Bombing Iran May Be the Worst of All Options

The journalist Dalia Dassa Kave has written a very perceptive article on the seriously adverse consequences that could follow a bombing attack on Iran. Although directed mainly at Israel, much of what the journalist warns against could apply to the United States. I have strung together many of the quotes to get the full impact of the message.

The advocacy of bombing Iran “rests on a faulty assumption that a future, post-attack Middle East would indeed be free of a nuclear-armed  Iran. In fact, it may result in the worst of both worlds: a future nuclear-armed Iran more determined than ever to challenge the Jewish state, and with far fewer regional  and international impediments to do so.”

“The consensus among Western analysts is that a military attack against Iran would at best delay Iran’s nuclear development, not stop it.”

“Thus, what the region’s future may hold is not an Iran that has or hasn’t acquired nuclear weapons, but rather a nuclear-armed Iran that has or hasn’t been attacked by Israel.”

While “a nuclear-armed Iran that hasn’t been attacked is dangerous, one that has been attacked may be much more likely to brandish its capabilities to make sure it does not face an attack again.”

“A unilateral attack by Israel would also diminish the determination of the international community to challenge Iranian transgressions of its Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty commitments, or to continue to support Israel.”

“Regional reactions would also be negative, further inflaming anti-Israel sentiment in Arab nations.”

“Israel has not faced a strategic situation in which it is isolated from Arabs and non-Arabs alike, while at the same time facing growing international isolation.” *

There have been conflicting reports that Israel would give the United States no warning of a bombing attack on Iran and that it would give only 12 hours of warning so that President Obama could not torpedo the attack. The other rationale advanced is that no warning by Israel would free the Obama administration from having to answer questions about why it did not try to stop the attack.The other persistent report of Israeli unhappiness with the U.S. is that Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu wants President Barack Obama to precisely describe what he means by Iran crossing “red lines” and to do the same for all options being on the table. If Obama accedes to these demands he will be further out on a breaking limb regarding the possibility of a U.S. attack on Iran. Those who counsel giving the sanctions time to work are on a perilous course of eventual support for bombing if it becomes clear that sanctions have failed.

Keeping in mind the kinds of perilous consequences warned of by the journalist Dalia Dassa Kave, the best policy would be one of “Relax.” Let Iran go ahead and develop a nuclear bomb. Iran’s leaders know that if they nuke any nuclear-armed nation it will be the end of their nation. We lived a long time with a much greater threat of nuclear attack from the Soviet Union; also, dire warnings of an attack by a nuclear-armed and demonic North Korea have not come to pass.

A longer-term and more positive approach is to begin work on a Middle East nuclear weapons-free zone. Achievement of this very difficult task could serve as a template for a similar arrangement in the Asian theater, where the Obama administration is beefing up a military program. These initiatives can constitute steps toward a nuclear weapons-free world.

Ray McGovern, a former CIA officer, and Elizabeth Murray, a former intelligence officer, offer other options to help defuse Iran as an issue:

1) Order negotiation of the kind of bilateral “incidents-at-sea” agreement concluded with the Soviet Union in May 1972, to head off escalation when ships “go bump in the night;”

2) Issue a formal statement that the U.S. will not support an Israeli attack on Iran;

3) Have “military-to-military” dialogue with Israel; and

4) Make public a declassified version of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

Progressive talk show hosts who continue to support President Obama are trying to distinguish his position from that of the Republican presidential contenders — except for Ron Paul. Although I agree that the GOP contenders are using more provocative rhetoric about bombing Iran, Obama is also committed to bombing: he has said that all options, including the use of nuclear weapons, are on the table; he has said he is “not bluffing;” he has said he has “Israel’s back;” and he and his defense secretary have said that bombing will commence if Iran crosses certain “red lines.” Thus, if Obama wins a second term and U.S. intelligence concludes that Iran has developed a nuclear bomb(s), he must back up his words by bombing.

* Dalia Dassa Kave, “Attack on Iran May Be Worst Option,” The Albuquerque Journal, February 25, 2012.

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