Jeffrey Goldberg Probes Israel’s Iran Strike Option: Is Netanyahu a “Bomber Boy”?

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Israeli_Air_Force_F-16I_fighter_jet.jpgIn an important article titled “The Point of No Return” to be published in The Atlantic tomorrow, national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg recounts something many people didn’t realize at the time and still have a hard time believing. President George W. Bush knocked back Dick Cheney’s wing of the foreign policy establishment – both inside and out of his administration – that wanted to launch a bombing campaign against Iran. In a snippet I had not seen before, Bush mockingly referred to bombing advocates Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer as “the bomber boys.”
George W. Bush was showing his inner realist not allowing his own trigger-happy Curtis LeMays pile on to the national security messes the US already owned in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But that was several years ago. Today, there is a new US President, more Iranian centrifuges, and a different Israeli Prime Minister – and Bibi Netanyahu seems closer to a Curtis LeMay, John Bolton or Frank Gaffney than he does to the more containment-oriented Eisenhowers and George Kennans who in their day forged a global equilibrium out of superpower rivalry and hatred.


Goldberg, after conducting dozens of interviews with senior members of Israel’s national security establishment as well as many top personalities in the Obama White House, concludes in his must-read piece that the likelihood of Israel unilaterally bombing Iran to curtail a potential nuclear weapon breakout capacity is north of 50-50.
In short, Goldberg paints a picture that despite the likelihood of very high cost blowback from Iran in the wake of a unilateral strike by Israel, or a coordinated attack with the US, there are numerous tilts toward bombing embedded in the current political orders in both Jerusalem and Washington.
hillary clinton impressive.jpgGoldberg’s slice of the pie — that he has taken in both places — is credible, though he is careful to acknowledge that what may really drive Israel to strike is its lack of confidence in Obama’s will to do so. Obama’s team knows that the world sees Israel as a client state of the United States and simply won’t believe that Israel acted alone, thus compelling the US to consider serious war options — even if, as Goldberg writes — Obama doesn’t want the initiation of a third war in the Middle East to define his foreign policy legacy.
The quandary in trying to divine what Obama would and wouldn’t really do to try and forestall Iran’s nuclear pretensions is that while the President is holding out an open hand and trying to encourage a constructive dialogue with Iran, he is also allowing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to play her “coercive diplomacy” cards in high-pitched speeches that come close to John McCain’s view of Iran. The White House wants the world, and Iran, and Jeffrey Goldberg to think it could bomb, and may bomb, if other options don’t work — but Goldberg’s interlocutors seem to be demanding a binary, all in or all out, deal from the White House and fundamentally don’t trust the President’s non-military track.
rahm-emanuel-mtp.jpgIn his essay, Jeffrey Goldberg reports on sitting in the office of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel along with senior members of the National Security Council while they emphasized “all options are on the table.” And they kept emphasizing and emphasizing. Goldberg is not wrong to surmise that the White House was trying to sell him on the notion that yes, even a Barack Obama can take military action if Iran doesn’t change course.
Goldberg quotes Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes:

“We are coordinating a multifaceted strategy to increase pressure on Iran, but that doesn’t mean we’ve removed any option from the table,” Rhodes said. “This president has shown again and again that when he believes it is necessary to use force to protect American national-security interests, he has done so. We’re not going to address hypotheticals about when and if we would use military force, but I think we’ve made it clear that we aren’t removing the option of force from any situation in which our national security is affected.”

What drives deterrence, and resulting stability, is that two warring parties can create unacceptably high costs for the other. And the US, in order to try and secure stability in the Middle East and offering an opening for Iran to come into the international community with American support if it changes course, feels that it needs to threaten military action.
My own view of Iran differs from that of Netanyahu who told Goldberg, “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs.” While I am uncomfortable with and oppose a nuclear-armed Iran as well, Iran has shown itself to be a strategic, rational, albeit ruthless, calculator of its interests — not an irrational, suicidal nation. It has been at odds with the U.S. for decades and displays more the attributes of a severe abuse victim whose view of the world and its options have been distorted and mal-shaped from being under regime change siege for so long. There is no likely quick fix to the absence of trust between Iran and the US and its allies.
The good thing though is that Iran prides itself on its rationality and complexity. Former Iranian top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani once said to me in response to a question, “You Americans play baseball. We play chess. Chess beats baseball.”
Goldberg acknowledges that over the next twelve months, sanctions could possibly change the calculations of Iran’s political leadership, or the reformist Green Movement could “temper the regime’s ideological extremism,” or that covert “foiling operations” could sabotage and undermine Iran’s nuclear program – but that chances for success on these fronts are seen by many as slim.
He continues:

. . .least of all the notion that Barack Obama, for whom initiating new wars in the middle east is not a foreign-policy goal, will soon order the American military into action against Iran — seems, at this moment, terribly likely.
What is more likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15es, F-16is, F-16cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli Air Force to fly east toward Iran–possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. according to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.)

netanyahu speaking.jpgGoldberg’s essay weaves together an array of Israeli takes on Iran. He offers a fascinating psychological profile of Bibi Netanyahu and his thirst for affirmation from a strong, now 100-year old father who frowned on the peace gestures and territorial withdrawals made by Bibi during his last go as PM. It’s clear that Goldberg surveyed a wide range of political personalities in Israel from the far left to the far right – but their diversity is manifested more in divergent postures on Greater Israel, settlement expansion, and how to deal with Palestine than differences of views on the consequences of a nuclear weapons-armed Iran.
What simultaneously disturbs and fascinates about this essay by Goldberg, who in past conversations has told me that he is ambivalent personally when it comes to bombing or containing Iran, is that it lays out a fairly comprehensive roster of the probable high costs for Israel (and the U.S.) of a military attack – and yet Israel’s national leadership, for the most part, as reflected in their interviews, maintains a consequences-be-damned posture on a military strike – as opposed to a containment strategy.
In other words, doubts about the sanity and rationality of Iran’s leadership may be driving Israel’s leaders to abandon pragmatic rationality and serious scrutiny of costs and benefits as well. Is this all real? Or are both sides puffing up, acting like “crazy Ivans”, as part of a military strategy that could be bluff, or could be devastatingly severe?
Goldberg, to his credit, doesn’t hyperventilate in the article — and doesn’t do more than give his best gut read that more and more leaders in Israel, in Obama’s White House, and in Arab states in the region are considering a military strike by Israel to be more and more likely. But he does hedge a bit by acknowledging that this palpable sense of a military strike could be part of a campaign to change Iran’s calculations.
Obama_twn.jpgI have previously outlined my doubts about America’s and Israel’s willingness — in the end — to take military action against Iran. In short, the costs and blowback could be astonishingly, strategically high for the United States and Israel runs the risk of rupturing relations with its only key ally in the world by making a unilateral strategic choice for the United States. I think that in a world today in which American power is doubted, in which the US military is bogged down in Afghanistan and potentially vulnerable in Iraq, Iran — which has for decades been fearful of regime change efforts by the West — is moving its interests forward as fast as it can before having to yield some ground when power shifts back to the US.
According to Goldberg, Israel’s advocates of a military strike would be fine with even minimal success from a bombing run. Postponement of a few years would work for many Israelis — even if this assures an Iran dedicated more than ever to nuclear warhead acquisition.
Goldberg writes from his exchange with Rahm Emanuel:

Emanuel had one more message to deliver: for the most practical of reasons, israel should consider carefully whether a military strike would be worth the trouble it would unleash.
“I’m not sure that given the time line, whatever the time line is, that whatever they did, they wouldn’t stop” the nuclear program, he said. “They would be postponing.”
It was then that i realized that, on some subjects, the Israelis and Americans are still talking past each other. The Americans consider a temporary postponement of Iran’s
nuclear program to be of dubious value. The Israelis don’t. “When Menachem Begin bombed Osirak [in Iraq], he had been told that his actions would set back the Iraqis one year,” one cabinet minister told me. “He did it anyway.”

And according to Goldberg, Israelis have a clear-eyed sense of the risks.
He tallies the consequences as:

sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally, of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper of nations.

This list of downsides is hardly trivial.
I’d add to this list on the U.S. ledger that China and Russia may exploit the incident and provide a back door to Iran – thus potentially breaking the back of US dominance of the world’s oil and natural gas regimes. Supply of Iranian oil to Japan and Europe may be curtailed without immediate clear and easy supply offsets – thus potentially putting serious pressure on America’s other alliances.
Iran could also animate assets it controls inside Afghanistan and Iraq to threaten and undermine US military operations in those theaters. Also, according to a new poll funded by the Carnegie Corporation and done by the University of Maryland’s Shibley Telhami, the Arab street may actually support Iran’s nuclear program and could after an Israeli strike for which their leaders were “secretly sympathetic”, as Goldberg writes, begin agitating against and even toppling their regimes. Wars are full of unanticipated, unexpected blowback — consequences perhaps above and beyond what is already expected.
My own hunch is that whether Israel is serious about striking Iran, or not – it wants the world, Iran’s Mullahs, and President Obama to think it will. Goldberg captures this well – and those who spent time with him seem profoundly sincere in their intention to absorb nearly any cost in the effort to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
After the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was publicly released stating that in the view of the US intel community that Iran had as of 2003 given up its nuclear weaponization program, I shared the news personally with former Labor Party Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, who Goldberg interviewed for this essay. Sneh immediately erupted and made on the record comments that the United States was forfeiting its global responsibilities and that Israel would take action on its own. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said much the same thing the next day. Thus, concern about Iran has been running at a high pitch for some time.
On the other hand, what makes me doubt the veracity of some of the Israeli leadership’s security views and Iran posture is the absence of progress on other fronts that arguably would enhance Israel’s security and “remake the Middle East” in more constructive ways.
The obvious question is why – if Iran is posing a true existential threat in the minds of Israelis and that there is so much doubt in Obama’s reliability on Iran as Goldberg lays out – Israel doesn’t deliver on an Arab-Israel peace deal that gives Palestinians a state and normalizes Israeli relations with 57 other Arab and Muslim-dominant nations. This would lay the foundation for more direct, if arms length, security coordination and would go some way in neutralizing the Palestinian cause as a rallying point throughout the region for Iran.
Furthermore, delivering on a two-state arrangement and embracing the key points of the Arab Peace Initiative could produce two possible, useful scenarios. The first is that those Arab regimes that are in the “all options on the table” camp could be more supportive of military strategies against Iran if Palestine was on the drawing boards. The mere possibility of an Israel-Saudi-Jordan-Egypt condominium against growing Iranian power in the region may dramatically alter the calculations of Iran’s leadership. This “show of strength” is possibly more constructive and compelling to Iran’s leaders than the “we’re really going to unilaterally bomb them” approach Israel is flirting with.
The other possible scenario, seldom discussed, is that Iran’s posture itself relaxes as an Israel/Palestine deal is reached. Jordan’s King Abdullah conveyed this in an interview with Fareed Zakaria:

KING ABDULLAH: I still go back to saying the core issue is the Israeli-Palestinian problem, because all roads in our part of the world, all the conflicts lead to Jerusalem.
Today, Iran is putting itself as the defenders of the Palestinian cause. Several days ago, Osama bin Laden in his taped message to the United States again underlined the suffering of the Palestinians. It is the injustice felt towards the Palestinian people that allow other states actors and non-state actors to take the role of being the defenders of the Palestinians.
If we solve this problem, then I believe we start to unwind all the other pressure points inside of the Middle East.
ZAKARIA: But could you in Jordan live with an Iran with a nuclear weapon?
KING ABDULLAH: If we solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem, why would Iranians want to spend so much money on a military program? It makes no sense.
I mean, the country has social challenges. It has economic challenges. Why push the envelope in getting to a military program? For what cause? If you solve the problem, you don’t need to pursue that path.
ZAKARIA: People in Washington who listen to this are going to say, “He’s soft on Iran.”
KING ABDULLAH: President Obama said something that was very, very critical about the future of the Middle East. He said that, for the first time — and I think it should have happened many, many decades ago — America wants to see a resolution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, because it is in the vital national security interests of the United States.

It seems to me that before Israel would even countenance the heavy costs that could be visited upon it after bombing Iran – which arguably would just delay and probably harden Iran’s commitment to nuclear weapons acquisition – that it would want to shore up its security on other fronts, particularly with Arab regimes that share some of its concerns.
I was in the audience at the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival when Jeffrey Goldberg conducted the astonishing interview he recounts in his article with UAE Ambassador Yousef Otaiba who essentially said that if Iran continued on its current course, the UAE would support a military strike against Iran. What Goldberg failed to mention is that Otaiba also strongly emphasized that the most important radicalizer in the region was the unresolved Palestine-Israel dispute and that the smart strategy to deal with the Iran challenge was to unwind the Israeli occupation. He and other senior Arab leaders have told me that in their view, this would neutralize much of Iran’s growing power in the region.
In one of my own interviews with a very senior UAE diplomat, I was told that the best way for the US and allies to confront Iran was to deliver on Palestine and then to work with the Saudis, UAE, and other oil-producing Arab states in making the price of oil crash to very low levels. He said that this would generate “humbling conditions” for Iran and “knee-cap Iran’s ambitions.” And then he said, Iran would work with us “and these games would end.”
What is disappointing is that it seems from Goldberg’s article – which I think captures correctly the prevailing mood and opinion in Jerusalem — Israeli government officials for the most part are not even thinking about this course while at the same time considering and possibly accepting other high cost collision scenarios with Iran.
Does Israel not see that its security relationship with the United States is somewhat like a New Orleans levy — working today but not exactly getting better with time? Israel needs to participate in a recasting of its security circumstances in the region, and it seems to be seriously counterproductive to be launching a war with one threatening nation while not doing more to ameliorate tensions with many other states in its neighborhood — particularly when it could.
Goldberg’s piece makes it clear that Israel’s national leadership – while not in complete consensus on a strike – is nonetheless dominated by those who believe that the Israeli narrative as a nation, as a “safe haven” and refuge of first resort for Jews from around the world, will be undermined if Iran’s nuclear program is not confronted and rolled back. There is widespread consensus in Israel that Iran having a nuclear weapon comes as close to repeating the conditions of a shoah, or Holocaust, as Nazi Germany.
But Israel is less and less, if at all, a refuge of first resort today — even without a war with Iran. Russian Jews are increasingly trying to go to Germany instead of Israel, and the ongoing tensions over the unresolved situation with Palestine and the fear of rockets or terrorism keep the nation on edge.
When I first learned a couple of months ago that Jeffrey Goldberg was going to be writing this piece on “whither an Israeli strike,” I thought it would lay out a more compelling logic to bombing than he does in this article. Goldberg has not done advocacy journalism in this essay — rather, he has given us a snapshot of attitudes, postures, and his gut sense of probabilities while at the same time not pulling punches on what the dire costs could be.
Reading his essay a second, and then a third time, I sense that Israel’s and America’s leadership won’t be “bombing boys” but rather will act like them until a “third option” to bombing or appeasement appears. That third option could be provided by Iran’s Supreme Leader himself, or could be normalization between Israel and the Arab Middle East, or something else.
But it seems to me just as likely, if not more so, that real leadership in this showdown will be exhibited by those who demonstrate strategic restraint and generate possibilities not seen at the moment.
When Eisenhower reined in John Foster Dulles and Curtis LeMay and forged a containment strategy of the USSR, he used their flamboyant desire to engage in war as part of his tool kit.
Both Obama and Netanyahu would be wise to do the same and to think through ways to halt the dysfunctional, paranoiac escalation between Iran and Israel.
What Jeffrey Goldberg has put out for us is an early treatment of what may be Barack Obama’s “Cuban Missile Crisis” moment — in which tensions are high, in which many in the room on all sides are engaged in extreme brinkmanship, and in which disaster looms for all parties.
We don’t know what the outcome will be — but my gut instinct pulls a different direction than Goldberg’s.
I think based on the interviews he has shared with all parties that more rational heads will prevail in finding a way to contain or redirect Iran’s course.
Otherwise, as in a simple game theory exercise, both Israel and the US may end up in the box of very worst outcomes with none of their basic strategic objectives achieved.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

134 comments on “Jeffrey Goldberg Probes Israel’s Iran Strike Option: Is Netanyahu a “Bomber Boy”?

  1. Cee says:

    James,
    After reading what Paul Craig Roberts and Chalmers Johnson say at that site, a war doesn’t sound so bad. Quick death in a nuclear conflagration is preferable. Damn.

    Reply

  2. James says:

    ‘JINSA John’ Bolton: “Israel has 8 days to hit bushehr” (Iran)
    http://tinyurl.com/BoltonIsraelhas8daystohitIran

    Reply

  3. nadine says:

    David Rothkopf answers Steve Clemons in Foreign Policy:
    “Steve Clemons of the Washington Note, who took the intriguing step of responding to Goldberg’s detailed, must-read article before it was even published, focused on what he sees as the miscalculation of Netanyahu and others in the Israeli inner circle. In Clemons’ eyes — and he is an estimable analyst with whom I agree far more often than not — a military strike would be misguided both because of the blowback it would trigger and because the view that the Iranians are irrational is wrong. He sees them as just the kind of calculating, self-interested actor that would respond well to the pressures of deterrence once they had a bomb and thus concludes, without actually saying it, that in the end, we can live with the Iranians having the bomb.
    This is a popular view in Washington. Indeed, rhetoric aside, I believe it is the view of the president even if it is definitely not the view of all of his closest advisors. In fact, I think the Israelis are over-estimating the likelihood that in the end Obama will live up to his statements that we will do what it takes to stop Iran from getting the bomb. Having said that…
    The “rational actor” view of Iran has a couple of fundamental flaws, quite apart from the legitimate argument about whether or not key members of the Iranian elite (or potential future leaders) are — or will be capable of — acting “irrationally” and using a nuclear weapon even if they faced a significant counter-strike as a likely outcome. (This issue of who might be potential future leaders is often overlooked or downplayed here. And while my sense is that it is quite possible we could end up with much more moderate Iranian leadership, it is also possible that we could get someone who made Ahmadinejad look statesmanlike.)
    The first flaw is that the core problem associated with Iran getting the bomb is not Iran. It’s that their getting the bomb moves us toward a world in which irrational, deterrent-immune actors become so much more likely to get it. This could either be due to one or more weapons falling into the hands of extreme elements in the network of extremists supported by Iran or, more likely, due to the triggering of an arms race in the region that will, necessarily, geometrically increase the likelihood that the weapon falls into the hands of a terrorist or non-state actor who literally has nothing to lose in the event of a counter-strike.
    The second flaw is that even a “rational” actor in Tehran might well conclude the use of nuclear weapons against Israel, for example, was worth the risks entailed. They might, for example, note that a first-strike with even very few weapons might effectively destroy Israel, whereas any counter-strike in Iran would likely be very targeted and have comparatively limited consequences. There is no “mutual assured destruction” here because it is so unlikely anyone would respond with the intent of destroying Iran.”
    http://rothkopf.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/08/12/since_when_is_it_rational_to_bet_on_history_being_made_by_rational_men

    Reply

  4. Tian says:

    Thanks Steve for this excellent analysis. However I still think it’s highly unlikely that the Israelis will make a move.
    1. U.S. wouldn

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  5. Sand says:

    – A campaign for war with Iran begins
    If neocons can’t get Obama to attack Iran, they are creating a narrative so the next Republican president will
    By Trita Parsi 8/13/10
    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/08/13/trita_parsi_jeffrey_goldberg/index.html

    Reply

  6. Dan Kervick says:

    Jeffrey Goldberg was a corporal in the IDF, and so I assume is still a citizen of Israel. So couldn’t one be accused of calling him treacherous if one suggested that he was *not* promoting Israeli objectives?

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  7. nadine says:

    “Walt, Karon and Leveretts say

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  8. Sand says:

    “…This recent feature in the New Yorker by Jon Lee Anderson..”
    Also, what it revealed to me is that Iran has its fair share of ‘low-information voters’ as well as a dodgy looking election system — just like us. And that the Iranian regime is just as skilled at twisting propaganda and fear — just like us.
    However, it still doesn’t justify bombing them.

    Reply

  9. James says:

    Will Israel attack Iran before this nuclear plant supposedly starts next week?:
    http://tinyurl.com/WillIsraelattackIranbefore

    Reply

  10. Sand says:

    the the the

    Reply

  11. Sand says:

    DAN: “…the US should offer Israel the option of US statehood, which would render the strongest possible security guarantees automatic…”
    Don’t you mean the option for us to become the ‘United States of Israel”? — This might seem hypobole — but really — with upper hand Israel appears to have over our President and Congress — if ‘we’ can see balance of power changing then the Arab world at al. are likely to see it too…

    Reply

  12. Sand says:

    STEVE: “…Goldberg acknowledges that over the next twelve months, sanctions could possibly change the calculations of Iran’s political leadership, or the reformist Green Movement could “temper the regime’s ideological extremism,” or that covert “foiling operations” could sabotage and undermine Iran’s nuclear program – but that chances for success on these fronts are seen by many as slim…”
    Yep seen by may as slim:
    “…This recent feature in the New Yorker by Jon Lee Anderson paints a more nuanced picture. It certainly doesn

    Reply

  13. Dan Kervick says:

    I should add, Nadine, that all the regulars here can recall that I have previously argued that, in exchange for Israel terminating their aggression in the West Bank – and also as a means of providing additional motivation for the Israelis to terminate that aggression – the US should offer Israel the option of US statehood, which would render the strongest possible security guarantees automatic.

    Reply

  14. Cee says:

    http://www.intifada-palestine.com/2010/08/israel-shamir-fear-not-2/
    The most likely interpretation for the sabre-rattling is that Israelis plan yet another invasion of Lebanon, while hoping that Iran will be scared into immobility by the threat of an all-out war. Like all previous invasions of Lebanon, that would be a great crime and a huge mistake, but hardly an apocalyptic event.
    Indeed for all appearances it is a re-run of 2006, when the predictions of American attack on Iran were also running high, but eventually Bush has got cold feet and the Israeli army was roundly defeated in the mountain valleys of South Lebanon.
    If It Comes
    However, if this optimistic prognosis goes the way of some weather broadcasts, and instead of a sunny day with rainy spells we get a full blown storm, the whole fabric of the Middle East will unravel. This juggernaut would be unstoppable. After Iran, Syria would fall. After Syria, Saudi Arabia. It will be the classic domino game: Iran rejoiced when Iraq fell. Saudis wish Iran to fall. Israel wants all of them to fall. This is inscribed in their Clean Break paper and its source, Oded Yinon

    Reply

  15. Dan Kervick says:

    Nadine, I

    Reply

  16. samuelburke says:

    you gotta love Philip Weiss on this one…he is all over the issue
    like lox on a bagel.
    we get it nadine, the system has been gamed and your side has
    figured out how to get the americans to send their young
    soldiers to die in the dessert for israel. we do not wish for this
    to continnue…the arabs are your enemies not ours.
    Walt, Karon and Leveretts say

    Reply

  17. samuelburke says:

    nadine nothing gives me more pleasure than watching the
    wheels come off your zionist israeli myth wagon.
    what israel is doing to the palestinians is a crime of monstrous
    proportions and when you add to it all the complicity by the
    major american press outlets who publish everything the israeli
    govt wishes without question or investigation, one truly has on
    their hands an abuse against a helpless population unrivaled in
    modern times.
    “When Palestinian Arabs claimed a national identity, the people
    Shimon Peres thinks are anti-Semitic turned very brutal. Against
    them. They brought in more troops than they had in the entire
    Indian continent, and along with Zionist terrorists made
    mincemeat out of the Palestinians. From 1936

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  18. miscellany101 says:

    It is so distressing to hear all the saber rattling when there’s so much that diplomacy can do to diffuse this tension. Since 2003 the Iranians have signaled they want to talk…some would say even well before that year, and be considered a major player in the region but we seem to not be interested at all in talking but rather intent on war. The fact that the call for war is being led by someone as discredited as Goldberg is even more unfortunate. When it comes to the Middle East, America has just thrown reason out of the window and resorted to ridding itself of common annoyances with sledge hammers.

    Reply

  19. nick says:

    Warmongers all of you.

    Reply

  20. nadine says:

    Meantime, Der Spiegel reports that the Turks are attacking the PKK with chemical weapons. Let’s all wait for the International Human Rights Purist Brigades to swing into action, shall we?
    “‘Turks hit PKK with chemical weapons’
    By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
    08/12/2010 21:41
    Report: German newspaper says photos of dead Kurds confirm use.
    BERLIN

    Reply

  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “It means that by a prolonged campaign of demonization against “humanity’s worst criminals,” the world is prepared to say, “The Israelis had it coming””
    Actually, Nadine, its getting pretty pathetic seeing you, day in and day out, do what you accuse others of. Whenever an Israeli attrocity is outlined here, your argument is ALWAYS “the Palestinians had it coming”.
    As jdeldll recently noted, you’re a fuckin’ ghoul. To bad more Jews on here don’t distance themselves from your venomous prattle.

    Reply

  22. nadine says:

    “this guy writes up a storm, Taki over at takimag dot com
    “The Palestinian social fabric was ripped asunder, never to
    recover. The 1936-1939 war against Palestine was thought out
    by the English and carried out by the English, but try and tell it to
    old Shimon.” (samuelburke)
    Another “narrative” writer of fiction.
    Let us all pity the helplessness of the Arab victims of the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt.
    This is the paradigm of Arab politics in the long Israeli-Arab conflict (the Arab Revolt took place long before anybody even claimed there was such a people as “Palestinians”): Turn to banditry and terrorism as your first resort: refuse all efforts at mediation or compromise (like the Peel Commission of 1937); start a war; lose the war; whine about what a helpless victim you are; nurse grudges against the other parties, the criminals who are 100% responsible for everything you suffer. You alone are innocent as the new-born babe.
    All I can say about this civilizational self-pity and paranoia is that it seems to be catching.

    Reply

  23. nadine says:

    “‘It doesn’t matter if you personally don’t believe that Ahmadinejad is talking this way to prepare the Iranians and the whole world for the day when he will attempt to wipe out all the Jews in Israel. What matters is that the Israelis do believe it.’
    Prepare the world? What in heaven’s name does that mean? Do you think the world now considers itself “prepared” to wipe out the Jews? Do you think even Achmadinejad thinks the world is now “prepared” for that?” (Dan Kervick)
    It means that by a prolonged campaign of demonization against “humanity’s worst criminals,” the world is prepared to say, “The Israelis had it coming” (you certain sound well prepared to say that) and not lift a finger to stop it. This is what Hitler did all during the 30s to prepare the ground for the deportation and slaughter of the Jews and the world did not lift a finger to stop him.
    I am absolutely positive that Ahmadinejad thinks the world is now prepared to see him finish what Hitler started, and applaud.

    Reply

  24. nadine says:

    “nadine: Please kindly refrain from chopping logic with my statements.”
    Observer, my apologies for thinking that your statements had anything to do with logic.

    Reply

  25. samuelburke says:

    this guy writes up a storm, Taki over at takimag dot com
    ” The Palestinian social fabric was ripped asunder, never to
    recover. The 1936-1939 war against Palestine was thought out
    by the English and carried out by the English, but try and tell it to
    old Shimon.

    Reply

  26. samuelburke says:

    one question for the united states is “how does one deal with a
    madman” ?
    can the u.s- israel relationship survive or will it just change?
    is it changing right before our eyes?

    Reply

  27. cdk says:

    mr. clemons- israel has every right to believe that what the iranian leaders proclaim: the destruction of israel constitutes that which iran plans to do. it is sophomoric to describe the iranian leaders as pragmatic or to otherwise consider that the iranian government does not mean what they say. the foreign policy of a nation must consider the assertions of those w/ whom it is in conflict as accurate barometers of their adversary’s intentions. israel cannot and should not rely upon the assertion of force by pres. obama.
    israel’s left w/ few practical options. it must act preemptively and consider the consequences rather than the consequences that will ensue should iran get the bomb.

    Reply

  28. observer says:

    nadine:
    Please kindly refrain from chopping logic with my statements.
    I have told you why the war will not end.
    Make of it what you wish.

    Reply

  29. erichwwk says:

    Freddie writes:
    “Iran has no enemies besides those created by its
    nuclear weapons program. ”
    You are kidding right?
    Have you forgotten the US-UK invasion of Iran in 1941, The third use of nukes by the US to keep Russia out in 1946, the covert invasion/regime change in 1953, and all the post 1979 attempts at regime change in Iran?
    How can you possibly not see the US and UK as serious enemies of Iran, an enemy created BEFORE the current enrichment program? No one likes their resources stolen and their sovereignty threatened.
    In regards to the Iranian nuclear weapons program, get real. ActungAintHeBad has no nukes, and really doesn’t need an actual stockpile to achieve his aims, going right up to the edge of what is permitted under the NPT (which Israel, India, and Pakistan have not signed).
    He abhors (as do I) the nuclear apartheid of the US, and its continual use (31 additional uses after the 1946 Iranian incidence) of nuclear weapons to obtain economic and political privilege. As he says, “If there are good for the US, why are they not good for Iran? and if they are bad for Iran, why are they not bad for the US?”
    http://www.epfwny.org/Convention/GersonChap1web.pdf
    As well as the Balfour declaration being spun, no other event has as many propaganda dollars expended as the US effort to whitewash what happen in Japan, in August of 1945.
    The latest effort is the Ploughshares propaganda film, COUNTDOWN TO ZERO, to which the NAF’s Bill Hartung is complicit (knowingly or unknowingly)in obfuscation. ObL is shown, but NONE of his three (in my opinion, valid) grievances of why the WTC killings. Nor are any pictures of how how human’s suffered, along the line of the German holocaust, shown. Not one!
    Until we are able to discuss with some semblance of intellectual honesty what has occurred, and with some semblance of respect, compassion, and empathy for other points of view we are again headed to a major war, as the perpetrators hunker down in their bunkers and await the spoils. So as Obama and Robert gates “claim” to be moving to a world without nukes, the massive spending increases and construction projects to build nuclear weapons (estimated to quadruple the capacity), very visible to me, tell the opposite story.
    Wars occur when propaganda successfully inures the population to inflict suffering on other human beings, dividing humanity into us and them, and people go along with massive military expenditure increases. If we are not yet already resigned to WWIII, we are awfully close.
    “Remember your humanity and forget all the rest”
    – Joe Rotblat

    Reply

  30. Cee says:

    Yoni,
    I wouldn’t count on Barak to stop anything
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3933979,00.html
    Report: Israel planned military op following border incident
    08.11.10, 09:46 /
    Israel planned on launching a large-scale military operation in response to the border incident between the Israel Defense Forces and the Lebanese Army which killed Lieutenant-Colonel Dov Harari, the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.
    According to the report, Defense Minister Ehud Barak informed French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner about the plan, which was eventually withdrawn following pressure by US, French, Egyptian and other Arab state officials. (Roee Nahmias

    Reply

  31. RWH says:

    Reading POA gives me a channel to help define my own frustrations over this current situation. Keep it up POA.
    And Reading Dan K. opens for me a ray of rational light into this otherwise deadend discussion with paranoid Likud fanatics. Keep it up Dan K.
    What is the greatest folly ever perpetrated on the modern world? I would submit it was the Balfour Declaration and all that has followed since. And remember, this all preceded the Holocaust.

    Reply

  32. Freddy says:

    Iran has no enemies besides those created by its
    nuclear weapons program. Saddam is long dead.
    There is no attacker hanging around waiting for
    Iran to get nuclear weapons so they can be
    deterred. Iran’s “enemies” have had 30 years to
    attack. So the nukes are not defensive.
    So either Iran is in the hands of paranoids or
    their intent is offensive. Hard to think which one
    would be worse. “Nukes for paranoids” or “Nukes
    for aggressors”. Take your pick.

    Reply

  33. DonS says:

    “As long as this potential for war exists, Israel
    cannot cede sovereignty over the West Bank to the
    weak PA, to be turned over to Hamas.” (freddy)
    The potential for war always exists. This is just another excuse. Likewise, sovereignty devolving to the Palestinians on the West Bank would be scant insurance against Israeli incursions whenever they choose and for whatever reason. Leaving Gaza doesn’t seem to have eliminated ‘incursions’. And Israel will never trust or deal with Hamas so this formulation insures no progress will be attempted.

    Reply

  34. Freddy says:

    “The obvious question is why – … – Israel
    doesn’t deliver on an Arab-Israel peace deal that
    gives Palestinians a state and normalizes Israeli
    relations with 57 other Arab and Muslim-dominant
    nations.”
    Because a peace deal with the PA won’t do that.
    Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas want all of Israel.
    They’ll simply use a West Bank state to build up
    weapons and launch a new war when they think they
    are ready.
    As long as this potential for war exists, Israel
    cannot cede sovereignty over the West Bank to the
    weak PA, to be turned over to Hamas.
    The deeper puzzle is why Russia, which exports
    more oil than Iran, agrees with China, which
    imports oil. It is clearly not simple market
    self-interest. These two countries could make or
    break the sanctions and determine the outcome. So
    we should make our deal with them.

    Reply

  35. Dan Kervick says:

    “It doesn’t matter if you personally don’t believe that Ahmadinejad is talking this way to prepare the Iranians and the whole world for the day when he will attempt to wipe out all the Jews in Israel. What matters is that the Israelis do believe it.”
    Prepare the world? What in heaven’s name does that mean? Do you think the world now considers itself “prepared” to wipe out the Jews? Do you think even Achmadinejad thinks the world is now “prepared” for that?
    But I suppose, however, that the world should consider itself to have been put on notice by Israel. Israel is so small that they will regard any country that talks smack about them as not just a threat, but an existential threat.
    You don’t even have to have the capacity to destroy Israelis to enter this grave roster of existential threats. Thus the Israelis even regard Hamas as, not just a threat, but an existential threat. They are an existential threat because they continue to engage in the speech crime of “denying Israel’s right to exist”, while at the same time being utterly incapable of doing anything about it.
    Sometimes it seems like the Israelis measure their security environment not by gauging how potent their adversaries are, but by how insulting they are. There is a whole Israeli kvetching industry that churns out endless harvests of being offended.

    Reply

  36. kotzabasis says:

    A Forward Strategy for America
    2010
    “We cannot tolerate the survival of a political system (Read Islamofascism) which has both the increasing capacity and the inexorable desire to destroy us. We have no other choice but to adopt the strategy of Cato: Delenda est Carthago.”
    Raymond Aron

    Reply

  37. Sand says:

    SIBEL EDMONDS: “Obama Appoints a Not-Too-Long-Ago-Hatched Neocon Larva
    Matthew Bryza: Azerbaijan Ambassadorship & a Tangled Web of Conflicts [7/27/2010]
    http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2010/07/27/obama-appoints-a-not-too-long-ago-hatched-neocon-larva/
    As well as choosing our SOS (?) who has the diplomatic skills and subtlety of a brick — I really do wonder what his endgame is?

    Reply

  38. Sand says:

    I like the list Dan:
    – DAN: “[8.] I’ll assume that Obama sincerely doesn’t want this to happen. He has attempted to appease the Israelis with his sanctions regime, and is possibly hoping that he can use those sanctions to run out the clock for at least another year or two,…”
    However, what’s the End Game…? I just hope he’s thought of one that doesn’t include having to payback his warmonger backers that got him into politics in the first place. Coz they appear to be pushing pretty hard for him to pay up.
    – OBAMA: “…My closeness to the Jewish American community was probably what propelled me to the U.S. Senate…” [Considering his audience -- I believe his message could be interpreted in more than one way.]
    LINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/interview-president-yonit-levi-israeli-tv
    – “In 2003, Forward reported on how he [Obama] had ‘been courting the pro-Israel constituency.’ He co-sponsored an amendment to the Illinois Pension Code allowing the state of Illinois to lend money to the Israeli government. Among his early backers was Penny Pritzker — now his national campaign finance chair — scion of the liberal but staunchly Zionist family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain. (The Hyatt Regency hotel on Mount Scopus was built on land forcibly expropriated from Palestinian owners after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967)”…”
    LINK: http://mondoweiss.net/2010/08/obamas-chinatown.html#more-23724
    Bush was able to run out the clock the second time around because he was a lame duck President, and from all appearances wanting a quick and ‘quiet’ exit [back to clearing his bush in Crawford?] — Obama hasn’t got that luxury.
    – DAN: “…and then hope that Israeli electoral politics take care of his problem with the Israeli hardliners and militants. But what contingency plans does Obama have in place for preventing escalation in the event of an Israeli strike, and for bringing the hostilities to a close as rapidly as possible? Will he find a way to run events, or will they run him?
    Oh, I would love to hear if there are any ‘serious’ minded optimists out there that can see some positive changes on the horizon with regard to ‘Israeli electoral politics’? At the moment I know of none. Plus, I think the Israeli’s and their American Jewish friends are quite chuffed at the strangle-hold they have on our ‘United States electoral politics’.
    – DAN: 9. The US cannot win a war against Iran – and the others who would join it on Iran’s side – with its current force levels…”
    No, but the crazies were able to get rid of Fallan, I just hope there are enough patriots for a revolt to stop a third round of serious war planning.
    – Mullen Wary of Israeli Attack on Iran
    by Ray McGovern — 3/7/10
    “…I worry a lot about the unintended consequences of any sort of military action. For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive.”…”
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/03/07-1

    Reply

  39. valwayne says:

    Iran isn’t Obama’s Cuban Missile Crisis! Its his Munich!!!!

    Reply

  40. nadine says:

    “Unless Jews leave Jerusalem and the control of the Noble Sanctuary is returned to Muslims, the war will not end.”
    Actually, the Muslim Waqf has always retained control of the Haram al Sharif. They repaid Israel’s generosity by excavating the insides of the Temple Mount with bulldozers, as if it were a garbage dump and not the most precious unexamined archeological site on the planet. But I digress.
    “The 3rd holiest site in Islam does not belong to the Palestinians to dispose of as they wish.”
    It takes a whole lotta nerve to demand that somebody else vacate your 3rd holiest site, when the site is his 1st holiest site.
    But that’s par for the course for Islam: demand utmost respect from other faiths, and treat them with contempt in return.
    What I have never quite understood is why Leftists who are militant atheists in their own countries should sign up for the program.

    Reply

  41. nadine says:

    “I assume Israel’s main aim in this business is to take out Hizbollah and Hamas, which they are eager to do for its own sake” (Dan Kervick)
    That’s a very bad assumption, Dan. You’d do better to reread Jeff Goldberg’s article and take the Israelis at face value. Hamas and Hizbullah are not, in themselves, existential threats; Iran is:
    “In a speech in June, Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, explained Middle East history this way:

    Reply

  42. kotzabasis says:

    It is good to see someone like drew cleansing the malignity that has been poured by nipple-fed intellectuals and uninformed people upon their bete noire General Lemay who in fact was a savvy and courageous general and who proved his mettle in WWII by being himself in front of his squadrons flying over Germany. Also, he was correct in his assessment in regards to Vietnam that one cannot fight a war with political restrictions, and one should not go to war armed with HALF MEASURES.

    Reply

  43. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The hawks in Israel and the US – including our current Secretary of State as I recall – attempted to escalate that war into a larger one”
    OMG!!!!! Someone commenting at TWN actually knows there is a Secretary Of State!!!!
    Hallelujah, there IS a Hillary!!!!
    “The approach, it would appear, is to extend a hand covered in feces, and then protest, “This reprobate won’t shake my hand.”
    Bingo.
    Do ya think thats why these tanked thinkers in the think tanks don’t wanna utter Hillary’s name????

    Reply

  44. Nomasir says:

    Interesting comparison. Could be the defining foreign policy moment of the presidency (unless something kicks up in North Korea while we’re not looking). Really hard to get a read on his response. My gut says he won’t “let fly” with the bombers – but that he is also working very hard to try to diffuse this thing without needing to wage war. Time will tell.
    http://bethsaidafigtree.wordpress.com/

    Reply

  45. John Waring says:

    http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/sites/default/files/Iran%20Report%202010_0.pdf
    “Put bluntly, war is not an option in responding to the difficult issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

    Reply

  46. Mason says:

    War In Context (dot) Org notes the game here — to pressure the U.S. government to take charge of the strike on Iran itself, rather than letting the Israelis do it in a half-assed way.
    Some commenters have speculated that important sections of the civilian and military leadership are already gung-ho for military action against Iran, and will use articles like these to co-opt the skeptics.
    Let me make a prediction right now — serious military engagement with Iran will wreck the already fragile U.S. economy once Iranian countermeasures cause oil prices to skyrocket. Not that chickenhawks care, the f*ckin morons…

    Reply

  47. Dan Kervick says:

    Ten thoughts and questions:
    1. If Israel does this, will they do it before or after the US election? I would assume that their timing calculations are based on procuring the greatest possible US buy-in and assistance, and they will strike at a time when political winds and pressures in the US are most likely to be pushing in a direction favorable to US participation.
    2. In the event of an Israel-Iran war, do the Iranians or their allies have the capability to strike Dimona in any way?
    3. It appears we are already entering High Pundit season, where our bestest, brightest and famousest stars in the firmament of generalist pontificators will now be winging it daily on Iran. Despite Obama’s claimed intention of diminishing the role of “gut” in Washington decision-making, and enhancing the role of science in his administration, the national debate on this issue remains remarkably science-free. As far as I know, none of the major voices driving the debate – people like Kagan, Ignatius, Feaver, Goldberg, etc. – has the technical or intelligence expertise to make an informed judgment on Iran’s actual capabilities. They are all political scientists, historians, novelists and journalists. And as usual these days, the American people are not permitted to know what the government knows. So we just have the usual groping and pre-rational discussion and beltway mill of rumor and conventional wisdom, where amateur conjectures are elevated through sheer repetition to realm of established fact. (My conjectures here are also amateurish ones, but oh, how I wish they were conventional wisdom.) It’s 2002 again, and we might as well be talking about aluminum tubes, Nigerian yellowcake and mobile germ labs.
    4. I assume Israel’s main aim in this business is to take out Hizbollah and Hamas, which they are eager to do for its own sake,; and the fact that they will thereby saw off two important legs of Iran’s regional stool is a side-benefit. Iran is a strategic competitor in the region, and Israel is also anxious to prevent any sort of thawing or opening between Washington and Tehran. I am very skeptical that serious Israeli security people are biting their nails over the Iranian “existential threat” to Israel. That drama is for the ordinary folks – the hyperventilators, as Steve would call them.
    5. An Israel-Iran war might begin with a sudden and unprovoked assault by air. But to procure some measure of global political sympathy, it might well begin with an initial round of provocations and fighting in Lebanon with Hizbollah, fighting which is then allowed to escalate. I would also keep an eye on the Arabian Peninsula. A Khobar Towers-like attack that is pinned on Iran or Hizbollah might help give Abdullah the political cover he needs to permit an Israeli flyover.
    6. The Israelis, it seems to me, are still smarting and embarrassed over their 2006 Lebanon stalemate, and want payback. The hawks in Israel and the US – including our current Secretary of State as I recall – attempted to escalate that war into a larger one. It didn’t work. Bush and Rice talked tough, but didn’t bite. I wonder what the hawks will try this time to replace what failed last time?
    7. Whatever his motives or current thinking might be, Obama’s nuclear non-proliferation initiative is DOA if he goes along with this business. The upshot of US moral support and material assistance for an Israeli attack – support and assistance which are a virtual certainty if Israel pulls the trigger – is that the US would have helped a nuclear rogue country, one of the very few countries that refuses to sign the NPT and refuses to disclose its nuclear weapons capabilities, in its strike on an NPT country that does not have a nuclear weapon, does not have break-out capability, and is in generally good official compliance with the NPT regime except for an “additional protocol”. Even pretending he might take this step, as an exercise in high-stakes brinkmanship, damages his non-proliferation initiative. Actually taking the plunge will likely kill it. The lesson a good part of the world would rationally draw about US intentions and commitments is that you can do pretty much whatever you want, atomically speaking, so long as you are aligned with the US. In 2003, we at least pretended to believe Iraq had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. In 2010, are we saying we don’t need no stinking WMD.
    8. I’ll assume that Obama sincerely doesn’t want this to happen. He has attempted to appease the Israelis with his sanctions regime, and is possibly hoping that he can use those sanctions to run out the clock for at least another year or two, and then hope that Israeli electoral politics take care of his problem with the Israeli hardliners and militants. But what contingency plans does Obama have in place for preventing escalation in the event of an Israeli strike, and for bringing the hostilities to a close as rapidly as possible? Will he find a way to run events, or will they run him?
    9. The US cannot win a war against Iran – and the others who would join it on Iran’s side – with its current force levels. Make sure your children have their passports in order. Which countries will offer refuge to young American men and women fleeing a draft?
    10. I said before that I would assume that Obama sincerely doesn’t want a war to happen. However, that assumption is subject to serious doubt. Famously, he offered to “extend a hand to Iran”. Nevertheless, the public diplomatic posture the US has adopted so far in alleged pursuit of that policy – one based on humiliation, hectoring, routine threats and supercilious sneering – seems deliberately geared toward making sure that there is virtually no realistic possibility of Iranian reciprocation. The approach, it would appear, is to extend a hand covered in feces, and then protest, “This reprobate won’t shake my hand.”

    Reply

  48. John Waring says:

    Everything is on the table? I’m not so sure about that.
    To begin with, you fight fire with water. You don’t fight fire with fire until you have exhausted all other possibilities, simply because the wind may shift, and burn your own sorry self to a crisp with the very fire you just set, the probable outcome resulting from any brainless Israeli bombing run on Iran.
    There are several big barrels of water we have yet to tap into in our efforts to keep the fire of war at bay. The first is Israeli encroachment in East Jerusalem. The second is Israeli encroachment in the West Bank. The third is the Israeli internment of Gaza. The fourth is the Israeli nuclear arsenal. This bounding leap to the unsustainable conclusion that Iran will become the existential threat to Israel, as the Shoah was to Jewish existence, once Iran possesses a single nuke, is a rather lengthy stretch. We are not talking about Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. We are talking about Iran. The US intelligence community has severe doubts about current Iranian capability, which I think are legitimate.
    I think one main reason lies behind that conclusion, namely, the fond Israeli wish to preserve unfettered freedom of action. Denial of any linkage also functions to preserve freedom of action. Well, too bad. It is past time Israel started to dip into those barrels and poured that water on that flame.
    To use another analogy, maybe it is chess. Maybe it’s all about getting and using leverage. Maybe the Iranians have built themselves enough of a pawn or a rook that Israel might just have to trade something of substance for, instead of resorting to more futile military action.

    Reply

  49. observer says:

    nadine:
    Unless Jews leave Jerusalem and the control of the Noble Sanctuary is returned to Muslims, the war will not end.
    The 3rd holiest site in Islam does not belong to the Palestinians to dispose of as they wish.
    And Jews won’t leave Jerusalem.
    The war will go on.

    Reply

  50. nadine says:

    “No it is not only the religious right that sees the Iranian threat as existential. But it is ONLY the right (religious or not) who is convinced that holding the territories as an occupying force does not hurt Israel’s geostrategic position in general and vs Iran in particular. ” (Yoni)
    I think it would be more accurate to say that the right sees the costs of the current situation, but thinks the costs of continuing the current situation are far less than the costs of repeating the Gaza Withdrawal in the West Bank, and seeing it too turn into Hamastan.
    There won’t be an agreement without some compromise on the Palestinian side as well as the Israeli side. At this moment, with the radicals in ascendance, it is completely impossible for the PA to make even the slightest compromise. They would be marked for death as traitors by Hamas.

    Reply

  51. PissedOffAmerican says:

    What a big heaping pile of crazy talk this thread is.
    It seems as though both sides of the debate wanna paint ActungAintHeBad as the crazy one in this mix.
    But really, wheres the unknown here? The Boogie Man ain’t got no nukes, We know that. Israel does. We know that too. So does Russia, so does China. So do we.
    So really, we KNOW that Iran can’t launch a nuclear attack, don’t we? But we haven’t a fuckin’ clue what may happen if Israel gets down and dirty, and sucks us into a war with Iran. And there is a multitude of ways these duplicitous sacks of shit in the Knesset and their wackjob racist Gorilla-On-Duty can do it, not the least being a false flag attack blamed on the Iranians. Its not like they haven’t done it before, is it?
    And enough with the “diplomacy hasn’t worked” horseshit. If that crap Clinton pulled can be considered “diplomacy”, than we can all kiss our asses goodbye, because that wretched excuse for an SOS is gonna “diplomacy” us right into a nuclear holocaust. Hillary’s “diplomacy” with Iran, at least that that was aired publically, consisted of, “We’re gonna engage you, it ain’t gonna work, we’ll need crippling sanctions, and fuck you very much”.
    Now just who the hell is crazy? This gonad deficient posturing jackass Obama, who has proven time and again that he has absolutely NO conviction??? This pathetic excuse for an SOS that thinks “diplomacy” and “engagement” means “Tell them to kiss my ass”???? Or Netanyahu, who thinks the billions we send him is payment for allowing him to drag us into some unpredictable and dangerous military adventure against Iran based on the exact same kind of boogie man horseshit and contrived threat propaganda that dragged us into Iraq?
    The crazy ones here are the ones steering OUR ship. THEY’RE the real “threat”. If I was today’s designated boogie man, I’d want nukes too. Just look at what we did to Iraq.
    And it is laughable beyond belief that some of the assholes prattling here on this thread think that the Iranian people are gonna come over to our way of thinking after we’ve bombed the Bejesus out of their country and killed a few thousand of them. Talk about crazy, THAT premise scores a twenty on the Craziness Meter.
    Our country would be far better served if we scooped about 76% of the brain cells out of the skull cases of these DC deep thinkers. And don’t expect to find “gray matter”, either. My money is riding on the bet that you’re gonna strike brown.
    Crazy???? Crazy is letting this racist little country of Israel drain our coffers, destroy our credibility, and do its damnedest to drag us off the same cliff its determined to leap off of.

    Reply

  52. samuelburke says:

    “In our 2007 book on the Israel lobby, John Mearsheimer and I
    wrote (emphasis added):
    Although there is still some chance that President Bush will
    decide to attack Iran before he leaves office, it is impossible to
    know for sure. There is also some possibility, given the inflexible
    rhetoric of the presidential candidates, that his successor will do
    so, particularly if Iran gets closer to developing weapons and if
    hard-liners there continue to predominate. If the United States
    does launch an attack, it will be doing so in part on Israel’s
    behalf, and the lobby will bear significant responsibility for
    having pushed this dangerous policy.”
    As one would expect, Goldberg wrote a rather hysterical
    negative review of the book when it came out, and he enjoys
    calling us names and leveling unfounded accusations. It is
    therefore somewhat surprising that he is now doing his best to
    demonstrate how right we were.”
    http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/

    Reply

  53. samuelburke says:

    Any attack on Iran would not end well
    Thursday, August 5, 2010 02:54 AM
    The Columbus Dispatch
    When Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
    and the highest-ranking American officer, was asked recently on
    NBC’s Meet the Press whether the U.S. has a military plan for an
    attack on Iran, he replied: “We do.”
    General staffs are supposed to plan for even the most unlikely
    contingencies. But what the planning process will have revealed
    is that there is no way for the United States to win a non-nuclear
    war with Iran.
    The U.S. could “win” by dropping hundreds of nuclear weapons
    on Iran’s military bases, nuclear facilities and industrial centers
    (i.e. cities) and killing 5 million to 10 million people, but short of
    that, nothing works. On this, we have the word of Richard
    Clarke, counterterrorism adviser in the White House under three
    administrations.
    Clarke revealed to The New York Times four years ago that, in
    the early 1990s, the Clinton administration had considered
    seriously a bombing campaign against Iran, but the military
    professionals told them not to do it.
    The Pentagon’s planners have conducted war games to model an
    attack on Iran several times in the past 15 years, and they just
    can’t make it come out as a U.S. victory.
    There’s nothing the U.S. can do to Iran, short of nuking the
    place, that would force Tehran to kneel and beg for mercy. It can
    bomb Iran’s nuclear sites and military installations to its heart’s
    content, but everything it destroys can be rebuilt in a few years.
    And there is no way that the United States could invade Iran.
    There are some 80 million people in Iran, and although many of
    them don’t like the present regime, almost all are fervent
    patriots who would resist invasion. Iran is a mountainous
    country four times the size of Iraq. The Iranian army is slightly
    smaller than the U.S. Army. But unlike the U.S. Army, its troops
    are not scattered across literally dozens of countries.
    If the White House were to propose anything larger than minor
    military incursions along Iran’s south coast, senior American
    generals would resign in protest. Without the option of a land
    war, the only lever the United States would have is the threat of
    yet more bombs – but if they aren’t nuclear, they aren’t
    persuasive.
    Whereas Iran would have lots of options for bringing pressure on
    the United States. Just stopping Iran’s own oil exports would
    drive the oil price sky-high in a tight market: Iran accounts for
    around 7 percent of internationally traded oil. But it also could
    block another 40 percent of global oil exports just by sinking
    tankers coming from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf
    states with its lethal Noor anti-ship missiles.
    The Noor anti-ship missile is a locally built version of the
    Chinese YJ-82. It has a 140-mile range, enough to cover all the
    major choke points in the Gulf. It flies at twice the speed of
    sound just yards above the sea’s surface, and it has a tiny radar
    profile. Its single-shot kill probability has been put as high as 98
    percent.
    Iran’s mountainous coastline extends along the whole northern
    side of the Gulf, and these missiles’ mobile launchers are easily
    concealed. They would sink tankers with ease, and in a few days
    insurance rates for tankers planning to enter the Gulf would
    become prohibitive, effectively shutting down the region’s oil
    exports.
    Meanwhile Iran would start supplying modern surface-to-air
    missiles to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that would soon shut
    down the U.S. military effort there.
    Iranian ballistic missiles would strike U.S. bases on the southern
    (Arab) side of the Gulf, and Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Beirut would
    start dropping missiles on Israel. The United States would have
    no options for escalation other than the nuclear one, and
    pressure on it to stop the war would mount by the day as the
    world’s industries and transport ground to a halt.
    The end would be an embarrassing retreat by the United States
    and the definitive establishment of Iran as the dominant power of
    the Gulf region. That was the outcome of every war game the
    Pentagon played, and Mullen knows it. It is all bluff. It always
    was.
    Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose
    articles are published in 45 countries.
    http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/editorials/stories/2010/
    08/05/any-attack-on-iran-would-not-end-well.html?sid=101

    Reply

  54. Yoni says:

    Nadine,
    No it is not only the religious right that sees the Iranian threat as existential. But it is ONLY the right (religious or not) who is convinced that holding the territories as an occupying force does not hurt Israel’s geostrategic position in general and vs Iran in particular.

    Reply

  55. Robert C says:

    Steve,
    Why does Goldberg have any credibility…didn’t he hype WMD in Iraq in 2002 when writing for The New Yorker? Have you guys no decency to censor one of your own who got it so wrong?

    Reply

  56. Robert C says:

    Steve,
    Why does Goldberg have any credibility…didn’t he hype WMD in Iraq in 2002 when writing for The New Yorker? Have you guys no decency to censor one of your own who got it so wrong?

    Reply

  57. David Billington says:

    The Ron Tira memorandum (Strategic Assessment, Vol. 13, No. 1, July
    2010), is the evidence I would cite of Israeli thinking. The memo does not
    imply that Israelis have decided on an air strike but its publication by the
    leading Israeli center for strategic analysis does seem to indicate a public
    willingness now to ponder the consequences.
    On Israel/Palestine, the moment for Israel to make a dramatic offer to the
    Palestinian Arabs could be the day after an air strike on Iran, not in the
    weeks or months that might precede it. It will be on the day after a strike
    that the world will be staring at a potential energy catastrophe and that
    America will be desperate to put a lid on the crisis. An Israeli offer the day
    after, to withdraw from the West Bank in exchange for a defense treaty with
    the United States, would make it easier for the Arab world to support the
    strike and would do so under a changed set of circumstances.
    These include at least a strong chance of a leadership crisis in Iran.
    Hezbollah will fire their rockets into Israel but Israel can evict them from
    firing range, and Iran’s own options for retaliation will be limited to
    guerrilla warfare and terrorism once they have fired their own missiles. But
    few of the Shia Arabs in Iraq or Dari-speaking Afghans are likely to oblige
    Tehran by attacking US forces in their countries, and the Arab street is not
    going to rise up against Sunni regimes on behalf of Persia if they were
    unwilling to do so for Saddam Hussein in two gulf wars.
    The mullahs in Tehran will face the asymmetry of what they can actually do,
    if they go after America, and will face charges of weakness if they don’t.
    With a total trade embargo sinking in as well, the Iranian street could
    decide to get rid of the mullahs just as the Argentines ousted the generals
    in the aftermath of the Falklands War. Iran will not abandon its pursuit of a
    nuclear capability, but Iranians may judge the mullahs too reckless to be in
    charge of it, and America and Israel may be more inclined to tolerate a
    Japan-like capability under a less inflammatory government.
    However, there are two obvious dangers. One is the risk that the mullahs
    might survive in power with popular support and carry on a protracted war
    with the United States. Attacks on American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan
    could intensify if Iranian revolutionary guards and special forces can be
    supplied and indefinitely replaced over the distances involved.
    The other would be if the mullahs accept a ceasefire and stay in power. If
    Russia and China then equip Iran with more advanced air defenses and
    anti-ship missiles, Iran could resume its nuclear program a year or two
    later and raise the cost of another air strike. Pipelines from Iran to China
    could reduce the threat of maritime sanctions.
    Overall, I think the prospects for an Israeli air strike, in the sense of giving
    Israel a better outcome in the medium-term, are not as bleak as Steve
    suggests. But there is no question that an air strike by Israel would involve
    enormous and probably incalculable risks. If it is true that Israelis are now
    leaning toward an air strike, then the world could face tremendous
    upheaval very soon. This is no time for business as usual diplomacy.

    Reply

  58. DonsBlog says:

    Listening to Noam Chomsky the other day he suggested part of the reason we’re in Afghanistan is so a pipeline could be built through Afghanistan to India, preventing the sole source of gas to India being a pipeline from Iran.
    If India were to become dependent on energy from Iran, I’ve got to think this problem could become a lot more complicated.

    Reply

  59. K. D. KIKUCHI says:

    In reading Steve’s comments (on this the 65th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atom bombs and VJ Day) re Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece, I definitely feel a generational gap. People forget what a real war could do. As a survivor of General Curtis LeMay’s Fire Bombing (in deference to my Jewish friends I will not use the term “Holocaust” although that is what it was) of Tokyo and 63 other Japanese cities, I would say that whatever is planned by Netanyahu against Iran, short of a nuclear attack, cannot be compared to what Curtis Lemay did to Japan. I am here, able to say so, thanks to my parents who moved my brothers and I from city to city ahead of the bombings. Here is an account of the Tokyo Bombing (first of the three raids) from Wikipedia:
    “This included the firebombing of Tokyo on March 9

    Reply

  60. K. D. KIKUCHI says:

    In reading Steve’s comments (on this the 65th Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atom bombs and VJ Day) re Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece, I definitely feel a generational gap. People forget what a real war could do. As a survivor of General Curtis LeMay’s Fire Bombing (in deference to my Jewish friends I will not use the term “Holocaust” although that is what it was) of Tokyo and 63 other Japanese cities, I would say that whatever is planned by Netanyahu against Iran, short of a nuclear attack, cannot be compared to what Curtis Lemay did to Japan. I am here, able to say so, thanks to my parents who moved my brothers and I from city to city ahead of the bombings. Here is an account of the Tokyo Bombing (first of the three raids) from Wikipedia:
    “This included the firebombing of Tokyo on March 9

    Reply

  61. Geecheeboy says:

    Let’s hope this ISN’T Obama’s “Cuban Missle Crisis.” This guy is no JFK.

    Reply

  62. Billy Noberg says:

    Goldberg’s a propagandist for the Israelis, take no notice.
    Dual loyalty is treason!
    (take note nadine and wigwag)

    Reply

  63. Pahalvan says:

    Caroll, you are correct. I guess I’m reacting to Steve Clemons’ reluctance in accepting POA’s invitation to bring Hillary Clinton under the spot light.

    Reply

  64. HH says:

    Israel’s classification scheme for Mideast countries seems to have just two categories: potenially hostile and existential threat. The latter category is applied to states that it wishes to have destroyed by the USA. Thus Iraq, a country battered and weakened by military defeat and economic sanctions, was declared an “existential threat” and crushed by America, with one quarter of its population killed, wounded or displaced, and its museums, libraries, and public infrastructure shattered, often beyond repair.
    America’s armed forces have become Israel’s wrecking crew, and Iran has been designated as our next job. We can now look forward to the prospect of trashing another ancient Mideast country and earning the scorn of the world for reducing an entire nation to abject misery (stuff happens). Nobody even talks about the gross illegality of another “pre-emptive” war. The Nuremberg principles are considered quaint. All that matters is the unbreakable grip of the Israel lobby on the funding of American politicians.

    Reply

  65. WigWag says:

    “That’s an excellent point, esp. in light of published reports that what changed the Obama administration’s stance was an ultimatum from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.” (Nadine)
    I think it’s hard to overstate how extraordinary some of the assertions Goldberg makes in his article are.
    If Goldberg is to be believed, there is a very good chance that Israel will over-fly Saudi Arabia on its way to and from an attack on Iran. Goldberg actually mentions credible sources who suggest that Saudi Arabia may assist Israel in this regard by figuratively turning off its radars and by refueling Israeli jet fighters in the deserts of the Kingdom.
    In light of the fact that Goldberg says that the Israelis won’t give the Obama Administration any advance warning of the attack, the logical implication is that the Saudis will be notified in advance while the United States won’t be. In effect, the Israelis and the Saudis will be conspiring to attack Iran behind the backs of the Americans. It’s hard to overstate how amazing Goldberg’s assertion is.
    Of course, it may or may not be true. But if it is true, it suggests that whatever else the Israelis and the Saudis disagree on, they have one major area of agreement; both nations have concluded either rightly or wrongly that the American President is a feckless incompetent who can’t be trusted to do the right thing.

    Reply

  66. Anthony says:

    Doesnt common sense dictate that Jeffrey Goldberg is not to be trusted after the lies he fed us before the Iraq war?

    Reply

  67. nadine says:

    “For what it’s worth, I thought it was generally known during the
    last years of Bush that he had turned against the Cheney faction
    and was over-ruling them on bombing Iran. The fear then was
    that he’d go soft and perhaps do something precipitous as a
    lame duck president.” (smitheus)
    It was widely known among those who could view the Bush administration rationally. But most of the readers or commentators on TWN are not rational when it comes to the Bush administration.

    Reply

  68. nadine says:

    Yoni, it seems to me that Iran has been working overtime to feed Israeli “craziness” — Holocaust denial, confident predictions of Israel’s imminent destruction, musing about Iran’s being able to survive an Israeli second strike — you hardly need have any kind of religious vision at all to think the situation is apocalyptic.
    It’s hardly just the right in Israel that thinks an Iranian bomb is an existential threat.

    Reply

  69. nadine says:

    “While Steve seems fascinated by Goldberg’s description of Bibi’s relationship with his father, Steve seems entirely disinterested about what the Gulf Arab nations and the Saudis are saying to Obama. I think this is very strange in light of the fact that Steve knows several Saudi Government officials quite well and is something of an expert on Saudi Arabia. What do you say, Steve? How about providing us with your views on whether or not the Saudis and other Sunni Arab nations are really praying for an Israeli or American strike against Iran.” (Wigwag)
    That’s an excellent point, esp. in light of published reports that what changed the Obama administration’s stance was an ultimatum from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
    Once Iran has the bomb, it will be hegemon of the Gulf, which means an unstable revolutionary regime despised by most of its own population, with a dysfunctional economy and a youth bulge, will have its boot on the neck of the world’s oil supply. Sound stable to you?
    Enough with this crazy idee fixe about the Israeli/Palestinian issue being at the core of the Mideast’s problems. Reza Aslan calls the Palestinian issue a “shiny monkey” — as in, “don’t look over here, look at that shiny monkey over there!” — and that’s about right. It’s a distraction, one that works reliably in the Arab world (“us against the infidel”), so pols use it again and again. Very handy, that shiny monkey. Not something they want to give up.

    Reply

  70. Yoni says:

    I’m an Israeli who served as an officer in the IDF.
    When you claim that Israel cannot prepare itself for a possible military conflict with Iran and at the same time avoid serious engagement on the resolution of the Palestinian question, your argument is logically perfect. Except that the Bibi and his allies on the Israeli right, and even more the religious among them, are not reasoning logically. We used to say that the Arabs are not rational but the Israeli right is as much so. If someone believe in Israel’s divine destiny, all your arguments are secondary. Thus don’t count too much on the rational arguments. The only hope is that Ehud Barak, who is not a messianic, will be able to prevent the Israeli attack.

    Reply

  71. WigWag says:

    What is remarkable in Steve Clemons’ remarkable commentary on Jeffrey Goldberg’s remarkable article is that Steve makes practically no mention of Goldberg’s assertions about how the Sunni Arab regimes view all of this. While Steve seems fascinated by Goldberg’s description of Bibi’s relationship with his father, Steve seems entirely disinterested about what the Gulf Arab nations and the Saudis are saying to Obama. I think this is very strange in light of the fact that Steve knows several Saudi Government officials quite well and is something of an expert on Saudi Arabia. What do you say, Steve? How about providing us with your views on whether or not the Saudis and other Sunni Arab nations are really praying for an Israeli or American strike against Iran.
    In his piece, Goldberg asserts that there is a very real possibility that Israel will over fly Saudi Arabia on its way to attack Iran. Here’s the quote:
    “What is more likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran

    Reply

  72. Maw of America says:

    Josh M – I was really struck by your comment:
    “Recall a great Thomas Schelling discussion that
    was summarized on TWN — folks need to be
    “educated” into that doctrine.”
    It recalled an incident with Ronald Reagan after watching the 1983 TV movie, “The Day After”, that he mentioned in his diary:

    Reply

  73. James says:

    Seems to fit with the following posted prior:
    URGENT!: Intelligence professionals warn Israeli attack on Iran would drag US into war (scroll down to the comments section if interested further):
    http://america-hijacked.com/2010/08/04/intelligence-professionals-warn-israeli-attack-on-iran-would-drag-us-into-war/

    Reply

  74. Carroll says:

    Posted by Pahlavan, Aug 11 2010, 2:00PM – Link
    >>>>>>>>>>>>
    HUH? I think you missed something.

    Reply

  75. Carroll says:

    Uber zionista and leader of the House Israeli Cabal, Rep. Howard Berman (Dem)CA), announced yesterday that “he” was pulling all military aid to Lebanon because of last week

    Reply

  76. Charles N. Pooper says:

    Here are a couple of quotes from Mr Goldberg that sould be kept in mind, from his Wikipedia entry:
    In “The Great Terror”, the article that Goldberg wrote for the New Yorker in 2002 during the run-up to the Iraq war, Goldberg argues that the threat posed to America by Saddam Hussein is significant. The article opens with a vivid description of Hussein’s Al-Anfal Campaign, including his regime’s use of poison gas at Halabja.[10] Goldberg goes on to relate detailed allegations of a close relationship between Hussein and Al Qaeda, which Goldberg claims he “later checked with experts on the region.”[10] Goldberg argues that: “If these charges are true, it would mean that the relationship between Saddam

    Reply

  77. jerseycityjoan says:

    This is fine writeup but instead of inspiring me to think about Israeli’s problems and what we should do about them, it has only made my “Israel fatigue” worse.
    My Israel fatigue started a few months ago when their Special Forces attacked that ship that was 20+ miles in international waters. This incident made me ask myself Israel is a U.S. ally or is simply a selfish parasite that doesn’t care in the least about its host.
    The answer seems to be selfish parasite.
    Perhaps we should give Israel a deadline like we did Afghanistan and Iraq: give them five years, say, to come to terms with Palestinians then no more money, intelligence, etc. If the Israelis had bear the price of their choices choices alone, perhaps they’d make better choices.
    I’m sick of the cost of the Israeli/Palestinian problem to the U.S. I want us to start thinking about how we can get Israel off our back, out of our pockets and off our minds.
    We have plenty of our own problems to solve, I’m sick of giving so much of our time and resources over to worrying about Israel.
    Something needs to change or we’ll be having this same conversation 20 years from now, assuming the Israelis don’t provoke World War III in the meantime.

    Reply

  78. Carroll says:

    To those criticizing this post.
    Speaking for myself I like the “exposure” Steve gives to the bomber boys. Heheheh.

    Reply

  79. smintheus says:

    Israel’s perceived interest in the matter should not be given
    undue weight. Instead the issue should addressed, in large part,
    as a regional one. If Iran develops nuclear weapons, then several
    other states are likely to follow suit in self defense. Obsessively
    turning everything back to an Israeli-centric viewpoint just
    obscures that larger problem.
    An attack on Iran by Israel or the US would almost certainly be
    illegal, a point that ought to be brought to the fore.
    Furthermore, Israeli violation of Iraqi airspace would create a
    dangerous upheaval in Iraq, especially if the US doesn’t resist it.
    Anyhow this analysis takes little account of the Iranians’ claim
    that they’re not seeking nuclear weapons. That’s a core issue,
    and the claim is not implausible. Iran could be seeking to
    position itself on the threshold where they could move quickly to
    create weapons if needed…just as Japan has done. It would be
    permissible under international accords, if that’s Iran’s game.
    Israel, with its own nuclear weapons program, has no stature to
    challenge Iran in that regard. Israeli policy has been pretty
    chaotic, sordid, and regionally destabilizing as well, so based on
    the case against Iran, one also wonders why Israel should be
    permitted a nuclear arsenal-much less setting itself up as arbiter
    of another state’s nuclear aspirations.
    Indeed, why is an Iranian nuclear program to be treated as more
    dangerous to Israel than actual nuclear weapons in the hands of
    Pakistan’s fragile government? Wouldn’t an attack on Iran tend to
    destabilize Pakistan further, and amplify the already profound
    anti-western paranoia among Pakistanis?
    The more likely outcome of bombing Iran would be to harden
    their resolve and perhaps to make them determined to develop
    nuclear weapons immediately rather than simply squat on the
    threshold. It would also be much more likely to put world
    opinion in the Iranian camp, and make diplomatic efforts to
    isolate Iran virtually untenable. So an attack would very likely
    assure and speed up the very thing that it is supposed to deter
    or impede.
    As for the chess/baseball comment, Ali Larijani may be referring
    to the tendency of Americans to look for a single long-ball (or
    “hail mary”, using the metaphor of that other sport) solution to a
    problem, where a Middle Eastern culture might think in terms of
    incremental maneuver.
    For what it’s worth, I thought it was generally known during the
    last years of Bush that he had turned against the Cheney faction
    and was over-ruling them on bombing Iran. The fear then was
    that he’d go soft and perhaps do something precipitous as a
    lame duck president.

    Reply

  80. HH says:

    “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.”
    – Benjamin Netanyahu
    Now comes American/Israeli “journalist” Goldberg, an ex IDF soldier and former prison guard, who writes “objectively” about the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran.
    If a former member of Hezbollah were to publish articles in the Atlantic, there would be cries of outrage demanding an advertiser boycott and firing of the editors. But Goldberg’s writing has won awards for exaggerating the terrorist threat and encouraging the invasion of Iraq.
    Goldberg’s entire career marks him as an agent of influence for Israel, and the spectacle of his reception as an accurate and impartial observer of the Mideast is beyond ridiculous.

    Reply

  81. Josh M. says:

    Pissed Off American:
    “Its comical reading these great lengthy opinions
    that make a marble into a machine. The simple
    truth about Iran’s assured destruction should it
    launch a nuclear attack, (with weapons it doesn’t
    have), makes the rest of this discourse kinda
    mute.”
    Why?
    MAD is a non-sequitur of sorts. North Korea,
    Pakistan, India, and a number of other states have
    aggressively tested nuclear weapons and yet
    continued with there programs unabated. The
    history of MAD as a doctrine really isn’t that
    long, and though it’s survived for roughly half a
    century now, that really doesn’t make it
    inevitable — as you seem to suggest.
    Recall a great Thomas Schelling discussion that
    was summarized on TWN — folks need to be
    “educated” into that doctrine.
    For someone that is typically cynical –
    rightfully — and incisive, and it’s kind of
    strange to see your analysis so faulty and overly
    optimistic. As delivery systems advance, and Iran-
    Israel bellicosity goes on the increase, it seems
    a little premature to write off the Goldberg
    article that easily.
    No one said that an Israel-Iran war was logical –
    the argument is simply that it is as equally
    likely as it isn’t.
    I’ve always felt that the best approach would
    utilize a “Grand Bargain” (See: Leverett’s Grand
    Bargain) approach that involved mutually trusted
    third parties — India, in particular. Israel-Iran
    will resolve itself when U.S.-Iran relations are
    resolved.

    Reply

  82. Carroll says:

    1) Very good piece Steve
    2) We all know it’s not about Israel being nuked by Iran, it’s about power balance and the threat of and deterrence of power.
    3)We all know who the messianic apocalyptic cult is and it isn’t Iran.
    4) We all know why the Goldbergs write these articles…see how it replaces the ‘essence’ of the problem and therefore the solution and gets the amateur strategist nattering.

    Reply

  83. Paul Norheim says:

    “Posted by HH, Aug 11 2010, 11:16AM – Link
    Goldberg is, for all practical purposes, an extension of the
    Israeli government. The purpose of his article is to help
    build up a sense of inevitability of an Israeli attack. This
    “conditioning” of public opinion was done to smooth the
    path to war against Iraq.”
    —————————–
    I agree. Although Steve says he is a bit surprised that
    Goldberg does not lay out a “more compelling logic” for
    bombing Iran, Goldbergs article has the effect of making a
    catastrophic and insane option seem reasonable and
    responsible.
    WigWag, I actually think both Syria/Hizbollah and Israel
    are to blame for the failure of a settlement, and my
    intention here was not to play the blame game, but to
    suggest a constructive way forward that could help to
    avoid a war with Iran, with the added bonus of improving
    the Israeli-Turkish relationship. This was not meant as an
    alternative to an I/P agreement, but as a supplement to
    what Steve suggested, that could change the dynamics. I
    think it’s worth a try.

    Reply

  84. DonS says:

    “Goldberg is, for all practical purposes, an extension of the Israeli government. The purpose of his article is to help build up a sense of inevitability of an Israeli attack. This “conditioning” of public opinion was done to smooth the path to war against Iraq.
    “The extraordinary cowardice of American politicians faced with an Israeli client state that acts like a patron will be recorded as a disastrous failure of American leadership if Israel drags America into a huge new war with Iran.” (HH)
    Conditioning of public opinion indeed. A majority of Americans still think Saddam had WMD.
    “at least the American public should understand the risks and rewards associated with all of the options” (wigwag)
    Do ‘risks and rewards’ include leveling with the American public that it is Israel’s butt that the US is covering with virtually no significant risks to the US, and certainly no rewards? Do ‘risks and rewards’ include leveling with the American public about the ‘infinitismal risk’ that a [potential] one or two nuke Iran poses, and the, therefore suicidal, retaliatory backlash for Iran that is certain?
    Nadine keeps flogging the Islamist/religious cum-crazy angle. Most serious analyst see a much more sophistocated calculus of Iranian behavior.
    So are ‘risks and rewards’ to include leveling with the American people that for Israeli/neocon paranoia and ideological obsession, and the bounty to the MI complex, the US is to plunge off the cliff of fiscal, strategic and diplomatic sanity?

    Reply

  85. HH says:

    The repeated reliance on the big fist has gotten Israel into its present predicament of needing to trick the US into a nasty and open-ended war against a Mideast nation triple the size of Iraq.
    The Israel lobby’s answer always seems to be to crush an opponent. Arafat was crushed, and look at how well that worked out. Now there is Hezbollah and Hamas. So the remedy is to crush Hezbollah and Hamas?
    Israel is addicted to militarism, and sooner or later this addiction will lead to disaster. How many American lives and how much American treasure is the preservation of Religious apartheid in the Mideast worth?

    Reply

  86. WigWag says:

    Steve, this is a fantastic essay. In fact, two of the best essays that you have ever penned are featured at the Washington Note right now (the other is: “Israel/Palestine and Iran: Linkage Should be Hard Wired by Obama Team”).
    While I disagree with much of what you have to say in both posts, in my opinion they are extremely well-reasoned, highly lucid and very provocative.
    The “long-form” posts suit you extremely well and demonstrate why you are becoming an increasingly consequential commentator. This is the Washington Note at its best; this type of essay is much more preferable than some of the snarky posts designed to do little more than titillate the most hysterical members of your fan base.
    We need a reasoned debate in this country about how to handle the situation with Iran; every alternative has negative consequences associated with it and the best way forward is not clear. While it’s too much to expect that a consensus on how to proceed will ever be forged; at least the American public should understand the risks and rewards associated with all of the options; this essay contributes to that as does Goldberg’s article in the Atlantic.
    In your post you allude to the option of containing Iran. Your colleague at the New America Foundation, Flynt Leverett, has specifically addressed the idea of containing Iran at his blog, “The Race for Iran” and elsewhere. He cites numerous reasons why deterrence and containment won’t work and suggests that if President Obama takes this route, war between Iran and the United States is virtually unavoidable. One of the many reasons he suggests that containment is a fool

    Reply

  87. HH says:

    Goldberg is, for all practical purposes, an extension of the Israeli government. The purpose of his article is to help build up a sense of inevitability of an Israeli attack. This “conditioning” of public opinion was done to smooth the path to war against Iraq.
    The extraordinary cowardice of American politicians faced with an Israeli client state that acts like a patron will be recorded as a disastrous failure of American leadership if Israel drags America into a huge new war with Iran.

    Reply

  88. colindale says:

    US-armed Israel with its secret stockpile of
    hundreds of thermo-nuclear warheads (that are
    hidden from the world as the Israeli government
    has refused inspection by the UN

    Reply

  89. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Its comical reading these great lengthy opinions that make a marble into a machine. The simple truth about Iran’s assured destruction should it launch a nuclear attack, (with weapons it doesn’t have), makes the rest of this discourse kinda mute.
    After you cut through the bullshit, the REAL danger to global stability can be placed squarely in the laps of these feckless and inept “diplomats” such as Hillary Clinton, Obama’s political cowardice, and this fuckin’ wackjob Netanyahu.
    Its fun watching you all masturbate though. Gives us a pretty clear picture of why things are all fucked up, and why, eventually, some wacko like Netanyahu will start an inferno that can’t be extinguished. Picture Idi Amin with nukes.
    As is usual, the “thinking” here goes waaaay past the required depth. Its really kinda terrifying knowing that all the heavy thinkers in DC are cooking up fancy pastries when a simple peanut butter sandwich would suffice.
    But what the hell, at least it gave Josh a break from his Gossip Column, and “questions” got another opportunity to tell us that the safest thing to do when driving off a cliff is to, well, drive off the cliff.

    Reply

  90. samuelburke says:

    Fidel Castro claims that Israel will not be the first to attack
    because israel signed u.n security council resolution 1929.
    he seems to feel that the iranians will not allow their ships to be
    inspected.
    i could not find the translation at granma.cu/
    REFLEXIONES DE FIDEL
    Israel no atacar

    Reply

  91. samuelburke says:

    In the words of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is credited with
    masterminding the 9/11 attacks, their purpose was to focus

    Reply

  92. Paul says:

    Excellent analysis. I agree with you 100% on this. Given Israel’s own nuclear arsenal, the chances that Iran, even if it developed a weapon, would strike Israel are infinitesimal — for it would result in the utter destruction of Iran.

    Reply

  93. Josh M. says:

    Steve,
    This is such a necessary piece — thanks for
    writing it.
    Two points:
    1) Why do you feel the Palestinian situation
    figures so strongly into the Iran equation? King
    Abdullah — though an excellent leader for his
    country — isn’t the best source on this, because
    Jordan’s geopolitics, demographics, and local
    resource situation depends on him saying exactly
    what he did say to Zakaria.
    On balance, it’s difficult to believe Iran cares
    one way or the other what happens to Palestinians.
    Your talking about Arab-Sunnis and Persian-
    Shiites. Iran’s paramilitary extension Hizbollah
    might care — and Nasrallah might in particular –
    but Ahmedinejad and the Ayatollah have much
    larger, broader goals that are unrelated to — and
    unaffected by — the Palestine question.
    Relatedly — 2)
    Trita Parsi’s book — “Treacherous Alliance: The
    Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United
    States” — is an Arthur Ross award winner and an
    extremely pertinent, authoritative, well-sourced
    read worth looking into if you haven’t already.
    The broader geopolitical game, I think, makes
    Goldberg’s thesis a bit more likely than a
    progressive realist like you might anticipate.
    Iran isn’t a suicide state, but it is a brutal and
    callous authoritarian one. Its leaders have forced
    the Iranian people to suffer through crisis after
    crisis as different — mostly “political” and
    “security” related — agendas are carried out. It
    is not unreasonable to imagine its leaders pushing
    the nuclear situation to the brink. Were a strike
    by Israel to happen, with or without the open
    support of the U.S., it seems unlikely that the
    Iranian leadership would be struck.
    I read your article in full and skimmed Goldberg’s
    – unless there is a piece in his about the
    potential for Israel to assassinate Iran’s
    political body, it seems like the Israeli strike
    would be mostly focused on unknown and potential
    nuclear facilities.
    So, for Iran, the risk is having nukes and having
    more regional power or not having nukes and being
    in the same damn situation of being surrounded by
    Arabs and a first-world Israeli state that has
    been attempting to jeopardize Iran’s regional
    ambitions for as long as history can remember.
    For Israel, the stakes have been clearly stated by
    yourself and Goldberg. It’s understandable given
    Iran’s history and risk calculus that Israel would
    be on edge, no? I mean, Goldberg’s 50-50 estimate
    in this context sounds about right to me.
    P.S. Welcome back to the U.S.

    Reply

  94. samuelburke says:

    Passive president, busy lobby
    by PHILIP WEISS on AUGUST 10, 2010

    Reply

  95. Paul Norheim says:

    Who is this Dr Strangelove? Talking about Kotz? As far as I
    know, he is an ivory trader whose real name is Kurtz, and
    who’s got quite a reputation in the Congolese jungle.
    Someone should be assigned to returning him to
    civilization.

    Reply

  96. dwg says:

    really. anyone that bases an entire piece on something written by Goldberg over at Atlantic Monthly cannot be taken seriously.
    Goldberg’s biases are well known. He’s a jackass, and a militant zionist.
    Steve, I’m keenly disappointed that you would take Goldberg or anything he says seriously.

    Reply

  97. drew says:

    Further to the above, LeMay’s proposed rules of engagement
    (essentially, to commit total war) for the air war against North
    Vietnam bear review. He was right, in retrospect; the limited
    rules of engagement in fact imposed wasted US air forces
    dominance; if geopolitical, strategic concerns made such a total
    war commitment unwise, it should have forced the question to
    Kennedy and Johnson:
    If we’re not able to fight without restriction, should we fight at
    all? The DoD was notoriously devoid of leadership with any
    combat experience, of course, and the war was fought with a
    now-bizarre operations-research ethic that was imported from
    Ford Motor Company. Give LeMay credit for at least recognizing
    that if one goes to war, one goes heavy and without restriction;
    if one cannot go to war without overwhelming force and the
    expectation of domestic popular support, then one should stay
    home. Later, of course, these became themes central to the so-
    called Powell Doctrine. Colin Powell is more beloved than LeMay,
    but I don’t see a lot of daylight between their mutual contempt
    for the concept of ‘limited war.’
    This is my major beef with this talk about bombing Iran. It’s not
    a single-strike mission such as the 1981 and 2008 reactor
    removals; it’s not Reagan sending the F-111s to bomb Ghadafi’s
    tents. It will be a multi-day assault of great tactical complexity,
    and we have absolutely no idea (imo) what unintended outcomes
    will emerge and ripple through the world. Since the Iranians
    have delivery platforms now with a 3,000 mile range, it’s not just
    an Israeli problem. But I suggest that we not attempt to solve
    this problem for the peaceable kingdom of the EU, particularly
    given their revulsion at US aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Really, it’s time for some other people to do more than criticize
    the USA for saving their butts from this or that totalitarian state.

    Reply

  98. Drew says:

    This is the second time LeMay has been presented here as
    ‘trigger-happy’ caricature of _Dr. Strangelove_ than as the real
    guy. While LeMay advocated bombing Cuba, he also constructed
    the successful contain-and-deter manned strategic capability of
    the cold war. He also clearly understood the random,
    uncontrollable, indiscriminate attributes of missile-based
    warfare, and he was an extraordinary air war commander in
    WWII. IOW, he got a lot of very difficult decisions right.
    There’s a good profile of LeMay by St. Clair McKelway, originally
    published in the New Yorker, in his _Reporting at Wit’s End_. He
    is presented in this first-hand profile as an understated,
    thoughtful and compassionate commander, and one who had the
    courage to risk his career to better serve his mission and his
    pilots.
    Because LeMay’s leadership was forged in the slaughter of U.S.
    pilots during the early air war in Europe, where he led a bomber
    squadron and routinely saw mission losses of 25-50%, it’s ironic
    to link him with people like Krauthammer and Kristol, whose
    enthusiasm for warfare seems strangely uninformed by the
    personal cost of those wars.

    Reply

  99. DonS says:

    ” Obama’s nutty ideas [nuclear nonproliferation] would have at least one practical result, I suppose.”
    Nuclear nonproliferation nutty?
    Only in a universe where up is down.

    Reply

  100. Paul Norheim says:

    To repeat: “…during Israeli occupations of West Bank
    towns in April 2002, the firmly secular late Prime Minister
    B

    Reply

  101. DonS says:

    Several weeks ago Steve posted a note saying a US attack on Iran was most unlikely. Now we get the impression that an Israeli, or US-Israeli attack is “north of 50-50. My point then, and now is that an Israeli attack is tantamount to a US attack since the US is unlikely to object, or object strenuously enough to convince anyone; or is unlikely to impose consequences, like not resupplying Israel after they shoot their wad.
    This well reasoned post has brought out more than the regular pro-Israeli fanatics, which confirms that they, and their cohorts in the administration intend to push back severely on anything well reasoned that does not lead to an attack on Iran. Never mind the illogic of a theoretical ‘one strike’ nuke attack by Iran that would virtually assure it’s own decimation (shall we remember Hillary’s threat during the campaign).
    Never mind the apparent lack of interest in the US of really moving the ME process towards peace, not to mention Israel’s counterproductive attitude and behavior.
    Israel’s purported Shoah paranoia over a nuke attack by Iran cannot hold water in any but the most insane universe, and the lack of serious interest in peace with the Palestinians (the single most powerful factor in neutralizing Iran) emphasizes this fact.
    We should be able to understand if Obama really pushed hard to diplomatically deal with Iran to avoid the worst of the Israeli-driven consequences. Part is Iran’s own intransigence of course. But how much is driven by US domestic politics in it’s AIPAC-acquiescent mode? But all we really hear is the sabre rattling.
    There is always some election cycle or domestic political consideration at hand; Obama would have to be terminally myopic, or terminally cynical to really allow a march towards attack with the consequences for a US already brutalizing it’s middle class.

    Reply

  102. 1stLt Prescott Paulin, USMC says:

    Thanks for the insight, Steve! I almost always learn something here and appreciate reading your perspective. It’s too bad folks like Kotzabasis can’t find a rational basis for their arguments and have to resort to childish behavior on someone else’s blog. …Hence why they are usually too scared to post their real name for everyone to see! I’m proud to know you have the confidence to publish controversial pieces that still take other points of view into consideration, all of which are backed by your real name most fearlessly displayed.

    Reply

  103. Steve Clemons says:

    Dear Spencer — your admonition about my referring to Iran as an “abused child” is well taken, and I think you are correct. I have modified this somewhat to read “serious abuse victim”. This doesn’t solve your broader critique — but certainly, I think that was an overstatement or misstatement that I needed to correct. Thanks much.
    all best, steve

    Reply

  104. nadine says:

    “And although it is true that Erdogan has delivered fierce
    criticism of Israel both during the Gaza bombardment and
    the recent flotilla clash, this should not be read as a sign
    of an “Islamist regime” wanting to break with Israel or the
    West. ” (Norheim)
    Erdogan is running an “Islamist regime” – self professedly — and has broken with the West. He refused to help America in the Iraq war, he has whipped up anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment in Turkey even as he has closed down freedom of the press and his opposition. He stopped doing military exercises with Israel.
    Erdogan engineered the flotilla crisis. The IHH Hamas supporters are linked to the AKP. When the crisis broke, Erdogan rode the wave into making it as big a crisis as possible, a total rupture with Israel. He has criticized Israel in terms that would be familiar to Joseph Goebbels. He has a defense treaty with Iran and Syria, and has supplied Syria with Israeli-made drones, which Syria is using to massacre the Kurds.
    Now is that your idea of bridges, being in NATO and a defense pact with Ahmedinejad simultaneously?
    I will trust Barry Rubin’s predictions of Erdogan’s behavior any day, over the West’s “see no evil hear no evil” pretences that Erdogan is a model moderate Muslim. Barry Rubin has called the shots correctly so far.

    Reply

  105. Paul Norheim says:

    That he was referring to the start of direct talks was clear
    in the quotes I posted too. But I am worried that Barry
    Rubin exerts a bad influence on your world view. Now I
    notice that he tries to make Erdogan co-responsible for
    killing “over a tree” on the Lebanese-Israeli border?!
    You and Barry seem so sure that Turkey suddenly has
    become an Islamist regime in line with radical extremists.
    This is highly dubious, and an underestimation of their
    self-interpretation and ambitions: I am absolutely
    convinced that Erdogan, and especially his Foreign
    Minister have ambitions far beyond simply changing side
    (turning from the West towards Iran and Syria, etc). They
    regard their actual political and geographical position as a
    “bridge” as their biggest political asset – and that implies
    not cutting the ties with the West, but supplementing them
    with friendly ties to their neighbors and improved
    infrastructure and conditions for trade in the region.
    This makes them a stabilizing factor.
    And although it is true that Erdogan has delivered fierce
    criticism of Israel both during the Gaza bombardment and
    the recent flotilla clash, this should not be read as a sign
    of an “Islamist regime” wanting to break with Israel or the
    West. As a matter of fact, despite the excellent
    relationship between Israel and Turkey, the latter has
    ALWAYS reacted strongly when Israel is perceived to go to
    far. Here is a quote from a recent report on Turkey from
    the International Crisis Group:
    “There has always been Turkish popular sympathy for the
    plight of the Palestinians. The relationship hit lows under
    non- AKP governments after the 1967 Israeli-Arab war
    and in 1980, when Israel declared Jerusalem its capital.
    Tensions also rose during the first and second Palestinian
    intifadas. Indeed, during Israeli occupations of West Bank
    towns in April 2002, the firmly secular late Prime Minister
    B

    Reply

  106. nadine says:

    Martin Indyk said something interesting in the fora.tv panel — that Obama has gotten serious about stopping Iran from getting the bomb, not because of what it would do to the balance of power in the Middle East, but because Obama is really wedded to his utopian nuclear nonproliferation ideas, and he understands they would be dead as a doornail if an Iranian bomb sets off a Mideast arms race. In that case, Obama’s nutty ideas would have at least one practical result, I suppose.
    We are going to be suffering for a long time from Obama’s ambitious, over-confident and under-informed forays into foreign policy. He doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know. You could hear all the panelists trying to phrase it diplomatically. The words “learning curve” were used a lot.

    Reply

  107. Oisin says:

    You say
    “The other possible scenario, seldom discussed, is that Iran’s posture itself relaxes as an Israel/Palestine deal is reached. Saudi King Abdullah conveyed this”
    But you mean Jordanian King Abdullah. Its hard to imagine the Al Saud’s saying that in public
    Otherwise an enjoyable piece

    Reply

  108. kotzabasis says:

    My dear Steve
    I am not here to amuse you nor to attack you personally. I am attacking the political falsity and naivety of your ideas. Now, if you think that this attack on your arguments is an attack on your person, then you clearly reveal the brittleness of your personality and its inability to bear the heat of debate.
    Best kotzabasis and thanks for the inept warning.

    Reply

  109. nadine says:

    Hi Paul, if you read the article you posted, you’ll notice that the potential “breakthrough” Erdogan was talking about was merely the start of direct talks, not the successful conclusion of them. Since Erdogan was acting as mediator, the boast was self-serving.

    Reply

  110. nadine says:

    Barry Rubin sums up the situation in Lebanon, a vital part of the discussion that hasn’t yet made it into TWN posts. The ascendancy of the Axis of Resistance by itself kills any chance of successful I/P negotiations, which makes Steve’s “obvious question” doubly insane. When the radicals are victorious, all the moderates will tremble and sound like radicals. Barry Rubin:
    “History will record that Lebanon was integrated into the Iran-Syria empire in early August 2010…the Syrian media brags about extensive victories, including the acceptance of Syria

    Reply

  111. Paul Norheim says:

    Nadine said: “Bibi and Barak both have long histories of
    negotiating with Syria; it just doesn’t come to fruition.”
    Well, last time these attempts ended abruptly, apparently not
    due to Syrian (or Israeli) intransigence, but because of the
    Israeli attack on Gaza, which seemed to be a more urgent
    Israeli priority at the time.
    From Haaretz (1/1 2009):
    “Erdogan tells Washington Post that Israel, Syria were on verge
    of breakthrough in peace talks.
    (…)
    In remarks reported by the Post on Saturday, the Turkish
    premier said Israel and Syria were “very close” to initiating
    direct peace talks just days before the start of the Israel
    Defense Forces offensive in the Gaza Strip.
    (…)
    According to the prime minister, Turkey was awaiting a reply
    from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert regarding Israel’s position on
    peace talks with Syria, which had been mediated by Ankara. On
    the night of December 23, Erdogan said Israel and Syria were
    “very close” to moving to direct peace talks on the future of the
    Golan Heights.
    “We were trying to be [Israel's] hope,” Erdogan told the Post.
    “Olmert’s last sentence [as he left] was, ‘As soon as I get back I
    will consult with my colleagues and get back to you.’ As I
    waited for his response, . . . on December 27, bombs started
    falling on Gaza.”
    http://www.haaretz.com/news/report-turkish-pm-erdogan-
    says-palestine-today-is-an-open-air-prison-1.266939

    Reply

  112. questions says:

    No Paul, I don’t “favor” the status quo. I favor a world made in my image and likeness. But I’m not going to get that world, now, am I?!
    What I favor given the world we’re stuck with is very careful consideration of all the ramifications of policy shifts, a realization that getting rid of a problem doesn’t mean that you start with a clean slate but rather that there will be a different problem in its place.
    The naivete of those who advocate simple change is something I find alarming. There’s really some crazy utopian thinking that everything will go away once X is done. But no, in fact history doesn’t end when X is done.
    The goal is to find some kind of manageable dynamic stability so that we don’t start thinking that nuking one another is a great way to solve our problems.
    Stability must be maintained even as things are moving. I think the phrase is “dynamic balance.”

    Reply

  113. nadine says:

    “Given the tensions with Lebanon, and how the problems in
    Lebanon are related to the I/P conflict and the Iran-Syria-
    Hizbollah chain, I wonder why attempts to resolve the
    issues with Syria seem to be almost ignored these days.
    Apparently Netanyahu is less interested in resolving this
    issue now than a decade ago. He should be
    pushed/encouraged to restart talks with Syria.” (Norheim)
    Your assumption that it’s the Israelis who are not interested is incorrect. Assad is demanding the whole Golan back as a pre-condition to talks; much too high a price. The Israelis are more than willing to talk, but only without pre-conditions. Bibi and Barak both have long histories of negotiating with Syria; it just doesn’t come to fruition. Syria wants everything back but won’t offer a peace treaty in return.
    Face it, Damascus is a wholy-owned subsidiary of Tehran these days. The “Axis of Resistance” is not interested in talks. Why should they be? They think they’re winning.

    Reply

  114. Paul Norheim says:

    Questions said: “I honestly don’t know how anyone can
    advocate major changes in policy in a mess like this.”
    One reason could be that the current “mess” (i.e. the status
    quo that you favor) is not static, but will inevitably lead to
    dramatic changes whether you like it or not.

    Reply

  115. questions says:

    Steve,
    This piece is really well thought out. The whole region is so laden with internal and external pressures, with power games and positioning attempts, with differing explanations for behavior.
    We don’t really know what’s insanity, what’s trauma, what’s cold calculation, what the end game is for any of the players.
    Where there are elections, a new election can change the dynamics. If any of the leaders is close to death, a death alters things dramatically as well.
    We do know that Ahmadinejad can be really brutal to his own people, that he has consolidated power. We know that countries really like having nukes as that makes them feel like players. We know that Israel calculates AND has trauma AND has a really weird internal electoral dynamic.
    I honestly don’t know how anyone can advocate major changes in policy in a mess like this. It seems screamingly clear to me that this mess really calls for incremental shifts and the patience of a saint. And bombastic rhetoric from all the parties involved, because, weirdly, the rhetoric is possibly the most stabilizing force in the region for now.
    Until, that is, someone feels compelled to live up to the rhetoric. And that’s where trauma and insanity and ideology and calculation will all come together.
    Ugh.

    Reply

  116. Paul Norheim says:

    A unilateral attack on Iran next spring? Or a confrontation
    with Lebanon/Hizbollah next summer? Or both, one way
    or another?
    Given the tensions with Lebanon, and how the problems in
    Lebanon are related to the I/P conflict and the Iran-Syria-
    Hizbollah chain, I wonder why attempts to resolve the
    issues with Syria seem to be almost ignored these days.
    Apparently Netanyahu is less interested in resolving this
    issue now than a decade ago. He should be
    pushed/encouraged to restart talks with Syria.
    An agreement on the Golan Height issues, with the further
    goal of weakening Hizbollah through an agreement with
    Syria would also weaken Iran. Not only the US/Quartet, but
    also Turkey should be involved in solving this issue, with
    the added bonus of improving Israeli-Turkish relations
    and a normalization of US-Syrian relations – not to
    mention the overall reduction of tensions in the ME region.

    Reply

  117. Spencer says:

    I wanted to stop reading after you compared Iran to an
    “abused child”
    I know we’re all invested in ghettoizing peace studies and
    feminist IR stuff, and like “they’re whiners, realism is
    inevitable, blah blah” but infantilizing Iran does trivialize their
    “strategic, rational, albeit ruthless, calculator of its interests.”
    Something which you yourself argue obscures Iran’s agenda
    and problematically reduces the significant political
    complexity of the Iranian regime.
    With regards to the more substantive content of the piece, I
    am confident that the biggest obstacle to massive regional
    conflict is the ideologically straight-jacketed viewpoint of the
    Israelis which views the development of nuclear weapons by
    Iran as an existential threat. To me, it clearly is not; Iran is
    under no illusions as to the consequences of a first-strike
    against Iran. The regime would not survive 24-hours.
    To the extent that Iran is a “messianic apocalyptic cult” (much
    like the United States under Bush in my opinion, although his
    apparent sobriety with regards to Iran strikes makes this seem
    less so) I don’t think they believe in a suicidal conflict.
    The prospects for regime change internally in Iran are
    important to examine though. While Israel certainly has some
    housekeeping to do (preferably in the form of halting
    settlement and genuinely committing itself to Palestinian
    statehood), I think the possibility for regime change in Iran is
    a real one.
    The urban and educated population is deeply unsatisfied with
    the politics of the country, and as we have recently shown,
    many people are willing to take risks for a freer and more
    open society.
    I think there is much the United States can do to complicate
    Iran’s domestic situation in ways that are profitable to
    negotiations over nuclear weapons.
    It might also benefit the United States to decide just how
    politics in the region might shift were Iran to acquire nuclear
    weapons and be “allowed” to keep them.
    It’s obvious from some of the other comments of the “just
    nuke ‘em!” variety that this will not be a popular opinion here,
    but nevertheless, I think it’s an important one to consider.

    Reply

  118. Steve Clemons says:

    Kotz — you often amuse me and you occasionally raise good points, but I’ve warned you about personal attacks. I hope you get the message.
    best, steve clemons

    Reply

  119. kotzabasis says:

    Was it strategically

    Reply

  120. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks Paul – excuse is jet lag. best, steve

    Reply

  121. nadine says:

    Hi ImadK, thanks for the link to fora.tv. I’m listening to it now. Amazing how many diplomatically phrased formulations I’m hearing which all add up to variations on a theme: “Obama aimed very high but failed to achieve anything because he is incompetent.”

    Reply

  122. Paul Norheim says:

    A couple of typos in the article:
    “…in both Jerusalem and Washington Washington.”
    The next is probably worth correcting:
    “…an Israel-Saudi-Jordan-Egypt condominium against
    growing Iranian power in the regime”
    - in the “region”?

    Reply

  123. FLAEDO says:

    All you guys are obviously REALLY BIG THINKERS, unfortunately your REALLY BIG THOUGHTS get away from you and you overlook the obvious FACT Bominabajad has stated he will nuke lsrael when he has the means. Address that you mental giants.

    Reply

  124. nadine says:

    “My own view of Iran differs from that of Netanyahu who told Goldberg, “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs.” While I am uncomfortable with and oppose a nuclear-armed Iran as well, Iran has shown itself to be a strategic, rational, albeit ruthless, calculator of its interests — not an irrational, suicidal nation. It has been at odds with the U.S. for decades and displays more the attributes of a severely abused child whose view of the world and its options have been distorted and mal-shaped from being under regime change siege for so long. There is no likely quick fix to the absence of trust between Iran and the US and its allies.” (Clemons)
    A more apt comparison would be to a paranoid’s view of the world being distorted by the fear and hostility with which all his acquaintance regard him. But they regard him with fear and hostility because he has accused them all of being in league against him, and has acted violently on his beliefs. The paranoid has created the situation he is reacting to.
    Your description of Iran displays imo two of your habitual prejudices of mind: first, that no opponent of the US can ever take an independent action, but only react to the US; second, that no political leader ever acts on religious motives.
    The Khomenei regime did not have to become devoted to martyrdom internally and a global exporter of terrorism and revolutionary Islamism externally; that was its choice. Jimmy Carter was perfectly ready to have normal diplomatic relations with Iran if Khomenei hadn’t started by kidnapping our diplomats and declaring us the Great Satan.
    You think that constitutes rational action. I say it constitutes self-destructive ideological religious fervor.
    Surely Iran would be far more powerful and prosperous if it had acted like a normal national power, instead of incurring the extreme hostility of the US and Saudi Arabia by becoming a revolutionary Islamist power? If Iran had been a normal Persian power, the Gulf would have wanted to see it defeat Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war to curb Saddam’s ambitions; instead, their only desire was to keep these two loathesome regimes fighting each other for as long as possible, which turned out to be eight extremely destructive years.
    “The obvious question is why – if Iran is posing a true existential threat in the minds of Israelis and that there is so much doubt in Obama’s reliability on Iran as Goldberg lays out – Israel doesn’t deliver on an Arab-Israel peace deal that gives Palestinians a state and normalizes Israeli relations with 57 other Arab and Muslim-dominant nations. ”
    No, the obvious question is how anyone can be crazy enough to believe, after the evidence of the last 20 years, that Israel has the power to deliver on an Arab-Israel peace deal, short of committing national suicide. Which is what would happen if Israel tried to deport 500,000 Jews east of the Green Line, give up Jerusalem, return to the Truce Line of 1949 and open its immigration to 5 million Arabs. As we have seen, anything less than that is rejected out of hand by the Palestinians.
    Certainly, after Israel became Arab-majority and the Jews are stripped of citizenship, the Arab League would be more than happy to have normal relations with the new Arab state of Palestine. I suspect you would be relieved by this outcome. Ah, will no one rid you of these troublesome Jews?
    The problem of Iran, however, would remain. The Arab world would be no more reconciled to rule by a reconstituted Persian Empire without Israel than with it.

    Reply

  125. ChinaHand says:

    Mr. Clemons,
    Superb analysis, particularly on China’s waiting on the sidelines.

    Reply

  126. Kevin Terpstra says:

    Steve,
    You write:
    ‘The good thing though is that Iran prides itself
    on its rationality and complexity. Former Iranian
    top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani once said to
    me in response to a question, “You Americans play
    baseball. We play chess. Chess beats baseball.”‘
    ‘Rationality and complexity?’
    “Chess beats baseball?” Huh?!
    Isn’t Larijani’s challenge simply an awkward,
    distorted borrowing from the Soviet Union’s old
    analogy of “You American’s play poker; we play
    chess.”
    Does “chess” beat “baseball?”
    Who would/could know? It’s a ludicrous,
    nonsensical comparison.
    (The Persian contraposition isn’t even “apples and
    oranges.” It’s more like vegetables and minerals.
    With Larijani giving “birth to this ‘stillborn’
    trope, how is one,(you),(we) to take the regime
    seriously?
    Does “chess” beat “poker?”
    (At least the Cold-War Soviets were elegant enough
    to compare table-game to table-game.)
    In reality, the strategic stand-off between the US
    and Iran will not be settled by silly or poorly
    worded metaphors; it will be decided in a smoke-
    filled back room with, minimally, China, Russia,
    and the US at the table–and if it’s not, an
    international catastrophe is likely to result.
    ~ Kevin

    Reply

  127. FLAEDO says:

    Bominabajad has confidently stated on numerous occasions ‘when we get these bombs up and runnin’ we’ll nuke lsrael, no probleemo’.
    Only a douche would sit there and do nothin’ knowing whats coming. Nuke lran now.

    Reply

  128. Steve Clemons says:

    thanks for posting the Fora.tv link with Martin Indyk Imad..best, steve

    Reply

  129. ImadK says:

    Hi Steve,
    I, like most commentors ere i would presume, would agree that if Israel does want to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons, the most logical thing to go is solve the Israel/Palestinian conflict. This would go doubly for the US government. Of course, the question would be when would it happen? Martin Indyk predicted that Obama will give a bigger commitment to the conflict in the third yeard of his term, as seen on Fora.Tv:
    http://fora.tv/2010/07/21/Debate_Future_of_Western_Relations_with_the_Muslim_World

    Reply

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