Iran war hysteria surpasses all bounds of sanity (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By BARRY RUBIN 02/27/12)
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Much written and said about the Middle East is always fantasy but
nowadays the proportion of fantasy to reality is higher than ever.
Number one on that list is the war hysteria with Iran. Iran doesnít
have deliverable nuclear weapons. It is not about to have deliverable
nuclear weapons. Israel is not about to attack Iran. The United
States is certainly not about to attack Iran. The whole idea that the
leaders of Iran are crazed, suicidally minded people who expect the
twelfth imam to arrive next Thursday is simply not true.
Yes, the Iranian regime is radical and yes, it throws threats in all
directions and yes, it is the worldís biggest sponsor of terrorism.
Yet after 32 years in power the Islamist regime in Tehran has yet to
do something really adventurous abroad. This regime wants to stay in
power and it has shown restraint. When it committed terrorist attacks
against Americans in Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia it did so with
the correct calculation that it could get away without paying any
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesnít run Iran, and many of his
statements are intended for domestic consumption to boost his claim
to leadership. I donít mean to say that Iranís leaders are calm
pragmatists, but they are power-hungry people intent on the survival
of themselves and their regime. Iranís government is bad enough, but
the caricatures we are seeing go far beyond the reality. The
countryís main goal, like that of Pakistan, is to make itself immune
to any reprisals for terrorism and subversion by having nuclear
weapons. In part, the rationale for the nuclear program is outdated,
though that certainly wonít stop Tehran from pursuing it. The project
was launched to make Iran into the leader of the Middle East, and
even of the whole Muslim world.
Yet the rise of Sunni Arab Islamists, notably the Muslim Brotherhood,
has sharply reduced Iranís potential sphere of influence. Tehranís
broader ambitions have been shrunk to include only Lebanon, Syria
(where its ally is facing major problems), southwest Afghanistan, and
Iraq (where its clients are proportionately small in size). Throw in
some ambitions toward Bahrain and the ability to scare the Persian
Gulf Arabs and thatís about it. Turkey has its own ambitions; the
newly empowered Sunni Arab Islamists hate Iran and donít think they
need Tehran at all.
That doesnít mean Iran might not some day attack Israel if and when
it has nuclear weapons. Obviously a mixture of containment, defensive
measures and the ability plus willingness to stage a preemptive
attack if necessary are vital for Israel, which isnít going to depend
on Iranís good will or assume that Tehran will never attack.
At the same time, though, the chances of avoiding a nuclear war are
overwhelmingly positive. What is Iran going to do, put two to six
missiles on launching pads to shoot at Israel without being detected
beforehand and having no second wave that can be used? Is Iran going
to attack Israel out of spite, from blind fanaticism, knowing not
only that Iran will be devastated but that Israel has a high
likelihood of preempting and destroying them on the launching pad or
shooting them down?
To start a war with Iran now doesnít make any sense. It will not stop
that country from getting nuclear weapons and it would make a nuclear
war in the coming years more rather than less likely. Israel has no
international support. Russia is practically threatening a war
against Israel if it does launch such an operation.
The logistics of an attack are difficult, though not impossible. A
lot can go wrong. You donít want to try such an operation unless you
really have to do so. The bottom line is that an Israeli attack on
Iran at present is simply not necessary. A lot of the Israeli
rhetoric is clearly intended to press the West toward greater
activism and tougher sanctions.
Indeed, all of the reasons why Israel is not about to attack Iran are
just plain ignored in the media. Defense Minister Ehud Barak explains
that no decision is made and that Israeli policy is only to attack if
Iran is about to get deliverable nuclear weapons. He suggests that
this wonít happen in the next year. The biggest Israeli critic of
launching an attack states that Israel decided not to do so and his
worst complaint against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is that he
wants to keep discussing the possibility, not that he has decided on
President Barack Obama Ė a man who would never attack Iran or support
an Israeli action Ė has publicly stated that Israel isnít about to do
so. The president of the United States, whatever his other faults,
would not say such a thing unless he has been clearly promised by
Netanyahu that it isnít going to happen. If Israel were to break that
promise the entire bilateral relationship would blow up in a way that
would make recent tiffs seem like a picnic.
In short, the whole idea is nonsense. Numerous reasons can be given
to explain why it is not on the agenda for this year. But the media
and various analysts Ė many of them self-proclaimed experts Ė simply
ignore all the evidence. Some want to get Israel into a war with Iran
to please their own ideological agenda; others want to claim Israel
is going to attack in order to prove their thesis that Israel is the
evil cause of all regional Ė or even world Ė problems.
This hysteria really should stop. Israel isnít going to get into a
long, bloody and avoidable war because bloggers and op-ed writers are
screaming for it.
Briefly, here are some other myths that deserve to be abandoned as
soon as possible:
ē There is an Israel-Palestinian peace process. Thatís probably dead
for decades because the Palestinian side doesnít want a compromise
deal. Obamaís mistakes, the Palestinian Authority-Hamas coalition,
the Islamist ďspringĒ and the UN unilateral independence bid all
makes it even more obviously deceased.
ē The Muslim Brotherhood is moderate. Wake up and smell the jihad.
ē The Syrian regime is about to fall. The opposition knows that
without international intervention Ė which isnít going to happen Ė
they canít win.
ē Turkey is the very model of a moderate Islamic democracy. Actually,
itís a repressive Islamist dictatorship in training. Look at the
massive arrests, the trumped-up treason charges, the trampling of
free speech and the assault on the countryí armed forces.
Unless there is some real understanding of whatís going on in the
Middle East, any hope for useful analysis, much less predicting the
most likely future scenarios or charting a successful Western policy,
is out of reach. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 02/27/12)
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