What to do about Iran

Published in The Times of Israel, February 15, 2012

It has been a busy week in blogosphere debate about how to confront Iran. Even as Iran defiantly announced that domestically-made nuclear fuel rods were loaded into its Tehran research reactor, and Iranian terrorists were fingered in attacks on Israeli sites in Asia, pundits were going into overdrive about the possible bombing of Iran.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Benny Morris argues that time to stop the Iranians is running out and that sanctions won’t halt them. Iran must be hit by military force. “Either Iran, with its fanatical, brutal leaders, will get nuclear weapons, or it will be prevented from doing so by military assault… If the Iranian nuclear project is not halted now by conventional means, there will be, by miscalculation, Iranian assault or Israeli preemption, a nuclear war in the Middle East,” he writes.

But Dennis Ross, who probably represents President Obama’s thinking, disagrees. In a New York Times oped and an interview with Haaretz he argues that all along Israel had asked the world for tough sanctions against Iran, and that these were now in place and working. “The fact is that Iran’s currency has devalued by half in the last six weeks, [so] I’d say sanctions are working… With Iran feeling the pressure, its leaders suddenly seem prepared to talk… With Iran reeling from sanctions, the proper environment now exists for diplomacy to work. The next few months will determine whether it succeeds,” Ross concludes, clearly asking (Israel) for more time.

Ross sanguine assessment isn’t sufficient for The Washington Post. In an editorial entitled The U.S.-Israeli trust gap on Iran, the paper says that “Rather than publicly arguing with Israel, Mr Panetta and Mr. Obama should be more clearly spelling out U.S. willingness to take military action if Iran is discovered taking steps toward bomb-making, such as enriching its uranium beyond present levels or expelling U.N. inspectors. Saying ‘all options are on the table’ is not enough; the Obama administration should be explicit about Iranian actions that will violate its red lines — and what the consequences will be.”

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Schwammenthal convincingly argues that Containment Won’t Work Against Iran. “Mutually assured destruction might be more of an incentive than a deterrent for Ahmadinejad and those around him,” he says, and he goes on to lay out a series of reasons why analogies to Cold War deterrence aren’t sustainable in the case of Iran. “The fact that we survived the previous nuclear standoff is hardly evidence that deterrence was bound to succeed,” he writes. “It would be a deadly game to try to replay MAD with Iran, in an international environment lacking many of the necessary conditions that helped keep the Cold War from unraveling into chaos.”

Commentary Contentions blog editor Jonathan S. Tobin, takes on the The Israel-Iran Moral Equivalence Trap, specifically those writers who say that there is little difference between the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists (supposedly by Israel) and Iranian hits on Israeli diplomats. “Contrary to the disingenuous arguments of Iran’s intellectual defenders, it really is quite easy to make a distinction between an Iranian nuclear scientist and an innocent American, Israeli or Jewish victim of the anti-Semitic terror sponsored by that regime…. So the assumption that Israel is reaping what it sowed is off the mark …. (Moreover), the idea that the United States or Israel must forebear from acting in defense of humanity against a regime such as that of Iran because the Iranian scientists have not been convicted in a court of law is a moral absurdity.”

Finally, Amir Mizroch penned an imaginary Israel Radio newscast on The Day After Israel Attacks Iran. Frightening reading! I think that Amir overdoes it with unreasonable assumptions of Russia and Turkey mobilizing their armies against Israel, but the piece nevertheless gave me pause. Amir told me that “My point in writing this is that I feel there is a criminal lack of information coming from the government about what awaits us: If we do attack, what might happen, what to expect; if we don’t bomb them and they get the bomb, what might happen, what to expect, etc.” Reader discretion advised….

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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