Mearsheimer: 7 reasons Netanyahu & Barak might like war with Iran

Israel/PalestineMiddle East
on 87 Comments
Netanyahu and Barak
Netanyahu and Barak

There is abundant speculation these days about whether Israel will strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. It is widely believed in both Israel and the United States that this would be a remarkably foolish move. I share that sentiment. Yet Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, seem to disagree and keep talking like an Israeli attack is in the offing.

Some people think these Israeli leaders are bluffing and they will not authorize an attack on Iran. I hope they are right, and indeed I do not think Israel will strike Iran in the end. Still, I believe there is a non-trivial chance that Netanyahu and Barak will launch a war. Let me spell out the calculations that could underpin a decision by them to turn the dogs of war loose.

Netanyahu and Barak might reason as follows:

1. There is all this talk about how an attack will threaten our relations with the United States, but there is every reason to think our American supporters can control events there and guarantee a favorable outcome; they always do. Furthermore, who in the United States is going to stand up and criticize us? These people are basically wussies. In fact, the Americans will probably come in on our side if we go to war before the election.

2. The Europeans are wussies too. They constantly carp about our treatment of the Palestinians, but they still upgrade their relations with us. They won’t cause us any serious problems, and if they try to, we can silence them by reminding them of the Holocaust. That always works.

3. Clausewitz taught us that war is the realm of unintended consequences, which is usually interpreted to mean that war leads to unexpected trouble. But it can also lead to unforeseen positive consequences, and who knows, a war with Iran may work to our advantage in the end. You just never know. Of course, it is a leap in the dark, but it beats sitting and waiting while Iran develops nuclear weapons, which would be a dreadful outcome. After all, there is good reason to think the Iranians might use those weapons against us. 

4. Iranian nuclear weapons are an important issue for sure, but it is even more important that we be able to continue expanding settlements in Judea and Samaria and prevent a two-state solution. Threatening a war with Iran has done much to take the Palestinian issue off the front burner in recent months. An actual war – especially since it will be protracted – will insulate us from meaningful criticism for at least a few years. By then, the two-state solution will be dead and buried. All of this is very important if Obama wins a second term, because then he will start leaning on us again to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own. 

5. Other than relying on the lobby, the best way to maintain firm America and European support in the years ahead is to get the West even more deeply embroiled in the Middle East, maybe even create a clash of civilizations. A war with Iran would go a long way toward achieving that goal. It would do wonders for poisoning relations between the United States and the Arab and Islamic world, which would cause the Americans and the Europeans to have even friendlier relations with us. 

6. All of this talk about a “pivot to Asia” has us worried. There is no better way to thwart that proposed strategic shift than to get the Americans involved in another war in the Middle East.

7. If the election looks close in the fall, we strike Iran because that will help tip the balance in Romney’s favor. And if Obama looks like he is going to win, we attack before the election because he will be free to stop us after he wins a second term, just as George Bush refused to give us a green light in 2008, when we wanted to solve the problem once and for all.

Again, I do not think Netanyahu and Barak will go to war against Iran, but they could plausibly concoct a story along the lines described above and convince themselves that it makes sense to attack Iran before the November election. Of course, they would be wrong.

 

About John J. Mearsheimer

John J. Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1982. He is the co-author with Stephen Walt of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

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87 Responses

  1. Kathleen
    August 14, 2012, 10:47 am

    U.S. and Ruropeans are wussies for sure. As Netanyahu has shared before Israel controls the U.S. policy on the conflict through the I lobby.

    Mearsheimer has also put forward that the door to a two state solution has basically all ready been closed.

    One thing he does not address is how would Iran respond. Logical to think that they would have every right to attack Israel. Every right.

    Amazing that what never ever comes up is Israel being pressured to sign the IAEA’s Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty. That would settle the fears about Israel using nuclear weapons in that region quite a bit

    • pabelmont
      August 14, 2012, 1:01 pm

      The door to a two-state solution can be opened, with difficulty, indeed with much greater difficulty than it could have in (say) 1980, when UNSC 465 demanded (without teeth) that Israel remove all settlers and dismantle all settlements.

      The demands of UNSC 465 — which were expressive of well-settled law and human rights concerns — can and should be resurrected, remembered, and especially respected. If not by wussy USA then by perhaps-less-wussy EU. If EU has no red-lines for Israel, then Israel will continue to walk over everyone, as it has of course done.

      So, let’s have a red line! Retrospectively if necessary. Perhaps the red-line should be 750,000 settlers (the number of original Palestinian exiles of 1948, roughly). And then let the EU act strongly and collectively to persuade Israel to leave the territories, starting with the settlers and the settlements. Including that lovely university in Ariel! And all those swimming pools that drink Palestinian water, etc.

  2. CloakAndDagger
    August 14, 2012, 10:52 am

    My guess is that while Nutty Yahoo may indeed formulate such a line of thinking, he will probably have a revolt from his defense establishment on this issue.

    The most telling of all this bluster about attacking Iran is the fact that they are talking about it at all. It makes no military sense to advertise your intentions to attack Iran before doing so, as it removes the element of surprise. They have gone as far as to even pinpoint the specific time that they will attack.

    I believe that they are doing this, as Mearsheimer says, to divert attention from the Palestinian issue – and they have succeeded in doing that.

  3. lysias
    August 14, 2012, 11:04 am

    Hitler had his reasons for attacking Russia in June 1941, but that didn’t mean it was not a dreadful miscalculation.

    Mearsheimer doesn’t mention that a regional war could be a perfect opportunity for Israel to engage in some ethnic cleansing.

    • Kathleen
      August 14, 2012, 9:41 pm

      Ugh and you know they are thinking about more ethnic cleansing. So f’d up. From what Mearsheimer has said in the past the stuck in cement trajectory Israel is on only spells doom and gloom for Israeli’s and the Palestinians. Either stop expanding the illegal settlements and look like you are actually interested in making a deal or seal your fate in an apartheid state.

    • Krauss
      August 15, 2012, 3:30 am

      Mearsheimer doesn’t mention that a regional war could be a perfect opportunity for Israel to engage in some ethnic cleansing.

      Nailed it.

      This is the biggest piece missing from his argument.
      Israel has a consistent pattern when it comes to ethnic cleansing:
      do it when the chaos around them is maximized. The first time was in 1948 and the second time was in 1967, a fact many forget.

      So Israel only does it in face of massive chaos and war. And no other regional foe except Iran would provide that opportunity.

      However, as someone said before, the notion that Israel would telegraph the timeperiod when they are going to strike is ridicolous, it doesn’t work that way.

      If they are going to strike, my guess is after whoever is elected president.
      The world economy seems to be going down anyway.

  4. Denis
    August 14, 2012, 11:13 am

    The strongest argument I see against the idea of Israel attacking Iran is that if an attack were truly in the cards, there would be absolutely no discussion until after the event, and even then the Israelis would not comment or they would deny it. If Israel was going to attack, it would have done so years ago before Iran dug to the bottom of the mountain, and Bibi or Sharon or whomever wouldn’t have asked permission from the US. The Israelis, judging by recent history, are firm believers in the Pearl Harbor approach to making a point.

    Something else is going on. Maybe they are manipulating oil prices. Maybe they are diverting attention from the rape of Palestine. Maybe this sort of bs generates income from the likes of Adelson. There is a reason for it.

    • American
      August 14, 2012, 12:28 pm

      “Rusty Pipes says:
      August 14, 2012 at 11:33 am

      It’s great to see you post here, Professor Mearsheimer!
      >>>>>>>>

      I second that. Thanks!
      Like to see more here from Measheimer and other objective FP experts.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 14, 2012, 12:41 pm

        It’s great to see you post here, Professor Mearsheimer!

        count me in too!

      • CloakAndDagger
        August 14, 2012, 1:40 pm

        Me three!

      • Citizen
        August 14, 2012, 5:39 pm

        Me four!

      • Kathleen
        August 14, 2012, 9:42 pm

        Me five

      • eGuard
        August 15, 2012, 8:12 am

        Not only that. At last a great analysis of the issue, linking Israel’s options with the US election.

    • BillM
      August 14, 2012, 12:54 pm

      The problem with your logic is twofold: 1) you are assuming military factors trump political ones, 2) you are assuming the military factors lead to a surprise attack.

      On the first, the idea that Israel would launch an attack to militarily damage Iran is wrong. Any Israeli attack would be launched for the purpose of triggering a war between Iran and the US that would wreck Iran. From that perspective, surprise in unimportant but laying the political groundwork is vital.

      On the second, Israel favored surprise attacks in the past, but Israeli military doctrine was built around the short, very sharp conflict that quickly carried war to the enemy and forced a treaty. No such conflict strategy is possible in a conflict with Iran, Israel would have no way to force an ending of the war. Unlike is a short war, in a long war surprise in the initial attack is a nice little bonus, but it is not nearly as important as other factors (Japan acheived total surprise at Pearl Harbor: result, complete defeat for Japan).

      Hence, military logic is not controlling the situation, and anyway military logic doesn’t really prioritize a surprise attack in this situation.

      • Citizen
        August 14, 2012, 5:46 pm

        @ BillM

        You make solid points. Thanks for sharing.

      • Denis
        August 14, 2012, 11:32 pm

        BillM, your comment looks like it was meant to be in response to mine although it is not indented that way. I’ll blather on here as if you were responding to me; forgive me if I’m wrong.

        1) you are assuming military factors trump political ones
        You are right, I absolutely am, and they absolutely do. We are not talking jerking the Palestinians around and worrying about whether Israel’s standing in the UN or EU will be adversely affected. We are talking — more to the point, Israel is talking — all out regional war that could involve Russia, China, and thousands of Hezbollah missiles pouring down on Tel Aviv. Russia has already said that an attack on Iran is an attack on Russia, which probably don’t count for much these days. Even so, with Israel’s nuke subs, at least one of which is in the Arabian Sea, we are talking the closest we’ve been to a nuclear war since Cuba. When contemplating war at this level, the political consequences recede into the far, distant background. I do not think Hitler or Hirohito were too worried about whether the League of Nations would approve of their plans. No country is going to carry out a 5-year bluff for political reasons and drive the enemy deeper underground in order to achieve goals it could have achieved in 30 minutes with a strike out of the blue.

        2) you are assuming the military factors lead to a surprise attack.
        No, I am not, if what you meant to say was “military factors necessarily lead to a surprise attack.” I am assuming that one country does not, over a period of more than 5 years, telegraph its intentions of attacking an enemy so that the enemy can dig deeper, build up its defenses, and work more furiously to produce the very nukes that are at issue. That is complete nonsense. There is no example of such behavior in history — not just the history of Israel, but the history of armed warfare.

        Playing the we’re-gonna’-get-nuked-if-you-don’t-help game to garner political/military support from the US might work over a short term as in the short, dirty (but effective) run up to Iraq, but when the war drums thud on and on over the course of years — most of which have been a recession — the US public finally wakes up, as it is doing now, and starts to ask one very important philosophical question: WTF?

        If, in Obama’s judgment, the US would support another Israeli war with more American blood and money, he would have been all over this months ago, his campaign coffers would be brimming over with AIPAC shekels, and the fur would be flying by now.

      • MLE
        August 15, 2012, 10:38 am

        I think the problem is they’re trying to sell it but the American public isn’t buying it, mostly because they really really don’t want another war in the middle east. They’ve been talking about it since 2005 like it was an inevitability by the end of the year and it doesn’t happen.

        I don’t really think Israel is going to attack Iran at this point- they just like using it as leverage, that by not attacking Iran they are doing us a huge favor, so please return the favor by shutting up about the settlements.

  5. Rusty Pipes
    August 14, 2012, 11:33 am

    It’s great to see you post here, Professor Mearsheimer! You list several good reasons we should be concerned that Netanyahu thinks “America is a thing easily moved” — especially before an election.

  6. Chu
    August 14, 2012, 12:02 pm

    Regional war is the glue that binds Israel together as a nation. It’s part of the national psyche about who challenges the state and their next force for wrong are the Persians. If they get this war, you have to wonder who’s next on the hit list?

    But they can’t win this war without cutting of their nose to spite their face.
    A lot of post consequences will occur from another aggressive assault on a regional power. Having enemies all around you, except the Saudis, is no way to ensure your future in the Middle East.

  7. Dan Crowther
    August 14, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Israel has a chance to get what it wants if there is a larger conflict in the region.

    Just look at what the Kurds can do to the map, what they can do to Turkey, Iraq and Iran. All kinds of oil majors are signing deals with the Kurds in northern iraq, and if they gain greater autonomy elsewhere, they will provide a way for the West to extract resources without having to deal with “the enemy” – Balkanization here we come.

    • OlegR
      August 14, 2012, 6:28 pm

      Aren’t Kurds entitled to their own state, they are an ancient nation indigenous
      to the region that got f* *ed by the colonial powers which drew the maps
      in the aftermath of WWI.

      • American
        August 14, 2012, 6:58 pm

        Aren’t Kurds entitled to their own state, they are an ancient nation indigenous to the region that got f* *ed by the colonial powers which drew the maps in the aftermath of WWI”..Oleg

        Maybe they are….but that has nothing to do with Jews being entitled to a state in Palestine….the Kurds where there when the colonial powers botched the map …….the Israelis didn’t exist then.

      • Kathleen
        August 16, 2012, 2:06 pm

        and the kurds and israel would sure like to build those oil pipelines into Israel

      • eljay
        August 14, 2012, 7:30 pm

        >> Aren’t Kurds entitled to their own state, they are an ancient nation indigenous to the region …

        IMO, yes. Certainly more so than citizens of the Jewish faith residing in nations around the world are entitled to a supremacist “Jewish State” in Palestine.

      • Dan Crowther
        August 14, 2012, 8:11 pm

        Hmm, Oleg Champions the Kurds, interesting.

        I agree of course. To me its not a question of who deserves what, its a question of what grievances will be exploited by the big boys for their own interests. Somehow I dont think the west would support Kurdish autonomy in nothern Iraq if it weren’t so resource rich.

      • ColinWright
        August 14, 2012, 10:53 pm

        “…Hmm, Oleg Champions the Kurds, interesting…”

        Kinda dull, really. Yet another Zionist red herring that went bad a long time ago.

        It’s really sort of like the 1001 Nights — only with the Zionists, after 1001, we just start over with 1 again.

        It’s why I tend to doubt the usefulness of debating them. Can we just move past that and discuss what to do about them?

      • American
        August 14, 2012, 11:21 pm

        The Kurds promised Israel oil and help with a pipeline if they backed their split from Iraq.
        That’s why Oleg supports them.
        The Israelis were in the Kurdish region of Iraq helping the Kurds with various things during our Iraq war.

      • OlegR
        August 15, 2012, 3:23 am

        / Somehow I dont think the west would support Kurdish autonomy in nothern Iraq if it weren’t so resource rich./

        The west doesn’t because it would upset Turkey .
        The Kurds are quietly more or less try to build their state bottom up
        exploiting the collapse of the surrounding Arab regimes.

      • OlegR
        August 15, 2012, 3:24 am

        Let’s Colin, you have suggestions?

      • Kathleen
        August 16, 2012, 2:07 pm

        Israel was helping Kurds before the invasion of Iraq

      • ColinWright
        August 17, 2012, 7:07 pm

        “Aren’t Kurds entitled to their own state, they are an ancient nation indigenous
        to the region that got f* *ed by the colonial powers which drew the maps
        in the aftermath of WWI.”

        When the nations currently occupying the territory of your prospective Kurdistan turn out to have come into being with America’s support, to have endured thanks to $400.00 per year per capita in American assistance, and to be protected by an unwavering US veto in the Security council, wake me up.

        I don’t aspire to right all the wrongs in the world — just the ones I am responsible for.

      • RoHa
        August 18, 2012, 11:14 pm

        “Aren’t Kurds entitled to their own state, they are an ancient nation indigenous to the region”

        No, they are an ancient ethnic group indigenous to the region. That does not give them a right to form a state.

        They may have been unwillingly drafted into the states of which they are part, but they were not ethnically cleansed.

        Many Kurds have been oppressed by their countries, but many seem to have been disloyal to those countries as well. I do not know which came first. It may be possible to construct a case for a Kurdistan on this basis, but not on the basis that they are an ethnic group.

  8. BillM
    August 14, 2012, 12:14 pm

    You can add to this list very easily:

    8) Netanyahu may assume that an Iranian response to an Israeli attack would include actions, such as closing the Strait of Hormuz, that would be guaranteed to draw the US into war.

    9) The Arab Spring. War strengthens the conservatives, and gives governments cover to crack down on restive populations, thereby holding back changes in the Arab world.

    10) Economic factors. Israel’s economy is substantially weakening, and anyway defense spending will soon have to shift to the navy to protect the new gas fields. If you don’t launch a war now, economics may foreclose the opportunity in a year.

    Etc, etc, etc. There are a million reasons Netanyahu can concoct to support a war. But there is no evidence that he can convince anyone beside Barak with this logic.

    • Rusty Pipes
      August 14, 2012, 5:09 pm

      9b) Netanyahu’s allies are already using a possible attack on Iran to threaten Hezbollah and Gaza:

      A senior Israeli military official warned Hezbollah on Tuesday it will suffer a “harsh and painful” blow if it assists Iran in the event of an Israeli strike against the Islamic republic, Israeli media reported.

      Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth cited an anonymous official who said Israel will target all of Lebanon, and not just Hezbollah strongholds, in any future war.


      The official’s remarks come a day after former Israeli Mossad chief Danny Yatom said Israel would have to destroy parts of Lebanon and Gaza as part of any strike on Iran, to offset threats on its borders.

      “We will have to stop the firing of missiles, both from the north and the south, as quickly as possible.”

      To do this, he said, Israel would have to “act with great force against infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza, and it is possible that the price that Lebanon and Gaza will pay will be horrible,” he told Israel Radio on Monday.

      “We are liable to destroy, or likely to destroy, parts of Lebanon, and parts of Gaza, so that our citizens will not suffer and be killed,” he said

    • Carowhat
      August 15, 2012, 1:52 am

      It makes perfect sense for Israel to attack Iran. Iran would assume Israel acted in collusion with the United States. It would respond by attacking US forces in the Persian Gulf. Once American sailors die the US would have no choice but to retaliate. At this point Israel could sit back and let America fight the war for it.

      The American public wouldn’t object. And even if it did the media wouldn’t run the stories. In the meantime the US Congress would fall all over itself professing undying support for Israel.

      Israel has everything to gain by attacking Iran, especially since it wouldn’t even have to fight the war. America would do that. Our congress would make sure of it.

      • Kathleen
        August 16, 2012, 2:08 pm

        Iran will attack Israel in retaliation and rightfully so

      • Carowhat
        August 17, 2012, 6:19 pm

        I agree but it will also mine the Straits of Hormuz and fire cruise missiles at American ships in the Persian Gulf. The US would regard either act as an act of war and respond accordingly, which is to say, the US would join Israel in making war on Iran.

        The US and Israel will end up one one side and the rest of the world will side with Iran. The situation will get out of control. When the war ends the resulting depression will go on for another 20 years. The US cannot afford to fund Israel’s desire to annex Judea and Samaria.

        Brazil, India and China have not spent the last couple of decades fighting useless wars in the middle east. And consequently they have far better economies than we do. The per capita income of their citizens goes up every year. Ours goes down.

  9. American
    August 14, 2012, 12:14 pm

    I’m with Mearsheimer’s view. Walt’s take below is similar to Mearsheimer’s.
    From what I’ve read most FP realist are saying “probably not” but “don’t rule it out”.
    IMO it comes down to ….how ‘secure’ are they in their typical Israeli hubris.
    Do they ‘feel’ secure enough about their control of the US outlined by Mearsheimer to be certain a strategy of striking Iran without US approval would be successful?
    I think only being not totally secure about that control would prevent them from attempting it as a way to bring in the US.
    So if they don’t it might tell us something we don’t know and haven ‘t seen about the actual level of support for Israel in the Obama adm and other sectors of the government.

    link to walt.foreignpolicy.com

    ”Although I believe war with Iran would be folly, one cannot rule it out. All countries commit blunders, and neither the United States nor Israel is immune to this sort of miscalculation (see under: Iraq, Lebanon, etc.). But I am remain skeptical that Israel will attack, for the simple reason that it does not have the military capability to inflict strategically significant damage on Iran’s nuclear facilities
    Like I said, I can’t be completely sure that reason will prevail and that a war won’t happen, although there do seem to be a lot of sensible voices inside the Israeli security establishment who are counseling against it.
    What worries me most is that the people who have been sounding all these alarmist warnings will start to worry that their credibility is evaporating, and they will feel compelled to go to war because they’ve talked about it for so long. That’s just about the dumbest reason I can think of, but sometimes even pretty smart people do dumb things. ”

  10. David Doppler
    August 14, 2012, 12:21 pm

    There has to be a way for an American President to criticize the Israeli Prime Minister when he foments stupid and disastrous policies, especially wars of aggression, without losing the next election due to smearing as an Anti-Semite. Here are some suggestions about how to stop being such a wussie.

    1. Another commenter, Stephen ??, a couple days ago suggested that the President hold a meeting and joint press conference with Jewish political and defense leaders who oppose an attack, explaining why this is not a good idea and why it must not happen. This is an excellent idea!

    2. Include some sharp barbs in those statements about playing war games with the US election. That is what it is, but is not generally described that way in the press. Let’s get that out on the table. Enough, already!

    3. Right wing Israelis are going after Obama in this election – how about some realist Americans, and progressive American Jewish groups going after Netanyahu-Lieberman in Israeli politics. He wants to make this a referendum on Obama, let’s make it a referendum on Netanyahu.

    4. The inevitable smears of Anti-Semitism need to be deflected with a question: what? you would make it impossible to criticize stupid policies endangering American troops and interests just because the Israeli government utters them? Government that isn’t accountable for its stupidity is a prescription for disaster, and you should be ashamed to try to stifle debate on US war by equating caution about attacking Iran with Anti-Semitism. It dishonors the victims of real Anti-Semitism.

    • American
      August 14, 2012, 1:19 pm

      “suggested that the President hold a meeting and joint press conference with Jewish political and defense leaders who oppose an attack, explaining why this is not a good idea “…David

      I differ somewhat. The US President should hold a press conference for the American public –and lay it all on the table –but without Jewish leaders.
      Jewish opinion, even anti war, should not be’ showcased’ to the general public.
      It reinforces the idea to Jews that their opinion when it comes to US actions re Israel trumps all non Jewish citizens opinion on US FP and reinforces to the Non Jewish population that Jews control the issue.
      This — the notion that any special group or special sentiment or connection, good or bad, should have more weight on critical US national policies than majority consideration–is exactly what we have to get away from.
      It is exactly what has led to several idiotic and self damaging US policies– of which minority interest in Israel and the less dangerous, but still similar, minorities interest in Cuba are two excellent examples.
      If this is how US policy is to be made, on anything, war, trade, economics, where does it end…if Asians or Russian exiles became the most monied and influential political group would we then let them dictate our national policy toward China or Russia..up to and including a war for or against them?

      • lysias
        August 14, 2012, 2:18 pm

        When Eisenhower rallied the American people to support his demand that Israel withdraw from the Sinai in 1956, he did it through a televised presidential address to the nation.

      • Kathleen
        August 14, 2012, 9:43 pm

        The I lobby has an even stronger hold on congress, media etc now than they did then. If one can imagine that

      • David Doppler
        August 14, 2012, 2:20 pm

        It gives Obama moral authority versus the Anti-Semite screamers to criticize Israeli policies when he’s surrounded by accomplished Israelis who agree with him.

      • American
        August 14, 2012, 9:43 pm

        @ David

        The only possible postive would be Jews themselves hearing what anti war Jews had to say.
        But I don’t think it would be worth the mistake of how it would look doing it that way.

      • Citizen
        August 14, 2012, 6:02 pm

        @ American

        I agree, but Obama is not going to address the American public on TV and tell them point blank a war on Iran is not in America’s interest, nor in the World’s, including Israel. I just can’t see that happening, given his pattern so far. And David Doppler’s wishes? I don’t see them happening either. I mean, who will get up and do what he suggests? Certainly nobody, no names the vast American public would even recognize.

        That given, all of the above could happen if we Americans woke up to the news Israel was bombing Iran. But then it would be too late. We’d be at war with Iran too within a day.

      • Kathleen
        August 16, 2012, 2:12 pm

        The fact that Dennis Ross has come out “neutral” on the Presidential election says to me that Ross does not like where Obama and team are possibly headed with the I/P conflict in his next term. With Ross taking that stance and many of the Iraq war pushers joining Romney’s foreign policy team…makes me like Obama even more. Even though I think he has been a wienie on many issues…sub prime mortgage fraudsters, Aipac espionage trial, illegal settlement expansion etc etc.

      • ritzl
        August 14, 2012, 6:13 pm

        @American Exactly. Well said.

      • Carowhat
        August 15, 2012, 1:55 am

        “Jewish opinion, even anti war, should not be’ showcased’ to the general public. It reinforces the idea to Jews that their opinion when it comes to US actions re Israel trumps all non Jewish citizens opinion on US FP and reinforces to the Non Jewish population that Jews control the issue.”

        Good point.

    • dbroncos
      August 14, 2012, 9:51 pm

      “you would make it impossible to criticize stupid policies endangering American troops and interests just because the Israeli government utters them? Government that isn’t accountable for its stupidity is a prescription for disaster, and you should be ashamed to try to stifle debate on US war by equating caution about attacking Iran with Anti-Semitism. It dishonors the victims of real Anti-Semitism.”

      Good points. It also dishonors American voters, tax payers and soldiers who have all been victims of our support for Israeli fascism.

  11. talknic
    August 14, 2012, 1:17 pm

    8) The PNAC set a ball in motion in June 3, 1997. Signatories:
    Elliott Abrams Gary Bauer William J. Bennett Jeb Bush Dick Cheney Eliot A. Cohen Midge Decter Paula Dobriansky Steve Forbes Aaron Friedberg Francis Fukuyama Frank Gaffney Fred C. Ikle Donald Kagan Zalmay Khalilzad I. Lewis Libby Norman Podhoretz Dan Quayle Peter W. Rodman Stephen P. Rosen Henry S. Rowen Donald Rumsfeld Vin Weber George Weigel Paul Wolfowitz.

    March 16, 2005 …. Iran – MEMORANDUM TO: OPINION LEADERS

    • Kathleen
      August 14, 2012, 9:44 pm

      The PNAC blueprint for the middle east is clearly still in motion.

  12. Matthew Graber
    August 14, 2012, 1:41 pm

    They are such fascists. They love their power and the power of the US military, and not only don’t see the people wh ose lives they are ruining, but they cannot even conceive of any other balance of power whereby they do not get everything they desire.

    Which is why the idea of a nuclear Iran enrages them.

    • ColinWright
      August 14, 2012, 5:50 pm

      “…Which is why the idea of a nuclear Iran enrages them…”

      I don’t think the idea of a nuclear Iran disturbs Israel per se.

      It tends to get overlooked that Iran is actually a thousand miles and two nations over from Israel. Pakistan is the next nation after that — and Pakistan managed to go nuclear without unduly ruffling Israel’s feathers.

      I think Israel needs an enemy. Iran is the best available choice — so she works herself up about Iran. If Iran mysteriously vanished tomorrow — if the Caspian suddenly just broadened out into the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea — there would be a brief, confused pause, and then Israel would fasten on someone else to play the same role that Iran plays.

      Israel has to have an enemy. That’s what this is all about.

      • lysias
        August 15, 2012, 11:01 am

        And the best enemy for Israel to have is an enemy that American governments and people have an irrational hostility to. Iran fits that bill.

      • ColinWright
        August 15, 2012, 3:27 pm

        “And the best enemy for Israel to have is an enemy that American governments and people have an irrational hostility to. Iran fits that bill.”

        I’m a bit surprised I didn’t think of that myself. You’re right of course: Iran is the obvious choice in so many ways.

    • Citizen
      August 14, 2012, 6:04 pm

      Yep

  13. lysias
    August 14, 2012, 2:17 pm

    The naming of Paul Ryan as the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee has so weakened the prospects of the Romney campaign that perhaps Obama need no longer fear the threats of the Israel Lobby and its backers.

    • MLE
      August 15, 2012, 10:42 am

      I want his first act of his second term to be investigating all of Sheldon Adelsons sketchy business dealings. Then he should called Netanyahu and say “Four more years, bitch” then slam the phone down.

    • NickJOCW
      August 15, 2012, 11:16 am

      Lysias, Let’s hope not too many voters mistake him to ‘Ron Paul’.

  14. DICKERSON3870
    August 14, 2012, 2:40 pm

    RE: [PHOTO] “Netanyahu and Barak” ~ caption

    “ODE ON A PERSIAN URN”:

    Bibi and Ehud
    sitting atop Barak’s “black grand piano”:
    P—L—O—T—T—I—N—G
    First comes the propaganda,
    then comes the
    pretext,
    then comes a <a href="Mondoweiss“>war
    in a “Trojan” baby carriage!

  15. ColinWright
    August 14, 2012, 5:45 pm

    To the list of reasons to have a war with Iran, I’d add the murky but I believe essential argument that Israel really lacks the cohesion to be a nation in a vacuum.

    If the place was on an island in the remote Pacific, the inhabitants would be killing each other right now. There has to be an external enemy, someone to find unity in opposing.

    Iran’s the best available candidate for this role at the moment. Ergo, attack Iran.

  16. jdfsau
    August 14, 2012, 6:00 pm

    Israel has never been particularly eager to get in a war where there is even a remote chance of substantial Israeli causalities. It will however be more than happy to goad Obama into attacking Iran while at the same time promising their usual faux pledges of assistance right up to the day of the presidential election. After that day their leverage over Obama runs out.

    Someone has already mentioned the Kurds. What is happening in the Kurdish area of Iraq gives us a blueprint for what is meant to happen in Iran after it is defeated. The oil rich Kurdish area of Iraq is now fully independent and has an Israeli proxy government firmly in place. Scores of Israeli mercenaries or IDF members control the area’s military and governmental affairs. (These mercenaries and IDF members often speak excellent American English and try to give the impression to visitors that that they are actually working work for the American government when they are not. Even the representatives of the US government there don’t know which team they are actually on.)

    The Israelis will not be above using terror to frighten out the few remaining Americans who try to stay in the Kurdish area. The Israelis already know that the US like the UK before them, will quickly run away if exposed to the sort of false flag operations the Israelis are so proficient in committing. Then the Israelis will the Kurdish oil to themselves.

    The road to Iran runs through Syria. After looking at a map of Iran oil reserves I have come to the conclusion that Israel plans to split the oil rich areas there off from the rest of the country and control these regions using the same mix of IDF troops and Israeli paid mercenaries with air support. This can easily be done if Israel’s new colony also controls part of the Iranian coast from which to ship the newly acquired petroleum and to which to receive essential supplies. Along with the sanctions against her, this denial of oil revenue will result in Iran becoming impoverished and no longer any sort of threat to Israel.

    The US has proved to be the loser in the Iraq war. It will also prove to be the patsy in any war with Iran. Israel fully intends to end up with all that oil.

    • Rusty Pipes
      August 15, 2012, 3:45 pm

      Do you have a link to more information about the mercenaries in Kurdish areas of Iraq? It sounds as though there are all sorts of alternative service options available for 18-year-old Israelis with excellent English skills (beyond becoming keyboard warriors for the Foreign Ministry or stenographers at delegitimizing events on US campuses):

      Someone has already mentioned the Kurds. What is happening in the Kurdish area of Iraq gives us a blueprint for what is meant to happen in Iran after it is defeated. The oil rich Kurdish area of Iraq is now fully independent and has an Israeli proxy government firmly in place. Scores of Israeli mercenaries or IDF members control the area’s military and governmental affairs. (These mercenaries and IDF members often speak excellent American English and try to give the impression to visitors that that they are actually working work for the American government when they are not. Even the representatives of the US government there don’t know which team they are actually on.)

  17. ritzl
    August 14, 2012, 6:21 pm

    This article and PW’s unconstrained Marc Zell interview have to be taken together.

    Zell’s encapsulated and concentrated crazy, if it is representative of Israeli politics (I think it is), strongly affects the odds in Mersheimer’s scenario.

  18. dbroncos
    August 14, 2012, 9:29 pm

    Netanyahu is not contemplative, prudent, measured, ponderous or hesitant. He doesn’t lay awake at night thinking about the war dead or the ways in which Iran might respond militarily to an Israeli/American attack or about how such an attack will effect the price of gas in Peoria. Netanyahu is a clever, ambitious, manipulative opportunist. He’ll throw caution to the wind if he sees an opportunity to advance Israel’s long term, fascist plans to claim all of Eretz Israel for Jews and Jews only while dispensing with as many Palestinians as the US will allow. If a war on Iran will serve Israel’s fascist ideals, then he will go to war on Iran believing strongly that the US will back him up even if shit comes to shit storm. We haven’t seen any indications so far that the US won’t do as Israel says.

  19. dbroncos
    August 14, 2012, 9:30 pm

    “But it can also lead to unforeseen positive consequences, and who knows, a war with Iran may work to our advantage in the end.”

    True enough. It could be that a cathartic event is necessary to put some distance between the US and Israel. A war on Iran could turn into that event.

    • Carowhat
      August 15, 2012, 6:45 pm

      An Israeli attack on Iran won’t put any distance between the US and Israel. It will do the opposite. As soon as Israel attacks, Iran will attack our ships in the Persian Gulf, forcing us to enter the war on Israel’s side. Even if Iran is too smart to do that, the US congress will demand that the US enter the war on Israel’s side. Either way, any war quickly becomes one where the US and Israel are on one side, and Iran, and the rest of the world, are on the other.

      The big winner–Israel. The big losers–Iran and the United States. The length of the depression which will follow any war with Iran–20 years.

      • ritzl
        August 15, 2012, 8:12 pm

        Iran wouldn’t have to attack our ships at all. They’d just have to sink a couple of oil tankers. No insurance company would let its insured ships into a war zone (and this one in particular is an oil-tanker turkey shoot).

        If they did let them operate in a war zone or if governments stepped in to underwrite, Iran would just have to sink a few more. Channel blocked.

        And Iran probably wouldn’t have to do even that. First shot fired in anger, even if it misses, and oil speculation would drive the price up to $200-$300/bbl, gas to $7/gal. Pure economic devastation for most. Pure financial nirvana for a few (though probably not enough to outweigh the global ramifications of the devastation).

        Iran has quite a few potent alternatives to direct military confrontation with the US (or Israel for that matter).

      • Carowhat
        August 18, 2012, 5:21 pm

        The US has promised to take military action of the Iran tries to close the Straits of Hormuz. If Iran starts sinking tankers then we start sinking the ships (or destroying the missile batteries) that attacked the tankers. Iran will almost certainly respond to direct attacks on her forces and once she fires a missile at a US aircraft carrier, we will massively respond, thus initiating the next great Middle East war. if not the beginnings of WWIII.

        All it takes is a half dozen sailors to die and we’re in the war. We started the Vietnam war on the strength of an unconfirmed (and later rescinded) sonar operator report on the Turner Joy that he heard high speed screws (torpedoes) in the water.

        We lost 55,000 Americans in that war and the Vietnamese lost millions more. Wars are so easy to start, especially when everyone is so primed (as the world has been by the Israelis) to expect one momentarily.

      • ColinWright
        August 18, 2012, 5:37 pm

        “Iran wouldn’t have to attack our ships at all. They’d just have to sink a couple of oil tankers…”

        That just goes to show what complete bumph all this is. If we were rational, and we were seriously contemplating letting Israel attack Iran, or doing it ourselves, or even seriously making Iran think we were…

        …we’d build a pipeline across Arabia to a Red Sea port. Obvious thing. Not all that hard.

        This leads to the conclusion that either (a) nothing is going to happen, or (b) we are ruled by idiots. Unfortunately, I suspect the case may be the latter.

      • RoHa
        August 18, 2012, 9:59 pm

        “we’d build a pipeline across Arabia to a Red Sea port.”

        The Saudis have already built pipelines to Yanbu. They put in two in 1982.

      • ritzl
        August 20, 2012, 1:26 am

        @Carowhat Yes, absolutely without question this is an exercise in brinksmanship and possible actual provocation.

        My contention is, and Colin Wright clarified it just below, is that Iran has the capability to wreak economic devastation without firing at US military targets. This is/has to be a known, likely, initial outcome to any cursory/limited/airpower-only attack on Iran, within the US government, before the fact of any military v. military action and counter action. If attacked, Iran would only have to “plink” a few tankers and retaliatory damage done. Global chaos. Governments fall. Political careers ruined (such vanity, sadly, may ultimately be what actually stops this madness).

        Whether or not Iran (or crazy elements of the Revolutionary Guard) have the discipline to restrain themselves from targeting US military assets is another major and relevant question. Whether or not the Mullahs could stand the heat from within Iran for the inward-directed economic devastation (from cutting off their own source of [nuclear energy?] development funds by sinking some tankers in retaliation) is another major and relevant question.

        The Tubas Islands are likely heavily fortified. Iran has (and tbh, it’s hard to tell the reality from the hype in internet research given the “jawboning” going on in both directions) trans-sonic torpedoes (no known defense, afaict) as well as anti-ship missiles (known and effective stand-off defense, though proximate launch defense is suspect).

        Is “everybody loses” a compelling enough argument all around to get all the players in this to stop with the agitation/brinksmanship? Don’t know/Toss up. But I think that unlike Viet Nam, there is a huge domestic downside to an attack on Iran and not much, if any, upside. That has to be a part of the provocation calculus from our side.

  20. clubroma
    August 15, 2012, 3:57 am

    Could someone please explain why Isreal is allowed to have nuclear weapons but Iran can’t ?

    • eljay
      August 15, 2012, 10:37 am

      >> Could someone please explain why Isreal is allowed to have nuclear weapons but Iran can’t ?

      Because Israel is “one of us”, and Iran is “one of them”, and the best way to ensure that “we” can continue to dominate “them” with impunity is to have nuclear (or even nookyoolur) weapons.

    • Roya
      August 15, 2012, 8:55 pm

      Because Bibi said so.

    • ColinWright
      August 18, 2012, 5:27 pm

      Disarming both is the obvious solution to all of this — well to be frank, it’s the solution that meets my needs.

      We propose that Iran and Israel agree to exactly the same regimen of prohibitions, restrictions, inspections, safeguards, etc.

      If Iran doesn’t agree, well, there goes her main justification for acquiring a bomb. If Israel doesn’t have it, she’s reasonably safe.

      If Israel doesn’t agree, well then her and Iran are both the problem, and we can apply sanctions to ‘em both until they buckle.

      …Interesting thing about this last is how eminently congenial just about everyone else in the region would find it. Neither one of these guys are really very popular.

      In an ideal world, of course, Iran agrees, doesn’t actually have to do anything until Israel agrees, Israel digs her heels in, and we boycott only Israel. By the time Israel folds, Jews are leaving for points west at a clip of 100,000 a month, the wolves are circling, and it’s all over.

      …then I can go visit Palestine.

      • Roya
        August 18, 2012, 8:30 pm

        Iran has long advocated for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East as well as nuclear disarmament of the entire world, Colin, so there’s no need to speculate about Iran’s views. Israel is the rogue state here.

  21. eGuard
    August 15, 2012, 8:14 am

    JJM: Threatening a war with Iran has done much to take the Palestinian issue off the front burner in recent months.

    Palestinians will pay. Not just “not a state”. Expect ethnic cleansing.

    • ColinWright
      August 18, 2012, 5:31 pm

      eGuard says: “Palestinians will pay. Not just “not a state”. Expect ethnic cleansing.”

      Fundamental law of ethics on Planet Israel: Palestinians will pay. It’s been true from the Holocaust on.

  22. NickJOCW
    August 15, 2012, 10:09 am

    What worries me most is that the people who have been sounding all these alarmist warnings will start to worry that their credibility is evaporating, and they will feel compelled to go to war because they’ve talked about it for so long. That’s just about the dumbest reason I can think of, but sometimes even pretty smart people do dumb things

    That comment from Dr Walt could be close to the truth although the first part alone might explain why Netanyahu keeps the ball in the air. Would it not be political suicide for him to announce now that he has decided Iran is not quite the threat he thought it was and an attack may not be such a good idea? He could be like a cat up a tree; it was one thing to get up there but how the hell does it get down.

    • ColinWright
      August 18, 2012, 5:19 pm

      ‘…He could be like a cat up a tree; it was one thing to get up there but how the hell does it get down.’

      This does visibly happen: people are not as rational as they like to think they are.

      Spain spent a century obviously eviscerating itself trying to recover the Netherlands.

      Mussolini couldn’t have been an idiot. Idiots don’t manage to rise to power and stay there for twenty years. Yet surely after the Italian army’s successive disasters attacking France, Greece, and the British in 1940-41, he could have realized that for whatever reason, Italy wasn’t ready for prime time. Moreover, each for his own reasons, both Hitler and Churchill probably would have been willing to let him announce he didn’t want to play anymore. It would have been worth asking, anyhow. Yet Mussolini persisted…

      We have had successive disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq. Again, however one wishes to formulate it, we obviously have an approach to imperialism that simply doesn’t work. And yet quite a few Americans are perfectly willing to try the same thing again in Iran. To some extent, we’re only doing this because it’s emotionally easier than rethinking our drink.

      So yeah — Netanyahu could blindly march ahead. Why not? It’s pretty common behavior.

  23. Andreas Schlueter
    August 18, 2012, 3:48 pm

    I think point 4 (expansion of settlements) hints to the real direction, but I fear it´s even worse. Hardcore Zionists are still dreaming the old dream of the “Transfer”. Bibi & Co might harbour the weird idea that setting the whole region to flames might give the last chance of selling to Western public the “ethnic cleansing” of the Westbank as the only way to secure Israel´s safety under such circumstances.
    The future looks very worrying!
    Andreas Schlüter
    Sociologist
    Berlin

  24. Andreas Schlueter
    August 18, 2012, 4:11 pm

    I´d like to add 3 Links on the topic of Israel and the US:
    link to wipokuli.wordpress.com
    link to wipokuli.wordpress.com
    link to wipokuli.wordpress.com
    It should also be kept in mind that “Geo Strategy” means a very different thing to the US power elite on one side and the Zionist power elite on the other side.
    Andreas Schlüter

  25. yonah fredman
    August 18, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Hello Professor Mearsheimer,

    Blurb any good books recently?

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