On September 11, 2008, Clawson wrote "Don’t Make Iran an Israeli Issue" published in The Jewish Daily Forward. After reminding readers of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he wrote "Lately, however, the public discussion has been focused too much on the specific threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel." He reasserted that claim, but then added how it would also be a "menace" to its "Arab neighbors and to American and Western interests."
Seeking no cover, he explains "[If] we want to figure out how to move Russia and China to do more, we are more likely to persuade these governments by emphasizing the risk of proliferation rather than the threat to Israel."
To Bomb or Not to Bomb
Two weeks later, Clawson and Eisenstadt hosted a panel at The Washington Institute called "Bombing Iran or Living with Iran’s Bomb." It was based on a publication of the same title written by Kassem Ja’afar for the Transatlantic Institute in Brussels, an organization established in 2004 by the American Jewish Committee.
Isaac Ben-Israel, a member of the Knesset and retired major general in the Israeli Defense Forces spoke directly to the question of prevention versus deterrence. He concluded that the "chosen strategy" would be prevention. "The reason" he said "is not only because I am speaking as an Israeli and we all know the policy of Iran towards Israel calling to destroy Israel or to wipe it out of the map every two days or so, it’s not that reason by itself. It is much deeper than this."
Ben-Israel then shifted to Clawson’s new call to action. He stated that because Iran is neither Arab nor Sunni a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran is "frightening not only Israel but those Arab leaders, what we call the moderate Arab states in the Middle East." He spoke of proliferation and Iran exporting the Shi’a revolution.
He predicted in the face of a military conflict, despite heavy losses, "Israel will survive and Iran will go back to the Stone Ages." He warned that Iranian nuclear capability is the main concern because once they have that it’s just "a few months away" from having a bomb and that "I think will depend only on their good will, if you believe they have a good will."
Kassem Ja’afar, former diplomatic adviser to the government of Qatar and author of "Bombing Iran or Living with Iran's Bomb" spoke next. What Ja’afar said is perhaps more reflective of the concerns of the U.S. and Israeli governments than a fear of attack. According to Ja’afar "[Very] simply Iran wants to be recognized as a regional super power…because it wants to have a dominant effect on the policies of the region, on the wealth of the region, and the strategic position of the region vis-à-vis the world."
This is unacceptable, he said, because of the ideological and strategic dimensions. Strategic dimensions like "oil and the Gulf and the maritime routes throughout the Middle East." In his publication he describes in great detail the military assets that Israel and the U.S. would bring to the table if there were a preventive attack writing U.S. involvement into the picture as a given.
Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst brought some cold reality to the discussion. Because of the absence of unclassified intelligence, he has seen "people coming out with strike plans" in Op-Ed’s that "range from rubbish to irresponsible," casting a disapproving look at one or more of the panelists which included in addition to Kassem Ja’afar and Isaac Ben-Israel, Michael Eisenstadt and Patrick Clawson.He continued "The fact is that these are extraordinarily complex and they involve far more than simply counting targets...This is much more of a chainsaw than a scalpel." He did offer "What we have and what Israel does not have is the ability to persist. We have the ability to do the damage assessment. We have the ability to do re-strikes."
During the Q&A, Clawson and Eisenstadt remained focused on the issue of a preventive attack on Iran. Clawson asked Isaac Ben-Israel "What do you think the international community and Israel would do in the aftermath of this strike to prevent Iran from rebuilding?"
Ben-Israel responded nonchalantly "If we fail we have to come back five years later and do the same again...The alternative is, do we want for Iran to have a bomb? The alternative is worse."
Michael Eisenstadt asked Kassem Ja’afar, "What might the Arabs be willing to do to help either the United States or Israel with preventive military action?" Ja’afar’s answer in a nutshell, "I frankly don’t think the Arabs can do much at all."
Deputy Director of National Intel Gives WINEP a Presidents Daily Brief – Say What?!
Ray McGovern was on to something when he spoke about WINEP and the Last Resort serving as a surrogate NIE. Seems the Washington Institute for Near East Policy may have the best seat in town when it comes to access to U.S. intelligence.
McGovern thought it "bizarre that McConnell’s [Director of National Intelligence] principal deputy Donald Kerr briefed WINEP some 5 or 6 months ago....and a CIA nuclear weapons expert also briefed WINEP."