Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sen. John Kerry: Ultimately, we are going to deal with a government in Iran because the nuclear issue is so compelling, urgent, dangerous

Ha'aretz/Reuters: The Obama administration has rescinded invitations to Iranian diplomats to attend U.S. independence day celebrations on July 4, the White House said on Wednesday.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Iranian diplomats had in any case not replied to invitations already sent out. Initially, the administration had said that the invitation still stood, but by Wednesday afternoon announced otherwise.

"As far as I know not a single Iranian accepted the invitation to 4 of July celebration? said State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said earlier Wednesday. "They are celebration of our basic values of independence and freedom, which are exactly what Iranians demand on the streets."

U.S. officials and analysts believe that the political turmoil in Iran surrounding its contested June 12 presidential election has dimmed immediate prospects for U.S. dialogue with Tehran, but say U.S. President Barack Obama's hopes for engagement have by no means been snuffed out.

Officials acknowledge that the Iranian authorities bloody crackdown on street protests sparked by the election have made it less likely that Tehran will wish to engage and harder for the Obama administration to do so.

However, Obama has deliberately not withdrawn his open-hand policy toward Iran even as the authorities displayed an iron fist to intimidate demonstrators in the biggest anti-government protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"The president's policy of engagement is obviously delayed, but we are going to have to deal with the government of Iran," Senator John Kerry, chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters.

"The dust will have to settle but ultimately we are going to deal with a government of Iran because we have to, because the nuclear issue is so compelling, urgent, dangerous and important to us," he added.

Since taking office, Obama has made a series of overtures to Iran - including inviting its diplomats to July 4th parties at U.S. embassies around the world - as a way of trying to rebuild ties severed after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The U.S. hope is to coax Iran into a negotiation over its nuclear program - which Washington suspects is designed to produce atomic bombs but which Tehran says is to generate electricity - as well as other issues.

Jim Dobbins, a senior fellow at the Rand Corporation nonprofit research group and a former top U.S. diplomat who has dealt extensively with Iranians, said an assumption that the engagement policy was now dead took too short-term a view.

"Engagement with Iran is off for the foreseeable future, but the foreseeable future extends about a week," he said.

"If the regime succeeds in tamping down resistance, establishing effective control, and then proves willing to engage the United States in meaningful talks, my guess is that the administration will ultimately agree, although it will be more difficult as a result of these events," he added.

Security forces have clamped down on Tehran to prevent protest rallies. Reformists say the election was rigged to return President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power and to keep out moderate former prime minister Mirhossein Mousavi.

The furor over the election has exposed deep rifts within Iran's political elite, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei solidly backing Ahmadinejad against Mousavi and declaring the disputed election result would stand.

U.S. conservatives argued that the Iranian crackdown had vindicated their view that Iran's ruling authorities are not willing to negotiate with the West over their nuclear program.

"I think his underlying policy is fundamentally wrong because negotiation is doomed to failure in the future, just as it has been doomed to failure in the past, when it comes to their nuclear program," said John Bolton, a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush.

"I think the policy he should be pursuing is overthrowing the Islamic revolution of 1979," he said, calling for the United States to funnel more resources -- covert and overt -- to strengthen opponents of the Islamic republic inside and outside Iran.

Obama has taken some political heat for his careful response to the election, with Republicans arguing that he should supported the protesters earlier and and criticized the government's crackdown against them more sharply.

Kerry, however, suggested that Obama could not afford to write off the possibility of negotiating with Ahmadinejad.

"We don't' have the luxury of choosing our negotiating partners in certain situations," he said.

Asked how long any engagement might be delayed, Kerry replied: "I can't tell you how long that is, it could be a matter of weeks.

"Personally, I don't believe it will be a long period of time, but that will ultimately depend on how they will resolve this crisis, internally in Iran. If they choose to do things that are so extreme that they confront everybody's conscience ... they could make it very [difficult] in the short term."

Published as "Obama rescinds July 4 invites to Iranian diplomats"By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters

Excerpt from "How Iran’s Hardliners Shot Themselves in the Foot," Shaul Bakhash, The Forward, June 26, 2009

"The irony of all this is that Mousavi actually did not necessarily pose a fundamental threat to the status quo. Certainly, he would have softened the tone of Iranian foreign policy, reverting to the type of presidential rhetoric that preceded Ahmadinejad’s term in office.

"And even Khamenei himself has not ruled out engaging America, so long as it is done on his terms. In any case, Iran’s nuclear policy is set by the supreme leader, not by the president. Moreover, easing of social, press and political controls of the kind envisaged by Mousavi would have been limited in scope. Yet the hardliners persisted in the belief that any relaxing of controls would be the thin edge of the wedge that would destabilize the whole system….

"If there is engagement with America, Khamenei wants to control it. In Ahmadinejad, he has a willing collaborator. In Mousavi, he might have had a president with a mind of his own.
These considerations may explain the decision to manipulate the election results — and the available evidence points to the conclusion that the results were, indeed, falsified — in order to give Ahmadinejad an undeserved victory."

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: The US must ultimately talk to the Iranian regime about nuclear proliferation

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Rachel Maddow 6/23/09: After concurring with President Obama's condemnation of the Iranian regime's violent repression of peaceful protesters, Albright responded in part as follows to the question of whether the US will, in the end, have to recognize that Ahmadinejad is the president of Iran, if indeed he remains in power:

“. . . The issue is ultimately what are US national interests. The President said that we are very concerned about the direction that Iran is going on [their] nuclear program….I have to say that we have dealt with a lot of odious people in order to deal with issues that are larger.

"For instance, we dealt with Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, we dealt with other people that we don’t like when we have to deal with America’s national interests, and the truth is that nuclear proliferation is one of the biggest problems that we have.”

Watch the video of Albright's comments below:

(The entire interview is at

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Top Republican Senator Richard Lugar: US should sit down with Iran despite post-election turmoil

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top Republican senator says the United States should still sit down with Iran, despite postelection turmoil in Tehran. Sen. Richard Lugar says the U.S. has a goal of containing Iran's nuclear ambition. He says the two countries should meet even though there are protests in Tehran over this month's presidential vote.

Lugar, R-Ind., says President Barack Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should be ready to meet with their Iranian counterparts. Lugar spoke to CNN's "State of the Union."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

For video see

WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., says the United States should "sit down" with Iran to negotiate an end to its nuclear program. Echoing a sentiment expressed last week by President Barack Obama that he would continue to seek a dialogue with Iran even in the face of a crackdown on government political opponents, Lugar said on CNN's "State of the Union" news program Sunday that he, too, would want to continue direct talks.

"We would sit down because our objective is to eliminate the nuclear program that is in Iran," said Lugar, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Of course, we really have to get into the nuclear weapons. ... Now we have a new opportunity in which we might very well say we want communication with Iran."

Former CIA Deputy Director under Bush: Take military option off the table on Iran

As the fifth consecutive day of protests in Iran drew to a close, one of the chief members of President Bush's intelligence apparatus warned that the United States should forgo the military option no matter what the outcome of the contested elections.

"I would argue against any military option. I just don't think it will work, and it will have consequences that will be severe," said John McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of the CIA under President George W. Bush.

...a growing majority of thinkers and opinion makers are urging the United States to adopt a less confrontational approach when it comes to Iran, cognizant that a popular movement exists within that country for greater international engagement.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Israeli military strike on Iran would have snuffed out Iran’s new democratic revolution

Bernard Avishai reminds us that had Israeli hawks had their way last year and launched a military strike on Iran--blocked, thankfully, by a chastened Bush Administration and Pentagon--it would have snuffed out the democratic revolution we are witnessing today in Iran:

"As I write, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of mainly young Iranians are deciding whether or not to risk going out into the streets. There is little someone like myself can add regarding the poignancy of their decision. Yet one thing seems obvious: a generation of Iranians has been changed by these rallies--changed in roughly the opposite way they would have been had Israeli military intelligence got its way, and won American and IDF agreement to an aerial strike on Iranian nuclear facilities earlier this year.

"Even in the face of mass protest, not only did Mossad chief Meir Dagan refuse to admit the obvious--that an attack would have caused widespread carnage, put Iran on a war footing, and preempted its twittering liberalism--but he's had the audacity to predict to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee what nobody could possibly know at this point, that the protests will peter out; that, anyway, a Mousavi government would be worse than Ahmadinejad's regime, for it would give Iran's nuclear program a prettier face. ("To hell with those students; the PowerPoint is done.")

"Still, it is not military planners like Dagan who seem reprehensible to me. It is the politicians and writers who channel them. We pay people like Dagan to sum the weapons of potential enemies and come up with ways to foil them. (The only reason we'll be able to live with a nuclear Iran, should this become necessary, is because military planners will have figured out how to position Israel's own nuclear deterrent.) And Dagan's main job is to think like a "made man," turning worst case contingencies into scenarios, and scenarios into "predictions." Mossad people say they also look at motive, not just capability. But who doesn't know how easily military people assume that capability translates into motive, much the way economists assume big money translates into investment. Motive? We are not talking about James Joyce here.

"On the other hand, nothing seems more irresponsible to me than politicians and political analysts who lack the poise to stand up to military intelligence when important policy decisions are taking shape; politicians so eager to prove that they are not still trusting children that they remain forever sophomoric, defining the world as a test of wills, fearing (as Orwell did in "Shooting an Elephant") looking like a fool; writers so eager to prove that they are not just brainy wimps that they hang out with, and flaunt being respected by, officers.

"So before the moment passes, we should give thanks that, owing (among other things) to McCain's defeat, this was one attack that never took place--and now never will, since it is obvious, even to the mullahs, I suspect, how the regime can simply be waited out, much the way Communist regimes were waited out; how they have lost the young [and many other segments of Iranian society].

"And before the next moment of crisis, we should not fail to note some of the most irresponsible journalism of the last couple of years: Benny Morris' call for a limited nuclear strike last July, and, more recently, Jeffery Goldberg's implied endorsement of some kind of attack. (Both were given enormous space in, of all places, the New York Times op-ed section, so the editors should probably be remembered, too.) And who can forget Haaretz's Arie Shavit, who is silent about Iran this week, but is already taking credit instead for Netanyhu's policy of a demilitarized Palestine?

"This accounting may seem small of me, but the celebrity culture being what it is, the periodic violence of extremists being what it is--and the fears summoned by ordinary neurosis being what they are--these writers will no doubt hang on nicely, cultivating their reputation for toughness (though Goldberg, to his credit, is repulsed by Dagan's statements, and seems to have come around to the idea that warning against the reckless use of force is not the same as weakness). Anyway, there is often credit for talking tough, while warning against violence is thankless. Just not at this moment, surely, and not in this case."

This passage from a reformed Jeffrey Goldberg from June 16 is worth reproducing:

"...I care mainly about which Iranians have the bomb, rather than whether Iran has the bomb. Maybe this is naive -- and maybe I'm caught up, as a suspected neocon fellow traveler, in the excitement of watching Middle Easterners attempting to free themselves from such an obviously tyrannical regime -- but I have to think that the people flooding the streets in protest are not the sort of people who would want to see their country enter a nuclear confrontation with Israel. Not, God forbid, because they like Israel, but because they're rational enough, and interested enough in the betterment of their own lives, to demand a government that puts a limit on Iran's foreign adventures. I recognize that the people of Iran do not currently shape their country's nuclear policy -- and their country's policies to Israel and the West -- but one can hope for better days, when they do."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to Responsibly Advocate for Human Rights in Iran--Listen to what Iranian human rights groups, and the protestors themselves, ask of us

Iranian Human Rights Group Hopes the U.S. Stays Out of Election
By Spencer Ackerman 6/13/09 6:15 PM
...The White House is trying to strike a balance between three pressures: speaking in a Samizdat fashion to the Moussavi supporters who have just seen the election stolen by Ahmadinejad and the regime; not interfering in post-election events out of a very justified concern that the appearance of U.S. involvement will act as a delegitimizing force; and preserving the administration’s freedom of action should it have to accept a second Ahmadinejad term.

And with the exception of respecting the third consideration, the strongly anti-Ahmadinejad Hadi Ghaemi, New York-based spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, doesn’t think the White House ought to say much else.

The White House statement may not fully capture the depth of the crime committed against the Iranian people. “But I think it’s wise for the U.S. government to keep its distance,” Ghaemi said in a phone interview. The White House can and should “show concern for human life and protesters’ safety and promote tolerance and dialogue.” But to get any further involved, even rhetorically, would “instigate the cry that the reformers are somehow driven and directed by the United States, whether under former President George W. Bush or under President Obama, and there’s no reason to give that unfounded allegation” any chance to spread.

Ghaemi continues to say that the international community should present a united front that gives “no legitimacy” to the election. In particular, he wants United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to express “serious grievances” about how the election was conducted. “Sanctions and military threats, all these things are counterproductive,” Ghaemi said. The initiative has to be expressed and promoted by the Iranians themselves, particularly from Moussavi and other exponents of popular Iranian outrage. “It very much depends on what leading reformers, including Moussavi, ask them to do, and how much responsibility do they take for exposing them to danger. If they put their tails between their legs and walk away, it will be very sad.”

And: “…government forces are already accusing protesters of collaborating with the U.S., and that protesters are actually worried that Obama will make an explicit show of support, as that would restore some credibility to what the government has said about the election and, more importantly, could undermine a reform coalition in which some factions are none-too-fond of America.

This Is Not About Making the U.S. Feel Good About Itself

By Spencer Ackerman 6/15/09 3:30 PM
There’s a lot to agree with in my friend George Packer’s post about what’s happening in Iran. But I think George, who excels at intellectual history, might be missing a certain crucial component of the equation when viewing Obama’s actions here through the prism of realism vs. progressivism:

"With riot police and armed militiamen beating and, in a few reported cases, killing unarmed demonstrators in the streets of Iran’s cities, for the Obama Administration to continue parsing equivocal phrases serves no purpose other than to make it look feckless. Part of realism is showing that you have a clear grasp of reality—that you know the difference between decency and barbarism when both are on display for the whole world to see. A stronger American stand—taken, as much as possible, in concert with European countries and through multilateral organizations—would do more to improve America’s negotiating position than weaken it. Acknowledging the compelling voices of the desperate young Iranians who, after all, only want their votes counted, would not deep-six the possibility of American-Iranian talks. Ahmadinejad and his partners in the clerical-military establishment will talk to us exactly when and if they think it’s in their interest. Right now, they don’t appear to. And the tens of millions of Iranians who voted for change and are the long-term future of that country will always remember what America said and did when they put their lives on the line for their values."

What’s missing here is an effort at determining what the Iranian dissenters want from the Obama administration. The fact that it’s not clear what the answer to that question is itself serves as a powerful indicator that the protest movement is first and foremost concerned about handling this on its own. As best I can tell from NIAC and from Twitter and from talking with Iranian human rights advocates in the United States, the dissenters want the Obama administration to refuse to recognize Ahmadinejad’s claims of victory; to express concern for the safety of the protesters; and then to get out of the way. The Obama administration can be fairly criticized for not saying enough on the second point, though if, as Michael Scherer believes, Obama’s going to say something at 5 p.m., maybe that will change. But it doesn’t follow from Obama’s muted discussion of the dissenters that he’s indifferent to their plight. From talking to administration officials, I am convinced that they are very concerned that American rhetorical support will immediately become a cudgel in the hands of Ahmadinejad. Would that outcome advance human rights?

It’s emotionally unsatisfying not to proclaim unequivocal support for the protesters. But the truer measure of support, as Trita Parsi told me, is to follow their lead. Moussavi, for instance, has not issued any statement about what he wants the international community to do. If the protesters begin calling for a more direct American response, then that really will have to compel the administration to reconsider its position. But until then, with so many lives at stake, the administration can’t afford to take a stance just because it makes Americans feel just and righteous.

Trita Parsi on Obama’s Iran Comments
By Spencer Ackerman 6/16/09 9:35 AM
After two days of criticism that he should explicitly side with the Iranian opposition, President Obama yesterday said he was “deeply troubled” by the Iranian regime’s willingness to resort to violence, and while it’s “up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be,” he believes “the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected.”

"Ahmadinejad prepared for dialogue with the US; clerical leaders would support a deal with the US on nuclear issue"

" even prepared for a dialogue with Washington under the right circumstances, as he stated earlier. But he is empowered now. The other leaders would support him to strike a deal with the US on the nuclear issue as long as it is in Iran's interest." Iran expert Flynt Leverett, Der Spiegel interview, June 15, 2009

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett in Politico: While I don't agree with their view that Ahamdinejad won the election without fraud ("Ahamdinejad won; get over it"), their prescription for what President Obama must do, once the internal crisis in Iran is resolved, is the larger point that we must not miss. Why so? Because the United States, Israel and our Sunni Arab allies are headed for a new and far more disastrous regional war with Iran in the coming months if we do not find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear problem:

"The Obama administration should vigorously rebut any argument against engaging Tehran following Friday’s vote. More broadly, Ahmadinejad’s victory may force Obama and his senior advisers to come to terms with the deficiencies and internal contradictions in their approach to Iran. Before the Iranian election, the Obama administration had fallen for the same illusion as many of its predecessors — the illusion that Iranian politics is primarily about personalities and finding the right personality to deal with. That is not how Iranian politics works.

The Islamic Republic is a system with multiple power centers; within that system, there is a strong and enduring consensus about core issues of national security and foreign policy, including Iran’s nuclear program and relations with the United States. Any of the four candidates in Friday’s election would have continued the nuclear program as Iran’s president; none would agree to its suspension.

Any of the four candidates would be interested in a diplomatic opening with the United States, but that opening would need to be comprehensive, respectful of Iran’s legitimate national security interests and regional importance, accepting of Iran’s right to develop and benefit from the full range of civil nuclear technology — including pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle — and aimed at genuine rapprochement.

Such an approach would also, in our judgment, be manifestly in the interests of the United States and its allies throughout the Middle East. It is time for the Obama administration to get serious about pursuing this approach — with an Iranian administration headed by the reelected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Flynt Leverett directs The New America Foundation’s Iran Project and teaches international affairs at Pennsylvania State university. Hillary Mann Leverett is CEO of STRATEGA, a political risk consultancy. Both worked for many years on Middle East issues for the U.S. government, including as members of the National Security Council staff.

Obama urges Iran to probe election tally as violence grows
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies, 6/16/09

U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that he was deeply troubled by post-election violence in Iran, and urged the Islamic republic to investigate voting irregularities in a way that would not result in bloodshed. Obama said he would continue pursuing tough, direct dialogue with Tehran despite deep differences with incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was officially declared the winner of last Friday's vote.

"I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television," Obama told reporters after his meeting with Berlusconi. “The democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent - all those are universal values and need to be respected," he said. Obama stressed that the United States respected Iran's sovereignty and could not judge how the election was run because neither U.S. nor international observers were present.

"The Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place," Obama said. "It's important that moving forward, whatever investigations take place are done in a way that is not resulting in bloodshed and is not resulting in people being stifled in expressing their views."

Obama said the world was inspired by Iranian demonstrators who marched against what they say was a rigged election. "To those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was," Obama said.

Obama, a Democrat who has taken criticism from his Republican opponents for trying to engage with U.S. foes, said the election results did not alter his desire for direct diplomacy with Tehran. "We will continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries and we'll see where it takes us," Obama said.

"The use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy - diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries -- is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interest."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Former Israeli Military Intel Chief: Israeli public's perception of Iranian nuclear threat is distorted; Israel must not attack Iran unilaterally

Letter From Tel Aviv: Netanyahu’s Iranian Dilemma: The Limits of the Military Option Against Iran, by Ronen Bergman - From Foreign Affairs, June 10, 2009

RONEN BERGMAN is a correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth and the author of The Secret War With Iran.

At a recent symposium at Tel Aviv University, Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash, the former chief of military intelligence, described Israel's public perception of the Iranian nuclear threat as "distorted." His view -- which is shared by many in Israel's security and intelligence services -- is that Israel is not Iran's primary [motive for seeking a nuclear weapons capacity], and therefore, Israel must not attack Iran unilaterally. Members of the audience took issue with his analysis.

One woman, speaking with a heavy Farsi accent, said of the Iranian regime, "They're crazy, and they will drop a bomb on us the moment they can. We need to deal with them now!"
Her sentiment reflects the public mood in Israel, where many are convinced that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to annihilate them and is willing to risk the destruction of his own country to do so. For most Israelis, the question is not whether Iran will attack but when. Polls consistently show that Israelis are overwhelmingly in favor of striking Iran's nuclear facilities. A recent survey commissioned by Tel Aviv University's Center for Iranian Studies found that three out of four Israelis believe the United States will not be able to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and one in two supports taking immediate military action.

It is impossible to separate such convictions from their historical context. The fear that Jews -- having escaped the furnaces of the Holocaust -- could face annihilation in Israel has always haunted the public psyche. Long before Ahmadinejad's outbursts, therefore, Israelis were already attuned to hearing echoes of the Wannsee Conference in Tehran's inflammatory rhetoric. Historical comparisons between Tehran and Nazi-controlled Berlin are common, as is linking the Allied forces' refusal to bomb the concentration camps with the present international reluctance to take effective action against Iran. In April 2008, Benjamin Netanyahu, then leader of the opposition, made such an explicit comparison in a conversation with Stephen Hadley, then national security adviser in the Bush administration.

"Ahmadinejad is a modern Hitler," Netanyahu told Hadley, "and the mistakes that were made prior to the Second World War must not be repeated."

But this visceral fear of Iran among the public and elected politicians is not shared by the intelligence community. Experts on the Iranian regime are quick to point out that Ahmadinejad does not call the shots in Iran; the real power lies with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme religious leader. Furthermore, these experts note, throughout its 30 years of existence, the Iranian regime has shown pragmatism and moderation whenever its survival was at stake. And the Iranians clearly understand that a nuclear attack against Israel would lead to a devastating Israeli counterstrike that, among other things, would mean the end of the revolutionary regime. Finally, the Mossad and the Military Intelligence believe that the real reason the Iranians are intent on acquiring nuclear weapons -- aside from the obvious considerations of prestige and influence -- is to deter U.S. intervention and efforts at regime change. (Excerpt)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Should the US Ditch Diplomacy If Ahmadinejad's Power Grab Succeeds?

The violent suppression by the Iranian regime of democratic protests by supporters of the rightful winner of the Iranian election--Moussavi--is heart-rending. We must hope that the reformers will succeed in removing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, or pressuring him to reverse course, and conduct a truly free and fair election, which, by all indications, Moussavi would win. But, as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof observed today, "at the end of the day, as I saw at Tianenmen 20 years ago, when Might and Right do battle, it's often prudent to bet on Might, at least in the short run"--at least in countries like Iran and China.

If, as is likely, Ayatollah Khameini and President Ahmadinejad succeed in violently suppressing the widespread protests, the US must act on the basis of our national security interests, which include a realistic assessment of what is best for our Middle East allies Israel and the Sunni Arab states including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, and not least the need for stablizing Iraq and Afghanistan and strengthening their governments. We must attempt to bargain with the Iranian regime to see if there is a basis for new arrangements which would defuse the grave threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, terrorism and war that we and our allies currently face.

Already voices on the right who never supported direct, comprehensive and unconditional US diplomacy with Iran in the first place--Netanyahu government hawks and their neo- and paleoconservative counterparts in the US--are using Iran's internal coup as a pretext for blocking the negotiations before they start. “In Israel, which has hinted that it might launch a military strike on Iran to disable its nuclear capability, officials said Mr. Ahmadinejad’s victory underscored the threat from Tehran and the need for a tough response rather than patient diplomacy. Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said in Tel Aviv that the victory [of Ahmadinejad] ‘sends a clear message to the world’ that Iran’s policies have broad internal support and will be continued. The results, he added, also ‘blow up in the faces of those’ who thought Iran was ready for ‘a genuine dialogue with the free world on stopping its nuclear program.’" (U.S. Officials to Continue to Engage Iran, N.Y. Times, 6/14/09 )

But Shalom's inference is groundless; the "victory" of Ahmadinejad shows nothing about whether Ayatollah Khameini or Ahmadinejad are interested in better relations with the US or in negotiating a new system of safeguards which would assure us that Iran was not weaponizing enriched uranium. "'It would be nice to have an environment without the kind of vitriol we see from Ahmadinejad,' a senior administration official said. 'There clearly would be differences in tone between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi, but not necessarily in policy.'” (NYT, 6/14/09)

Moreover, were the regimes in China and the Soviet Union any less repressive than in contemporary Iran? Did we not reach detente with them--under Nixon and Reagan--and advance our own security interests? Did we not negotiate arms limitation agreements with the Soviets, whom Reagan had called "the evil empire"? "'We should be clear about what we’re dealing with,' said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 'Just as we deal with Assad’s Syria and Mubarak’s Egypt, we now have to deal with Khamenei’s Iran,' he said, referring to President Bashar al-Assad and President Hosni Mubarak." (NYT, 6/14/09)

Hawks in Congress and in Israel Will Now Try to Prevent or Encumber US-Iran Talks - The Case for Negotiations with Iran

To be sure, negotiations with Iran won’t be easy, as Iran expert Gary Sick, who worked on Iranian affairs for three administrations, reminds us in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday: “But now after this internal coup and all the coverage it has received, those people in the United States and particularly in Israel who really opposed the idea of having negotiations with Iran - who favored a pressure strategy to build up more sanctions - are now going to use their clout in Congress and elsewhere to slow down or stop the process.

"So it's not that we can't talk to the Iranian government - obviously it's going to be harder to talk to an Ahmadinejad government after it's stolen the election - but the real problem is a domestic one. The administration is going to have to overcome a whole series of domestic hurdles which previously had been in abeyance.

"...The problem has been and remains preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The fact is we've tried a pressure strategy for more than ten years going all the way back to the Clinton administration. Now after more than ten years of putting pressure on Iran they have far greater capacity than they had when we started. This has to tell us something about the policy. So the real question is what will work? What can you do that will actually have an effect? And the fact is that the only thing that's remaining for us to do is to actually talk to Iran about what we want, what they want, and look for common ground. It's not going to be easy. But it hasn't been tried, and the other things we've been doing haven't worked.

"People who say we haven't been tough enough with our sanctions are completely missing the point. Every time we've imposed sanctions, at whatever level, however stringent, Iran has upped its program, not reduced it. We need to be aware of that and think of what we can do. We probably will have to accept Iranian enrichment in one form or another. The trick is how do you monitor that and control it and get Iran's cooperation in insuring that the low-enriched uranium they are producing is not transformed into high-enriched uranium, and into nuclear weapons. That's the objective and that's still something we can talk about with Iran. They have an interest in finding some kind of agreement with the international community and we have a strong interest in getting them to back off and basically agree to a form of surveillance or monitoring that we've not had thus far."

From today's Boston Globe ("As Iran Roils, US Still Hopes for Talks"): "Trita Parsi, the president of the US-based Iranian-American Council, which calls itself the largest organization of Iranians living in the United States, said in a telephone interview yesterday that he was not surprised that the Obama administration is expressing a willingness to talk with Iranian leaders regardless of concerns about the election. 'The decision to negotiate with Iran has never been driven by any like or dislike of any particular candidate, but rather because it lies in the interests of the United States to get Iranian assistance in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan,' Parsi said. The rationale behind Obama's statement during his presidential campaign that he would make a diplomatic effort to improve relations with Iran still exists, Parsi said. As for the election results, Parsi said that while 'there is an overwhelming perception this was not a fair election,' it may never be known whether the results were rigged."

It also lies within our collective interests to fully explore whether an improvement in relations with Iran is possible which will allay Iran's well-founded fear of a US effort to change the regime by force or subversion, which in turn is the main motive, according to Israeli intelligence, impelling Iran to seek a nuclear weapon. If such a detente is possible--which can only be ascertained once the US fully pursues direct talks with representatives of Supreme Leader Khameini--a pragmatic rapprochement with Iran may enable us to offer political and economic incentives to end its opposition to an Israeli-Palestinian accommodation, leading to changes in Iran's approach to Hezbollah and Hamas which might benefit Israel.

F. Gregory Gause III blogging at Foreign Policy:

"I know that it is way early, and we have to see how things develop, but let's assume that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the clerical elite get away with the power grab. What does Washington do? Put the outreach to Iran on hold?

"I'll start with a provocation: I think that the diplomatic outreach should continue as it started. It would be great if there were real democracy in Iran and the United States did not have to deal with the execrable incumbent president. But American interests here are not about Iranian domestic politics. They are about Iran's role in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf, the Arab-Israeli arena, and the nuclear program.

"I acknowledge that it would be much easier to come to some understanding on these issues with a different, more representative Iranian government. But it looks like we might not get that. So the United States might as well try to engage the incumbents in order to see if it can get some kind of deal on at least some of these issues that will help avoid a confrontation down the road.

"America deals with all sorts of governments whose domestic arrangements are, to put it mildly, less than compatible with American ideals. (The Saudis are Exhibit A.) I think that's how to deal with Iran."

F. Gregory Gause III is professor of political science at the University of Vermont and author of Oil Monarchies: Domestic and Security Challenges in the Arab Gulf States.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why Israel Can't Bomb Iranian Nuke Sites--New Study Bursts Myth of Israeli Military Option

(Originally published 5/15/09) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will undoubtedly tell President Obama that if his "diplomatic efforts and subsequent tougher sanctions fail, then the president and the world should understand and support Israel's engagement in military halt or delay Iran's capability of dropping a nuclear bomb on Tel Aviv; one Holocaust is enough for the Jewish people." That's how one American Jewish leader put it in yesterday's New York Times, expressing the conventional view held by many Israelis.

But an exhaustive new 114-page study by Abdullah Toukan and Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington concludes that "it is questionable whether Israel has the military capability to destroy Iran's nuclear program, or even to delay it for several years," according to an analysis of the study by military expert Dr. Reuven Pedatzur of Tel Aviv University published in today's Ha'aretz. The odds of success from a military point of view are not great, the study's authors conclude.

Second, Israel would only attack Iran's known nuclear sites. But it is likely that following such a strike-which would be unlikely to succeed even against the known sites-Iran would accelerate its uranium enrichment efforts in its secret sites, thus negating any possible benefits of a successful attack.

Third, Iran would certainly retaliate against Israeli targets with Shahab-3 missiles, as would Hezbollah and Hamas with many thousands of their own missiles and rockets, while also dispatching waves of suicide bombers into Israel. "Hezbollah now has some 40,000 rockets; Israel does not have a response to those rockets. The rocket defense systems now being developed (Iron Dome and Magic Wand) are still far from completion, and even after they become operational, it is doubtful they will prove effective against thousands of rockets launched at Israel." The Israeli strike would also sow instability throughout the Middle East and potentially also attacks against US forces and American allies in the region."

"It is time to stop waving around the scarecrow of an existential threat and refrain from making belligerent statements, which sometimes create a dangerous dynamic of escalation," concludes Pedatzur. What's worse, because they lack credibility, Israeli threats to strike Iran's nuclear facilities are actually serving only to undermine Israeli deterrence against Iran. "The time has come to adopt new ways of thinking. No more fiery declarations and empty threats, but rather a carefully weighed policy grounded in sound strategy."

Isn't it time we Jews begin thinking not only with our kishkes (our guts) but also with our kopfs (our heads)?

Click here for more

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ex-Top US General Says IDF Can't Harm Iran Nuke Sites

Published by Haaretz Service, 10/26/08

Former United States top general John Abizaid said recently that Israel is incapable of seriously damaging Iran's nuclear program, Newsweek has reported. The weekly magazine quoted the former Commander of the U.S. Central Command, who oversaw operations in the Middle East, as saying he doubted whether "the Israelis have the capability to make a lasting impression on the Iranian nuclear program with their military capabilities."

According to Newsweek, Abizaid made the comments earlier this month at a Marine Corps University conference, where he also reportedly said that an Israel-Iran confrontation would be bad for the U.S. and would further destabilize the region. Abizaid's recent reported comments appear to echo remarks he has made on the issue of Iran's nuclear program, which Israel and the U.S. believe is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Last year, the retired general said that, "There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An Israeli Pre-Emptive Strike on Iranian Nuclear Sites Would be an Act of Folly, Gidon D. Remba

Originally published Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at Tough Dove Israel blog

An Israeli Pre-Emptive Strike on Iranian Nuclear Sites Would be an Act of Folly, Gidon D. Remba

Zev Chafets’ “Israel Can Stand Up for Itself” (April 13) suffers from three faulty assumptions which vitiate its argument. First, Mr. Chafets claims that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s announcement of the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges makes obvious “the failure of diplomacy.” Since President Bush has in fact not tried direct diplomacy with Iran at all, or offered the kinds of inducements which would give the U.S. the best prospects for insuring that Iranian nuclear enrichment would not lead to the development of nuclear weapons, diplomacy cannot be said to have failed.

Second, Mr. Chafets assumes that Israel is free to make an autonomous decision independent of the U.S. on whether to launch its own preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. It would be “a noble thing,” he remarks, if the U.S. were to back Israel’s "efforts to stop an Iranian bomb" with military force—as if the U.S. would have a choice. In fact, Iran would regard an Israeli attack on its nuclear sites as having tacit, if not overt, American approval, and would hold the U.S. responsible along with Israel. The U.S. cannot therefore permit Israel to make a unilateral decision about whether to entangle it in a second protracted, unwinnable and vastly more difficult Mideast war, even were so large a share of U.S. ground forces not already embroiled in neighboring Iraq.

Third, Mr. Chafets believes that Israel has the capacity “to act on its own to degrade and retard the Iranian nuclear program as it did in Iraq (and, more recently, Syria).” In fact, it is unlikely that either Israel or the U.S. know where all Iranian nuclear sites are located. Many American Iran experts say that such a strike would prompt Iranians to rally around the most hard-line mullahs bent on accelerating the acquisition of nuclear weapons and exacting revenge on Israel. A preemptive Israeli or American assault on Iran will retard, not advance, a change in regime towards more pragmatic Iranian leaders, leaving a nuclear-armed Shiite power under the control of its most immoderate clerical rulers.

Gidon D. Remba

The writer, who served as Editor and Senior Foreign Press Translator in Israel’s Government Press Office under Menachem Begin and Zev Chafets during the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations, is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the new Jews for Obama e-Newsletter.

A Diplomatic Solution to the Iranian Nuclear Impasse

Originally published on the Tough Dove Israel blog, 4/6/08, excerpted from How to Talk to a Hawk, by Gidon D. Remba, Executive Director, The Jewish Alliance for Change

A new report by a group of former American diplomats and regional experts who have been meeting behind the scenes with a group of Iranian academics and policy advisers suggests that the Iranian leadership is open to direct US-Iran talks over a novel solution to the nuclear impasse: Western governments would jointly manage, operate and closely supervise all of Iran’s nuclear activities on Iranian soil. Under this proposal, “Iran would be prohibited from producing either highly enriched uranium or reprocessed plutonium,” thereby preventing it from producing the essential ingredients for constructing a nuclear weapon.

Under such tight international supervision, even a secret attempt on Iran’s part to manufacture weapons-grade nuclear materials “would carry the risk of discovery by the international management team and the staff at the facility; the high probability of getting caught will likely deter Iran from trying to do so in the first place.” Iran would be permitted to produce “only uranium enriched to low levels that could be used in nuclear power plants.” And it would have to agree to fully implement the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, “which requires member nations to make their nuclear facilities subject to snap inspections, environmental sampling, and more comprehensive reporting requirements,” as Iran has already offered to do.

While this option is not ideal—only a complete cessation of nuclear enrichment by Iran would be, an option that is decidedly not in the cards—it is the best of the realistic options which may be available to us and the one most likely to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Moreover, it is far better than the worst option, which is the one we are most likely to end up with if we continue down the paths advocated by Bush and McCain: “a purely national [nuclear enrichment] program on Iranian soil, one aimed at producing nuclear weapons” either without international safeguards or with insufficient monitoring.

As the U.S. diplomats warn, "Outsourcing US diplomacy to others has not worked and is even less likely to work in the future … The US is the only nation that can take on [the task of direct engagement with Iran on the nuclear issue] and achieve the breakthroughs that will be necessary… The reward may be a more stable and peaceful Middle East.”

"We Can Live with a Nuclear Iran"--Gen. John Abizaid, former US CENTCOM Commander

Originally published Sep. 18, 2007, Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

Every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but, failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed government in Teheran, a recently retired commander of US forces in the Middle East said Monday. John Abizaid, the retired Army general who headed Central Command for nearly four years, said he was confident that if Iran should gain nuclear arms, the United States could deter it from using them.

"Iran is not a suicide nation," he said. "I mean, they may have some people in charge that don't appear to be rational, but I doubt that the Iranians intend to attack us with a nuclear weapon." The Iranians are aware, he said, that the United States has far superior military capability. "I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear," he said, referring to the theory that Iran would not risk a catastrophic retaliatory strike by using a nuclear weapon against the United States.

"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."

He stressed that he was expressing his personal opinion and that none of his remarks were based on his previous experience with US contingency plans for potential military action against Iran. Abizaid stressed the dangers of allowing more nations to build nuclear arsenals. And he said while it is likely that Iran will make a technological breakthrough to obtain a nuclear bomb, "it's not inevitable." Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for energy resources, not to build weapons.Abizaid suggested military action to pre-empt Iran's nuclear ambitions might not be the wisest course.

"War, in the state-to-state sense, in that part of the region would be devastating for everybody, and we should avoid it - in my mind - to every extent that we can," he said. "On the other hand, we can't allow the Iranians to continue to push in ways that are injurious to our vital interests."
He suggested that many in Iran - perhaps even some in the Teheran government - are open to cooperating with the West. The thrust of his remarks was a call for patience in dealing with Iran, which President George W. Bush early in his first term labeled a member of the "axis of evil" nations, along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
He said there is a basis for hope that Iran, over time, will move away from its current anti-Western positions.

Abizaid's comments appeared to represent a more accommodating and hopeful stance toward Iran than prevails in the White House, which speaks frequently of the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. The Bush administration says it seeks a diplomatic solution to complaints about Iran's alleged support for terrorism and its nuclear program, amid persistent rumors of preparations for a US military strike.

Abizaid expressed confidence that the United States and the world community can manage the Iran problem. "I believe the United States, with our great military power, can contain Iran; that the United States can deliver clear messages to the Iranians that make it clear to them that while they may develop one or two nuclear weapons, they'll never be able to compete with us in our true military might and power," he said.

He described Iran's government as reckless, with ambitions to dominate the Middle East.
"We need to press the international community as hard as we possibly can, and the Iranians, to cease and desist on the development of a nuclear weapon, and we should not preclude any option that we may have to deal with it," he said. He then added his remark about finding ways to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Abizaid made his remarks in response to questions from his audience after delivering a talk about the major strategic challenges in the Middle East and Central Asia, the region in which he commanded US forces from July 2003 until February 2007, when he was replaced by Adm. William Fallon. The US severed diplomatic relations with Iran shortly after the 1979 storming of the US Embassy in Teheran. Although both nations have made public and private attempts to improve relations, the Bush administration labeled Iran part of its "axis of evil," and Iranian leaders still refer to the United States as the Great Satan.

This article can also be read at

Copyright 1995- 2009 The Jerusalem Post -

An Israeli Strike on Iran, a Plan that Just Doesn't Fly, by Bernard Avishai & Reza Aslan

Originally published Sunday, August 10, 2008; The Washington Post

The Bush administration seems less and less likely to launch a parting strike on Iran's nuclear installations -- but Israel isn't sounding nearly so tranquil. The talk from Jerusalem will almost certainly grow more strident as the competition to replace the country's scandal-plagued prime minister, Ehud Olmert, intensifies. Former Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz is running hard against the less hawkish Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to succeed Olmert as leader of the governing Kadima Party; he recently told Israel's dominant daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, that an attack on Iran was "unavoidable." And Binyamin Netanyahu, the right-wing opposition leader who might well beat either Livni or Mofaz in a general election, is also likely to think seriously about a preventive Israeli raid.

Meanwhile, prominent Israeli military analysts, officials and writers are insisting that Iran constitutes a mounting "existential threat." Take one of the country's most important historians, the erstwhile dove Benny Morris, who recently predicted in the New York Times that "Israel will almost surely attack Iran's nuclear sites in the next four to seven months" -- roughly (and not inconveniently) the period between the U.S. presidential election and the departure of the Bush administration. Morris claimed that his view that Israel's existence was on the line is shared "across the political spectrum." In Israel today, anyone who resists such talk risks becoming an appeaser amid a chorus of Churchills.

Leave aside the possibility that the threat of an Israeli attack may be designed to give leverage to U.S. and European diplomats pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear efforts. Leave aside the question of whether, if you believed that such a strike was truly imminent, you'd predict it in a major newspaper. Leave aside the fact that no Israeli strike could happen without a U.S. green light and permission to fly over Iraq. And leave aside the perennial suspicions that Israel's military elite, which sees the Jewish state as the West's foremost strategic asset in the region, also tends to see the Middle East through the prism of the "clash of civilizations" between Islam and the West. Could Israeli threats be serious?

We hope not, because we don't buy the underlying premises. Here's the argument one hears almost daily in Israel: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a jihadist fanatic; he is bent on (as he put it) wiping Israel "off the map," and his insistence on denying the Holocaust shows that he may be vile enough to perpetrate another one; the Iranian regime is on the fast track to developing a nuclear weapon. So the West -- and if not the West, then Israel alone -- must treat Iran as though it were the national equivalent of a suicide bomber. It must strike now, without hesitation, before it's too late.

Moreover, the argument continues, even if a nuclear-armed Iran didn't attack Israel first, it would still spur an arms race that would turn the region into a nest of mutually assured destroyers that would include Egypt and Saudi Arabia. An Iranian bomb would also curtail Israel's freedom of action if it has to strike against the tens of thousands of missiles now in the hands of Hezbollah, Iran's fearsome proxy in southern Lebanon. So why should Israel not (we need George C. Scott here) just go for broke?

Here's why not: because Iran presents the West with a kind of real-life chess game, and the advocates of a preemptive Israeli attack only understand checkers. Intelligence experts insist that we examine both the intentions and the capabilities of an opponent. Let's do that.

The president of Iran is not the regime. Ahmadinejad has almost no control over Iran's nuclear program; that power rests in the hands of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei alone commands Iran's military and dictates its foreign policy. Through intermediaries such as Vice President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, Khamenei has adopted a much softer tone than Ahmadinejad on nuclear negotiations with the West. As Rahim-Mashaei recently put it, according to Iranian news agencies, "Iran wants no war with any country, and today Iran is a friend of the United States and even Israel."

The Iranian regime is not a suicide bomber. The idea that one fine morning Iran will incinerate Tel Aviv is madness; Morris's description of the mullahs' "fundamentalist, self-sacrificial mindset," echoed by others, is a caricature. The Iranian regime knows full well that Israel has an arsenal widely thought to include as many as 200 nuclear warheads as well as missiles, submarines, strategic bombers and enough apocalyptic psyches to retaliate. Do Israelis seriously believe that Iranians hate them (on behalf of the Palestinians, who would be poisoned by the fallout) more than they love their children -- or, for that matter, the historic cities of Tehran, Qom and Esfahan?

The regime wants to survive. The mullahs, let us remember, have managed to remain in power for three decades, despite international isolation, a devastating eight-year war with Iraq and the loathing of the vast majority of the country's citizens. In times of economic frustration, they rely on anti-Israeli and anti-American gambits to distract attention from domestic hardship; we should view their nuclear program in this context. This is a country that sits atop the world's third-largest proven reserves of oil, according to the CIA, yet imports about 40 percent of its gasoline -- simply because it doesn't have the resources or the know-how to update its refineries to pump more. We have greater reason to assume that, in time, the mullahs will bow to internal pressure and open their country to global intellectual capital than to think that they will engage in an ecstasy of suicidal mass murder.

The Iranian nuclear program is daring but not crazy. Consider the view from Tehran. The United States overthrew Iran's government in 1953 to obtain Iranian oil, and the country is now surrounded by U.S. troops -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. This surely argues for prudence from Tehran. Besides, the regime has probably learned a valuable lesson from another member of the "axis of evil": Nuclear North Korea was never attacked; it was offered hundreds of millions of dollars to give up its bombs. Nuclear diplomacy, the mullahs have probably concluded, enhances the international prestige of what would otherwise be a Third World country.

An Iranian bomb need not precipitate a regional nuclear arms race. Israel's bomb -- developed by the Middle Eastern power most hated and feared by its neighbors -- hasn't.
Even if Tehran were determined to get the bomb, there's no guarantee that it could pull it off. Iran's nuclear program is far more modest than its leaders like to admit. As Undersecretary of State William Burns testified before Congress last month, "It is apparent that Iran has not yet perfected [uranium] enrichment, and as a direct result of U.N. sanctions, Iran's ability to procure technology or items of significance to its missile programs . . . is being impaired."

An Iranian bomb will not "degrade Israel's deterrence." Tens of thousands of conventional missiles in southern Lebanon, Syria, Gaza -- and Iran -- have already done that. Hezbollah knows that it can bombard Israel and survive, as it did during its summer 2006 war with Israel. If an Iranian bomb would provide cover for Hezbollah, Hamas and their state sponsors to launch these missiles at some indefinite point in the future, but a preemptive Israeli attack on Iran would make Iran's proxies launch them now (as Hezbollah did two years ago), how exactly does the logic of regaining Israeli "deterrence" work?

None of these points mean that Ahmadinejad will stop blustering; he is a two-bit politician playing to his base. Nor does it mean that the Western powers should stop planning a long-term strategy of containing Iran. But Western powers should now focus not only on their power to deter but on their power to attract; we should push for new collective-security agreements that would benefit everyone in the region. Israeli threats to attack Iran produce only paranoia and solidarity inside Iran. And after 40 years of Israeli occupation in Palestine, Israel's threats also have the handy effect of changing the subject.,
Bernard Avishai is the author, most recently, of "The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace at Last." Reza Aslan is the author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam" and the forthcoming "How to Win a Cosmic War."