Op-Ed: Deciphering the "Red Line" Controversy
Mark Silverberg, Ariel U. Policy Research CenterThe writer is a foreign policy analyst for the Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel). He is a former member of the Canadian Justice Department, a past Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (Western Office), a member of Hadassah's National Academic Advisory Board and a Contributing Editor for Family Security Matters, Intellectual Conservative and Israel National News (Arutz Sheva). He served as a Consultant to the Secretary General of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem during the first Palestinian intifada. His book "The Quartermasters of Terror: Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Jihad" and articles are archived at www.acpr.org.il andwww.marksilverbeg.com.
Of late, the mainstream media and the U.S. Administration have been attacking Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand that President Obama set a specific “red line” which, if crossed, would trigger an immediate U.S. military response against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The common theme is that such a demand is an intrusion into U.S. presidential politics and contrary to American interests.
But is it in America’s interests to risk the establishment of a nuclear-armed fanatical Islamic regime theologically committed to the destruction of Western civilization? Given that Iran’s messianic apocalyptic regime is considered to be the largest exporter of terrorism in the world today according to U.S. State Department reports, allowing such a country to develop a nuclear shield under which it will export its Islamic revolution world-wide is madness.
Both the August 30th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report and the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) have agreed that Iran has amassed a stockpile of low and medium-enriched uranium that, with further enrichment, could fuel as many as six nuclear weapons.
The President’s reasoning seems to be that only when the ayatollahs have actually decided to assemble a nuclear weapon will the final “red line” be crossed.
However, his hesitant response in setting a red line at the 12th hour creates a situation where a violation can neither be timely detected nor effectively reversed and the track record of America’s intelligence agencies in the past leaves much to be desired– the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Russian atomic bomb, the outbreak of the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis are a few.
Add the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the failure to act on warnings from Egyptian authorities that could have prevented the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993, the failure to act on intelligence reports received prior to the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the failure to “connect the dots” and the low priority given to human intelligence prior to the 9-11 attacks, Saddam's “weapons of mass destruction”, the intelligence failures relating to North Korea’s 1998 three-stage rocket launch and its surprise October 2006 underground nuclear weapons test, the failure to anticipate the results of the so-called “Arab Spring”, the deadly al-Qaeda attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the naïve belief that the deeply Islamist, conspiracy-minded, virulently anti-Western, anti-Semitic, honor-or-shame, zero-sum culture of the Arab world would embrace liberal Western principles and produce an Arabic-speaking Jefferson or Lincoln – are a few more examples.
Moreover, while U.S. intelligence knew about India's nuclear program, it was caught off guard by its May 1998 underground nuclear test which was followed by a surprise Pakistani nuclear test emerging from a program U.S. intelligence agencies had been monitoring for years.
It should also be noted that Western intelligence discovered Iran’s Fordo underground nuclear facility in mid-2009 - a full eighteen months after secret construction on the site had begun.
Taking these intelligence failures into account, it is more than possible that Iran’s detonation of a nuclear bomb may well be the first indication that it has already crossed the nuclear threshold - in which case it will be too late.
U.S. intelligence sources “estimate” that the Iranians (whose leaders have stated on numerous occasions their intention to "obliterate Israel" and to expand their Islamic Revolution globally) are several months away from assembling a nuclear weapon. But if they are wrong, the result would be an irreparable loss of U.S. global power, prestige and credibility, not to mention the global expansion of Sharia law enforced by fear and intimidation induced by Iran’s terrorist surrogates.
Can any rational person believe for a moment that a nuclear Iran propelled by a fanatical, messianic religious belief in its final divine victory over Western civilization can be “contained” after it has developed an atomic bomb and secured a nuclear shield for itself and its Islamic proxies? In such an eventuality, Egypt, the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates would not doubt seek their own nuclear arsenals - easily purchased from China, North Korea or Pakistan and the Straits of Hormuz, the gateway for a fifth of the world’s oil supply, would no longer become a viable waterway.
Given that no less than six “red lines” have been allowed to pass during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, the Iranians, no doubt, have concluded that there are no “red lines” that will elicit an American military response against them which is why they have accelerated their work on uranium enrichment work at the Natanz and Fordow facilities, their conversion work in Isfahan, their heavy water reactor activities in Arak, their weapons and munitions production in Parchin, and their light water work at the Bushehr reactor.
The Iranians know full well that once they have obtained an atomic bomb, any and all “red lines” will become irrelevant.
And when U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey intoned on August 30th that he “did not want to be complicit” in an Israeli strike on Iran, he was stating publicly what the Pentagon has already signaled to Tehran. The U.S. wants no part of an Israeli strike and will do everything possible to stop it.
What U.S. administration officials fail to realize is that Iran is not just an existential threat to Israel and a regional threat to the oil-rich Arab sheikdoms of the Middle East, but a global threat that is aimed at Western civilization led by the “Great Satan” (U.S.) to quote Iranian President Ahmedinejad.
His hatred of America is not because of what it does; it’s because of what it is. His goal is to reduce U.S. influence in the Middle East, leading eventually to the eviction of America from the region. His fanatical comments and efforts to develop an atomic bomb are part and parcel of his concerted effort to destroy the West. His theology is directly related to liberal Western values, that he perceives as depraved and dangerous.
Jihadists like Ahmedinejad abhor U.S. civil liberties such as freedom of religion, association, expression, movement, economy and equality for women. In fact, all of the issues that Americans, Europeans, and Israelis fight over - such as the best way to achieve the greatest amount of equality for men, women and religious and ethnic minorities - are precisely the issues which the Iranians believe the Quran is telling them to eradicate and replace with Sharia law.
To believe that the Iranians can be dissuaded from this mission or from their nuclear quest through which they intend to further this mission is the height of folly.
Destroying the Iranian reactors is not only in Israel’s interest; it is necessary in the interests of Western civilization. It is becoming increasingly apparent that neither economic sanctions, nor military threats, nor assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, nor covert activities, nor cyber-viruses like Stuxnet and Flame will stop Iran’s nuclear quest.
Consequently, rather than attacking Netanyahu for demanding a specific U.S. “red line” for military action against the Iranian reactors, the U.S. would be better advised to work with the Israelis and Europeans to eliminate this global threat before it’s too late.
Iran's missiles can reach not only Israel, but Western European capitals and even Moscow, and America's Arab allies have been just as adamant in private as is Israel in public in wanting America to use all means necessary to prevent a nuclear Iran.
Netanyahu’s demand for a “red line” is not about elections in America. It’s about centrifuges in Iran and the global ramifications of a nuclear-armed fanatical Iranian regime that had no qualms in sending a hundred thousand Iranian children scurrying through Iraqi minefields in the 1980s with yellow plastic keys to Paradise wrapped around their necks. Nor would it have any qualms in transferring nuclear dirty bombs to its global terrorist proxies to attack West capitals with the same regard that it exhibits in supplying thousands of missiles to Hezbollah to attack Israel.
The U.S. is assuming that the Iranians will not move to build their bomb - something we won't know until after they've conducted their first nuclear test (as was the case with Russia, India, North Korea and Pakistan) by which time, if past intelligence failures are any indication, it will be too late. Un
Unfortunately, the idea that the most powerful weapon on Earth is in the hands of the most dangerous nation on the planet doesn't seem to elicit the same degree of urgency on the part of the U.S. that it does with the rest of the Western world, so Netanyahu’s determination to pin down President Obama to take action against Iran makes perfect sense and is fully justified.
If Hitler had been stopped before European leaders sacrificed the Sudetenland, the Rhineland and ultimately Czechoslovakia, World War II and the deaths of over fifty million people could have been averted.
In the case of Iran, “later” will be too late, and there will be no second chance.