Israel beating the war drums for Iran

Israel’s Netanyahu urges ‘red line’ over nuclear Iran

Israel’s prime minister has urged the world to draw a “clear red line” over Iran’s nuclear programme. In a speech at the UN, Benjamin Netanyahu said time was running out to stop Tehran from having enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb. Israel and Western countries suspect Iran is seeking such a capability. Tehran says its programme is peaceful. Earlier, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas asked the General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinians’ UN status.

Mr Netanyahu told delegates at the annual meeting of the assembly that Iran could have enough material to make a nuclear bomb by the middle of next year, and a clear message needed to be sent to stop Tehran in its tracks. “Red lines don’t lead to war, red lines prevent war,” he said. “Nothing could imperil the world more than a nuclear-armed Iran.” He said sanctions passed over the past seven years had not affected Tehran’s programme. “The hour is very late,” he told delegates. “The Iranian nuclear calendar does not take time out.” He said he was convinced that faced with a “clear red line, Iran will back down”. He added that he was confident the US and Israel could chart a common path on the issue.

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Do What Thou Wilt, But Be Prepared to Accept the Consequences

Although I don’t believe for a second that Netanyahu and Barak are fools, to paraphrase Dave Chappelle they sure fit comfortably into fools’ uniforms.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey recently voiced
his strong opposition
to an Israeli strike on Iran, explaining his reluctance to be “complicit” in the United States’ slated Iran War. The use of the term “complicit” is important as it is bookended by criminality or evil at the worst end, and wrongfulness at the best. His remarks come amid unconfirmed reports that the Obama administration approached the Iranian leadership through two aonymous European (state) intermediaries with the message that the  US will not back, or be complicit in, an “unilateral” Israeli strike if Iran does not attack US assets in response.


Commentators have naturally taken different positions on the implications with some claiming they will force Netanyahu to scale back his belligerence and others claiming they provide carte blanche to Israel. While I tend toward the first interpretation, the second does make some good points. If, and it’s a crucial if, the US made this overture to Iran it is at its heart predicated on an Israeli first strike, and it’s not like the Obama administration is leveling any concrete threats against Israel given such an attack. But more importantly the Iranians know what kind of jets the Israelis fly and who bought them. The nature of the “special relationship” puts some serious limits on how truthfully one can toss around the term “unilateral.” When you’re getting bombed by American planes it might prove tempting to attack American boats right off the coast or American troops right across the border.

As the geopolitical landscape shifts it’s necessary to return to basic assumptions underlying both the argument for and against war in order to come to an individual opinion based on facts. In an attempt to unpack this fascinatingly complex and dangerous situation dividing these assumptions into categories is helpful. So let’s dive in.

Cultural Assumptions

Your average American citizen has been convinced Iranians are crazy people. This is accepted in an offhanded way, as if the entire argument can be based on the implications of their “radicalism.” Although it’s true Iran/Persia has existed within (and without) its central homeland for thousands of years, and Iranians are a proud, nationalistic population, calling them a “people” (regardless of whether they consider themselves as such) makes them seem monolithic and shortchanges or completely overrides demographic complexity. As of 2011 the Iranian population reached around 75 million people. For comparison Iraq has a population of around 33 million, and Afghanistan of around 36. This relatively large population is only slightly more than half ethnic Persian, followed by around 20% Azeri with the remainder made up mainly of Kurds, Lurs, Turkmen/Turkic tribes, Arabs, and Baloch. On the subject of monoliths, the American view of Iranians is a subset of the American view of the Muslim world in general, which causes many to assume Arabs are our primary foe in Afghanistan. We too often lump issues together (instead of dividing them) in an attempt to understand the world. The simpler the better, but we all know we can clarify a situation without dumbing it down.

Going further, many Americans believe Iranians are a scary people. If you’re crazy and scary you don’t have much going for you as far as the “international community” is concerned. The media attacks. ICBMs! Nukes! America! Israel! Iran! Israel! Iran! Holocaust! Nukes! Holocaust denial! Iran! Israel! Gets annoying right?

Iranians are cast as antiwestern, antisemitic, backwardly fundamentalist lunatics bent on the destruction of everything we hold dear. They’ve held a grudge against Semitic-language speaking people since far before the creation of Israel, with a crucial aspect stemming from the Sunni/Shia (and the propensity of Arab states toward the former) schism which seems much more important with regard to Iranian antisemitism than the Muslim/Judeo-Christian gulf. Iran hasn’t had the best relationship with the Arabs over the years, and with regard to the Israel-Palestine/Arab conflict: everyone’s antisemitic if they unconditionally support one side.

So as far as the antisemitic claim goes there seems to be a strong basis for it. There’s little historical evidence to suggest the Sunni Arabs are looking out for the Shia Iranians’ best, or even mutually beneficial interests. If anything the Arabs, in this sense Saudi and other Gulf Arab states, are hedging their bets in an attempt to manage the eventual Iranian rise to regional power (accelerated by the Bush II administration’s idiotic Iraq War) during and after which they can maintain control over Mecca and Medina, good relations with global powerbrokers, avoidance of economic sanctions stemming from human rights abuses, avoidance of outright conflict with Israel, and above all a combined military superiority over Iran just in case it really comes down to it. People may lose interest when someone starts talking fighter jets but having access to F-15s and AWACS is no joke regardless of whether the Gulf Arabs have never fought a war with all their high technology.

The culturally backwards argument is destroyed immediately. But there is an argument to be made that Persia has one of the most richly compelling and at times enlightened pasts since humans started keeping track of this sort of thing. One of the first monotheistic religions (not that they’re perfect), Zoroastrianism, was born of Iran and attempted to find limits between good and evil. Cyrus the Great, one of the most praiseworthy conquerors of all time was Persian. Alexander virtually worshiped him. He released Jews under Babylonian slavery, decreed their temple rebuilt, offered to pay for it, and is described as a Messiah in Jewish histories. My favorite thing about Cyrus is the way he went out. He proposed to the warrior-queen of the Scythian Massagetae who spurned his advances, so he invaded her territory east of the Caspian. During the climax of the campaign she supposedly killed him in single combat. Who said history couldn’t be romantic?

To a great extent Western history relies on Persian history. How boring would the Macedonians have been without an original counterpart? Alexander might never have been great. The rich history of Persia bleeds into the modern Iranian understanding of the world and it’s necessary to approach the “people” as an extremely complex organism built of different parts that push different ways.

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Ex-CIA chief Michael Hayden: “Only the U.S.” can strike Iran nuclear sites

War With Iran: The Very Real Threat of WWIII Will Come Not From Iran, But From Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was in the United States over the weekend for a United N summit. Nothing out of the normal there. What is out of the normal is that he used his trip to go on television interviews telling demanding that the United States set specific conditions (red lines) on Iran that would trigger military action if crossed. Let me repeat, a foreign head of state came to the United States and demanded that we lay out on the table conditions in which we will with no uncertainty use our military if another nation meets those conditions. Was this completely out of line?

I think this move was completely out of line and is almost apology worthy. Why? Natanyahu is not talking about setting conditions like, “if you attack another nation, we will attack you” or “if you set off a nuclear weapon test, we will attack you.” Netanyahu wants us to lay out conditions that say we will attack you if you “come close” to developing a nuclear weapon. “Come close” are the key words. How do you define it? How do you check how close someone is? Do you demand weapons inspector access and if that is denied do you attack? Maybe that’s what Netanyahu wants. One thing is clear, Israel is preparing to attack Iran preemptively. Israel doesn’t want to (but will) do this alone and would prefer the United States help and support.

It is completely out of line as a head of state to go to a foreign country and use their airwaves to demand policy that involves military action, i.e. American lives, to support something that your country will do with or without their support. We are talking about a preemptive strike after-all, not responding to an attack or an invasion. Even worse, Netanyahu made the claim that if we had set these “red lines” up in the early 1990s that the first Gulf War could have been avoided. What?!

Israel will attack whether they have our support or not. They have shown in the past they don’t care if the world is against their preemptive strikes. The problem is the world has changed substantially since their last preemptive attack. Arab nations all over the Middle East have been going through massive political changes with the Arab Spring in full bloom. Historically, Arabs and Persians (Iranians) have not gotten along very well. This all goes back to the Sunni/Shia split in Islam and goes back centuries. But now with the Arab Spring, could an attack on Iran by Israel be seen as an attack on all of Islam? Could a preemptive attack on another Islamic nation set of the barrel of dynamite in the Middle East that ignites the next global conflict?

I don’t rule out that possibility. The war drums against Iran have been beating for a long time, but animosity against Israel in the Middle East has been going on for decades. It is that animosity that had the United States support a dictator in Egypt for 30 years. Now with Egypt in control by the people through democratic elections, we may discover that the majority in Egypt would rather not keep the peace with Israel like their previous dictator did. That’s the funny thing about democracy. Sometimes the will of the people support things that other democratic nations do not.

So how could that lead to a global conflict? If an attack by Israel is the catalyst that sets off the whole mess, then I see the attack uniting Islamic countries in the Middle East against Israel. This would lead to a massive build-up and attack on Israel by Middle Eastern countries. The United States at that point would have to get involved. That is where the whole mess boils out of control because with the United States entering the war zone, China and Russia decide they would rather back their Middle Eastern friends and start by providing weapons and artillery. China then uses the Middle East war as a distraction to invade and takeover disputed islands that Japan now owns. This sets off a ground conflict with Japan and China. Eventually Europe enters the theater to back the United States and Israel (and help get them out of the economic mess they’re in) and the war escalates into a new set of Axis and Allies, with the United States, Israel, most European countries, and Japan joining the Allies and China, Russia, and the Middle Eastern countries on the Axis side.

I am literally talking about WWIII.

I don’t normally make predictions because the fact is, I hate being wrong. While I am not predicting the above scenario, I do believe that within the next decade a global war, not unlike the above scenario, will be set off. What sets it off might be something minor or it might be something major. In any case, the water in the kettle is starting to boil. Many Western economies are struggling or are in shambles. One thing that history has taught us is that wars are a great way to get out of economic messes. I really hope I am wrong (something I rarely, if ever, say)!

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The Path to War With Iran

In an endless campaign season filled with forgettable speeches and debates, few Americans will recall March 4, 2012, as particularly noteworthy. On that Sunday afternoon, President Obama appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where he was expected to give a boilerplate talk about close U.S.-Israeli ties. Instead, Obama announced a new policy that put the United States and Iran on a collision course from which neither side has veered.

Declaring that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be intolerable to Israel and run counter to U.S. security, Obama offered Tehran a stark choice: The regime could abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program and “choose a path that brings them back into the community of nations, or they can continue down a dead end,” said Obama, who then went further than any U.S. president had in describing what lay at the end of that road. “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

In a stroke, Obama took off the table the policy of “containment” and deterrence of a new nuclear power that the United States adopted in response to the Soviet Union, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea all crossing the nuclear threshold. Either Tehran would have to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program, or the president was all but pledging a preventive war to destroy it. Seemingly disparate headlines of recent weeks—increasingly frenetic shuttle diplomacy to try and restart stalled talks with Iran over its nuclear program; an unusually public spat between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over “red lines”; the deployment of the largest U.S. naval armada to the Persian Gulf in years, to include two aircraft carrier battle groups—are all indications that Iran continues to hurtle down that dead end.

On Friday evening, the Senate passed a resolution, cosponsored by more than three-fourths of the chamber, ruling out a strategy of containment in response to Iran’s nuclear  program.

Dennis Ross was a former special adviser to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Iran from 2009 to 2011. “Once President Obama made the decision that his objective was preventing Iran from getting a bomb, that put us in a different place diplomatically, because once diplomacy fails you really have no choice but to act,” Ross said on Friday in a conference at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Obama doesn’t make impulsive decisions. There was a debate within the administration over prevention versus containment, and he made a very well-thought-through decision to adopt prevention. And as someone who has watched him in action in the national-security arena, I take his decision very seriously. There’s no question President Obama wants to give diplomacy every chance of working, but there is also no doubt in my mind that if diplomacy fails he is prepared to use force.”

The problem is that the diplomacy surrounding Iran’s nuclear program is failing, despite international isolation and crippling sanctions that have caused the Iranian currency to plummet in value. That failure was evident in a late August report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran had doubled the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at an underground facility protected from airborne attack, and had blocked the agency from inspecting a site where previous weapons-development work is suspected.

Last week, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with Iran’s head nuclear negotiator to try and restart stalled talks, and to express serious concern that Iran is accelerating its suspected nuclear weapons program. Ashton is expected to deliver her findings to the P-5 Plus One (the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia, and Germany) this week at the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent outburst against the Obama administration reveals the sense of urgency Israel feels as Iran continues to bury more centrifuges deeper underground, entering a “zone of immunity” from Israeli airstrikes. “The world tells Israel: ‘Wait, there is still time.’ Wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have the moral right to place a red line before Israel.”

After Netanyahu’s comments caused a diplomatic dustup, he held an hour-long, private phone conversation with Obama that Ross characterized as very serious. Both sides narrowed differences, he said, over how long diplomacy should be given to work, whether some sort of ultimatum should be delivered to Iran to bring talks to a head, and at what point Iran’s program crosses a “red line” that might prompt Israel or the United States to strike.

An Iranian nuclear weapon is seen as an existential threat by Israeli leaders, none of whom believe “containment” of a nuclear-armed Iran is feasible, said David Makovsky, an Israel expert and senior fellow at the Washington Institute. Hard-wired into the Israeli DNA is an ethos of self-reliance, he noted, and an instinctive suspicion of security guarantees given by the international community, or for that matter by the United States.

“The debate in Israel at the elite policy level is not about American capabilities, but about American resolve if diplomacy and sanctions fail,” he said. “It’s no secret that Israel would prefer if the United States was involved in a military strike, not only because it would be more effective, but also because Washington would be critical in maintaining sanctions on Iran even after a strike.”

As Washington and Jerusalem try and synchronize their timeline for action, Israel will be under intense pressure by the Obama administration to stay its hand and give diplomacy time to work. The Obama administration, or for that matter a Mitt Romney administration, will be under intense pressure from Israel to either green light an Israeli strike that would almost certainly draw U.S. forces into the conflict, or else specify as clearly as possible what “red line” would prompt the United States to fulfill Obama’s pledge and launch its own strike.

“Israel and the Obama administration are already deeply involved in a wide-ranging campaign of cyberattacks and sabotage against Iran’s nuclear program,” said Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert and director of research at the Washington Institute. Coming up with a final offer that gives Iran what it says it wants in terms of a civilian nuclear program might be useful in clarifying the situation, he said, “because right now we are headed towards war.”

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One response to “Israel beating the war drums for Iran

  1. Still do not understand why this should bother any one in the west. If Iran dose get a nuc it can not hit Briton or the USA. So why should we stop them from getting one. This is more a case of they carn’t have one because it would put them on an even footing to the NARZI super state who wants the hole of the middle east for its self.

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