Talk about déjà
vu all over again.
In September 2010
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg wrote, in a
much ballyhooed article, that "there is a better than 50 percent chance
that Israel will launch a strike [against Iran] by next July," meaning the
summer of 2011.
Sunday, the New York Times Magazine
will feature a
story by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, who writes, "I have come to
believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012."
The two articles
are very similar. It is almost as if Bergman is merely updating Goldberg, primarily
by postponing the supposed date for the attack by a year. That is necessary because
Goldberg's prediction did not pan out — just like the repeated predictions that
Iran would have a nuclear weapon by a particular date keep being pushed back. (Here is former CIA official Bruce
an Israeli attack on Iran in 2007. Here is former
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton predicting that Israel would bomb Iran
in 2008. Here is leading Israeli Iran hawk, General Ephraim Sneh, predicting
that Israel would act by the end of 2009. The attack keeps receding farther into
There are many
more such predictions, just as there are many more articles like those by
Goldberg and Bergman.
striking (even jarring) similarity between the two articles is that both pieces
note that an Israeli attack on Iran would fail to prevent development of an
Iranian bomb and that the collateral effects of an attack would be utterly
horrific. Both cite Israeli intelligence officials who make just those points. (Check
out this new
J Street video, which quotes Israel's most prominent intelligence experts explaining
why attacking Iran would be disastrous.)
Here is Goldberg
in 2010 on what the ramifications
would be once the Israelis begin to bomb Iran, regardless of whether the attack
succeeds or "fail[s] miserably to even make a dent in Iran's nuclear program:
[The Israelis] stand a good
chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and
even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of
Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a
crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and
complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is
Israel's only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat
tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to
cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not
experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973;
of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making
them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the
past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel's
conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper
Here is Bergman this
week on ramifications
of an attack:
the end, a successful attack would not eliminate the knowledge possessed by the
project's scientists, and it is possible that Iran, with its highly developed
technological infrastructure, would be able to rebuild the damaged or wrecked
sites. What is more, unlike Syria, which did not respond after the destruction
of its reactor in 2007, Iran has openly declared that it would strike back
ferociously if attacked. Iran has hundreds of Shahab missiles armed with warheads
that can reach Israel, and it could harness Hezbollah to strike at Israeli
communities with its 50,000 rockets, some of which can hit Tel Aviv. (Hamas in
Gaza, which is also supported by Iran, might also fire a considerable number of
rockets on Israeli cities.) According to Israeli intelligence, Iran and
Hezbollah have also planted roughly 40 terrorist sleeper cells across the
globe, ready to hit Israeli and Jewish targets if Iran deems it necessary to
retaliate. And if Israel responded to a Hezbollah bombardment against Lebanese
targets, Syria may feel compelled to begin operations against Israel, leading
to a full-scale war. On top of all this, Tehran has already threatened to close
off the Persian Gulf to shipping, which would generate a devastating ripple
through the world economy as a consequence of the rise in the price of oil.
Nonetheless, both authors predict with a
certain level of assurance that Israel will attack anyway. In essence, they are
saying that the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu is as insane as neoconservatives
say the Iranian government is. They are saying that, yes, attacking Iran might
lead to the devastation of Israel, even the destruction of the Jewish state,
but that the government of Israel might do it anyway.
Why? Because it honestly believes that the
Iranian government is so dedicated to a second Holocaust that it would risk its
own annihilation, not to mention the eradication of the Palestinian people as
well as destruction of some of the holiest sites in Islam in its own initial
Sorry. I don't
believe it. I don't believe the Iranian government is either insane or suicidal;
I don't believe the Israeli government is insane or suicidal.
And I doubt the
authors believe that either. It is not Israel's elimination they are worried
about; it is the elimination of Israel's nuclear monopoly and its regional
hegemony. The Israelis themselves admit as much, with Defense Minister Ehud
Charlie Rose last year that if he were an Iranian government official, he
would probably want a weapon, too — not to destroy Israel but because "they
look around, they see the Indians are nuclear, the Chinese are nuclear,
Pakistan is nuclear, not to mention the Russians." And the Israelis, obviously.
Bottom line: The
purpose of these articles is not to predict an Israeli attack but to force the
United States government into piling on sanction after sanction (with war
always an option) rather than pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
It makes no
sense. And yet, due to the pressure of the pro-war lobby, it is diplomacy that
is barely on the table, while war, always the direst option, is front and
center. That was plain when President Obama delivered his State of the Union
address earlier this week.
Iran, President Obama said
at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided
about how to deal with Iran's nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is
more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions,
and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not
relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from
getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve
a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if
Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of
were measured. The first part was tough, almost threatening, ending with a
clear allusion to the possibility of war.
second part referring to a "peaceful resolution" spoke to the president's
preference: avoiding another Middle East war.
So how did
It was silent
until Obama stated that he would take "no options off the table." That allusion
to war caused the chamber to erupt in cheers. The second piece, the reference to
a "peaceful resolution" was met with silence, except for scattered applause
from perhaps a dozen legislators.
article (like Goldberg's earlier piece) is designed to keep things just this
way. Sanctions up to a point. War, if deemed necessary, farther down the road.
And ideally a war fought by the United States and not Israel, to preserve not
Israel's security but its regional hegemony.
If the American
people allow that to happen, we are truly out of our minds.
The good news is
that President Ahmadinejad now
says he is ready for negotiations (whether the country's supreme leader is may be
another story). How about President Obama just agreeing to talk — for once
without conditions dictated by the pro-war lobby.
But who am I
kidding? It is the lobby, and its cutouts in Congress, who are driving this
issue. And they want war. That is probably one reason Goldberg and Bergman are
so sure it will happen. The lobby usually gets what it wants.