OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: The phoenix of preventive war arises from Syrian ashes

Preemption, Israeli style

Last month, one of the more mysterious episodes in the history of the Arab-Israel conflict began to leak slowly into the news. Although the facts are still unconfirmed, what seems to have happened has major implications not only for the region but even more for the laws of war and preemption that President Bush has been trying to redefine ever since his 2002 national security strategy paper.

First, Syrian spokesmen complained that Israeli planes had violated their country’s airspace on Sept. 6 — and had been driven off, or so they said. Within a few days came stories — mostly from anonymous sources — that the planes had fired into Syria; these were followed by still other stories that a target had in fact been hit. But what was it?

After further journalistic digging, the most plausible accounts said that the Syrian targets were related to nuclear weapons activity and may even have been manned by North Koreans. Later reports suggest some dispute within the U.S. government about how far Syria had progressed in achieving its nuclear ambitions, but these same reports confirm that this is what Israel was targeting.

The obscurity of this episode results in part from uncharacteristically tight lips in Jerusalem and Damascus. But that is not the whole of the reason. There has also been a deafening silence from the international community and especially from the other states of the region. This highly unusual reaction is one of the oddest parts of the whole episode and, in some ways, the most meaningful. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — The neoconservatives and their Iraqi allies famously predicted that American soldiers would be greeted in Baghdad with sweets and flowers. As if to outdo themselves in making wild predictions, with Iran now the target, the suggestion being floated by Joshua Muravchik and other neocons is that alarming predictions about the consequences of a US/Israeli attack on Iran are being vastly overstated. The lesson from Syria, so we are supposed to believe, is that a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities will be greeted by deafening silence.

Eager to boost her stock in the Israel lobby and implying to neocons that there is such a thing as life-after-Cheney, Hillary Clinton was unequivocal in expressing her support for the Israeli attack:

“We don’t have as much information as we wish we did. But what we think we know is that with North Korean help, both financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that.”

Clinton’s Iran vote: the fallout

Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd voted against it. Senator Barack Obama said he would have voted against it if he had voted. Former Senator John Edwards implied he would have voted against it if he could vote.

And Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton? She voted in favor of the measure in question, which asked the Bush administration to declare Iran’s 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. Such a move — more hawkish than even most of the Bush administration has been willing to venture so far — would intensify America’s continuing confrontation with Iran, many foreign policy experts say.
Think of it as Iran declaring that the United States military is a terrorist organization because it carries out President Bush’s orders. Such a move, say some Iran experts — including some advisers to the Clinton campaign who declined to publicly criticize their possible boss — runs the risk of further alienating the Iranian population, because many Iranians are tied to the Revolutionary Guard or its many offshoots and enterprises in some way.

“What Senator Clinton and the other legislators who voted for this bill don’t seem to realize is that the Revolutionary Guards are not Al Qaeda,” said Karim Sadjapour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “They’re not a group of voluntary jihadists signing up to fight the United States. Many are conscripts taken from the regular army.” [complete article]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email