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Security expert: Attacking Iran isn't worth it

The public doesn’t know it, but ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan and his opposition to war with Iran have company

Retired army general Nathan Sharony, head of the Council for Peace and Security, which includes over 1,000 former high-ranking security officials with dovish views, says the positions of ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan and ex-army intelligence head Shlomo Gazit against an attack on Iran are ”acceptable” to him.

Retired army colonel Yiftah Shapir, the leading expert on missile warfare at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), Israel’s premier security think tank, says he “does not think the price we will have to pay [for an attack on Iran] is worth the benefit.” He argues that the most Israel can do is delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions by “some months” – a far cry from the possible five-year delay that Israeli security officials are speaking about in the media.

Retired army colonel Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the INSS, says he “does not know” whether Israel should strike or not, because he does not have all the necessary information. But in the next breath he emphasizes that such an attack “is a very problematic idea, a very dangerous option.”

Israelis aren’t hearing these voices, those of members of the security establishment who oppose an attack on Iran, or who at least have deep doubts about it – and there are crowds of them in this country. If these career security people with impressive titles were to speak out, or, failing that, if journalists and activists were to seek out their opinions, the march to war being led by Barak and Netanyahu could at least be slowed, and maybe even stopped.

But as far as the public knows, the only security heavyweight against the war is Dagan. In truth, Dagan’s predecessor, Ephraim Halevy, preceded him in this view, and the two are joined by former IDF chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Gazit.

None of them are “peaceniks” on the issue – I’m not aware that any of them oppose an Israeli attack under any conditions and at any time; Kam and Shapir, for instance, both said it was vital to Israel’s deterrent power to be ready and, in principle, willing to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities. (Shapir acknowledged that this view, alongside his opposition to actually bombing Iran, amounted to a “Catch-22.”)

But unlike Barak, Netanyahu, Vice PM Moshe Ya’alon and all the other team players in and out of government, these people are talking about the downside, not just the upside, of a war with Iran: missiles landing on Israel; terror attacks on Israeli, Jewish and possibly American targets abroad; the chance of mission failure; an international oil crisis; and more.

And what is most unusual to be hearing from Israeli military men is that while a nuclear Iran is certainly a threat, it is not necessarily an intolerable one.

Kam: “With reservations, I think Israel can live with a nuclear Iran. The critical question is whether Iran would use nuclear weapons against Israel. Rationally, I say no. But this is an assessment that is not based on fact.”

Sharony: ”I don’t know if the Iranians act rationally, I don’t know if Cold War deterrence is applicable to them. But I have to assume that national leaderships act rationally, which leads me to the conclusion that we can live with a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons. Is this a sympathetic situation? No.”

Shapir told me in 2007 that “the chance that Iran will launch a nuclear first strike is low.” If Iran went nuclear, he said, what would probably happen is that it would enter a “dialog” with Israel like the Soviet Union had with the U.S. and Pakistan has with India. ”Strategic logic is stronger than any ideology,” he said.

Why are these and other critics and skeptics in the security establishment, except for Dagan and a few others, keeping their doubts to themselves? The main reason that emerged from these interviews was a reticence to challenge the government and its security advisors on such a fateful issue “without having solid information,” as Sharony put it.

I suggested to him that if all the skeptics outside of government and active military service continue to keep quiet because they don’t know what the people around the cabinet table know, then the people at that table, led by Barak and Netanyahu, will be the only authoritative voices the public hears, so they’ll be free to shape public opinion to their taste and have clear sailing to launch the war.

Sharony replied fatalistically: “By the way, that’s how it’s going to be.”

He’s probably right – the prowar forces have the field to themselves, and it’s likely to stay that way until the jet bombers take off. But probably does not mean certainly. It is impossible to simply accept this brainwashing, to watch the country sleepwalk to war behind Barak and Netanyahu, knowing that there are so many potentially influential people who are against it, or who at least have severe doubts about it.

The only people who can throw a wrench in the wheels of the war train are those like Dagan, Halevy, Lipkin-Shahak, Gazit, Kam, Shapir and Sharony – bitkhonistim, security types, warriors with big brains. If enough of them go public, they could start a backlash, and then opposition politicians like Tzipi Livni and Sheli Yachimovich – maybe even Yair Lapid (!) – might at least begin to ask the government embarrassing questions.

In 2007, former defense minister and IDF chief Shaul Mofaz told The Jerusalem Post that while he wasn’t ruling out a military strike on Iran, “The potential for a regional escalation as a result of an attack is great. Iran sees Israel as a target and has ballistic missiles that can reach every European capital. If it responds, then Hizbullah will respond and maybe Syria, and we don’t even know how Hamas will respond.” Mofaz quickly forgot those words, but if a wave of opposition arose against the war that’s looming, he might remember them.

There is no greater danger on earth today than that of an Israeli attack on Iran; in my opinion, it will be the beginning of the end of this country. There is no more urgent work for Israelis to do than try and prevent it. The key, the start, is in getting the antiwar warriors to come out of the closet.

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    1. Carl

      Larry can you keep writing that article where you changed your mind instead of all these ones about Iran that are almost certainly right. Either that or can you change your mind about this and magically drag reality along with you.
      .
      I really, really hope you’re wrong about Israel and Iran, but I can’t convince myself you are – and believe me, I’m trying.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Jazzy

      Larry: do you have any thoughts on the possibility that the Israeli leadership might purposefully drag the US into a conflict that forces it to crush the IRGC? As long as Iran plans to retaliate against the Gulf, it seems as though Obama would have no choice but to eliminate Iran’s ability to interfere with shipping traffic there, which would probably have the side effect of setting back the nuclear program much more than Israel could.

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    3. Danny

      Uri Avnery wrote in his blog a few weeks ago that in his opinion, the chances of an Israeli strike is nil. His reasoning: Israel CANNOT successfully strike Iran. It’s really that simple. For Israel to maintain a sustained attack against Iran over a number of hours or even days, it would require the direct involvement of the United States. As such, no such involvement is forthcoming, which is the main reason right-wing Jewish hawks in the United States are (literally) calling for Obama’s blood.
      .
      Also, Iran doesn’t seem to be very nervous about Israel’s “threats”, which shows that it’s all bluster. Had Iran been convinced that a strike is forthcoming, we would see major saber rattling coming from the Revolutionary Guard. But Iran has been remarkably composed and responsible in its rhetoric (unlike another country which shall remain nameless).
      .
      Finally, if Israel really, really, really wanted to strike Iran, it would not make a peep about it; as the saying goes: The louder the bark, the softer the bite. Or: If you want to shoot, shoot – don’t talk.

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    4. Eric

      Larry, why do you think that an Israeli strike on Iran would be the beginning of the end of Israel? Because of WMDs to be used against Israel? The death of the peace process? The end of civil liberties within Israel? I’d appreciate it if you could clarify what you think might happen.

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    5. Carl

      Danny, Saddam Hussein acted like he wasn’t afraid of a US attack, and the US prefaced its shooting with an awful lot of talking. The fact that Israel likely can’t seriously damage the Iranian nuclear program isn’t necessarily relevant as Iran doesn’t present a serious threat to Israel, with or without a nuclear weapon.
      .
      It’s the logic of boys-with-their-toys mixed with turkeys voting for Christmas. And if you disagree with that, at least credit me for a spectacularly mixed metaphor.

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    6. Eric, I say the beginning of the end because it will be such an outrageous, sustained act of neighborhood bullying that it will incite vengeance and a chain reaction of violence much bigger than we can imagine. And I don’t see the exit from it, or the political raw material within Israel that could bring a change of direction. If we attack Iran, it won’t be a one-shot deal like with the Iraqi and Syrian reactors – it will go on for awhile – the Iranians and whoever else will counterattack, and we’ll counterattack back – and all this will have been started by Israel because of its goddamn Holocaust worldview. It may set off economic trouble in much of the world, the whole world will blame us except the Republicans. And I don’t see Israel waking up, I don’t see it changing radically and realizing that it cannot be a Jewish superpower in the Muslim Middle East – it has to live and let live. Israel is already in gross violation of that principle, and attacking Iran would just lead all sorts of Muslim actors to throw caution to the wind. And who could contain all this? Nobody I can think of.

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    7. AYLA

      I have friends in Sde Boqer who actually have a bag packed in case we hit Iran’s nuclear facilities and they retaliate by hitting Dimona’s. My friends figure that if they jump in the car the minute after Dimona is hit, they could drive south fast enough to escape Chernobyl -esque repercussions. (What’s so important in that packed bag, I don’t know).

      Reply to Comment
    8. (cont.) And while this violence and fury is going on, in which political direction will Israel be moving? To the right, of course – toward more paranoia and bigotry and mliitarism. Who is going to want to live in such a country? Paranoid, miilltaristic bigots, people who thrive on war, no one else. It’s funny – MIchael Oren, ambassador to the U.S., makes a point of saying that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, it won’t even have to use them to destroy Israel – there will be such a flight of people – the “best and the brightest” – and capital that the country will wither. And missiles on Tel Aviv and “death to the Arabs” as the national motto is going to make the “best and the brightest” want to stay?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Carl

      Larry I don’t see how the conflict would easily become regional. Iran has seriously limited ability to directly attack Israel; its capability would largely be poorly guided ballistic missiles. Hezbollah may step up to scratch, but that’ll cost them not only the flattening of Lebanon and the subsequent sectarian pressures, but their one asset: missile stocks. With Syria presumably already out of the picture and any new regime liable to be ill-disposed to old friends of Assad, how will Hezbollah restock? Not by land and not from an economically and militarily crippled Iran. Hezbollah are nutty for sure, but they’re pragmatists above all.
      .
      Israel though will be free to wage war in the modern style, sitting feet underground or miles up in the sky pressing buttons; no need nor appetite for another messy ground war. And as usual for this style of ‘fighting’, civilians – on all sides – will pay the price, not soldiers or politicians.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Carl, there will be a lot of deaths, and Israel will lose the war – as the aggressor, it will be isolated in the world as never before. Iran will rebuild as fast as it can, and Israel will have to go through this all over again in a couple of years, maybe less. I would imagine Turkey and Egypt are going to beoome much more threatening, not to mention Hamas. I’d be suprised if the PA survives in the WBank. Israel thinks it can start endless wars and get away with it. I think there’s a limit, and we’re going to find it pretty soon.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Carl

      Yeah Larry my confidence in the conflict not spreading might be a bit misplaced in retrospect. I think there are a lot of practical factors militating against it, but the effect of a conflict on the regional powers’ populaces is a scary wildcard as you point out. One thing Chemi Shlalev pointed out in Haaretz was the weakness of Obama in the run up to the election. If Israel attacks on cue, how can he oppose it?

      Reply to Comment
    12. zayzafouna

      I think all men of conscience should support a nuclear armed Iran. An Iran with nuclear arms could stimulate zionists to exercise their right of return so the Palestinians can exercise theirs

      Reply to Comment
    13. Passerby

      This is an impossible situation and an impossible decision. If you don’t attack and the Iranians get nukes with a leadership that keeps threatening Israel, what do you do?

      Consider, for example, what happens if this regime acts rationally but falls apart or falls to even more extreme forces that also inherit nuclear capability?

      Why would they be pursuing nuclear weapons in the first place? How are they so threatened right now that they need these weapons?

      On the other hand, there is a good chance that if attacked they will launch attacks in response for years to come and not just in Israel but also abroad, at Jewish communities everywhere. We’ve seen them do it in Argentina.

      We all remember that attack in Argentina, I assume? I’m just wondering whether that wasn’t an act of outrageous neighborhood bullying. Not that I want to be accused of having a goddamn Holocaust worldview by bringing it up. Live and let live and all that.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Carl, I totally agree that Obama has a hard time opposing an Israeli attack – he’s been saying a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable” and “all options are on the table” for so long, he can’t exactly pretend to be shocked that Israel is more impatient than he is. I blame him maybe even more than I do Bibi/Barak, because I have the hunch that he knows better but isn’t saying for fear of political backlash and fear of appearing weak. But if and when the war starts, and it doesn’t go so neatly, all that will be forgotten and it won’t be America that’s isolated, but Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    15. delia ruhe

      I don’t know how people as irrational as the Israeli power elite can be the authorities on whether or not Iran is a rational actor. Larry is right. Bibi and Barak, claiming access to classified data, will continue to shape reality for the rest of Israel, and “By the way, that’s how it’s going to be”:

      “We cannot wait for a smoking gun, which might just come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

      Reply to Comment
    16. John Yorke

      There is a certain, sad irony to be derived from the fact that it is Iran’s current lack of nuclear weaponry which now gives voice to the drums of war. If Iran were already a fully-fledged member of the nuclear club, with capacity and delivery systems on a par with that of Israel, the thought of bombing such a country would never enter the minds of anyone except those of severe mental impairment.

      Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from this.

      What if the theoretical equivalent of a nuclear arsenal could be placed at the disposal of every country engaged in this extended conflict? What if each side were possessed of the ability, figuratively speaking, to blow the other entirely off the map, to eradicate every last vestige of power and influence enjoyed by the ‘enemy’ camp?

      Given such a scenario, would there still be any appetite left for war or even the most tentative of steps leading up to it?

      I rather think everyone would suddenly find much better things to do than rattle the other side’s cage whenever they felt like it. In fact, the need for such cages might very soon become entirely redundant.

      http://yorketowers.blogspot.com For those of us with much better things to do.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Piotr Berman

      Carl forgets who is opposed to attack on Iran and what the “cheapest” punishment may be.

      So, China and Russia oppose. And the cheapest way to punish “the West” is to boot USA and allies out of Afghanistan. Step 1: prevail upon Central Asian regimes to deny passage for supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan. At the end of the day, none of these regimes can resist China, Russia and Iran combined. Step 2: cut the deal with Taliban and cut the overland supply routes through Pakistan — Taliban already did it for some periods of time in the past. Step 3: the parts of Afghanistan the gave least trouble to NATO had two features: Persian speaking population, and some also Shia religion, Iran is in position to change that for worse. Step 4: supply better weapons to rebels, so they will be able to shoot down helicopters and drones.

      China and Russia would love to see American influence in the interior of Asia reduced, ideally to zero. But you need a major bruahaha to do something drastic. Israeli attack would do.

      Second avenue is Iraq joining Iran and Syria in an official alliance, with Iranian military supplies to Syria and “allies in Lebanon” now being moved overland. This would covert the hypothesized “200,000 missiles” into a real thing. And I guess that enough of those missiles are actually in place to make it very painful for Israel to “attack preventatively”. For example, retaliatory missile strikes may concentrate on port facilities, oil facilities and airports.

      The third avenue is to close traffic in Strait of Hormuz until either Israel promises to pay reparations, or a quorum of oil customers promises to pay the reparations (and they may collect the money from Israel if they have any Israeli assets that they may freeze).

      Cargoes to countries that kept purchasing Iranian crude will be exempted (yes, that includes China and India).

      I imagine that the level of gratitude to Israel for a series of violent debacles will be rather thin, and in many countries, the level of irritation can be large. Including USA.

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    18. Carl

      Piotr, I think your point about the Straits of Hormuz is a good one as this is where just a few words from the Iranian regime could cause serious problems for world oil prices, something the major powers care deeply about. I can’t see them actively closing it as the US would forcibly prevent them – which is probably a preferable opening for the US compared to an Israeli initiated conflict.
      .
      I’m not convinced with the other points though. Bar a major change in policy or some unforeseen event, NATO as a major ground force will be out of Afghanistan in a couple of years as scheduled anyway. Also while history always reveals weird alliances, and yes Shia have fought alongside the Taliban due to inter-tribal agreements, it’s still damn unlikely that they’d set aside their religious and political differences with Iran aside and to seriously co-operate with them.
      .
      Iraq is still far too busy fighting its own sectarian war to seriously pursue cogent foreign policies. Even if they were, the difficulty in supplying advanced weapons is that they’re easily traceable as few people can make them, eg. the Russian Kornets in Lebanon. You can send boatloads of generic RPGs (which would make a difference against archaic Syrian armour), AK variants and the like, but against modern armour or aircraft, you need modern technology. That said, were the Russians to finally go through with the S-300 system sale to Iran, that may well make Israel think twice as they could loose a significant number of aircraft to that.
      .
      As for Syria, Hezbollah’s active support for Assad’s recent actions and their long standing support for the regime is unlikely to be forgotten once/if Assad falls. As ever, there’s no love lost between the Shia and Sunni in these situations, and it’s hard to see a new Syrian regime wanting to keep backing a group which was hostile to them. Even if they did, I suspect they’d prioritise rebuilding their own country and military first.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Richard Witty

      The thesis that Iran is rational and therefore won’t use a nuclear weapon if acquired, is the same reasoning that Israeli hawks sometimes use to describe that the rational response to a limited attack on nukes, is also limited, and wouldn’t extend to an all-out regional war.

      Its the side responses that spin out. Closing the straits of Hormuz, even for a day. Attacking Dimona. 5000 rockets fired from Hezbollah (rather than the limited 100). Or, US confrontation with an Iranian ship in the straits of Hormuz.

      Or, a sympathetic “friend” of either Israel or Iran, undertaking concentrated terror.

      Or, Russia getting sucked into a conflict.

      Again and again, it can all be avoided if Iran ceases enrichment efforts beyond the 5% needed for fission fuel.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Carl

      Richard, I suppose carrying out a first-strike, one which would lead to the devastation of Islam’s third most holy site along with the retaliatory annihilation of Iran is technically ‘irrational’, but I think even ‘insane’ would fall way short of accuracy.
      .
      Pakistan is run by some far out crazies who would love to see much of India disappear, but they – nor the crazy nationalists in India – will use nukes as a weapon of choice, only as a deterrent by way of punitive retaliation. That’s precisely the reason Iran wants one: to stop other states invading it and to strengthen its hand on the international (and especially regional) stage.
      .
      I should add that having grown up through the cold war, I’m no fan of the MAD approach, relying as it does on opposing sides never mistaking the other’s intents. Still, I’d prefer Iran and Israel to sullenly face off across the years with respective stockpiles of undeclared nukes rather than the risks of this impending conventional war.
      .
      To misquote you: again and again, it can all be avoided if Israel doesn’t initiate a war of choice.

      Reply to Comment
    21. John Yorke

      The attainment of nuclear clout by Iran may soon become an unwelcome fact of life but, given the enormous destructive power already in the hands of so many nations, Israel among them, this extra increase probably makes very little difference in overall terms.

      It is the instability of the Middle East situation that gives cause for the most concern. The capacity to escalate matters right up to and beyond a nuclear exchange would have the potential to bring about an apocalypse of almost Armageddon-style proportions. Even the actual event itself might not look entirely out of place after such a scenario.

      It must therefore be in everyone’s interests to relieve the pressure built up by generations of antagonism, continued strife and perceived injustice. But to arbitrate with nuclear weapons in attendance is unlikely to provide the ideal background with which to proceed in such a matter.

      Some sort of permanent safety-valve must be incorporated into the dispute to vent off the excessive stresses that keep unravelling each and every effort to produce a settlement instead of a stalemate. Without such a component in place, the future of the region looks to be very bleak indeed.

      But, once the nuclear option starts to gain ascendency, how can the genie ever be put back in the bottle?
      What can compete with what is generally regarded as mankind’s last and ultimate sanction?

      Only the introduction of something that is even more scary and easier to deliver can ever hope to overshadow such an abomination.

      Which is why we might all have cause to welcome an alternative proposal.

      http://yorketowers.blogspot.com

      Reply to Comment
    22. ginger

      Larry – can you make the point crystal clear that Israel and her Israel Lobby in the US are using any number of lies, blackmail, and rigging of American politicans to advance Israeli goals as far as attacking Iran?

      Americans, amongst others, are subjected to a constant organized torrent of Pro-War Israeli propaganda and we need 30 good articles per month pointing out the actual facts of the situation

      No more fact-free bandwagons, organized for Americans, designed to get us to fight wars for Israel so Israel doesn’t have to, please

      If Zionism means Apartheid and belligerent wars throughout the Middle East (which in reality it most certainly does, as decades of it have borne out) – I think it might be time to rethink support for ‘Progressive’ or any other kind of ‘Zionism’

      Reply to Comment
    23. Aaron

      Sharony: ”I don’t know if the Iranians act rationally, I don’t know if Cold War deterrence is applicable to them. But I have to assume that national leaderships act rationally….”
      .
      That comment really struck me. If you’re not sure whether your enemy acts “rationally,” why would you then *assume* that he does? It just sounds bizarre.
      .
      To me, the scariest thing is that someone with power in Iran will “irrationally” strike Israel, without complete authorization and with the knowledge that the Iranian regime will be destroyed and many people killed. I think this is very unlikely. But how unlikely? If it’s one chance in a hundred, then we should be extremely worried. (One person involved in the Cuban missile crisis estimated, in retrospect, that the probability of its leading to nuclear war was one in a hundred, which is pretty terrifying.) If it’s one chance in a million? Ignore it. One in a thousand? We should be worried. In comparison, I don’t think the risk of an “irrational” strike from the Soviet Union and China was ever worth worrying about. How do you analyze threats with very low probability and very high loss?

      Reply to Comment
    24. John Yorke

      Aaron,
      Maybe it is possible to put the outbreak of a Middle East nuclear war to one side and consider it an extremely unlikely event. Placing it on the back burner for the time being may be just as well; the prospects for non-nuclear warfare seem quite enough to be going on with.

      Would the possession of an Arab nuclear armoury, comparable in magnitude and deployment to that of Israel, be sufficient incentive for any Israeli administration to curtail all provocative and aggressive action against its enemies, both at home and abroad? And would the same be true of the opposition?
      Or would the battle continue much as a previous one had done in the latter half of the 20th century? There, the contest was carried on by more indirect methods; the actual fighting being allocated to proxies, smaller countries allied to, or in some way supported by, the superpowers.

      It seems that, even with a full complement of nuclear weapons available to all belligerents, the killing and the dying must still continue in more or less the usual fashion. Only when one or both sides weary of the struggle and decide to throw in the towel do the chances of a peaceful outcome gain ground. And, given the circumstances surrounding and prolonging this Arab-Israeli impasse, how likely is that ever to happen?

      With or without nuclear weapons, how can this entire situation be brought to anywhere near a satisfactory conclusion?

      Maybe one way to accomplish such a task is to enable a virtual form of nuclear warfare, something that could seriously impair any nation’s ability to prosecute further conflict while, at the same time, causing no material damage whatsoever to any person, place or thing.

      http://yorketowers.blogspot.com

      Is the human race now in a position to try out a new form of weapon, one that leaves the nuclear option rusting in its silos, that allows for wars to be fought in a cleaner manner and by a much better class of people?

      The world would certainly be a lot safer for Arabs, Israelis and all the rest of us if that were the case.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Yiftah S. Shapir

      Larry.
      yesterday I got a mail from a young American who read this post. apparently he sees things very differently from the way I intended them when I was talking to you.
      As the popular Israli song goes “things you see from over here are not seen from over there”… Anyway – he asked me for some elaborations and they made me think some things over. Here is what I wrote him and I would appreciate your comment…

      A. there is no real debate. what we get is leaks on the debate within the government but not a real debate in the open.
      B. I guess the outrage on Mr. Dagan was not about WHAT he said as much as about the fact that he ACTUALLY said it…
      people like me – in academia, media or think tank can say whatever they want but we don’t matter – do we? ..
      Analysing the debate – I think there is no disagreements about the essentials – what can an attack achieve, how can the Iranian retaliate.. etc.

      So the debate is actually one of the two:

      A. between people who think that the price (suffering an Iranian retaliation) is worth the benefit (of hitting Iran’s infrastructure) and people who think that the benefit is not great enough for the price..

      OR maybe the debate is actually

      B. Between people who are unsure about the justification of the attack but believe we should KEEP THREATENING anyway and never mention the downside of the option – and people who are just as unsure about the justification of the attack but believe that in the name of freedom-of-speach we should analyse all options – and maybe even utter our skepticism openly…

      Reply to Comment
    26. Yiftah, thanks for comments, for interview, and for your courage in taking a pretty lonely stance so forthrightly. About what you wrote the American (I should say my fellow American):
      1. I agree there’s been no debate, except for about a week-and-a-half after Nahum Barnea’s big scoop, but the reason that sparked an uproar was not because Bibi/Barak were evidently planning to bomb Iran, but because they were planning to do so against the advice of the heads of security and most of the cabinet. That was then – I get the strong sense that everyone’s falling into line now.
      2. I think the anger at Dagan was less because of the fact that he spoke openly and much more because of the content of what he said: he was against the war, which Bibi/Barak and so many others want, and he slammed Bibi/Barak for their “adventurism.”
      3. I believe academics in international affairs and defense, especially at security think tanks like INSS, could have tremendous influence if they were part of an organized, coordinated effort – a letter to Bibi/Barak signed by scores of top people and published in Yediot, for instance. Statements by individuals or in twos and threes (such as in my post) are easily brushed aside, I’m afraid.
      4. I think there is a lot of disagreement on the essentials – for instance, you think the attack would slow Iran by some months, but “security officials” are being quoted as predicting as much as five years. Dagan’s vision of the blowback is much more grave than Ephraim Kam’s, for instance. And while there seems to be a consensus that an attack would solidify domestic support for the Iranian regime, Bibi was reported as saying the opposite. (He can talk himself into believing any nonsense.)
      5. About the debate among skeptics over whether they should speak out or not, I think this is really the fatal problem – the skeptics for quiet appear to be winning. They’re afraid of removing pressure on the West to pressure Iran. They’re afraid of undercutting Bibi/Barak’s psychological warfare to scare Iran into giving up the bomb. And because of their background, they’re simply afraid of violating the “loose lips sink ships” principle. It’s too bad, because I think if all the bitkhonistim who oppose an attack went public in some sort of organized fashion, such as a letter in Yediot, interviews in the media, they might be able to prevent an attack. But I don’t see this happening, and it seems clear to me that Bibi/Barak have made up their minds and nobody, including Obama, can stop them.

      Reply to Comment
    27. [...] leading many in the Israeli defence and security establishment  to oppose an attack. Some quite heavyweight former Israeli military figures have said that they think the exercise would be [...]

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    28. [...] November if the president doesn’t cooperate. The fact that former Mossad director Meir Dagan and other Israeli security experts, as well as US military officials like Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Martin Dempsey, are worried [...]

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    29. [...] Meir Dagan and Ephraim Halevy, former IDF intelligence head Shlomo Gazit, and a bevy of other Israeli and American security experts. Notwithstanding the president’s skepticism of an Israeli [...]

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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Illustrations: Eran Mendel