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Which Israelis should we believe on the Iranian bomb?

There are probably 25 people in the world who have enough information and experience to gauge the likelihood that Iran will develop a nuclear bomb, and –if it is intent on nuclear weapons– when the warheads will be ready. I’m certainly not one of them. Neither are the leaders of all the American Jewish groups who have been citing the most alarmist Israeli estimates, discounting other perspectives and ratcheting up tension and fear. I wonder if the following dash of cold water from Haaretz will be reflected on their web sites:

For 15 years the Military Intelligence has been changing its assessment on when Iran’s nuclear program becomes operational. The deadline has been constantly pushed back, from the late 1990s, to the beginning then the middle of this decade, and finally 2009-2010. That changed this week.

On Tuesday, Mossad chief Meir Dagan suddenly came along and dismissed the assessment of the agency officially in charge of intelligence strategy. In saying that the deadline for an Iranian bomb is 2014, Dagan aligned himself with the CIA, that has repeatedly determined that Iran will reach the point of no return in 2015.

These frequent fluctuations damage the reputation of Israel’s intelligence agencies. They, in turn, can always say in their defense the assessments are changed in light of the new information that becomes available, but these inconsistencies nonetheless confuse the public.

If the date of the completion of Iran’s nuclear program is not that critical, there was no reason to spend so much time on it in the first place.

Given this news, will AIPAC and its allies stop trying to orchestrate mass panic attacks at their conclaves? Will their leaders stop trying to convince their troops that it is 1939? What if there is still A LOT OF TIME to try diplomacy and dialogue? Will the “experts” feeding information to the get-even-tougher-with-Iran crowd in the American Jewish community take a step back and reassess their positions? Will they invite Trita Parsi to their forums instead of Richard Perle? I guess anything is possible. Maybe soon my cats will sprout wings and fly away.

20 thoughts on “Which Israelis should we believe on the Iranian bomb?

  1. There was an issue of the journal “Jerusalem Report” from 2003 that carried several different quotes from Israeli sources to the effect that Iran would have a bomb within two years at the outside. This wasn’t the first Israeli estimate to go wrong. When Iran finally gets the bomb the intelligence agencies will, like psychic Jean Dixon, broadcast there one correct prediction and ignore all those that never panned out.

  2. I would give it the same chance that I would give the prospect of M.J. Rosenberg standing up and admitting that he has been spectacularly wrongheaded about Ahmadinejad’s benevolent intentions, which he has gone on and on about.

    Here’s what M.J. had to say in March:

    “Yesterday, when the New York Times inexplicably gave Shimon Peres’ insulting message to Iran equal play with President Obama”s, I thought it might be no coincidence.

    Peres, who is an uberhawk on Iran, suddenly sends “greetings” to the Iranian people urging them to rise up against their government at the same moment that Obama respectfully addressed the “Islamic Republic of Iran” with the most conciliatory US message in decades. Coincidence? Maybe.

    Of course, the Iranians would not view it that way. They would see America and Israel playing “good cop, bad cop,” diminishing the effect of Obama’s remarkable overture.”

    We know now that, incontrovertibly, that Peres was correct in expressing his solidarity with the people of Iran, and that Rosenberg was crushingly wrong.

    But no, he won’t own up to that, any more than hawks will stop calling for aggressive measures.

  3. Claskov,
    Is there a reason that you bowed out of discussing the legality of the occupation, and the legality of the status of title to the majority of settlement land?

  4. No, I tune in here occasionally but not regularly, so I don’t catch every discussion. Not because I don’t like or respect Dan’s take on things, which I do, but because I’m mostly engaged elsewhere.

  5. Suzanne (#3):
    Here’s a compelling argument from Fareed Zakaria about why Iran might not want to build a nuclear bomb (it’s from their issue two weeks ago):

    “..Over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime’s founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were “un-Islamic.” The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that “developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam.” Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini’s statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.

  6. That’s ironic, Teddy. El Baradei came out publicly today to announce that he believes Iran is building a nuclear weapon. It’s in The New York Times.

  7. These are ElBaradei quotes today:

    “It is my gut feeling that Iran would like to have the technology to enable it to have nuclear weapons,” Dr. ElBaradei said in the interview at the organization’s headquarters in Vienna.

    “They want to send a message to their neighbors, to the rest of the world, ‘Don’t mess with us,’ ” he said, urging outside powers to engage with Iran to remove the incentive for making a bomb.

    He said he believed that Iran’s “ultimate aim” was to be “recognized as a major power in the Middle East.”

    Nuclear weapons technology, he said, was “the road to get that recognition, to get that power and prestige.

  8. Considering all the money that it takes to develop a capacity to highly-enrich uranium, why else would Tehran make that type of investment except to develop nuclear weapons technology? Under Khomeini Iran could not invest in nuclear technology. This changed as soon as Khamenei became Supreme Leader and Rafsanjani became president. Rafsanjani was the “realist” revolutionary. The quoting of Khomeini is for purposes of disinformation only–they reflect Khomeini’s thinking, not that of Khamenei nor Ahmedinajad.

  9. I don’t know what their intentions are and did not mean to come across as taking a position on this. Suzanne just asked why they wouldn’t want to develop nukes and I offered one possible reason. But, Tom, Zakaria cites Khameinei as the source of the fatwa. I don’t understand your point.

  10. “They want to send a message to their neighbors, to the rest of the world, ‘Don’t mess with us,’ ” he said, urging outside powers to engage with Iran to remove the incentive for making a bomb.

    America has offered all countries with second-rate militaries the perfect incentive to develop and build nuclear weapons. They, the US that is, have a proclivity to attack weak oil-rich nations who cannot defend themselves, and let’s not forget that as Iran borders Iraq, they, the Iranians that is, have had a front row view of the carnage. At the same time, they are aware of the fact that the US has taken no action against North Korea, a “rogue” nation that has recently tested both nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles. So, in conclusion, the answer to Suzanne’s question,

    “Why WOULDN’T they be trying to build the bomb?”

    is that there is NO reason why they wouldn’t be trying to build a bomb, and EVERY reason why they should be trying to, and topping the list of reasons is effective deterrence, certainly not the destruction of Israel, a nation that can and would respond to any Iranian first strike by turning the large population centers of Iran into parking lots.


  11. My point is that when Khomeini was Supreme Leader Iran did not invest in nuclear technology, because in Khomeini’s opinion this would go against Islam. When the Supreme Leader changed, Iran’s position on nuclear energy changed. The new fatwa sounds to me like disinformation, unless Zakaria has in fact mixed up Khomeini and Khamenei.

  12. Suzanne,

    Why don’t you go online and check the Arab press, that will at least tell you what the governments think about it.

  13. BTW–looks like the Shaheedi chicken has come home to roost. A suicide bomber blew themselves up at the tomb of Khomeini.

    This is probably the first time I feel sadness & empathy for a suicide bomber. But I can hardly condone it. Tragic.

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