Deciphering the ‘Iranian Red Line’ Controversy
by MARK SILVERBERG
September 20, 2012
Of late, the mainstream media has 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? Iran's illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons represents the most profound security challenge of our time to the free world. 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.
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, and 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 Iran has actually decided to assemble a nuclear weapon will the final "red line" be crossed. In effect, setting a red line at the 12th hour creates a situation where a violation can neither be timely detected nor effectively reversed.
The problem with the U.S.'s last minute "red line" strategy is that the track record of America's intelligence agencies over past decades leaves much to be desired - the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the outbreak of the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, 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 nuclear missile tests and its surprise October 2006 underground nuclear test, and the Russian atomic bomb - are just a few examples. Further, while U.S. intelligence knew about India's nuclear program, it was caught off guard by its May 1998 underground nuclear weapons test, followed by another surprise Pakistani nuclear test emerging from a program U.S. intelligence agencies had been monitoring for years. It should also be remembered 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 (who have stated on numerous occasions their intention to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and to expand their Islamic Revolution globally) are several months away from assembling a nuclear weapon. But what if they are wrong as they were with the above intelligence failures and, of late, in their failure to anticipate the results of the so-called democratic "Arab Spring" despite numerous polls taken during 2010 and 2011 by the Pew, Gallup and World Opinion organizations virtually confirming the Islamist nature of Arab societies, not to mention the recent disastrous September 11th, 2012 attacks on U.S. consular and embassy buildings in Libya and Egypt?
Can any rational person believe for a moment that a nuclear Iran propelled by a fanatical, messianic religious belief in its final victory over Western civilization can be "contained" after it has developed an atomic bomb and secured a nuclear shield?
Israel has good reasons for concern. 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 enrichment activities and nuclear trigger experiments in their Natanz, Fordow and Parchin facilities. They know full well that once they have obtained an atomic bomb, any and all "red lines" will become irrelevant. They also know that the Western powers would never have invaded Libya had Khadafi retained his nuclear capability.
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 and led by the "Great Satan" (U.S.) to quote Iranian President Ahmedinejad.
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 our liberal Western values that he perceives as depraved and dangerous. Jihadists like Ahmedinejad dread 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 Shariah 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. Imagine the havoc Iran could create in the United States by making small nuclear "dirty" bombs and using suicide bombers to bring them into Manhattan or Los Angeles ports.
In effect, 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 that contaminated their centrifuges 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 for the past few years as Israel, and they want 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 materials to its global terrorist proxies with the same regard that it exhibits in supplying thousands of missiles to Hezbollah.
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. 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. Later will be too late, and there will be no second chance.
Mark Silverberg 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) based in Vancouver, 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 also 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 his articles have been archived under www. marksilverberg .com.