WASHINGTON – Either Israel is engaged in the most elaborate ruse since the
Trojan Horse or it is on the cusp of a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear
What’s alarming is not just Iran’s increasing store of
uranium or the growing sophistication of its rocketry. It’s also the
increasingly menacing annihilationist threats emanating from Iran’s leaders.
Israel’s existence is “an insult to all humanity,” says President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad. “Anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the
annihilation of the Zionist regime.” Explains the country’s Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Israel is “a true cancer tumor on this region that
should be cut off.”
Everyone wants to avoid military action, surely the
Israelis above all. They can expect a massive counterattack from Iran, 50,000
rockets launched from Lebanon, Islamic Jihad firing from Gaza and worldwide
terror against Jewish and Israeli targets, as happened last month in
Yet Israel will not sit idly by in the face of the most
virulent genocidal threats since Nazi Germany. The result then was 6
million murdered Jews. There are 6 million living in Israel today.
is short. Last-ditch negotiations in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow have failed
abjectly. The Iranians are contemptuously playing with the process. The strategy
is delay until they get the bomb.
What to do? The sagest advice comes
from Anthony Cordesman, military analyst at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, hardheaded realist and a believer that “multilateralism
and soft power must still be the rule and not the exception.”
He may have
found his exception. “There are times when the best way to prevent war is to
clearly communicate that it is possible,” he argues. Today, the threat of a US
attack is not taken seriously. Not by the region. Not by Iran. Not by the
Israelis, who therefore increasingly feel forced to act before Israel’s more
limited munitions – far less powerful and effective than those in the US arsenal
– can no longer penetrate Iran’s ever-hardening facilities.
therefore proposes threefold action.
1. “Clear US redlines.”
time to end the ambiguity about American intentions. Establish real limits on
negotiations – to convince Iran that the only alternative to a deal is
pre-emptive strikes, and to convince Israel to stay its hand.
2. “Make it
clear to Iran that it has no successful options.”
Either their program
must be abandoned in a negotiated deal (see No. 1 above) on generous terms from
the West (see No. 3 below) or their facilities will be physically destroyed.
Ostentatiously let Iran know about the range and power of our capacities – how
deep and extensive a campaign we could conduct, extending beyond just nuclear
facilities to military-industrial targets, refineries, power grids and other
concentrations of regime power.
3. Give Iran a face-saving way
Offer Iran the most generous possible terms – economic, diplomatic
and political. End of sanctions, assistance in economic and energy development,
trade incentives and a regional security architecture. Even Russian nuclear
Tellingly, however, Cordesman does not join those who suggest
yielding on nuclear enrichment. That’s important because a prominently
leaked proposed “compromise” would guarantee Iran’s right to enrich, though not
to high levels.
In my view, this would be disastrous. Iran would retain
the means to potentially produce fissile material, either clandestinely or in a
defiant breakout at a time of its choosing.
Would Iran believe a
Cordesman-like ultimatum? Given the record of the Obama administration, maybe
not. Some (though not Cordesman) have therefore suggested the further step of
requesting congressional authorization for the use of force if Iran does not
First, that’s the right way to do it. No
serious military action should be taken without congressional approval (contra
Libya). Second, Iran might actually respond to a threat backed by a strong
bipartisan majority of the American people – thus avoiding both war and the
other nightmare scenario, a nuclear Iran.
If we simply continue to drift
through kabuki negotiations, however, one thing is certain. Either
America, Europe, the Gulf Arabs and the Israelis will forever be condemned to
live under the threat of nuclear blackmail (even nuclear war) from a regime the
State Department identifies as the world’s greatest exporter of terror. Or an
imperiled Israel, with its more limited capabilities, will strike Iran – with
correspondingly greater probability of failure and of triggering a regional
All options are bad. Doing nothing is worse. “The status quo
may not prevent some form of war,” concludes Cordesman, “and may even be making
it more likely.”
Charles Krauthammer’s email address is
email@example.com. (c) 2012, The Washington Post Writers Group.