The possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran should be taken seriously
The headlines are stark indeed: “Israel Readies a Pre-Emptive Strike.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be working to persuade reluctant members of his coalition cabinet to go along with such a military option against Islamist Iran. The Huffington Post’s British edition reports Netanyahu saying this:
On Monday, Netanyahu told the Knesset: “One of those regional powers is Iran, which is continuing its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran would constitute a grave threat to the Middle East and the entire world, and of course it is a direct and grave threat on us.”
One day later, defence minister Ehud Barak struck a similar tone. “A situation could be created in the Middle East in which Israel must defend its vital interests in an independent fashion, without necessarily having to reply on other forces, regional or otherwise,” he said.
Ehud Barak’s comments are most interesting. He was the Labor Party prime minister in 2000 who offered the Palestinians 97% of the territory they claimed as theirs, reserving only those limited regions thought absolutely essential to Israeli security. The Palestinians balked and commenced yet another “intifada” uprising. The leaders of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) then would rather send stone-throwing teenagers to confront armed Israeli soldiers and tanks than engage in serious negotiations for peace.
Barak could qualify as an Israeli “dove,” but he is first and foremost a soldier and an Israeli patriot. It’s not so surprising that the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu should be talking of a military strike against Iran. When Ehud Barak joins this conversation, you know it’s serious.
This is a most serious situation. No one knows what might happen if Israel strikes the Iranian nuclear weapons research stations. What is clear is that the efforts of the Obama administration to restrain Iran over the past three years have been an utter failure.
After extending an “open hand instead of a clenched fist” to the Iranian mullahs, President Obama saw his proffered olive branch stomped into the dust. He even sent Persian New Year greetings to the Iranian people and their dictatorial rulers. When Iranians rose up in the streets following fraudulent elections in June 2009, the Obama administration weakly claimed it did not want to “interfere” with an internal matter for Iran. The fact that Iran is daily interfering with internal affairs all over the Middle East seemed not to faze this administration.
The Obama administration invested precious time and resources in getting toothless sanctions voted on by the U.N. Russia and China made sure these sanctions didn’t bite. And Tehran has the active support of Venezuela’s anti-American Hugo Chavez in laundering its petro-dollars. Three U.S. administrations have said that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable.” But beyond that, they have done little to make it unacceptable.
We in the U.S. are understandably focused on our stricken economy and our presidential elections. Distractions like “Occupy Wall Street” could not come at a better time to keep Americans from thinking long and hard about the gravest danger in the world: A nuclear Iran with intent to use those weapons for terror purposes.
The recent discovery of a bomb plot in Washington, D.C., should sober us all. The Shiite Muslim rulers of Iran were said to be preparing to set off a bomb in the favorite Georgetown restaurant of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. They were more than willing to kill hundreds of innocent Americans in their drive to murder a hated Sunni Muslim foe.
As terrifying as that prospect was, the mullahs’ real purpose in assassinating the Saudi envoy would have been to show us they could as readily place a nuclear weapon in our nation’s capital, raising the death toll from scores of innocents slaughtered to perhaps hundreds of thousands. And a national government crippled.
One thing should be clear: If Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities, it will not be a first strike. Iran has been waging war against Israel for decades. Iran’s Ahmadinejad has announced to the world that Israel will be “wiped off the map.”
Tehran has been arming Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza for years. These cats’ paw terror groups have been doing Iran’s bidding in murdering Israelis, kidnapping their soldiers and raining rockets down on Israeli settlements.
Israel’s dovish defense minister, Ehud Barak, is giving fair warning to the Obama administration: Israel will act to defend itself whether other powers take part or not.
The right of self-defense is an inalienable right. The reason Israel was created was so that Jews would have a national home and would not have to rely on the kindness of strangers. If Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear weapons program, we cannot say we have not been warned. Not much this administration has done in the Middle East should give Israelis confidence that they can rely on their feckless friends in Washington to support them when push comes to shove.
Ken Blackwell is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.