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Stopping the Bomb by Bombing

by on November 7, 2011

In 2007, then-candidate John McCain blew any chance of serious foreign-policy discussion when he reverted to singing “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.”  Bombing a country is generally considered serious.  We’re long past this faux-pas of McCain’s in the middle of another round of Republican primary season, in which foreign policy is completely ignored.  That’s not the point though.  Bombing Iran is a frequent theme, and if candidates for office aren’t discussing it, policy-makers and observers of international affairs are talking about it.

In July of this year, MJ Rosenberg wrote a fascinating article about the near future.  My experience is that he’s not given to hyperbole of scaremongering, and wasn’t writing to get people excited or vitriolic.  He may have been writing to put the world on guard; or even, to write what would happen in order to prevent it from happening.  Rosenberg was writing, or course, about bombing Iran – not advocating it, merely discussing the future.  Happily for us, this was supposed to happen in September, about two months ago.  September has come and gone, and with it Israel’s only chance to bomb Iran that month.

His informant was “a longtime CIA officer” who more than twenty years in the Middle East, and “is predicting that Israel will bomb Iran this fall, dragging the United States into another major war and endangering U.S. military and civilian personnel (and other interests) throughout the Middle East and beyond.”  The CIA informant, “[Robert] Baer has had a storied career, including a stint in Iraq in the 1990s where he organized opposition to Saddam Hussein. (He was recalled after being accused of trying to organize Saddam’s assassination). Upon his retirement, he received a top decoration for meritorious service.”  Where does Baer get his information?  “Baer didn’t name sources for his prediction of an Israeli attack, but the few he did cite are all Israeli security figures who have publicly warned that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are hell-bent on war.”

The named sources include “former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, who “left the Israeli intelligence agency in September 2010 and [in May] predicted that Israel would attack and that doing so would be ‘the stupidest thing’ he could imagine.”  Besides the abject stupidity of war, what would happen?  Dagan said “the Iranians have the capability to fire rockets at Israel for a period of months, and Hizbollah could fire tens of thousands of grad rockets and hundreds of long-range missiles.”  Unlike debate over nuclear capability, that’s not speculation.  Chiefs and formers heads of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, usually don’t comment on public policy, much less much derisive remarks about the coalition government.  And “Dagan is very conservative on security matters….one of the most rightwing militant people ever born here. … When this man says that the leadership has no vision and is irresponsible, we should stop sleeping soundly at night,” according to Ben Caspit, of MaAriv.  Also, Dagan isn’t the only one commenting.  “According to Think Progress, citing the Forward newspaper, 12 of the 18 living ex-chiefs of Israel’s two security agencies (Mossad and Shin Bet), are ‘either actively opposing Netanyahu’s stances or have spoken out against them.’  Of the remaining six, two are current ministers in Netanyahu government, leaving a grand total of four out of 18 who independently support the prime minister.”

Some statements are wrong.  Other statements are written so that predicted things shall not come to pass.  Whichever was intended when MJ Rosenberg wrote about information that Baer, a former member of the CIA, predicted to international media, the bombing of Iran did not happen.  According to Baer’s prediction, there was a “‘near certainty’ that Netanyahu is ‘planning an attack [on Iran] … and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he’s also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict.'”  With at least six weeks warning in the international media, was Israel, and/or the US, wise enough to stop the planned attack, or use diplomatic leverage to stop the attack?  Or was there never any thought of bombing Iran?

This latter thought is unlikely. The discussion of bombing Iran didn’t end with McCain in 2007, or with Rosenberg and Baer in the summer of 2011. A few days ago, at the beginning of November, Israel’s ynetnews ran an article titled “IDF [Israeli Defense Force] Ready to Strike Iran.”  “Anyone following the intensive drills held by the Air Force in the Mediterranean and in distant regions realizes that Netanyahu’s and Barak’s declarations that Israel will not tolerate nuclear arms in Iranian hands is backed up by practical capabilities developed by the Air Force and by our military industries.  No less importantly, the international community and the Iranians fully realize that Israel’s top politicians are seriously considering such strike in order to curb or at least delay the Iranian race to the bomb.  This is assuming there is no non-military, efficient option to secure this aim.”  The problem is recognized, nicely, that “the above is contingent upon absolute certainty that Iran has already started to produce the bomb and that all other ways to prevent Tehran from doing so have been exhausted.”

If the goal of writing is to prevent the future from happening, that is also the goal of war.  The author of the ynetnews article recognizes, though, that “the above scenario is still relatively far off, as according to all estimates the Iranians are not expected to complete their preparations to produce nuclear weapons before 2015.”  Given the argument that Israel will only bomb Iran to “curb or at least delay” Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and even Israel says that won’t be before 2015, perhaps nuclear weapons are just a red herring?

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