Peace is War: How Israel Induces America into War with Iran
By Maidhc Ó Cathail
The Passionate Attachment
August 24, 2012
On August 17, America’s two leading newspapers featured strikingly similar opinion pieces, providing further evidence of a coordinated effort by Israel and its American partisans to induce the United States into waging another disastrous Middle East war. In the Washington Post, former chief of Israeli military intelligence Amos Yadlin helpfully suggested “5 steps Obama can take to avert a strike on Iran”; while President Obama’s former top Middle East advisor Dennis Ross advised readers of the New York Times “How America Can Slow Israel’s March to War.” Perhaps the most notable difference between the two op-eds was that the latter proposed a mere four steps Washington supposedly needs to take in order to appease the allegedly trigger-happy Israelis.
Yadlin and Ross both begin by citing recent Israeli statements such as Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning that “Time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out,” conveying the impression that Tel Aviv’s patience with diplomacy is wearing thin, and that, as a consequence, this autumn, as Yadlin put it, “all the boxes will be checked for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.” Three months ago, Ross admitted during a panel discussion with Yadlin on “U.S.-Israel Relations in a Changing Middle East” at a conference held by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he is now a counselor, that such alarmist public pronouncements by Israeli officials should be understood not as an indication of the Jewish state’s likelihood to strike the Islamic Republic but as a ploy “to motivate the rest of the world to act.” Now, however, he confidently asserts: “The words of Israeli leaders are signaling not just increasing impatience with the pace of diplomacy but also Israel’s growing readiness to act militarily on its own against Iranian nuclear facilities.”
Both op-ed contributors also make it a point to stress that the United States shares Israel’s strategic goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, while noting that they only differ over, in the words of Yadlin, “the timeline for possible military action against Iran.” Like the former Israeli intelligence chief, Ross touts Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s “zone of immunity” argument that Israel must act while Iran’s nuclear facilities are still vulnerable to an Israeli military strike.
Framing their arguments as attempts to prevent, or at least postpone, an Israeli attack, Yadlin and Ross offer, respectively, their five- and four-point plans for “peace.” Yadlin, currently director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, urges the Obama administration to take “five immediate steps to convince allies and adversaries alike that military action is real, imminent and doable,” which he assures are “key to making it less likely”:
First, Obama should notify the U.S. Congress in writing that he reserves the right to use military force to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a military nuclear capability. This would show the president’s resolve, and congressional support for such a measure is likely to be strong. Forty-four senators signed a bipartisan letter to Obama in June, urging him to “reevaluate the utility of further talks at this time” and focus instead on sanctions and “making clear that a credible military option exists.”
Second, Washington should signal its intentions via a heightened U.S. military presence in the gulf, military exercises with Middle East allies and missile defense deployment in the region. Media coverage of these actions should be encouraged.
Third, Washington should provide advanced military technology and intelligence to strengthen Israel’s military capabilities and extend the window in which Israel can mortally wound Iran’s program. This support would be contingent on Israeli pledges to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to work.
Fourth, U.S. officials should speak publicly about the dangers of possible Iranian nuclear reconstitution in the wake of a military strike. Perhaps the most cogent argument against a unilateral Israeli strike is that it would quickly lead to the disintegration of Western sanctions. Without the inhibitions of a sanctions regime, Iran could quickly reconstitute its nuclear program — this time bunkered entirely underground to protect against aerial strikes. If Iran sees military action by Israel or the West as an absolute end to its nuclear ambitions, it will be more reluctant to risk things.
Fifth, Obama should publicly commit to the security of U.S. allies in the gulf. This would reassure jittery friends in the region and credibly anchor the U.S. last-resort military option to three powerful interests: U.S. national security, Israeli security and the security of allied states.
Living up to his reputation as a reliable “advocate” for Israel, Ross presents his remarkably similar four-step plan which he claims is necessary in order “to extend the clock from an Israeli standpoint” as well as “to synchronize the American and Israeli clocks so that we really can exhaust diplomacy and sanctions before resorting to force”:
First, the United States must put an endgame proposal on the table that would allow Iran to have civil nuclear power but with restrictions that would preclude it from having a breakout nuclear capability — the ability to weaponize its nuclear program rapidly at a time of Tehran’s choosing. Making such a proposal would clarify whether a genuine deal was possible and would convey to Israel that the American approach to negotiations was not open-ended.
Second, America should begin discussions with the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany (the so-called P5+1) about a “day after” strategy in the event that diplomacy fails and force is used. This would signal to both Israel and Iran that we mean what we say about all options being on the table.
Third, senior American officials should ask Israeli leaders if there are military capabilities we could provide them with — like additional bunker-busting bombs, tankers for refueling aircraft and targeting information — that would extend the clock for them.
And finally, the White House should ask Mr. Netanyahu what sort of support he would need from the United States if he chose to use force — for example, resupply of weapons, munitions, spare parts, military and diplomatic backing, and help in terms of dealing with unexpected contingencies. The United States should be prepared to make firm commitments in all these areas now in return for Israel’s agreement to postpone any attack until next year — a delay that could be used to exhaust diplomatic options and lay the groundwork for military action if diplomacy failed.
While noting that these proposals may be seen as making war more likely next year, Ross claims “they are almost certainly needed now in order to give Israel’s leaders a reason to wait.” Similarly, Yadlin argues that “if the United States wants Israel to give sanctions and diplomacy more time, Israelis must know that they will not be left high and dry if these options fail.”
“A long-standing principle of Israeli defense doctrine,” Yadlin asserts, “is that it will never ask the United States to fight for it.” While it may be technically true that Tel Aviv never directly asks Washington to dispose of regional rivals on its behalf, these two op-eds attest that the Jewish state has more subtle ways of inducing America to do its dirty work for it.