Last week I asked “why is the administration helping Iran deter Israel from bombing its nuclear facilities?”
I suggested that the leak of a war game scenario that began with an Israeli attack on Iran and ended with several hundred dead Americans — of course this is only one possible outcome among an infinite number — was a deliberate attempt to influence sentiment in the US against Israel exercising its right of self-defense.
This particular leak is just one of many. But in addition to the proliferation of reports that an Israeli attack would be ineffective, Iranian retaliation would be devastating, etc., there is a much more dangerous tactic that is apparently being used. Ron Ben-Yishai tells us,
Indeed, in recent weeks the Administration shifted from persuasion efforts vis-à-vis decision-makers and Israel’s public opinion to a practical, targeted assassination of potential Israeli operations in Iran. This “surgical strike” is undertaken via reports in the American and British media, but the campaign’s aims are fully operational: To make it more difficult for Israeli decision-makers to order the IDF to carry out a strike, and what’s even graver, to erode the IDF’s capacity to launch such strike with minimal casualties…
The damage has to do with the revelation of secret information and assessments that would require an expensive, risky intelligence effort for the Iranians to acquire. To sum up, the American publications caused the following damage:
• Iran now has a decent picture of what Israel’s and America’s intelligence communities know about Tehran’s nuclear program and defense establishment, including its aerial defenses.
• The Iranians now know about the indications that would be perceived by Washington and Jerusalem as a “nuclear breakthrough.” Hence, Iran can do a better job of concealment.
• The reports make it more difficult to utilize certain operational options. These options, even if not considered thus far, could have been used by the US in the future, should Iran not thwart them via diplomatic and military means.
In other words, while President Obama told AIPAC that “Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat,” and affirmed “Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs,” he apparently has reserved the right to sabotage Israel’s self-defense if he believes it to be in his interest.
And make no mistake, we are talking about a narrow political interest, not the long-term interest of the US. Here’s why:
Sanctions alone cannot deter the Iranian regime from their nuclear program, because a totalitarian regime that can shoot down dissidents in the street can allocate resources however it wants to. Sanctions are always leaky, and the Revolutionary Guard can be well-fed and its vehicles full of fuel no matter how deprived ordinary Iranians may be.
The only way there is hope for diplomatic efforts to be successful is for sanctions to be coupled with a credible threat of military action. Israel’s threat to attack Iran’s nuclear program, based on its perception of an existential threat, would be credible.
Iranian leaders doubt — almost certainly correctly — that the US itself will contemplate using force, at the very least until after the election. So today only two things are likely to stop Iran from developing a weapon: fear of an Israeli attack, or, if that doesn’t work, an actual attack.
And now the US is sending a clear message to Iran:
Not only will we give you a year or so to work on your weapons, to disperse and bury your laboratories and improve your defenses, but we will make sure that Israel doesn’t strike within that time period either.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has indicated that a point will be reached later this year by which the Iranian program cannot be stopped by the means at Israel’s disposal. Therefore the administration’s actions, if successful, will ensure that Israel will not be able to attack, or even credibly threaten to attack, Iran. They will keep either diplomacy or force from being effective.
They will also nullify Israel’s ability to defend itself as a sovereign power, complete its transition to satellite status, and enable the US to dictate concessions that Israel must make to the Palestinians. But that’s another issue.
The additional time, plus whatever it can gain by pretending to negotiate, by delaying the very last steps in weapon assembly, etc., will make it very much more likely that Iran will become a nuclear power. Iran will tough out the sanctions, because it will know that in the short term it will have nothing to fear. And in the long term, the political and economic advantages of becoming a nuclear power — and the preeminent power in the Middle East — will outweigh the immediate discomfort.
I am expecting that by next year we will start hearing that this isn’t really all that bad, after all, Pakistan has nukes and they are an irresponsible Islamic nation, the Iranians are rational and can be contained, etc.
I don’t think I have to emphasize what it will mean for the US, and indeed for the West in general, to empower the champion of revolutionary Islamism with the ultimate weapon. And yet, this is the likely outcome if the administration’s strategy succeeds!