When the history of our times is written, this week will be remembered as the week that Washington decided to let the Islamic Republic of Iran go nuclear. Hopefully it will also be remembered as the moment the Jews arose and refused to allow Iran to go nuclear.
With the publication of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group chaired by former US secretary of state James Baker III and former congressman Lee Hamilton, the debate about the war in Iraq changed. From a war for victory against Islamofascism and for democracy and freedom, the war became reduced to a conflict to be managed by appeasing the US's sworn enemies in the interests of stability, and at the expense of America's allies.
Baker and his associates claim that the US cannot win the war in Iraq and so the US must negotiate with its primary enemies in Iraq and throughout the world – Iran and Syria – in the hopes that they will be persuaded to hold their fire for long enough to facilitate an "honorable" American retreat from the country.
Like his unsupported assertion that the US cannot win in Iraq, Baker also asserts – in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary – that Iran and Syria share America's "interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq." Because of this supposed shared interest, Baker maintains that with the proper incentives, Iran and Syria can be persuaded to cooperate with a US withdrawal from Iraq ahead of the 2008 presidential primaries.
The main incentive Baker advocates offering is Israel.
Baker believes that Iran will agree to temporarily hold its fire in Iraq in exchange for US acceptance of Iran as a nuclear power and an American pledge not to topple the regime. Syria will assist the US in exchange for US pressure on Israel to hand over the Golan Heights to Syria and Judea and Samaria to Hamas.
Obviously, if implemented, the Baker-Hamilton group's recommendations will be disastrous for Israel. Just the fact that they now form the basis for the public debate on the war is a great blow. But it isn't only Israel that is harmed by their actions. The US too, will be imperiled if their views become administration policy.
Baker, and incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who served on his commission until Bush announced his appointment last month, believe that there is a deal to be had that will end Iranian and Syrian aggression against the US, its vital interests and its allies. But the fact of the matter is that there is no such deal. Contrary to what the Baker report argues and what Gates said in his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, Iran is not analogous to the Soviet Union and the war against the global jihad is not a new cold war.
Even if the US were to somehow get them to agree to certain understandings about Iraq, there is no reason to believe that the Iranians and Syrians would keep their word. Not only would the US be approaching them as a supplicant and so emboldening them, but to date the US has never credibly threatened anything either Syria or Iran value. Indeed, through supporting negotiations between the EU and Iran, empowering the UN to deal with Iran's nuclear program, and forcing Israel to accept a cease-fire with Hizbullah last summer that effectively gave victory to the Syrian and Iranian proxy, the US has consistently rewarded the two countries' aggression.
Worse than that, from a US perspective, although Gates admitted Tuesday that he cannot guarantee that Iran will not attack Israel with nuclear weapons, he ignored the fact that Iran – whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad daily calls for the destruction of the US – may also attack the US with nuclear weapons.
Gates admitted in his Senate hearing that Iran is producing many bombs – not just one.
Since it is possible to destroy Israel with just one bomb, the Americans should be asking themselves what Iran needs all those other bombs for. There are senior military sources in the US who have been warning the administration to take into consideration that the day that Iran attacks Israel with a nuclear bomb, 10 cities in the US and Europe are liable to also be attacked with nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, no one is listening to these voices today.
IT IS particularly upsetting that Washington has chosen now of all times to turn its back on the war. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hinted Monday that Iran has completed the nuclear fuel cycle and so has passed the point of no return on its nuclear program. He also made a statement indicating that Iran may have its nuclear arsenal up and running by March – just four months away.
Serious disagreement exists in Washington over the status of the Iranian program. Some claim that Iran is four or five years away from nuclear weapons capabilities. Others maintain that Iran has recently experienced serious technical setbacks in their uranium enrichment activities and that the North Korean nuclear bomb test in October, in which Iranian officials participated, was a failure.
But there are also engaged officials who agree with Ahmadinejad's assessment of Iran's nuclear progress. Those officials maintain first that the North Korean-Iranian test in October was successful and should be taken as a sign that Iran already has a nuclear arsenal. Second, they warn that the US and Israel have six months to act against Iran's nuclear installations and to overthrow the regime or face the prospect of the annihilation of Israel and the destruction of several US cities as a result of an Iranian nuclear offensive.
Obviously, Israel cannot risk the possibility that the last group of officials is correct. And since Washington has decided to go to sleep, it is up to Israel alone to act.
WHAT MUST Israel do? First, it must plan an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities and regime command and control centers. To pave the way for such an attack, the IDF must move now to neutralize second order threats like the Palestinian rocket squads and the Syrian ballistic missile arsenals in order to limit the public's exposure to attack during the course of or in the aftermath of an Israeli attack on Iran.
Second, Israel must work to topple the Iranian regime. As the Defense Minister's advisor Uri Lubrani told Ha'aretz last week, the regime in Iran is far from stable today and ripe for overthrow.
The overwhelming majority of Iranians despise the regime. There are rebellious groups in every ethnic group and province in the country – Azeris, Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, Baluchis, Turkmen and even Persians – that are actively working to destabilize the regime. Every day there are strikes of workers, women and students. Every few weeks there are reports of violent clashes between anti-regime groups and regime forces. Recently, oil pipelines were sabotaged in the oil-rich Khuzestan province in the south where the Ahwazi Arabs are systematically persecuted by the regime.
Westerners who recently visited Iran claim that Israel operating alone could overthrow the regime by extending its assistance to these people.
Thirdly, in his testimony in the Senate on Tuesday, Gates casually mentioned that Israel has nuclear weapons. In so doing, he unceremoniously removed four decades of ambiguity over Israel's nuclear status. While his statement caused dismay in Jerusalem, perhaps Israel should see this as an opportunity.
With the threat of nuclear destruction hanging over us, it makes sense to conduct a debate about an Israeli second strike. While such a discussion will not dissuade Iran's fanatical leaders from attacking Israel with nuclear weapons, it could influence the Iranian nation to rise up against their leaders.
Moreover, such a debate could influence other regimes in the region like Saudi Arabia which today behave as if Israel's annihilation will have no adverse impact on them. Americans like Baker, Gates and Sec
retary of State Condoleezza Rice and their European friends need to understand that as goes Israel so go the Persian Gulf's oil fields. Such an understanding may influence their willingness to enable Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
Tragically, in these perilous times, we are being led by the worst, most incompetent government we have ever had.
Prime Minister Olmert's way of dealing with the Iranian threat is to pretend that it is none of his business. During his visit to the US last month, Olmert abdicated responsibility for safeguarding Israel from nuclear destruction to President Bush. It didn't bother him that Bush didn't accept the responsibility. By mindlessly adhering to non-existent cease-fires with Iranian proxies in Gaza and Lebanon and squawking about peace with them, Olmert continues to behave as if this is someone else's problem.
For her part, reacting to the possibility of national extinction, Education Minister Yuli Tamir this week cocked her pedagogical pistol and shot at her rear. By ordering the public schools to demarcate the 1949 armistice lines on the official maps and so wipe Israel off maps of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, Tamir worked to divide the nation over second order issues at a time when unity of purpose is most essential. Olmert, who refused to overturn her scandalous decree, was doubtlessly pleased with her political stunt. For two days the media devoted itself entirely to stirring up internal divisions and so ignored the threat hanging over our heads and Olmert's refusal to deal with it.
Next Thursday, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein and former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold will hold a press conference in New York where they will call for the US to indict Ahmadinejad under the International Convention Against Genocide for his call to annihilate Israel. This is doubtlessly a welcome initiative. But it is insufficient.
In a few months, Iran may well be in possession of nuclear weapons which it will use to destroy the Jewish state. With the US withdrawing from the war and Israel in the hands of incompetents, the time has come for the Jewish people to rise up.
GUARANTEEING our survival begins with each of us deciding that we are willing to fight to survive. And today the challenge facing us is clear. Either the Iranian regime is toppled and its nuclear installations are destroyed or Israel will be annihilated. The Jews in the Diaspora must launch mass demonstrations and demand that their governments take real action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The citizens of the State of Israel must also take to the streets. The government that led us to defeat in Lebanon this summer is leading us to a disaster of another order entirely. All citizens must demand that Olmert, his ministers and the generals in the IDF General Staff make an immediate decision. They now hold the responsibility for acting against Iran. They must either act or resign and make way for others who will.
America just abdicated its responsibility to defend itself against Iran and so left Israel high and dry. Nevertheless, the Jewish people is far from powerless. And the State of Israel also is capable of defending itself. But we must act and act immediately.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.