Archive for May, 2012

Originally published in The Herald of Randolph

Let’s stop kidding ourselves.  If America attacks Iran or can legitimately be accused of approving such an attack by Israel, the results will be a disaster for us.  Even if Israel goes ahead with such an attack without our approval, the world will be in deep trouble.

It is an unfortunate fact that in matters like this, US foreign policy is normally made on the basis of the domestic political needs and objectives of the party in power.  What that means today is that the Democrats probably believe that it would be political suicide in the face of the upcoming national elections to do anything that would appear to be contrary to the Israeli government’s needs or wishes.

That reality has given the Republicans conservatives the opportunity to attack the Democrats if they do not take on Iran, either through Israel or unilaterally.  In fact, the war cries from the far right are increasingly strident.

Yet, in Israel, relative calm and prudence remain.

Current and former Israeli military and intelligence chiefs continue to maintain that they do not support a strike on Iran and that Iran is not an existential threat to Israel.

A recent Tel Aviv University poll found that 62.9 percent of Israelis strongly or moderately oppose Unilateral Israeli attack on Iran.  That same poll found that 70% of Israelis believe such an attack would be ineffective in “stopping Iran’s nuclearization for a substantial time”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency and the US intelligence Community have both said that Iran has not yet decided whether or not to build a bomb.  In addition, Michael Hayden, the former CIA Director said recently that the CIA under President Bush II determined that an attack on Iran was a bad idea and strongly advised against such an attack today.

Further, American intelligence and military estimates say that at best an air attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would only delay their nuclear program and could “carry unforeseen risks”.

Consensus in the US intelligence and military communities, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates concludes that damage would not be great and that Iran would rebuild. “The regime’s resolve to build a weapon, if it so chooses, may only be hardened” and that “If Iran did attempt to restart its nuclear program after an attack, it would be much more difficult for the United States to stop it.”

The more practical military question is whether or not either the US or Israel actually has the weapons needed to have any real impact on the Iraqi nuclear program.  Largely as a result of perceived threats from the United States and Israel, Iran long ago decided the put that program as far out of reach as possible.  That decision lead to burying the program far under ground in locations that are extremely difficult to attack.  That fact makes the construction of an effective weapon technically difficult and requires extraordinary precision in delivery and aim.  It is unclear whether either of these criteria can be met and whether there is any hope of materially damaging the Iranian program.

What would a post-attack world look like? The first danger would be to all US military and civilian personnel and interests in the Middle East.  Acting through Shia allies throughout the region, as well as Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran would certainly move to make our lives as untenable as possible.  In addition, they would likely close the Straits of Hormuz, shutting down the movement of one fifth of the world’s crude oil to its western markets and creating western economic chaos

In the longer term, an attack on Iran, whether by Israel, the US, or both, is about the only thing that can unite the essentially pro-Western, anti-regime population in Iran against us.  That bodes really ill for the future.  Along with that would come the virtual guarantee that Iran, irrespective of what we think they are doing, or not doing today, will undertake a nuclear weapons program in the future.

There certainly doesn’t seem too much in it for the United States in an attack on Iran.  In fact, it looks like a disaster waiting to happen.  In return for an attack of highly dubious efficacy, we get in return Iranian and Iranian-sponsored attacks on us and our interests, international economic instability and regional chaos.  And we would be a part of this without conclusive proof that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon?

When does America get to define her own national interests?

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