Andrew Sullivan pinpoints the illogic of the American political class’s obsession with Iran while simultaneously mocking North Korea:
Today, the New York Times reports that Israel’s former Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin, has now added his voice to the chorus of people (largely in the intelligence community) who believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s drumbeat of war with Iran is reckless and stupid:
“I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings,” said Yuval Diskin, who stepped down last May after six years running the Shin Bet, Israel’s version of the F.B.I.
“I have observed them from up close,” Mr. Diskin said. “I fear very much that these are not the people I’d want at the wheel.” Echoing Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, Mr. Diskin also said that the government was “misleading the public” about the likely effectiveness of an aerial strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Funny thing about the intelligence community: they’re not elected, so they don’t make their living scaring the bejeezus out of people to keep their jobs. Can we all please take stock of the situation, rationally, and come to the obvious conclusion that Bibi is a demagogic nut job whose overheated rhetoric is destabilizing to the entire region? There is an almost complete transatlantic consensus that bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities is not a very good idea. But why listen to nuclear experts and intelligence chiefs when you can so easily make completely inaccurate analogies comparing today’s situation to the Holocaust?
More interesting developments in the whole will-they-or-won’t-they saga, a romantic comedy starring Israel, bunker-busters, and Iranian nuclear sites. Or as the Greeks might argue, more of a tragedy, really. I suppose this debate is moot until we find out what happens in the end.
And speaking of endgames, I am (slightly, incrementally) heartened by the noises emanating from the American camp. Yesterday, an article appeared on the New York Times web site titled, “U.S. Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb.” The article begins thusly:
Even as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.
Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.
This is strikingly different rhetoric than we’ve been hearing in most quarters recently regarding Iran. My take is that the Obama White House is preemptively trying to distance itself from any decision Israel may take on its own. A similar story took place several days earlier, when American General Martin Dempsey told Fareed Zakaria in an interview that an Israeli strike against Iran would not be “prudent.” This interview aired on the very same day that the Telegraph reported similar comments from British foreign secretary William Hague: an Israeli attack “would not be wise,” he said.
The subtext in the similarity of both the language and the timing of the two interviews was unmistakable: the U.S. and Great Britain are clearly acting in concert to warn the Israeli government, led by the fairly maniacal Benjamin Netanyahu, that they should not expect much support from either the U.S. or the U.K. in planning to attack Iran.
I believe, however, that this latest salvo — fired via the New York Times — is not only a stronger statement than the earlier ones, but may actually be indicative of a point of no return for the United States’ position on Iran. If Israel were to attack Iran, it would be very difficult for the Obama administration to rationally justify supporting or becoming involved in Israel’s military venture, since its own American security and intelligence agencies are making it very clear that they don’t believe the Iranian threat to be as serious as it is often described. I would imagine that Netanyahu is cognizant of this meaning, and I’m betting he’s seething right now. Could we actually be witnessing a 1956 Suez Canal moment, and during an American presidential election year no less?
- Israeli attack on Iran might pull US into new war: analysts – Al-Arabiya (english.alarabiya.net)
- Iran: Attack will lead to Israel’s collapse (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The Problems With an Israeli Attack on Iran (usnews.com)
- U.S. warns Israel against Iran strike (thehindu.com)
Yesterday, Robert Wright wrote a piece called “AIPAC’s Push Toward War” for The Atlantic. In it, he notes:
Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran.
The good news is that the resolution hasn’t been universally embraced in the Senate. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the resolution has “provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war.” The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, “AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an ‘ask’ in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying.”
In standard media accounts, the resolution is being described as an attempt to move the “red line”–the line that, if crossed by Iran, could trigger a US military strike. The Obama administration has said that what’s unacceptable is for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This resolution speaks instead of a “nuclear weaponscapability.” In other words, Iran shouldn’t be allowed to get to a point where, should it decide to produce a nuclear weapon, it would have the wherewithal to do so.
At what point are we, as Americans, allowed to stand up and say what needs to be said: It is Israel, not Iran, that presents the greatest danger to the Middle East right now. Their government is unpredictable; it is a coalition government aligned with some truly despicable, racist warmongers (hello, Avigdor Lieberman and Danny Ayalon); and its perpetual saber-rattling, deceptions, lies, and misdirection has played a large role in making the Middle East a constantly volatile region.
There are other provocations, to be sure — most notably the Arab Spring, despotic dictators clinging to power, and so forth. Then, perhaps most obviously, there is Iran itself, whose leader’s anti-Semitic rants and Holocaust denials are certainly cause for concern. But another preemptive strike on a Middle Eastern country based on flimsy evidence? Not only does this sound familiar, but the advocacy for it is led by the same neocons who started us off on our glorious path in Iraq. That these people are still afforded even the tiniest sliver of credibility is testament to our woeful media’s inability to stand up for facts, as well a searing condemnation of the American public’s ever-dwindling attention spans.
Let’s please, please, not make another mistake. Constant war is not the answer.
- MJ Rosenberg: Don’t Bomb Iran, Contain It (Like the USSR) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bombing Iran: A Real Headache for Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- You: U.S., Israel send mixed messages on Iran (latimes.com)
- The Greater Israel Lobby And Yet Another War (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- When Netanyahu Crossed the Line (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The Iran war party and the war skeptics (csmonitor.com)
- No Iran War Please (tbray.org)
- Senators to urge Obama to make Iranian ‘capability’ a red line – Jewish Telegraphic Agency (jta.org)
- Graham Doesn’t Believe Clapper: ‘I’m Very Convinced’ Iran Is Building Nuclear Weapons (thinkprogress.org)
- Senate: Nuclear Containment Is Not an Option With Iran (tarpon.wordpress.com)
- Senators Promise War With ‘Nuclear Capable’ Iran, Don’t Define ‘Capable’ (alternet.org)