Posted on 11-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

To the likely delight of the stumbling Romney campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu threw a temper tantrum, after a week of warnings from his allies, bulldozing his way into the Presidential race and attempting to blackmail the American political establishment into joining him in an unnecessary war of aggression against Iran.  The last three years have been an amazing case of the tail wagging the dog.  The United States is committed to the preservation of Israel.  But both are sovereign nations with independent interests.  Yet the entire Republican party and a large chunk of the Democratic party have essentially sworn fealty to Israel and given Netenyahu carte blanche in the West Bank.  Even worse they have backed the Obama administration into a position likely to lead to a premptive war.

The war drums on Iran are insane.  Nobody has proven that Iran actually wants to build a nuclear weapon.  Many people think, what Iran actually wants is what Japan has – the ability to build one if needed.  And that unfortunately is not explicitly barred by the ridiculous Non Proliferation Treaty.  Maintaining a nuclear arsenal is expensive and if that is the goal, it would be a smart one.  Iran having a nuclear weapon or the capacity is highly undesirable, because it would remove a check on their actions and would trigger a domino effect in the region.  Yet it would not be the end of the world.  The far more psychotic North Korean regime has one and has been contained.

Contrary to propaganda, Iran’s Ayatollahs have shown a high sense of personal preservation.  During the Iran-Iraq war the actually issued a decree allowing deviation from Islamic tenets when national interest was at stake.   This is not a behavior of a bunch of suicidal zealots.  Oh and one other thing – Israel has nuclear weapons and is under the United States nuclear umbrella.  Iran would have to be batshit crazy to launch a strike on Israel.

The other problem is that a military strike almost certainly will not work.  For one thing, Israel may not have the capacity for such a long range strike even if it wanted to.  In that case Netanyahu’s statement that “[t]hose in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” is even more offensive.  Because it requires active American assistance in a war he wants to start even if America does not want to join.  And by pulling this stunt just before a presidential election he is counting on the craven Mitt Romney attacking President Obama for “abandoning” Israel.  Worse, even an American bombing campaign would at best delay Iran’s program, would likely make up their mind to actually build the bomb, would make it easier for the mullahs to make their countrymen rally around the flag and could send the global economy into a spiral.

Its not as if the Israeli establishment is united around the war drums.  Israeli Defense Minister (and former prime minister) Ehud Barak is a hawk on Iran too.  But he appears to have recognized the wisdom of trying to blackmail the United States at such a delicate time.  Netanyahu is playing a dangerous game here.  Most Americans oppose a war with Iran.  Israel has benefited from bipartisan political support in the United States.  If Netanyahu’s gambit helps throw the election to Romney (or is perceived to have done so), the backlash for Israel will be severe.

Increasing numbers of Americans (and for that matter American Jews) are no longer willing to give Israel free rein with the Palestinians.  Netanyahu’s tendency to refer to such critics as anti-Semites or self-hating Jews does not help matters.  The brazen gambit by Netanyahu also reaffirms why all of his western allies – including the last 3 American presidents – distrust and dislike him.

It appears that calmer heads may be prevailing for now.  However, I am pessimistic that this will be the last war gambit before the election.

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