The first part of this article was cross-posted at CifWatch.
I suppose they know whereof they speak since it takes one to know one.
Seamus Shameless Milne is another of those Guardian columnists who never met a dictator he couldn’t love and whose opposition to anything Western is visceral. His latest column asserts that an attack on Iran would be an act of criminal stupidity. However the only stupidity, criminal or otherwise, is his own.
Meanwhile, a US-Israeli stealth war is already raging on the ground, including covert assassinations of scientists, cyber warfare and attacks on military and missile installations. And Britain and France have successfully dragooned the EU into ramping up sanctions on Iran’s economic life-blood of oil exports as a buildup of western military forces continues in the Gulf.
Any of this could easily be regarded as an act of war against Iran –
This is nonsense. This is what is known as preemption, an act which is entirely legal in the face of known threats.
If an attack is launched by Israel or the US, it would not just be an act of criminal aggression, but of wanton destructive stupidity. As Michael Clarke, director of the British defence establishment’s Royal United Services Institute, points out, such an attack would be entirely illegal: “There is no basis in international law for preventative, rather than pre-emptive, war.”
This Mr. Clarke does not make clear, or Milne does not bring any relevant quotes, to show the difference between pre-emptive and preventative.
1.of or pertaining to preemption.
2.taken as a measure against something possible, anticipated, or feared; preventive; deterrent: a preemptive tactic against a ruthless business rival.
And as I have pointed out before, preemptive attacks are indeed legal in the face of not only imminent attack but also expected and threatened attack:
The proliferation of WMDs by rogue nations gave rise to a certain argument by scholars concerning preemption. They argued that the threat need not be “imminent” in the classic sense and that the illicit acquisition of these weapons, with their capacity to unleash massive destruction, by rogue nations, created the requisite threat to peace and stability as to have justified the use of preemptive force. NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for WMD, Guy Roberts cited the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1998 US attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant, (identified by US intelligence to have been a chemical weapons facility) and the 1981 Israeli attack on Iraq’s nuclear facility at Osirak as examples of the counter-proliferation self-help paradigm. Regarding the Osirak attack, Roberts noted that at the time, few legal scholars argued in support of the Israeli attack but notes further that, “subsequent events demonstrated the perspicacity of the Israelis, and some scholars have re-visited that attack arguing that it was justified under anticipatory self-defense.” Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, American forces captured a number of documents detailing conversations that Sadaam Hussein had with his inner sanctum. The archive of documents and recorded meetings confirm that Hussein was indeed aiming to strike at Israel. In a 1982 conversation Hussein stated that, “Once Iraq walks out victorious, there will not be any Israel.” Of Israel’s anti-Iraqi endeavors he noted, “Technically, they [the Israelis] are right in all of their attempts to harm Iraq.
Note what was said about Israel’s attack on Osirak, the international condemnations and the later reversal of opinion (not that Israel ever received an apology for the original condemnations).
The threats emanating from Iran, with its parades of missiles engraved “Marg bar Israel” -Death to Israel, the anti-Semitic Holocaust denial, the determination of Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the map (yes, he indeed did say it), not to mention its permanent proxy war against Israel conducted by Hezbollah and Hamas – all these amount to viable motivations for a legal pre-emptive attack, whether by Israel, the Western allies, or a coalition of them all.
In a similar article, Shashank Joshi, a researcher on the Middle East, writes that alarmism is driving the West into a war against Iran – as if the alarmism is not justified.
The first argument, that Iran is too crazy to be deterred, is historically untenable. Stalin’s Soviet Union was viewed in exactly the same terms. NSC-68, one of the most famous American intelligence assessments of the cold war, judged Moscow to be “animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own”, aimed at “domination of the Eurasian landmass”. That was the year after the Soviets’ first nuclear test. Mao Zedong, who was to acquire a bomb shortly thereafter, welcomed a nuclear war in which “imperialism would be razed to the ground, and the whole world would become socialist”.
But Joshi does not take into account, or deliberately ignores, the insane Iranian messianism, led by Ahmadinejad, which could be called Mahdi-ism – the wish for total war against the Infidel in order to bring about the advent of the Mahdi and the eradication of all non-Muslims. Fanatic theocracies do not act on rational thought in the way Westerners do. Soviet and Chinese sabre-rattling cannot be considered on the same level as the Iranian war-mongering. The Soviet and Chinese leaderships were not suicidal, but there certainly is a strain of suicidal messianism amongst the Iranian leadership.
Such a capability wouldn’t be the “existential threat” Israeli politicians have claimed. It might, of course, blunt Israel’s strategic edge. Or as Matthew Kroenig, the US defence secretary’s special adviser until last summer, spelled it out recently, a nuclear Iran “would immediately limit US freedom of action in the Middle East”. Which gets to the heart of the matter: freedom of action in the Middle East is the prerogative of the US and its allies, not independent Middle Eastern states.
I find Joshi’s dismissal of Israel’s concern about an existential threat frankly offensive. He is not the one sitting here in the Middle East waiting for bombs to fall on his head and his family. Of course he does not care that Israel’s strategic edge would be blunted. After all, he writes for the Guardian. Anything that would weaken Israel is good as far as he and the Guardian are concerned. He also seems to approve of the fact that a nuclear Iran would limit US freedom of action in the Middle East.
He goes on to bring several reasons why even if Iran does develop the Bomb it wouldn’t be such a bad thing, and Iran could be contained.
He accuses the West of unjustified alarmism:
The alarmist response to Iran’s nuclear programme reflects a failure of imagination and ignorance of history.
and claims that Iran can be contained.
But it is biased and closed-minded “journalists” like these who suffer from the real failure of imagination, who cannot imagine the dire straits the civilised world will find itself in if Iran becomes a nuclear power, and who refuse to see the disastrous implications, some of which are already being played out today in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They also suffer from an egregious ignorance of history. The primary lesson to be learned from all the previous wars, including WWI and WWII, the Cold War and the current war against extremist Islam is that when dictators threaten destruction they usually carry out their threats.