The Time for Hesitation Is Nearly at an End: Iran's Nuclear Ambitions Must Be Stopped Now
Dear Friend of FLAME:
There's little debate in the press or among pundits any more about whether Iran is on course to build nuclear weapons. Instead, today the debate rages about whether the U.S. or Israel will attack Iran before the terrorist state finishes its evil work.
For its part, the U.S.---at least this administration---seems unlikely to use military means to deter Iran. Which means, essentially, that if sanctions and other diplomatic efforts fail to dissuade the Shiite mullahs from nuclearization---and there's little indication they will---Iran will succeed within the next several years in freely manufacturing nuclear WMDs.
Make no mistake: Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons will utterly transform the politics and power balance of the Middle East. Iran will be able to throw its weight around the neighborhood as never before, and that makes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and at least a dozen other Sunni Arab nations desperately nervous.
Above all, Iran will have the ability to fulfill what Iran's President Ahmahdinajad has sworn many times to do---wipe Israel off the map. Indeed, his ability to do so is now imminent. The United States has for many years---under President Bush and now under Barack Obama---urged Israel not to attack Iran, reassuring the Jewish state that U.S. leadership in imposing sanctions on Iran will be a sufficient deterrent.
Obviously, Israel cannot afford to be as sanguine and hopeful as President Obama about Iran's nuclear threat. Israel's very existence---and that of six million Jews---is on the line. In fact, this week's Hotline makes the case that Israel absolutely cannot and should not wait to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. It's written by by former Israeli Ambassador and one-time Consul General in Houston, Yoram Ettinger.
In his keen analysis of the Iranian nuclear threat and the steps to be taken, Ettinger makes quite clear that the time for admonitions, threats and even "sanctions" is just about over and that military action is becoming the only means of putting an end to the ever more closely looming danger of an Iranian nuclear weapon.
The United States is of course a much more powerful actor than Israel, and one would hope that our country would take decisive action to stop that horrible danger once and for all. The reality, however, is that our government, regardless of the imperative, is not likely to engage in a new military action in an election year. So the burden will inevitably fall on Israel. As a practical matter, though, Israel would most likely be unable to act without the at least tacit approval of the U.S. government.
Mr. Ettinger's compelling analysis is especially poignant in his reference to the Yom Kippur War, which Israel ultimately won (though the Egyptians celebrate it as a "great victory") and which caused Israel much damage and horrible loss of life. That destruction could have been prevented and a clear-cut, fast and overwhelming victory---just as in the Six-Day War---could have been achieved had Golda Meir not hesitated from choosing what she knew was the right path for Israel instead of yielding to what she believed to be the wish of the United States.
In short, this article provides a useful review of decisive moments in Israel's history, which teach us that hesitation in the face of overhwhelming threats does not pay.
If Israel does take action against Iran, this article will also help you explain to your friends and colleagues why it was necessary. I hope you'll pass this issue on to your pro-Israel supporters list to fortify them and aid their advocacy.
Preempt Iran—At All Costs!
The discussion about the cost of a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is valuable only if intended to advance the attack and neutralize the possible retaliation by Iran and its allies. However, such a discussion is harmful, ignores precedents, plays into Iran's hands and threatens Israel's existence, if it reflects hesitancy, skepticism and fatalism, aiming to preclude preemption, and assuming that Israel can co-exist with a nuclear-armed Iran.
On May 12, 1948, the pre-state Israeli Cabinet decided by a vote of six to four to declare independence and include Jerusalem within Israel's boundaries, despite internal opposition and pressure by the U.S. and despite a terrible price: The U.S. withheld military aid, threatened economic sanctions and surmised that the declaration of independence would result in a second Holocaust, this time at the hands of the Arabs. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion refused to abide by the American pressure to postpone the declaration of independence by a few years, knowing that such a delay would be tragic in the long run, and that independence exacts a painful price.
On Oct. 5, 1973, the eve of the Yom Kippur War, Prime Minister Golda Meir rejected the option of a pre-emptive strike to repel the clear and present danger of a joint Egyptian-Syrian attack. She was concerned about the cost of such a strike -- namely appearing as the aggressor and severely damaging ties with the U.S. -- and preferred to be portrayed as the victim. However, the terrible, long-term cost of that war has been far greater than pre-emptive action would have been. As expected, Israel was not viewed as a victim, but rather as a country that lost the "spirit of the Six-Day War," eroding is own deterrent power, and undermining its position as a strategic asset for the U.S.
In June 1981, on the eve of the destruction of the nuclear reactor in Iraq, then Prime Minister Menachem Begin weighed the cost of a pre-emptive strike versus the cost of inaction. The heads of the Mossad and Military Intelligence, former Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, opposition leader Shimon Peres, Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin, Israel's national security adviser and the Head of the Atomic Energy Commission all opposed striking Iraq. They presented apocalyptic scenarios that would result from such action: an irreparable rift with the U.S., harsh sanctions, conflict with the Soviet Union and Western Europe, reconciliation between Muslim countries and a pan-Islamic attack, threats to the peace treaty with Egypt and other doomsday events. They underestimated the probability of a successful pre-emptive attack and overestimated Iraq's military capabilities. Some claimed there was a greater chance of seeing Israeli pilots being dragged through the streets of Baghdad than being welcomed back to their bases. But, Begin decided in favor of a pre-emptive strike, determining that the cost of restraint could be far greater than that of a pre-emptive strike; that a nuclear threat would subordinate Israel both politically and militarily; that a nuclear attack could not be ruled out considering the violent, unpredictable and hateful nature of regimes in the region, and that the ratio of Israeli territory to that of surrounding Arab states (0.2%) did not allow for a Mutual Assured Destruction. Begin understood that the window of opportunity for a strike against Iraq's nuclear reactor was about to close. The destruction of the reactor drew short-term isolation, which was promptly substituted by a long-term strategic esteem and cooperation.
In 2012, after a decade of failed attempts at engagement and sanctions, and in light of the assistance (in terms of development and acquisition) Iran has received from Pakistan, North Korea, Russia and China for its nuclear program, Israel must decide between launching a pre-emptive attack to eliminate that threat or facing it. Opponents of an attack warn that it could potentially result in a harsh response from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, and international anger directed at Israel over higher oil prices, a wave of terror and Persian Gulf turbulence. Yet, these pale in comparison to the lethal cost of a nuclear threat, which includes a withdrawal of overseas and Israeli investors from the country, a record number of Israeli emigrants and a sharp decline of Aliya (Jewish immigration), dwindling tourism, intensification of military-political-economic dependence on the U.S., a more powerful and influential Iranian regime that takes control of the Persian Gulf , and the transformation of Israel from a strategic asset to a strategic liability. Israel would wither without even one nuclear warhead needing to be launched.
A pre-emptive attack against Iran would exert non-lethal and short-term cost, but would boost Israel's long-term strategic image. It would also provide a tailwind for the opposition to the ayatollahs' regime. Will Israel embrace the legacy of Ben-Gurion and Begin, or that of their opponents?