I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Israel & Iran - The Imminent Explosion

It's hard to see how Iran's aggressive flirtation with acquiring a nuclear capability is going to have any resolution other than a military one. Even if Iran suddenly shifts course and becomes exceptionally cooperative with diplomatic efforts and agrees to an invasive inspection regime -- two very big if's -- it's very hard to imagine the Israelis being sastisfied with that outcome.

Neither the Israelis nor the Americans trusted such inspection/diplomatic measures when it came to the much less threatening and resourceful Saddam. With the Iranians having taken the game this far, it is difficult to envision the Israelis trusting voluntary measures on the part of the mullahs to cease their development of a nuclear weapon. Given the recent and deliberately provocative statements of Iran's President -- expressing the view that Israel should be "wiped from the map" and, failing that, simply re-located to Central Europe -- one can see why the Israelis wouldn't.

Deciphering Israeli intentions when they want those intentions to remain murky is one of the more impossible tasks one can attempt, but two articles yesterday leave little doubt that, at the very least, full-on confrontation of the Iranian problem cannot be put off any longer. London's Sunday Times claims -- in a report seemingly planted by the Israelis -- that Ariel Sharon has ordered a military attack on Iran's nuclear activities be prepared for March:

ISRAEL’S armed forces have been ordered by Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, to be ready by the end of March for possible strikes on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran, military sources have revealed.

The order came after Israeli intelligence warned the government that Iran was operating enrichment facilities, believed to be small and concealed in civilian locations. . .

“Israel — and not only Israel — cannot accept a nuclear Iran,” Sharon warned recently. “We have the ability to deal with this and we’re making all the necessary preparations to be ready for such a situation.”

A subsequent report, also published yesterday, in the Israeli daily Haaretz, has the Israelis "denying" the report about as tepidly and narrowly as a report can be denied. Ominously entitled "Official: No plan to attack Iran 'at the moment'," the article reports:

[Defense Ministry diplomatic policy chief Amos] Gilad refrained from a blanket denial of the report."I deny the concrete matters, the [description of] the plan, the timetables, the operation in northern Iraq, but it's impossible to say, in advance, that all options will be ruled out."

These threats are likely intended at least as much for the "international community," and even the U.S., as they are for Iran. The Israelis have clearly decided that it's time to escalate the pressure on the "international community" to take a much stronger approach to putting a real stop to the Iranian nuclear program. This "leaked" report of Israeli preparations for an imminent attack provides some added motivation to step up those efforts.

But it's highly doubtful that this is mere "saber rattling" on the part of the Israelis. There is simply no way that Israel can or will sit by while Iran acquires a nuclear weapon. There is little doubt that they will undertake real military action to stop that, as well they should. Then again, if the Israelis believe that there is no feasible way to eliminate Iran's nuclear program via military strikes (as many reports have suggested), then it may be the case that the Israelis believe that a highly potent and invasive inspection regime is the only reliable way to achieve that goal, and that these leaked military preparations really are designed to fuel and intensify those diplomatic efforts.

As I've argued before, one of the most serious harms which the U.S. occupation of Iraq has caused is that we do not pose a genuine or credible military threat to the Iranians, nor do we possess any real credibility when it comes to urging the world to act in response to the Iranian threat. But the Israelis do possess a genuine military threat to the Iranians, and nobody doubts they will act on that threat if they are left with no other options. That time seems to be rapidly approaching.

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