How Washington Encourages Israel to Bomb Iran
Comment of the Day

March 27 2012

Commentary by David Fuller

How Washington Encourages Israel to Bomb Iran

This is an interesting and topical article (may require subscription registration, also in PDF format) by Reuel Marc Gerecht for The Wall Street Journal. Here is the opening:
In recent speeches, interviews and private meetings, President Obama has been trying hard to dissuade Israel from bombing Iran's nuclear facilities. All along, however, he's actually made it much easier for Israel to attack. The capabilities and will of Israel's military remain unclear, but the critical parts of the administration's Iran policy (plus the behavior of the Islamic Republic's ruler, Ali Khamenei) have combined to encourage the Israelis to strike.

Public statements define a president's diplomacy, and in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this month Mr. Obama intensely affirmed "Israel's sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs." He added that "no Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel's destruction."

By so framing the Iranian nuclear debate, the president has forced a spotlight on two things that his administration has wanted to leave vague: the efficacy of sanctions and the quality of American intelligence on Tehran's nuclear program. The Israelis are sure to draw attention to both in the coming months.

David Fuller's view Covert action and sanctions have delayed Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons capability. However, they cannot halt the work of a determined regime which has both the technical and financial resources to become a nuclear power.

Logically, following debilitating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, no US administration will opt for the pyrrhic victory of bombing Iran's nuclear facilities.

Logically, Israel will view an attack of its own as incredibly risky and nothing less than its own pre-emptive nuclear strikes are likely to be successful against Iran's underground facilities. Also, an offensive rather than defensive nuclear 'success' against Iran would leave Israel ostracised and more isolated than ever before.

Logically, even Iran's theocratic regime would not initiate an eventual nuclear strike of its own against Israel, knowing that it would almost certainly be obliterated in response. A far greater risk for Israel is that Iran, under its present rulers, could covertly supply a terrorist group with a small, tactical dirty bomb. However, if used that would not necessarily protect Iran from retaliation.

This possibility would create another MAD (mutually assured destruction) standoff, which we have not really seen since the US / Soviet brinkmanship, and to a lesser extent the hostilities between India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the risk of a serious nuclear conflagration can only increase as more nations acquire the capability.

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