THE PERSIAN-ISRAELI CONUNDRUM: SOME VIEWS FROM A FORUM AT THE NEW AMERICAN FOUNDATION
"WASHINGTON, D.C. - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the AIPAC conference in Washington on Monday, called on the international community to acknowledge the fact that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
"Amazingly, some people refuse to acknowledge that Iran's goal is to develop nuclear weapons. You see, Iran claims that it's enriching uranium to develop medical research. Yeah, right," Netanyahu said.
"If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? That's right, it's a duck. But this duck is a nuclear duck and it's time the world started calling a duck a duck," he said.
Netanyahu reiterated the fact that Israel reserves its right to protect itself. He added that for Israel all options remain on the table. “I will never gamble with the security of Israel.,” he explained. Netanyahu warned of the dangers of a nuclear Iran. “A nuclear-armed Iran would dramatically increase terrorism by giving terrorists a nuclear umbrella,” he said. "That means that Iran’s terror proxies like Hezbollah, Hamas will be emboldened to attack America, Israel, and others because they will be backed by a power with atomic weapons."
Drawing a parallel with arguments against attacking Iran, Netanyahu said the War Department explained that such an operation at Auschwitz could provoke "even more vindictive action by the Germans".
"Think about that, even more vindictive action than the Holocaust," Netanyahu said. He dismissed arguments that an attack on Iran would exact too heavy a toll by provoking Iranian retaliation. He held up a copy of a 1944 letter from the U.S. War Department rejecting world Jewish leaders' entreaties to bomb the Auschwitz death camp because it would be "ineffective" and "might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans."
"My friends, 2012 is not 1944," Netanyahu said. "Today, we have a state of our own. And the purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives and to secure the Jewish future."
Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House and said that Israel has not made any decision on attacking Iran to stop its nuclear program. Sources who were briefed on the meeting afterward said Obama and Netanyahu agreed to increase their coordination on Iran. Israel's Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is to visit Washington in two weeks to discuss the issue with U.S. officials.
During their meeting, Obama told Netanyahu that Israel and the United States have an identical goal with regard to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"I have no intention of trying to contain the Iranian issue," Obama reportedly told Netanyahu.
"I think that there's time for diplomacy and in any case I am not taking any options off the table, including a military option."
The New York Times reported that Obama said that discussion of a possible strike on Iran was leading to global oil price increases, and was undermining sanctions on Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu responded that U.S. officials' remarks against an Iran strike may be showing weakness to the Iran regime, according to the New York Times report.
Barak Ravid & Chemi Chalev. "Netanyahu in AIPAC Speech: Israel cannot afford to wait much longer on Iran [Persia]." Haaretz. 6 March 2012, in www.haaretz.com
"The US joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, said an Israeli attack on Iran would have grave consequences for the entire region and urged Israel to give international sanctions against Iran more time to work.
“I believe it is unclear (that Iran would assemble a bomb) and on that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us,” Gen Dempsey said.
He said he was confident Israel knew that this was the general US attitude, but he stopped short of suggesting that the Americans had persuaded the Israelis that it was best not to attack Iran. “I'm confident that they (Israel) understand our concerns that a strike at this time would be destabilising and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” he said.
“I wouldn’t suggest, sitting here today, that we’ve persuaded them that our view is the correct view.”'
James Blitz, "Iran set to expand Uranium enrichment." The Financial Times. 20 February 2012. in www.ft.com
Yesterday, the New American Foundation, had a forum here in Manhattan at their lovely Manhattan headquarters, dealing with a most pertinent and topical issue:"Iran [Persia] and Israel: the New Cold War?" The two invited guests who discussed this most interesting of topics were Peter Beinart the influential, former editor of the neo-liberal & neo-conservative publication 'the New Republic', who was (like a lot of other people of similar ideological persuasion) back in 2003 an advocate of the Iraq War. Beinart being the 'Israeli' specialist for the purposes of the event. His counter-part for the evening and Persian specialist (a much more justifiable characterization actually) was Afshin Molavi a journalist and author of Persian descent who is has reported from Persia and the Near East region in general of a good number of years. Au fond, both gentlemen agreed with each other that a military conflict over the issue of Persia's perceived quest for nuclear weapons would be extremely unfortunate and perhaps unnecessary. According to Beinart, much of the extreme rhetoric coming from the Netanyahu Cabinet reflects a point of view which is not found in the rest of Israeli society. Which as Beinart cogently points out, is not to say that other members of Netanyahu's government (like Defence Chief Barak) are not considerably worried by the threat of Persia obtaining nuclear weapons. Merely that for much of the elite of Israeli decision-makers, the threat from Persia is strategic and geopolitical and not of a Hitlerian threat variety. In essence if Persia were to obtain nuclear weapons, the likelihood is that Israel's margin for strategic safety and indeed its perceived strategic superiority in the region would be considerably eroded. That being said, as Beinart points out, in this instance, even with the successful track record of the unilateral strikes of 1981 (against Iraq) and 2007 (against Syria), most of the Israeli pays legal, is insistent that nothing be done by way of military strikes unless and until there is, at the very least, American acquiescence if not outright support. As Beinart nicely characterized the matter: "Israeli policy is to get the US to do something." As per Beinart, his sense of the matter in the aftermath of Netanyahu's meeting with American officials last week, is that the Israelis have agreed to give more time for sanctions and that the question of a military strike was not in reality broached much less seriously discussed.
In the case of Persia, as per Molavi, the perceived idea that there is mass support for Teheran's quest for nuclear weapons is in fact erroneous (something which I have always contended was the case). That it is much more a policy goal by the revolutionary guard elites around the current Persian President as well as the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, rather than not. That fundamentally Persia is a 'survivalist state', and that if economic and other sanctions were to seriously threaten the existence of the regime, then and only then will the regime of Mullahs be willing to stage a diplomatic climbdown and negotiate a reasonable and plausible solution to the nuclear question. That in the current climate of more and harsher economic sanctions as well as the greater diplomatic isolation due to the crisis in Syria, that there is indeed space for a modus vivendi agreement between the West and the regime in Teheran. As Molavi accurately stated the fact, Persia: 'cannot live without exports'. That at heart the regime will `a la its settlement of the war with Iraq in 1989, 'accept the unacceptable and endure the unendurable'.. (to quote from the Showa Emperor in August 1945). To sum up, I for one, came away from the event with the feeling that with the full weight of sanctions being applied to Persia circa July of this year, that indeed diplomacy will have a chance of sorting out the mess of Persia's nuclear ambitions, provided the the Israelis do not jump the gun by pre-maturely launching an attack. Based upon the tea leave reading of newspaper reports from last weeks meetings in Washington, DC., it appears that time has indeed been gained sufficiently for one last effort to resolve the matter peacefully.