Features

Arming and dangerous

"Arming and dangerous" Continued...

Issue: "Your right to vote," July 31, 2010

Obama's shifting tactics

President Obama's warm welcome to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in early July came as a surprise to those who had been following the growing rift between the two leaders in recent months. Netanyahu was shunned during his March visit to the White House during which press pictures were banned and Obama cut short his time with the leader to dine with his family. The U.S. president has been unhappy with Netanyahu's unwillingness to halt settlement building in the West Bank, a concession Obama deemed necessary to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

This time the leaders affirmed the "unshakable" bond between the United States and Israel-an about-face some attribute to pre-November campaign tactics.

During this same week, three U.S. senators met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and one of the three, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., claimed that "the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is back on track."

Joint concern over how to deal with Iran may also being pulling the two allies back to common ground as both nations realize that cooperation is essential to neutralizing Iran's agenda. "It is unacceptable for Iran to possess nuclear weapons, and we are going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening," Obama said during the Israeli television interview.

The three senators emphasized the importance of giving sanctions against Tehran a chance to sink in but acknowledged that military options should remain on the table. And if military action is deemed necessary, the regime should be dealt a solid blow, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: "I think it would be in the world's interest to make sure this regime's ability to strike back is neutered. There should not be a plane that can fly, a ship that can float, and their Revolutionary Guard should be greatly diminished."

The risks of a military strike are many: subverting a potential regime change from within, a radioactive cloud in the aftermath of an attack on nuclear facilities, and the potential for high civilian casualties. But if sanctions fail to deliver, the options will greatly diminish. And while evidence suggests that many Arab states would tacitly approve of an attack against Iran, most wouldn't have the strength or stability to resist the influence of an Iranian regime catapulted to superpower status by the acquisition of a nuclear bomb. And that is the fallout without Iran hitting the launch button.

World leaders will undoubtedly face tough decisions in the months to come.

Conventional approach

A nine-page article in the United States Army's official magazine, Military Review, suggests a less promulgated course of action against Tehran: an attack on Iran's non-nuclear military assets.

George Washington University professor Amitai Etzioni argues that Iran has learned from prior Israeli attacks on nuclear sites to build its facilities in mountainous caves or encased in massive walls of cement. Some are built in highly populated areas and others are in secret locations.

He claims an attack on non-nuclear sites would be more effective and would result in significantly fewer civilian deaths than targeting nuclear facilities, and he proposes that civilians be warned in advance.

Etzioni suggests the secret police complex in the middle of Tehran as one possible target: "If that building can be taken out and some of the secret police can be killed-they're the kind of people who torture and rape their dissenters-I don't think many people will cry about it." Other potential targets include the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard, naval vessels, and air defense installations.

Critics of Etzioni's proposal say such an attack is the equivalent of launching a full-scale war against Iran. Etzioni told me that the notion of having a "nice little limited war" by hitting Iran's nuclear sites and going home is "unimaginable."

Etzioni believes halting Iran's nuclear ambitions is essential: "So if we're not going to stand up to Iran, we may as well go home and forget about in any way being an international player. If Iran is going to go nuclear, I don't see what is going to keep Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Libya from going the same way. We are at a turning point here." He says we can still save the "nuclear abstinence club."

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