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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Countdowns in Tehran and Jerusalem

If Israel jets show up in Iranian airspace, it will most likely happen while Obama is too busy  accusing Mitt Romney of secretly storing all his money in a giant cave in the Rocky Mountains to do more than dispatch a flunky to chew out Netanyahu over the phone. The election is the perfect window for a strike on Iran's nuclear program, because Team Obama will be too tied down on the Romney Front to do much damage to Israel.

Despite the signs being brandished at your local Anarchists for Peace rally, accusing the United States of being a puppet of the Zionist regime, the United States and Israel have different interests. Israel is interested in not getting bombed and the United States is interested in regional stability. And regional stability means keeping the Sunni Arab oil countries happy.

The United States is interested in somehow making Iran's nuclear capabilities go away in the interests of regional stability. Particularly the regional stability of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. But the last thing that this form of regional stability needs is Israeli planes flying over Saudi Arabia to take out that nuclear capability.

Just like during the Gulf War, regional stability demands that the United States protect Saudi Arabia and the Gulfies, while keeping Israel out of it. Since Iran's Revolutionary Guard isn't camped out in Kuwait City, protecting them is a matter of posture. That posture is there as a deterrent, a warning that Iran had better not interfere with our oil suppliers or there will be hellfire missiles to pay.

The posturing is hollow because everyone knows that Obama is not about to bomb Iran on behalf of Saudi Arabia and its colony in Bahrain. He is as likely to do it for Israel as he is to move to South Carolina and join the NRA. But he isn't alone in that regard. Despite the fevered fantasies of everyone from Noam Chomsky to Ron Paul, no American president would ever bomb Iran for Israel. If a third Gulf War is fought, it will be fought for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, one more time.

The last time the United States fought Iran, in 1988, it was to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers. If Iran interferes with oil tankers from our friendly Gulfie terrorist states, then a future administration is likely to bomb Iran. If oil prices go high enough to potentially cost Obama the election, then he might pry away his foreign policy people from drawing up maps of Syrian targets and actually hit some Iranian naval installations.

None of this has anything to do with Iran's nuclear program... and that's the point. George W. Bush did appear to think that Iranian nuclear weapons might be bad news for the United States, not just for the balance of power in the region. He was nearly unique in that regard. The diplomatic and military establishment is full of experts who view Iranian nuclear weapons purely as factors in the balance of power and utterly refuse to look at them from any other angle. To them, Israel isn't really concerned about a nuclear attack, it's only playing a regional power game along with everyone else.

For Israel, violence is not a posture or a theory. It has few trading connections and no alliances in the region. Its foreign policy has always been about dissipating physical threats to its people, whether through diplomatic or military means. It does not follow this line because it is a saintly state, but because it is a state always on the edge. It has too little territory and too many enemies around it to follow any other path.

Surrounded by countries for whom destroying it is a matter of national pride and religious fervor, its only real deterrent is military. Winning several wars won it enough breathing room to try diplomatic solutions. And now the first and last of those diplomatic solutions has failed. It can still count on the military as a deterrent, but there is no deterrent against a nuclear attack carried out by terrorists under plausible deniability. The only remaining deterrent after a nuclear attack is killing as many of those responsible as possible before succumbing to radiation poisoning.

To the United States, Iranian nukes and an Israeli attack on them are equally unacceptable because they both disturb regional stability. The opponents of an attack insist on calling it a "War", not that a war is even structurally possible unless Iran decides to march an army through Iraq and Syria to get to Israel. They spread hysterical bulletins warning that an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear program could spark "another" recession.

Their message is that the cost of attacking Iran is less than the cost of allowing it to go nuclear. That may be true for the United States, which did not suffer too much from accepting that the Bolsheviks had taken over Russia, that Mao had taken over China and other once unacceptable phenomena that forced it the up its defense spending, but did not do any lasting damage. A nuclear weapon in the hands of people who believe that the world needs to be cleansed by fire for the arrival of the Mahdi and have dozens of terrorist front groups at their disposal may be a different story. Or it may not.

Washington D.C. did not get overrun by Communist forces. Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Tibet and a few hundred million other people who did not have oceans to protect them from the reasonable commissars in Moscow and Beijing, did. And that is why Israel's interests fundamentally diverge from those of the United States. Israel is not playing a grand game from across the ocean; it is trying to survive in a region that is as hostile to it, as Asia and Eastern Europe became to non-Communist countries.

That is why, no matter what speeches politicians deliver, the actual interests of the United States and Israel are only loosely aligned. The United States is trying to protect the tattered fabric of regional stability from Iran and Israel. Israel is trying to protect itself from Iran. The United States needs Israel to promote regional stability by going back to the table and negotiating with the terrorist front groups backed by Saudi Arabia and the Gulfies. Israel needs to protect itself while Obama is too busy telling senior citizens that Paul Ryan will cook them in a frying pan to pay attention to what it's doing.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been cobbling together a national unity government, which in Israeli terms means that he is either running for sainthood or trying to get as much of the political system behind him in a critical time. It could all be a monumental bluff, a way to panic Obama into taking action out of fear that Israel will act instead. But that would make Netanyahu a very stupid man, and while he is not all that Americans think he is, neither is he likely to be playing such a silly game.

Everyone in the region understands the nature of the countdown. Most of the Sunni Gulfies also privately welcome Israel doing something about Iran's nuclear weapons, even as they redouble their efforts against the Jewish State to avoid allowing their Shiite enemies to benefit ideologically from a confrontation with the Zionist Entity. The rhetoric out of Iran now echoes the rhetoric out of Egypt in the 1960's. That buildup eventually ended in a preemptive Israeli strike that destroyed Egypt's air force.

But in Washington D.C., the countdown is not a real thing. The received wisdom among the press and the political and diplomatic establishments is that Netanyahu is an obstinate paranoid man who is playing games with them. They don't believe that Israel will do anything about Iran, because they wouldn't do anything about Iran and they assume that Netanyahu is just like them, only more deceptive because he pretends that he will do something about Iran.

The problem is that Israel really isn't playing a game. Its political establishment is as bad as that of any Western country. Its politicians are no better than their American or French counterparts, but its survival actually is on the line. Iran isn't playing a game. That's why Israel can't afford to play a game either.

It has become fashionable among Western elites to view aggression as either a posture or madness. They have forgotten that sometimes violence isn't a move on an international chessboard or a prelude to a set of political steps. Sometimes it's as simple as one side wanting to kill the other and the other side not wanting to be killed.

In the Middle East ideas that are considered aberrant insanity in the West are commonplace. Killing people is no great big thing. Most regimes do it from time to time to stay in power. Iran dispatched its Islamic militias to kill its own best and brightest in the streets of its capital. Virginity is believed to act as an instant pass to heaven for a woman, so teenage girls sentenced to death must first be forcibly married to their jailers and raped, before being hung.

The very idea that people think this way is incomprehensible in Washington D.C. But the simple question that Israel has to answer is, if this is what the Ayatollahs do to their own daughters, what would they do to those they consider the spawn of pigs and apes?

Israel already knows the answer to that. When Muslim mobs got their hands on Israeli Jews, before or after independence, they tore them to pieces and then sold snapshots of the remains. The policy of targeting all Jews, men, women and children, is not just something that terrorists do because they have no choice, it is the ideological position of Islamist leaders like Yusuf Al-Qaradawi in Egypt or Rashid Al-Ghannushi in Tunisia, and the policy of the Arab countries fighting Israel.

The liberal West has its illusions about the enemy. Israel has little room for those illusions. It will act when Washington is too busy fighting itself to focus on restraining it. It will act because it is alone as few other countries on earth are. It will act because it cannot afford to be Poland, Czechoslovakia or Tibet-- sacrificed in the great game of nations. It will act because it has no real choice but to act. It will act because for it this is not a set of talking points, a diplomatic program or a regional agenda, it is life or death. It will act, because for all its flaws, its survival is on the line.

That sense of a nation's survival and the life of a people hinging on a single course of action has become an alien one in an insulated world. It is not a thing that Washington D.C or Brussels can take seriously. It is not even a thing that all Israelis take seriously anymore. But those who hear the clock ticking know what is coming. They know the hard choices that will come in the months ahead. And they will make those choices as they made them before, because they will choose to survive.





24 comments:

Tom said...

Daniel, you're a real gem in the journalistic desert.

theraineyview said...

Do you really see it that way -- that the United States' most serious interest in the Middle East is oil? it seems to me that our most serious interest there is preventing too much unification of anti-American forces, for our own survival's sake; not for fear of embargo, which would be unlikely since someone would sell us black-market petroleum anyway, but because a unified Muslim Middle East would probably successfully invade the US.
A very informative article, in any case. It gives a different perspective, that's for sure.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

There's a difference between our real interests and what the elites think our interests are.

Dovber Schwartz said...

Daniel strikes again

Anonymous said...

Right on the money! Shalom....Yosef ben Avraham

Anonymous said...

" a unified Muslim Middle East would probably successfully invade the US"

Are you insane? That's ridiculous.

Edward Cline said...

Anonymous: A unified Mideast – or rather a unified Islam guided by the Muslim Brotherhood – has successfully invaded Europe, and is in the process of invading the U.S. with armies of "refugee" immigrants who resist assimilation because otherwise they'd lose their identities as Muslims doing Allah's bidding. And the invasion and conquest are at the invitation of leftist Western governments.

ikaika said...

^^^
Why is that insane? - they are already here. They arten't integrating. They aren't accepting mixed marriages among infidels. Every dopey girl I knew that married into Islam wound-up wearing the hijab.
They will vote with the liberal block... they don't belive in contraception or abortion among themselves - but hey low-birth rate and population reduction for infidels - that's alright by them.
I give the US another 20 years before we hear the call to prayer in every major city over and above the din of western ambience.

The concept of invading the US by military force is antiquated and was merely a cold-war theory.

The problem is westerners superimpose their own beiliefs and superstitions on everyone else.

While Democrats think its great that we can readily access infanticide as some kind of "preventative medicine", the Islamist family is part of a growing dynastic succession (complete with multiple wives in other countries). Most American men of European descent believe multiple wives and droves of children is akin to having multiple restraints. Our women are our equals and sometime our superiors. To the islamist the wives are there to serve and for breeding.
Teddy Roosevelt believed that it was our duty to strengthen the nation with children. We've reversed that notion. Teddy was right. Insane liberals convinced us that there was a "population bomb" - that was supposed to explode a few years ago... and nothing happened other than the fact that we bought the fable -hook-line & sinker!
At the same time - our "new friends" from the middle east applauded our efforts and are escoting us to the finish line.

Anonymous said...

Great Article; one nation is dealing with a clear and present danger, no complete destruction and the other is worried about free birth control, iphones, porn, the Kardashians, and the NFL. Satan has multiple methods! GOD Help us all.

Anonymous said...

Let's say that Israel attacks Iran.

1) Would such and operation permanently destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities? Would such a move make Iranians think: "You know what? We'd better forget this 'going nuclear' thing once and for all."?

2) And what's more important, with nuclear technology becoming cheaper, more widespread and more accessible over time (just like any other technology) it is just a matter of time until other Muslim, Israel-hating states in the greater Middle East start developing their own nuclear programs, whether they have civil or military purposes.

Regarding 1) I wonder if Israel will be willing to strike Iran again and again in the future if the Iranians sttubornly refuse to give up their nuclear ambitions and regarding 2) I wonder if Israel will be willing to go on attacking every single inimical nation in the region (that is to say ALL OF THEM)every time one of them decides to go nuclear.

I am making these points because much as I dislike the idea of Muslim-majority nations going nuclear, analysts who support an attack against Iran give the impression that once it is done, the nuclear threat against Israel will be over, as if History would stop unfolding after the Israeli jets land again on Israeli soil.

If you stop to think about it you'll see that just like today's Iranian nuclear program is a much bigger threat to Israel than yesterday's Iraqi nuclear program, the spread of nuclear technology, the number of enemies Israel have in the region and the hate both Iranians and the others will be left with if Israel takes action now are very ominous indications of what lies ahead for this country.

ikaika said...

It won't be over, but it would be a significant set-back.

It is like the purpose of field artillary on the battlefield. The object is not kill as many combatants as possible, but to inflict enough harm and near-miss devastation to make them think twice about proceeding.

A direct strike on an iranian nuclear reactor would slow Iran down. It would also have the workers and guardians of those operations approaching the rebuild phase with great trepidation.

As Israel knocked-out Saddam's nuke facility, it was a major set-back to Iraq's overall program.

Mike said...

Another home run Daniel.

Israel has no choice but too protect itself.
Even the weakest minds recognize that Iran will eventually strike.
Why wait for your enemy to become nearly invincible?
MAD is a winning strategy for Iran, while it was a logical deterrent to the US and Russia.

This will end badly for many, let's hope Israel has some non-lethal surprises to negate the muslim threat from Iran.

Empress Trudy said...

It is interesting to wonder what all the antisemites would say had the attack on Iraq's reactor failed and Saddamn built The Bomb. No Desert Storm, the end of Kuwait, the destruction of Tehran with or without the NYT's gleefully cherished fantasy of a nuked Israel. no Arab Spring, a nuclear arms race across the region including Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, nuclear and chemical terrorism and oil at $1000/bbl. And probably no iPhones for angry trust fund anarchists to tweet about how it's the Jews' fault.

Raymond Keen said...

This is a magnificent and brave and brilliantly incisive piece of writing by Daniel Greenfield. This is truth-telling of the highest order, when the stakes could not be higher. The following quote by Mr. Greenfield is worth a decade of opinion writing, and may live as a defining quote for what is happening and will happen in the Middle East, as the lame Western "allies" of Israel sit at their chessboards, meeting for tea in their "War rooms." Here is that quote:
"It has become fashionable among Western elites to view aggression as either a posture or madness. They have forgotten that sometimes violence isn't a move on an international chessboard or a prelude to a set of political steps. Sometimes it's as simple as one side wanting to kill the other and the other side not wanting to be killed."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous raises a good point by questioning whether Iran's nuclear capabilities would be permanently destroyed.

But just suppose Israel attacked conventionally, Iran responded massively, and then Israel, its back against the wall, nuked Iran.

Wouldn't the rest of the Middle Eastern states conclude, "Those Israelis are playing MAD for real!"? That would lead to more than just a 'significant setback' for the surrounding regimes. With Israel a proven nuke-in-desperation-user, diplomacy at that point could reduce to Cuban-missle-crisis responses by Israel ever after that would be a game-stopper, no?

Bill K.

Anonymous said...

It is logistically impossible to fly there, refuel and get back. God only knows what the Persians have waiting for them. Too much talk about it also.

Anonymous said...

I see no way Israel can win. Literally. None. Somebody please explain how. This is truly desperate and time is running out. It's the 11th hour of the 11th hour. And this will not just be a second Holocaust for Israeli Jews, it will be one for Jews around the world. Sometimes I know not what to do with my fear...

ZZMike said...

"... unified Muslim Middle East would probably successfully invade the US. ..."

That's doubtful. The combined might of the Arab nations tried to invade Israel some time back, and they're right next door, and were beaten back handily. We're half a world away, separated by an ocean.

That does not discount a "sneak attack", from bases in South America.

As far as invasion goes, I worry more about China, which by then would have Russia on its side.

Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis, but a couple of more points that should be taken into account.

First, would an Israeli attack in October help or hurt Obama's chance at re-election? There is no doubt of the palpable dislike by Netanyahu for Obama and that most Israelis feel that Israel, in the long run, would be better off if Obama loses.

Second, the Saudis are just as scared of a nuclear Iran as are the Israelis. They've done everything short of taking out full page ads in the JPost begging Israel to attack Iran. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is more like a family business than a country.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Re, your first point. I don't think Israel can afford to take the risk that Obama won't win. And even if Romney wins, the US will still be obstructing an Israeli attack.

Re, the Saudis, I mentioned that in the article.

Otajaho said...

One of the better analysis I've read. One disagreement, or rather, a parallel view. Today's NYTimes, the official publication of the Obama campaign, contained a 180 degree reversal from their op ed last week criticizing Israel for a supposed drumbeat of war. Today, on the front page, we saw the beginning of the buildup of justification for an "October surprise". If Obama falls below 65% support of the Jewish communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, which would cause losses there, and in the overall general election, he WILL bomb Iran.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. You hit the key issues on the nose.

David L said...

What happens to Jews in America if the Israel-Iran (or other moslem country) has secondary and tertiary consequences such as oil prices greater than $200/bbl, Suez Canal and/or Straights of Hormuz closed and the severe economic toll such events would have in America?

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

I don't see anything "happening" aside from the usual graffiti and occasional synagogue torching.

More to the point, this won't be an OPEC embargo. Anything that happens with Iran, will make the Arab Gulf states more dependent on the US to protect them.

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