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Israel—Alone Again?

February 5, 2008
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Many of the observations made about the NIE statement ignore the spiritual motivation that inspires Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who believes passionately in the soon return of the Shiite messiah—the Vanished Imam or the Mahdi. Ahmadinejad believes he has a divine role in preparing for the return of the Mahdi. His personal belief is that this return cannot take place without an Armageddon, a doomsday that is no less than a global calamity. He is so convinced the Mahdi will soon appear that he had a boulevard in Tehran paved for the occasion. Non-believing analysts might downplay the passion of the man, but it remains far from frozen and functions as passionately as ever.

The Jerusalem Post columnist Carolyn Glick wrote, “The NIE’s message to Israel and world Jewry is clear. Again, we are alone in our moment of peril. It is high time that our political and military leaders acknowledge this fact, stop hoping that someone else will save us, and get to work on defending us.” The reaction within the Israel intelligence community and the Israel Defense Forces highlights the fear that Israel will once again be David left to confront Goliath. The Americans now claim Iranian nuclear capabilities will arrive in 2013 at the earliest, while the Mossad has reported to its Israeli leaders that 2009 will be the year. To add to the confusion, Israel’s military intelligence says Iran will cross the technical threshold within six months. If Israel’s estimates are correct, David will keep his slingshot on standby.

Maj-General (res) Uzi Dayan said, “Israel cannot deter Iran just by being strong. We are vulnerable because our country is so small and would be particularly endangered if the Iranians achieve a nuclear weapons capability. In addition, if Iran achieves such capability, it will proliferate very quickly to terror organizations, which is reason enough for Israel to defeat both Hizbullah and Hamas.” Uzi Dayan made this comment in February 2007. His remarks were re-released in December by the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs (JCPA) in light of the NIE announcement.

The US–Iraq–Iran Triangle

There is major interest in what role US President George Bush played in the process. Just weeks before the public announcement, he warned that activities in Iran could lead to World War III. The authors of the NIE report were Thomas Fingar, Vann Van Diepen, and Kenneth Brill, all US State Department officials on loan to the office of the Director of National Intelligence. In her Jerusalem Post column, Carolyn Glick wrote, “According to the Wall Street Journal, all three are reputed to be deeply partisan and hostile to Bush’s foreign policy goals. Furthermore, for the past four years, the three have reportedly worked studiously to downplay the danger of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and to discredit their opponents within the administration.”

The Stratfor news and intelligence service wondered if the United States and Iran may soon begin serious talks about the future of Iraq. Did this NIE report prepare the way for the US administration to shelve Iranian war talk? The Stratfor report suggests “a deal has been struck,” referring to the United States, Iran, and Iraq.

Within this intriguing possibility are the Sunni and Shiite Muslim tensions. When Baghdad last had Sunni power, it resulted in more than one million Iranian casualties during the 1980–1988 war. There is a real danger Iran plans to dominate Iraq as soon as a United States withdrawal takes place.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Jeffrey Flieshman said, “Suspicion that Iran seeks to dominate the Persian Gulf region has prompted some Middle Eastern states…including Saudi Arabia, which the US regards as the leading Arab voice, to increase military spending.”

“The [NIE] report sends assurance to the gulf countries and particularly to the Saudi kingdom,” said Nabil Abdel Fattah, an analyst with the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “The gulf countries know that if the US strikes Iran, they will turn into Iranian hostages,” he said.

There are those in America who have made astute observations about the NIE headline. John Bolton is the former US ambassador to the UN (2005–6). (He was US undersecretary of State for Arms Control with his key responsibility being the prevention of proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2001–2005.) In an article in the Washington Post, Bolton said, “The headline finding—that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003—is written in a way that guarantees the totality of the conclusions will be misread.” He was interested that the NIE report specifically said the Iranian nuclear activity stopped in 2003. The former Undersecretary of State said it is interesting the United States was not imposing sanctions on Iran at that time but “we did attack Iraq.” He inferred that Iran had taken the message that the United States was serious about dealing with rebellious regimes. The US military aggression, he thought, had been the major influence on the Iranian decision.

Israel Not Convinced

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak contradicted the NIE report outright. “It seems Iran in 2003 halted for a certain period of time, its nuclear program, but as far as we know, it has probably since revived it,” he told Israeli Army Radio. Stratfor reported, “Barak’s statement indicates that Israel will be watching Iran like a hawk and will not give up its option to take unilateral action, should it become convinced that Iran has revived and/or is clandestinely pursuing a weapons program.”

“I don’t buy that Iran has stopped manufacturing nuclear weapons but continues enriching uranium for civilian purposes,” Israel Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel’s Army Radio. He queried the earlier US assessments that Iran could have a nuclear bomb by 2009. Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister and Labor Party Knesset [Parliament] member General Ephraim Sneh was in the United States when the announcement was made. “It must be a lie, a deception,” he said. When he was convinced the report was genuine, he said it “means that the United States is signaling that it will do nothing on Iran and will abandon its responsibilities. I told them so. I always said that, in the end, Israel would have to do this alone.”

Among the Israelis commenting on the report is Gerald M. Steinberg, head of political studies at Bar Ilan University. In a document released by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, he said: “If Israeli intelligence concludes that the red lines are closer than those perceived in the United States, Israel could still use force unilaterally (as was the case in Prime Minister Begin’s decision to destroy Iraq’s Osiraq reactor in 1981). But Israeli officials have sought to avoid a situation of needing to act unilaterally again.”

Author of Will Israel Survive? Dr. Mitchell G. Bard said, “The NIE should be taken seriously, but the United States is not the only country with an intelligence service monitoring developments in Iran. Given the experience with Iraq, it should not be surprising if other nations were skeptical of American intelligence reports and make independent judgments.”

Iran Applauds

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a Conference on Disarmament that it was the Israeli nuclear program that was “a grave threat to regional and international peace and security.” He called for the international community to take action. Gholam Hossein Elham, a senior government official in Tehran responded to the NIE report by saying, “Considering the lies that they have been spreading against Iran, the Americans should now reimburse us for the colossal damages caused to our country.”

In a media report, the Associated Press said Iran had been “somewhat vindicated” by the US report. The International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Mohamed El Baradei said the report produced “a sigh of relief” because the announcement jibed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) findings. In a speech President Ahmadinejad delivered just days after the NIE report was made public, he said, “You should know that this nation [Iran] is firm and considers the complete usage of all the nuclear energy capacities as its indisputable right.”

Nuclear War Still Possible

Shahab 3 is a medium-range balistic missile [MRBM] developed in Iran. Last November, I received a report that studied the effects of a nuclear war between Israel and Iran. The document was compiled by Anthony H. Cordesman, a senior analyst with a distinguished career, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the United States. In a carefully detailed 77-page report, he made the following observations. The Iran–Israel nuclear war could take place 2010–2020. Sixteen to 28 million Iranians would die in a 21-day period. Between 200,000 and 800,000 Israelis would die in the same time frame. Tehran, a city of seven million people, would be wiped out in a single day. Cordesman’s analysis highlights the great consequences we face if public figures and public servants are permitted to play politics without accountability.

I read with interest the Bible passage on the Mossad home page. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). Robert Baer, writing for Time Inc., declared, “Armageddon is postponed!” Maybe, maybe not! Only God knows!

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