Talk about déjàvu all over again.
In September 2010The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg wrote, in amuch ballyhooed article, that "there is a better than 50 percent chancethat Israel will launch a strike [against Iran] by next July," meaning thesummer of 2011.
This comingSunday, the New York Times Magazinewill feature astory by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, who writes, "I have come tobelieve that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012."
The two articlesare very similar. It is almost as if Bergman is merely updating Goldberg, primarilyby postponing the supposed date for the attack by a year. That is necessary becauseGoldberg's prediction did not pan out — just like the repeated predictions thatIran would have a nuclear weapon by a particular date keep being pushed back. (Here is former CIA official BruceReidel predictingan Israeli attack on Iran in 2007. Here is formerU.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton predicting that Israel would bomb Iranin 2008. Here is leading Israeli Iran hawk, General Ephraim Sneh, predictingthat Israel would act by the end of 2009. The attack keeps receding farther intothe horizon.)
There are manymore such predictions, just as there are many more articles like those byGoldberg and Bergman.
The moststriking (even jarring) similarity between the two articles is that both piecesnote that an Israeli attack on Iran would fail to prevent development of anIranian bomb and that the collateral effects of an attack would be utterlyhorrific. Both cite Israeli intelligence officials who make just those points. (Checkout this newJ Street video, which quotes Israel's most prominent intelligence experts explainingwhy attacking Iran would be disastrous.)
Here is Goldbergin 2010 on what the ramificationswould be once the Israelis begin to bomb Iran, regardless of whether the attacksucceeds or "fail[s] miserably to even make a dent in Iran's nuclear program:
[The Israelis] stand a goodchance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, andeven a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands ofIsraelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating acrisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance andcomplexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which isIsrael's only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhattenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike tocataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence notexperienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973;of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by makingthem targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in thepast, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel'sconversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leperamong nations.
Here is Bergman thisweek on ramificationsof an attack:
Inthe end, a successful attack would not eliminate the knowledge possessed by theproject's scientists, and it is possible that Iran, with its highly developedtechnological infrastructure, would be able to rebuild the damaged or wreckedsites. What is more, unlike Syria, which did not respond after the destructionof its reactor in 2007, Iran has openly declared that it would strike backferociously if attacked. Iran has hundreds of Shahab missiles armed with warheadsthat can reach Israel, and it could harness Hezbollah to strike at Israelicommunities with its 50,000 rockets, some of which can hit Tel Aviv. (Hamas inGaza, which is also supported by Iran, might also fire a considerable number ofrockets on Israeli cities.) According to Israeli intelligence, Iran andHezbollah have also planted roughly 40 terrorist sleeper cells across theglobe, ready to hit Israeli and Jewish targets if Iran deems it necessary toretaliate. And if Israel responded to a Hezbollah bombardment against Lebanesetargets, Syria may feel compelled to begin operations against Israel, leadingto a full-scale war. On top of all this, Tehran has already threatened to closeoff the Persian Gulf to shipping, which would generate a devastating ripplethrough the world economy as a consequence of the rise in the price of oil.
Nonetheless, both authors predict with acertain level of assurance that Israel will attack anyway. In essence, they aresaying that the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu is as insane as neoconservativessay the Iranian government is. They are saying that, yes, attacking Iran mightlead to the devastation of Israel, even the destruction of the Jewish state,but that the government of Israel might do it anyway.
Why? Because it honestly believes that theIranian government is so dedicated to a second Holocaust that it would risk itsown annihilation, not to mention the eradication of the Palestinian people aswell as destruction of some of the holiest sites in Islam in its own initialnuclear attack.
Sorry. I don'tbelieve it. I don't believe the Iranian government is either insane or suicidal;I don't believe the Israeli government is insane or suicidal.
And I doubt theauthors believe that either. It is not Israel's elimination they are worriedabout; it is the elimination of Israel's nuclear monopoly and its regionalhegemony. The Israelis themselves admit as much, with Defense Minister EhudBarak tellingCharlie Rose last year that if he were an Iranian government official, hewould probably want a weapon, too — not to destroy Israel but because "theylook around, they see the Indians are nuclear, the Chinese are nuclear,Pakistan is nuclear, not to mention the Russians." And the Israelis, obviously.
Bottom line: Thepurpose of these articles is not to predict an Israeli attack but to force theUnited States government into piling on sanction after sanction (with waralways an option) rather than pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
It makes nosense. And yet, due to the pressure of the pro-war lobby, it is diplomacy thatis barely on the table, while war, always the direst option, is front andcenter. That was plain when President Obama delivered his State of the Unionaddress earlier this week.
Referring toIran, President Obama saidthis:
Lookat Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once dividedabout how to deal with Iran's nuclear program now stands as one. The regime ismore isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions,and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will notrelent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran fromgetting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achievethat goal.
Buta peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and ifIran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community ofnations.
Obama's remarkswere measured. The first part was tough, almost threatening, ending with aclear allusion to the possibility of war.
The shortersecond part referring to a "peaceful resolution" spoke to the president'spreference: avoiding another Middle East war.
So how didCongress react?
It was silentuntil Obama stated that he would take "no options off the table." That allusionto war caused the chamber to erupt in cheers. The second piece, the reference toa "peaceful resolution" was met with silence, except for scattered applausefrom perhaps a dozen legislators.
Bergman'sarticle (like Goldberg's earlier piece) is designed to keep things just thisway. Sanctions up to a point. War, if deemed necessary, farther down the road.And ideally a war fought by the United States and not Israel, to preserve notIsrael's security but its regional hegemony.
If the Americanpeople allow that to happen, we are truly out of our minds.
The good news isthat President Ahmadinejad nowsays he is ready for negotiations (whether the country's supreme leader is may beanother story). How about President Obama just agreeing to talk — for oncewithout conditions dictated by the pro-war lobby.
But who am Ikidding? It is the lobby, and its cutouts in Congress, who are driving thisissue. And they want war. That is probably one reason Goldberg and Bergman areso sure it will happen. The lobby usually gets what it wants.