-line.
NO PLAN B
Again, this was the history of the last five years of an administration accused of first shooting in a trigger-happy way, and only then gathering the facts. And even in that administration, it was clear to me as early as 2006 that the United States was not going to act to halt Iran. Simply, the political and bureaucratic establishments in Washington, the international community, and even many Republicans, viewed Iran’s nuclear program – as undesirable as it was – as a lower order of threat than the danger of preemptive action. And unless there was a president willing to act on a deep conviction to preempt and thus to buck the Washington establishment, the bureaucracy, the international community and even many in his own party, Washington would remain paralyzed.
Later in 2010, in an amicable chat with one of my successors in the new Obama administration, I listened to him explaining to me how the policy he was crafting – eerily identical to the ones pursued cyclically in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and so on by the administration I was in – was this time going to work, and would, this time bring even Moscow along (strangely forgetting that Moscow already had come along in UNSC resolutions in 2006 in order not to lose its role and influence on the matter). At the end, I asked simply: “if the policy doesn’t work, what is your backup plan?” There was no answer; while he noted the failure of sanctions and pressure were possible, and indeed admittedly even likely, no Plan B was fathomable to him. He could only contemplate more of the same since at some point, “some pressure must work.”
It was, as the great American baseball figure Yogi Berra once said, “déjà vu all over again.” In short, all the factors I witnessed from 2002-2007, when I was deeply involved in the Iran portfolio, had not changed. All but one, that is: In the new administration, there were no more “crazy” hardliners against whom to act. Nobody argued with conviction the imperative of preemption. Washington was at last unified — with the administration and the bureaucracy agreeing without internal dissent — and aligned with the international community that while it would be awful if Iran went nuclear, a preemptive action against Iran was still worse.
Thus, to the bandwagon of Israeli analysts who simply cannot believe that the United States would balk at stopping Iran when it became clear there was no alternative to preemptive action other than acquiescence, I can only say that I have all my life counted on the greatness of America and its tradition of doing the right thing, if even at the last moment. But right now, the cavalry is not going to ride to Israel’s side, even at the last moment. There is nobody of influence within the establishment or bureaucracy in Washington, let alone abroad, seriously arguing for preemptive action, nor are there any factors in the next half year – or even longer – which will change that. While America is not done as the great superpower, we have again become a sleeping giant, like the 1930s in terms of proactive foreign policy. Something much worse and more personally affecting will have to afflict the United States before it acts preemptively stop Iran or other extremely dangerous nations from building armies to threaten and pursuing the most destructive weapons. Until then, sadly, our allies are on their own.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE FOLLOWS THE HERD
How -- and why -- Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu became equals
By Clifford D. May
The National Post (Canada)
August 23, 2012
Iran or Israel: Which is more deserving of censure? On the one hand, as the French news agency Agence France-Presse reported last week, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is calling Israel “a cancerous tumor” that, he threatened, will “soon be excised.” He added: “The nations of the region will soon finish off the usurper Zionists. . . . With the grace of God and help of the nations, in the new Middle East there will be no trace of the Americans and Zionists.”
On the other hand, the AFP article goes on to say: “Israel has been employing its own invective against Iran and its leaders, invoking the image of Hitler and the Nazis on the eve of World War II and accusing Tehran of being bent on Israeli genocide.”
So let’s place these statements on the scale. Dehumanizing Israelis, likening them to a disease, vowing to exterminate them . . . well, that does sound a tad extreme. But the Israeli response . . . well, it is pretty darn insulting! And really, what is the basis for the Israeli charge?
Could it have anything to do with the fact that Ahmadinejad’s words are identical to those used by Nazi propagandists? For example, in 1941 Hitler ordered the excising of what he called “the Jewish cancer” from Germany. After that came the murder of six million European Jews – genocide.
Ahmadinejad also accused “Zionists” of having started World War I and World War II – just as Hitler blamed the Jews for these conflicts even as his troops were raping Czechoslovakia. Still, does that justify drawing a comparison between Iranian Islamists and German Nazis?
Logically, of course it does, but in AFP’s eyes, no. How to explain this departure from reality and morality? Several possibilities come to mind.
It could be that AFP reporters and editors are simply ignorant – that they have no idea what the Nazis said, believed, or did. I’m sure these journalists attended good schools (not everyone uses a word like “invective”), but perhaps they majored in 17th-century French literature and know nothing of modern history. The one lesson they have learned: It’s gauche, a faux pas, to call someone a Nazi, or to compare someone with Hitler – even when such a comparison is justified.
A second possibility: Multiculturalism requires moral equivalence – which means no Third World society can ever be described as in any way inferior to any Western society. So if Iranians are to be criticized for threatening to kill Israelis, then Israelis must be criticized for something.
A third explanation: To acknowledge that Iran’s rulers are akin to Nazis and are threatening genocide carries disagreeable policy implications. Among other things, it suggests that Iran’s rulers should, at all costs, be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons. But anyone who says that risks being labeled a warmonger, a neoconservative, or something equally unfashionable.
There is this possibility, too: The AFP article expresses anti-Israelism and, perhaps, also, the most ancient and durable of biases. Don’t get me wrong: Not everyone who criticizes Israel is a Jew-hater. Not everyone who hates Israel is a Jew-hater. But all Jew-haters do criticize and hate Israel.
Revolutionary Islamists are candid in this regard. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese-based terrorist organization, has said: “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli.” Nasrallah also has said that if all Jews gather in Israel, “it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
One final point that the good folks at AFP ought to understand: Any serious concept of free speech includes the right to insult and offend – to “employ invective.” But for leaders of a nation to incite genocide is a crime under international law – the same international law so beloved of the major media when they think it has application to Israel (or the United States).
The well-known international human-rights lawyer Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian minister of justice and attorney general, has been making a strenuous effort to remind Western leaders that there is a Genocide Convention that they have an obligation – legal, moral, and strategic – to enforce.
“The Iranian regime’s criminal incitement has been persistent, pervasive, and pernicious,” Cotler recently wrote. “In particular, this genocidal incitement has intensified and escalated in 2012, with the website of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declaring that there is religious ‘justification to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and Iran must take the helm.’”
Despite that, Cotler points out, “not one State Party to the Genocide Convention has undertaken any of its mandated responsibilities to prevent and punish such incitement – an appalling example of the international community as bystander – reminding us also that genocide occurred not only because of cultures of hate, but because of crimes of indifference.”
Cotler’s words have so far fallen on deaf ears. True, the U.S. and some European nations have imposed painful economic sanctions on Iran. But inciting genocide is not among the reasons given. And on August 26, representatives of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement will be welcomed in Tehran. The new president of the NAM? Iran.
Some bold AFP reporter should ask the diplomats from those 120 nations if they are concerned about Iran’s genocidal incitement, troubled that the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism may soon possess nuclear weapons, or distressed by Iran’s support of the Assad regime’s barbarism in Syria and its bloody repression of peaceful protestors inside Iran. Or are they more upset by Israelis “employing invective” in an attempt to call attention to these realities? These questions answer themselves. In that sense, Agence France-Presse is simply following the herd.