Thursday, April 16

Israel & Iran: 'Play-Acting' Over US Regional Interests (updated)

David Samuels, over at Slate has a worthwhile read on why he thinks Israel will likely go it alone against Iran's nuke aspirations:
"The success of the American-Israeli alliance demands that both parties be active partners in a complex dance that involves a lot of play-acting—America pretends to rebuke Israel, just as Israel pretends to be restrained by American intervention from bombing Damascus or seizing the banks of the Euphrates. The instability of the U.S.-Israel relationship is therefore inherent in the terms of a patron-client relationship that requires managing a careful balance of Israeli strength and Israeli weakness. An Israel that runs roughshod over its neighbors is a liability to the United States—just as an Israel that lost the capacity to project destabilizing power throughout the region would quickly become worthless as a client.

A corollary of this basic point is that the weaker and more dependent Israel becomes, the more Israeli interests and American interests are likely to diverge. Stripped of its ability to take independent military action, Israel's value to the United States can be seen to reside in its ability to give the Golan Heights back to Syria and to carve out a Palestinian state from the remaining territories it captured in 1967—after which it would be left with only the territories of the pre-1967 state to barter for a declining store of U.S. military credits, which Washington might prefer to spend on wooing Iran."

Globetrotting journalist Michael J. Totten, reports from Lebanon:

Christopher Hitchens recently went to a rally in the suburbs south of Beirut and found Hezbollah ratcheting up its belligerence. “A huge poster of a nuclear mushroom cloud surmounts the scene,” he wrote in the May issue of Vanity Fair, “with the inscription OH ZIONISTS, IF YOU WANT THIS TYPE OF WAR THEN SO BE IT!” Last week James Kirchick reported seeing the same thing at the same rally in City Journal. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time Hezbollah has threatened nuclear war.

Hezbollah isn’t broadcasting this to the world. If Hitchens and Kirchick hadn’t written about it, few would know the mushroom-cloud banner even exists. It’s not so much a threat as it is a revelation of Hezbollah’s dark psyche. But perhaps Hezbollah’s not shouting “nuclear war” for all to hear means its threats are more dangerous than public taunts from the Iranian government. Empty threats and hyperbole are rife in the Middle East. Death threats are rarely carried out anywhere. Most assassins don’t announce their intentions. They kill their victims without warning. Whatever Hezbollah’s mushroom-cloud banner means, we know this much: intimations of nuclear war with Israel are now coming from Lebanon as well as Iran. The worst case scenario — a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv — might be slightly more likely than some of us thought.

From Omri over at Mererhetoric:
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned against an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, asserting that such a strike would have dangerous consequences, the Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday. According to the report, Gates explained that a strike was dangerous because it would unify Iran, "cement their determination to have a nuclear program, and also build into the whole country an undying hatred of whoever hits them."

This argument is awesome for at least two reasons:

(1) It's unblinkingly stupid. It doesn't matter how many times Iran declares that they'll never give up nuclearization. It doesn't matter how obviously true it is that we can't give them anything they want more than a bomb. It will still be Israeli self-defense that causes them to cross the nuclear threshold. Of course it will be.

(2) It's obnoxiously predictable. Of course the Obama administration is going to tag Israel for the length and breadth of Middle East instability. The only people who really denied that during the campaign were pro-Obama Jewish shills. And I don't think they ever really believed it.

Some earlier posts about Israel and Iran are here, here, here, here, and here, and the linkdump is here.

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