Monday, September 28, 2009

Drum beat to war with Iran?

Israel's rulers know very well that there is no real military option for them in order to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, if this is really the Iranian goal. These leaders know also that even if Iran does possess nuclear weapons, the threat to Israel will not be much higher than the existing one. Iran has already the capability with its conventional rockets and those of its proxy Hezbollah to hit Israeli strategic targets
like electrical plants, tanks containing poisonous substances etc. and cause the death of at least hundreds of thousands Israelis. Thus Iran already poses an existential threat to Israel. Still the Iranian rulers behave more rationally than their reckless rhetoric against Israel let presume. Besides, even if Iran does possess nuclear weapons it would be very difficult to attack Israel with them without killing many Palestinians.

Therefore instead of the belligerent rhetoric it would make sense either to give Iran some incentives to give up its nuclear plan or at least develop effective mechanisms, not unlike those between the US and the former USSR during the "Cold War" in order to prevent a fatal accident.

Meanwhile Israel's rulers try not to go too far in formulating the Iranian threat as it might put the Israeli citizens in panic and accordingly there are some comforting declarations e.g. from the Israel war minister Ehud Barak:

"Right now, Iran does not have a bomb. Even if it did, this would not make it a threat to Israel's existence. Israel can lay waste to Iran…" (New York Times, September 17, 2009)

Israel's leaders know that they are not likely to get a green light from Washington for a military attack against Iran and that even if they do get such an OK from the US administration, the Iranian response might be very deadly for Israel and the whole region for the reasons stated above.

The US analyst Anthony H. Cordesman, who is close to the Israeli and US establishments wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal:

"An effective Israeli nuclear strike may not be possible, yet a regional nuclear arms race is a game that Iran can start, but cannot possibly win. Anyone who meets regularly with senior Israeli officials, officers and experts knows that Israel is considering military options, but considering them carefully and with an understanding that they pose serious problems and risks."

Cordesman wrote further:

"The conclusion is that Israel could attack only a few Iranian targets—not as part of a sustainable operation over time, but as a one-time surprise operation."

And:

"…Israel would have to contend with the fact that it has consistently had a "red light" from both the Bush and Obama administrations opposing such strikes. Any strike that overflew Arab territory or attacked a fellow Islamic state would stir the ire of neighboring Arab states, as well as Russia, China and several European states."

Cordesman finishes his article in stating that Israel poses an existential threat to Iran:

"While Iran is larger than Israel, its population centers are so vulnerable to Israeli thermonuclear weapons that Israel already is a major "existential" threat to Iran."

In clear language this means that if there was a real military option the Israeli air force would have attacked Iran long ago. The US "red light" for such an attack means that even the famous and powerful "pro-Israel" lobby, that allegedly made the US invade Iraq in 2003 because of the supposed Israeli interests, cannot get a US "green light".

Even the present very belligerent and disproportional tones coming from Washington following the Iranian admissions that it is enriching uranium do not seem to signal a real change in the attitude towards a military operation.

It should be noted that Obama's reaction to the disclosure of a new Iranian enrichment facility is not very credible. If the US "intelligence" community had known about it for a long time, why had they not published it before; and if it is so dangerous, why does the Iranian regime admit its existence? Even Israeli state radio in its Friday noon news broadcast talked about a US spin in this context.

One can only speculate about the reasons of this spin. The most likely explanation is that the Obama administration has decided to station anti-ballistic missiles(ABM)
in the Middle Eastand has to get an Arab political and financial support for this plan.

An obviously well informed US analyst, Greg Grant Friday, wrote on his blog on September 18th.:

"The Obama administration has been frantically cobbling together a package of incentives to try and convince the Israelis to keep their bombers out of Iranian air space. Placing a ring of anti-ballistic missiles at sea in the Persian Gulf and at sites on the Arabian Peninsula is a key part of that effort, the [Pentagon] source tells us.

(…)

Behind the scenes, near term deployments will focus on boosting missile defense capabilities in the Gulf."

This policy is in accordance with the old neocon objective of strengthening the ABM program and now there is a good chance that Arab Gulf states will not only allow the stationing of ABMs on their territories but also will finance them and thus help the ailing US economy

It is noteworthy that notwithstanding the real aims of Iran's policy, they certainly help Israel to remove the Palestinian issue from the international agenda. In order to restraint the Israeli leadership from attacking Iran, Greg Grant has stated correctly that the Obama administration has cobbled together a package of incentives for Israel. Those inducements definitely include concessions on the palestinian issue. Thus the Iranian leadership has once harmed again Palestinian interests.

On the other hand Iran's rulers now have an opportunity to make several important demands in return for abandoning their nuclear ambitions. They may thereby achieve important objectives not only for their own country, but also for the Palestinians.

Edited by George Malent

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