Does Israel Seriously Believe Iran is a Threat?

From Zero Hedge:

Israeli political sources believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has majority Cabinet support for Israeli military action against Iran without American approval.

Really? Is second-strike-capable 200 megaton Israel really afraid of piddly little Iran? Do they not understand that Iran cannot lay a (nuclear) finger on them, for fear of sheer nuclear obliteration?

As I noted back in January:

Even Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad recognises that Iran is not an existential threat to Israel.

Upon leaving his post, Dagan publicly warned against Israel attacking Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

In his latest comments, he said that if Israel attacks Iran, it will find itself at the centre of a regional war that would endanger the state’s existence. Dagan’s intervention is dangerous for Netanyahu because it comes from the right wing of Israeli opinion rather than the left, where the prime minister would expect criticism.

Dagan has been in charge of aggressive Israeli actions abroad in recent years, that have included assassinations in Lebanon, Syria and Dubai and an air attack on a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria. He also criticised Israel’s failure to offer any initiative to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians .

The absence of any workable plan, he said, will leave Israel in a dangerous and weak situation.

This really echoes my thinking: the real threat to Israel, and America is not inaction on Iran, but excessive force. Iran poses little threat, but military intervention to effect regime change in Tehran runs the risk of huge and widespread blowback throughout the Muslim world: terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and deeper intergovernmental hostility, a breakdown of regional trade, and even a wider land war involving Eurasian nations who wish to protect Iran, including China and Russia.

For all the verbiage thrown at determining whether or not Iran is “rational”, and despite the obvious fact that there are many “rational” people like Meir Dagan in power in Israel, perhaps we should have looked more closely at the question of whether the Israeli cabinet is “rational” or not.

Does the possibility of creating a wider war not trouble them?  Did they not pay attention to the recent bellicose statements from other Eurasian states in support of Iran? Do they — unlike the Israeli public — honestly believe that a war with Iran can be won without regime change in Iran, and do they believe they have the time, the resources, and the manpower to achieve such a thing? Do they honestly believe that the United States under Obama will back-up an Israeli attack on Iran, should a larger power move to support Iran? Do they honestly believe that the rest of world will be happy to see oil prices spiking as a result of an Israeli attack? Do they honestly believe that Israeli public opinion will countenance more resources being spent on war, and less on health, housing and public services?

In light of all these problems, I find it hard to believe that Israel will hit Iran. I believe instead that Israel and America will continue their covert war against the Iranian regime and hope to foment an Arab Spring-style revolution in Iran.

But that is to assume that Netanyahu and his cabinet are rational. Maybe they want a big, dangerous and scary war that imperils the Jewish state?

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29 thoughts on “Does Israel Seriously Believe Iran is a Threat?

  1. “Upon leaving his post, Dagan publicly warned against Israel attacking Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

    Perhaps he realised that he was only a mere mortal, and in retirement, it is much more enjoyable to laze on a beach, without the fear of assassination.

    If this public statement makes him sleep easier at night, so be it.

    Iran is toast. That is a certainty.

  2. John, what you have to realise is that Israel and the USA have been playing with the Taliban and the Arab world, becuase of the Geneva convention. If the gloves were off, the world would be a different place.

    The Chinese and Muslim know not to back the USA, Israel or the West in a corner. For When the USA, Israel and the West reach back into their old Testament for inspiration, hell hath no fury like an ultra intelligent, fiat resourced psychopath with too much to lose.

    • Well, that’s the question I’m asking. We have all already asked whether Iran is rational. Now let’s ask whether Israel and America are rational? Maybe, but maybe not.

      If America joins in on an attack on Iran, I’d call that shooting yourself in the foot:

      I’m pretty sure, given that Israel imports the majority of their energy, that an attack on Iran would hurt Israel economically too.

  3. Aziz,

    You are Right On The Money on this one! Iran a threat? Really?? That is utterly laughable.

    I think the PTB want a couple more decades of global war as a smokescreen to inflate away debt of every stripe. That’s what all the scare mongering is about.

    People seem to think Iran is a bunch of people in robes on camels. I’ll bet many in the west, and in the US in particular, would be surprised to see how modern Iran really is. I don’t think they’re interested in commiting nuclear suicide… At least that’s my gut feeling.

    Edifying post!

    • Thanks.

      I think the PTB want a couple more decades of global war as a smokescreen to inflate away debt of every stripe.

      Trouble is, nations tend to emerge from wars with more debt, not less.

  4. The psychology of the leaders of Israel and those in power generally seems to be one of ‘the playground bully’. They need to feel good about themselves, they rule the playground, they do not want others to rise up and to compete with their power. They will use psychological warfare as well as real war to maintain their power. All is a smokescreen to maintain power….but for how long? Do these leaders really lack the awareness of their own mortality and the very real possibility that God is not on their side and in fact for every one of their crimes they will have to pay in eternity. I pity them.

  5. I think the biggest problem for the “European Judeao Christian Elite” is that they are losing a grip on their 500 year monopoly of the worlds resources.

    The question is will they let go peacefully through brinkmanship and pat the BRICS on the back after geopolitical defeat?

    Or will the unleash war, and go for a rearranging of borders, like the did after the 1st and 2nd world wars. Who in the 3rd world would care if Africa, Asia was carved up, as long as they have iPods and a meal.

    Would the 3rd world war use nuclear weapons. I don’t think so. So how do you fight a conventional war and not use your nuclear weapons?

    @Usonian “I think the PTB want a couple more decades of global war as a smokescreen to inflate away debt of every stripe. That’s what all the scare mongering is about.”

    I think Usonian is right on this. I bet the Security Council is hard work!

  6. I think you are missing the long term point Aziz.

    A nuclear armed Iran may not truly threaten Israel initially but it has the potential to at some point. Israel is not Iran’s only rival and thus an Iranian nuke really does risk provoking an arms race in the region. Saudi has already made noises about deploying its own nuclear weapons if Iran does, which it could possibly do in a matter of days (to think the Saudis got no such assurances for funding the Pakistani nuclear program would be naive).

    What would a nuclear armed Iran and Saudi mean strategically for Egypt/Turkey/etc? They would almost certainly pursue weapons, even if only in contingency/kit form. eg Japan and S.Korea who have advanced nuclear technology and space programs (read – ballistic missiles).

    Some of these countries, if nuclear armed could increase the headache that Pakistan already gives the world. Pakistan, Egypt and others are unstable countries where a revolution or coup d’états are not only possible but actually quite likely. We have no idea how comfortable we will be with whoever has their finger on the Pakistani button in 10, 20, 30 years and other countries would be the same nightmare. (I don’t include Iran in this “unstable” group btw).

    Also your point about no Iranian second strike capability may change in the future, as things develop, especially in an arms race, countries would surely look to assure their nuclear deterrence whether by submarine or other means.

    In conclusion, an Iranian nuclear weapon is likely to be the thin edge of the wedge in terms of a threat to Israel. Also Israel will have less and less ability to deal with this threat as we go forward. This is the whole point of why Israel cannot and will not tolerate another nuclear armed state in its backyard. We know of at least 2 other nations that Israel has attacked before nuclear weapons could be realised and the same arguments, attitudes and indeed national policy will hold for Iran or anyone else.

    Rightly or wrongly, they stop it now or they can’t stop it. However the best bet is still subversion and encouraging a change of leadership in Iran. Second best would be a US/arab coalition to militarily confront Iran but nobody seems to be talking about this. I really hope it doesn’t come down to Israel attacking Iran because it absolutely will and it will be a right mess.

    • While I would hope Iran could develop peaceful nuclear energy, nothing is stopping a coup d’état in the future so I agree with your thoughts. Israel will be better off stoping now, rather than stopping later. A lesson on Iran will be a lesson for others in the region.

      Why can’t we all just get along on this planet :)

    • Orde:

      The bigger reality appears to be that mutually assured destruction tends to force nations into peaceful co-existence. No two nuclear-armed states have ever engaged in a fully-blown direct war. Certainly, the middle east is a very volatile zone, and probably the least safe testing ground in the world for this theory, but if India and Pakistan can peacefully co-exist in their post-nuclear age, I think it will be comparatively easy for Iran and Israel.

      I also believe that if Israel really believes it can keep its neighbours nuclear free, it will have to play a long and risky game of whack-a-mole. What’s on the horizon after Iran (assuming — and this is a big assumption — that Israel can quickly and cleanly win that war)? Other Islamic nations — now even more hostile toward Israel — will eventually turn toward nuclear weaponry. Why? Look at the contrast between North Korea and Libya. Nuclear-armed Korea continue on with impunity, while Qadaffi — who abandoned WMDs — was slaughtered in the street.

      And then there’s the danger — as reported by a few European news agencies — that Iran already has a nuclear weapon ready for deployment. What would Israel do if it invaded Iran, and Iran retaliated against the Israeli troops by hitting them with a nuclear warhead in what they could legitimately claim was self-defence? Would Israel send more troops, with the danger of a second nuclear strike? Would they attack Iran’s cities with nuclear weapons and “wipe Iran off the map” even though Iran only struck back in self-defence?

      And what about the dangers of dragging the rest of Eurasia into such a war?

      The real worry for Israel is that a nuclear-armed Iran will be able to put some muscle behind the Palestinian negotiating position, and that Israel may now have to give up it settlements and East Jerusalem to reach a resolution.

      Overall, I feel like promoting a new middle eastern war as a serious policy is a path to more destruction, death and the emergence of more dangerous black swans and blowback.

      If Israel wants to keep Iran nuclear-free, there is only one suitable arena: the negotiating table. And the only remedies that will work are carrots, and not sticks. Sanctions, as we are seeing, are simply uniting Iranians behind their leaders, as their leaders can legitimately claim to be under the hoof of Western oppression.

      • Aziz I don’t agree with your thoughts on MAD being the best guarantee, it’s a very risky state of affairs. The logical development of this line of thought is that we will be better off if every country on earth is given nuclear weapons. And we cannot bring reason into this 100% either because people are flawed, our leaders as much as anyone and launching the missiles is not usually a parliament/committee decision.

        I like your whack-a-mole metaphor, funny but has been Israeli policy for decades.

        Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon no matter what the press says, it’s just part of the spin put out on our march to conflict. We will know when Iran are nearly there because Israel will be at war with them. We’ve already heard of the computer viruses, bombings and assassinations of key people, imagine what we haven’t heard about. A full confrontation can’t be far away.

        You posed the question, would Israel retaliate if nuked by Iran. Of course it would, this is the real danger of a nuclear deterrent – if it comes to it you have to do what you threaten or the whole enterprise is pointless and will never work in the future. It’s possible to get painted into a corner with this.

        Besides the rhetoric I don’t see Russia being concerned about a conflict with Iran. Russia’s key foreign policy for years has been to cause as much mischief as possible in oil producing countries, driving up the price of oil. They would love a messy conflict in the gulf more than anyone. China is a different matter but anyway they can’t yet project any power that far away.

  7. “The real worry for Israel is that a nuclear-armed Iran will be able to put some muscle behind the Palestinian negotiating position, and that Israel may now have to give up it settlements and East Jerusalem to reach a resolution.”

    Aziz-eman- I know, based on your past writings, that you consider such a development a positive thing. Can you explain exactly how this would play out? How would the Arabs use Iranian nuclear warheads to regain land lost by them during their offensive war against Israel in 1967? Do you imagine that using the threat of nuclear war (by proxy, no less) is a viable means of dispute resolution in territorial matters? Or that Israel will refrain from retaliatory attacks in Gaza/Lebanon out of fear of an Iranian nuclear strike? (The second case, by the way, has not come true for India/Pakistan who routinely have serious border skirmishes.) And isn’t a country’s use of nuclear threat for a means other than defending itself the kind of bullying that you so often decry?

    • Well, I think I have overstated my position to say that I believe a nuclear Iran is a good thing. At the same time, it would be overstating my position to say that a nuclear Israel, or a nuclear Pakistan, or a nuclear Russia, or a nuclear China, or a nuclear USA is a good thing. Nuclear weapons are bad. I wish we lived in a non-nuclear world.

      But let’s just say I think it’s a cloud with a silver lining.

      I believe mutually assured destruction is a very strong guarantor of peace . No two nuclear-armed states have ever engaged in an all-out war against each other. In fact, newly-nuclear-armed enemies often begin co-operating only when they are both armed with nuclear missiles.

      How would the Arabs use Iranian nuclear warheads to regain land lost by them during their offensive war against Israel in 1967?

      They wouldn’t; it’s not about forcing anyone to do anything. But I think the new reality will force all sides to come back to the negotiating table on that issue with a new sense of purpose and resolve to finally reach a conclusion amenable to all parties.

      Do you imagine that using the threat of nuclear war (by proxy, no less) is a viable means of dispute resolution in territorial matters?

      And isn’t a country’s use of nuclear threat for a means other than defending itself the kind of bullying that you so often decry?

      No, this is just realpolitik. But what has Israel done to the rest of the middle east for the last 30 years? Threatened their neighbours with nuclear annihilation by developing a nuclear deterrent. I believe that a more level playing field will do wonders for dispute resolution. As I said, I would prefer it if nobody had a nuclear weapon. I would prefer a multi-lateral framework whereby everyone agreed to get rid of all WMDs. Is that realistic? I don’t think so. Do Iran already have a nuclear deterrent? Maybe. Will one of Israel’s neighbours gain access to nuclear arms at some point in the future? Almost certainly. Will they use them? Almost certainly not, because of Israel’s second strike capability.

      Will mutually assured destruction effectuate peace? That’s my belief. You mention India and Pakistan’s border skirmishes, but what you neglected to mention is that they are no longer killing one another by the million, and that their tensions are restricted to border skirmishes. I hope the same thing happens to the middle east.

    • Yeah. The military Keynesians freak me out. Krugman sets himself up as a sandal-wearing indie-rock-listening, compassionate liberal. But he gives a wink and a nudge to the military-industrial complex when he (incorrectly, I should add) says that war is good for the economy.

  8. Thank God I was born and live in Australia. The ME is a hotbed of lunacy. If rational people fled for the New World to escape idiocy, then I fear the distorted DNA will eventually lead to distorted decision making.

    I think in an all out Nuclear war, the Northern Hemisphere will contain radiactive fallout.

    Go long AUD

  9. If rational people fled for the New World to escape idiocy, then I fear the distorted DNA will eventually lead to distorted decision making.

    This is a perennial worry for the European and Asian nations.

  10. “You mention India and Pakistan’s border skirmishes, but what you neglected to mention is that they are no longer killing one another by the million, and that their tensions are restricted to border skirmishes.”

    But Israel has never killed Arabs by the millions, so that has never been a problem. Further, the democratically elected governments of the Arab countries HAVE actually voiced the desire to kill Jews by the millions. Pointing out that Ahmadinezhad’s quote was mistranslated (which, as a Farsi speaker, I agree with) is a distraction from the very accurately translated quotes of fellow Muslim-world leaders who have certainly voiced that very opinion. Remember that Israel has been attacked several times by multiple Arab armies.

    “They wouldn’t; it’s not about forcing anyone to do anything. But I think the new reality will force all sides to come back to the negotiating table on that issue with a new sense of purpose and resolve to finally reach a conclusion amenable to all parties.

    When Ehud Barak agreed to concede 97% of the contested land, Yasser Arafat turned him down.
    Wikipedia:
    In 1999 Barak gave a campaign promise to end Israel’s 22-year long occupation of Southern Lebanon within a year. On 24 May 2000 Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon. On 7 October, three Israeli soldiers were killed in a border raid by Hezbollah and their bodies were subsequently captured. The bodies of these soldiers, along with the living Elhanan Tenenbaum, were eventually exchanged for Lebanese captives in 2004.

    If this is how the Arabs “come to the bargaining table” AFTER their demands are met, how will they behave with a laundry list of demands and a nuclear weapon in their possession?

    Further, I find this statement of yours a little disingenuous:
    “But what has Israel done to the rest of the middle east for the last 30 years? Threatened their neighbours with nuclear annihilation by developing a nuclear deterrent.”
    How do you figure? Is a “threat” of defending oneself really considered a threat? I guess by those terms the French have been threatening the entire world with nuclear annihilation, as well.

    • Yeah. Developing nuclear weapons is a threat of annihilation to the entire world. Now, every nation that has ever developed a nuclear weapon (including America where they were first developed, and including Israel) has to some extent done so under the yoke of other nations threatening them. But yes, it is always and by definition a horrible threat. But seemingly one that tends to improve bilateral relations with other nuclear states.

      I had a long discussion with an Israeli guy earlier on, where I clarified my position. I am not really against Israel existing as a Jewish state, and being able to defend itself, although I do think that the view that Arafat rejected a very good deal is rather unfair. There were a lot of factors in that, e.g. aquifer rights, airspace, port access, the borders with Jordan and Egypt etc, which meant that the new Palestinian state would not have really been very independent. Now I understand the Israeli paranoia. The holocaust still exists in the memory, and of course there are many Arab preachers talking about exterminating Israel, which I think is really foolish.

      Anyway, here’re some things I suggested earlier for Israel to peacefully prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon:

      The robust solution is that Israel needs to make itself indispensable to the Muslim world, so that while some Imams may be anti-Jewish, the idea of a strike on Israel would be economically counter-productive for Arabs and Muslims.

      My position, if I was running Israel:

      1/ Finish & improve Iron Dome.
      2/ Offer Iran technological assistance in civilian nuclear power in exchange for Israeli monitoring of their nuclear facilities.
      3/ Offer other trade agreements to Iran.
      4/ Unilateral two-state solution based on route of the separation barrier.
      5/ Offer substantial technological and infrastructural assistance to Arabs in Gaza and West Bank.

      So yes, there are many routes under which Israel can I think peacefully stop Iran getting a weapon, and then to only strike if they have evidence of an imminent attack (I subscribe to Aquinas’ just war theory). I would support an Israeli war against Iran if Iran attacked them. And ultimately I have concluded that even if Iran do get the bomb, there is a silver lining to that cloud in that MAD will in my view stabilise and not destabilise the middle east. There is a small chance I am wrong. But even if I am wrong, and a nuclear-armed Iran is a deadly threat to Israel’s existence, and to the world, I still don’t think that pre-emptively attacking is the right route to go about it. It will simply unite the Iranian people behind Ahmadinejad, and possibly drag other regional and global powers into a bigger war.

      This is all very dangerous. Netanyahu has said some very positive things about economic development as a road to peace with the Palestinians which I absolutely agree with. I wish he would apply his ideas to Israel’s relations with Iran.

    • Jack I agree with you. There are elements hell bent on a Jihad. If they were to get control of Nuclear Weapons they may do it a a final suicide act.

      Pakistani DNA and ME DNA is different. How does it influence decision making, God only knows.

      Just because Pakistan has shown restraint so far, does not mean Iran can constrain.

      I wish there were no weapons but I see the Israeli points.

  11. Buddy Rojek,
    You have shown some command of Talmud and have a bent to the Israeli side of the story. Would I be right in suggesting that you have an Orthodox upbringing? I wonder if there is a way to PM on this forum.

    • No I have no religion but I have an interest in all formal religions. I have read many Talmudic based books, and have great respect for Talmudic/Rabbinical thought.

      I also respect the teachings of Jesus and Mohamad.

      I have made friends with all races and religions. Fundamentally we all have a good/kind/gullible % of the population and a % that is cold/unemotional sharp witted and cruel. This is the battle of good and evil in people, and all books of faith seek to redress these human traits.

      I honestly feel that within 2 generations we will have no formal religions but we’ll all combine the good, and this will be combined with Pagan/Buddhist based nature worship (Treating Plants and animals equally). Then and only then would we be receptive to a visitation from Angels/God/Aliens.

      I am a rationalist freethinker, who was not baptised by a Christian background parenting structure. I was given free reign to think for my self.

      Google me or email birojek at hotmail.com

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