Here’s one normalization scenario:
Iran ceases military support for Hamas and Hezbollah; adopts a “Malaysian” approach to Israel (nonrecognition and noninterference); agrees to work for stability in Iraq and Afghanistan; accepts intrusive International Atomic Energy Agency verification of a limited nuclear program for peaceful ends only; promises to fight Qaeda terrorism; commits to improving its human rights record.
The United States commits itself to the Islamic Republic’s security and endorses its pivotal regional role; accepts Iran’s right to operate a limited enrichment facility with several hundred centrifuges for research purposes; agrees to Iran’s acquiring a new nuclear power reactor from the French; promises to back Iran’s entry into the World Trade Organization; returns seized Iranian assets; lifts all sanctions; and notes past Iranian statements that it will endorse a two-state solution acceptable to the Palestinians.
Any such deal is a game changer, transformative as Nixon to China (another repressive state with a poor human rights record). It can be derailed any time by an attack from Israel, which has made clear it won’t accept virtual nuclear power status for Iran, despite its own nonvirtual nuclear warheads.
“Israel would be utterly crazy to attack Iran,” ElBaradei said. “I worry about it. If you bomb, you will turn the region into a ball of fire and put Iran on a crash course for nuclear weapons with the support of the whole Muslim world.”
To avoid that nightmare Obama will have to get tougher with Israel than any U.S. president in recent years. It’s time. [continued…]
It should go without saying that an Israeli attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences. No matter what Washington might claim, or how vociferously officials there denounce it, such an attack would be widely understood throughout the Muslim world as a joint U.S.-Israeli operation.
It would, as a start, serve as a powerful recruiting tool for extremist Islamist groups. In addition, an outraged Iran might indeed send commandos into Iraq, aid armed Iraqi groups determined to attack U.S. and government forces, shoot missiles into the Saudi or Kuwaiti oilfields, and attempt to block the Straits of Hormuz though which a significant percentage of global oil passes. Washington would certainly have to write off desperately needed cooperation in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Any attack would only strengthen the reign of the mullahs in Iran and reinforce the country’s determination to acquire a nuclear deterrent force that would prevent future attacks. And keep in mind, Iran’s nuclear program has overwhelming public support, even from those opposed to the current regime.
Given the Netanyahu government’s visible determination to attack, an ambiguous signal from Washington, something far less than a green light, could be misread in Tel Aviv. Anything short of a categorical, even vociferous U.S. refusal to countenance an Israeli attack might have horrific consequences. So here’s a message to Obama from an observer in Israel: Don’t flash the yellow light — not even once. [continued…]
President Shimon Peres had some unusually aggressive words for Iran Sunday, seemingly threatening military action if US President Barack Obama’s overtures to the Islamic republic fail to bear fruit.
In an interview with Kol Hai Radio, Peres also said that the arrest before the weekend of a Hizbullah terror cell in Egypt was a blow to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s power.
“Ahmadinejad recruits forces against us, but there are also forces against him,” Peres said. “What happened in Egypt created a fierce opposition and we must unify all his opponents – the Sunnis and the Europeans, as well as those afraid of nuclear weapons and terror.”
Peres went on to say that he hoped Obama’s call for dialogue with Ahmadinejad would be heeded, but warned that if such talks don’t soften the Iranian president’s approach “we’ll strike him.” [continued…]
From the standpoint of international relations theory, the scariest thing about recent Israeli rhetoric is that an attack on Iran lines up quite well with Israel’s rational interests as a superpower client.
While Israeli bluster is clearly calculated to push America to take a more aggressive stance toward Iran, that doesn’t mean the Israelis won’t actually attack if President Obama decides on a policy of engagement that leaves the Iranians with a viable nuclear option. In fact, the more you consider the rationality of an Israeli attack on Iran in the context of Israel’s relationship with its superpower patron, the more likely an attack appears. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — Whatever you want to say about David Samuels’ argument, he certainly deserves credit for creative reasoning. That said, the idea that Israel bombing Iran could be a precursor to a grand bargain that delivers a Palestinian state is, I would say, a mighty stretch.
What interests me more about his piece is that it represents the common thread that unites all those who present a military solution to “the Iranian threat” as desirable, inevitable and necessary. That is, it presents an attack on Iran as an action that will have an upside (success being measured by how far Iran’s nuclear program is set back) but no significant downside. Warnings such as ElBaradei’s that an attack would “turn the region into a ball of fire” are dismissed. Israel’s missile defense systems are assumed to provide the Jewish state with adequate protection from a retaliatory attack. Hamas and Hezbollah have already been “taught a lesson,” while the international community is expected to be outwardly critical yet quietly grateful. Israel will have successfully demonstrated its regional dominance while Iran and its allies will sullenly resign themselves to accepting the status quo.
The risk assessment being made by attack-Iran proponents places all the risk in Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and essentially none in the effects of an attack — an extraordinary replay of the arrogance that led to the war in Iraq.
There is however one major difference. The war in Iraq began during a period of global economic buoyancy. An attack on Iran, if it comes, is going to take place during a dire economic crisis. To blithely assume that Iran would not exploit its economic leverage in such a situation is beyond reckless. It suggests that those whose imaginations are shackled by their obsession with the fate of the Jewish state seem to think that Israel can prosper even while the world goes to ruin.