As U.S. and Israeli officials talk publicly about the prospect of a military strike against Iran's nuclear program, the Los Angeles Times reported that the latest U.S. intelligence report indicates Iran is pursuing research that could enable it to build a nuclear weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.
Until quite recently, an alarming new intelligence emerged from intercepted communications of Iranian officials discussing their nuclear program raised concerns that the country's leaders had decided to revive efforts to develop a weapon, the New York Times reports.
Earlier this month, Netanyahu and Obama agreed that the end goal must be to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and that there cannot be any containment of a nuclear Iran.
At the crucial White House meeting, Netanyahu made it clear Israel will go it alone if it decides military action is necessary.
Here are the seven reasons why Israel should preemptively attack Iran this year:
Iran as a de facto nuclear state
First, and foremost, a nuclear-armed capable Iran would drastically change the geopolitical landscape in the volatile Middle East immensely complicating the risks to Israel and the threat to U.S. national security. Why?
For better or worse, there is no doubt that the prospect of escalating tensions is heightened significantly in the cascade of nuclear proliferation to Iran's proxies, Hamas, Hizbullah, Venezuela and Arab Gulf states wanting to go nuclear.
In addition to its suspected nuclear-weapons program Iran owns vast stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, according to Iran Watch.
Israel and America are both far more concerned about Iran's stepped-up enrichment of high grade uranium in an underground bunker in Qom and Natanz, than the failure of the UN nuclear watchdog, in a setback likely to increase the risk of confrontation with the West.
"Israel must be wiped off the map"
Unless the consequences of inaction truly are existential, given the potentially disastrous outcome of the controversial remark by the Iranian president - a unilateral preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear program in Israel's self-defense would be fully justified.
Longstanding economic sanctions - that doesn't bite
Despite an increasingly stringent U.S. and European Union's economic sanctions, Israel faces a dilemma. In the report by the Israeli-based news DEBKAfile, India has reportedly agreed to pay Tehran in gold for the oil it buys, in a move aimed at protecting Delhi from U.S.-sanctions targeting countries who trade with Iran.
Adding insult to the injury, the U.S. government recently said Iran has purchased 180,000 tons of U.S. wheat, which reopened grain trade ties between the two countries embroiled in a stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, according to Reuters.
While Israel is confronting the uncertainties of containing and deterring a non-nuclear Iran, no one knows, however, whether sanctions will bite sufficiently to alter the course of Iran's nuclear program.
Emergence of Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah suicide states
According to the Middle East Quarterly publication of "Iran's Suicide Brigades", the Iranian regime continues to embrace suicide terrorism as an important component of its military doctrine. The goal of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah which Obama does not understand remains Jewish extermination.
As Israeli and American intelligence agencies have also warned, Iran has a network of agents and supporters surrounding Israel and inside the United States.
In Obama's worldview, an Israeli military strike against Iran is a test of his outreach to the Muslim world and a threat to his re-election campaign.
Pyongyang-style pattern of deceit
As the world powers agree on reopening talks with Iran in the coming weeks, the cautiously optimistic Obama administration conveyed its stern warning that this is Iran's last chance for a comprehensive, negotiated and long term resolution of its suspect nuclear program. Much will now depend on the Iranian response to come clean out of its nuclear program, which remains very unlikely.
Obviously, Iran is following North Korea's pattern of stalling, evading and negotiating, a diplomatic strategy that has served them well in the past. Henceforth, it would be a dangerous mistake for Israel to wait while its arch-enemy is racing toward acquiring a nuclear weapon.
"An attack in Iran will increase regional stability in the Middle East"
The possibility that in the event of an Israeli military action, Iran would decide to attack U.S. interests further destabilizing the Middle East is a flawed logic.
In an article written for the New York Times, Major General Amos Yadlin, the former Head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence and current head of the Institute for National Security Studies, believes that an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities will result in regional stability in the Middle East.
Once and for all, a successful military campaign must completely destroy all of Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile infrastructures including the inner sanctum of the mullah-led regime and the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Taking into consideration the unintended consequences, a non-nuclear Iran is more vulnerable today than in the next year. So Israel must get it over with, by itself.
Trust deficit and loss of U.S. credibility
Early in his presidency, Obama sought a diplomatic engagement policy without any preconditions at the expense of Israel and he failed miserably.
Last year, Obama's keynote policy speech calling for a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 Israeli borders was detrimental to the elusive peace process.
Relying on some peculiar arguments, the lack of trust and the Obama administration's undermining of Israel's confidence in its military capabilities only emboldened Iran.
After years of sanctions and complacency, how much more time does Obama need to realize Iran's intention in acquiring a nuclear weapon?
To date, Iran's intransigence and lopsided shadow war has served to heighten the sanctions and increase confrontation.
From Israel's perspective, time is running out with Iran. The choice is clear - Tehran will get the atomic bomb or a preventive strike against Iran's deeply buried underground nuclear facilities is a better option than no option at all.
In retrospect, the trio of contending forces' divergent ambiguities could lead to serious miscalculation and dire consequences. Like it or not, a regime change would not prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon in the foreseeable future.
If President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were alive today, 2012 would be the year which "will live in infamy".
Israel is not About to Attack Iran and Neither is the United States
By Barry Rubin
The radio superhero, The Shadow, had the power to “cloud men’s minds.” But nothing clouds men’s minds like anything that has to do with Jews or Israel. This year’s variation on that theme is the idea that Israel is about to attack Iran. Such a claim repeatedly appears in the media. Some have criticized Israel for attacking Iran and turning the Middle East into a cauldron of turmoil (not as if the region needs any help in that department) despite the fact that it hasn’t even happened.
On the surface, of course, there is apparent evidence for such a thesis. Israel has talked about attacking Iran and, objectively, one can make a case for such an operation. Yet any serious consideration of this scenario — based on actual research and real analysis rather than what the uninformed assemble in their own heads or Israeli leaders sending a message to create a situation where an attack isn’t necessary — is this: It isn’t going to happen.
Indeed, the main leak from the Israeli government, by an ex-intelligence official who hates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been that the Israeli government already decided not to attack Iran. He says that he worries this might change in the future but there’s no hint that this has happened or will happen. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has publicly denied plans for an imminent attack as have other senior government official.
Of course, one might joke that the fact that Israeli leaders talk about attacking Iran is the biggest proof that they aren’t about to do it. But Israel, like other countries, should be subject to rational analysis. Articles being written by others are being spun as saying Israel is going to attack when that’s not what they are saying. I stand by my analysis and before December 31 we will see who was right. I’m not at all worried about stating very clearly that Israel is not going to go to war with Iran.
So why are Israelis talking about a potential attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities? Because that’s a good way — indeed, the only way Israel has — to pressure Western countries to work harder on the issue, to increase sanction and diplomatic efforts. If one believes that somehow pushing Tehran into slowing down or stopping its nuclear weapons’ drive is the only alternative to war, that greatly concentrates policymakers’ minds. Personally, I don’t participate — consciously or as an instrument — in disinformation campaigns, even if they are for a good cause.
Regarding Ronen Bergman’s article in the New York Times, I think the answer is simple: Israeli leaders are not announcing that they are about to attack Iran. They are sending a message that the United States and Europe should act more decisively so that Israel does not feel the need to attack Iran in future. That is a debate that can be held but it does not deal with a different issue: Is Israel about to attack Iran. The answer is “no.”
Why should Israel attack Iran now? Because one day Iran will have nuclear weapons that might be used to attack Israel.
Does Iran have such deliverable weapons now? No.
If Israel attacks Iran now does that mean Iran would never get nuclear weapons? No, it would merely postpone that outcome for at most a year or two more than it would take otherwise. And then it would ensure an all-out endless bloody war thereafter.
If Israel attacks Iranian nuclear installations would that ensure future peace between the two countries? Would it make it less likely that the Tehran regime uses such weapons to strike at Israel in future? No. On the contrary, it would have the exact opposite effect. Again, it would ensure direct warfare between the two countries and make Iran’s use of nuclear weapons against Israel 100 percent probable.
Why is this different from Israeli attacks on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear facilities? Because in those case a single strike by a small number of planes would be sufficient to destroy a single building. And the two regimes, precisely because of the strategic situation, would and could not respond. And if you believe Iran’s regime to be so totally irraitional then factor that point into how it would respond to a direct attack like that.
If Israel attacks Iran would it have backing from anyone else in the world? No, in fact the United States strongly opposes such an operation. Iranian retaliation against oil shipping and terrorist attacks would lead (not overly brave and already appeasement-oriented) Western governments to blame Israel, not Iran. Launching such an attack would ensure a level of international isolation for Israel far higher than what exists today. The idea that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq makes an Israeli attack more attractive is absurd. U.S. forces and interests are in the Gulf and an Israeli attack would — according to the Obama Administration — endanger U.S. interests there.
Would such an attack by Israel be likely to succeed even in doing maximum damage to Iranian facilities? No, a great deal could go wrong, especially against multiple hardened targets at the planes’ maximum range. Planes could get lost or crash or have to turn back. Planes arriving over the targets could miss, or accidentally drop their bombs on civilians, or simply not do much damage. Many targets would remain unscathed.
Additional waves of attack would be needed in a situation where Iran would be better prepared to shoot down the planes. And the second wave would face huge Western opposition. But it would be too late either way since Israel would now be in a full war with Iran.
Imagine a media report after an Israeli attack: A dozen Israeli warplanes hit Iranian nuclear installations today. Three places were damaged to some extent but Iran has a large number of such facilities. Iran and Israel are now in a full state of war. Oil prices zoomed up. The Obama Administration and EU condemned the attack. Iran said it would redouble its drive for nuclear weapons and use them in its defense. Tehran is expected to put the priority on facilities outside of Israel’s range.
So given all of these factors why should Israel possibly attack Iran? It is an absurd idea.
The counter-argument is this: Iran’s regime is irrational and wants to destroy Israel even if the resulting counterattack would kill millions of Iranians and wreck the country. Yet while that analysis should not be totally ruled out, it is far from a certainty. Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons to make itself invulnerable to the costs of its non-nuclear subversion and support for terrorist and revolutionary forces. And a lot of what the Iranian leadership says is demagoguery to build support for itself at home, and to convince the masses to ignore its incompetence and mismanagement.
Moreover, while you may have met Iranians whose grasp of reality is — let me put this politely — somewhat creative and even though the Iran regime evinces an extremist anti-Western, anti-American, and antisemitic ideology, the actual history of Iran (or more narrowly of the Iranian regime) does not show it to be an irrational actor. In other words, tries to implement highly radical, nasty, and terrorist-supporting actions in a careful and cautious manner. Islamist Iran did not invade any of its neighbors and it has not taken big foreign policy risks. In saying this, I’m not being naive or ignoring what Iran’s leaders say or want but what they actually do.
Why does Iran want nuclear weapons? So it can go on sponsoring terrorism, spreading radical ideology, killing Americans through covert actions, and building a sphere of influence without anyone doing anything about it. In other words, the real threat is Iran’s conventional foreign policy safeguarded by nuclear weapons. Are there precedents for this? Sure. More recently, Pakistan and North Korea, going back further in time, the Stalinist USSR.
Yet given the points made above, even the Iran as irrational analysis — and even assuming it to be correct the probability of being right about Iran ever trying to launch a nuclear attack is far lower than 100 percent — does not justify an Israeli attack at this time.
And, finally, Israel has other options. The alternative is this: As the Iranian regime works hard to get nuclear weapons and missiles capable of carrying them, Israel uses the time to build a multi-level defensive and offensive capability. These layers include:
- U.S. early warning stations and anti-missile missile installations in the Gulf;
- Israeli missile-launching submarines;
- Israel long-range planes whose crews have rehearsed and planned for strikes at Iranian facilities; different types of anti-missile missiles capable of knocking down the small number of missiles Iran could fire simultaneously;
- covert operations, possibly including computer viruses and assassinations, to slow down Iran’s development of nuclear weapons;
- improved intelligence;
- help to the Iranian opposition (though the idea of “regime change” in the near future is a fantasy);
- and other measures.
If and when there was a clear Iranian threat to attack Israel, then Israel could launch a preemptive assault. And if no such threat ever materializes, Israel need never attack. Any future Iran-Israel war will happen if Iran’s regime makes it unavoidable, not in theory but in actual practice.
Note that attacking a limited number of missiles and launch facilities, that must be located closer to Israel within Iranian territory, is easy. Attacking multiple nuclear facilities buried deep in the ground anywhere in Iran is hard.
Ah, but what if Iran gives small nuclear devices to terrorists? Well ask yourself two simple questions:
- Would an Israeli attack on Iran ensure that this didn’t happen? Answer: Not at all.
- Would an Israeli attack on Iran ensure that Iran would definitely give nuclear devices to terrorists and try to strike against Israel as quickly and as frequently as possible? Absolutely yes.
Does this Israeli strategy assume that Iran’s regime is “rational” and “peace-loving” and will be deterred by Israel’s ability to strike back? Absolutely not. Indeed, quite the opposite. No such assumption is required. Israel will simply be ready and alert based on the assumption that Iran might attack some day. But such a war, however possible, is not inevitable. And since Israel cannot prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons by attacking, there is no point in doing so.
Whether you hope for or fear an Israeli attack on Iran, it isn’t going to happen.
At the same time, a new theme in the America mass media — for example here and here — is that the United States is headed toward war with Iran either by electing a Republican president, the inevitable weight of events, or through having sanctions so effective that a cornered Iran will attack. The fact is that neither country wants to have an armed conflict and such a battle is easily avoidable. Ironically, those who claim Iran is going to attack are using the crazy Tehran regime concept that they reject when it comes to nuclear weapons. And the “watch out for the warmongering Republicans slogan” is part of the election campaign.
Warning against tough sanctions is a way of avoiding tough sanctions. The argument boils down to saying that sanctions better not hurt Iran or else the consequences will be disastrous. We will be hearing the same argument soon about Hamas, Hizballah, Egypt, and maybe even Libya or Turkey. The effort to use U.S. leverage will be said as triggering war or an anti-American explosion among Muslims. Thus, for example, whatever the Egyptian regime does toward Israel or its own people, we will be told that reducing U.S. aid is not an option.
Going to war with Iran is a mistake and the hysteria on this issue, including claims the regime is about to fall, that it can easily be brought down, or that an Iranian nuclear attack on others is inevitable, should be reined in. That’s precisely why sanctions and other measures should be applied to the fullest extent possible.
And there isn’t going to be any war unless Iran’s regime tries to use them or make a big mistake. It could, as Egypt did in 1967 or Saddam Hussein did in the late 1990s, rattle “nuclear sabers” enough to convince Israel that an attack is imminent. Even if it did not intend to attack, Tehran could push too hard and trigger an Israeli attack. By the same token, some Iranian attack on Western forces or on oil traffic in the Gulf — more likely triggered by a local commander without regime permission — could produce a slide into war with the United States.
But here’s what’s most likely going to happen: Iran will get nuclear weapons. Iran is not going to stop its nuclear drive (though it could stop short of actually building bombs or warheads ready to go). Western policies are not so bold or adventurous as to go to war; Israel’s interests and capabilities do not make attacking sensible. An attack would not solve but increase problems. And no matter how crazy you think Iran’s regime is, the inescapable predicable threat is not high enough to force policymakers to risk getting hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people killed, when the chance of avoiding such an outcome is very high.