SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2009
Iran Is No Existential Threat
The best way to rescue Obama's failing diplomacy with the Islamic Republic is to stop letting Israel call the shots.
BY HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, FLYNT LEVERETT | DECEMBER 4, 2009
After months of halfhearted, fruitless attempts at engagement, the United States and its European partners are effectively re-enacting George W. Bush's Iran policy. In 2006, after Iran had ended a nearly two-year voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment, then-U.S. president pushed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to send Iran's nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council, which duly imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic. But the sanctions did not prove "crippling," as Bush had hoped: Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure, and the risks of a military confrontation between the United States and Iran climbed.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama's administration has decided to repeat this sorry history. Last Friday, the IAEA passed a resolution urging Iran to send most of its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad. It also reported Iran once again to the Security Council. Iran has wasted no time in upping the ante rather than backing down, saying it would restrict cooperation with the IAEA only to those measures "statutorily" required. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also announced that the Islamic Republic would build 10 new enrichment facilities in coming years. He later added, "Iran will produce fuel enriched to a level of 20 percent," the level required for Iran's research reactor in Tehran. This would be well above the 3 to 4 percent level that Iran has already achieved in producing low-enriched uranium and would take Iran closer to the 90 percent-plus level required for weapons-grade fissile material.
These developments again demonstrate the counterproductive futility of enshrining uranium enrichment and sanctions as the keys to resolving the nuclear issue. By prompting Tehran to reduce cooperation with the IAEA, the United States and its European partners have done real damage to the international community's ability to monitor the state of Iran's nuclear program. More broadly, U.S., British, and French insistence on "zero enrichment" in Iran makes successful nuclear diplomacy with Tehran impossible. At this point, there is no chance that Tehran will accept "zero enrichment" as a negotiated outcome, for at least two reasons: It is a country-specific formulation applied to Iran but not to anybody else, and it requires Iran to forswear its sovereign right to the full range of civil nuclear technology.
If the United States and its partners continue on their present course, the Islamic Republic will continue to expand its nuclear infrastructure, and the risks of an eventual military confrontation between the United States (or Israel, with U.S. support) and Iran will, once again, rise inexorably. There is no set of sanctions the Security Council might plausibly authorize that would change this reality, and various unilateral and secondary sanctions initiatives moving through the U.S. Congress will not work either.
A more constructive approach would seek to maximize international monitoring of Iran's nuclear activities by emphasizing country-neutral formulations for curbing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. This would require international acceptance of enrichment on Iranian soil. Getting Iran to ratify and implement the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would be an important step in this direction, but the most effective country-neutral initiative would be the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the region.
Although talk of an NWFZ -- or, more broadly, a weapons of mass destruction-free zone (WMDFZ) -- in the Middle East is not new, serious consideration of these ideas in U.S. foreign policy circles always stops as soon as Israel's nuclear status comes up. For years, the Israeli position has been that, once Arab-Israeli peace is achieved, it might become possible for Israel to join in creating an NWFZ/WMDFZ in the region. Although American foreign-policy elites typically take this position at face value, it deserves a higher degree of critical scrutiny.
It is simply not analytically credible to describe the unresolved Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese tracks of the Middle East peace process as "existential threats" to Israel. The 1978 Egypt-Israel Camp David accords effectively dispelled the prospect of Arab armies uniting to "push the Jews into the sea." Similarly, there is no amount of additional armed capabilities that would allow Palestinian and Lebanese militants to destroy Israel without also destroying the populations they are ostensibly seeking to liberate.
More recently, the dominant Israeli discourse about Iran has routinely characterized an Islamic Republic with a nuclear "breakout" capability -- not to mention actual nuclear weapons -- as an "existential threat" to Israel. (Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have reiterated Israel's position that Iran's full suspension of uranium enrichment is the only acceptable outcome from nuclear talks with Tehran.) But this position, too, does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny. It is not analytically serious to describe an Iran with mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle as an existential threat to Israel or any other state. Even if Iran were to fabricate a nuclear weapon, it is not credible to describe that as an existential threat to Israel -- unless one has such a distorted view of Shiite Islam that one believes the Islamic Republic is so focused on damaging "the Zionist entity" that it is collectively willing to become history's first "suicide nation."
Rhetoric from senior officials and politicians characterizing Iran as an existential threat resonates with the Israeli public, for understandable historical reasons, and Ahmadinejad's statements questioning the Holocaust only reinforce Israeli fears. As a result, there is, effectively, no political debate in Israel about Iran policy.
But, when Israeli politicians and policymakers use politically effective rhetoric about Iran's nuclear development being an existential threat to Israel, what is really motivating them? Fundamentally, Israel's political and policy elites are focused on eliminating Iran's fuel-cycle capabilities in order to preserve a regional balance of power that is strongly tilted in Israel's favor. Regional perceptions that the Islamic Republic had achieved a "breakout" capability would begin to chip away at Israel's long-standing nuclear-weapons monopoly. That, in turn, might begin to constrain Israel's currently unconstrained freedom of unilateral military action.
One can readily appreciate why Israel values its status as the Middle East's military hegemon and wants to maintain the maximum possible room for unilateral military initiative. But that strategic preference is not legitimated by the U.N. Charter, the laws of war, or any international convention. Moreover, Israel's strategic preference for preserving and enhancing its military hegemony does not, at this point, serve the cause of regional stability or containing the spread of nuclear weapons capabilities in the Middle East.
The United States has an abiding commitment to Israel's survival and security. But that commitment should not be confused with maintaining Israel's military hegemony over the region in perpetuity, by continuing to allow U.S. assurances of an Israeli "qualitative edge" for defensive purposes to be twisted into assurances of maximum freedom for Israel to conduct offensive military operations at will against any regional target.
It is time for the United States and its international partners to get serious about creating a regionwide framework for controlling WMD capabilities in the Middle East, including the full range of Israel's WMD capabilities, to create a more secure environment for all Middle Eastern states. Obama's observation, in his June 4 Cairo speech, that no single country should determine which other countries are permitted to have particular types of weapons, could be a positive first step in this direction. But, if he does not follow up purposefully, this will become one more good Obama idea that ends up disappointing the expectations it initially raised.
Flynt Leverett directs the New America Foundation's Iran Initiative and teaches international affairs at Pennsylvania State University. Hillary Mann Leverett is the chief executive officer of Stratega, a political risk consultancy. Together, they have more than 20 years of experience working on Middle East issues for the U.S. government, including at the National Security Council and the State Department, and now publish www.TheRaceForIran.com.
Of all the nonsense said to justify an Israeli or US attack against Iran, the existential threat tops the list. "existential threat" is thrown around mostly unchallenged. There is no existential threat to Israel.ReplyDelete
It seems to me that Efraim Halevy is about 100 times more deserving of the Nobel Peace prize than Barack Hussein Obama. Perhaps for 2010, Efraim Halevy will be the prince of peace.ReplyDelete
This may seem an interesting day to post this but historically not. There was a real existential threat to Isreal from Rome and Jesus of Nazareth was born into it.
The Jews were anxiously looking for a messiah to lead them from under the tyrrany of Rome. It did not quite work out that way for them, but through the works of Paul and Peter, one of the great religions evolved.
It didn't end Rome but it certainly changed it.
Christian, Jew or Druid, enjoy this most important of Holy Day (holiday), important for many reasons, not all them for the same reason.
National police hunting for a wounded insurgent commander "mistakenly" ambushed a vehicle carrying a member of the Afghan parliament, killing him and his son. President Hamid Karzai ordered an "investigation" of the incident, which took place overnight in Baghlan province in Afghanistan's north.ReplyDelete
The parliament member must not have gotten the word that reforming corruption was not the legislative priority in Kabul this year.
Vehicular Mayhem of the Suicidal Stripe:ReplyDelete
Two survivors from this Italian Train Wreck?
Jeeze, at dinner I was telling the wife about a guy that bought a used almost new Ferrari, and paid as much as the cost of car EACH YEAR for insurance.
I related a couple of the MANY recent SOCAL incidents with new Ferraris turned into dissected junk.
Add one more with this latest.
2164:Of all the nonsense said to justify an Israeli or US attack against Iran, the existential threat tops the list. "existential threat" is thrown around mostly unchallenged. There is no existential threat to Israel.ReplyDelete
We were taken into the Iraq War because of the "existential threat" of 19 guys with box-cutters doing a second sucker punch.
Yeah, well that was easier than instituting Al Gore's computerized airline security plan.ReplyDelete
...by the time the airlines and Clinton Admin got through with it, we had the worthless invitation to terror.
Poor Algore had not been informed that profiling is a mortal sin.
...as 'Rat is always happy to point out.
The fact that it works most time it's tried?
Inconsequential detail, really.
Fences and Profiles work, but we won't get to PC Heaven that way,ReplyDelete
"In those moments, even if your partner understands your condition, thoughts like that can still intrude. "Being intimate can be hard," explains Victoria Gardner Nye, 35, from Cambridge, Mass., who has had psoriasis since she was a teenager. "Especially if they’re kissing you near your psoriasis. I know that my husband doesn’t care.ReplyDelete
But I worry he’s going to get a flake in his mouth." "
I hate it when that happens.
So, has anyone taken that Shingles Vacine?ReplyDelete
Are shingles the one that T's Cherry Juice works on?
That Iran is or not an existential threat to Israel is debatable.ReplyDelete
1. Iran's bellicosity toward Israel, 2. the Mullahs' steadfast belief in the imminent return of the Mahdi,
3. Iran's support of Hesbollah and Hamas
Iran is certainly a threat to Israelis.
Santa Claus And His Old Lady Cheech and ChongReplyDelete
That Lout al-Bob has Gout?ReplyDelete
Serves him right.
GD online porno purveyor.
Plus a nuclear Iran will bring boot licking, bowing and scraping, ass-kissing appeasers out of the UN woodwork. The one-sided judgments and condemnation of the Jews will become more disproportionate.ReplyDelete
The Islamists will be in their glory.
Original 45 Version of Santa Claus and..ReplyDelete
Cherry juice? That reminds me, time to get my Christmas nookie.ReplyDelete
Just stay away from the flakes.ReplyDelete
Sounds like you can't buy T's Cherry Juice @ the local SuperMercado.ReplyDelete
Police Got My CarReplyDelete
Up in SmokeReplyDelete
Mostly Maui Wowee plus some Labradore.ReplyDelete
"Judge Gladys Dykes"ReplyDelete
Vell, I don't know.ReplyDelete
If three or four nukes can end your country--and three or four nukes could decapitate even the United States--and they are in the hands of people who say continually they want to do that, and their religion calls for them to do it, it seems like a heck of a threat to me.
I'm betting his is a minority opinion in the Mossad.
Maybe he has some reason for saying what he says that's not so apparent, I don't know. Can't think what it would be, though.
This is for Doug (and al-bob)ReplyDelete
Before WWII, many famous Americans, including the great Lindbergh, were very vocal in there opposition to a more militant stand against Germamy. To their minds, Germany posed no threat. They were wrong.ReplyDelete
First Arab Terrorist Hijacking on American SoilReplyDelete
Did you call al-Bob's wife to inform her to administer the medication, Whit?ReplyDelete
In this situation Israel can only be wrong once. It's an awfully bad situation, and makes me depressed.ReplyDelete
"Cut off their eyelids so they can watch!"ReplyDelete
"inform your wife or others under your command"ReplyDelete
heh, that won't work for me, she's never been under my command, can't think of anyone who is actually, not even the cat.
Besides, some of these aliens have been around for decades, called the Nordics, they look just like me.
The real value of Mr. Halevy's message begins at about 5:20. It is that we cannot continue to fight the "non-state actors" with one hand tied behind our back. He addresses what we have said repeatedly here at the EB about the Geneva convention being totally inadequate to address the Islamist uprising.ReplyDelete
Born In East L.A .ReplyDelete
'Rat's Dream Come True!ReplyDelete
Getting the US to attack Iran is the Jewish neocons' dream that Israeli-friendly Americans could somehow "guide" America into an attack and remove Israel's supposed security threat, yet not cost the Zionists a single life or shekel in the process.ReplyDelete
Obama is not foolish enough to fall for that.
...nor is Reverend Wright.ReplyDelete
Just that BHO and Wright have different reasons than me.
F..... Black Marxist Liberationists.ReplyDelete
...not to mention Fascist anti-Semites.
Not on Christmas Day.
I am going bury this post.ReplyDelete
Damn, bob, you blog your porn 24/7!ReplyDelete
I'd much rather look at porn than read Cedarford. Porn at least is stimulating.ReplyDelete
Cedarford Stimulates my patriotic impulses.ReplyDelete
Doug: Sounds like you can't buy T's Cherry Juice @ the local SuperMercado.ReplyDelete
In Sharia, everything is prohibited de facto, but I have had an "ulema" vet my cherry juice.
Physical Misogyny on Tape!
Uvula Tet your your Cherry Juice?ReplyDelete
...but offensive, nonetheless,ReplyDelete
as all Tets are.
The true reason for the season:ReplyDelete
Life's about film stars and less about mothers
It's all about fast cars and cussing each other
But it doesn't matter cause I'm packing plastic
And that's what makes my life so fucking fantastic
Tet was, and IS,ReplyDelete
an Existential Threat.
all those links...
the same url
Can you spell
The Islamic Whirled is not monolithic.ReplyDelete
In fact, the sworn enemies of those Wahabbist Muslims that attacked US on 9-11-01 as well as before and since, are the Iranian Mullahs that some here are obsessed with starting a war with.
In that regard there is a vast difference 'tween the Islamic Whirled and Nazi Germany.
And the response to the challenge of Islamic expansion will need to be vastly different than that used with the NAZI regime.
The Islamic expansion is not a military one. No where are their armies marching. Their Wahabbist action agents have staged raids into the United States, but the US Government denies that those agents are or were State sponsored, excepting to a small degree by the Taliban regime of Afghanistan.
We deny the Saudi and Pakistani influences upon aQ.
So, there are no Armies to defeat.
No Nations to conquer.
Only poppy fields to police.
To raid upon Iran is the fools gambit. No long nor even short term gain would be realized.
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