In response to a flurry of protests and civilian statements opposing an Israeli war on Iran, Defense Minister Ehud Barak struck back, dismissing the protests as irrelevant and declaring it the government’s business alone.
Apparently trying to showcase his appreciation for democracy, Barak said “The prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister have the authority…and the decision will be made as necessary by the government of Israel. That’s how it is and how it needs to be — not a group of civilians or even newspaper editorials.”
Barak then conceded that a unilateral military attack on Iran has its dangers and complications. But, he warned, war with a nuclear-armed Iran would be “incomparably” more dangerous than a preemptive campaign now.
This is of course a false choice which presumes the two major lies about Iran. First, that it is developing nuclear weapons, which it isn’t. And second, that some future nuclear-armed Iran would go to war with Israel, which almost certainly wouldn’t happen since countries get nuclear weapons to deter wars, not to fight them – especially not with other nuclear-armed countries like Israel.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey this week said that Israel doesn’t have the capability to completely destroy Iran nuclear program, only to set it back a few years. Apparently in response to this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said going it alone was still worth it, even if it only set the program back slightly.
The reason for this, Netanyahu said, is that even such a limited strike could hasten regime change. This estimate is not just wrong, it’s indicative of some seriously ludicrous thinking.
Far more likely, a strike on Iran for a nuclear weapons program it doesn’t have would make clear to the Iranian leadership that it must have nuclear weapons in order to deter future attacks and attempts at regime change.
As former CIA analyst Paul Pillar wrote in the March issue of Washington Monthly, overly optimistic war proponents think “the same regime that cannot be trusted with a nuclear weapon because it is recklessly aggressive and prone to cause regional havoc would suddenly become, once attacked, a model of calm and caution, easily deterred by the threat of further attacks.”
And as New York Times reporter David Sanger has reported, officials in the Obama administration feel the same. “We wanted to make it abundantly clear that an attack would just drive the program more underground,” one official told Sanger. “The inspectors would be thrown out. The Iranians would rebuild, more determined than ever. And eventually, they would achieve their objective.”
Attacking Iran would not just be counterproductive in this sense, it would also be illegal. Since Iran has no nuclear weapons program, there is no conceivable imminent threat to the US or Israel and thus no attack is justified. Indeed, a preventive attack would constitute a war crime, as George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has said.
As Aaron David Miller, scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, said in May, given the fact that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, “a unilateral attack [on Iran] would be totally discretionary. It would be a war of choice,” not of necessity. That is, illegal.