The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg wrote an article earlier this week explaining “7 reasons why Israel should not attack Iran’s nuclear facilities“. Goldberg is center-left on Israel, and he is always an interesting read. Here is a quick summary of his 7 points:
1) Innocent people will die.
2) It very well might not work at all.
3) Even if a strike does work, it may only delay the Iranian program, and it might even speed it up.
4) An Israeli strike may cause a surge of sympathy for Iran among Sunni Arabs across the Middle East,
5) A strike could trigger an overt war without end
6) A strike could be a disaster for the U.S.-Israel relationship.
7) The current American president is deeply serious about preventing Iran from going nuclear. I believe he would eventually use force (more effectively, obviously, than Israel) to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. His position will be severely compromised if Israel jumps the gun and attacks now. Again, what I worry about, at bottom, is that an Israeli attack would inadvertently create conditions for an acceleration of the Iranian nuclear program.
Suffice to say that I disagree with his assessments, most of which are in the realm of “could”, “possibly”, “might”. There are (obviously) no firm assessments. Read it all and form your own opinions.
Dovid Efune in today’s Algemeiner has written a response to Goldberg’s 7 reasons, and explains why there are “7 reasons why Israel should neutralize the Iranian threat today”.
Quoting Goldberg’s point no. 7, he writes:
Bizarrely at his bottom line, he is concerned “that an Israeli attack would inadvertently create conditions for an acceleration of the Iranian nuclear program.” This is an unlikely outcome even as a worst case scenario. In his argument he simultaneously undermines the strength and preparedness of the IDF, the global interest in halting Iranian nuclear progress, the American public’s support for the Jewish state, and the will of the Iranian people to overthrow their oppressive masters.
In passing, Goldberg cites the risk of weakening international sanctions as one of his reasons for Israel not to strike Iran. He fails however to make the possibility of their success a central theme of his case. I have therefore assumed that he is in agreement with U.S. and Israeli officials that the current sanctions program has not affected Iran’s nuclear ambitions at all.
1. The only possible justification for jeopardizing the lives of innocents, whether soldiers, first responders or even civilians is in the interest of guaranteeing prevention of future devastation and loss of life that is far greater.
2. Whilst there are significant risks involved in an Israeli strike on Iran, and each scenario presents its own challenges, Israel has a near perfect track record of success in pre-emptive air force missions.
3. In the event that an Israeli strike only delays Iran’s ambitions, the growing economic and military cost brought upon the country by the belligerence of the Ayatollahs could inspire the revitalization of the green revolution. Ordinary Iranians understand that their isolation is a result of their leaders’ recalcitrance and may seize the opportunity to rise up from within.
4. Sunni Arabs and others that are among those that stand to benefit greatly from the halting of the nuclear program would be empowered by Iran’s weakening, especially in their battle against Assad in Syria whose maniacal regime is practically propped up by the Iranians. [...] In private, Arab leaders throughout the Middle East would be eternally grateful, further turning on Iran and its Shiite allies.
5. By accelerating the inevitable confrontation between the West and Iran, Israel would be forcing the struggle to play out when the stakes are at their lowest. Any action initiated once Iran is nuclear, risks greater loss of life. Additionally, Israel is able to take advantage of the ‘surprise element’ factor.
6. It is highly unlikely that Iran would retaliate against American targets, especially if the United States continues to publicly distance itself from Israeli actions. The Iranians understand that drawing America into a potential conflict would spell their imminent demise.
President Obama’s reluctance is a factor of concern to Netanyahu, but all the more reason to take action now. With the American public behind the Israelis, if Obama dithered in backing up the Jewish state when push came to shove, he would be sealing his own political demise. If re-elected after his upcoming election, there is no telling how he might respond.
7. The current American President hasn’t done nearly enough to assuage the concerns of the Israelis and prove his seriousness about preventing Iran from going nuclear. He hasn’t clarified his red lines or deadlines, has allowed exemptions from sanctions to various countries and has obliged the luxuriating positions of Iran’s negotiators. He has shown himself to practice the realpolitik diplomacy of Henry Kissinger that speaks to interests over morals, casting aside time honored allegiances in favor of immediate diplomatic gain. As such Israel’s simply can’t risk entrusting the fate of its citizens into his hands.
My own opinion lies much more with Efune than with Goldberg. Let us know in the comments what you think.
A third opinion is expressed by a much more qualified person than either of the above journalists: Amos Yadlin, former head of Israel’s Military Intelligence, is interviewed by David Horowitz in the Times of Israel. He is of the opinion that firm statements and action by the US could delay an Israeli strike. Here’s a short excerpt:
The diplomatic negotiations that took place in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow produced nothing. The sanctions may be painful for the Iranians, but not to the extent that they change their minds. The secretive operations for which no one takes responsibility have not stopped the Iranian nuclear program. The regime is relatively stable.
And therefore if you’re not prepared to live with an Iran with a nuclear bomb, you are left with only one option and that’s the option of military intervention.
Add to that the concept that the defense minister has coined, “the zone of immunity.” He said we were entering [this zone] three months ago, and at that time he could still hope that the negotiations would succeed or that the sanctions would work. Today, he sees that’s not the case. So, we’re in a very critical area.
And this is where the Americans enter the picture. They’ve sent here almost every senior official, from Secretary of State Clinton to Defense Secretary Panetta to National Security Advisor Donilon. They are the only ones who can say to the Israelis, it may be that your zone of immunity will prevent you from taking action later on, but we, the Americans, we have exactly the same goal.
The Israelis cannot ask the Americans to do the job for them. No American soldier has ever fought for Israel, never since the state was established. That’s a basic principle for us.
But the Americans can say, look, this isn’t something we’re doing for you. We’re doing it for ourselves. And we have more time. We have more time for two reasons. 1. Our air force has a great many capabilities that yours doesn’t. B-1 bombers, B-2 bombers, Bunker Busters that are much heavier than yours, Stealth bombers. Therefore, we can do it after you think that you can’t.
And they can also say that in their view, the red line or the trigger for action is later than the Israeli trigger. On this there’s a debate of sorts, but again, provided that trust is established and the Israeli leadership thinks that the American leadership really means what it says…
I think that’s the heart of the problem today. There is a certain feeling in Israel that perhaps the president’s declaration at AIPAC is not sufficient, and that maybe much more binding and stronger steps need to be taken.
We see less of this. We see less of this than we could see for it to enter the Iranian calculus as something they need to be afraid of. The Iranians have just said that they’re not afraid of the Israelis. They didn’t say they’re not afraid of the Americans. But you can see from their behavior that they’re not afraid.
Read the whole thing. It’s fascinating.
All these opposing commentaries are food for thought for the weekend – and for the next few weeks or months until the whole matter is clarified one way or another.