I’m freshly shocked every day, which is how I stay in business, and today I’m shocked that the New Yorker has published an article on Iranian nukes, written by David Makovsky of the Israel lobby group, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Makovsky is the guy who suggested to Congress that Israeli checkpoints could be made better for Palestinians by installing “appropriate biometrics,” and this piece brims with Israeli arguments put forward as American concerns. A nuclear Iran “poses a considerable risk to American interests.” It would “undermine American credibility” in the world. “All evidence” suggests that Iran is seeking to build a bomb. A former official of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Ariel Levite, is afforded a platform by Makovsky to make fun of US efforts to stop Pakistan and North Korea from getting the bomb: “too early, too early– oops– too late.” So we should have bombed Pakistan and North Korea, too, before they went nuclear. And what about bombing Israel?
Neocons Elliott Abrams and Eliot Cohen also are quoted from Makovsky’s exclusive interviews. Oh, what access!
The New Yorker presumably ran the article because it offers new details–learned from Israeli officials and the Mossad, of course–about Israel’s purported strike on a Syrian nuclear facility in 2007 half a mile from the Euphrates River. Makovsky offers that strike, which he assures us caused no contamination to the Euphrates, as the gameplan for Israel striking Iran. But this argument falls apart on its own terms. As Ali Gharib has pointed out, if the key to a successful Syria attack was that its secrecy granted Bashar al-Assad the opportunity to deny that it had taken place and therefore save face rather than have to retaliate, this secrecy and face-saving equation is completely gone in the Iranian situation.
But let me get to the preposterous claim that I cite in my headline, which is indicative of the degraded epistemological standards in this piece. Makovsky says that Israelis got “flagrant” evidence of North Korea’s role in building the Syrian nuclear facility when its agents broke into a Vienna hotel room and hacked a computer belonging to a Syrian scientist and discovered three dozen “color photographs” taken inside the building.
“The photographs showed workers from North Korea at the site.”
I’m sure glad those photographs were in color! Otherwise how would the Israelis know that the workers were North Korean? Maybe some of the photos were of their passports? This “information” with no elaboration is repeated several times by Makovsky as the smoking gun; he says it “vindicated” Dick Cheney’s suspicions of Syrian-North Korean collaboration.
But wait, why is such evidence “flagrant,” let alone dispositive? Why is Cheney any arbiter of intelligence? Shouldn’t the editors have demanded more proof from Makovsky before passing along these claims, including maybe the photographs themselves? We just went through this, with weapons of mass destruction, and aluminum tubes, and yellowcake, and all the other “flagrant” evidence. Jeffrey Goldberg went to Kurdish Iraq for The New Yorker and found undeniable evidence of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s connections to Al Qaeda; and Goldberg’s role in fomenting that war is a living embarrassment to the magazine that protested the Vietnam war week after week in the late 60s.
Why is the New Yorker running this stuff– at a time when Bill Keller of the Times, who was also fooled on Iraq, is saying we can contain Iran. I think David Remnick, the magazine’s editor, who was also wrong on Iraq, is taking one for the team; that the piece’s publication reflects his need to express Israel’s “existential” fears (that word is also in the piece) out of respect for the American Jewish community. That said, a week or so back Remnick did an excellent piece himself on opposition inside the Israeli establishment to an attack. He should now follow Keller’s example and give voice to the growing crowd of American realists who say that we contained the Soviet Union, Israel should get over its existentialism.
P.S. The piece uses the awful phrase “reported back to” — a sign that this piece was pushed past the New Yorker editors, who woulda caught it usually. The word “report” contains the idea that you are bringing news back to someone; that’s why it begins with “re-”. This is as irritating a phrase as “refer back”. The correct verb is “reported to.”