Netanyahu Warns; He Will Bomb Iran

by Brien Jackson

In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had quite a message for President Obama; attack Iran, or I will:

Netanyahu said he would support President Obama’s decision to engage Iran, so long as negotiations brought about a quick end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “How you achieve this goal is less important than achieving it,” he said, but he added that he was skeptical that Iran would respond positively to Obama’s appeals. In an hour-long conversation, held in the Knesset, Netanyahu tempered his aggressive rhetoric with an acknowledgement that nonmilitary pressure could yet work. “I think the Iranian economy is very weak, which makes Iran susceptible to sanctions that can be ratcheted up by a variety of means.” When I suggested that this statement contradicted his assertion that Iran, by its fanatic nature, is immune to pressure, Netanyahu smiled thinly and said, “Iran is a composite leadership, but in that composite leadership there are elements of wide-eyed fanaticism that do not exist right now in any other would-be nuclear power in the world. That’s what makes them so dangerous.”[…]

Neither Netanyahu nor his principal military advisers would suggest a deadline for American progress on the Iran nuclear program, though one aide said pointedly that Israeli time lines are now drawn in months, “not years.” These same military advisers told me that they believe Iran’s defenses remain penetrable, and that Israel would not necessarily need American approval to launch an attack. “The problem is not military capability, the problem is whether you have the stomach, the political will, to take action,” one of his advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me.

Of course, this is a mobius strip at its finest, in so much as all of our intelligence estimates continue to claim that Iran has no nuclear weapons program (although to be fair, US leadership, including Obama, are no better about this) so Bibi is setting up an impossible circumstance that, if worked out, can only end in military action. What’s most interesting about this, however, is that it suggests Netanyahu isn’t really that concerned about the divergence of political opinion in the US and Israel, and he clearly seems to think, for reasons I can’t really figure out, that it’s Israel, not the United States, who holds the dominant position in the alliance between the two. Hopefully the Obama administration won’t prove him correct, and will put meaningful pressure on the new government to moderate their foreign/military policy.

Also, I’ve seen both Massie and Larison flag this section of the interview:

Netanyahu offered Iran’s behavior during its eight-year war with Iraq as proof of Tehran’s penchant for irrational behavior. Iran “wasted over a million lives without batting an eyelash … It didn’t sear a terrible wound into the Iranian consciousness. It wasn’t Britain after World War I, lapsing into pacifism because of the great tragedy of a loss of a generation. You see nothing of the kind.”

He continued: “You see a country that glorifies blood and death, including its own self-immolation.” I asked Netanyahu if he believed Iran would risk its own nuclear annihilation at the hands of Israel or America. “I’m not going to get into that,” he said.

Of course, the idea that Iran is a completely irrational, fanatical state isn’t backed up by any solid evidence, which is why Bibi (like Norman Podhoretz in World War IV, incidentally) has to resort to using the Iran-Iraq war as an example, while declining to remind his audience that it was Iraq who was the aggressor in that war. Of course states often accept higher levels of casualties when defending their own territory from a hostile aggressor, and for the most part, the rest of the world accepts that, even when what would normally be considered “extreme” measures like arming the citzenry are taken. Simply put, no one expects a state to submit to aggression in the name of limiting casualties (have you ever heard someone argue that France was irresonsible in World War I for enduring such a high casualty level?), which is why Netanyahu has to imply that Iran was the agressor in the conflict, and that their behavior was highly unusual. Given this, and the chosen outlet, I’d say Netanyahu isn’t even bothering to play to the American government anymore, he’s playing to the media, hoping that any action Israel may take about Iran will be spun in Israel’s favor, and that the Obama administration won’t be in a position to push back. The implication is clear; the Netanyahu government simply does not care what the United States thinks, unless the US is prepared to support them unequivocally. It would be amusing in it’s presumptuosness, if it weren’t such a dangerous course. For everyone.

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