Thursday, December 15, 2011

The implications of Jeffery Goldberg's Israel/Iran nuclear scenario

Jeffery Goldberg is usually not worth paying attention to but recently, certainly accidentally, he has spelled out the type of scenario that drives Israel's and the West's (on behalf of Israel) desire that Iran not only meet the normal obligations of the NPT to not build a nuclear weapon, but in addition that Iran not have what Japan, Brazil, Canada, Germany and many other NPT-non nuclear weapons states have, legal nuclear weapons capabilities.

Examined closely, Goldberg makes an argument exactly opposite from what he is trying to make, but that might merit a closer look.
But I'm beginning to question the seriousness of some of the players in this drama: If Iran's nuclear program is actually unacceptable, then why the hesitancy to sanction Iran's Central Bank? I know the reason, of course: Such sanctions might lead to a spike in gasoline prices. But either you think Iran's nuclear program is the most serious foreign policy challenge facing America, or you don't.
First, Goldberg believes the US should suffer economic consequences of sanctioning Iran's central bank because Iran's nuclear program is the most serious foreign policy challenge facing America. That raises the question of what if the sanctions Goldberg recommends do not actually slow Iran's nuclear program?

It is perverse but the scenario Goldberg later spells out also demonstrates that the more the US is willing to sacrifice to prevent Iran from having legal nuclear weapons capabilities like other countries, the more that US sacrifice confirms the strategic value of those capabilities particularly to Iran.

From Goldberg:
Imagine the following scenario: Hezbollah launches a serious attack on Israel's north. Israel begins to retaliate. Iran, coming to the defense of its Lebanese proxy, makes a not-so-subtle threat: If you invade Lebanon, we will respond, without saying how. At the same time, Israeli intelligence learns that Iran is mating nuclear warheads to their fissile cores. Do you think Israel is going to wait to pre-empt a possible Iranian nuclear attack?
My first observation is that Israel may well not have better options for attacking Iran in the indeterminate future of this scenario than it does today. As of today, Israel does not have any option that would destroy Iran's nuclear program. Even the US, according to bombing advocates, could only set back Iran's program for a short period while also making it more likely that Iran actually eventually would build a weapon.

But let's add more flesh to Goldberg's scenario. Hezbollah's serious attack was prompted by what? An assassination attempt on Nasrallah? Israel bombing Beirut or the Bekaa valley? If Goldberg is imagining that just out of the blue, Hezbollah began attacking Israel's north that just confirms how unserious he is. On the other hand, the scenario Goldberg is spelling out does show how, for Zionists more serious than Goldberg, an Iranian legal nuclear weapons capability could deter Israeli provocations against Lebanon that otherwise would have been considered.

Now let's look at the Iranian threat: "If you invade Lebanon, we will respond."

Goldberg may not realize this, but Israel does have the option of not invading Lebanon.

And now to the core of Goldberg's scenario: "At the same time, Israeli intelligence learns that Iran is mating nuclear warheads to their fissile cores." We see Goldberg is not imagining Iran entering his scenario with deployed nuclear weapons. He is imagining Iran being capable of, in response to what it considers a provocation, producing fissile material that it could use in a relatively short time to produce a weapon. Many states that are non-weapons members of the NPT have that capability right now.

Members of the US nuclear policy community have as far as I've seen been completely unable to produce a coherent justification for their insistence that Iran must not have legal nuclear weapons capabilities. They acknowledge that it is legal and that many other countries have it, but for reasons they refuse to put into words, they believe countries in Israel's region should not have those capabilities. This scenario that Goldberg presents is ultimately their motivation. They believe Israel must be able to attack anyone in its region who opposes Zionism without fear of an eventual response.

So we see the treat Goldberg imagines for Israel. Hezbollah would have more options and Israel's ability to "retaliate" by invading Lebanon would be complicated by Iran having legal nuclear weapons capabilities. Where is the threat to the US though? Goldberg says US consumers should pay higher gas prices, not even expressing confidence that these higher gas prices would actually accomplish the intention of coercing Iran to give up legal nuclear weapons capabilities. But nothing about Goldberg's scenario makes Iran's nuclear program the most serious foreign policy challenge facing America.

What does the United States intend to threaten Iran with that makes it so important that Iran not have a legal stock of fissile material? When Goldberg says that it is worth harming the US economy which is gingerly recovering from a recession he may be speaking solely on behalf of Israel, hoping Israel maintains the ability to invade Lebanon. But if Barack Obama agrees, it is reasonable or at least prudent for Iranian planners to assume Obama agrees because the US hopes to gain the option of attacking Tehran, occupying or militarily breaking Iran apart.

Goldberg's spike in gas prices would be far more likely to cost Obama his second term in office than they would be to cause Iran to relinquish its rights and agree with Goldberg that no country in Israel's region can have legal nuclear weapons capabilities. What does the US have planned that taking such a risk might be worth the cost to Obama? If Obama is willing to take that risk, he is telling Iranian planners that legal nuclear weapons capabilities may one day save their country.

Members of the Western nuclear policy communities from unnamed analysts up the President Barack Obama are constantly lying about the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. When they say "nuclear weapon" in the context of Iran, they are deceptively redefining that term to mean legal nuclear weapons capabilities such as those Japan has. But they lie so they don't have to answer the question, why, specifically, is it so important that Iran not have legal nuclear weapons capabilities.

Goldberg comes as close as anyone I've seen to addressing the real question, at least from Israel's point of view.

Until the US side can say to Iran, in public, that this is why we want to prevent Iran from having legal nuclear weapons capabilities that other NPT signatories have, the US is leaving Iran with no choice but to assume that the US is ultimately motivated by a desire to compromise Iran's sovereignty.


Arnold Evans said...

A very interesting poll mentioned by Rehmat in the comments over at Race For Iran.  It looks like Iran is, for the first time ever, actually applying effective pressure on Israel to de-nuclearize.

If Saudi Arabia had been an independent country, this pressure would have been exerted decades ago.

There is talk of a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Do you:Support such an attackJewish Israelis 43%Arab/Palestinian Israelis 4%
Oppose such an attackJewish Israelis 41%Arab/Palestinian Israelis 68%

Assuming that these are the only two options, which do you think would be a better situation for IsraelNeither Israel nor Iran have nuclear weapons 65%Both Israel and Iran have nuclear weapons 19%

So in total, do you support or oppose the idea of having a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East that would include both Islamic countries and Israel?Support 64%Object 31%

Lidia said...

yes, an interesting poll. But it not really means much, because Israel rulers do not give a damn about public opinion, even Jewish one - much like in USA, for ex. It is called "democracy" :(

Lidia said...

Arnold, I now worry that you, among some others in USA who use so-called "freedom of speech" against USA/Israel warmongering in the ME could be in danger. After all,the new law permits USA perz to call whom he pleases "terrorist" and thus  to send one to military jail without trial and for indefinite time. It is telling that the great supporter of NATO's "liberation" bombings  all over the world defends the law as mostly OK and Cole, who shows some token misgivings, not has anything to say against such defense.

It is telling that while in Syria a blogger is jailed for supporting opposition to Assad, in UK several people are jailed for Facebook comments supporting riots, often as a joke, while NOT supporting the toppling of UK government
. It seems that bourgeois democracy is really coming to end.

Arnold Evans said...

I've for a long time believed that the US' pretensions of civil liberties are more an artifact of the US' position as a nearly unchallenged power than of any US ideological position, and much less any reflection of US virtue.

As the US becomes less relatively powerful in a global sense, it certainly will give up the rights and protections it could offer when it was more dominant.

That, for most of the seven billion people in the world is probably more a good thing than a bad thing.

The US long ago stopped being the revolutionary country it was when it was founded. The US of 1780, keeping in mind that it was institutionally racist, was a radical nation, and before the formal invention of communism, was one of the most radically liberal nations in the world.

That was a country that could sacrifice the secure execution of power by the government itself to an ideal such as freedom of speech.  That was, in its way, for its time, a revolutionary country.

Today's US does not believe in sacrifice for ideals. Sacrifice for ideals is close to what it means for a government, an organization or even a person to be revolutionary. The 1780s US, racism aside, was more like 1960s Cuba or 1980s Iran than the 2011 US.

So the freedom of speech we see in the US in 2011 is not like the freedom of speech we saw in 1780.  The freedom of speech available in the US today comes only from the fact that the US government now has a lot of resources to securely execute power despite that.

The important thing I'm getting at is that as we see freedom of speech decline, we are seeing an accurate reflection of the decline of US power - according to the perceptions of the US government itself.

From a global point of view, that is more exciting than troubling to me. I certainly welcome it and I'll do what I can to maintain myself as an individual but I as an individual, on a global scale, am very comfortable anyway.  I'm nobody to worry about.

I've noticed what you've noticed, Lidia, but my feeling about it is far more intrigued than fearful.

George Carty said...

To me the answers to the second of your three q

Arnold Evans said...

What's interesting to me is that Iran's nuclear program is for the first time applying effective pressure on Israel to disarm.  Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, claim to support a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.  Iran has shown that if they wanted to effectively support that outcome, they would at least develop legal nuclear weapons capabilities of their own.

Apartheid South Africa had nuclear weapons and it no longer exists.  Zionist Israel's nuclear weapons are not an important factor in keeping the country viable.

We talked about this before.

George Carty said...

Is it your view that the Zionist claim that the Arabs/Muslims want to genocide the Israel Jews is a lie (something which the Zionists claim even though they know it to be false) rather than a delusion (something which the Zionists claim because they believe it to be true, even though it is factually false).

If the Zionists believe that only their racist state is protecting them from being exterminated, then it isn't possible to bring that racist state down without being nuked.  If you're dead either way, why not "take the bastards with you"?

George Carty said...

WHat do you think of the exchange I had on the Diatribes of Jay blog, where the notion that the West deliberately keeps the Arab world down for Israel's sake was rubbished by the blog's owner?

Arnold Evans said...

His answer to your question was wrong in both cases.

1) Egypt's voters and Saudi Arabia's would be more pro-Palestine than US voters are pro-Israel.  So the only question would be how could their governments act on that direction.  Saudi Arabia by itself could prevent Israel from functioning as a normal state until it accepts Arab demands, and those demands certainly would include returning refugees and their descendants.

Israel as an enforced Jewish majority political state is not viable unless at least Saudi Arabia and also many other countries in the region are ruled by a pro-US dictators.

2) If he's saying the US cannot maintain pro-US dictatorships in states like Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and others even if it wanted to, I don't know how to respond to that. Imagine how someone in 1911 would sound saying that Great Britain could not control the Indian Raj even if it wanted to. Crazy right? That's how that sounds.

Lidia said...

As Arnold has pointed before, aparteid SA claimed the same nonsense about death threat to all whites from the end of aparteid and hysterically called for "fight to death". You know that it was NOT what really happened :)

In short, I am sure that very small % of Zionist Jews in Israel are ready to risk their lives if the alternative were safe haven in USA, Canada of Europe - and a lot of them have taken care to get passports.

George Carty said...

If the Israelis will not use their nuclear weapons even in the case of the imminent end of Zionism, then why did they waste billions building the bloody things in the first place?  Nuclear weapons are very expensive -- think of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's "we will eat grass" statement...

George Carty said...

Just an update -- although I'm not sure if it invalidates what he wrote about nuclear strategy, Stuart Slade seems to have some very weird ideas about Islam, as shown by "Crusade", the second in his "The Big One" series of self-published alternate history works:

Arnold Evans said...

Israel's weapons are more virtual than real, useful in the threat to use them rather than in actually using them.

Israel needs a lot of outside support to remain a viable country and using nuclear weapons in no way would restore that support if Israel was to lose it.

Israel's nuclear weapons make Jewish people inside and outside of Israel feel potent and virile.  But they don't have any practical use.

Lidia said...

As if Israel ever payed for its weapons. Israel is leaching USA, not mentioning constant robbery of Palestine.

Lidia said...

And who, pray, in USA mainstream has NOT weird ideas about Islam?