Friday, February 02, 2007

Iran, Israel, and Apocalyptic Questions

Guest post from Confused, Maybe Not:

Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B Oren recently wrote an article for the New Republic, “Israel’s worst nightmare. Contra Iran.” Basically, the two Israeli senior fellows from the Shalem center in Jerusalem explain the following.

As we debate Iraq, Iran is moving quickly towards developing nuclear weapons, which is causing panic in Sunni, Arab states, not to mention Israel. Imagine a nuclear Iran setting the price of oil through nuclear blackmail, controlling, again through blackmail, the holy sites in Saudi Arabia. A nuclear Iran will be able to conduct its militias, such as Hezbollah, with impunity. (Remember when the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed by Hezbollah in the early 1990’s? And the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was bombed? How would one respond to such conduct if Iran had nuclear weapons?) It could bring more havoc to Lebanon, terrorize secularists in Palestine, and fund extremist groups in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and Iraq. In fact, Iran is already doing this in a limited fashion. A nuclear Iran takes away “the limited,” so to speak.

Meanwhile, the Baker-Hamilton report calls for negotiating with Iran. What is to be negotiated? How does one negotiate with apocalyptic thinkers? This is not asked rhetorically, but in all seriousness. On another note, to make the point through an analogy, many of us in this country have been and still are scared of the religious far, right. We should be. Imagine Dr. Dobson or Pat Robertson President of the United States. (Bush is scary enough.) The idea of being led by apocalyptic thinkers should make us all tremble with fear. As said, much of the Iranian leadership works from an apocalyptic theology. Their current President has prophesized that the hidden Imam will reveal himself in 2009, and fighting evil, which includes many of the values we hold dearly, will hasten the Imam’s arrival.

Whether Israel makes peace with the Palestinians is secondary to Iran’s goals. Liberating all of Israel from the Jews will hasten the Imam’s return. This is believed by Iran’s President and by many around him. In fact, Ahmadinejad told “outgoing UN-Secretary General Kofi Annan… while the United States and Great Britain won the last world war, Iran will win the next one. And, two weeks ago, an Iranian government website declared that the Hidden Imam would defeat his archenemy in Jerusalem.” Do we believe such statements or not? What does history tell us? Again, these are not rhetorical, but serious questions.

Assuming the sanctions against Iran do not work (because of China and Russia), here’s the prediction as to what will happen. Although, the leadership in Iran often seems to be on tenuous grounds due to rising unemployment, etc.., we will not see a major change (meaning revolution) in the regime before going nuclear. Thus, within the next eighteen months, Israel will target Iran’s main nuclear sites, not with a goal of completely destroying them, but of setting Iran’s nuclear goals back many years. By the time Iran rebounds, the hope is that there will be a different regime in Iran. (When one reads the Israeli press, it’s quite clear from the left to the right that a nuclear Iran is perceived as an existential threat to Israel’s existence. This type of uniform consensus regarding an external threat has not existed since 1967, which is one reason why over ninety percent of Israel’s Jewish population not only agreed with Israel’s campaign against Hezbollah, but felt Israel ought to have responded more aggressively. Hezbollah, Iran’s militia in Lebanon is already rearming. Such a force on Israel’s northern border is in part, from Iran’s government’s interest, meant to distract Israel from Iran’s domestic nuclear program.)

Israeli military and intelligence analysts do not believe the nuclear sites in Iran are as hidden or as impenetrable as many in the West think, otherwise why is Iran surrounding the sites with anti-aircraft missiles? Most analysts do not think Israel will bomb the site with limited nuclear weapons, but comparable conventional weapons. If U.S. forces are still in Iraq (if and) when Israel strikes, it will get far uglier than we can imagine.

Any thoughts?