Continuing U.S. Conflict With Iran: Parts I and II

June 26th, 2012
in Op Ed

by Fabius Maximus, Alias of the Anonymous Writings of the Authors at the Fabius Maximus Blog

Part I

Summary:  After 80 previous postings on the long-standing conflict with Iran, at last we discuss the mystery of this conflict: why so many years of bold threats by US and Israel against Iran, saber-rattling never followed by military action? Usually this weakens the aggressors, making them look like paper tigers — diminishing their reputations and credibility. What do we seek to accomplish? The answer is obvious (like the Emperor’s new clothes), although almost never stated in our news media or by our geopolitical experts (who prefer pretty lies). Sanctions, not war, are the tool shaping the Middle East into a form better suiting the US-Israel-Saudi alliance.

Follow up:

Why Do They Hate Us?

We are now in the fifth year of the most recent phase of a long-term campaign against Iran, extending back to the Iranian Revolution in 1979. This phase began in December 2007 with release of the National Intelligence Estimate Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, stating that in 2003 Iran stopped its explicit program to develop atomic weapons. This changed the dynamics of the struggle from explicit war-mongering of the previous phase (“Anyone can go to Bagdad. Real men go to Tehran”), which assumed that Iran — like Iraq — was developing WMDs and hence a legitimate target of western force (ie, the debate was about when and how).

Dire forecasts that Iran will have nukes soon go back to 1984 (see Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again)).  So many years of empty threats and repeated false forecasts are expensive, resulting in diminished reputation and credibility.  Especially in the past year, contradicted by so many statements by US officials and retired Israeli officials.

Are our actions rational? What are our goals in this conflict? To see our goals, see what we’ve accomplished: an ever-tightening network of sanctions on Iran, strangling its finances, trade, and infrastrcuture development. After the destruction of the Baathist State in Iraq, the Shiite regime in Iran was the only potential regional hegemon.  The only State capable of and willing to oppose US suzerainty in the Middle East, Israel’s expansion into the Palestinian territories, and the Sunni domination of Islam.  Both Iran and Iraq have vast oil reserves, and crippling them not only pushed up oil prices but also removed them as potential leaders of OPEC — making weakening Iran a hat trick for the Saudi Princes.

Of course, the US has long targeted Iran and Iraq as potential regional rivals to be controlled or broken.  Operation Ajax in 1953 installed a friendly regime in Iran. The US was to some degree involved in the November 1963 coup d’état in Iraq. More recently there were the UN sanctions against Iraq from 1990 – 2003, which long outlived their original purpose — but nicely served the alliance’s interests, making invasion and occupation feasible.

Alliances are born and thrive amidst shared goals, and the US-Israel-Saudi alliance has been one of the most successful of the 21st century’s first decades. It’s so obvious and simple that it require no coodination, just clear understanding of each nation’s goals.

Will the US or Israel attack Iran?

israel-saudi-flagsProbably not.

  • High risk. Who knows how Iran will repsond?
  • It might build support for Iran among nations with large Islamic populations, and even among nonaligned nations.
  • It might boost support for jihadists in western and Islamic nations.
  • It might not substantially damage Iran’s (legal) enrichment programs.

The discussion of war is red-meat for the armchair strategists who provide cheerleaders for the US military machine (which has eaten US foreign policy). But the senior leaders of the US-Israel-Saudi alliance are not blood-thirsty like the fools in the bleachers cheering for immediate war. Sanctions worked well to weaken Iraq, and will do the same to Iran,   The sanctions against Iran began in 2006, and become tight and oppressive later this year (see Wikipedia). Perhaps in 5 or 10 years Iran too will become vulnerable for invasion, occupation, and neutering. Especially if economic hardship creates internal strife (aided by US and Israeli  subversion programs, including support for anti-regime terrorists).

It’s called RealPolitik. Done in the name of the American people, although producing no benefits for us.


Part II

Summary:  More evidence is presented that neither the US nor Israel plans to attack Iran soon, based not just on the evidence and logic of the situation, but also on statements of senior Israeli officials.  This has been the standing forecast on the FM website since 2007.  See the links at the end for more information about our conflict with Iran.

Let's Not Go There

I received pushback from readers in response to The hidden objective of our alliance against Iran (June 11), showing that trade sanctions on Iran — not military strikes — were the primary tool of the informal US-Israel-Saudi alliance.  Their goal: to weaken Iran. Exaggerated, often fanciful, stories about Iran getting nukes and using nukes justify the sanctions. The news media narrative has this backwards.

This is logical as realpolitik — a safe means of meeting the individual goals of the tripartite alliance (explained in that post), and explains both the continued heated rhetoric despite so much evidence Iran stopped its direct bomb program in 2003 (for details see here and here).

Sanctions as the goal (not an intermediate step) also explains the strong criticism by so many officials in America and Israel of those beating war-drums (governments are not unitary entities; many officials in the US and Israel love wars).  Today we look at a few of the most prominent examples of the past year.  These officials do not challenge the basics of alliance policy — that Iran will get nukes soon (claims made incessantly since 1984) — merely the need for and risks of attacking Iran now.

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan referred to the possibility a future Israeli Air Force attack on Iranian nuclear facilities as “the stupidest thing I have ever heard” during a conference held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Friday. Dagan’s presentation during a senior faculty conference was his first public appearance since leaving his former role as chief of the Mossad at the end of September 2010.

Dagan said that Iran has a clandestine nuclear infrastructure which functions alongside its legitimate, civil infrastructure. It is the legitimate infrastructure, he said, that is under international supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Any strike on this legitimate infrastructure would be “patently illegal under international law,” according to Dagan.

… When asked about what would happen in the aftermath of an Israeli attack Dagan said that: “It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end.”

Haaretz, 7 May 2011


Cheerleaders for war

When it comes to fateful issues pertaining to security and the state, the head of the Mossad must say his piece after leaving the post, {Danny} Yatom {Director of Mossad 1996-98} told Israel Radio. Yatom said that he too opposed the idea of attacking Iran as it would not achieve the intended goal.
Haaretz, 8 May 2011

Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan on Wednesday said that a strike on Iran should only be considered as the last resort and after all other means and methods have been exhausted. Speaking at a conference at the Tel Aviv University, Dagan said: “A military attack will give the Iranians the best excuse to pursue the nuclear race. Khamenei will say ‘I was attacked by a country with nuclear capabilities; my nuclear program was peaceful, but I must protect my country. ” The former secret service chief warned that if a regional war breaks after Israel attacks Iran, Hezbollah will join forces with the Islamic Republic, and Syria might also be dragged into the confrontation.
Ynet, 1 June 2011

Former Mossad Chief Ephraim Halevy warned against an Israeli strike on Iran, saying that the results of a confrontation could be devastating for the Mideast. “The State of Israel cannot be destroyed,” he told Ynet on Friday. “An attack on Iran could affect not only Israel, but the entire region for 100 years.” The former head of the Israeli secret service said Thursday during an army boarding school reunion that while Iran should be prevented from becoming a nuclear power, its capabilities are still “far from posing an existential threat to Israel.”
Ynet, 4 November 2011

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has added his voice to a growing chorus of Israeli officials against a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Olmert spoke to Israel’s Channel 10 TV from New York Sunday. “There is no reason at this time not to talk about a military effort,” he said, “but definitely not to initiate an Israeli military strike.” Olmert was Israel’s prime minister from 2006-2009.
Ynet, 29 April 2012

Speaking at a conference in central Israel, Yuval Diskin {Director of the Israel security agency Shabak 2005-11} said: “I don’t trust a leadership that relies on messianic leadership. Our two messiahs from Caesarea and from the Akirov Towers are not fit to stand at the helm of the government.” He slammed the Netanyahu and Barak over the Iranian nuclear program, saying that they “present the public with a mirage. “If Israel acts against the Iranian nuclear bomb, the attack will encourage the Iranians to produce a bomb even faster,” he noted.
Ynet, 27 April 2012

A strike on Iran is “not needed tomorrow morning,” but Israel does need to present a credible military threat alongside sanctions and diplomatic action, former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi said on Sunday. Speaking at The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City, Ashkenazi said the right strategy was to continue the economic crackdown on Iran as well as actions that take place “under the radar.”

“I think we still have time. It is not tomorrow morning,” Ashkenazi said. “It is better to persuade our friends in the world and the region that it is a global threat and [the government] has done a good job on this. In any case, Israel needs its own capability since we cannot [live] under an [Iranian] nuclear umbrella,” he said.

“We need crippling sanctions and much more severe sanctions. It might now be too late and too light and it needs to be supported by a credible military threat,” he added.
Jerusalem Post, 29 April 2012

Killing is fashionable in America

There are other interpretations of the situation. For example see “Ex-Mossad Chief: Israeli Attack Would Help Iran Go Nuclear” by Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, 13 June 2012:

“Meir Dagan says Bibi and Barak are serious about attacking the Islamic Republic.”

Important US voices agree that we should not attack now

The indication is that at best it [military action] might postpone it [Iran's nuclear program] maybe by one or possibly two years. It depends on the ability to truly get at the targets that they’re after. Frankly, some of those targets are very difficult to get at… [T]he consequence could be that we would have an escalation that would take place that would not only involve many lives, but I think could consume the Middle East in confrontation and conflict that we would regret.
— Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, 2 December 2011 (DoD transcript)

[D]iplomacy and economic sanctions are better suited than military action to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran, that Israeli security will be best served by military restraint combined with greater U.S.-Israeli cooperation, and that the Iranian people offer the surest hope for a future Iran that is more amenable to U.S. interests. An Israeli or American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would make it more, not less, likely that the Iranian regime would decide to produce and deploy nuclear weapons. Such an attack would also make it more, not less, difficult to contain Iranian influence.
— “How to Defuse Iran’s Nuclear Threat“, RAND, Spring 2012 — “Bolster Diplomacy, Israeli Security, and the Iranian Citizenry”

[A] a clean, calibrated conflict is a mirage. Any war with Iran would be a messy and extraordinarily violent affair, with significant casualties and consequences…. A U.S. strike would damage key Iranian facilities, but it would do nothing to reverse the nuclear knowledge Iran has accumulated or its ability to eventually build new centrifuges. A U.S. attack would also likely rally domestic Iranian support around nuclear hard-liners, increasing the odds that Iran would emerge from a strike even more committed to building a bomb.
— Colin H. Kahl (Deputy Asst SecDef for the Middle East 2009-2011, “Not Time to Attack Iran – Why War Should Be a Last Resort“, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2012

Past predictions on the FM website that no attack was imminent on Iran

Looking back it’s astonishing to read the many predictions by major experts that the US or Israel would bomb Iran soon. Or very soon.  Analysis on the FM website has suggested otherwise (after 2010 the picture grew darker).

(a) Will Israel commit suicide? More rumors of a strike at Iran , 22 December 2007:

For all these reasons I doubt Israel will attack Iran.  But that is just a guess.

(b) Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone?, 17 March 2008:

Is this analysis, prophecy, or fun speculation for the box-office? Not much substance here by which to decide. I suspect the prize is behind door #3:  no war with Iran. Bush has neither the political capital nor laid a sufficient foundation with either the American people or our allies.

(c)Are Israel’s leaders insane? Jeffrey Goldberg thinks so., 15 August 2010.  A rebuttal (correct, in fact) to Goldberg’s forecast in “The Point of No Return“ (The Atlantic, September 2010) that “there is a better than 50% chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July.”

attacking Iran would the point of no return for Israel. I doubt they’ll do it. The leaders of neither Iran nor Israel are psychos.

(d) The reports in 2009 that Iran was close to having a bomb were false:  Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 February 2009. Three years later western intelligence confirms this.

For more information about our conflict with Iran

See the FM Reference Page about Iran, with these sections:

  1. Background Information about Iran
  2. Posts about Iran
  3. About Iran’s nukes
  4. Information operations to build support for war with Iran
  5. Posts about a strike by the US at Iran
  6. Posts about a strike by Israel at Iran
  7. Strafor about Iran’s atomic programs
  8. Articles about a war with Iran

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