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|Posted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 9:38 pm Post subject: Follow us on: Washington doesn`t get it:
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|Washington doesn`t get it: Iran just wants the bomb |
~Louis Rene Beres - Oct 01, 2009
Over the summer, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden boldly asserted that Israel, "as a sovereign nation," has the right to protect itself against a nuclearizing Iran. In law, the precise protective action that Biden had in mind is called "anticipatory self-defense." Now, however, official Washington is offering Jerusalem much less audacious "advice" than undertaking a permissible preemption. In essence, the current and still plainly futile message is "tougher sanctions."
On several occasions, the "international community" has imposed "serious" sanctions against Iran. Nonetheless, uranium enrichment has only accelerated in that country. At no time, in fact, has Tehran shown even the slightest inclination to value a promised proper place in the world higher than simply getting "the bomb." Once again, Washington just doesn`t get it.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands, of course, that his country can rely on its Arrow anti-missile system for only a very limited measure of active defense. Israel`s ballistic missile defense network can never provide the Jewish state with adequate security from a nuclear attack on its civilian population. Recently, Defense Minister Ehud Barak affirmed this essential understanding, stating explicitly three times that all preemptive options must remain on the table.
No country can be expected to cooperate in its own annihilation. Leaving Iran to the manifestly unpersuasive sanctions of the United States, and/or of the United Nations, could bring Israel to the outer limits of survival. If U.S. President Barack Obama already understands this, and if he also cares about Israel`s survival, he would not now be demanding that Netanyahu hew obsequiously to a discredited and banal policy of contradictory Iran options.
For now, Israel`s best hope would seem to lie in some prospect of internal Iranian reform, and Jerusalem should therefore do whatever it can to help along any such transformation.
At the same time, it is entirely possible that the Islamic Republic of Iran will remain unchanged with respect to its basic critical stance on Israel, and that suitably enhanced forms of essential military preparedness will have to be implemented in Israel.
Here is the key issue: As long as Israel can reasonably assume that any expected Iranian leadership will remain rational, Prime Minister Netanyahu could focus on "living with a nuclear Iran." Such a "coexistence" policy would represent a regrettable, but largely unavoidable, position, one that would need to be backed up with a selectively partial end to Israel`s "nuclear ambiguity" (the so-called "bomb in the basement"), and with genuinely credible threats of Israeli nuclear reprisals for nuclear aggressions. More precisely, these deterrent threats would have to include aptly explicit references to Israel`s nuclear targeting doctrine ("counter-city" or "counter-value," never "counter-force"), as well as compelling evidence of both the survivability and penetration capability of Israel`s deterrent nuclear forces.
If, however, Israel cannot reasonably assume that all still-plausible Iranian leaderships will remain rational, Netanyahu would need to make highly informed judgments concerning the expected probability of Iranian leadership irrationality.
Where such an expectation would be "low," Israel could continue to rely in part on the enhanced nuclear deterrence measures just discussed. (There would also have to be a complementary and partial reliance on ballistic missile defense, or the Arrow). But where such an expected probability would be deemed "high," Israel could have no rational alternative to some form of preemption against pertinent Iranian nuclear assets or infrastructures.
It follows from all this that virtually any necessary nuclear policy taken by Israel vis-a-vis Iran will offend Washington, and that Netanyahu will simply need to accept such a negative political response from Obama as the distinctly lesser evil.
The writer is a professor of international law at Purdue University and was chairman of Project Daniel, a small private group that delivered a special report, "Israel`s Strategic Future," to former prime minister Ariel Sharon in January 2003.
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