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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Dennis Ross: Current policies will bring war with Iran


We are headed on a pathway now that will lead to the use of force. We don't want it to be that way. It doesn't have to be that way. There are alternatives, but the clock is ticking.

It is probably an accurate assessment, except for the fact that short of invasion, nobody really has the military means to stop Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs. Invasion of Iran is out of the question entirely for Israel of course, and it would be a major and risky undertaking for the United States.

Ross tells us:

For Israel, the "redline" is not so much when Iran has enough enrichment capacity for weapons-grade material. Their deadline is 18 months from now when Iran's air defense system, which is being upgraded by the Russians, will be completed. That will make it much more difficult to successfully strike Iran's nuclear capacity from the air. The closer we get to that window without resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem, the more Israel will feel compelled to strike.

If indeed that is the redline posed by Israel, it is somewhat questionable. It is unlikely that Israel has the military means to wipe out all of the nuclear capacity by air attacks. Most of it is housed in bomb-proof underground bunkers, and some of which is probably carefully hidden from the outside world. If Iran is working on nuclear warheads, as would seem likely from captured plans, they aren't going to hang a sign outside the plant that says, "Secret nuclear warhead plant." The "Watch factory" at Natanz that makes centrifuges and the Arak reactor that can produce fissionable materials were both discovered through reports of opposition organizations, sources that are now likely "plugged."

Ross insists that Europeans and Russians must take a tougher stance and vote for meaningful sanctions:

Successful diplomacy is an alignment of objectives and means. So, three things need to happen on the diplomatic front, all geared to getting the Europeans to more seriously sanction Iran on the economic front. The Europeans are the key here, especially Germany and Italy with their credit guarantees, which are economic lifelines for the Iranians.

 While at the same time, he believes the US should join the talks with Iran:

Third, the United States must join with the Europeans in direct talks with Iran the way it did with others over North Korea. Europeans know they will only be able to reach a deal with Iran if the U.S. is at the table.

He also believes the Saudis and the Israelis have a role to play:

First, the Saudis must push Europe. An Iran with nuclear weapons is a profound threat to Saudi Arabia, which fears that Iran will be able to hide behind a nuclear shield behind which they can engage in coercion and subversion across the Middle East. The Saudis could use their economic clout in Europe to affect the choices of European banks, investment houses and governments which have links to Iran.

Second, the Israelis need to go the Europeans and say, "If you think you are on a path that will avoid war, you are mistaken. You are increasing the risk of war because we will not be able to live with an Iran with nuclear weapons."

Some of Ross's ideas are dubious to say the least. He seems not to have noticed that President Ahmadinejad visited Saudi Arabia and was afforded due honors, or that the Saudis are backing the Iranian backed Hamas government in Gaza. Evidently, the Saudis have either given up on the United States or were never really there for the US. They have already placed their bets on the Iranian horse apparently.

As for Israel, it has certainly made it clear to the Europeans that Israel cannot live with a nuclear Iran, but the Europeans do not believe them and are not interested in listening. In fact, the more Iran is made into an Israel issue, the less likely are the chances of success. Ahmadinejad, like Hitler, has understood that attacking the Jews affords protection. No politician or statesman will risk war for Jews. It was true in Europe of 1939. It is certainly true of the Arab states today. It is probably true of most EU countries, whose diplomats consider Israel to be "that sh*tty little country" even if most of them do not say so.  

Ross also believes, somewhat naively that:

Ross: The Iranian ruling elite is split between those who are intransigent and think they can live with isolation, and those who don't. For me, the incident a few months back when the British sailors were taken hostage was instructive. The Revolutionary Guard, which seized the sailors, didn't want to release them unless they got something for it. They got nothing because the decision to release the British sailors was imposed on them from above.

In the end, the balance of power will shift toward those in the elite who want to avoid war, economic misery and social unrest. Look at the turmoil that has erupted already over the relatively modest rationing of gasoline! Sanctions would make the unsettled atmosphere in Iran much more acute.

Ross forgot that the regime has been skillful at using outside pressure to unify its people. That is the secret of such regimes. In history, no regime, however shaky, was toppled simply by outside pressure. Hitler lasted until Soviet artillery was bombarding Berlin, despite the enormous suffering of the German people. The Tsarist regime held out despite the well organized and motivated revolutionary underground and the enormous pressure created by battle losses and an almost total shipping blockade. Saddam Hussein, subjected to supposedly draconian sanctions, remained in power until American tanks appeared on the outskirts of Baghdad, and his political ghost may still be a force in Iraq. Gamal Abdul Nasser, who ruined the Egyptian economy, embarked on lunatic adventures in Yemen and was responsible for the disaster of the Six Day War, did not lose power because of that war or his other disastrous misadventures. What regime lost power because of outside pressure, short of outright military conquest? In Iran today, there is no organized opposition. If there is sufficient pressure, the Mullahs who control Ahmedinejad might clip his wings and put a prettier face on the same policy. Instead of a public nuclear enrichment program, there will be a clandestine one. They can tone down some of the anti-Israel rhetoric, but they aren't going to stop working for a world without America and Zionism. That is a goal of the Marj al Taqlid - the Ayatollah Khomeini, rather than being just a whim of Ahmadinejad. The nuclear program did not begin with Ahmadinejad. It got its greatest impetus in fact, under the "reformist" regime of Khatami that preceded him.

Ross's analysis of the Israeli political scene is about as accurate as it is possible for such an analysis to be. For Huffington post, the great fear is the return of Benjamin Netanyahu. Ross states:

Dennis Ross: If there were an election today, Netanyahu would win. Yet, his standing in the polls is also a reflection of the weakness of Ehud Olmert, the current prime minister -- who stands at 2 percent in a recent poll -- and the enduring weaknesses of the Labor Party.

Netanyahu's prospects when an election is actually called will depend largely on whether Ehud Barak, another former prime minister and war hero who is now defense minister, can restore credibility to this government and to himself as a leader.

For the moment, this government is more stable than generally believed because half of those in the Israeli Knesset would stand to lose their seats if an election were called now.

So, there is a predisposition against calling an election. I don't think we'll see an election until the fall of 2008.

The larger issue is how Netanyahu might act on Iran compared to others. My view is, Netanyahu or not, there is a very strong view in the Israeli security establishment that they cannot live with an Iran with nuclear weapons.

That is the conventional wisdom. However, Labor, Israel Beitenu and the Shas party would probably gain seats in a new election, and Labor on the one hand, and right wing coalition partners on the other, will be tearing the government in different directions. After the final Winograd report is published, this summer, it is likely, if they are honest, that Ehud Olmert's position as Prime Minister will become untenable. At that point, the "Kadima" party will probably fall apart, in the same way as every centrist party before it has disintegrated for one or another reason: Dash, The Centrist party and Shinui (Tommy Lapid) are all memories, and Kadima will vanish too. It was living on borrowed time ever since Ariel Sharon's stroke. As for who will win, it should be remembered that Barak is the mirror image of Shimon Peres. Barak always loses in every opinion survey, and always seems to win elections. But under the Israeli system, the government is formed by the party that has the best chance of forming a coalition. 

Labor is given 25 seats in recent surveys, a big improvement, but less than the 31 of the Likud. Even if Labor wins, it is not likely they could form a government without the Likud party, as they would not have a majority even with Meretz and Shas.

Gardel and Ross also do not understand that it is generally the Labor governments that speak softly and carry a big stick. Nethanyahu in particular has a reputation for making a lot of noise, annoying the Americans, and then caving in to foreign pressures.

Gardel's comment about Ahmedinejad is noteworthy:


Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is so radical he thinks Oliver Stone is a charter member of the Great Satan club...

It is noteworthy for displaying the ignorance of some of the "left" regarding the nature of Islamism and the Iranian regime. Stone, a movie maker who recently produced a sympathetic film about Fidel Castro, is indeed a member of the Great Satan club. Stone is not an Islamist. He accepts evolutionary theory, equality of women and all the other "evils" of Western society. The automatic association of "radical" with progressive makes no sense, and it inevitably produces absurdities like the above.

Hat tip Israpundit

Ami Isseroff




Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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