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All alone?

Israel | Former ambassador to the UN talks diplomacy and looming threat of a nuclear Iran

Issue: "Profiles in effective compassion," Sept. 26, 2009

WASHINGTON-Dore Gold is by nature a diplomat, averse to caustic language, but he won't cushion his words toward Iran-nor, indeed, toward Western complacency. Gold has spent most of his career worrying about threats to Israel-as the former Israeli ambassador to the UN and as a senior advisor to two Israeli prime ministers, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. In a private dinner with several journalists Aug. 31 he voiced mounting concern that Israel will be alone in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.

The Obama administration, along with most European governments, has opened the door to talks with Iran without preconditions, which contrasts with the Bush administration's policy. But Gold said both Republican and Democratic administrations have failed to seriously deal with Iran over the course of many years.

"Our biggest problem is up here," he said, pointing to his head, "the arguments we make to ourselves for accepting this reality that is about to be imposed upon us."

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Despite a career built on diplomacy, he can't believe that the Obama administration expects diplomatic engagement to quell Iran's nuclear program: "So the question is, what's Plan B of the West with Iran? And I suspect Plan B is no good."

Having stronger deterrent nuclear power isn't a solution like it was in the Cold War, Gold said, adding that he's afraid that the nuclear program can be used as an "umbrella" for global Islamic terrorism. The current Israeli government, led by Netanyahu, has indicated that it is considering a preemptive military strike on Iran.

"The Israeli public at least senses increasingly that Israel will have to deal with this on its own," Gold said. "It's a period where we're feeling very much alone."

A new Smith Research survey supports that diagnosis, showing that only 4 percent of Israelis believe that Obama is pro-Israel, even though the president's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is himself Jewish and strongly pro-Israel. Lawmakers have crossed the ocean during Congress' August recess to show solidarity with Israel­-a delegation of 25 Republicans led by a senior House Republican, Eric Cantor, visited the country, followed by a delegation of 29 Democrats led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Meanwhile, newly reelected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is leading his own delegation to New York in mid-September where he will attend the UN General Assembly. The head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Said Jalili, said beforehand that the country is willing to open negotiations again over its nuclear program. The Obama administration had given Iran until mid-September to enter talks on its nuclear program before the United States would begin pursuing sharper sanctions on the country. Despite Jalili's assertion, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel are calling for increased sanctions.

Gold said Iran's openness to talks means little, referring to the Shiite doctrine of taqiyya, which means one can lie outwardly as long as he believes what is true in his heart. A Shiite government opening new rounds of negotiations, he said, would be simply an outward gesture that Iranian leaders can exploit to continue their nuclear ambitions.

"For the Iranians, strategic deception is a key portion of their approach to diplomacy," Gold said. "It will be a disaster. It will be an utter disaster."

The problem has as much to do with doctrine as it does with ambition: Ahmadinejad's beliefs regarding the end of days explains some of his actions, according to Gold. The Iranian leader and his senior advisers reportedly believe that one day a ninth-­century imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Hujjah, will have a messianic return, and they hold that the return of this "hidden imam" can be sped by "the creation of global chaos," Gold said.

International reports on Iran's nuclear program indicate that it could produce an atomic bomb in two years, but U.S. and Israeli reports have indicated that a bomb could be built, in the worst-case scenario, within a year, though that is unlikely.

"Everyone's very complacent," Gold said.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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