What exactly should Israel do? What can it do? What must it do? Are pre-emptive measures part of the possibilities?
To discuss this issue with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel. Our guests are:
Dore Gold, Israel’s U.N. ambassador from 1997 to 1999. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Hatred’s Kingdom and of Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos. His latest book is The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City.
Caroline Glick, the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.
David Hornik, a freelance writer, a columnist at Frontpagemag.com and a translator living in Tel Aviv. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Steven Schippert, co-founder of the Center for Threat Awareness and managing editor for ThreatsWatch.org.
FP: Dore Gold, Caroline Glick, David Hornik and Steven Schippert, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Caroline Glick, let’s begin with you.
What are your thoughts on Israel preparing for The Day After? That is assuming, of course, that we are not already in era of The Day After, which might very well be.
Glick: While I think that it is essential for Israel to prepare for all possible futures regarding the Iranian nuclear project, just as it is essential for Israel to prepare for all possible contingencies regarding all issues relating to its vital security interests, I find it deeply disturbing that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicized the fact that Israel is preparing contingencies for the day after Iran enters the nuclear club.
There are two specific reasons that his decision is troubling. First, it sends a defeatist, and by all accounts incorrect message that Israel is incapable of preventing the Iranians from accomplishing their aim of acquiring nuclear weapons.
For over ten years, one of the main goals of Israel’s military procurement operations has been to ensure that Israel has the wherewithal to strike Iran’s nuclear installations, both above the surface and underground. Several years ago, Israel Air Force Commander Eliezer Shkedi was assigned command over Israel’s operations against Iran while Mossad Director Meir Dagan was given overall command over Israel’s operations against Iran’s nuclear program. These moves were aimed at ensuring that Israel is capable of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. There is no reason to assume that Israel’s efforts in this regard have come to naught. And so it is strange that Olmert should be signaling that it has.
The defeatism signaled by Olmert’s reported instructions to his cabinet members is deleterious to Israel’s international position. It lends the impression of Israeli impotence and helplessness.
Second, it lends credence to the view that there is something basically acceptable about the Iranian nuclear project. When Israel, which Iran has announced its intention to destroy, says that it is considering how it will contend with a nuclear-armed Iran, it tells the world that it is acceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons.
Many claim that Olmert’s statement should be seen as a smoke-screen behind which Israel and perhaps the United States is operating in order to dispel Iranian fears of an impending strike against its nuclear installations. This is a comforting notion. But prior experience with the Olmert government, and indeed with the Bush administration in contending with Iranian aggression tends to minimize the possibility that this is the case. In the summer of 2006, when Israel fought a proxy war against Iran’s Hizbullah terrorist organization in Lebanon, both Israel and the US behaved with supreme incompetence. Both the Olmert government and the Bush administration’s willingness to surrender to Arab and European pressure to enable Hizbullah to emerge from that war more or less unscathed showed that neither government is competent to either understand the danger of an emergent Iran or of contending with it.
Moreover, it must be borne in mind that that Olmert made his reported statement about Iran’s nuclear program on the eve of the Annapolis summit. There, Israel will be pressured to make massive concessions on its security and national wellbeing to Fatah in the interests of Palestinian statehood. It is widely accepted that which given the weakness of the Fatah government and its refusal to take action against either Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists or terrorists affiliated with Fatah, the Annapolis summit has no chance of advancing the cause of peace. And so, some argue that the entire rationale of holding the conference now is to buck up a Sunni Arab coalition against Iran. This line of argumentation makes little sense on its face. After all, if the Annapolis conference is geared towards isolating Israel by pressuring it to make concessions that will threaten its security and long-term viability vis-à-vis the Palestinians, how can it be said to show a strong face against Iran. When Olmert’s statement regarding Iran’s nuclear program is added to the mix, it makes the view that Annapolis is somehow supposed to advance an anti-Iranian coalition all the more difficult to accept. By signaling that it is in need of international assistance to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities at the same time that it faces an international onslaught of pressure aimed at forcing it to make massive territorial and political concessions to the Palestinians, Israel is merely strengthening the view that Iran has nothing to fear from Israel. By so signaling Israel is also telling the Arab world that it has no reason to take action against Iran because there is no chance that such action will be successful.
Gold: Publicizing the idea that Israel might be already accepting a future reality in which Iran will have nuclear weapons is diplomatically careless and grounded is baseless assumptions about the Iranian regime. It is careless because the US and its allies are presently trying to build a coalition to pressure Iran to adhere to US Security Council resolutions that seek to halt its uranium enrichment and other unmonitored nuclear progams. In the midst of the debate in the West, if it were to get out that some Israelis think that they can live with a nuclear Iran then that news would pull the rug out from those states that are seeking to ratchet up international pressures on Tehran.
But the idea that somehow Israel could live with a nuclear Iran is equally problematic as a possible line of policy. It presupposes that a nuclear Iran can be deterred just like the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Professor Bernard Lewis warned in the Wall Street Journal last year that such deterrence models do not apply in the Iranian case. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is known to be a follower of the Mahdaviat, radical Shiite associations in Iran the believe in the imminent return of an Islamic savior, known as the Twelfth Imam--or Mahdi (literally, the "Rightly Guided"). Adherents to these associations moreover believe that the Mahdi's arrival can be acclerated by man through apocalyptic chaos and violence.
These movements were illegal under Ayatollah Khomeini, but under Ahmadnejad, they have spread. Indeed, Ahmadinejad has stated that "our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the re-appearence of the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi (emphasis added)." It is not surprising that many Iran experts assert that Ahamdinejad sees Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons as means of paving the way for the Mahdi's arrival. Indeed, many of the adherents to these associations believe that the destruction of Israel is a prequisite for the Mahdi's appearence. Among members of the Iranian exile community is the West, there is a belief that key figures in the Iranian nuclear program, like the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, or Saeed Jalili, Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator, have connections with Mahdaviat.
Anyone taking comfort in the assumption that Iran's nuclear program is anyway in the hands of the Surpreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may be building on false hopes. According to the Washington Institute's Mehdi Khalaji, who studied in the Iranian Shiite seminaries in Qom, Khamenei was not trained in the same rationalist traditions that he learned but rather at the Shiite seminaries of Mashad, known for its clerics who believe they are in touch with the Twelfth Imam already. And Ahmadinejad has been packing his government with allies from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, where he once served. Many of them have come under these same influences.
In short, given the spread of these "end of days" doctrines among the current Iranian leaders, the promise of "massive retaliation" by the West may not deter them from using weapons of mass destruction in a first strike, if they are striving to generate an Armageddon-like scenario, in accordance with their belief structure. Thus anyone who says with confidence that the West can get used to a nuclear Iran and rely on classic deterrence models has absolutely no idea what he is up against. Such an individual is relying on assumptions about rational behavior on the part of the Iranian elites that he cannot prove.
Hornik: Olmert's reported directive to his ministers could be seen as a culmination of three decades of Western passivity and worse toward the Islamist regime in Tehran. It was President Carter who initially helped that regime gain power and supported it. Since then, that regime not only defeated the West in the Second Lebanon War as Caroline Glick mentions, but also in the First Lebanon War, when its bombing (by proxy) of the marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 led the Western forces to leave Lebanon and (as again in 2006) squander the potential gains from an Israeli counterterror operation. In the 1990s Teheran also blew up the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community-center building in Buenos Aires and got away with it scot-free. More recently it is creating major obstructions to the achievement of U.S. and Western goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, threatening with its ally Syria to destroy Lebanon as a fragile semidemocracy and drag it into Shiite theocracy instead, managing a terror-war of attrition against Israel--all this (and of course much else) basically as a backdrop to its ongoing march toward nuclearization, about which the West has essentially done nothing for years but chatter, send European "soft-power" types into useless negotiations, and try weakly and sporadically to concoct a soup of sanctions that are nowhere near adequate to stop Iran's progress.
As for Israel, the reasons the feckless and incompetent Olmert government is in office in the first place include Olmert's predecessor Ariel Sharon's having temporarily sold Israelis on the seductive fiction that an Iranian-backed terror problem like Gaza could best be dealt with passively by running away from it. At the time Olmert's Kadima Party was elected by a plurality in March 2006, the disengagement from Gaza was still relatively recent, the ominous developments there were mostly covered up by Israel's delusory mainstream media, and the price of the withdrawal didn't seem unbearable. By the time Israelis found out this wasn't true as ever-larger numbers of rockets and mortars rained down on the Gaza-belt communities and ever-vaster quantities of weapons and explosives poured into Gaza from Sinai, it was too late and bumbling Olmert was already well ensconced in office--propped up by two cynical "right-wing" parties, Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas, more concerned with their own perks than with the country's security and survival..
The idea that problems could be dealt with by fleeing them had also been instilled in the Israeli population over time by an almost monolithic message from U.S. governments, both Democratic and Republican, and other Western governments and organizations that Israel would have to retreat from strategic land in any case, inducing a defeatist fatalism for which Israel now pays the price of being surrounded by Iranian proxy terror organizations on all sides.
The only solace or hope is that there are people in both the U.S. and Israeli defense establishments and governments who are realistic about the Iranian nuclear threat and its gravity; whether they will prevail--and whether or not, indeed, it is already too late--are the questions of the hour, and Olmert's directive to his ministers is at least one sign that the answer is negative. That directive reportedly included consideration of "how to offset the attrition on Israeli society that would be generated by fear of Iranian nukes"--as if this would be the problem and not the nukes themselves, as if it would be tolerable for Israel to live at all times under a direct physical threat of a second Holocaust for the Jewish people. If Olmert already has his eyes set on the Day After as a fait accompli, we are living in dark times indeed. Nothing adds salt to the wound like the Bush administration's ongoing, demented quest to create another terror-state on the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, a quest that in itself plays straight into the hands of the jihad and facilitates it tactically and strategically.
Schippert: First, permit me to repeat the important words of Dore Gold when he said "the promise of "massive retaliation" by the West may not deter them from using weapons of mass destruction in a first strike, if they are striving to generate an Armageddon-like scenario, in accordance with their belief structure." This is - or should be - the West's greatest fear.
Few care to tackle the other-worldly nature of the fanatic religious beliefs of many in leadership positions in the mullah regime. The otherworldly mysticism within the messianic Hojjetiah sect, headed by Ahmadinejad's religious mentor, Ayatollah Mezbah Yazdi, would simply shock most sensible Westerners. So fantastical are some of the details that most would believe that those who would write of it were sensationalizing. I have heard, in fact, that several universally respected Middle Eastern writers who are knowledgeable of it will not touch it for that very reason. The West would be inclined to flat disbelieve that such lunatics could rise to power in any nation in today's world, even Iran.
And this goes to demonstrate my personal belief that Iran, contrary to the assumptions of most, would not announce their nuclear weapons capabilities once achieved. Most still cling to the notion that Iran wants nuclear weapons for a deterrent. I fear that much of the mullah regime leadership wants nuclear weapons to use them in order to destroy Israel and generate the cataclysmic conditions that their faith believes are the preconditions for the return of the Mahdi.
It is within this context that I view the latest NIE on Iran as a dangerous and damaging piece of political warfare by some powerful hands in the US Intelligence Community on the Bush Administration. Released after the other participants here provided their first responses above, it manages an interesting feat - In 'assuring' us that Iran's nuclear program has been a closed book since 2003, those who have doubted (or wanted to doubt) Iran's nuclear ambitions have afforded themselves the ability to race right past the acknowledgment that they were completely wrong for years and that in fact there actually was one.
The primary purpose of the NIE has been and is to politically incapacitate any efforts by the administration to confront Iran. In so doing, Iran has declared "victory" in the nuclear crisis and both China and Russia have called for the termination of any talks of additional sanctions.
Meanwhile, we gloss over the fact that Iran is responsible for 10% of all US casualties in Iraq since 2003 just through the Iranian made and supplied EFP's (armor penetrating Explosively Formed Projectiles) alone. Ten Percent. And their camps in Iran train and arm Iraqis to act as yet another proxy in the form of the growing Iraqi Hizballah.
In Lebanon, Iran's Hizballah is more militarily capable and powerful than the Lebanese Army and holds that country's government hostage, seemingly hoping the anti-Syrians will take the first punch and afford Hizballah to unleash a wave of violence no one in Lebanon is capable of stopping.
The Iranian terror track record is as long as the regime itself. Not only is Iran the world's Terror Masters, they are also masters at the art of employing proxies and avoiding consequence.
And there are those prepared to tolerate "The Day After," and believe they can live with and manage a nuclear Iran? Olmert notwithstanding, it is not strange coincidence that most of those who hold this view do not live within range of Iran's missile reach.
Glick: Much has occurred on the Iranian-Israeli-US front since I wrote my initial response to this symposium. All of the events which have transpired have simply escalated the danger that Olmert’s instructions to his cabinet members to prepare for the day after Iran gets nuclear weapons constitutes for Israel ’s national security and survival and for global security in general.
At Annapolis, President Bush and Condoleezza Rice did more than simply assert positions which if realized will render Israel essentially indefensible by forcing the country to contract into borders which cannot protect the country from either terrorist onslaught or conventional military offensives by its neighbors. At Annapolis, Israel’s most basic security concerns regarding the Palestinians and the Arab world’s rejection of Israel ’s right to exist were treated with contempt by the administration. From its acceptance of the Arab delegations’ refusal to have any physical contact with the Israeli delegation, to its perverted assertion that Israel and the Palestinians must both take action to prevent terrorism and acts of incitement carried out by both Israelis and Palestinians, to Rice’s decision to take the anti-Israel Annapolis declaration and turn it into a UN Security Council resolution, the administration took an overtly hostile tone towards Israel at every turn.
Rice’s move to transform the Israeli-Palestinian joint statement into a UN Security Council resolution was quashed by Bush at the last moment. Had it gone through, Israel would have been placed into a position where not only is it forced to accept US judgments on whether or not the Palestinians are fighting terrorism – judgments that experience shows have always been wrong and geared toward empowering Palestinian terrorists in the hope that doing so will advance the cause of negotiations – Israel would also have been forced to subordinate its sovereign power to defend its territory and citizenry to the vagaries of the UN Security Council.
Annapolis did not merely fail to set the conditions for the establishment of an Arab-Israeli-American coalition to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. By inviting Syria – Iran ’s Arab proxy -- to participate in the conference, the Bush administration signaled clearly that it has absolutely no plans to take any action to curb Iran ’s power – in Iran itself, in Iraq , in the Palestinian Authority or in Lebanon . The US acceptance of Michel Suleiman, Syria ’s candidate for the Lebanese presidency as a “consensus candidate” made clear that the US has abandoned Lebanon to Syria . The Gulf Cooperation Council’s decision to invite Ahmadinejad to its proceedings the week after Annapolis made clear that the Arabs will do nothing to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Then there is the NIE report. The publication of the NIE put an end to any prospect for US action on Iran’s nuclear program at least until the next US administration is inaugurated.
All of this means that Israel is alone against Iran . The US has abandoned the strategic wisdom of its alliance with Israel and its war against Islamic fascism, and has instead cast its lot with the Arabs in the hopes of appeasing the Persians. It bears noting that in acting as it is, the administrations is implementing the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton -- which President Bush rejected last year -- nearly word for word.
Like James Baker and Lee Hamilton, President Bush and Secretary Rice have decided to ignore the underlying interests of the Iranians and the Arabs in fomenting the destruction of the Jewish state as a necessary step towards global domination and what the Iranians (and the Saudis) fondly refer to as a world without America. As the other correspondents in this symposium have all noted, the policy imperative of the various jihadist views of the Iranians, the Palestinians and the Arab world is to continue to attack Israel and the US-led West regardless of our actions. The preemptive US surrender to these forces as manifested by Annapolis and the NIE, and the administration’s subsequent moves to conduct a dialogue with Iran through Saudi mediators and to loosen limitations on dual-use technological exports to Syria simply show that the US, in the last year of the Bush administration has decided to give up the fight against the forces of global jihad and its state sponsors and to implement instead a foreign policy predicated on pressuring Israel to stop defending itself regardless of the costs to its national security. This it does, of course while ignoring the devastating strategic implications of a weakened or destroyed Israel to US national security interests.
Against the backdrop of what is clearly a grave crisis in Israel’s relations with the US, Olmert’s instructions to his cabinet members have a catastrophic ring to them. What are required today from Israel’s leaders is forthright assertions of Israel’s national interests and strong actions in defense of those interests. Some cabinet ministers – most recently Police Minister Avi Dichter -- seem to understand this imperative and so are making forceful statements against the NIE and against the delusional view of regional trends that now masquerades as strategic thinking in policy circles in Washington. Unfortunately, indeed tragically for Israel’s citizens, Dichter’s statements are not reflective of the positions of Olmert or of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Unless the Israeli people are able to convince Yisrael Beteinu and Shas to bolt Olmert’s government and move to new elections, I fear the consequences of Olmert’s stupidity on Israel’s long-term survivability. Quite frankly, after the NIE and Annapolis, it is hard to recall a time when Israel has been so vulnerable.
Here again, it is important to note that Israel's neck isn't the only one on the line -- although it is first in line. A defeat of Israel -- which can also take the form of simply rendering Israel vulnerable to annihilation -- will be the greatest victory the forces of global jihad have ever experienced. If this is added to an unspoken US acceptance of Iranian hegemony in Iraq, then the position of Western nations will be imperiled. Iran already has missiles capable of reaching Europe. Indeed, the Iranians tested a new ballistic missile that can reach Europe the day of the Annapolis conference. With their terror proxies already set up in the US, Canada and Latin America, and with their strategic partnership with North Korea which already possesses intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching California, an Islamic world empowered by an Israeli defeat will manifest a danger to the free world which could actually surpass the dangers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. When the jihadist rejection of the sanctity of human life in favor of martyrdom is taken into consideration, the level of threat the jihadists manifest is arguably even more lethal than that manifested by the Soviet Union. As the frontline state in this war, the role of Israel's leaders is to point out these truths to the world and to their citizens. Olmert, Livni and their associates have obviously failed in this most crucial task.
Gold: The debate over the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has focused on whether Iran is about to acquire a nuclear weapons capability because the US intelligence community established that Iran halted the "weaponization" portion of its nuclear program in 2003. To strengthen this conclusion, the NIE stated that it had "high confidence" in this finding. Of course anyone who actually read the declassified summary of the the NIE past its first sentence realizes that the US was far less certain about whether the 2003 halt continued. It had only "medium confidence" that the weaponization portion of the program was not resumed (as Israel's Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has claimed). It adds, toward the end of the text, the alarming statement that "We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely..."
The critical question about Iran must go beyond this debate about the extent of Iranian capabilities today and focus on whether the West can trust any nuclear capabilities to this Iranian regime, given its declared hostile intentions. For regardless of the confusion it has created about the current state of Iranian weaponization, the NIE does not dispute at all the fact that Iran is still continuing with its uranium enrichment program at Natanz or its plutonium program at its Arak heavy water reactor. Can the West trust Iran with these nuclear fuel programs, which can be turned into a nuclear weapons capability in a relatively short period of time?
The heart of the Iranian problem is the Iranian regime's intentions, which makes any nuclear program a very serious source of concern. Iran has far-reaching hegemonial ambitions that go well beyond Israel, as attested to by the fact that Iran is developing missiles with strategic reach into Western Europe, as Caroline Glick noted above. And Iranian subversion campaigns in the past have focused on Arab Gulf states with sizable Shiite populations, like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, as much as they have focused on Israel. People forget that the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, during 1996 was launched by Saudi Hizbullah with the backing of Iranian officials. Indeed in 2007, high level spokesmen in Tehran started to claim again Bahrain as Iranian territory. The "day after" Iran announces that it has an operational nuclear weapons capability, radical Shiite terrorism of this sort will be conducted under a nuclear umbrella. What will happen to the price of oil and the fate of Western economies, in such a situation, is anyone's guess, but it is likely that $100 per barrel oil will look like a good bargain at that time.
Nonetheless, it will be a mistake for Israel to simply conclude that Israel is a low priority for Iran that has other, more pressing (and lucrative) regional goals. It would also be an error for Israeli policymakers to decide that the magnitude of the global crisis that will result from Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons will be so grave that others will take care of it. For Israel does have a unique role for in the Iranian plan for regional domination. When I wrote a book in 2007 called The Fight for Jerusalem, I found how the war against Israel was critical for those who are seeking to advance the arrival of the Mahdi and the overall struggle with the West. Thus one senior Hizbullah official, reflecting the Iranian line in this regard, wrote "The liberation of Jerusalem is the preface for liberating the world and establishing the state of justice and values on earth."
In short, the war against Israel is ideologically seen by the present Iranian regime as a prerequisite for the advent of Iranian hegemony. To hope that a regime which spreads this kind of ideology to its local surrogates, like Hizbullah, can be trusted with any kind of nuclear program is a serious mistake. Again to think Israel can just assume that a stable security system will emerge in the Middle East when one party has unbridled regional ambitions and a nuclear strike capability is a cardinal error.
Hornik: One scenario of an Iranian attempt to destroy Israel is the firing of ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Another scenario is setting off a nuclear device (or devices) by terrorist infiltration, which could be more attractive to Iran since it could cover up its involvement and possibly ward off Israeli retaliation. This second scenario is, of course, much facilitated by a situation in which Iran, via proxies, controls territory bordering Israel. The degree of Israel's continuing success in containing terror from the West Bank reflects the fact that Israel has reestablished considerable intelligence and military capabilities there after partially and disastrously removing these capabilities during the Oslo era. Still, the fact that Israel only contains the terror while allowing the terrorist presence to continue in the West Bank--to an extent radically beyond anything that existed in the pre-Oslo era--entails accepting a degree of danger of possibly catastrophic terrorist infiltration from West Bank territory. Just recently Israeli security forces intercepted six and a half tons of potassium nitrate (used to make explosives) at a West Bank crossing, camouflaged as a shipment of sugar from the EU and intended for Gaza terrorists.
In Gaza the situation is, of course, yet worse since Israel has removed its military presence completely except for sporadic forays along with--though recent successful strikes against Gaza terror masters indicate that Israel still retains some intelligence assets there--losing much of its intelligence capability. In addition to the current well-known presence of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah in Gaza, other recent entrants reportedly including Fatah al-Islam, Hizb al-Tahrir, Army of Islam, Suyuf al-Haq (Swords of Justice), and others along with various reports of Al Qaeda penetration. These are among the most apocalyptic, "crazy" organizations on the planet and to get an analogous sense of the danger one would have to imagine a swath of land bordering the United States where such groups--from ruling Hamas down to the smaller outfits--recruit, propagandize, and provide training while constantly bringing in huge supplies of weapons and explosives.
The infiltration danger involves not only Gaza itself--which is surrounded by a fence that so far has generally, but not totally, been successful at preventing infiltrations--but also the ease with which individuals or cells of the tens of thousands of Gaza terrorists can now leave Gaza via the Sinai border (formerly controlled by Israel) and then infiltrate Israel via the long Israel-Sinai border to the south.
Gaza, in other words, is now a major front of the jihad against the West, an Iranian-Syrian beachhead that poses dangers well beyond the present ongoing rain of Kassams and mortars on Israeli communities. Gaza's constantly growing missile armory could eventually include missiles with WMD payloads and far greater reach than the current Qassams and Katyushas, and this too could in itself pose strategic threats or have devastating impacts in a scenario of Israeli-Iranian hostilities. Yet Israel continues to dither, refraining from a reconquest at least of the most strategic parts of Gaza for fear of Israeli casualties; Palestinian casualties and the resulting bad publicity and diplomatic costs; and derailing the entirely bogus "Annapolis peace process" and thereby angering Washington, which has put its stock in that charade instead of realistically confronting the growing threat of Iran and its proxies.
Given the rise both of radical Islam and of nuclear and other WMD proliferation, Israel picked the worst possible time to experiment with handing vital territorial assets to terrorist forces in the hope that this would moderate them. The NIE report on Iran and the Olmert directive that was the starting point of this symposium both (among other things) indicate that, respectively, the current U.S. and Israeli governments have lost the will to deal with the threats realistically and--barring any surprises--the main hope lies in their replacement while there is still time.
Schippert: First, before concluding, I'd like to thank you Dr. Glazov, for assembling this symposium panel with the intelligent minds of Caroline Glick, David Hornik and Dore Gold and also for including me among a panel whose other participants require no introduction.
With regard to any envisioned "Day After" Iran acquires a nuclear arsenal, Dore Gold's observation that Iranian backed and fortified Shi'a terrorism will then operate under a protective 'nuclear umbrella' should be both undeniable and sobering. This is clearly not only a threat to Israel, but to the region and the rest of the world as well. As for Israel, let's not forget that Hamas-run Gaza has become yet another de-facto Iranian client state in successful mold of Hizballah in Lebanon.
When Israel withdrew from Gaza, it thus afforded Hamas the space and time to commence a massive arms build-up that was later employed to eject Fatah from Gaza leadership and seize control of the whole of the territory. Now, two years after Hamas' electoral victory and months after its seizure of Gaza, Hamas is dangling yet another Hudna hoodwink. That any would entertain this seriously without due considerations of why Hamas is seeking a ceasefire is little short of frightening. They seek the time and space again to re-arm, re-stock and strengthen, this time with full possession of Gaza. It doesn't take a historian to understand the next envisioned conquest.
Couple this with Iran's constant quest for time and space to develop its nuclear program and the recent Israeli study that concluded that there is no large scale conflict with Israel expected to be initiated by Hizballah or Syria in 2008. Either there is a massive Peace Putsch afoot by Iran and its satellites or there is collective time and space being sought by all in a coordinated manner. Using the historical examples of Hamas and Hizballah, time and space are not preludes to peace.
Iran has long sought time and space for its nuclear weapons program. That is, after all, what their purpose with the long and (for the West) fruitless "EU-3" negotiations. The NIE has served far more time and space for Iran than their own efforts could have ever afforded them.
The primary authors may have sought to drive a wedge between any military action they may have envisioned the Bush Administration contemplating against the Iranian nuclear program. It has, among other things, made military action by Israel all the more likely. As expressed here by Caroline Glick, David Hornik and Dore Gold, much of Israel's public - not to mention its military and intelligence communities - feels increasingly isolated and on its own to deal with the Iranian threat.
The mullahs of Iran were shaken on September 6th, when Israel announced to them that their nuclear facilities are open targets poorly defended. For, as the Iranian investment in advanced Russian TOR-M1 anti-aircraft defenses was so highly touted, the same systems purchased and employed by Syria were rendered mute and ineffective as Israel blinded them and laid waste to the suspected nuclear facility deep within Syrian airspace.
The threat posed by an Iranian nuclear arsenal is not one of mere blood and danger, but one of annihilation.
And Iran is quite aware of Israel's Samson Option - the Middle Eastern version of Mutually Assured Destruction. The only possibility of negating this is to strike Israel's nuclear arsenal - an officially unacknowledged but intentionally poorly kept Israeli 'secret.' This is why Iran's announcement of any nuclear weapons will not be in merely achieving weapons capability or a single weapon - but rather when it has the arsenal it needs if announced at all.
If permitted to achieve this, The Day After may not simply be the day after Iran announces its ability, but The Day After it does so by demonstrating it.
Feeling increasingly isolated and cornered, Israel will thus feel ever more compelled to act, entrusting its very survival to no ally, not even the United States. Perhaps there will then be a new "The Day After" symposium conducted in Persian rather than English.
FP: Dore Gold, Caroline Glick, David Hornik and Steven Schippert, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.