No more sticks, only carrots

Speaking on PBS, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates suggested that the US would not take preemptive military action except in response to a direct threat to attack our country:

Mr Gates said: “The lessons learned with the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq] and some of the other things that happened will make any future president very, very cautious about launching that kind of conflict or relying on intelligence.”

He said any future president would “ask a lot of very hard questions and I think that hurdle is much higher today than it was six or seven years ago”.

He added: “I think that the barrier, first of all, will be ‘are we going to be attacked here at home?'”BBC

Taken at face value, this means that Iran will be permitted to develop nuclear weapons as long as they are aimed only at the Middle East and Europe. It implies that Iran is free to use nuclear blackmail to take control of Middle Eastern oil resources, subvert US allies in the region, advance its Islamic revolution and proceed with its project of destroying Israel without fear of US military intervention. All that is required is that Iran does not put a warhead on a missile capable of reaching the US.

What is wrong with the Obama administration that it would allow such a signal to be sent?

Is the US abandoning  Israel and other Mideast allies on the Iranian nuclear question?

By Shalom Freedman

On March 11, 2009 American Defense Secretary Robert Gates commented that the U.S. would be especially careful before engaging in another major military intervention. In the light of the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and certainly in regard to the Iraqi WMD fiasco, his remarks make sense.

But Gates in elaborating his position went on to say that the United States would intervene against Iran only if it attains weapons which constitute a threat to continental United States. Iran now has missiles which are capable of reaching Southern Europe, but there is very small likelihood that Iran in the next few years will have a capability to reach the United States with its weapons.

However Iran is rapidly developing a nuclear option. Israeli Intelligence believes that this may come as early as in this present year. The Americans put the time somewhat later but they too understand that Iran is not more than a couple of years away from nuclear weapons capability.

So what Gates is in effect saying is that should Iran develop nuclear capability the United States would not intervene, so long as it did not also have a intercontinental ballistic missile capability. This message says to Iran quite openly that it can continue to go forward enriching uranium and preparing the weaponization process which will give it a nuclear capability. It promises that the United States is not going to stop this. It says that the United States will live with a nuclear threat to its Mideast allies, first of all Israel, then Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and also perhaps with its NATO allies in Southern Europe.

In effect it also seems to say that should Iran attack one of the American allies with those nuclear weapons the United States would not necessarily respond.

Secretary Gates is thus elaborating a policy which — instead of protecting American allies — enhances the dangers to them. He is also elaborating a no-interference policy with Iran which will lead it to the very threshold of nuclear weapons, or beyond. One consequence of this will be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and the end to all non-proliferation agreements. Another consequence is the greater likelihood of nuclear war.

It is understandable that having been widely condemned for the intervention in Iraq, the United States does not wish to take actions which would bring further global condemnation. But it does not make sense to tie your hands behind your back and allow your enemies a major strategic gain. Nor does it make sense to abandon your friends in order to try and appease, if only for a time, one of your worst enemies.

Shalom Freedman is a writer living in Jerusalem.

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One Response to “No more sticks, only carrots”

  1. ME says:

    Nice article Shalom.

    Maybe the US is waiting to see if other countries and the UN will have some impact before it asserts a formal position, since Gates’ statements seem like they relate more to processorial caution based on past incursions. The same threats of admonition suffered by Israel from International media outlets misconstruing Israel’s right to self defense in Operation Cast Lead, probably serve as caution to the US and other countries with respect to preemptive action with respect to Iran, in light of backlash from the necessary Iraqi Freedom.

    Assuming that the US would act in the face of potential threat to assist other countries, including EU and its Middle East allies, Gates’ comment may be more locally focused with respect to the US’ current social calamities.

    For instance, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon just chastized the US by calling it a deadbeat for being late on donations to the UN, even though the US is the UN’s biggest supporter covering 20% of its $5billion operating budget, and is habitually late on payments.

    So, in other words, military action and response is one avenue that the US could utilize, but the US is saturated in the global arms and proliferation arena, in different areas, making its utter lack of participation to suppress any potential future radical Islamist insurgency from Iran, highly unlikely.