Terwijl standpunten t.a.v. actuele internationale crises buiten onze kabinetsformatie besprekingen lijken te worden gehouden, neemt de dreiging van een potentieel catastrofale ‘preventieve’ aanval op ‘nucleair bewapend’ Iran toe.
Is Iran uit op het verwerven van nucleaire wapens? En, zo ja, hoe kan dat land daarvan met vreedzame middelen worden weerhouden? Mochten deze middelen niet werken, is dan een ‘preventieve’ oorlog geboden – en effectief? Wat zouden de consequenties zijn van een oorlog met Iran? Moet Israel (en de wereld) niet leren leven met een nucleair bewapend Iran? Zou Israel niet beter kunnen streven naar een ‘nucleair-vrij’ Midden-Oosten – en daartoe zijn eigen nucleaire wapens opgeven?
Allemaal vragen waarover in ons land te weinig wordt gediscussieerd, terwijl zij ook voor ons van levensbelang zijn.
Zeker lijkt, dat een kabinet gevormd door VVD en CDA met gedoogsteun van de PVV, het onrechtmatige zionistisch Groot-Israel beleid van de huidige Israelische regering zal (blijven) steunen. Het zou goed zijn als dit meer onder publieke aandacht wordt gebracht. Men kan zich afvragen wat Nederland in deze internationaal kan bewerkstelligen, maar de ‘schande’ van Srebrenica, de (‘politieke’) steun voor de heilloze invasie van Irak, en de twijfelachtige afloop van onze bemoeienis in Afghanistan, leren dat wij ons meer bewust moeten zijn van ons buitenlands- en veiligheidsbeleid.
FOR THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION, THE PROSPECT OF A NUCLEARIZED IRAN IS DISMAL TO CONTEMPLATE— IT WOULD CREATE MAJOR NEW NATIONAL-SECURITY CHALLENGES AND CRUSH THE PRESIDENT’S DREAM OF ENDING NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION. BUT THE VIEW FROM JERUSALEM IS STILL MORE DIRE: A NUCLEARIZED IRAN REPRESENTS, AMONG OTHER THINGS, A THREAT TO ISRAEL’S VERY EXISTENCE. IN THE GAP BETWEEN WASHINGTON’S AND JERUSALEM’S VIEWS OF IRAN LIES THE QUESTION: WHO, IF ANYONE, WILL STOP IRAN BEFORE IT GOES NUCLEAR, AND HOW? AS WASHINGTON AND JERUSALEM STUDY EACH OTHER INTENSELY, HERE’S AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE STRATEGIC CALCULATIONS ON BOTH SIDES—AND AT HOW, IF THINGS REMAIN ON THE CURRENT COURSE, AN ISRAELI AIR STRIKE WILL UNFOLD…
Based on months of interviews, I have come to believe that the administration knows it is a near-certainty that Israel will act against Iran soon if nothing or no one else stops the nuclear program; and Obama knows—as his aides, and others in the State and Defense departments made clear to me—that a nuclear-armed Iran is a serious threat to the interests of the United States, which include his dream of a world without nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, I agreed with those, including many Israelis, Arabs—and Iranians—who believe there is no chance that Obama would ever resort to force to stop Iran; I still don’t believe there is a great chance he will take military action in the near future—for one thing, the Pentagon is notably unenthusiastic about the idea. But Obama is clearly seized by the issue. And understanding that perhaps the best way to obviate a military strike on Iran is to make the threat of a strike by the Americans seem real, the Obama administration seems to be purposefully raising the stakes. A few weeks ago, Denis McDonough, the chief of staff of the National Security Council, told me, “What you see in Iran is the intersection of a number of leading priorities of the president, who sees a serious threat to the global nonproliferation regime, a threat of cascading nuclear activities in a volatile region, and a threat to a close friend of the United States, Israel. I think you see the several streams coming together, which accounts for why it is so important to us.”
Jeffrey Goldberg’s cover story, on Israel’s preparations to bomb Iran (and what that means for America), is getting a lot of attention, and deserves to. It is very much worth reading for its thoroughly-reported and authoritative assessment of what the Israeli, U.S., and Iranian governments are likely to do and why. It immediately becomes invaluable primary evidence about the complex pressures within these governments — at least America’s and Israel’s. About Iran, who really knows.
Two points about the larger argument about Iran and the context of the piece:
1) Is this article warmongering? Or to put it more delicately, is it meant to condition the American public and politicians to the prospect of an attack on Iran? Many people have portrayed it as such. I disagree. I think that those reading the piece as a case for bombing Iran are mainly reacting to arguments about the preceding war.
Jeff Goldberg was a big proponent of invading Iraq, as I was not — and those who disagreed with him about that war have in many cases taken the leap of assuming he’s making the case for another assault. I think this is mainly response to byline rather than argument. If this new article had appeared under the byline of someone known to have opposed the previous war and to be skeptical about the next one, I think the same material could be read in the opposite way — as a cautionary revelation of what the Netanyahu government might be preparing to do. Taken line by line, the article hews to a strictly reportorial perspective: this is what the Israeli officials seem to think, this is how American officials might react, this is how Israeli officials might anticipate how the Americans might react, these are the Israeli voices of caution, here are the potential readings and mis-readings on each side.
Moreover, rather than guess at Jeff Goldberg’s policy prescriptions, we can read his explicit presentation of them, here. He argues that there is one highly desirable outcome — success of the "Obama plan," a combination of pressures, threats, and incentives to shift Iran toward a different path. If that doesn’t work, as he explains, the remaining options are all bad, and we will choose among them when we have to. So disagree with him about Iraq, if you will and as I did. But after that, please take his reporting for the achievement and contribution that it is, and his "profound, paralyzing ambivalence" about military strikes on Iran on its own merits.
2) How does it square with other things the magazine has written on the topic? In addition to Jeff Goldberg’s article and subsequent posts, please read Robert Kaplan’s assessment in this issue of what deterrence would mean in dealing with an Iran that did get nuclear weapons; plus Clive Crook’sresponse and a chain of others that he links to, including this and this.
And then there was the previous Atlantic cover story about bombing Iran, which I did back in 2004. It was based on a mock war-game exercise to see what, in practical terms, it would mean to "take out" Iran’s nuclear facilities. The conclusion was that, even then, Iran’s facilities were too dispersed to eliminate by an aerial attack; that an attack would likely unify and motivate Iranians behind their government and the drive to become a nuclear power; that even if Israel attacked on its own, the United States would still be blamed; and that even the most "successful" attack would exchange a temporary tactical advantage (temporary delay in Iran’s plans) for a major strategic setback, namely lasting complications and vulnerabilities for the U.S. around the world. Last year Anthony Cordesman, of CSIS, laid out a similar analysis of an Israeli strike, which came to similar cautionary conclusions.
How can these two cover stories be reconciled? Well, maybe they don’t have to be. They’re by two different people; the magazine is meant to contain a lot of different views; and a lot of time has passed, with changes in relevant circumstances. But I think there is less tension between them than may appear.
In the final part of his article, Jeff Goldberg is unblinking about the challenges and possible failures of a military attempt to remove Iran’s nuclear facilities, especially if done just by Israel. This point, in one of today’s posts, is exactly congruent with the argument I made five-plus years ago:..
By Robert D. Kaplan in The Atlantic, September 2010)
IRAN CAN BE CONTAINED. THE PATH TO FOLLOW? A COURSE LAID OUT HALF A CENTURY AGO BY A YOUNG HENRY KISSINGER, WHO ARGUED THAT AMERICAN CHANCES OF CHECKING REVOLUTIONARY POWERS SUCH AS THE SOVIET UNION DEPENDED ON OUR CREDIBLE WILLINGNESS TO ENGAGE THEM IN LIMITED [nuclear] WAR.
No. Simply because of our overwhelming conventional advantage, there are practical reasons as well as moral ones why we should never again be the ones to introduce nuclear weapons onto the battlefield. In my article, I wrote that we must be more willing to accept the prospect of limited war and even a limited nuclear war between states. That’s clearly a dreadful, tragic prospect, as I note in the article. But consider the alternative: Are we never even to entertain the possibility of a limited war against a nuclear-armed state? Because in that case, we would be rendered powerless, leading to even more instability in the world. The way to avoid future wars is to be prepared for them–or, put differently, the way to avert tragedy is to think tragically.
Jeffrey Goldberg’s new article in the Atlantic is deeply reported — and deeply wrong about the Middle East. But it’s his misunderstanding of America that is most dangerous of all.
Amid widespread skepticism that sanctions will stop Tehran’s nuclear development and grudging, belated recognition that the Green Movement will not deliver a more pliable Iranian government, a growing number of commentators are asking the question, "What does President Obama do next on Iran?"..
(Ook Paul Brill heeft The Atlantic gelezen : in de Volkskrant van 13.8.10)
Ten langen leste is de regering-Obama tot de slotsom gekomen dat alleen tastbare tegenspoed nog enige indruk kan maken op dit regime. Vandaar dat Washington zich alsnog sterk heeft gemaakt voor straffere sancties, in eerste instantie binnen de VN en vervolgens ook onder eigen vlag. Europa heeft dit voorbeeld grotendeels gevolgd.
Of een dergelijke opvoering van de druk het gewenste effect zal sorteren, valt niet te voorspellen. Sancties hebben in het verleden soms succes gehad (Zuid-Afrika, Libië), maar soms ook niet (Cuba, Noord-Korea). Veel hangt af van de mate waarin een boycot daadwerkelijk wordt nageleefd.
Er is voor de regering-Obama nog een belangrijke reden om deze weg in te slaan. Namelijk dat dit wellicht de enige manier is om Israël te weerhouden van een eigenmachtige luchtaanval op Irans nucleaire installaties. Wie mocht denken dat dit niet zo’n vaart loopt en dat Israël niets kan doen buiten de Amerikanen om, raad ik aan om de indringende analyse van Jeffrey Goldberg in de jongste editie van The Atlantic te lezen. Op basis van interviews met tientallen Amerikaanse, Israëlische en Arabische insiders schat hij de kans op een Israëlische militaire actie in de loop van volgend jaar ‘op meer dan vijftig procent’.
Het vooruitzicht van een atoomwapen in handen van de ayatollahs, wordt in Israël namelijk beschouwd als een existentieel gevaar. Niet eens zozeer uit angst dat de leiders in Teheran hun apocalyptische teksten ten volle menen en stante pede een bom op Tel Aviv zullen gooien, maar vooral omdat dan groepen als Hezbollah extra rugdekking krijgen om het leven in Israël te ontregelen. Om nog maar te zwijgen van de nucleaire proliferatie die zich in het Midden-Oosten met zijn vele wispelturige krachten kan voltrekken.
Er valt Israël veel te verwijten, maar dit is een dreiging waarvoor de rest van de wereld, inclusief Karroubi en de zijnen, de ogen niet kan sluiten. De sancties zijn geen subjectieve oprisping.
..These episodes demonstrate that if Israel decides that Iranian nuclear weapons are an existential threat, it will be deaf to entreaties from U.S. officials to refrain from using military force. Soon after the operation, Washington will express concern to Tel Aviv publicly and privately. The long-standing U.S.-Israeli relationship will remain as strong as ever with continued close diplomatic, economic, intelligence and military cooperation.
Should Tehran prove unwilling to meet the September deadline and bargain away its growing and latent nuclear weapon capability, we can expect an Israeli attack that does not require U.S. permission, or even a warning.
..Though Israel is giving diplomacy and sanctions time to change Iranian behavior, few in Jerusalem expect the soft approach to work. Most also doubt the United States will use force. America already is engaged in two wars in the Middle East, and all the disadvantages of an Israeli attack apply to an American one as well. To keep its monopoly on the bomb Israel may well choose to strike.
AN ISRAELI attack on Iran is a disaster in the making. And it will directly impact key strategic American interests. Iran will see an attack as American supported if not American orchestrated. The aircraft in any strike will be American-produced, -supplied and -funded F-15s and F-16s, and most of the ordnance will be from American stocks. Washington’s $3 billion in assistance annually makes possible the IDF’s conventional superiority in the region.
Iran will almost certainly retaliate against both U.S. and Israeli targets. To demonstrate its retaliatory prowess, Iran has already fired salvos of test missiles (some of which are capable of striking Israel), and Iranian leaders have warned they would respond to an attack by either Israel or the United States with attacks against Tel Aviv, U.S. ships and facilities in the Persian Gulf, and other targets. Even if Iran chooses to retaliate in less risky ways, it could respond indirectly by encouraging Hezbollah attacks against Israel and Shia militia attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, as well as terrorist attacks against American and Israeli targets in the Middle East and beyond.
America’s greatest vulnerability would be in Afghanistan. Iran could easily increase its assistance to the Taliban and make the already-difficult Afghan mission much more complicated. Western Afghanistan is especially vulnerable to Iranian mischief, and NATO has few troops there to cover a vast area. President Obama would have to send more, not fewer, troops to fight that war.
Making matters worse, considering the likely violent ramifications, even a successful Israeli raid would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, not eliminate it entirely. In fact, some Israeli intelligence officials suspect that delay would only be a year or so. Thus the United States would still need a strategy to deal with the basic problem of Iran’s capabilities after an attack, but in a much more complicated diplomatic context since Tehran would be able to argue it was the victim of aggression and probably would renounce its NPT commitments. Support for the existing sanctions on Iran after a strike would likely evaporate.
The United States needs to send a clear red light to Israel. There is no option but to actively discourage an Israeli attack. There is precedent for Washington telling Israel not to use force against a military threat. In the 1991 Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush pressed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir not to target Iraqi Scud missile launchers that were attacking Israel. Most importantly, Bush refused to give the Israelis the iff codes (encrypted signals to identify aircraft as “friend or foe”) and approval to enter Iraqi airspace, thereby indicating that Israeli aircraft would be flying into harm’s way. Israel’s preferred option of a limited ground-force incursion into western Iraq was also turned down. Of course, in 1991 we were at war with Iraq and committed to stepping up our own attacks on Iraqi Scuds, but the point remains—America does have influence and it should be wielded.
PERSUADING ISRAEL not to attack Iran really means convincing Israel that now is the time to give up its regional nuclear monopoly. If we are going to do so, that means enhancing Israel’s deterrence posture. This is the only way Israel can feel (and will be) safe from an Iranian nuclear threat…
Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects (Paul Rogers in Oxford Research Group, July 2010)
Israeli Military Strike on Iran Will Lead to a Protracted War and Will Not Solve Nuclear Crisis
The potential for an Israeli military strike on Iran over its nuclear programme has grown sharply, but its consequences would be devastating and would lead to a long war, warns a Paul Rogers in his report “Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects”.* The study follows Israeli reports that Syria is manufacturing Iranian M-600 missiles for Hezbollah, the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu calling Iran “the ultimate terrorist threat” and saying it was a mistake to think Iran’s nuclear ambitions could be contained, and a call from the United Arab Emirates Ambassador in Washington for a military strike on Iran.
The report builds on Rogers’ briefing, "Iran: Consequences of a War" (2006), and analyses recent developments, arguing that Israel is now fully capable of attacking Iran as it has deployed many new systems including US-built long-range strike aircraft and armed drones.
The report outlines the likely shape of an Israeli strike, saying it would:
Be focused not only on destroying ‘military real estate’ – nuclear and missile targets – but also would hit factories and research centres, and even university laboratories, in order to do as much damage as possible to the Iranian expertise that underpins the programme.
Would not be limited to remote bases but would involve the direct bombing of targets in Tehran. It would probably include attempts to kill those technocrats who manage Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes.
Be widely viewed across the Middle East as having been undertaken with the knowledge, approval and assistance of the United States, even if carried out solely by Israel.
Professor Rogers says that, “There would be many civilian casualties, both directly among people working on Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes, but also their families as their living quarters were hit, and secretaries, cleaners, labourers and other staff in factories, research stations and university departments.”
While much damage would be done to Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes, it would increase Iranian political unity, making the Ahmadinejad regime more stable.
Iran would be able to respond in many ways, argues the report, including:
Withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and immediate action to develop nuclear weapons to deter further attacks. Such work would use deeply-buried facilities that are reported to be under construction.
A series of actions aimed at Israel as well as targeting the United States and its western partners including:
• missile attacks on Israel;
• actions to cause a sharp rise in oil prices by closing the Straits of Hormuz;
• paramilitary and/or missile attacks on western Gulf oil production, processing and transportation facilities;
• strong support for paramilitary groups in Iraq and Afghanistan opposing western involvement.
Iran might not respond with military action immediately, but its greatest priority would be to move as fast as possible to developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. The implications of this for international security are huge, according to Professor Rogers:
“An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would almost certainly be the beginning of a long-term process of regular Israeli air strikes to further prevent the development of nuclear weapons and medium-range missiles. Iranian responses would also be long-term, ushering in a lengthy war with global as well as regional implications.”
The report concludes that “the consequences of a military attack on Iran are so serious that they should not be encouraged in any shape or form. However difficult, other ways must be found to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.”
* Note: Months before the Iraq War in 2003, Oxford Research Group published a report, “Iraq: Consequences of a War”, also by Professor Paul Rogers, that warned of high civilian casualties, the development of an insurgency, increased support for al-Qaida and widespread anti-Americanism, if the war went ahead.