Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When Israel Strikes

Frontpage magazine's Jamie Glazov recently interviewed Kenneth Levin, who among other things is a well-known commentator on Israeli politics, a Princeton historian, and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.

The interview is well-worth reading. A few highlights are presented below.


Levin: The recent missile firings, including those of the longer-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil, while provocative in their timing given the revelation a few days earlier of a secret Iranian uranium enrichment facility near Qom and given also the start of "five plus one" talks with Iran on October 1, do not in themselves add much to what has been known about Iran’s missile capabilities.

At most, they reinforce the conviction of serious observers that Iran has the missile capacity to deliver a nuclear warhead in a strike against Israel or any other Middle East target. This, coupled with evidence of feverish Iranian efforts and advances in mastering the engineering of a warhead-fitted nuclear trigger and in producing sufficient enriched uranium for a bomb, suggests that there is not much time left for the world to act if it is to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear arsenal.


Levin: It is hardly clear that major world players fully share Israel’s concerns or are prepared to act to stop Iran. American-backed negotiations between European powers and Iran have gone on for years, have borne no fruit, and have not led thus far to the Europeans, or the U.S., taking much more dramatic steps against the Iranian regime. On the contrary, Western European states such as Germany have been the major source of much of the technology that has made Iran’s nuclear advances possible.
What trade and other sanctions have been imposed on Iran were won with much resistance by various powers and have obviously been too weak to have stopped Iran’s steady advance toward attaining nuclear arms.


Levin: This leaves Israel essentially on its own. Israel’s leaders, in previous governments as well as in the present one, have almost unanimously indicated that Israel will have to strike at Iran’s nuclear installations before Iran attains a nuclear weapon. But it obviously faces many daunting challenges to doing so effectively.


Levin: There have been a number of news stories that Saudi Arabia has given Israel a green light to cross its territory, stories which the Saudis have denied. Even if the reports are true, using Saudi airspace would present obvious risks, including that of the Iranians being informed of the approaching attack.


Levin: The general assumption is that Israel’s preferred scenario would be to overfly Iraq. This would be the most direct route, and American cooperation could help secure the element of surprise. But the Bush Administration is reported to have refused to allow Israel the use of Iraqi airspace, and it is hard to imagine the Obama Administration being more cooperative.

To be sure, not everyone around Obama shares
Zbigniew Brzezinski’s view that the U.S. ought to shoot down any Israeli aircraft that try to reach Iran via Iraq. But if the prevailing view in the Administration is that the U.S. can live with a nuclear Iran, there will inevitably be very strong sentiment not only to deny assistance, even passive assistance, to an Israeli raid but to apply extremely heavy pressure to dissuade the Israelis from attacking.


Levin: Iran would very likely unleash attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world. It would also very likely seek to have Hezbollah, Hamas and perhaps Syria as well strike at Israel. Hezbollah and Hamas between them have rockets and missiles that can reach most of Israel, while Syria can hit any point in the country, and the civilian population and the nation’s infrastructure – even without Syrian involvement – would be at risk. Israel would, of course, have prepared to aggressively defend itself, but the task of limiting losses would be challenging at best.

There would also be the difficult diplomatic fallout of an Israeli attack. Even those countries relieved by a successful attack would still condemn it. Organs of the UN would, of course, censure Israel. Perhaps they would have Richard Goldstone prepare a report concluding that Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by initiating aggression against Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.


Levin: Israel confronts the likelihood of being able to inflict at most only limited damage on Iran’s nuclear program, having to do so in the face of strong opposition from its main ally, almost certainly incurring fierce military and terror reprisals, and likewise having to deal with intense negative diplomatic fallout. Yet, with all the challenges and dangers, Israel does have options for an attack on Iran’s nuclear program and, given the certainty of the existential threat presented by a nuclear Iran, it will almost certainly act to set back the Iranian program whatever the risks and dangers.

Israel would obviously prefer to see determined action by the world’s powers to end the Iranian threat. But if there is no progress, and the coming weeks yield no obvious resolve by the United States and its European allies to take decisive action, then Israel will likely feel compelled to act by early next year if not sooner.


Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror.

Elsewhere on the internet one can find predictions that an Israeli strike will happen relatively soon. It would be irresponsible to speculate about dates and times.
What is, however, likely, is that such an eventuality is fast approaching certainty. There are no indications that Iran will play ball, little hope that the current round of talky-talky with the Persians will be successful, and hardly a chance that their nuclear program be stopped. The American government is determined to offer carrots, but is unlikely to utilize its sticks. That will mean that Israel will have to be, once again, the bad cop.

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