Diplomacy is best but...
The Obama Administration's preference for diplomacy with Iran over military action is commendable. There is a chance that diplomacy may even achieve more than sanctions. This possibility lies at the root of the deal recently undertaken with regard to Iran's nuclear program.
No one knows for certain whether Iran is for real when it promises never to seek or develop any nuclear weapons in exchange for an end to sanctions and to its international isolation. No one knows for sure whether there is an internal struggle going on within Iran in which that issue is being debated and considered. No one knows for sure whether the deal recently signed will encourage those who favor ending Iran's quest for nuclear weapons (if there are any such) or whether it will strengthen hardliners who are simply playing for time. The only certainty is that we are uncertain about the true Iranian motivations underlying its willingness to enter into negotiations and to freeze its nuclear program for six months in exchange for a reduction in sanctions.
Diplomacy under conditions of uncertainty always entails risks on all sides. The United States is prepared to take the risk because it has far less to lose if it turns out to be wrong. Israel and Saudi Arabia are unwilling to shoulder the risk because they have so much more to lose if the American assessment turns out to be wrong.
Many American experts—diplomatic, nuclear, political, economic—believe that even the risks to the United States exceed the benefits, and that accordingly this was a bad deal for our country. Others disagree. The important point is that this is not only a dispute between the United States and Israel, as some seem to be characterizing it. It is a hotly disputed issue within the United States, within the Democratic Party, among nuclear experts and within the diplomatic establishment.
Nor should this be seen by those who oppose the deal, as I do, as a demonstration of bad faith on the part of the Obama Administration toward Israel. This a reasonable disagreement between friends as to the best course of action, both over the short and long terms. The stakes, however, are exceedingly high for Israel, because it cannot afford for the United States to be wrong in its assessment and balancing of the acknowledged risks.
I think the United States is wrong, because I believe that the supreme leader of Iran is determined to secure the ability to obtain nuclear weapons in its quest for hegemony over the Middle East. I do not believe that the smiling face of its newly-elected (with the approval of the supreme leader) president reflects the attitude of the current Iranian leadership. I also believe that one of the goals of the Iranian leadership is to drive a deep wedge between the United States and its allies in the Middle East, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. This deal has helped to do that.
Now that the six month clock has begun to tick, what can be done to make the best out of a dangerous situation? First, Congress can hang two Swords of Damocles over the neck of Iran. It can now authorize the president to take military action in the event that Iran breaks its part of the deal and secretly begins to move toward developing nuclear weapons. Second, it can legislate harsh sanctions that would automatically go into effect if it became clear that Iran was simply buying time and had no interest in halting its nuclear weapons program.
The Iranians came to the negotiating table only because of a combination of harsh sanctions and a realistic military option. Both of these sticks must be kept on the table if the carrot of reduced sanctions is to have any possibility of working.
Israel too must maintain its military pressure on Iran, and the United States should make it clear that if Israel were to feel the need to deploy its military option as a last resort, it could count on the support of the United States.
These are tense and dangerous times. The risks on all sides are considerable. This is the time for allies to stick together and not to allow their differences to create the kind of wedge that Iran seeks to encourage and exploit. Unless there is a concerted commitment to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capacity, the end result will replicate the North Korean model, where the façade of diplomacy was used as a cover by North Korea to develop nuclear weapons.
If Iran ends up using this deal to help it develop nuclear weapons, the result would be a game changer that could cause a catastrophe. An Iran armed with nuclear weapons must be prevented at all costs, as President Obama has promised to do. We must keep our word and keep the military option on the table if diplomacy fails, as it may well do. The only thing more dangerous than a military attack against Iran's nuclear weapons program would be a nuclear-armed Iran.
Reader comments on this item
|Taqyiya [58 words]||Bart Benschop||Dec 23, 2013 02:25|
|Your amendments are useless [129 words]||Gary Krasner||Dec 1, 2013 17:27|
|Hopes for peaceful solution [268 words]||Lawrence Kadish||Nov 27, 2013 12:51|
|Dershowitz almost gets it right. [410 words]||Phillip Slepian||Nov 27, 2013 09:27|
|↔ Why the distraction? [117 words]||Ron Thompson||Nov 30, 2013 12:41|
|↔ Got a better explanation of the timing, Mr. Thompson? [100 words]||Phillip Slepian||Dec 2, 2013 08:30|
|The way foreward [21 words]||James Hazan||Nov 27, 2013 04:45|
|Iran cannot be trusted [37 words]||Graham Turner||Nov 27, 2013 04:39|
|Diplomacy is best [11 words]||Dorothy||Nov 27, 2013 03:05|
|Diplomacy or foolhardiness? [67 words]||Ephesian||Nov 27, 2013 03:03|
|Diplomacy, nice work if you can get it [42 words]||Frankz||Nov 26, 2013 22:42|
|Yes, diplomacy WOULD have been best but that's been killed. [206 words]||A.T. Halmay||Nov 26, 2013 18:25|
|Re: Diplomacy is best but.. [130 words]||Mark Matthias||Nov 26, 2013 17:17|
|Regain freedom of action, never mind what your enemies say [116 words]||Frank Bright||Nov 26, 2013 17:14|
|Yes--but [56 words]||Ed36||Nov 26, 2013 16:55|
Comment on this item
by Pierre Rehov
For terrorists, the death of innocent children is irrelevant. In a society that promotes martyrdom as the ultimate sign of success, the death of innocent children can sometimes even be seen as a public relations blessing.
In every action, intent is paramount. There should never be a moral equivalence painted between the deliberate killing of civilians, and a retaliation that tragically leads to casualties among civilians.
There is, however, one small difference: in the Middle East, reporters are threatened, except in Israel. Their choice becomes a simple one: promote the Palestinian point of view or stop working in the West Bank. Keep the eye of the camera dirty or lose your job. This show should not go on.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Since 1948, the Arab countries and government have been paying mostly lip service to the Palestinians.
"They have money and oil, but don't care about the Palestinians, even though we are Arabs and Muslims like them. What a Saudi or Qatari sheikh spends in one night in London, Paris or Las Vegas could solve the problem of tens of thousands of Palestinians." — Palestinian human rights activist.
"Some Arabs were hoping that Israel would rid them of Hamas." — Ashraf Salameh, Gaza City.
"Some of the Arab regimes are interested in getting rid of the resistance in order to remove the burden of the Palestinian cause, which threatens the stability of their regimes." — Mustafa al-Sawwaf, Palestinian political analyst.
"Most Arabs are busy these days with bloody battles waged by their leaders, who are struggling to survive. These battles are raging in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian Authority." — Mohammed al-Musafer, columnist.
"The Arab leaders don't know what they want from the Gaza Strip. They don't even know what they want from Israel." — Yusef Rizka, Hamas official.
by Soeren Kern
European elites, who take pride in viewing the EU as a "postmodern" superpower, have long argued that military hard-power is illegitimate in the 21st century. Unfortunately for Europe, Russia (along with China and Iran) has not embraced the EU's fantastical soft-power worldview, in which "climate change" is now said to pose the greatest threat to European security.
For its part, the European Commission, the EU's administrative branch, which never misses an opportunity to boycott institutions in Israel, has issued only a standard statement on the shooting down of MH17 in Ukraine, which reads: "The European Union will continue to follow this issue very closely."
The EU has made only half-hearted attempts to develop alternatives to its dependency on Russian oil and gas.
by Shoshana Bryen
Proportionality in international law is not about equality of death or civilian suffering, or even about [equality of] firepower. Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against suffering that the action might cause to enemy civilians in the vicinity.
"Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable does not constitute a war crime.... even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur. A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality)." — Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court.
"The greater the military advantage anticipated, the larger the amount of collateral damage -- often civilian casualties -- which will be "justified" and "necessary." — Dr. Françoise Hampton, University of Essex, UK.
by Irfan Al-Alawi
"Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi" is Abu Du'a, a follower of the late Osama Bin Laden. By adding the name "Al-Qurayshi" in his current alias, he is also seeking to affirm descent from Muhammad.
The allegation of theological sovereignty over all Sunnis extends to Indonesia and Morocco. The idea that the borders between Syria and Iraq will be dissolved by the new "caliphate" defies all Islamic theology and history. As the Qur'an states, "Allah "made the nations and tribes different." (49:13) Syria and Iraq have been distinct for millennia.
The "Islamic State" seeks to obliterate these diverse identities by expelling or killing all Shias and Sunni Sufis. And it does not invoke the Ottoman caliphate in its propaganda, demonstrating decisively the fake nature of the "Islamic State."
A caliphate is obsolete and the "Islamic State" is totalitarian. All Sunnis need to repudiate them soundly, even by force of arms.