Wednesday, November 02, 2011 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Israeli attack on Iran considered again

There have been a few articles on this blog about possible Israeli plans to strike Iran's nuclear and/or military facilities. It hasn't taken place yet; still, I consider such a scenario realistic enough for those blog entries to reappear.

Today, it's another day of this kind. Israel has successfully launched a new long-range missile: video.

Ehud Barak, a graduate in physics, mathematics, and economics from Stanford and the Hebrew University, happens to be employed as the defense minister of Israel now. He has been happy to see this immense achievement. Well, we surely do expect Israel to be able to launch long-range missiles and the Jewish state is arguably and hopefully more advanced than Iran in this discipline.

The Jericho missiles are widely believed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Also, Israel has performed a drill in Sardinia – a "dry run" on Iran – and recently re-positioned submarines not far from Iran. Today, Bibi gave the more hawkish talk in the Knesset yet, arguing that security can't be based on defense only. When someone comes to kill you, you have to kill him first.

Much more seriously, the Haaretz, a leading left-wing Israeli daily, reported that the important guys in the Israeli government already prefer a strike – possibly nuclear strike – against Iran and they are trying to convince their skeptical fellow ministers who still have a slight majority. (See also an Iranian threat section of The Jerusalem Post.) It's been said that Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, Ehud Barak, the defense minister, as well as (newly) Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, already support the strike. I think that in these questions, they're the three most important members of the government.

This is probably a different Jericho missile but this one is fun, too! :-)

If such a plan is sensible at all, and this will be discussed below (the bold plan may be just a trick to persuade other countries to impose tougher sanctions on Iran), this month seems to be relatively more appropriate than any other. First of all, winter is bad for such attacks: extra clouds make flying nearly impossible. Second of all, the unilateral penetration of Palestine to UNESCO may be viewed as a kind of an excuse; Israel has already accelerated the construction in the West Bank because of the U.N. vote. Third, the shock delivered to the world by the Greek prime minister may be an event that makes other, otherwise shocking events less stunning and people may even spend less time by watching the attack.

The damages caused by the Stuxnet virus have probably been fixed and Iran is probably making progress in its nuclear technologies. I don't have any proof that it is working on weapons – the International Nuclear Agency will offer some evidence next week, it's been said (and the November 8th report could ultimately be the very spark that will send the Israeli rockets and/or several hundred aircraft to Iran) – but the combination of this lethal modern technology with the bigotry of the first millennium, the time when people behaved as bloody savages just in order to defend indefensible hypotheses such as one about an Allah, simply doesn't seem as a healthy and safe combination from the civilized world's viewpoint. In one year, we could easily find out that it's already too late to stop this combination from showing its muscles.

While there are surely reasons why an intervention should be tried, I am not crazy and I am afraid of many possible consequences of it as well. Of course that I am morally afraid of the possibility that Iran's nuclear plans are truly peaceful and Israel turns out to be the bad guy. Of course that I don't like the idea of innocent civilian casualties in Iran and I don't like the idea that an Iranian response could turn out to be dangerous (which is far from obvious at this point, however). Of course that I don't like the possibility that the facilities are buried so perfectly that the available weapons will turn out to be inefficient. I hope that the people in Israel already have some plans how to protect their own civilian population in the case of a counter-attack etc. These are tough issues and good leaders would have to manage such things on both sides, not just the attack on the Iranian facilities themselves.

On the other hand, there may be a higher number of positive reasons why an attack could be a good idea. People say that such an attack won't destroy the Iranian nuclear bomb ambitions forever; it will only delay them. Well, no doubt about it. However, it's important to have an idea about the timescale by which the development of the dangerous things is delayed. If it is delayed by several years, like five years, it is a huge victory. If Israel could guarantee its existence just by sending a November greeting to Iran every five years, it would surely be a situation that many people in Israel would like. The sending of the Cheshvan gift to Iran could become another standard item in the Jewish calendar. ;-) The future often looks much bleaker than that... An attack against (perceived) nuclear facilities wouldn't be unprecedented for Israel; it's done a similar thing in Iraq in the early 1980s and in Syria in 2007.

When Iraq was being attacked almost a decade ago, of course that I wasn't really among the excited anti-war protesters (I would only attend a few protests in Boston to watch and photograph those obsessed people) but I was feeling some moral dilemmas as well. The intervention was costly, the main justification (the same one that is considered in the Iranian case now) turned out to be wrong, and many people died. For years, we wouldn't know whether we have done the right thing. Even though I inherently believe that democracy and other values can't really be "exported" to places that are not familiar with them and that are not dreaming about them, I kind of feel that Iraq is already benefiting from the war today but we had to wait for years.

One thing I considered crazy about the right-wing Americans who supported the Iraq war was their idea that all the population of Iraq hated Saddam and was suppressed by him. They would welcome the American troops as liberators, we were told. I've never believed such a thing. This belief always looked like an artifact of a naive interpretation of a very superficial anti-Saddam propaganda. The reality is that no dictator and no totalitarian system can really operate in the long run without having at least something like 10-20 percent of the population that strongly believes in the content of the official propaganda. It's just physically impossible for a dictator (or a gang of them) to rule a country without this net. I am sure that this percentage existed in Iraq as well; it grew when Iraq was attacked. And I am sure that the percentage is much higher in Iran.

After all, the combative Muslim leaders may gather the support of all the Muslims who want to equip the Mohammed and Allah, two 1300-year-old ordinary men who only know how to use their wooden sticks, by some modern technology resulting from the infidels' modern scientific research, something that the aggressive Muslims may simply steal. And that means that they may gather the support of pretty much all the Muslims which means nearly the whole population of Iran and maybe not just Iran. So I hope that if the U.S. and the U.K. decide to help or back Israel in its strikes (the U.K. has already announced it is prepared to boldly applaud the U.S. when the U.S. strikes Iran haha: but one can't really exclude that David Cameron will become the real man and Britain with no other help will strike Iran), we won't see another wave of the pathetic ideas that the Iranian population is surely happy that their land is under attack. Almost no one in Iran will be happy.

And that's the memo.

Add to Digg this Add to reddit

snail feedback (5) :

reader Ervin Goldfain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

reader Ervin Goldfain said...

Hi Lubos,

What surprises me is that these military plans are usually top-secret. Why would Biby be so frank with the world? Is he trying to do sword-rattling to gain international support?



reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Ervin, a good question. The official answer is that it should have been secret but someone in the government leaked it and the media have recklessly spread the secret news, allowing a public discussion (which they don't want).

Alternatively, the leak was deliberate, making everyone ready because Iran is arguably as ready as it can be whether or not there are rumors going around.

Of course, the third possibility is that they're bluffing, attempting to convince others to seriously toughen sanctions on Iran.

reader VangelV said...

I don't see how anyone can justify using a nuclear weapon to kill a lot of innocent civilians. Given the fact that Iran has ever attacked Israel directly it would be hard to pull off an attack against it without a great deal of blow-back.

reader george said...

We missed a golden opportunity to support the uprising in Iran when the boy king Obama was bent on trying to open a dialog with the 7th century savages who rule the place. It would have cost us nothing to do the moral thing and back the popular movement against the Iranian leaders.

But Obama failed this moral calculus test. (I think he is also innumerate since he invariably gets it wrong when any numbers or maths are required but that is another story for another day.) Instead we backed the Islamic radicals in Libya and Egypt.

The truth is that the left has legitimized terrorism through their support of the Palesinians. Combine that with the inevitability of nuclear proliferation among rogue, terrorist supporting regimes and you have an untenable situation. Either the rogue regimes have to go or the nuclear technology has to be removed from their hands. They don't get to do a Dance of the Seven Veils like Saddam did as to whether they have or are developing such weapons.

If the Iranians build a bomb they will be more likely to give it to one of their proxies for deployment against Israel than launch it themselves. Then they can blow up their enemies while maintaining they are not to blame and it will be difficult to prove otherwise.

Israel really has no good long term options. It is up to the rest of the world to come to its senses.