Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who is wired into the cabinet of "Bibi" Netanyahu, warns that if Iran's nuclear program is not aborted by December, Israel will strike to obliterate it.
Defense Secretary Gates' mission to Israel this week, says Bolton, to relay Obama's red light, was listened to attentively, but will not be decisive. Israel will decide.
One trusts Gates got into the face of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. For an Israeli strike on Iran, which Joe Biden foolishly said was Israel's call, would drag this country into a third war in the Middle East and destroy a policy that is visibly succeeding.
The Iranian regime is still reeling from the June 12 election, widely perceived in Iran and worldwide as stolen, and its tumultuous aftermath. Hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to protest the election, and then attack the legitimacy itself of the Islamic regime.
The government is gripped by its worst crisis since the revolution of 1979. Members of Iran's establishment with unimpeachable revolutionary credentials have declared the election a fraud.
Ahmadinejad's selection as first vice president of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, whose son is married to his daughter, and who has said some kind words about Israel, outraged conservatives. Ahmadinejad was ordered by Ayatollah Khamenei to rescind the Mashaie appointment. For days he balked, then sent a curt note saying he would comply. Ahmadinejad further affronted the ayatollah by naming Mashaie his chief of staff.
Teheran is now ablaze over reports that scores of street protesters arrested in June may have been beaten to death in prison. There is talk in Teheran, even before he has been sworn in for a second term, that Ahmadinejad may be impeached or ousted long before he can complete it.
America's policy of patience is working. And as Ahmadinejad is Israel's bete noire, who Netanyahu cites as the religious fanatic who wants to "wipe Israel off the map" and will launch a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv as soon as he gets it, why would Israel strike now, and reunite Iranians behind this regime?
Why does Israel insist that America has only five months to halt Iran's nuclear program, or Israel must attack? Says Bolton: "(W)ith each passing day, Iran's nuclear and ballistic laboratories, production facilities, and military bases are all churning. Israel is focused on these facts, not the illusion of 'tough' diplomacy."
Now, Iran's nuclear "production facilities" may be "churning" out the low-enriched uranium of which it has produced enough for one test bomb. But IAEA inspectors still have their eyes on this pile. None of the LEU has been diverted anywhere.
There is no evidence Iran has built the cascade to raise LEU to highly enriched weapons-grade uranium, or that the facilities even exist to do this. The Iranian regime has declared it has no intention of building nuclear weapons, indeed, that their possession would be a violation of Koranic law.
And the United States has not rescinded its own National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that Iran, in 2003, abandoned its weapons program. Israel has been saying for years an Iranian bomb is months away.
Where is the proof? Where is the evidence to justify a new U.S. war in the Middle East to destroy weapons of mass destruction that may not exist in Iran, as they did not exist in Iraq?
Iran may wish to have a nuclear deterrent, considering what happened to neighbor Iraq, which did not. But the idea that the regime, having built a nuclear weapon, would launch it on Tel Aviv and bring massive retaliation by scores of Israeli nukes on Teheran and other cities, killing millions of Iranians and all the leaders and their families of all factions of this disputatious people, seems like total madness.
For Israel to launch a war on such reasoning would seem to meet Bismarck's definition of preemptive war as "committing suicide out of fear of death." America lived for decades under a threat of nuclear annihilation. We relied on a policy of containment and deterrence, outlasted the Soviet regime in a 40-year Cold War, and are now at peace with Russia.
Ahmadinejad is not so tough a customer as Stalin, Khrushchev or Mao, who talked of accepting 300 million dead in a nuclear exchange. Moreover, Ahmadinejad has no nukes, no authority to take Iran to war, and is looking like a very lame duck before his second term has begun.
And when one looks to U.S. and Iranian interests, they coincide as much as they conflict. Iran detested the Taliban before we took them down, and no more wants them back than do we. Iran is even more pleased with the Shia regime we brought to power in Baghdad than we are.
Iran needs technology to restore its depleted oil and gas fields, and an end to sanctions to restore an economy whose disintegration helped put the regime in crisis and lose it the support of its young. Obama should tell the Israelis, "Cool the jets!" literally.
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