In an absolutely searing piece in the Jerusalem Post, editor David Horovitz takes note of the recantation of Adm. Michael McConnell, “the man responsible for the US National Intelligence Estimate”:
What McConnell is now saying amounts to the very opposite: Yes, runs the amended narrative, we think the Iranians may have halted what we narrowly, foolishly and misleadingly defined as their nuclear weapons program four years ago, we’re not sure if they’ve restarted it, but the fact is that we led you all astray with our definition of that program in the first place.
You see, the new line continues, weapon design and weaponization – those narrow aspects that might have been halted – really constitute the “least significant portion” of a nuclear weapons program. In retrospect, we should have relied on more than a footnote to make that clear. The “most difficult challenge” is actually “uranium enrichment [to] enable the production of fissile material,” and, as we probably should have stressed more prominently, work on that is proceeding apace.
Citing the “persistent threat of WMD-related proliferation,” McConnell told the [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Feb. 5] that “Iran continues to pursue fissile material and nuclear-capable missile delivery systems.” He then elaborated: “Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons. Iran continues its efforts to develop uranium enrichment technology, which can be used both for power reactor fuel and to produce nuclear weapons. And, as noted, Iran continues to deploy ballistic missiles inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and to develop longer-range missiles.”
Horovitz goes on to contrast the original treatment of the NIE in the media with the way its refutation has been almost completely ignored. And then,
When the original, exculpatory NIE was published, Iran’s would-be-Israel-eliminating President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed “victory,” the international sanctions effort stalled, Russia began shipping fuel to the reactor it had built for the Iranians at Bushehr and Ahmadinejad’s regime merrily intensified its declared centrifuge installations and operations at Natanz. Meanwhile, President Bush found himself accused by political rivals and other critics of having unwarrantably, even dishonestly, overhyped the threat posed by Iran. Some of the more hysterical voices went so far as to charge that his administration had been deliberately skewing the intelligence on Iran’s nuclear drive to justify thrusting the United States into another unnecessary war.
McConnell’s barely noticed reversal has changed none of that. It has done nothing to dent Ahmadinejad’s public confidence that nobody is going to stop the Iranian drive now, and nothing to suggest to Iran that it need halt what McConnell acknowledged last week was the range of dual-purpose activities that daily bring it ever-closer to a nuclear weapons capability. The admiral’s climbdown has injected no new urgency, and no stronger teeth, into the weak and snail-paced UN-centered sanctions effort. It has prompted no rethink by Moscow about assisting Teheran’s “peaceful” nuclear programs. And with this US administration now counting down its final months, his “recalibration” has restored no credibility to Bush’s efforts to thwart Iran – credibility that was swept away when the shattering original NIE essentially removed his administration’s military option.
Obviously a decision has been made in whatever circles actually decide US policy — and it’s by no means clear who this is — that the US will not take aggressive military or diplomatic action to prevent Iran from getting the bomb and the means to deliver it.
If not the US, then who? Apparently nobody.
Now consider that Iran has more than once threatened to destroy Israel, clearly and unambiguously. What would you do if you were the Prime Minister of Israel? What would you do if you believed that Ahmadinijad was truly threatening a second, nuclear, Holocaust?
Israel does not have the diplomatic clout of the US. Israel does not have the military might of the US either, but what do you do when your back is against the wall? What do you do when your people, who within living memory were almost wiped out in a horrific genocide, are facing annihilation again?
Now suppose also that you understand that a surgical removal of Iran’s nuclear capability would be very difficult. It would provoke retaliation and might fail to completely eliminate the threat (which is nuclear, but also chemical/biological, and which might include attacks from countries other than Iran).
What you do is wait until you are certain that an attack is imminent and then you do what is necessary to prevent it, which may not turn out to be all that surgical. Then you deal with whatever retaliation the remnants of your enemy can muster.
If you wait too long, then you absorb the strike and retaliate massively (Israel is absolutely capable of this).
Either way, we are talking about deaths in the tens of millions.
And this is what will be the consequence of the US failure to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, something which could probably be accomplished by diplomacy alone, if undertaken with sufficient resolve.