Pro-Israel warmongers preparing the next war

The experienced former U.S. officials Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett had an important op-ed in Politico yesterday titled The Slippery Slope to Strikes on Iran. In it they warned that “there is a serious risk that President Barack Obama may eventually be maneuvered into ordering military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.”
The Leveretts note the key role that high-ranking National Security Council officials Tom Donilon and Dennis Ross have been playing in pushing the administration towards a more and more confrontational stance against Iran. They note that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been trying, with apparently mixed success, to push back against that pressure:

    Gates believes the United States does not need to go to war over Iran’s nuclear program. He is strongly supported by the senior uniformed military leadership, including Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

Dennis Ross, let us remember, joined the administration after a stint as the founding President of the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Public Policy Institute. Prior to that he was the many-times-failing “czar” of Arab-Israeli peacemaking on behalf of the Clinton administration.
In the Politico piece the Leveretts write this about the strategy that has apparently been pursued inside the Obama administration by Ross, ever since he joined it:

    Ross told us before he returned to government service in the Obama administration, [that] President George W. Bush’s successor would probably need to order military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.
    Pursuing diplomatic initiatives early in Obama’s tenure, Ross said, would be necessary to justify potential military action to domestic and international constituencies.

I believe Ross also wrote that, quite clearly, in the book “Myths, Illusions, and Peace”, published last July, that he co-authored with David Makovsky.
Of course, Dennis Ross and Tom Donilon are far from the only influential members of the US policy elite who have been pushing for a U.S. military attack against Iran for some time now.
Indeed, we can see all those same actors now using exactly the same kinds of tactics that were used to “seduce” the U.S. public into supporting the aggression against Iraq, back in 2003, now being rolled out once again to “prepare” us for another act of military aggression, this time against Iran.
We U.S. citizens who want to halt this “slippery slope” slide into a new war need to start taking some much more focused action to prevent it.
In the Leveretts’ schema, “containment”, as advocated by Gates and Co., is presented as the path that is significantly less escalatory and risky than “crippling sanctions” and other moves toward escalation and a possible military action, such as are advocated by a growing chorus of political figures (ably orchestrated by AIPAC.)
But containment can also be seen as an approach embodying many very unhelpful– and also potentially escalatory– elements of coercive diplomacy. Especially if it is pursued hand-in-hand with actions intended to build up a “deterrent threat” to back it up.
Those deterrent threats were on full display in the Obama administration’s latest Nuclear Posture Review (PDF), which by clear inference exempted Iran (and South Korea) from the stated guarantee that U.S. nuclear weapons would not be used against non-nuclear-weapons states. (See the President’s own explanation of this policy, here.)
“Containment” can thus be seen as a pivot policy: It could be a gateway drug on the way towards either escalation or de-escalation. And thus far– as the Leveretts continually point out– Obama has done very little indeed to test what he might obtain in terms of furthering our country’s true interests by pursuing a determined policy of de-escalation toward Iran, through a smart and serious form of real diplomatic engagement with it.
Of course, the fact that he has Dennis Ross almost at his elbow there in the White House, now exerting reportedly ever-greater influence over both our country’s Iran policy and its Palestine policy, probably has a lot to do with Obama’s failure to fully test out the potential of diplomatic engagement with Iran.
But honestly, why should he trust Dennis Ross’s judgment on anything out there in the real world (as opposed to in the fevered imagination of longtime Israel-firsters)? Ross was a notable failure, in American terms (if not Israel’s), during his first long stint in Mideast diplomacy. And he’s shown no signs of having understood the world any better, since then.
Secretary Gates, by contrast, is someone who– along with Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mullen– bears direct line responsibility for the welfare of U.S. troops all around the world, including the hundreds of thousands of troops now deployed close to Iran, and in situations where they are deeply dependent on the goodwill of well-rooted Muslim countries.
Why on earth would the president even listen to Dennis Ross, rather than to the advice of those two extremely serious leaders over there in the Pentagon? Some friends suggest that this is due to considerations of domestic policy. I certainly hope not– though I fear this may be the case.
That just means that those of us– surely a strong majority– who do not want our country to get jerked by cynical Lobbyists into yet another war in which our service-members die needless deaths far from home while the military contractors get another big chance to raid our treasury, need to make our voices heard now. If there is a “domestic calculus” that Obama is in some way playing to in this matter, then evidently we need to change it.
Contact your members of Congress and tell them “No war or escalation against Iran! Get back to the diplomacy now!”

Ray Takeyh’s nonsense on Iran-Palestine

Ray Takeyh, an Iranian-American expert on Iran at the Council on Foreign Relations, had an oped in today’s WaPo that makes the nonsensical claim that,

    The notion that the incumbent Arab regimes are reluctant to collaborate with the United States on Iran because of the prevailing impasse in the peace process is a misreading of regional realities.

Takeyh argues in the piece that the U.S. can and should operate on the basis that there is no real “linkage” between the U.S.’s (and Israel’s) ability to maintain or escalate tensions at will with Iran, and Washington’s performance on Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking.
His argument is plagued with gross errors of fact as well as some extremely tortured “reasoning.”
It’s a very dangerous argument, because its effect is to urge Americans not to worry about any possibility of negative fallout from continued escalation– or even, apparently, a U.S. or Israeli military attack– against Iran.
Here is one of the more bizarre parts of his argument:

    unlike the United States, Israel is not entangled in conflicts that Iranian mischief [whatever that is ~HC] can aggravate. Hamas and Hezbollah are not only unreliable proxies but ones that Israeli armor can handle.

Um, Ray Takeyh, can you tell me what evidence you’re basing this claim on??
Why does anyone publish this guy’s bellophilic rantings? Why does anyone pay him a handsome salary to sit at the august-seeming “Council on Foreign Relations”?
Nonsense. Just nonsense. But as I said, dangerous nonsense.

Malley & Harling on M.E. regional dynamics

Further to what I blogged here (and here) yesterday about the ever-shifting dynamics within the Middle East, Rob Malley and Peter Harling have an elegant op-ed in the WaPo today that picks up on many of the same themes.
Malley and Harling are both M.E. analysts for the International Crisis Group– Malley being in charge of their M.E. division and Harling their analyst for Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.
They start off with this:

    Much as he would like to disentangle himself from his Middle East inheritance, President Obama is having a rough time doing so. The obvious legacy is an unwanted war in Iraq and a bankrupt Israeli-Arab peace process. But equally constraining is a popular way of conceiving of the region — divided, schematically, between militants beholden to Iran and moderates sympathetic to the United States. While there is some truth to this construct, it assumes a relatively static landscape and clear fault lines in a region that is highly fluid and home to growing fragmentation. By disregarding subtle shifts that have occurred and awaiting tectonic transformations that won’t, this mind-set risks missing realistic opportunities to help reshape the Middle East.

So far, so– generally– good. But I think they’re too kind to the Obama-ites (and their predecessors) by saying “there is some truth to this construct.”
Where, really, is there any “truth” in it?
The main problem with the way Malley and Harling describe the “bipolar” frame that just about all of official Washington applies to its analysis of the Middle East is that they do not mention the role of Israel and its entire, unquestioning cheering section inside the U.S., who between them are the main ideological enforcers of this frame. “Moderates”, within this frame, is nearly always code for “does not challenge Israel on anything, whether through inclination or by being in thrall to the power of U.S. Congress’s purse”, while “militants” is code for “is sometimes willing to criticize Israeli policies.”
Really, the way these issues are discussed, and largely “understood” (or more accurately, mis-understood) among members of the Washington power elite is that, for Middle Eastern governments or other actors to be thought of as “pro-American” (i.e. “moderate”) they must not openly challenge Israel on anything. Therefore, when an actor, such as, for example, the Turkish or Saudi government, starts to criticize an Israeli policy they are immediately vilifed within the Washington DC Beltway as being irredeemably “anti-Israeli” and very often “anti-Semitic” to boot… But either way, no longer “moderate”.
And that is the extent of what passes for “analysis” in nearly all of Washington.
Malley and Harling are right to note that the strictly bipolar “moderates versus militants” frame is no longer useful. But they fail to spell out:

    1. That actually, though they seem to ascribe it to Pres. G.W. Bush, it goes back a lot longer that– back, at least, through the Clinton presidency (during part of which, Rob Malley worked in the White House.)
    2. That this frame never has been useful, either analytically or as a guide to wise policy. The “fluidity” and political dynamism they describe as being “new” within the M.E. regional system has always been there. Use of the bipolar frame has always been an obstacle to sound understanding and sound policy.
    3. That you can’t truly understand the way the bipolar frame “works”, politically, unless you make clear that, when applied at the regional level (as opposed to, for example, within Iraq), it really is all about Israel; and it has almost nothing to do with whether the actors in question are “pro-American” in the content of their policies, or not. Once again, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are key examples. Turkey, for goodness sake, is a member of NATO and has troops risking their lives alongside the U.S. troops in Afghanistan (unlike many other NATO members; and completely unlike Israel!) So how come Turkey nowadays gets labeled by many in DC as problematic and “possibly anti-American”? Answer: It is all about Israel. Malley and Harling fail to make that clear.

I think I also disagree to some extent with their description of the way they see the “relevant” competition in the region today.
This, they say,

    is not between a pro-Iranian and a pro-American axis but between two homegrown visions. One, backed by Iran, emphasizes resistance to Israel and the West, speaks to the region’s thirst for dignity and prioritizes military cooperation. The other, symbolized by Turkey, highlights diplomacy, stresses engagement with all parties and values economic integration. Both outlooks are championed by non-Arab emerging regional powers and resonate with an Arab street as incensed by Israel as it is weary of its own leaders.

The first thing I note here is that the regional visions promulgated by the governments of Turkey and Iran are not as diametrically opposed as Malley and Harling make them out to be. Turkey certainly “speaks to the region’s thirst for dignity”, just as much as Iran does; and Iran “values economic integration”, and “highlights diplomacy” just as much as Turkey does– though many of its attempts to act on these precepts have, of course, been intentionally stymied by the U.S.
Also, Turkey and Iran have excellent working relations with each other. So if there is some “competition” between the visions promulgated by these two governments– as I believe there is– still, this “competition” is very far from being the kind of manichean, “with us or against us” form of competition that too many Americans lazily think is the only kind of competition there is.
In fact, there seem to me to be to be only two significant respects in which the policies of the two governments differ: (1) the way that each of them tries to push forward its explicitly Islamist agenda in domestic affairs– “softly” in the case of Turkey’s AK Party, and “harshly”, in the case of Tehran; and (2) the way that each of them chooses to deal with Israel– again, “softly” vs. “harshly.”
Now I recognize that, for citizens of a majority-Muslim country in the region like Syria, Jordan, or Iraq, the domestic agendas pursued by Ankara and Tehran provide two very different models of modernization, and that having those two different models is valuable and important. But note that, in international affairs, it is really only regarding Israel that these two governments have deep differences… So there, once again, if there is “competition”, it is all about Israel.
I wish Malley and Harling had spelled that out, too.
Look, I have huge respect for both Rob Malley and Peter Harling, both of whom I am proud to think of as my friends. But I don’t think they do the American public whom, presumably, they were hoping to address in this op-ed much good if they pussy-foot around the big Israeli elephant in the “room” of Middle Eastern regional dynamics, and of U.S. policy within the region, in the way they have in this article.
Yes, they’re quite right to argue that the “moderates vs. militants” frame used in Washington is analytically empty of content, inaccurate, and useless… and diplomatically counter-productive, as well. But if they want to provide a frame that is more useful, both analytically and as a guide to policy, then they need to clearly identify the highly politicized source of the vacuity of the “moderates vs. militants” frame that is currently in use in Washington; and by identifying that source spell out that Israel itself (along with its many acolytes in Washington) is a major player that has a strong effect on the politics of the region.
A more useful “frame”, it seems to me, would therefore be one that places the ruling elite of Israel (of all parties) and their allies in Washington at one pole of the region’s dynamics, and the government of Iran at the other, and then arrays the region’s many other actors in the multi-dimensional space between them– that is, not simply on a unidimensional straight line. This frame should also make explicit the fact that many of the other actors in the region, including Turkey, some European powers, other P-5 member states, and Saudi Arabia, also have varying amounts of power to attract other actors towards them, as well…
Bottom line: the region is not now (and never has been) simply “bipolar”, but is multi-dimensional. And though there are two largely competing “super-poles” of influence within it, these are not “Iran and the United States”, and not “Iran and Turkey”, but rather, “Israel and Iran”. (And note that under both the Malley/Harling schema and mine, the U.S. administration gets reduced to the role of something of a secondary actor.)

Iran “calling” Israel’s nuclear-related blackmail?

Speculation is reportedly rife among Washington insiders over why, a couple of weeks ago, the Iranian authorities moved nearly all their stockpile of low-enriched uranium from its previous, deep-underground bunker to a very vulnerable-looking above-ground facility.
But here’s one possible explanation for the move that immediately occurred to me, and which was not among those listed in that article from Washington by the NYT’s David Sanger.
In moving the uranium to its new, very vulnerable position, perhaps the Iranian authorities are not so much “inviting” an Israeli attack, which is one of the possible explanations Sanger mentions (with the cynical goal that the attack might then strengthen the mullahs’ own political position inside Iran)… as calling out the political blackmail the Israelis and their supporters have been using worldwide, around the argument that “if the world’s governments don’t support much tighter sanctions on Iran, then it might be impossible to hold Israel back from attacking Iran’s nuclear stockpile.”
It seems entirely possible to me that, by trundling their stockpile up into its new position– which they did under the ever-present and watchful eyes of the IAEA inspectors who, lest we forget, have been monitoring Iran’s nuclear-tech programs from the get-go, unlike Israel’s– the Iranians may in effect be saying: “Okay, here it is. Go ahead, Israel!”
But with the aim, not as Sanger posits of quite cynically hoping that that attack take place, but of demonstrating to the world that when push comes to shove Israel does not actually dare do it.
Enlisting the aid of the relevant authorities is nearly always the best way to deal with blackmailers, in any realm of human activity. Iran undertook its move to greater physical “vulnerability” under the full protection of international legitimacy.
So does Israel dare attack now?
I very much doubt it.
And now, it can no longer so easily hide its decision not to attack behind “logistical” excuses such as “Well, it’s a very tricky thing to do, but we’re working very hard to find a way…” while its spokesmen and apologists worldwide also continuing saying, “but when we decide the time is right– which will be soon!– you’ll have to hold us back very hard and give us many additional benefits etc, plus step up those sanctions on Iran quite considerably, in order to prevent us from going ahead… ”
If this is indeed the thinking behind the Iranian move, then it looks very smart. It’s an excellent way to deflate all the rhetoric that’s been going around, internationally, to the effect that “If the Security Council members don’t adopt even more draconian sanctions against Iran, then no-one can predict what the Israelis might decide to do!”
… Your move, Israel.

Leveretts on Israeli-Iranian ‘proxy war’

Shortly after I published this post earlier today about the Spy Wars underway between the Israeli team and the pro-Iranian team, I saw this post that Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett put up onto their bog.
They are just back in the US after a research visit that took them to Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.
In Damascus, they met Khaled Meshaal. But they have thus far written about the meetng only that,

    It was notable that, in our meeting with him, Mishal did not say a word about the murder of a prominent HAMAS figure, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai last month.

Oh well, I hope they’ll be writing a lot more, soon, from all of their destinations on the trip.

Spy Wars heat up!

The long-simmering Spy Wars between Israel on the one hand, and Iran and its allies in the Jebhat al-Mumana’a (Blocking Front) on the other, have been heating up a lot over the past couple of weeks.
Does all this accelerating string of revelations and counter-revelations indicate that the two sides are doing some deck-clearing preparatory to a military encounter that perhaps both of them now see as increasingly inevitable, or is there another explanation for what’s been happening?
Today, the security forces in heavily Hizbullah-influenced Lebanon announced that two weeks ago they arrested the latest in a long string of Lebanese citizens who have now been formally accused of (or in many cases, convicted for) involvement in the once-extensive spy network that Israel’s Mossad used to run in Lebanon.
This announcement comes hot on the heels of the revelation publicized out of Israel yesterday that a young man called Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a prominent Hamas leader in the West Bank who embraced Christianity a decade ago (the son, not the dad) had in fact also worked as an agent for the Shin Bet during the Second Intifada.
And all this comes, of course, as the authorities in Dubai continue to dribble out additional, extremely incriminating and well-documented details about the Mossad’s involvement in last month’s killing of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
And then, there was Tuesday’s announcement from Tehran that the Iranian authorities had captured Abdel-Malek al-Rigi, the accused head of Jundallah, an armed opposition group that’s been active active near Iran’s border with Afghanistan. The Iranian authorities did this by forcing down into one of their southern airports a plane on which Rigi was flying to Kyrgyzstan from Dubai, just a day after Rigi allegedly met with his CIA handlers in the emirate.
Dubai and Lebanon are both significant ‘entrepot’ locations whose enthusiastic embrace of free-market capitalism made them both of them, for many years, into places where agents, spymasters, and arms salesmen loyal to a dizzying range of paymasters and ideologies would interact– often engaging in unlikely-seeming collaborations with each other, but also, very frequently rubbing up against each other, or rubbing each other out, while all keeping close eyes on each other…
Beirut, certainly, played that role for many years (Kim Philby, etc), though it became far less ‘cosmopolitan’ and free-wheeling as the civil war set in in earnest in the late 1970s. But still, Israel and Syria each retained strong networks of spies and operatives in the country for many years thereafter. Last year, the Lebanese security forces succeeded in uncovering and rolling up much of Israel’s remaining spy network inside the country, which has probably significantly crimped Israel’s long-vaunted ability to dominate in the region’s long-summering spy wars.
So let’s turn to Dubai. As I blogged here recently, one of the most notable things about the fallout from Mossad’s assassination of Mabhouh there last month has been not– as some have claimed– the capability that the Dubai authorities showed in their investigation, but rather the intentionality and commitment they have shown thus far in their pursuit of it.
And then, we heard about the Iranian regime’s success in identifying and capturing Rigi on Tuesday.
Where did they get that information from, I wonder?
There have been some reports that they got some help from Pakistan in getting him. But most likely they did most of the footwork themselves– including by using the broad network of their own operatives and contacts that they have doubtless maintained inside Dubai for many years now.
Dubai may seem to many westerners like it’s only a kind of playground for their tastes– whether for shopping, beaches, tennis tournaments, ‘democracy’ seminars aimed at Iranian dissidents, military/naval bases, or whatever… But it has an even longer history as a entrepot with Iran; and throughout many years of various western sanctions efforts against Iran, dhows and larger ships would regularly ply between Dubai and ports in southern Iran, carrying large volumes of traffic both ways.
Don’t forget that– though the federation of which Dubai is part, the United Arab Emirates, has many close military relationships with Washington– still, the UAE leadership has been notably unenthusiastic about the prospects of a US or US-Israeli military attack against Iran.
And regarding Hamas, its head, Khaled Meshaal, was in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, holding an apparently friendly meeting with UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin-Zayed al-Nahyan, just a few days before Mabhouh’s ill-fated visit to Dubai…
I think that fact provides some helpful background to the question as to why the Dubai authorities have been so dogged and committed in their investigation of Mabhouh’s Israeli killers. It is also quite possible that the UAE security authorities are undertaking even wider measures against Mossad’s continued and longterm activities within the federation than anything anyone there has thus far announced.
I guess my big question is whether this intensifying “war of the spies” that Israel and its allies have been conducting against Iran and its allies are a way for the intel agencies in these two countries to try to prepare the regional battlefield for a future war.
And just lest I be misunderstood, I certainly do not see this war being started by Iran. Iran has been doing very well in the region over recent years, thanks to the numerous massive mis-steps taken there by both Israel and its close friend the United States. It has every interest in just continuing to see the two western allies bumble along in the self-destructive way they’ve been going over the past decade or more… But Tehran’s decisionmakers are doubtless well aware that there are serious forces inside Israel trying to push the U.S. into an attack against their country. And, realists that they are, they no doubt want to prepare for every eventuality.

Dan Halutz’s ‘recipe’ for success… against Iran?

Why does it so frequently seem as if members of Israel’s political elite have no shame? Case in point: Dan Halutz, the former IDF chief of staff who was last heard of shuffling off the world stage in January 2007 after the brilliant “campaign” he had designed to bring Lebanon and Hizbullah to their knees the previous summer has been shown (1 and 2) to be be completely flawed…
Oh and also after, lest we forget, considerable criticisms were raised in Israel in the early days of the war about the fact that, just three hours after the incident that provoked that war, Halutz had also sold off his portfolio of investments in Israeli companies…
But now, he’s back!!!!
In an interview with Defense News, Halutz said recently that,

    “In Iran, there’s no need for a ground operation. If there is a case where air power can demonstrate its decisive effect — and I’m not speaking specifically here about the Israeli Air Forces — it’s the Iranian scenario.”

(Hat-tip Jim Lobe, there.)
Sadly, Halutz’s pearls of wisdom are only available in DN’s print edition. So you’ll have to go out and buy it.
Halutz is “back”, in fact, in the context of being out there, in DN and elsewhere, trying to sell his new book. In that context, he gave an interview to DN’s Barbara Opall-Rome in which he had the following reflections on the challenges Israel faces in its war-fighting:

    “The solution to rockets and missiles is to operate in a manner that imposes an unbearable cost to the other side for the enemy and civilians, by way of severely damaging national infrastructure and exacting a price beyond expectations…
    “In this neighborhood, after you’ve tried all other options, you need to act in ways the other side understands. Restraint cannot be part of the vocabulary because the other side views that as a weakness. What they understand if force…
    “If you’re dealing with terrorists and their leaders, you have to cut their heads through constant targeting operations. But if you’re dealing with governments, you need to severely damage the country. No rational leader wants to be held accountable for severe damage to his country… And by severe damage, I mean all infrastructure, bridge by bridge, power station by power station, communications center, airport by airport.

DN and Opall-Rome also have this from Halutz’s memoirs, about his recollections of the assault against Lebanon in 2006:

    “In meetings of the Cabinet and the Security Cabinet, I wasn’t convincing enough about implementing the plan to attack the national infrastructure of Lebanon. It was a plan I believed in and, in my opinion, its implementation would have lent itself to a clear and sharp response that would have exceeded expectations of the enemy and helped shorten the war fighting.

Oh, the fanatical, militaristic bully as “humanitarian”, there: He tugs at my heartstrings! (Irony alert.)
Before he became IDF chief of staff in 2005, Halutz had already, as air force chief of staff, been a tech-whiz who honed the IAF’s practices of undertaking extra-judicial killings (assassinations) from the air. He had gained renown, when asked how he felt about ending someone’s life through the air force’s stand-off bombing of them from a great distance, by replying,

    if you nevertheless want to know what I feel when I release a bomb, I will tell you: I feel a light bump to the plane as a result of the bomb’s release. A second later it’s gone, and that’s all. That is what I feel.

So this is the man who is telling us, now, that he wishes the cabinet had allowed him to be even more destructive against Lebanon in 2006, and who tells us that he thinks the U.S. air force (though notably not, this time, the Israeli air force) should implement the same kind of massively destructive campaign against Iran.
He makes Hizbullah Hassan Nasrullah look positively moderate in comparison.
Nasrullah, after all, has proposed only a strictly “lex talionis” kind of campaign, in which an Israeli attack on Beirut’s Hariri International Airport would be replied to with a Hizbullah attack on Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, etc… Whereas Halutz was widely reported, during the 2006 assault on Lebanon, to have vowed that, for every Hizbullah rocket that fell on Haifa, Israel would level ten multi-story buildings in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
Aaaah, I guess that these days the guy is only trying to sell a few books.
But that certainly doesn’t mean anyone else has to buy them– either his books, or the horribly destructive, anti-humane, and above all quite counter-productive policy prescriptions that he’s peddling.
He’s arguing that the U.S. air force should launch the same kind of campaign against Iran today that that Israeli air force launched against Lebanon in 2006?
Has he no grasp of human history, or human psychology?
Does he have no idea that in Lebanon, in 2006, the more the Israeli air force bombed the country’s infrastructure, the more the country’s people rallied round Hzibullah?
(As I argued at the time, anyone with any knowledge of what had happened during, for example, the Nazi regime’s Blitzkrieg on London could easily have predicted that this wuld be the case.)
So what on earth does Dan Halutz, or anyone else, imagine would happen in Iran if the USAF tried to follow his prescriptions there?
… People like Halutz should be called out for what they are: fraudulent, petty impostors who have no idea what they’re talking about in politico-strategic terms.
And who, yes, are also, almost certainly, war criminals.

Hillary’s war-drums on Iran; Russia unwilling?

Hillary Clinton was on Capitol Hill today, telling US lawmakers that,

    “Iran has left the international community little choice but to impose greater costs and pressure in the face of its provocative steps… We are now working actively with our partners to prepare and implement new measures to pressure Iran to change its course.”

However, there has all along been considerable doubt whether China will go along with such measures, at the U.N. Then, there’s Russia…
Until today, U.S. spinmeisters had been expressing some confidence that Russia would join the “twist the screws tighter” policy. But today, Xinhua reported from Moscow that,

    Russia will honor a contract to deliver its advanced S-300 air defense systems to Iran after resolving a series of problems, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

And yesterday, China itself reiterated its calls that the Iranian nuclear-program crisis be addressed through stepped-up diplomacy, not confrontation.
Clinton probably feels herself under some pressure from the success that AIPAC, the very powerful America Israel Public Affairs Committee, has had in its massive, well-funded campaign to get legislators to adopt resolutions mandating unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran in the event Iran refuses to dance immediately to Uncle Sam’s tune on the nuclear issue.
These resolutions have two harmful effects. They would unilaterally penalize U.S. businesses at a time that businesses elsewhere continue to trade with Iran. And they restrict the administration’s ability to commit fully to the pursuit of foreign policy, which is, of course, a responsibility reserved to the administration under the U.S. Constitution.
But hey, why should AIPAC care about mere inconveniences like that!

Fareed Zakaria calls it right on Iran, Israel

Thank goodness for Fareed Zakaria’s voice of sanity on Iran, at the WaPo today!
Zakaria strongly criticizes Sarah Palin and those many other influential voices in the US who are now baying louder than ever for a U.S. (or Israeli) military strike on Iran.
A military strike, he writes,

    would most likely delay the Iranian program by only a few years. And then there are the political consequences. The regime would gain support as ordinary Iranians rally around the flag… The regime would foment and fund violence from Afghanistan to Iraq and across the Persian Gulf. The price of oil would skyrocket — which, ironically, would help Tehran pay for all these operations.
    It is important to recognize the magnitude of what people like Palin are advocating. The United States is being asked to launch a military invasion of a state that poses no imminent threat to America, without sanction from any international body and with few governments willing to publicly endorse such an action. Al-Qaeda and its ilk would present it as the third American invasion of a Muslim nation in a decade, proof positive that the United States is engaged in a war of civilizations. Moderate Arab states and Muslim governments everywhere would be on the defensive. And as Washington has surely come to realize, wars unleash forces that cannot be predicted or controlled…

Actually, I think Zakaria doesn’t make the case as strongly as he could. He makes no mention at all of international law or Just War theory, for example. Both those extremely weighty bodies of thinking– along with common sense– proclaim a strong injunction against the launching of wars that are not “justified” by rock-solid bodies of evidence. Just War theory also requires an extensive calculation of the expected costs and benefits of any war, as well as a determination that all non-violent options have been exhausted.
Indeed, by not clearly naming the launching of a military strike as an act of war, Zakaria muddies the waters considerably.
A military attack against another state is indeed an act of war. And any such an act thereby provides every justification needed under international law for the state that is attacked to counter-attack. An Iranian counter-attack against the numerous U.S. military facilities, and their supply lines, that are currently strung out in very vulnerable ways along Iran’s eastern, western, and southern (sea) boundaries would not just be “the fomenting of violence”, as Zakaria describes it. They would also be acts of war.
So the U.S. would indeed find itself enmeshed in a third war in distant Asia. And this time, unlike in Afghanistan in 2001 or in Iraq in 2003, it would be at war against a capable, intact state that has significant networks of allies and trading partners amongst the other states in the United Nations.
So it is not just that “Al-Qaeda and its ilk would present it as the third American invasion of a Muslim nation in a decade”… This would actually be the third war the U.S. has launched against a Muslim country in a decade.
So Zakaria is significantly down-pedaling the enormity of what an unprovoked and unjustified “military strike” against Iran would actually be, and would be seen as, by the vast preponderance of the international community.
Nonetheless, his column redeems itself if only for the calm, matter-of-fact way he refers to the long-existing reality of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
He writes,

    An Iran with nuclear weapons would be dangerous and destabilizing, though I am not as convinced as some that it would automatically force Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey to go nuclear as well. If Israel’s large nuclear arsenal has not made Egypt seek its own nukes — even though that country has fought and lost three wars with Israel — it is unclear to me why an Iranian bomb would.

Brilliant! He gives us a helpful reminder that, indeed, Israel really is the only state in the region that has any nuclear weapons– but he inserts that reminder as a sub-clause into his counter to the oft-cited “argument” about the expected proliferatory effects of Iran acquiring any kind of nuclear-weapons capability.
Israel’s large, existing, and very powerful nuclear arsenal is always the elephant in the room of any discussion in the U.S. about nuclear weapons in the Middle East. In just about every area of discourse in the U.S. power elite– both inside and outside government– there is nearly always a complete taboo on mentioning it, or taking it into any account at all.
So huge kudos to Zakaria for mentioning it. (And yes, the argument he made there about the prospects for onward proliferation is a good one.)
He also makes a very solid argument that– contra all those who say there is something uniquely disturbing about the prospect of the ‘mad mullahs of Tehran’ getting a nuclear weapon– in fact, Iran’s clerical elite is “canny (and ruthlessly pragmatic)” … and therefore, subject to the same calculi of deterrence as any other state power.
So how long will it be till the war-mongers start baying for Zakaria’s blood, as well, I wonder?