Bombing. Iran. Never. Makes. Sense

The Lowy Interpreter is the blog for one of Australia’s leading think-tanks, the Lowy Institute.

Following a post last week that discussed Israel’s supposed fears of Iran’s nuclear facilities – strongly suggesting that an Israeli military strike was not unlikely and even understandable because the Zionist state feared destruction – I wrote a response that seriously questioned the underpinnings of this position:

It’s astounding that the Western media continually falls for this idea that the Jewish state’s very existence is threatened. It’s not. Ervand Abrhahamian said the following in September 2007:

“And the question is, then, why is basically in American politics so much focused on Ahmadinejad? I think he serves the function that Saddam Hussein played. He’s an easy person to demonize…One can call Ahmadinejad many things, but a dictator he is by no means. He can’t even—he doesn’t even have the power to appoint his own cabinet ministers. It’s a presidency with very limited power. And to claim that he is in a position to threaten the United States or Israel is just bizarre, frankly.”

Indeed. So, why, therefore, are we constantly hearing about so-called ‘existential’ threats to Israel? Iran’s regime is undoubtedly brutal and authoritarian — something I saw first-hand last year during my visit there — but the tendency for the aggressive, Zionist narrative to strike first, ask questions later, is a worrying sign of moral decay. The Islamic Republic offered the US in 2003 — after helping Washington unseat the Taliban in Afghanistan — a grand bargain on the nuclear issue and its support of ‘terrorism.’ The US refused to even consider it.

Don’t buy into the rhetoric coming out of Tel Aviv or Washington. A military strike against Iran would be illegal under international law, likely to cause a massive death toll and rally support for the leadership. Besides, no evidence has been presented that proves Iran is building a nuclear weapons program. Engagement is the only answer. And this is something Israel and the US refuse to accept.

In response to my piece it is now possible to witness the kind of myopic thinking in the hallowed halls of supposedly serious think-tanks. Two “experts” have responded.

First up, there’s Hugh White, one of Australia’s most ubiquitous defence intellectuals. Although he is against a military strike on Iran – “I think there are probably no military options to disrupt the Iranian program significantly, because I doubt the US or Israel know enough about where its key elements are hidden – he wishes “there was a low-cost, low-risk air strike option offering high probabilities of inflicting strategically significant damage to the Iranian program.” If so, White would support it.

Consider the thought. An unprovoked American or Israeli attack against Iran would be illegal under international law and an act of war against a sovereign state. Clearly this doesn’t bother White, or any civilian casualties in the adventure. It’s the kind of position that academics who never have to see the on-the-ground effects of government policies routinely take. War as an abstraction; as a mere strategic decision.

Then there’s the blog’s editor, Sam Roggeveen, who writes that although “Iran at present does not represent a threat to Israel’s existence…If Iran were allowed to develop nuclear weapons, Israel would be at realistic threat of more or less instantaneous annihilation.”

Roggeveen says that maybe I am “right that the only good response to this threat is engagement” yet he still accepts many of the Jewish state’s talking points about Iran’s supposed provocations.

This whole debate has barely anything to do with supposed nuclear weapons but regional supremacy. Iran threatens Israel’s dominance, and therefore must be stopped. When will supposed foreign policy experts understand this and refuse to even place the military option on the table (hint: because they’re really frustrated politicians who’d love to wage the odd “necessary” war now and then.)

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