The empire may strike after all

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US and Israeli strategy on Iran

The debate continues about Israel’s intent and readiness to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities and what Iran would do if that was to occur. The narrative covering this debate has revolved around if Israel will hit Iran before the US November election. Recent coverage was more concentrated on the difference of opinion between President Netanyahu and President Obama over establishing clear-cut red lines for Iran. There are also doubts about if military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities can completely destroy them. Reports indicate that even if US and Israeli acted jointly, the program will likely be set back only by a couple of years.

In short, prior to the recent events in Libya, US remained reluctant to pursue an all-out military solution towards Iran’s nuclear program. However, since the killing of Chris Stevens, the optimistic view of the trajectory of Arab Spring in the US is giving way to the narrative Israel has promoted all along. Early signs indicate a change of US posture may be in the offing.

Deciphering this ongoing deliberation reveals that Iran is not going to back down under the pressure of economic sanctions. Therefore, to Israel it is obvious that there is no alternative to a military strike and covert operations that are already underway. Especially, when there is an alarm that Iran is fast approaching the point of no return in acquiring nuclear capability.

On the other hand, the US is not so sure that the military option is the only one available. Like in Iraq and Afghanistan, US likes to work on the political and military solutions in tandem. This approach has not worked out very well in both places. Nonetheless, the US has relied on economic sanctions, covert operations and diplomacy for the time being.

There is obviously the dynamics of Arab Spring to consider that has worked in the favor of US up to this point. With the spreading Arab revolt the balance of power in Middle East is being altered to such an extent that ultimately, in combination with economic sanctions, Iran will be left without allies and depleted exchequer. And, this change in itself may convince the Iranians about the futility of its nuclear ambition. The parallel here is not much different than the example of Pakistan. The spreading war against extremists and its worsening economic woes have persuaded the country its time to change the nation’s security policies and ties with India.

However, recent events of North Africa, Middle East, including Afghanistan, are now pushing US towards a rethink of its strategy. The protests that erupted in the aftermath of the anti-Islam video and the killing of the American ambassador in Libya have revealed alarming levels of anti-Americanism. On the other hand, the spreading green on blue attacks in Afghanistan present a stark reflection of the collapse of approach there.

For all intents and purposes this year’s 9/11 anniversary marked the beginning of the next phase of the war on terror and Arab Spring, the two interconnected phenomenon. It is worth mentioning that the recent protests around the Islamic world, and the reasons behind them, are not without historical precedence. During the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 in the subcontinent, the underpinnings also involved cultural and religious miscalculations. The present mishandlings are already producing dire consequences in Afghanistan and more serious consequences are likely to follow. In a statement regarding the events of Libya, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was already making these connections with history when it praised ‘Omar al-Mukhtar’s descendants’ for the killing of the American ambassador.

The harsh tactics adopted in the first phase of the war against terror have gradually eaten up the credibility and space the despotic leaders of the region needed to remain in power. At the same time, moderate Islamist and nationalist are resurgent while the secular and liberal space has consistently shrunk. On the other hand, the US is in need of allies that retain some level of public support to implement the counterterrorism strategy. The challenge being, in the second phase of the campaign against extremists, in many places, such allies no longer exist or have no political space to operate.

The killing of the American ambassador and the initial ambivalence of the Egyptian and Tunisian authorities to control the protests have given credence to the Israeli claim that moderate Islamists, that came to power as a result of the Arab awakening, have a soft corner for the radical Islamists. Moreover, the extremists will eventually take over the moderates. If this really is the case, then that means extremist groups are indeed benefiting by the present flux and chaos in the region and by exploiting the direction of the uprisings.

The Republican Party is leading the charge to counter this and have blamed Obama for not fully supporting Israel. In an interview with Fox News Newt Gingrich commented, “I think we should have a total reassessment of our entire strategy for the region.”

Representing the threat perception of Israel, Gingrich went on to state the Middle East is heading for serious turmoil, “As these dictatorships collapse, you’re seeing more and more weapons get in the hands of extremists. The Israelis have a real fear… they may suddenly see Syrian chemical weapons being fired at them by Hezbollah in very substantial quantities.”

The politicking of American elections and events of the Middle East appear to be moving US policy closer to the Israeli position, even with all the risks. There is a very real chance that Israel will act independently and the US will be dragged in to the conflict, even when it does not want to.

The writer is the chief analyst for PoliTact (www.PoliTact.com and http:twitter.com/politact) and can be reached at [email protected]

7 COMMENTS

  1. It is a very thought provoking article but let us draw our breath a little and examine the issue involved. What is the dispute between Israel and Iran who were once the best of friends in the region? Let us look at the background to this. Indeed Iran was the first Moslem country to recognize Israel. Both USA and Isreal encouraged the Shah to go nuclear albeit for peaceful purposes. International relations are never static but dynamic and this is exactly what has happened. Under the late Ayattullah the relations souvered –USA was dubbed the grate Satan and Israel as the little Satan but despite this still the little Satan helped Iran with military hardware in the war against Iraq.(Comment continues)

  2. Continuatio) After the war Iran decided to reactivate it,s nuclear program for peaceful purposes but alarm bells rang all over the world! Iran was not be trusted. It could only enrich it,s uranium upto 20% and not above that and should open up it,s facilities to strict inspections by the IAEA.Has the latter every been to Israel which has
    maitained nuclear ambiguity since 1960? Certain irresposible statements by the present President of Iran has not helped matters either. The international society has litterally declared war on Iran. It is facing diplomatic, economic and military sanctions. The covert war has allready begun. Iranian scietists have been assassinated, others have defected while "virus attacks " have been launched on the iranian nuclear facilities.Iran has not retaliated in any way and has kept the most vital passage strait of hormuz open for business as usual. One is fed the impression that iran is run by mad Ayattulahs.Nothing could be far from truth! The iranian regime is run by sane people who know the risks involved but will not be dictated to.(comments continue)

  3. Continuation) Now Israel wants to draw a RED LINE beyond which it will not wait and take action to prevent Iran going nuclear. The two countries have nothing to fight
    about. They have no common borders and are more than a 1000 miles apart.
    An argument is being put forward is if Iran develops a nuclear weapon it will lead to proliferation. It does not hold water! In the last 70 years what proliferation have we seen.? Only Israel, Pakistan and North Korea have gone nuclear. I agree the first one maintains ambiguity. Iraq and syria tried but their nuclear sites were bombed into oblivion by the israelis. The development of the bomb has brought a sort of peace between india and Pakistan. Both know the risks invoved. Both understand the concept of MAD. I believe the same will hapen in the middle east when iran gets it,s nuclear weapons. USA at the moment has lost it,s credibility in the moslem world and i don,t think it will do anything foolish. Israel is asecure nation. Why it feels threatened i can,t believe. Please let us stop sabre rattling.

    • Dr. Khan. You are mistaken. Nuclear weapons in the hand of Pakistan has no relevance to the (so called ) peace existing between India and Pakistan. Refresh your memories in History and you will find that India has never been an aggressor for centuries. All the wars were initiated by Pakistan which was responded by India effectively. India is a big & diverse country which unfortunately has resulted in many socio economic issues. Hence we are only keen in resolving these matters rather than getting into a conflict with Pakistan. What do we gain by capturing your territory except for dealing with a bunch of lawless mad men. Even if your claim is correct why do you think both the countries are piling up conventional weapons. All they needed was to announce the status of the nuclear weapons and stop buying conventional weapons. This is not the case. However please understand that he Indian establishment may talk of no first strike etc but history has shown that when it comes to National security Indian establishment follows a policy of no holds barred and all assets will be used. Yes! India will suffer but then Pakistan will be erased from the map. Do you think the International community will sit there and watch while all these things happens. So, the crux of the matter is that the (so called) Peace is existing between India and Pakistan not because of the bomb but because of socio economic issues affecting both the countries.

      • I thank you for your thoughtful comments. But let me make it clear Pakistan is not my country and as such i am not offended. I am a product of your country but an internationalist. The very fact that india is big, diverse country is it,s strength and not it,s weakness. Now you maintain that India has no territorial ambitions and has never been an aggressor! If memory serves me right was it not India that marched into Bengladesh and decimated the Pakistani army.
        I believe even now that india and Pakistan are invoved in ln a low intensity war with each other. I am not sure what you mean by lawless mad men! Are there
        also lawful mad men? Please don,t rely on the int.community—they always step on the day after the night before. I remember when India made the bomb the bellicose statements made by the indian politicians threatning Pakistan which made the late ZAB utter:we will eat grass but make the bomb: He gave his life for it. However i was pleased to read your comment.

  4. There is no bigger idiot than you if you think that bomb has brought about peace between India and Pakistan. There is no peace unless you exclude proxywar by Pakistan. Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear warheads when it collapsed.
    And is it your fantasy that you see peace in middle east with Iran having nuclear weapons ? Iran is a signatory to NPT and all along vehemently denied that it is making nuclear weapons while the west is not ready to believe Iran. Iran`s denial are the cause of conflict and here you are telling that a nuclear Iran will ensure Peace in the middle-east ? Also, More that Israel, it is Saudi Arabia, that wants Iran to be destroyed.

  5. Dear Jeet, When coments become pesonal–the subject under discussion becomes irrelevent. I have read with interest your comment but will not respond being the person you assume i am!

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