By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) —
Republican House Majority leader John Boehner secretly invited Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington to address Congress and then once it was set up he let Barack Obama know about it.
The reason for bringing Netanyahu is that Boehner wants to craft a super-majority in Congress that can over-ride Obama’s veto of new sanctions on Iran. He doesn’t have enough Republican votes to do so, but if he can get Democrats beholden to the Israel lobbies of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to join the veto over-ride effort, he might succeed.
Obama has spent a great deal of time and effort trying to negotiate with Iran over its civilian nuclear enrichment program, intended to allow Iran to replicate the success of France and South Korea in supplying electicity. (That would allow Iran to save gas and oil exports for earning foreign exchange).
Because nowadays producing enriched uranium for fuel via centrifuges is always potentially double use, this program has alarmed the US, Europe, and Israel. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given several fatwas (akin to encyclicals) orally in which he forbids making, storing or using nuclear weapons as incompatible with Islamic law (a position also taken by his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomeini). So maintaining that Iran is committed to making a nuclear bomb is sort of like holding that the Pope has a huge condom factory in the basement of the Vatican.
But, there are no doubt Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders and maybe some engineers and scientists who really wish Khamenei would change his mind (he won’t).
So if you wanted a compromise between Iranian nuclear doves (the hard line leadership) and Iranian nuclear hawks (the subordinates who have to take orders from the doves), what would you do? You’d keep options open. And keeping options open also has a deterrent effect, so it is almost as good as having a nuclear bomb. That is, if Iran has all the infrastructure that would be needed for a nuclear weapons program but didn’t actually initiate such a program, you’d put enemies on notice that if they try to get up a war on you the way Bush-Cheney got one up on Iraq, they could force you into going for broke and abruptly making a bomb for self-defense. This posture is called in the security literature “nuclear latency” or colloquially “the Japan Option” (we all know Tokyo could produce a bomb in short order if they felt sufficiently threatened).
I started arguing that this policy was what Iran was up to some 7 or 8 years ago, and I think it is now widely accepted in policy circles.
So the point of the UNSC plus Germany negotiations with Iran is really about how long Iran would take to break out and produce a bomb. Will it be 3 months or one year? Iran wants a shorter timeline (for maximum deterrence, since they already saw what happened to Baghdad). The P5 + 1 want a much longer timeline. They would also like to spike the centrifuges and make sure there is no heavy water reactor (plutonium builds up on the rods).
If the two sides can reach an acceptable compromise, sanctions would be lifted, Iran would run its Russian-built reactors to produce electricity (though likely within a decade they will be undercut in price by solar panels; still, solar doesn’t have deterrent properties ), and there would be thorough frequent UN inspections of its enrichment facilities (plutonium leaves a signature). It isn’t really possible to have a big nuclear facility hidden from US satellites; the US spotted Fordo immediately. You need a lot of water, truck traffic, etc.
But Iran would have latency and therefore deterrence and I suppose might be emboldened that Israel wouldn’t dare nuke it because it might well be able to nuke back some months later.
US hawks in both parties and the Israeli political right wing want to prevent Iran from having any nuclear enrichment program at all, so as to prevent Iran from having the security that comes from the deterrence Lite produced by latency.
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff looked at this issue and have decided that only an Iraq-style invasion, occupation and regime change could hope to abolish the nuclear enrichment program.
If that is what it takes, the US and Israeli hawks are perfectly all right with it. It would be good times for the military-industrial complex, and Israel’s last major conventional enemy (though a toothless one) would be destroyed. An irritant to US policy and a threat to Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, our big volatile Gasoline Station in the Sky, would also be removed.
Iran is three times as populous and three times as large as Iraq. So I figure this enterprise would cost at least 15,000 troops dead, 90,000 seriously wounded, and altogether $15- 24 trillion dollars over time (including health care for the 90,000 wounded vets). Given the size of the country and the nationalism of the population, it could be much more like the US war in Vietnam than Iraq was, i.e. it could end in absolute defeat. Russia and China would almost certainly aid insurgencies to weaken the US.
And that is what the right wing psychopaths in Washington DC and Tel Aviv have planned for us. If they can over-ride Obama’s veto and scuttle the negotiations, they set us up for a war down the line, as Obama warned in the SOTU.
In contrast, professional Israeli intelligence analysts are warning against new sanctions and any torpedoing of the Iran talks. Because they deal in the coin of pragmatism and the real world.
Readers should please let their congressional representatives know they would prefer not to be subjected to this disaster.
That Netanyahu is an unreliable narrator should be obvious by now:
I wrote in 2012 :
Israeli PM Binyamin “Chicken Little” Netanyahu tried to scaremonger about Iraq in 2002, as his contribution to the Anglo-American war of aggression on that country. “there is no question whatsoever,” Netanyahu said, “that Saddam” was seeking nuclear weapons. He said that Israeli intelligence reported to him that Russian scientists and North Korea were on site and actively aiding this phantom nuclear weapons program.
There was no Iraqi nuclear weapons program in 2002; it was dismantled in the early 1990s by United Nations inspectors. There were none of the chemical or biological weapons Netanyahu spoke of. No Russians. No North Koreans. Bupkes.
Netanyahu also warned that Iraq would give nuclear warheads (which it did not have) to “terrorist groups.”
He also argued that no inspections could possibly find “mobile weapons sites” (which are impossible), implying that invasion and occupation was the only course open.
Netanyahu proved that neither he nor the Israeli intelligence organization, Mossad, had the slightest actual intelligence on Iraq, and that neither should be trusted to provide such intelligence to the US. Clearly, some right wing Israeli leaders always want the US entangled in regional wars in the Middle East, insofar as they are seeking US support in a hostile region. They therefore habitually exaggerate the dangers, and are little more than bullshit artists.
Netanyahu’s comments on Iraq are almost verbatim what he is now saying about Iran.
The Mainstream Media never calls Netanyahu on his bull crap.