15 August 2010

Current Buzz about prospect of Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities

Both the original article by neocon Jeff Goldberg in The Atlantic (on the likelihood that Bibi Netanyahu will order a strike on Iran by next Spring), and Steve Clemons's commentary on it in The Washington Note (contains internal link to The Atlantic article), are "must reads."  
I think there is another side to this; I rather doubt that the national security apparatus in Israel is quite as unanimous as all this. There are huge downsides for Israel if it were to do this, and the fact is that both Tzipi Livni (opposition candidate for Israeli PM in last election) and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak have denied the proposition that Iran as currently constituted is an "existential threat" to Israel. Goldberg's article seems premised on the supposition that this is a nearly unanimous view in Israel.

I also am deeply suspicious of Goldberg's motivations. There is a strong intellectual current, left over from the heady days of neocon primacy in the Bush II First Term, that seeks to create a climate in American policy thinking that is unexaminedly pro-Israel, and that unthinkingly buys into the paradigm that Iran must be countered and defeated. To his credit, Goldberg does analyze the very significant potential negative consequences of what he's saying is a very real prospect. But the whole analysis makes assumptions about continued American military hegemony in the area that no longer make sense. I believe, instead, our interests are best served by exploring every avenue to find enough common ground to create a new way forward for our relations with Iran, in conjunction with our relations with Russia and China, which so far, along with Iran itself, have only had to sit back and watch our policy in the region implode, to their benefit. We have effectively lost sight of the crucial test for foreign policy for any nation: it must act not in the interests of factions or other nations, but in the interests of its own people. Rushing headlong into support of an Israeli war against Iran is clearly not in our nation's interests.

With that in mind, although in America it is hard for a president to say this and mean it (and especially, to be able to back it up), I think the President needs to make crystal clear to Netanyahu: you unilaterally attack Iran and you will destroy the relationship between Israel and the United States, including continued military or financial assistance. We simply will not support you in this, period, and you will end our alliance with you if you do it. 

See also Fred Kaplan in Slate commenting on Goldberg's article.

And a serious critique of Goldberg and his whole anlaysis and his credibility, by Glenn Greenwald.  

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