[R-G] Steer clear of attack on Iran
shniad at sfu.ca
Wed Mar 25 13:33:52 MDT 2009
Miami Herald March 11, 2009
Steer clear of attack on Iran
By Gareth Porter and Ray McGovern
Last year the Middle East dodged the danger of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities and the inevitable spread of hostilities. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen was sent to tell the Israelis that the United States would not support such an attack; and, after the fiasco in Georgia, the Russians, too, warned Tel Aviv to back off.
Now the specter of an Israeli strike has reappeared. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's incoming prime minister, is even more inclined than his predecessors to attack Iran.
Do you remember Joe Biden telling supporters of Barack Obama last October that Obama would be tested in his first six months in office? It is a fair guess that Biden was referring to the likelihood that Netanyahu would become prime minister after the February 2009 Israeli election and that he would waste little time finding a pretext to attack Iran.
Netanyahu has been laying the groundwork for such an attack for years, constantly repeating that Tehran is ''preparing another Holocaust'' a la Germany in the 1930s. He keeps hammering home the ''existential'' threat that would be posed to Israel (with its 200-300 nuclear weapons) if Iran had just one or two.
Netanyahu makes no bones about the fact that his preferred solution is a massive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and other military targets, without waiting for evidence that Iran had acquired a weapon. It would be a Bush/Cheney-type ''preventive'' war. Netanyahu would fully expect Iranian retaliation of some kind and knee-jerk U.S. intervention on Israel's side.
If such adventurism were to prevail, it would be a tragedy not only for Iran and the United States but for Israel as well. And it would put Israel at more serious risk than at any time since its implantation in Palestine.
An Israeli attack would in no sense be warranted. There is not a shred of evidence that Iran has any intention of committing suicide by attacking Israel.
Nor is it clear that Iran has irrevocably decided to seek nuclear weapons. The U.S. intelligence community assessed unanimously in its most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, completed in November 2007, that Tehran had abandoned the nuclear weaponization part of its nuclear development program in 2003 and had not resumed such work.
[On Tuesday, U.S. intelligence officials told Congress that Iran does not yet have any highly enriched uranium, the fuel needed to make a nuclear warhead. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Maples said that Iran has only low-enriched uranium, which would need to be refined into highly enriched uranium before it can fuel a warhead. Their comments disputed a claim by Israel's top intelligence military official, who said last weekend that Iran has crossed a technical threshold and is now capable of producing atomic weapons.]
Largely forgotten is that the November 2007 NIE also concluded that Iran would be more likely to extend the halt in its nuclear weapons program if the United States were to offer ''credible'' opportunities for Iran to achieve its ''security, prestige and goals for regional influence.'' In other words, the way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is not to threaten an attack -- which is very likely to have the opposite effect -- but to give Iran additional reason to continue to forgo weaponization activity.
Obama may not understand that he must lay down a clear marker against an Israeli attack. Some of his ''old-think'' associates apparently think the threat of an attack on Iran should be part of overall U.S. strategy. Gary Samore, the president's advisor on proliferation, took this line last September: “We want the Iranians to believe that if they actually try to make nuclear weapons, or if they build secret facilities that we detect, they run the risk of being attacked.''
What needs to happen is this:
• Obama should order an update of the 2007 intelligence estimate on Iran to determine what, if anything, has changed.
• He should ask for a briefing by intelligence analysts able to think outside the box, including the ones who concluded in 2007 that appropriate incentives would enhance chances that Iran will continue to forgo work on nuclear weapons.
• He should get talks under way with Iran at a suitably senior level, with the objective of reaching agreements that will give Iran the kind of incentives the drafters of the NIE had in mind.
• Most important, he must warn Netanyahu in unmistakable terms that the U.S. strongly opposes an Israeli attack on Iran and will not pick up the pieces if Israel goes ahead anyway.
[Gareth Porter is a journalist and historian and the author of Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam . Ray McGovern was an Army intelligence officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity or VIPS , an organization dedicated to analyzing and criticizing the misuse of intelligence, specifically relating to the War in Iraq . In January 2006, McGovern began speaking out on behalf of the anti-war group Not in Our Name . McGovern served symbolic war crimes indictments on the Bush White House from a "people's tribunal.”]
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