A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
February 19, 2012- Zakaria and Other Do Not Understand Iran's Threat, US and Israel on Iran, Prime Minister Closest Advisor Resigns
I have been having greater and greater difficulty with various commentators who are urging Israel not to attack Iran. Please understand, I am certainly one to urge caution and do not think it is time to attack. However, as I was about to publish tonight's update, I started listening to Fareed Zakaria's GPS (Global Public Square) broadcast earlier today. Zakaria makes the claim I have heard a few times, that Israel is wrong when it says "the United States does not understand the threat that Iran poses". Zakaria's answer is that "we" (as in Americans) do understand, since "we" once lived through the same threat.
Zakaria is referring to the time the Soviet Union acquired nuclear weapons for the first time. At that time, Zakaria claims, there were many calling for a First Strike by the US, before it was too late. I have two very serious problems with this line of thought. First, historically, there was no serious discussion in the US government, in the late 40's, about striking the Soviet Union preemptively. Yes, there was fear of the spread of Communism. Yes, there was also fear what the Soviets would do with the bomb. However, other than some fringe figures, there was never serious discussion about attacking the Soviet Union. And that was for a good reason, the second major problem with the analogy. The Soviet Union never repeatedly threatened to wipe the United States off the map. After the tragedies of the 20th century, Jews are incapable of ignoring a threat like. After the 20th century we are compelled to take any threat like that seriously and literally. Furthermore, for all its cruelty and disregard for human life, the Soviet Union was not a theorcracy whose leaders believed they were carrying out the will of God. Leaders who believes they are "doing God's work on earth", who simultaneously call for the destruction of Israel; which they defiantly state is coming soon, cannot be equated with the Soviet Union of the late 1940's. Finally Iran has a long history of having its surrogates actually attack and kill Israelis.
Tonight US National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon, is meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, to discuss Iran and Syria. Israel and the media are ripe with speculation on what this means. Frankly that is all there is- speculation. The Israeli media reported extensively this morning on CNN's interview with Gen. Martin Dempsey. In the interview Dempsey stated that Israel has the capability of setting back the Iranian nuclear program by a number of years, but does not possess the ability to stop the program completely. General Dempsey specifically stated that there are Iranian targets that are out of Israel's range. He added that this fact is one of the things that worries Israel. Dempsey continued that he understands Israel see's the Iranian threat as existential, something the United States still does not. He concluded by saying that the United States may not have fully convinced Israel of it’s position.
Confusing matters further, in the last couple of days we have heard Netanyahu stating that sanctions are not working, while Ehud Barak said sanctions are having a strong impact on Iran. A third Israeli Minister pronounced that sanctions have not yet had an effect on the Iranian nuclear program. If you want clarity on this matter, you must look somewhere else.
The clearest explanations I heard on this matter was from one Israeli commentator today. He just laid out the options, while at the same time, stating that he does not know which is true. Option A: Israel and the United States are fully on the same page and this is all part of a plan to keep pressure on Iran and force the rest of the world to go along with the sanctions. Option B: the US and Israel are more or less on the same page, but disagree when the Red line will be crossed. Israel thinks that point is earlier than the Americans. The major issue is whether the US is willing to give Israel guarantees that if Israeli listens and the US is wrong, that the US will attack. Finally, there is Option C: The US and Israel are on totally different pages and the US is worried that Israel is about to attack Iran.
It seems very unlikely that Israel will attack Iran right now, with the Assad regime teetering on the edge of demise, as the sanctions on Iran are finally getting ever tougher. This week the international banking systems, "SWIFT exchange", has agreed to cut off Iran, something that will make doing business with Iran nearly impossible.
The major domestic news story today was the plea agreement reached for Natan Eshel to resign from government service and never work for the government again. Eshel was the head of Prime Minister Netanyahu's bureau. Eshel was the person, considered by many, to be the person closest to the Netanyahu family. Eshel was forced to admit to inappropriate activity-taking photographs and violating the privacy of an employee of the Prime Minister's officers who worked under Eshel.
The hunger strike undertaken by the Palestinian prisoner Chader Adnan has received a great deal of publicity in the last few days. Adnan began his hunger strike 70 days ago, in protest against the administrative detention he has been under. He is demanding that he either be tried or released. I generally sympathize with his issue, (not with Adnan). Being a scholar of the US Constitution I am a strong believer in Habeas Corpus. The idea that someone can be held without any trial is an anathema to me. However, I have the same feeling about Guantanamo Bay, where the US does the same thing. This isproblematic, in both cases.
Finally, a new stage was reached in the Syrian revolt, wide scale demonstrations reached Damascus for the first time today. If demonstrations become widespread in Damascus, it will indicate that the end is near.