Recently I have been hearing that Israel can’t stop Iran’s nuclear program, and America is our only hope. For example, here is Daniel Gordis:
[Former PM Ehud] Barak wrote that Israel no longer has a viable military option for preventing Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold, and that the Mullahs are marching steadily forward on their quest. Israel needs the US to develop military plans to stop Iran (Barak said that not only does the US have no such plans, it also has no interest in developing them); furthermore, he said, Israel is going to have to recognize its increased dependence on the US, and to work hard to deepen its ties to America.
But Barak does not draw the appropriate conclusion from the facts that he presents, and neither does Gordis, who thinks that Israel must “mend fences with American Jews” to help influence the US “to do the right thing” and act against Iran. Barak’s argument (Hebrew link) actually implies that we cannot depend on America.
Barak wrote that Iran’s “breakout time” – the time it will take to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb once Iran has decided to do so – has been reduced to about 30 days. Of course there are other technological hurdles to pass before that uranium can be made into a deliverable weapon, but still, Israel’s moment of decision is closer than ever.
There is a lot of discussion of whose fault this is, with Barak and others placing the blame on Netanyahu and Trump. I don’t want to expend too many words on this, but I disagree. Trump is accused of precipitously ending the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (with Netanyahu’s encouragement), which allowed the Iranians to increase their uranium enrichment activities significantly. But Iran was already violating the too-weak deal, and Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” – both economic and covert, as in the assassination of Qassem Soleimani – was causing the regime great distress. The policy’s failure was assured by its early termination: Trump was not reelected, and Biden chose to scrap it. But it doesn’t matter who’s to blame; the question is what to do about it.
Barak suggests that the Iranian regime intends to develop all of the pieces of a nuclear weapon, starting with the necessary fissionable material, without immediately assembling one. Technically Iran will not be a nuclear state, but it will be able to become one in a very short time, perhaps measured in days or even hours. By remaining a “threshold state” and not assembling or testing a weapon, the regime can protect itself diplomatically, while for all practical purposes having a nuclear capability. And Barak correctly notes that the US Administration does not see this situation as sufficiently threatening to American interests to require a military response.
And here I need to say a few words about America. I’ve said a lot of this before, so I’ll summarize.
First, support for Israel among US elites is waning, due to the success of the campaign of cognitive warfare that has targeted the American educational system since the 1970s, when massive amounts of petrodollars were recycled into contributions to universities and think tanks, departments of Mideast Studies were established, and professorial chairs endowed. Money also flowed from organizations linked to billionaire George Soros and left-leaning foundations like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, into anti-Israel groups targeting sectors of the population, like Jews and Evangelicals, that had traditionally provided the backbone of support for Israel. More recently, the broad Left, which includes numerous student groups, “racial justice” movements, and left-leaning members of Congress, have universally adopted anti-Israel positions regardless of their relevance to their causes.
Second, the officials responsible for Iran policy, prominently represented by special envoy to the nuclear negotiations Robert Malley, are associated with a policy of appeasement of Iran rather than coercion (either economically or by force). Malley also has a history of taking anti-Israel positions in the Palestinian arena.
Third, especially after the debacle in Afghanistan, the US is wary of becoming involved in any military activity in the Middle East, either unilateral or cooperative. The best that Israel can hope for is that if she decides to take action against Iran, the US will not intervene in some way against Israel, such as by leaking information that might compromise an Israeli attack on nuclear sites.
Fourth, the US has its own problems which are rapidly getting worse. Led by an incompetent president who is incapable of being a unifying personality, the nation is wracked by social conflict (which I believe is to a great extent instigated by cognitive warfare being waged against it by external enemies). The collective mind space of the elites is occupied by mass-psychotic aberrations about gender and race. The media are no longer trusted or trustworthy; people get their news in social-media bubbles where they are easily manipulated. The bubbles, where the more radical an opinion is, the more it is valued, create extremists and amplify outlandish ideas. But reality is out there, and while Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, worries about “white rage,” China prepares to take Taiwan. And it won’t stop there.
I think it is a foregone conclusion that the US will not take military action against Iran, especially if Iran remains a threshold state. Further, it is clear that the Biden administration will not even follow the path of Trump and impose strong sanctions; it is moving in the direction of appeasement. And the Iranian regime is so close to their nuclear goal that they can taste it.
The diplomatic track followed by the US is counterproductive from Israel’s point of view. No deal that the regime will agree to make with the US will prevent Iran from becoming a threshold state. A deal will simply give it time to continue development while protecting the nuclear program from Israel, who would be cast as a rogue state if she acts. This, I think, is why Netanyahu forbade his government to discuss parameters for a deal with the Americans: no possible deal is a “good deal” for Israel.
Therefore there is no reason for Israel to “recognize its increased dependence on the US, and to work hard to deepen its ties to America” as Barak and Gordis suggest. The opposite is true: Israel must realize that she is almost alone in her struggle with Iran, and she must develop a plan to eliminate the threat by herself, with whatever help she can get from her Arab allies in the Gulf. And it’s painful to say this, but Israel must also be wary of a US effort to sabotage her plans.
Barak describes the difficulties and dangers inherent in an Israeli attack on Iran. They are indeed formidable. But there is no solution to be found in America. The alternative to stopping Iran is to give up the future of the Jewish state, or, in other words, there is no alternative. In Hebrew, ein breira.
David Ben Gurion is not my favorite personality in Israel’s history. If I hadn’t been 5-1/2 years old at the time, I would have preferred to be on the deck of the Altalena than on the shore shooting at her. But unlike Barak, Ben Gurion understood that when there is no alternative, you do what you have to do. He knew that the moment he declared the state, it would be at war. He knew that the new state would be weak and outnumbered. But his approach was to declare the state and find a way to win the ensuing war.
We have some number of months before Iran effectively becomes a nuclear state. Dealing with Iran is a technical problem, and technical problems are soluble. We have no choice but to solve this one. Ein breira.