FUD on Israel attacking Iran

By | August 23, 2008

In his weekly opinion column on August 22, M.J. Rosenberg argues that Israel would endanger Jews living outside of Israel by attacking Iran. Furthermore, he rattles off a frightening laundry list of negative outcomes which he claims would result from such an attack:

“An Israeli attack on Iran—absent an imminent threat of attack from Iran—is a terrible idea for many reasons. It would not succeed in eliminating Iran’s nuclear program but would almost surely prompt Iran to both opt out of the international inspection regime and redouble its efforts to produce a bomb. It would unite Arabs and Muslims against the United States (they know that Israel could not attack Iran without implicit or explicit U.S. approval). It would have a disastrous effect on the American effort next door in Iraq, eliminating recently made gains and endangering 130,000 American troops (this is why Secretary of Defense Gates so vehemently opposes an Israeli attack). And it would end the Arab-Israeli peace process, even putting the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan at risk. And, no small thing, an attack would lead to a deadly Hezbollah missile onslaught against Israel, joined no doubt by Hamas in the south.”

The problem with this ominous litany of negativity is that there is little evidence that any of it is true.

Israel has, on two previous occasions, executed attacks against specific targets in Arab countries to curtail their nuclear weapons programs — an attack agianst the Osirak reactor near Baghdad, Iraq in 1981, and an attack against a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007. In both cases, the attack was successful and the weapons program in question essentially sent back to square one. This is rather strong evidence that Israel would, in fact, be able to attack and seriously curtail, if not destroy, Iran’s nuclear program if they felt it necessary to do so to protect their own security. It is also rather likely that, understanding full well the risks about which Rosenberg is concerned, Israel would not embark upon such an attack without a great deal of confidence about its likelihood of success. While Israel, alas, may not be all that good at fighting ground wars in Lebanon, they have an excellent record of successful targeted strikes when it the chips are down.

As for Rosenberg’s worry about Iran opting out of the international inspection regime, in case he hasn’t noticed, they are already refusing to cooperate with IAEA inspectors.

Arabs and Muslims were not “united against the United States” when Israel attacked Iraq’s reactor or when it attacked Syria’s. The reason for this is a political reality which Rosenberg seems content to ignore… Although the Arab countries surrounding Israel are opposed to its possession of nuclear weapons, they are even more opposed to the possession of nuclear weapons by any of their Arab brethren. As much as they hate Israel, they are savvy enough to recognize that Israel would only use its nuclear weapons in a doomsday scenario. They also realize that such a doomsday scenario will never occur unless some other nation in the region threatens Israel with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). They realize that if a country with a government like Iran’s manages to get its hands on nuclear weapons, Israel will, indeed, be threatened with WMDs. And, finally, They understand that a nuclear conflict between Israel and any other country in the region will wreak inconceivable devastation not just on those two countries, but on the entire region.

Rosenberg provides no evidence to back up his assertion that an attack by Israel on an Iranian nuclear facility would have a “disastrous effect on the American effort next door in Iraq.” While it is certainly likely that an Israeli attack against Iran would have wider impact in the region, the extent to which such an attack would impact the effort in Iraq is exceedingly difficult to quantify, and attempts to quantify it which offer no supporting evidence whatsoever cannot be taken seriously.

The attack on Iraq’s reactor did not end the Arab-Israeli peace process and did not damage the recently signed peace treaty with Egypt. The attack on Syria’s reactor did not end the Arab-Israeli peace process and did not damage either the Egypt or Jordan treaties. There is, in short, no evidence whatsoever that a legitimate attack by Israel against an Iranian nuclear weapons program would threaten the peace process or existing treaties between Israel and its neighbors.

In case Rosenberg missed it, Hamas was already bombing Israel on a daily basis before they entered into the current “cease-fire” whose only purpose, as far as Hamas is concerned, is to allow them to recover and rearm so that they can resume their attacks later, even stronger than before. In case Rosenberg missed it, Hezbollah is rearming itself aggressively in Lebanon despite empty promises from the United Nations to prevent that from happening, promises which Israel and anyone else with a modicum of intelligence knew were bunk all along. Hezbollah will use eventually use its weapons against Israel, and Hamas will eventually use its weapons against Israel; the question is not whether they will use them, but rather when, and to suggest that Israel should postpone an attack against Iran that is necessary for its own security, merely for the sake of postponing the inevitable aggression from Hezbollah and/or Hamas, is just silly.

That brings us full circle, back to Rosenberg’s primary thesis, which is that an Israeli attack against Iran would provoke terrorists to attack Jews outside of Israel. Surely if Rosenberg felt that such an attack were necessary for Israel’s security, he would be willing to accept the increased risk, so his argument actually has nothing whatsoever to do with the safety of those of us living in the diaspora. Rather, what his argument comes down to is that he does not think that an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear program is essential for its security, and that he does not trust the Israeli government to make such a determination. However, given the choice between trusting the Israeli military and intelligence apparatus to make such a determination, and trusting someone who has never served in any military capacity or even in any elected office, I’m afraid I’m going to have to go with the Israelis on this one.

Were Rosenberg to explicitly argue against the necessity of an Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear program, and were he to present evidence supporting the lack of need for such an attack, then there might actually be a useful discussion to have. Instead, Rosenberg obfuscates the issue and uses FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) in an effort to convince the reader to support a position which he doesn’t even have the courtesy to spell out explicitly. This type of fear-mongering has no place in civilized debate on this or any other issue.

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