Israel Security Chief Questions Iran Policy
May 1, 2012
Daring to question Israel’s current policy on Iran, former Shin Bet Security Chief Yuval Diskin raised doubts about any military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have “messianic feelings” about Iran’s nuclear program, the 55-year-old security expert expressed grave doubts about Netanyahu’s Iran policy. Diskin conjectured that any military action would accelerate Iran’s nuclear program, pushing the Persian nation to retaliate, though uncertain whether Iran would actually nuke Israel. Netanyahu has deliberately played on the collective Holocaust memory to call Iran’s nuclear developments an “existential threat.” Netanyahu knows that Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal that could craterize Iran. Iran’s mullahs, while provocative, aren’t self-destructive in trying to nuke the Jewish State.
Playing on fears of the Holocaust, Netanyahu distorts the real significance of Iran’s nuclear program. He’s already gotten the U.N. Security Council to agree on draconic economic sanctions. Israel’s continued threats against Iran have backfired, pushing Tehran into more defense countermeasures, including clever ways to circumvent U.N. economic sanctions restricting oil sales. Diskin’s criticism opens real doubts about current U.N., U.S. and Israeli policy toward Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s nuclear program was started with U.S. help by the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi during the Eisenhower administration, receiving U.S. support until Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Since then, the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations and expects Iran to reverse over 50 years of U.S.-backed nuclear development leading to its current enrichment program.
Diskin’s frank public remarks were railed against by Israeli officials for not showing appropriate team spirit. “I don’t have faith in the current leadership of Israel to lead us to an event of this magnitude, of war with Iran,” said Diskin, expressing the same doubt shared by the Israeli public. Recent University of Maryland opinion polling indicated that 81% of the Israeli public opposes unilateral action against Iran. On the other hand, asked whether they support a joint attack with the U.S. about 66% support such action. Like the prelude to the Iraq War, by the time the Bush administration had hyped Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, the public finally backed military action. Netanyahu controls the Israeli airwaves, having the greatest impact on public opinion. Going public with his concerns, Diskin hoped to stop a moving freight train getting ready to spin off the tracks.
Most intel or nuclear experts don’t have any clue if or when Iran will have nuclear weapons capability. Calling Iran an “existential threat” plays well in the media but doesn’t pinpoint Iran’s exact nuclear risk. Even if Iran were to get the bomb, there’s no indication that Iran would do anything different with its atomic weapons than any other nuclear power. Former Iraq Commanding Gen. George W. Casey indicated that the U.S. could deal with a nuclear-armed Iran in the worst-case scenario. Netanyahu paints the worst-case scenario of Iran nuking the Jewish state. Far from a reality, Iran currently lacks the fissile material and know-how to build a nuclear bomb. If you follow Netanyahu’s logic, only preemptive war against Iran’s nuclear sites would have any deterrent value. With or without nukes, Iran still faces a superior U.S. nuclear arsenal before deciding how to act.
Netanyahu called Diskin’s remarks “irresponsible,” accusing the former Shin Bet spy chief of “acting in a petty and irresponsible way based on personal frustration,” “damaging the tradition of generations of Shin Bet leaders,” said Netanyahu’s office. With all of Netanyahu’s saber-rattling, it’s no wonder that certain officials have broken ranks and come forward to avoid another wasted Middle East war. “One of the results of an Israel attack on Iran could be a dramatic acceleration of the Iran program. They will have legitimacy to do it more quickly and in the shorter timeframe,” said Diskin, speculating on the fallout of a military strike. In truth, no one knows what really would happen, other than more Mideast chaos. World oil prices would no doubt go through the roof. Israel’s ultraconservative Shas Party Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced Diskin’s public remarks.
Diskin’s criticism of Israel’s current Iran policy opens up a can of worms for the Netanyahu government. Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan called military strikes against Iran “stupid” because of Iran’s scattered underground nuclear facilities. Former Israeli Army Chief and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that Netanyahu’s saber-rattling weakened Israel’s national security, insisting Israel could not act unilaterally. What bothered Netanyahu is that Diskin rained on the gunboat diplomacy charade that resulted in severe U.N. sanctions. Even current Israeli Army Chief Benny Gantz conjectured that Iran would eventually bow to international pressure. Recent Obama administration changes suggest that the U.S. is prepared to let Iran continue enriching uranium to 5% under certain condition. Despite all the heated talk, all parties know that there’s a constructive alternative to war.
About the AuthorJohn M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma
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