From: Justin Raimondo To: Michael Freund Subject: The Special Relationship Michael,
Yes, it is indeed a shame that you addressed none of my points—most prominently, Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, in brazen violation of international law. I don’t recall making any “personal attacks,” as you put it, unless you consider pointing out Israel’s violation of international law to be a slur against your person. And, of course, “extraneous taunts” can sometimes illuminate larger issues, such as the exact value of Israel to the U.S., although the lack of specificity in this regard renders your complaint mysterious, at least to me.
The great problem in “dialogues” of this sort is that, all too often, the “dialoguers” wind up talking past, or at, one another. This is unfortunate, but also, perhaps, unavoidable. I will, however, try to bridge the gap, and hopefully we can at least be talking about the same subject, even if we aren’t agreeing in any measure.
As with the case of Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction,” the “evidence” of Iran’s vaunted nuclear weapons program doesn’t really exist. Nor was there anything “illicit” about the “secrecy” in which you insist the Iranians cloaked their nuclear research. Unlike Israel, which refuses to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has acted in full compliance with guidelines set down by the IAEA. The IAEA didn’t require disclosure of the facilities you mention until its rules were amended (after the disclosures). As for not allowing a more stringent inspection policy by the IAEA, this news article points out that “diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said Iran had the right to reject any inspector it wanted and such a step was not prohibited by its accord with the agency.”
Former IAEA Deputy Director-General for safeguards Bruno Pellaud, when asked if Iran was bent on building a nuclear bomb, replied: “My impression is not. My view is based on the fact that Iran took a major gamble in December 2003 by allowing a much more intrusive capability to the IAEA. If Iran had had a military program they would not have allowed the IAEA to come under this Additional Protocol. They did not have to.” Former British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has said: “There is no smoking gun and therefore no justification for a military attack.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded, contra Freund, that Iran is a decade away from developing usable nuclear weapons. As for their “racing to develop intercontinental missiles” that could supposedly hit New York and Washington, here is what one Iran expert has to say:
Iran’s medium-range Shahab-3 missiles are modeled after the North Korean Nodong missiles, which are, in turn, based on an early Soviet model. Most experts agree that the Iranian missile system has reached its maximum potential and cannot be stretched into developing longer-range missiles. Iran would need to master the extremely complex “multistage” missile technology in order to build them. So far, only a few countries have been able to reach this advanced stage of missile development and some of them, i.e., India and Israel, reportedly have had significant difficulty manufacturing reliable long-range missiles.
Experts note the technical difficulty of manufacturing such missiles, which is why only the United States, Russia, and China have developed them. In the event the Iranians do develop such long-range missiles, it would be hard to conceal that fact from the international community—and, then again, there is the question of tipping them with nuclear warheads, a technology way beyond present Iranian capabilities.
It may be that Israel cannot afford to take the risk, however small, of leaving Iran alone. The United States, however, being on the other side of the globe, could well afford to wait before acting precipitously—and recklessly. Last time we did that, we landed ourselves in a quagmire. As Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt put it in their Harvard University study of the Israel lobby: “Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not pose a direct threat to the U.S. If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China, or even a nuclear North Korea, it can live with a nuclear Iran. And that is why the [Israel] Lobby must keep up constant pressure on politicians to confront Tehran. Iran and the U.S. would hardly be allies if the Lobby did not exist, but U.S. policy would be more temperate and preventive war would not be a serious option.”
You point to Iranian support for “Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and the Iraqi insurgency” as evidence that Tehran is the enemy of the U.S. as well as Israel. But this conflation of widely disparate groups with various goals and ideologies into a single, monolithic anti-U.S.-Israel conspiracy is really not in accord with the facts. Hizbullah’s enemy is Israel, not the U.S., and, as for Hamas and Islamic Jihad—these guys, too, are Israel’s problem, not ours.
The Iraqi insurgency is a problem that could be easily solved by an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, which is precisely what ought to be done. In any case, evidence for Iranian “aid” to the “Iraqi insurgency” is extremely dubious, and seems to be of the same tenor and character as the pre-invasion “evidence” of Iraqi WMD, i.e., cherry-picked “raw” intelligence that is unverified and based on supposition, speculation, and outright disinformation.
I am glad to see that you have mastered the art of linking. But let me give you some advice: When putting in a link, make sure it has something to do with what you are trying to prove. For example, if you are trying to prove that Iran is a threat both to Israel and the United States, then the links you provide should contain some significant mention of the United States as well as Israel. Unfortunately for you, the articles you link to—essentially a collection of bad-boy quotes from the Iranian president compiled by the Anti-Defamation League—do not mention the U.S. as a target of Iran’s wrath, except for the rather cryptic comment that “there is no significant need for the United States”—whatever that means.
You intone that this issue is a matter of “grave international significance,” and yet one wonders if you realize just how grave. Do you understand what you are advocating? An attack on Iran would plunge the entire region into a maelstrom of violence from which it would not soon emerge. It would mean a land war, and not just antiseptic bombing raids, with Iranian soldiers and Iraqi Shiites arrayed against U.S. forces: It would mean many thousands of Iranians killed in bombing raids, and, finally, it would give Al Qaeda a huge propaganda victory. Osama bin Laden’s contention that the U.S. is allied with Israel in a genocidal war against Muslims would gain new credibility. And the U.S. itself would be in increased danger of a terrorist attack.
Ah, but Israel would be safe from the almost purely imaginary “threat” of annihilation from Iranian blustering. Another enemy of the Israelis would be humbled, and the Americans would be doing all the dirty work. How convenient—and grossly exploitative. But, then again, that’s always been the essence of the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship.”