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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Two big things about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s beating the war drum against Iran: First, Netanyahu has been predicting Iran’s imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons for twenty years. The usual time horizon he’s cited has been roughly one year.

Evidently, however, the Persians have fallen about nineteen years behind schedule. According to “senior Israeli government and defense figures” recently interviewed by the Associated Press, the best available intelligence is that the Iranians not only don’t have nuclear weapons now, but haven’t decided to build them. This also squares with the U.S. intelligence community’s view.

“The suspicion in Israel,” the AP continues, is, get this, “that the Iranians have held off on a decision in order to deny Israel—and other countries—the pretext for an attack.” The cunning devils.

This also agrees with U.N. inspectors conclusions about Iran’s allegedly peaceful uranium enrichment activities. That while the potential for making bombs exists and the Iranians haven’t been exactly forthcoming, there’s no direct evidence the country’s moving toward atomic weapons.

For that matter, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently made a foreign policy address following parliamentary elections. “The Iranian nation” he said, “has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

The Ayatollah’s been saying these things almost as long as Netanyahu’s been saying the opposite. “Khamenei has also repeatedly said that Iran has a ‘no first strike’ policy,” notes Middle East expert Juan Cole, “that it will not fire the first shot in any conflict.” It bears emphasizing that the Supreme Leader, not lame duck President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad controls Iran’s armed forces.

The Ayatollah’s ecclesiastical role in Iran’s Shiite theocracy is very roughly that of Pope. One needn’t take him at face value to understand that having brought God into it, Khameni can’t easily turn into Mitt Romney in a turban and beard: shamelessly championing what he once abhorred. Also that the Supreme Leader has also given himself a theological pretext for cooperating with the West—should a face-saving compromise become possible.

Of course, if you’re like most Americans, you’ve never heard these things. Where U.S. news media are concerned, Israel is subject and its enemies object—rarely depicted as having legitimate interests or a sane point of view.

Meanwhile, the second big thing to understand about Netanyahu’s threats is that all relevant military experts agree that Israeli bombs can’t stop Iran from building nuclear weapons. That would take a prolonged U.S. bombing campaign and full scale ground invasion of a country with three times Iraq’s population, five times its land area and tough terrain. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told CNN that an Israeli raid on Iranian nuclear research sites “won’t achieve their long-term objectives.”

What Israel’s bombing Iran would do is kill a lot of people, inflame the Iranian people’s nationalist passions and scatter radioactive materials far and wide. But I digress, as we’ve already established that the Persians have no sane perspective. Kevin Drum neatly satirizes the pro-Netanyahu point of view: “Danger! Mullahs! Nukes! Oil Supplies! Let’s blow up the region before something bad happens!”

Now then: Whatever else can be said about Benjamin Netanyahu, he’s definitely not crazy. As only a crazy person would advocate a futile attack against a hypothetical threat, it follows that the Prime Minister’s short term motives aren’t primarily military. Instead, they’re political, and very much in keeping with what Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf calls Netanyahu’s increasingly open “Republikud” stance.

Specifically, the hypothetical “red line” everybody talks about isn’t in Tehran; it’s in Washington. The precipitating event isn’t anything Iran has done, but what the United States might do, specifically, re-elect Barack Obama. The president came into office talking about Palestinian rights, and hasn’t been forgiven.

Short of openly endorsing the GOP nominee, Netanyahu’s bellicose stance appears contrived to put Obama in a corner: damned if he doesn’t, ruined if he does. Meanwhile, the prospect of war in the Persian Gulf has driven the world price of oil sky-high, a boon to speculators and GOP candidates.

Recognizing this, Obama neatly outflanked Netanyahu during his recent U.S. visit, promising that he’s got Israel’s back, won’t hesitate to use military force to prevent Iran from going nuclear, but also praising diplomacy, economic sanctions and pointedly warning against “loose talk of war.”

In public, the Israeli Prime Minister had little choice but to sit and take it. Now he’s back home fuming. Does he dare try to force Obama’s hand?

And if he fails? Netanyahu’s well-advised to sit tight.

Americans have no heart for this needless war.

  • ManfredCoates

    Benjamin Netanyahu must be a good poker player. He and is team have done everything they could to damage Obama. He has bought his team of congressmen by paying for their reelection. He has on nationwide television tried to make Obama the fool in this game. He has gotten Adelson to bankroll Romney. The only thing that he did not do is sell the American public that they need another war. Another thing that he did do is increase the frustration and one could say anti-Israel feeling in the USA. Of course as a good polker player you set what you have if you feel you have a good hand. The bad side is that the American public has their input into this game also and it might end up with Netanyahu walking home.

    • Israel is totally being paranoid. Of course…Ahmanidinijad’s constant promising Israel’s destruction is no reason to be paranoid. He doesn’t mean it. and of course Iran has no intention og going Nuclear which is why the IAEA has been frustrated at every level at Iran’s unwillingness to hide thier nuclear intentions. Oh, and of course, Iran is a moral upstanding Nation…that is supporting the innocent slaughter of over 20, 000 Syrain civilians in the past year and a half and anuually imprisons thousands of homosexuals per year & ruthlessly supresses the rights of its citizens. Why can’t those Jews just stop their paranoia.?

  • lazertony

    This writer must be an idiot. If you believe your enemy’s words as true, then there can be no bigger idiot than you.

    This is what exactly Hitler was telling and lot of idiots felly prey to his duplicity. Most recently the North Koreans were saying the same thing and one fine day they got their nukes.

    If you want to be a willing idiot you are most well come.

    One to three years from now, the Iranians would acquire nukes and one to five years from then, they would hurl one or two nukes at Israel (most likely) and probably at the US and its allies (including Saudi Arabia and gulf countries) too.

    So, I need just 10-12 more years to prove that you are an idiot. Until then let us wait!

  • Sonshine

    There have been more intelligence reports that were proven wrong than right. But the hypothetical question must be asked, why then does Iran want the ability to enrich Uranium beyond the 3t04 percent range? Once you achieve the 20% enrichment level it doesn’t take as long to achieve 90% plus enrichment. What becomes more and more apparent is the international community reaches a point where it cannot trust the word of the Iranian regimes leadership. Then the period of miscalculations is more likely to result in conflict. Everything must be placed on the table now, before things get out of hand.

  • dcmortimer

    If they do get nukes all it means is that They can never use them as they would be wiped off the face of the earth If they are ever used .

  • Dearest Author Gene Lyons: Your understanding of Middle Eastern politics, the Persians and indeed history of the past actions of all these and that of the world are tanker of nitrous oxide.

    Sincerely – a son of North Africa, and the USA.