A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Aluf Benn on a Possible Attack on Iran

Since the death of Ze'ev Schiff, Aluf Benn, the defense analyst at Ha'aretz, has been one of Israel's most reliable defense journalists. His "Cries of 'hold me back' may lead Israel to strike Iran" is most assuredly worthy of your attention.

I think the Israeli realists, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and many in the IDF general staff, understand both the fundamental problems of an attack on Iran if the US isn't on board (logistics, refueling, violation of airspace) and the potential blowback through Hizbullah, Hamas, Sadrists in Iraq, and potential disruption of tanker traffic in the Gulf. But that still does not completely reassure, and I hope that the negotiations with Iran later this week can find a modus vivendi, even if it's only a temporary figleaf. The fact that Israel's nuclear arsenal is rarely part of the debate is, of course, a bit bizarre. If no on else in the region had nuclear weapons, why would Iran need them? But Pakistan does, Russia does, India does, and Israel does. And Americans sitting in Iraq and Afghanistan have them too, though not necessarily in theater. If I were sitting in Iran's seat, I'd want a deterrent too. Oddly enough, we weren't nearly this worried about the Shah's nuclear ambitions in the 70s.

I'm not defending Iran here, but I'm saying something I've said many times before: whoa, let's not start the nonproliferation regime with "okay, Israel, Pakistan, and India have the bomb, but you can't have it." Let's suggest instead, can we all dial this back a bit? Proliferation did not begin with Iran. And it still insists that it is pursuing a peaceful program. (Okay, I don't believe it either.) But let me also remind everyone that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) allow signatories (of which Iran is one, but Israel, India and Pakistan are not) to break out of the treaty on six months' notice. That means Iran could simply withdraw from the treaty and develop nuclear weapons without violating any treaty obligations,

Oh, sure, I see the problems. But I also see that much of the Arab and Persian and Turkic speaking worlds see a real European/American double standard at work here.

Let's hope we can all find a modus vivendi here. I think Khamene'i and Larijani and others have been saying some pretty hopeful things. (Ahmadinejad doesn't control the nuclear program: he's just grandstanding and demagoguing.)

1 comment:

JR said...