Sunday, July 8, 2012

Post #287 - Another View

Yesterday, I resurrected an essay by Dr. Robert O. Freeman. Today, I'd like to take a look at the other article on Iran in that same number in 2009 of the periodical Israel Horizons. This was written by Gidon D. Remba, executive director of the Jewish Alliance for Change, a progressive group which does not advocate launching an attack on Iran. Zemba served in the Israeli office of the prime minister at the time of the Camp Accords.

Zemba was writing about the same set of facts and unknowns as Freeman. His conclusions, though, were different. He emphasized the consensus of a number of very knowledgable folks in both the United States and Israel that a strike on Iran might prove to be a textbook model of "unintended consequences." He quotes a CSIS study by Cordesman and Toukan that: "it is questionable whether Israel has the military capability to destroy Iran's nuclear program, or even to delay it for several years." He cites the danger to which I alluded: "Hezbollah now has some 40,000 rockets; Israel does not have a response to these rockets. [Defense systems] being developed...are still far from completion, and even after they become operational, it is doubtful they will prove effective against thousands of rockets launched at Israel." (One is reminded of Reagan's Star Wars project.)

The other variance with Freeman is that Zemba is bold enough to speak aloud the idea of "Plan B" -- learning to live with a nuclear Iran. Those who feel as Alan Dershowitz does (Zemba quotes a WSJ article), think that this would "weaken the security of the Jewish state." He cites the belief of Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi Farkash (former chief of Israeli intelligence) that Israeli perception of the Iranian threat is "distorted" -- that Israel is not, in fact, the "main motive for seeking a nuclear weapons capability, but that as Zemba points out, there are those high up in Mossad who think the Iranian endeavor is primarily "to deter U.S. intervention and efforst at regime change," rather than implementing any aggressive scenario.

So, let's look at the facts. People like former U.N. ambassador John Bolton or former vice-president Dick Cheney are not going to be comfortable with anything less than a pre-emptive, military and covert assault. People like Colin Powell and President Obama are not going to be persuaded that an attack on Iran is anything but a foolhardy adventure. Zemba points out that "the point of negotiations is to establish an intrusive inspections system not unlike the one that succeeded in preventing Saddam from re-developing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a fact that Bolton [or Cheney, one might add] finds too inconvenient to acknowledge."

Coming closer to the present, Karen Brulliard reported from Tel Aviv for the Post this year that Israelis have been raising questions regarding their own preparedness for what might be kicked off by an attack on Iran. Some of it is nuts-and-bolts concerns: "nearly 40 per cent of Israelis...still lack gas masks...more than half [of them have] no access to bomb shelters." Brulliard quotes Israel's military intelligence director that "200,000 rockets and missiles in the region could strike inside Israel." "Iron Dome" -- the Israeli defense system cited by Freeman and Zemba -- "is deployed only in three sites in southern Israel...and a site near Tel Aviv." There is also a fear that the blowback might "paralyze the economy."

Noting that the efforts to produce masks and build shelters seems half-hearted, Brulliard says that "some [see] evidence that Netanyahu's crescendoing war talk is largely bluster." (Indeed, Zemba had cited a political scientist's guess that "all those indications portending an Israeli attack...might actually indicate that Israel is trying to...deter Iran, rather than attack it.")

Certainly, all evidence seems to show that Israel has very much been a part of the cyber-war that goes on against Iran. Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick, reporting for the Washingon Post, said those efforts have been "the work of U.S. and Israeli experts" as confirmed by "current and former U.S. officials." Beginning in 2006 (under Bush), "administration officials developed the idea of using a compute worm, with Israeli assistance, to damage Irainian centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz." One U.S. official admitted, "This will certainly play into their fears about what else is out there...It certainly won't make them eager to get back to the negotiating table."

These are dangerous games and only one thing is certain -- those who move the pieces on the board are themselves likely to survive the end-game; only those actually on the board (American, Israeli or Iranian citizens) need worry.

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