Much Ado about Nothing

 Israel's F-15

Not even as an example of bad journalism, the rather warmongering piece by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic last week isn’t really worth of reading through all its fifteen printed pages. That there had been or will be a Point of No Return, as its title suggests, essentially remains obscure. There will be no support for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presumed desires or plans of bombing Iran by the Obama Administration. That, as Goldberg seems to forecast, “one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran – possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft,” is  a scenario, or screenplay, outlined by others for some time but nevertheless remains mainly fantasy. It’s not going to happen.

When painting his fantasy in glowing colors, predicting,

“[I]n these conversations, which will be fraught, the Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission,”

and declaring it as more likely than anything else, then Goldberg is clearly on the wrong track. Even after having talked to “roughly 40 current and past Israeli decision makers (many of them had only spoken to him on condition of anonymity, though) about a military strike, as well as many American and Arab officials,” who gave him the impression that “there is a better (!) than 50 percent chance (!) that Israel will launch a strike by next July,” it is supposedly Goldberg’s wishful thinking. Gareth Porter has made it clear that senior Israeli officials have long opposed such a strike. Even Goldberg had noted that Admiral Mullen had “recently made a stop in Israel that had one main purpose, according to an Israeli source: ‘to make sure we didn’t do anything in Iran before they thought we might do something in Iran.’”

Well, Goldberg is only one of numerous neocon commentators who like to mix up facts with myths. A nuclear Iran, which is “unacceptable” to Obama is certainly another country with nuclear weapons. “Going nuclear” is a highly ambiguous term, as Joshua Pollack explains in his sober piece on armscontrolwonk.com. The well-known fact that, with considerable technical problems, Iran enriches uranium at the low level of 3.5 to 4 percent for the purpose of generating, in the future, electricity (and, since Western powers have so far denied to provide Iran with higher-enriched uranium for its research reactor in Tehran, just below 20% for medical purposes) is obscured with a ‘nuclear threat’ by a weapons program which Iran has always claimed not to pursue.

It may be all about the largely delayed update of the once peace-saving National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran of November 2007, a Memorandum of Holders, which has not been finalized yet. Not updated most probably due to lack of intelligence which would make a revision of the previous NIE’s basic conclusions mandatory, namely that, with moderate-to-high confidence, Iran has not made a decision to resume its nuclear weapons program since fall 2003, which, with high confidence, it had had then.

Goldberg cites Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, to whom “[T]he real threat to Zionism is the dilution of quality.“

“Jews know that they can land on their feet in any corner of the world. The real test for us is to make Israel such an attractive place, such a cutting-edge place in human society, education, culture, science, quality of life, that even American Jewish young people want to come here.”

According to Barak, this vision is threatened by Iran and its proxies. The vision is shared by former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh, “one leading proponent of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities,” who “is convinced that if Iran crossed the nuclear threshold (?) the very idea of Israel would be endangered:

“These people are good citizens, and brave citizens, but the dynamics of life are such that if someone has a scholarship for two years at an American university and the university offers him a third year, the parents will say, ‘Go ahead, remain there.’

“If someone finishes a PhD and they are offered a job in America, they might stay there. It will not be that people are running to the airport, but slowly, slowly, the decision-making on the family level will be in favor of thaying abroad. The bottom line is that we would have an accelerated brain drain. And an Israel that is not based on entrepreneurship, that is not based on excellence, will not be the Israel of today.”

But what about the vision of Palestinians who are living in occupied territories? And is it actually Iran which makes living in Israel hardly attractive for reasonable people right now? Or is it rather Israel’s largely irrational politics with new settlements in East Jerusalem, the 2006 war in Lebanon and that in 2008/09 in Gaza? Has a country committing paranoid acts such as the Gaza aid flotilla attack in May, seen by many as a war crime state terrorism, really a future? And would it get more security by attacking Iran’s nuclear sites with hundreds of fighter jets, setting the Middle East once more on fire?

Another solution the diplomatically largely discredited Obama administration may consider was offered by Joshua Pollock: Careful intelligence and openly revealing knowledge about the covert Qom/Fordow enrichment site last year in a press conference on the occasion of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh has effectively shut down any activities there. Yes, “it’s intelligence, in the plain sense of the word.” Remember, the Fordow site was, according to Iranian officials, part of a contingency plan after continuous threats by Israel and the Bush/Cheney administration of attacking the enrichment site at Natanz in 2007. Any plans for military attacks were more or less abandoned after the NIE in November that year. It had been speculated that the defected nuclear scientists Shahram Amiri, who might have been a double agent, had revealed the site.

So, as we know, everything is interconnected.

Note: The picture shows two Israeli F-15s bombers over Auschwitz. The Polish government had invited the Israeli Air Force to make this highly symbolic flight. Goldberg mentions that he has seen numerous of these photographs in Israeli offices. Despite Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and frequent foretelling that Israel will vanish from history, to draw a comparison between the extermination of European Jews during WWII in Nazi Germany and Iran’s nuclear program must be considered an improper exaggeration.

Last update August 16, 2010.

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