Examining a New Yorker article by the Israel-focused Washington Institute’s David Makovsky, the Daily Beast’s Ali Gharib observes that in contrast to Makovsky’s analysis, “The lessons of the Israeli raid on Syria in 2007 can’t be applied to Iran’s nuclear program”:
Unlike the Syrian nuclear program (or the Israeli one, for that matter), the Iranian nuclear program is not shrouded in complete secrecy. Far from a single reactor at a remote desert site, Iran has multiple nuclear facilities, all declared to U.N. authorities (the U.S. is “very confident that there is no secret site now,” after past deceptions). How, then, if there were to be an explosion at a well known and declared nuclear facility, could the Iranians save face as Assad did? By pretending that they scared off the Israeli jets, who just happened to jettison their munitions on top of the Fordow enrichment facilities?
It’s ironic, then, that the Israeli focus on Iran—constant pronouncements, threats, and public pressure on the U.S.—has driven the Iranian program into the spotlight, rendering moot the lesson of bombing Syria’s secret program. Nonetheless, because the Israeli Syrian strike was a success, it will be held up as an example, just as proponents of war with Iran hold up Israel’s 1981 attack on an Iraqi reactor as a success even though that claim doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Statements made by Israeli Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz during his talk this morning at a Brookings event here in Washington can be interpreted as supportive of Gharib’s argument. Halutz (whose father was Iranian) seriously criticized the fact that “too much was said publicly” about how to handle Iran’s nuclear program and refused to answer any related questions from the outset. Halutz also reiterated his criticism of the “red line” debate, noting that publicly defining red lines, which can easily change at any given time, enables “the other side…to know where are the borders”. He said that discussions about red lines, as well as when and how to take action on them, should be conducted behind closed doors. Quoting a line from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Halutz said: “When you have to shoot, shoot!” Halutz also repeatedly stressed that the use of force “absolutely should be the last, last, last resort”.