Gwynne Dyer: No defensible reasons to attack Iran

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      The last time U.S. president Barack Obama met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was obvious that the two men distrusted and despised each other. This time (March 5), their mutual dislike was better hidden, but the gulf between them was still as big, especially on the issue of Iran’s alleged desire for nuclear weapons.

      There is something comic about two nuclear-armed countries (5,000-plus nuclear weapons for the U.S., around 200 for Israel) declaring that it is vital to prevent a third country from getting a few of the things too. Particularly when that third country, Iran, has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and still abides by it, while Israel has always refused to sign it. But never mind that.

      What divides Obama and Netanyahu is a question of timing. Obama’s “red line” is the point at which Iran “possesses” a nuclear weapon, which would not arrive for a couple of years even if Iran actually intends to make one. (American and Israeli intelligence services concur that it is not working on one now.)

      Netanyahu’s “red line” comes much sooner: whenever Iran has enough enriched uranium to build a bomb, whether it does so or not. It is, of course, quite legal for Iran to enrich uranium (which it says is solely for use in civilian nuclear reactors), while an unprovoked attack on Iran would be a criminal act under international law. But that didn’t stop former president George W. Bush from invading Iraq, and it wouldn’t stop Obama now.

      What worries Obama are three other things. First, the American public simply isn’t up for a third “war of choice” in 10 years in the Middle East. As retired general Anthony Zinni, former commander of U.S. military forces in the Middle East, warned three years ago: “If you liked Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.”

      Secondly, this is presidential election year in the United States. If Israel attacks Iran, the oil price will soar and kill the economic recovery Obama is depending on for re-election. However, if the U.S. fails to back Israel, American Jews will turn against him and kill his re-election chances anyway.

      Thirdly, the attack would not destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment plants. Israel has been threatening to attack them for years, so the Iranians have buried them deep underground. Israeli and American hawks claim that an attack could delay Iran’s capability to enrich large quantities of uranium for three years, but Meir Dagan, former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, thinks three months is optimistic.

      Even if it were three years, Iran would be back to where it is now by 2015—and an Iran that had been attacked by Israel and the United States would be determined to get nuclear weapons as fast as possible. As Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently, Israeli attacks on Iran "would be destabilizing and would not achieve their long-term objectives".

      If Prime Minister Netanyahu and his fellow hawks truly believed that Iranian nuclear weapons would mean the extinction of the Jewish state, then their wish to attack Iran would be defensible, but they don’t. That’s just for public consumption. What’s actually at stake here is not the survival of Israel, just the preservation of the huge strategic advantage Israel enjoys as the sole nuclear weapons state in the Middle East.

      Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, let the cat out of the bag in a recent interview with Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman for the New York Times Magazine. “From our point of view, a nuclear state offers an entirely different kind of protection to its proxies. Imagine if we enter another military confrontation with Hezbollah, [and a] nuclear Iran announces that an attack on Hezbollah is tantamount to an attack on Iran. We would not necessarily give up on it, but it would definitely restrict our range of operations.”

      Big deal. Israel lost its last military confrontation with Hezbollah in 2006 even with a monopoly of nuclear weapons, but it suffered no lasting harm as a result. If Israel is not facing an existential threat, but just the potential loss of some strategic leverage, then launching an illegal war of aggression against Iran makes no sense at all.

      But there is also a deeper motive. Netanyahu and his allies really think that an attack on Iran would bring the Islamic regime down. As Barak told Bergman: “An Iranian bomb would ensure the survival of the current regime, which otherwise would not make it to its 40th anniversary in light of the admiration that the young generation in Iran has displayed for the West. With a bomb, it would be very hard to budge the administration.”

      So what Barak and his fellow hawk Netanyahu are actually demanding is American support for an attack whose real aim is to bring down the Iranian regime. The thinking is delusional: the notion that the Iranian regime will collapse unless it gets the bomb is held by both Israeli and American hawks, but there is no concrete reason to believe it.

      As Meir Dagan said in a lecture at Tel Aviv University recently, “The fact that someone has been elected doesn’t mean that he is smart.”

      Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.



      Christian Canadian2

      Mar 7, 2012 at 10:12am

      Why should we "Gentiles" be subject to the whims of the "chosen people"?

      If they want to attack go ahead but not in my name.

      Iran is a despotic military / religious dictatorship but the Communist powers of Russia & China are far more dangerous than a mullah ranting in Tehran.

      Taxpayers R Us

      Mar 7, 2012 at 10:28am

      Bomb away. Any leader of a country that adamantly speaks against another country's right to exist - while developing weapons-grade nuclear materials needs to be removed from power in a big way and the quicker the better.


      Mar 7, 2012 at 11:11am

      Russia and China are less Communist than France, what ever the Chinese government might say.

      Christian Canadian3

      Mar 7, 2012 at 11:17am

      Why should we "Gentiles" be subject to the whims of the "Self Proclaimed Chosen People"?

      If they want to attack go ahead and we will stand by and do nothing when they respond to your assault.

      Israel is a despotic military/religious dictatorship but the Corporate/ Socialist powers of Russia and China are no where near as dangerous as an Orthodox Rabbi in Hebron with a Cousin in Florida.


      Mar 7, 2012 at 12:41pm

      @ Taxpayers - Don't let facts get in the way of parroting the propaganda. Look up the quote you're alluding to for starters. It helps to know what you're talking about when you blithely call for the murder of tens of thousands of people.

      SPY vs SPY

      Mar 7, 2012 at 2:05pm

      The commonly accepted reason for the WAR CRY against Iran at this time, is that starting a war now, this War will distract the World from Israels Occupation of Palestine and the Enslavement of Palestinian People.

      Lickud - Nicks are on the record as having said, start a War with Iran and the Global fallout from such a War, will end any and all discussions about Palestine for 10 years or more.

      If you are ready for Oil to be priced at the $250.00 - $300.00 / barrel,


      petr aardvark

      Mar 7, 2012 at 3:46pm

      you have to wonder what the supporters of the Republicans running for president must think when they casually talk about bombing Iran, and just how terrible it would be if Iran got the bomb (especially under Obama). However the fact that North Korea developed the bomb under Bush's watch is never mentioned. In fact Bush policy is probably what spurred them on in the first place. Another bit of history that is not discussed is that the US helped overthrow the democratically elected Iranian president in 1954 simply because the Iranians dared to seek control of their oil resources. (look at the history of BP - when it was called the Anglo Persian oil company) Knowing a number of Iranian people myself over the years, I know the current regime is dictatorial and corrupt and not popular among the younger generation (now the majority) but a strike on Iran is only going to increase its power.

      American Pride

      Mar 7, 2012 at 4:23pm

      More Anti-American/Anti-Israel from this blowhard. Hey Canada maybe your peacekeepers can uh, um...never mind.

      P.S. Your army still taking the year off so your soldiers (Both of them) can recover? LOL.

      SPY vs SPY

      Mar 7, 2012 at 4:58pm

      My Dear American Friend

      158 Canadian soldiers have died in combat in Afghanistan.

      1859 Canadian Soldiers have been wounded in combat in Afghanistan.

      So, if you take a look in a mirror, maybe, just maybe, you'll understand why so many Canadians look at some Americans (folks like you) with disgust and contempt.

      American Pride, just what the fuck are you proud of?

      Christian Canadian2

      Mar 7, 2012 at 5:04pm

      Only a misinformed moron would call present day France Communist.