Israel and Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming to America on March 5 to discuss with President Obama Iran's continued development of its nuclear program.  The Atomic Energy Commission recently released a report stating that Iran has sharply stepped up its uranium enrichment development.  Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta believes that there is a strong likelihood that Israel will attack Iran in April, May, or June.  American Thinker interviewed some experts to get their opinion on the military option.

Israel does not want Iran to enter a "zone of immunity," whereby enough of Iran's nuclear materials will be buried underground and beyond the reach of Israeli airpower.  A former CIA high-ranking official noted that there are "no easy answers.  None of the options are so overwhelmingly attractive, and every option comes with large risks."  Gilad Sharon, the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who advised his father and is currently a journalist, emphasized, "We cannot allow this regime to have a nuclear weapon. They arm and finance terrorism around the world.  Just look at what they recently did in India and Thailand.  Think about what would be the options and possibilities to react to Iran's terrorist actions if they had a nuclear bomb.  The options would be very limited, and terror will bloom while they use their nuclear bomb as their umbrella."

Everyone interviewed believes that it is not an Israeli problem, but a world problem and that any military strike would slow down Iran's ability to have a nuclear weapon.  Elliott Abrams, a former Middle East adviser to President Bush, notes that the timeframe is very important to Israel regarding its decision.  "Israel has to ask the question: if we don't act now, will we abandon the ability to protect ourselves and then [be] forced to leave it to the Americans?  Currently, no one knows who will be the next U.S. president, and will that person be willing to use force against Iran?"

Should Israel wait to see if the sanctions stop Iran from pursuing this goal?  All agreed that Iran is being hurt economically, and the sanctions could work if the timetable is unlimited.  Former CIA Director Michael Hayden would like to "accelerate the sanctions.  A lot of them do not take effect until this summer.  We should turn up the heat.  By doing this, the Iranians would not have the time to cushion the blow.  The current policy of sanctions seems to be happening in slow motion instead of all at once."

Lately Iran is talking about coming back to the negotiating table.  However, Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, believes that negotiations are "only a good move for Iran.  They can use it to stall.  If we are to negotiate Iran must come to the table with the announcement that they are stopping their program.  They need to do it the way Libya did, giving up its nuclear program."

According to Abrams, America and its allies have emboldened Iran, as the Iranians have killed U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq; undertaken a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C.; and recently attempted to kill Israeli diplomats.  "Yet, what price have they paid?  We have not responded to these threats when they don't have a nuclear weapon, so would we be more likely to confront them when they do?  Several of our presidents, including Obama, have said that a nuclear Iran is flatly unacceptable and [that] they will prevent it.  Yet Iran might miscalculate and think America and Israel are not serious about a military option.  Think about it.  If they achieve their goal, they [will] have done it right in the teeth of America's pledges to prevent it."

The current goal of any military action is to substantially delay the ability for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.  This option could be successful, according to the former CIA official, because it would buy a lot of time since the program will not be easily reconstructed.  If Israel does strike, what are the aftereffects -- the second, third, and fourth moves, as Hayden noted?  How do the Iranians react, what do Hamas and Hezb'allah do, and what role does America play in all of this?  Hayden, Rogers, and Abrams are not convinced that Hezb'allah will take retaliatory action or is a puppet of Iran.  The argument is that the Syrian government has its own troubles and will not be able to rebuild Hezb'allah, unlike the previous wars with Israel, if they provoke a new war.  They would hope that there will not be much world outcry and that the U.S. will block any sanctions in the U.N.  Abrams also suggests that Israeli action and the resulting time delay could bring about an "Iranian Spring" -- i.e., a regime change.  The new regime will decide to eliminate its nuclear weapons program just as Brazil and the Ukraine did.

The downside of this option is that the mullahs will use it for propaganda purposes.  They would convince even those Iranians who are currently not anti-Israel that the program is needed and that there should be major retaliatory action.  Other Arab nations could have people on the street rioting to destroy Israel, as they see it as a Western society attacking a Muslim society.  Hayden sees the biggest danger being long-term terrorism, since "as DNI Clapper pointed out, we cannot rule out Hezb'allah organized attacks even here in the U.S."

If Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, a former global strategist who was a special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that America needs to emphasize loud and clear that Iran chose this path and that they are now in the "big boys' club.  We should extend American nuclear weaponry right to Iran's border.  Show them that they are on the edge of annihilation.  We need to extend the pressure by letting them know we have first-strike capabilities if we even think that they are launching a missile or plane.  We are not going to allow them to have fun with Israel and our other allies by making them go on constant alert.  Any attack would risk their entire civilization.  Remember this government's top priority is regime survival."

Another problem is that other countries in the area might not trust the United States, creating a nuclear arms race whereby more and more nations would attempt to have a nuclear program to protect themselves.  Rogers strongly believes that "Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt would get a nuclear weapon.  In the middle of all this, the president has announced that he is taking our arsenal down to a very small number.  This puts us in a very detrimental position when it comes to our overall national security and protecting our allies' security."

Congressman Rogers summarized everyone's opinion: "Iran has said if they get nuclear weapons, they intend to use them on Israel.  We have to take them at their word.  We should not minimize Israel's concerns.  Both Israel and Iran need to believe [that] the president is serious about the military option because currently this administration has put our allies and us in a very weak position," with few good answers.

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