Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
May 7, 2010, 6:19 AM
So much for US President Barack Obama's famed powers of persuasion. At the
UN's Nuclear Non-Poliferation Treaty review conference which opened this
week, the Obama administration managed to lose control over the agenda
before the conference even started.
Obama administration officials said they intended to use the conference as a
platform to mount international pressure on Iran to stop its illicit nuclear
proliferation activities. But even before the conference began, with a
little prodding from Egypt, the administration agreed that instead of
focusing on Iran, the conference would adopt Iran's chosen agenda: attacking
Israel for its alleged nuclear arsenal.
Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that US officials were conducting
negotiations with Egypt about Egypt's demand that the NPT review conference
call for sanctions against Israel for refusing to join the NPT as a
non-nuclear state. The Journal quoted a senior administration official
involved in the discussions saying, "We've made a proposal to them [Egypt]
that goes beyond what the U.S. has been willing to do before."
Among other possibilities, that proposal may have included a US agreement to
appoint a UN envoy responsible for organizing a UN conference calling for
the Greater Middle East to become a nuclear-free zone. In diplomatese,
"Middle East nuclear-free zone" is a well-accepted euphemism for stripping
Israel of its purported nuclear capability while turning a blind eye to
Iranian, Syrian and other Islamic nuclear weapons programs. Egypt's demand,
which it convinced more than a hundred members of the Non-Aligned bloc to
sign onto, is for Israel to open its nuclear installations to international
inspectors as a first step towards unilateral nuclear disarmament.
On Wednesday the US joined the other four permanent members of the Security
Council in signing a statement calling for a nuclear-free Middle East and
urging Israel, Pakistan and India to accede to the NPT as non-nuclear
states. Following the US's lead, on Thursday Yukiya Amano, the new Director
General of the International Atomic Energy Agency wrote a letter to IAEA
member states asking for their suggestions for how to convince Israel to
sign the NPT.
So as Iran -- an NPT signatory -- makes a mockery of the treaty by building
nuclear weapons in contempt of its treaty obligations, the US has actively
supported Iran's bid to use the NPT review conference as yet another UN
forum for bashing Israel.
It bears recalling that the primary goal of the NPT is to prevent nuclear
proliferation. From the amount of attention Israel is receiving at the NPT
review conference, you could easily get the impression that Israel's
purported nuclear arsenal is the gravest proliferation threat in the world
today. But history shows that this is nonsense.
Israel's alleged nuclear arsenal, which it has reportedly fielded for four
decades, has not led to a regional nuclear arms race. Notwithstanding their
protestations to the contrary, Israel's neighbors fully recognize that the
purpose of Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal is to guarantee Israel's
survival and consequently only threatens those who would attack the Jewish
state with the intention of annihilating it. This is why although it is four
decades old; Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal has never caused a regional
nuclear arms race. It has never harmed or called into question the relevance
or usefulness of the NPT's international non-proliferation agenda. Moreover,
as a non-signatory to the NPT, Israel has the right to develop a nuclear
Iran on the other hand gave up that right when it joined the NPT regime. So
too, in sharp contrast to Israel's alleged program, it is clear that Iran's
nuclear project is aggressive rather than defensive. Consequently, it is
universally recognized that if Iran becomes a nuclear power, Egypt, Saudi
Arabia, Turkey and other states will begin developing their own nuclear
arsenals in short order. That is, it is absolutely clear that if the NPT is
to have any relevance in the coming years, if there is to be any hope that
counter-proliferation regimes can be useful; preventing Iran from acquiring
nuclear weapons must be its signatories' chief aim.
But due to the Obama administration's diplomatic fecklessness and
ideological blinders, administration officials were incapable of making
these points. And so, instead through its actions, the administration has
advanced the cause of nuclear proliferation. The US has now joined the ranks
of fools who claim that nuclear weapons in the hands of states like the US
and Israel are as problematic as nuclear weapons in the hands of states like
Iran and North Korea.
BUT THEN, in the end it makes no difference that the US has followed Iran's
lead at the NPT conference. Even if the administration had managed to make
Iran's nuclear weapons program the focus of debate, it wouldn't have
mattered because diplomacy is no longer a relevant tool for preventing Iran
from becoming a nuclear power. Appeasement has failed. Sanctions are dead in
the water in the Security Council.
And even if the Security Council passes a sanctions resolution, they will
have no impact on Iran's behavior. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
made that much clear in his speech on Monday and in subsequent remarks to
the media. As he put it, "While we do not welcome sanctions, we do not fear
them either. Sanctions cannot stop the Iranian nation."
What all of this demonstrates is that the diplomatic track - from
appeasement to sanctions - is irrelevant for contending with Iran's nuclear
program. The only way to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear bombs is to use
military force to destroy or severely damage its nuclear installations.
And this of course is something Obama will not do. His
begging-to-shake-hands policy towards Iran and the one hand and his iron
fist policy towards Israel on the other makes it absolutely clear that Obama
will do nothing to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Rather than
correct his abysmal failures, Obama seeks to hide them by minimizing the
seriousness of the threat.
In remarks to the media this week, a White House official downplayed the
Iranian threat. He told the Financial Times that Iran's "nuclear clock has
slowed down. They are not making dramatic technical progress given the
difficulties they are facing in their [uranium] enrichment program and the
fact that their efforts to build secret facilities have been disclosed."
The fact that the US's published intelligence estimates of Iran's nuclear
program contradict this claim didn't seem to faze the official.
The US's abdication of its responsibility as the leader of the free world to
prevent the most dangerous regimes from acquiring the most dangerous weapons
means that the responsibility for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons has fallen on Israel's shoulders. Only Israel has the means and the
will to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. And the message the NPT
follies convey is that Israel must develop contingency plans for attacking
Iran as quickly as possible.
Daily reports of weapons build-ups and military exercises in Iran and among
Iran's clients Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas expose the contours of their war
Syria and Iran have armed Hizbullah with some 40,000 missiles and rockets,
including hundreds of Scud missiles and guided surface-to-surface solid fuel
M600 missiles with a 250 km range and. This week Hizbullah threatened to
attack Israel with non-conventional weapons. Syria itself has a formidable
chemical and biological arsenal as well as a massive artillery and missile
force at its disposal.
As for Hamas, since Operation Cast Lead Iran's Palestinian proxy Hamas has
expanded its own missile arsenal. Today it reportedly has projectiles
capable of reaching Tel Aviv and beyond.
As for Iran, as its seemingly endless military exercises make clear, the
mullocracy has the capacity to use conventional weapons to imperil global
oil shipments from the Persian Gulf. So too, this week's report that Osama
Bin Laden may have decamped to Iran in 2003 merely served to underline
Iran's ability to utilize jihadist terror forces throughout the world.
From the open preparations for war that Iran and its clients have
undertaken, it is clear that if they initiate the next round of fighting
they will fight a four front war against Israel. That war will be dominated
by missile attacks against the entire country aimed at breaking the will of
the Israeli people while forcing the IDF to divert vital resources away from
Israel's primary target - Iran's nuclear installations - to contend with
Iran's proxies' missile stores.
AS THEY CONSIDER Israel's options going forward, Israel's political and
military leaders have to take two considerations into account. First, the
side that initiates the conflict will be the side that controls the battle
space. And second, there is a real possibility that the Obama administration
will refuse to resupply Israel with vital weapons systems in the course of
the war. The fact that Israel will be roundly condemned by the UN and its
component parts is a certainty regardless of who initiates the conflict and
therefore is irrelevant for operational planning.
Armed with these understandings, it is apparent that Israeli contingency
plans for war must have limited goals and should be guided by the
overarching aim of beginning and ending the war quickly. Luckily, Israel
excels at limited, swift campaigns.
Responding to one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's recent threats, Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman promised last month that if Assad attacks Israel,
Israel will bring down his regime. While bringing about the utter defeat of
Iran's regional proxies is a reasonable goal, it cannot be Israel's goal in
the coming war.
In the coming war, Israel will have only one goal: to destroy or seriously
damage Iran's nuclear installations. Every resource turned against Iran's
proxies must be aimed at facilitating that goal. That is, the only thing
Israel should seek to accomplish in contending with Syria, Hizbullah and
Hamas is to prevent them from diverting Israeli resources away from
attacking Iran's nuclear installations.
This means that Israel must launch a preemptive strike against Hizbullah's
missiles and missile launchers, Syria's missiles, artillery and launchers,
and Hamas's missiles and launchers. As for their short-range rockets, Israel
should do its best to intercept them and otherwise hunker down to weather
the storm of Katyushas and Qassams. Life of the homefront won't be easy. But
it won't be impossible either, as we saw in 2006.
Almost every assessment of a possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear
installations has assumed that Israel will use its air force to strike. All
that can be said of that analysis is that, just as there is more than one
way to skin a cat, so there is more than one way to destroy Iran's nuclear
installations. An Israeli strike should utilize all of them to keep the
Iranians off balance and on the defensive.
These are dangerous times. Iran, which seeks to position itself as a
regional superpower, has been emboldened by the Obama administration's
abdication of US global leadership. Only Israel can prevent Iran from
endangering the world. But time is of the essence.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.