THE IRAN CRISIS GROWS – AT 9:44 A.M. ET: We have repeatedly cautioned readers against averting their eyes from foreign policy as he fight our election campaign. Stuff happens.
And stuff is happening in the Iranian crisis. A major Iranian mullah says that Israel will soon disappear. Iran is giving active aid to keep the murderous Syrian regime alive. Diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program has become a very bad farce, and is basically frozen. Israeli officials are speaking quite openly about a possible 30-day war with Iran.
And the Israeli ambassador to Washington has written a piece that is being taken very seriously by foreign-policy experts. In it he says that Israel would strike Iran's nuclear program even if it meant only delaying it, rather than destroying it. From Foreign Policy:
Diplomacy doesn't seem to be working. The Iranian nuclear program continues moving closer to weapons capability. And the Iranians themselves have matched their rhetoric about the annihilation of Israel with direct support for attacks on its people, like the suicide-bomb murder of five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, which U.S. officials have linked to Iran.
It is often hard for Americans to grasp the idea of an existential threat to a nation. While one existed for Americans during the Cold War, since then the notion that any single actor with any single act could effectively obliterate Americans or their lifestyle is very hard for many people to get their brains around. But that is exactly the threat that Israelis face from even a "limited" Iranian nuclear attack. And though it is reasonable to debate whether the Iranians would actually use such a weapon against Israel given the likely consequences for them, from the Israeli perspective, given Iranian threats and actions, the risks of guessing wrong about the intent of the leaders in Tehran are so high that inaction could easily be seen to be the imprudent path.
This summarizes the carefully worded case made last week in the Wall Street Journal by Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. His article was nothing less than a case for war, and, over lunch on Friday, Aug. 10, he underscored to me how much thought and care was put into its drafting. (Oren is, for the record, my longtime very good friend.) The response to the article included the unlikely endorsement of its core points by Khalid Al Khalifa, the foreign minister of Bahrain, who tweeted it with the words "Time Is Short For Iran Diplomacy." It also was seen as one of the most important of last week's signals that Israel's discomfort with the Iran situation is growing greater, signals that included on-the-record statements by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and off-the-record statements to journalist Ari Shavit (widely assumed to have been from Defense Minister Ehud Barak) that both underscored and amplified Oren's case for ramped-up pressure on Iran.
It is reasonable to ask what has triggered this recent ramping-up of concern. Oren asserts it is a combination of factors -- none more important than the increasing sense that diplomacy is not working and the sanctions, while taking a clear toll on the Iranian economy, are not doing so either. Iran's nuclear program, meanwhile, is accelerating, and its leaders continue to call for Israel's destruction.
COMMENT: Read the whole article. And read Oren's original piece in The Wall Street Journal. He writes:
A combination of truly crippling sanctions and a credible military threat—a threat that the ayatollahs still do not believe today—may yet convince Iran to relinquish its nuclear dreams. But time is dwindling and, with each passing day, the lives of eight million Israelis grow increasingly imperiled. The window that opened 20 years ago is now almost shut.
Oren is writing about the concerns of Israel. But who is writing about the legitimate concerns of the United States? Israel is the Little Satan, we are the Great Satan. Too many times before in our history we have underestimated the will of enemies armed with conventional weapons. Will we underestimate the will of a nuclear-equipped Iran, which, with nuclear weapons, could have more firepower than we had in World War II?
We have noted that two freighters, sailed into two American harbors on one day, with nuclear devices hidden in their holds, and small suicide squads aboard could, if those devices were set off, end the United States as we know our nation. We could suffer more casualties than in all American wars combined, and our economy could be wrecked. And we might not even be able to prove the source of the attacks.
What would Obama do if Israel strikes Iran before the election? Who knows? But does anyone have any confidence in him?
August 16, 2012