I was chagrined watching Chris Matthews on the Iran question tonight. He had Michael Rubin of AEI on (before sunset on Yom Kippur; wonder what Sandy Koufax would do?) pitching neoconservative religion and Robert Baer, the former CIA guy. All three were doomsday. And Matthews conducted the rapidfire session like a catechism of crisis. Ratcheting up the probabilities with each question till we went to break and I was sure we were on the threshhold of WW3.
To his credit, Rubin separated Israel’s interest from the U.S.’s– something the neocons never did when they pushed the Iraq war. But he said in essence: it’s an existential threat and Israel is going to take matters into its hands.
Matthews went along with that. He kept referring to Israel as the refuge for the Jewish people–in what I took to be a motion of unexamined Irish Catholic sympathy–and said that Iran wanted to eliminate it.
I wish someone had dealt with the Iranian bluster question. Ahmadinejad has never said that he aims to destroy Israel; he has said that it will vanish from the page of time. Not that different from anti-Zionists in the U.S. who call Israel the Temporary Zionist Entity. Also, Ahmadinejad has said that he defers to the political wishes of the Palestinians. Would he really aim to destroy the Palestinians? Ahmadinejad is angered by the unending occupation, which is a red flag of injustice across the Muslim world. And as Steve Walt has pointed out, the Iranians would never fire one missile at a country that has 200– why, to watch their country get burnt to a crisp?
I wish Matthews had brought up Zbig Brzezinski’s statement that the U.S. should take out Israeli jets before they try to attack Iran, because the American interest, including troops in Iraq, would be so harmed by such a strike. Matthews agreed with Rubin that a nuclearized Iran is a "psychological threat" to Israel. But when it comes to psyche, what about Netanyahu’s irrational performance at the U.N., producing blueprints of Auschwitz to counter Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial, and calling Hamas Nazis. Is this a rational actor? Do we want him in the driver’s seat for WW3?
Both Rubin and fellow neocon Eliot Cohen in the Wall Street Journal have the same recommendation: regime change. Iran won’t be safe till the Islamic Republic is gone. And a strike, Rubin concedes, will insure that the Islamic Republic is around for a long time. Eliot Cohen seems to want a permanent war in the Middle East:
The choices are now what they ever were: an American or an Israeli strike, which would probably cause a substantial war, or living in a world with Iranian nuclear weapons, which may also result in war, perhaps nuclear, over a longer period of time.
Funny how the neocons always project Israel’s bad behavior on others. Cohen says that the Iranians are responsible for an arms race in the Middle East. Is the responsibility theirs alone? And as for regime change, how many Americans in high places believe that no progress will come on our biggest problem in the Middle East, the Israel/Palestine conflict, until the Netanyahu government is thrown out?
Oh here’s another neocon on the loose: Paul Wolfowitz at Financial Times, pushing for regime change, too.