As I mentioned last week, I was on a radio show today on the subject of Iran, Israel and the US. Also on the show was the extremely informative Professor Ervand Abrahamian of Baruch College. It’s well worth listening to, and you can do so at this link.
When I’ve spoken at public gatherings, one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked has been about Iran and its nuclear program. I’ve followed this issue very closely since the early 1990s and since 2001, my answer has been the same, and everything that’s happened since has bolstered my view of this issue.
In my view, Iran certainly has worked to develop a nuclear weapons capacity. It is almost unfathomable that they wouldn’t do so.
The incentives are massive. It starts with the hostility the country faces, justified or not, from two major nuclear powers, the United States and Israel. An Iranian nuke would also change the regional balance of power, breaking Israel’s Middle Eastern monopoly on nuclear weapons.
But it doesn’t end there. The Iranian neighborhood outside of the Mideast is a heavily nuclear one, including Pakistan, which borders Iran, India, which has an unsteady standoff with Pakistan, as well as Russia and China. There’s no immediate threat to Iran there, but there has been in the past, particularly from the USSR, and could be again someday. Things change.
And what are the disincentives? Well, they’re significant enough that Iran pursued its nuclear program clandestinely. It includes tension with Europe, which Iran desperately needs as a trading partner, and in the past it included the potential for a nuclear race with Iraq.
But the disincentives do not include an American or Israeli attack. This I have maintained for a decade and nothing has dissuaded me from that view.
True enough, there are significant forces in both the US and Israel that want to launch an attack on Iran. But they have largely been reduced to saber-rattling by the logistical difficulties and the regional ramifications of such an attack. Cooler heads, even among those who would like to attack Iran if the risks and consequences were not so dire, have prevailed.
It is also the case that anyone familiar with Iran knows that, despite its repressive theocracy and its deliberately provocative and offensive President, the country is not an irrational actor. They’ve never launched an aggressive war, and their very real support for radical Islamic groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, though often exaggerated, is based on a clear political calculus.
Those well-versed in Iran know they are not seeking a weapon which, once they have it, will be launched against Israel. Indeed, Israel knows this very well, as Ehud Barak himself recently confirmed. But the fear mongering, in both the US and Israel, is politically useful and Israel is indeed very worried that their nuclear monopoly will be broken. So are the Saudis, who, like Israel, would have a much more serious opponent to deal with in a nuclear Iran.
The issue remains alive, however, despite the fact that successive National Intelligence Estimates in the US, as well as other reports from international bodies have consistently stated that, despite Iran’s less than total cooperation with inspections, the conclusion is that Iran halted its active development of a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not resumed it since. Continue reading
Once again, there is discussion of military action against Iran, since virtually everyone acknowledges that the new sanctions, both by the UN and US will not change the status quo. I examine the possibilities of an attack on Iran in a new piece I published at Zeek Magazine.
In my latest piece for Zeek Magazine, I explore the question of temporary borders for a Palestinian state, and the Obama Administration’s determination to make a peace process work.
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad fulfilled all the promise he brought with him to Geneva for the Durban II conference.
He rambled about Israeli racism (whilst one wonders what a Baha’i observer might have been thinking) and said that the “pretext of Jewish suffering” was used to cover Israeli crimes. He firmly re-established his bona fides as an
anti-Semite and a demagogue, and in so doing seriously undermined the good efforts at Durban II.
The conference organizers really wanted to get past the 2001 conference. But their own short-sightedness doomed them. There was every reason to believe that Ahmedinejad’s speech was going to be just what it turned out to be-a full rehash of all the 2001 problems. Yet they welcomed him to the podium anyway. Now they have an even more formidable task of trying to overcome both 2001 and Ahmedinejad’s appearance.
In an interesting coincidence, the European Commission had just chastised some of its own member states for boycotting the conference in anticipation of Ahmedinejad’s appearance. And then most of the rest of the EU states walked out on the speech. Ahmedinejad, as this response demonstrates, dealt a serious blow to those who are advocating engagement with Iran and bolstered the case of those who contend, incorrectly, that the Iranian regime cannot be dealt with rationally. Continue reading
One would like to say that this is a bad joke, but sadly for Israel, it is reality. None other than Avigdor Lieberman has issued Israel’s statement regarding the Durban II conference.
Obviously, this is part of the job of Foreign Minister, and it’s why Lieberman is such an absurd choice for the job. But to see Lieberman, who has risen to a position of power based on a campaign of racism and xenophobia, makes these
statements…I just don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Lieberman’s statement only increases the negative effect on Israel. The fact that anti-Israel hysteria, which featured a good deal of anti-Jewish hate, derailed Durban I has caused a backlash. It is fair now to ask whether full global participation in the conference is being conditioned not on the absence of unfair singling out of Israel but rather on the absence of any criticism of Israel at all. I don’t know whether that is the case, but I do know that having Lieberman make a statement supporting a boycott of Durban II is just as distasteful as having a hatemonger like Mahmoud Ahmedenijad speak at the conference.
Lieberman making these statements is not just Orwellian–it is another example of Israel’s regression and moves away from its preferred identity as a Western-style democracy in the Middle East. One wonders how long the apologists will continue to harm Israel by defending an avowed racist, xenophobe and demagogue, a corrupt man who was convicted of physically assaulting a 12-year old. Continue reading