Debunking a war against Iran

Al Jazeera's Marwan Bishara says preventive action would be a strategic blunder.



    Barack and Bill

    Bush loses out in Bucharest

    Not in the name of democracy

    Global hotspots pose new challenges

    Give 'em a state!

    The pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy (Winep) has long been considered to be the research/lobbying arm of the Israeli lobby in the US and therefore wields much influence around Washington. 

    Since it was founded in the mid-1980s by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), it has spearheaded the 'intellectual' drive to Israelise US foreign policy in the Middle East.

    In fact, Winep's influential associates (like Dennis Ross, the former special envoy to the Middle East Peace Process) were earlier this week convincing senior aides to presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to support the creation of a joint US-Israeli task force on Iran.

    The Washington correspondent of the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on June 15 that the new Winep task force initiative was supported by Tony Lake and Susan Rice of the Obama campaign, and Vin Weber and James Woolsey of the McCain camp. He summed it up as follows:

    "If you want it in a journalistic headline format, here is one way to do it: Obama, McCain advisors agree: US-Israel should discuss preventive military action against Iran."


    To further strengthen its position against Iran, Winep - which used similar strategies to justify a pre-emptive war against Iraq - just published a new policy paper by two of its senior researchers, Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt.

    In a nutshell, "The Last Resort, Consequence of Military Action against Iran" weighs the pros and cons of both deterrence and prevention strategies towards the Gulf nation.

    The document is filled with academic constructs, sophisticated policy considerations, verbal acrobatics, and qualifying statements carefully brought together to justify the conclusion that going to war against Iran is in America's best interests.

    The two 'strategic experts' that championed the cause of the war against Iraq, are now trying to re-focus the nation's energies on the so-called dangers of Iran's weapons of mass destruction.

    They do not argue in favour of a pre-emptive war because such a move would require  congressional approval. 

    Rather they opt for "prevention action" even though such a conflict could result in the deaths of thousands of Iranians and Americans.

    At the same time, they offer damning analysis of deterrence saying it is impractical, unwise and even a dangerous strategy towards a regime that "could not be deterred". 

    The authors question the findings (and the motivation) of last year's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which indicated Iran had halted all secret nuclear weapon programmes in 2003.

    Clawson and Eisenstadt contradict the NIE's conclusions that Tehran formulates policies on a 'cost-and-benefit' basis - the precondition for the success of any deterrence.

    They warn that the US should not wait for a smoking gun to materialise before taking action and say waiting for clear-cut evidence "may amount to de facto acquiescence in a nuclear-armed Iran".

    The document's authors try hard to sound like objective analysts by using the think-tank lingo but instead come across as implicitly constructing the case for another disastrous Middle East war - against Iran. 

    Euphemism of last resort 

    The authors argue for preventive attacks on
    Iranian nuclear sites
    When the facts are too stubborn, complicated and inconvenient, the authors use third-party alibis to make the case for military attack.

    "Some policy makers may be tempted to cut through the complexity of the problem by basing their decisions on a fundamental foreign policy principle of the post 9/11 era: the most dangerous nations cannot be allowed to obtain the most dangerous weapons," they write in the report.

    Congress, the real law-making organ of US governance, is only mentioned as a 'consultative' power at the very end of the report, after the authors have explained ad infinitum why the White House must coordinate strategies with Israel.

    Congress is afforded the same importance as America's allies who are to be consulted in case the nation goes to war against Iran.

    Furthermore, Clawson and Eisenstadt argue against the "conventional wisdom" that warns a strike against Iran is too risky and short-sighted. Instead, they offer the conclusion that a preventive war is the least costly option if it is executed intelligently and within the right context

    In other contexts such warmongering would be condemned and its authors would be put on trial for inciting violence.

    "Perhaps this year "

    Nevertheless, they predict that "... some time soon - perhaps later this year, perhaps within a few years - the time for such a [war] decision may come".

    The two 'experts' warn that when the time for war comes, the US military must refrain from limited or prolonged air raids. 

    In fact, they argue in favour of comprehensive military action (shock and awe) not only against presumed covert nuclear installations, but also against its declared nuclear sites that are located close to populated areas.

    The comprehensive attack must also target Iran's conventional military installations and Revolutionary Guard bases as well as the vulnerable oil installations, most of which are located in open areas close to the Gulf coast in order to deter Iran from ever rebuilding the flattened nuclear sites.

    In such a scenario, the civilian death toll would be catastrophic.

    According to the authors, the success of the preventive attack is conditional on how US military strategists "mitigate the effect of Iranian retaliation, and set the conditions for successful post-strike diplomacy or military action".

    In other words, how best to negotiate Iran's conditions for complete surrender.

    Containing the spillover

    This facility used as part of Iran's nuclear programme near Isfahan would be targeted in a preventive attack [GALLO/GETTY]
    The two war advocates mitigate the possible spillover from such an attack. They pretend to examine all 'conventional wisdom' relating to Iranian retaliation - through "terrorist cells" or "special forces" among Shia communities across the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon - and show it to be minimal.

    The authors go on to downplay the effects such a war in Iran would have on its neighbour Iraq, saying Tehran's influence and interference in Baghdad would come to an end.

    On the global front, Clawson and Eisenstadt address the questions of oil shortages, international public outcry and possible attacks on Israel or Jewish targets across the world and find that to be containable if the war is properly executed.

    They even suggest public relations strategies to defend and justify the US position in the wake of the Iraq fiasco.

    The report event stipulated that if the strikes are comprehensive and deadly enough, they would deny Moscow and Beijing from exploiting a protracted conflict against Iran to their favour.  

    But selective security analyses driven by ideology as the ones cited in the Winep report are no alternative to a deeper understanding of the history and geopolitics of the Middle East region.

    The question of Iran's nuclear programme cannot be addressed within a vacuum; it is part of the general geopolitical consideration that involves US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Washington's attempts at regime change in Tehran. 

    If the US does strike Iran by the end of the year, this will prove to be a far worse strategic blunder than the war against Iraq.

    The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    'It takes a village to kill a child': Uganda's hidden children

    'It takes a village to kill a child': Uganda's hidden children

    Faced with stigma and abuse, many children with disabilities are hidden indoors, with few options for specialised care.

    Medieval Arabic cookbooks: Reviving the taste of history

    Medieval Arabic cookbooks: Reviving the taste of history

    A growing number of cookbooks have been translated into English, helping bring old foods to new palates.

    India-China border row explained in seven maps

    India-China border row explained in seven maps

    Seven maps to help you understand the situation on the ground and what's at stake for nearly three billion people.