Jonathan Eyal sounded almost as if he was a died in the wool neo-conservative warning about the “awful and the dreadful” choices in dealing with the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons (“The bets on a per-emptive strike on Iran” ST 4/12/2010). His dire warnings and scary rhetoric were virtually the same as those used by the pro-Israel neocons in the march to war that occurred in the international media in the lead-up to the disaster of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Of course, he completely avoids any mention of that conflict or the lessons learnt from it in his article.
It is quite incredible that he seriously advocates a recipe for endless war in the Middle East as the best means of securing Israel’s sense of security. He simply dismisses the possibility of using diplomacy to solve this issue (“But the chances of this working are almost nil”) without any shred of evidence for this.
The US Defense Secretary, Robert Gates has argued that a “successful” attack on Iran’s facilities would delay the Iranians by at most a few years. Such an attack would in fact, spur the Iranian regime with much greater incentive to obtain nuclear weapons.
At this time, it is not even clear that Iran has made a definitive decision to build nuclear weapons. It has been developing its nuclear capability for many decades but the US 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran had “no active nuclear weapons program”. It has not been rescinded since then.
Eyal does not mention why the prospect of Iran at some stage in the future obtaining such weapons is such a dreadful threat. Certainly, the Israelis believe that such a threat would be unacceptable. But can the terrible loss of life that would ensue from a “pre-emptive” attack on Iran and its aftermath in endless war in the Middle East ever justify such an action?
He talks about the likely response of Iran and other “Islamic” countries but he assiduously ignores the very real danger that such an attack would lead to a huge explosion in terrorist violence all around the world not just in the Middle East.
Stephen M. Walt from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and others like him have proposed that rather repeating the disaster of the Iraq war on an even grander scale, the US should negotiate a “grand bargain” with Iran that accepts their enrichment programme on the “strict condition that it ratifies and implements all elements of the NPT Additional Protocol.”
He also goes on to warn about how the “pro-war” party in the US used the tragedy of 9/11 to drag the US into the conflict in Iraq by adopting “hawkish rhetoric and tortured rationales in order to show how serious they were”. Even “former doves jumped on the bandwagon and the centre of gravity swung inexorably to the hard line position and the results were disastrous”.
Jonathan Eyal seems to be pushing that same bandwagon as far right as he possible can. Hopefully, friends of the United States in Asia will realize the dangers in this approach and make sure that an even bigger disaster does not happen this time around.
Imran is a member of the Centre for Contemporary Islamic Studies in Singapore and actively opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003.