U.S. War With Iran Getting Closer
With President Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, events are heating up in the Middle East. Israel has just attacked Iranian installations inside Syria, killing a significant number of Iranian personnel. Israeli security forces are now on alert expecting Iranian retaliation. Inside Israel there is support for an attack on Tehran if Iran's retaliation produces casualties inside Israel.
The larger strategic objective of the Netanyahu government, for some time, has been an American attack on Iran. This is no secret, and was explicitly confirmed by former Secretary of State Kerry several weeks back, speaking at an event at the National Cathedral.
We are now moving down the slippery slope. After all, where does the United States go if it becomes clear that the Iranians are not going to re-negotiate the deal to get the US to "re-join." Trump has now warned "very severe consequences if Iran resumes uranium enrichment." This is a clear threat of military action. Yet the Iranian's may not be willing to accept the restraints of the deal if it also losses the benefits of the deal. In part this is because of internal politics inside Iran. The regime may actually see an upside to an American attack: It allows them to round up the entire opposition, disappearing many, and among the average person, there will be an instinctive move to support the government. An American attack could secure the regime for the next four decades.
That Prime Minister Netanyahu would see a U.S. attack on Iran as desirable for his own country is, at least, comprehensible, even if woefully short-sighted. But that American political leaders, such as Senator Ben Cardin, who sided with all 54 Republicans in trying to block the Iran deal, should be open to such policy, is mind-boggling. We spent $2 trillion on the war in Iraq, because we thought (mistakenly) that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear program. After an attack on Iran, however, it will be plausible that some residual program remains and that they may now be racing for a bomb. Condi Rice may ask again her famous question: "We don't know if they are, but do we want to learn we were wrong when the mushroom cloud is in the sky?" So American troops are next. And exactly what is the exit plan?
Underlying all these developments sits the neglected Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is this conflict and the unresolved Palestinian claim for "minimal justice," and Iran's need for internal and external regime-legitimization, that explains why it serves Iran to keep its relations with Israel in a state of constant tension. Moreover, it is the Iran-Israel conflict which provides the electric juice to the US concern with an Iranian nuclear program -- after all, there already is an Islamic state with nuclear weapons, and it is one that engages in terrorism -- it is called Pakistan -- but no American policy makers are considering an American attack on Pakistan.
The take-away: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains central, not just to Israeli national security, but to ours as well. The fact that the Netanyahu government is not serious about the two-state solution puts it at odds with American interests, and a Congress that shields Israel from all criticism (again Ben Cardin) does not serve us or Israel well. And Palestinian rights? Does anyone even think about such things?
Jerome M. Segal
May 10, 2018