What is the latest stage of Iran hysteria? Will the U.S. strike? Will Israel? Several recent opinions follow.
First Elliott Abrams, an adviser to Paul Ryan, calls for a war resolution to hold Obama’s feet to the fire on attacking Iran. Is this what this election is about? Will the media discuss this bargaining? From the Weekly Standard:
At the moment, no one is persuaded that the United States will use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That situation worries Israelis and emboldens Iranians, not the outcome we want. A clear statement now that is backed by the nominees of both parties and elicits widespread support in Congress would demonstrate that, whatever the election results, American policy is set.
Meantime, Shai Feldman of Brandeis writes at Foreign Policy that Netanyahu’s game is played, and there will be no Israeli attack on Iran. Last weekend Israeli president Shimon Peres came out against an attack, and the sanity of Israel’s leadership was questioned by a former leading strategist, former Director of Military Intelligence General Uri Sagi. Feldman:
Sagi questioned, for the first time publicly, whether Israel can rely on the judgment and mental stability of its current leaders to guide it in time of war. Listing a number of past strategic errors made by Barak and hinting at Netanyahu’s ascribed tendency to traverse rapidly between euphoria and panic, Sagi expressed grave doubts whether Israel’s current leaders can take the pressures and stress entailed in managing a major military confrontation.
Contrary to what many think, Netanyahu and Barak never bluffed — they did not threaten war simply to extort an American commitment to take care of the problem. They genuinely believe that a nuclear Iran poses Israel with untold threats that should be avoided at almost any cost. They did not bluff, but they were defeated. With President Peres publicly joining the many formidable opponents of a military strike and General Sagi raising questions about the competence of Israel’s current leaders, Israel now lacks the minimal consensus required for a demanding military campaign to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations. The debate has been settled. At least for now.
Speaking of mental instability, Michael Koplow, a PhD student, Georgetown, writes at his site that the overtures by war supporters to religious leader Ovadia Yosef that we covered yesterday are a cynical effort to sway one political figure, Eli Yishai of Shas.
Make no mistake about what is going on here in case it isn’t already abundantly clear: Netanyahu is trying to swing a vote to launch a strike against Iran by convincing a religious leader to order an acolyte to vote a certain way. He is not trying to convince Yishai by making a cogent case for military action – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he has given up trying to do it this way – but is going above his head to Yishai’s rabbi, whom he knows Yishai is bound to follow, and telling a man with no national security experience at all and no training or education in evaluating intelligence or threat assessments that it is crucial to bomb Iran. Does anyone think that Amidror, a general and Israel’s equivalent of Tom Donilon, had any trouble at all convincing Rabbi Yosef about the urgent need to strike now in order to prevent Israel’s annihilation? For all of the outrageous things that go on in politics, and Israeli politics in particular, this represents an absolute low. It is a naked appeal to religious authority made to a theocratic party in which politicians serve as mouthpieces for rabbis.
A sharp friend writes me that the Israelis haven’t given up a plan to attack before the election:
This is one of several stories in Haaretz today, all of them preoccupied with the likelihood of an attack on Iran in the coming weeks. The phrasing in Aluf Benn’s article, not “if” but “when,” must be purposeful. I guess he is a sort of Israeli Bill Keller. He wants it (though he doesn’t say so), but more than that, he really thinks it is going to happen.
I hate predictions but these coming in Haaretz may be right right. Because (1) Netanyahu has stirred such a panic in Israel that any serious climb-down would mean a loss of face and a permanent loss of political power. (2) Obama has done nothing but placate–hasn’t made any sort of counter-explanation in advance, to justify U.S. disapproval or failure to satisfy all Israeli demands in case of attack. Election-consequences frighten Obama more the prospect of another war.
And if it comes, there’s a strong possibility that September or October will be the time. The only risk for Netanyahu is that he might be accused of tampering with the American election. But he’d trust his U.S. propaganda machine and its subsidiaries for protection against that charge–a scandalously low-minded view of an ally in distress under existential threat. Any failure of the attack can be blamed on Obama’s lukewarmness (he should have let the U.S. do it), and the payoff then comes in further weakening his stature.
Also, I think Iran is resigned to it: the provocative statement by Khamenei last week, saying that “Zionism will disappear from the map,” was an echo of the old provocation by Ahmadinejad, and something he had avoided until now.
Though you might mention that my scholarly betters (truly) on this subject including Trita Parsi, M.J. Rosenberg, and recently Gareth Porter all are almost certain it’s a bluff by Israel, only thrown up to lure Obama in.