Building a Case for Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Sites

Amid renewed speculation after President Bush’s Knesset speech last week that he may yet order an attack on Iran before he leaves office, particularly if Sen. Obama should win the November elections, it appears that the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) is preparing the case for why an attack — either by the U.S. or Israel — on Tehran’s nuclear facilities might not be as calamitous as most analysts, including top Pentagon brass, believe. WINEP, of course, was founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and has acted as an integral part of the so-called Israel Lobby since its launch.

The case is previewed in an article by Yossi Melman that appeared in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz Thursday. It consists mainly of an interview of WINEP’s Patrick Clawson, co-author with another WINEP analyst, Michael Eisenstadt, of an upcoming paper entitled “The Last Resort.” Clawson concludes that fears about possible Iranian retaliation are exaggerated and that, in fact, “Iran’s options for responding are limited and weak.”

To Helena Cobban, the estimable Middle East analyst whose blog,, is widely read here in Washington and in the region, the paper smacks of “cakewalk” all over again. Cobban, who also works with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and who just published a new book entitled “Re-Engage! America and the World After Bush,” critiques the argument here. I would note that I received alarmed e-mail messages from three experts in the region — one Israeli and two Arabs — that referred me to the Haaretz article and suggested, like Cobban, that it could mark the launch of a new propaganda effort.

Meanwhile, Gen. David Petraeus, in his confirmation hearings Thursday, offered the latest official Pentagon view of Iran, repeating Sec. Gates’ recent remarks about needing to gain “leverage” with Tehran to engage it in a serious way diplomatically. (Last year, Gates and Rice were talking about not want to engage Iran as a “supplicant;” this year, it’s all about “leverage.”)

Here’s the view of Adm. Fallon’s replacement of Centcom commander:

“Iran continues to be a destabilizing influence in the region. It persists in its non-transparent pursuit of nuclear technology and continues to fund, train and arm dangerous militia organizations.

“Iran’s activities have been particularly harmful in Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan. In each location, Tehran has to varying degrees fueled proxy wars, in an effort to increase its influence and pursue its regional ambitions.

“Even as we work with leaders in the region, to help protect our partners from Iranian intimidation or coercion, however, we must also explore policies that, over the long term, offer the possibility of more constructive relations, if that is possible.

“Together with regional and global partners, we need to seek ways to encourage Iran to respect the integrity of other states, to embrace non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and to contribute to regional stability rather than regional instability.”

That’s from Petraeus’ prepared testimony which must have been cleared by Adm. Mullen and Sec. Gates. In answers to questions, he expressed doubt about the usefulness of new rounds of negotiations with Tehran under current circumstances.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. read the quote again and substitute the US or Israel for Iran and it is factually more sound. One Middle Easter thinker once encouraged us to walk a mile (actually two miles) in our adversary’s shoes. I often find switching the charges around to often be illuminating. This projection of our own sins on others is very human and very common. Bob Dylan realized that the scathing songs he wrote skewering others were really written to himself about himself. To put it yet another way, we are sensitive to those sins inwhich we most often find ourselves embroiled (now that’s clear)

    Jim, perhaps you can remind us of the old war gaming general who took Iran’s role in war games. He won, decisively and easily several war games where he exploited Iran’s strategic position to initiate many various malestroms that our military and allies could never handle. He was ordered to not use many of the various easily accessible levers that Iran has at it’s disposal. If we are compromising so much to hold on to this failed worldview there is little help for us.

    The Enron loophole, which allows for reporting exemptions for a few mega-institutional investors has caused the price spikes in oil that are harming so many. Congress has known about this for a couple of years now, though they remain mum. Global stockpiles of oil, both crude and refined gasoline are at all time highs, though the media parades T. Boone Pickens and other oil traders who continue to discuss the freightening shortages we face. The petroleum institute, and the US gov’t have been reporting excess of 1,000,000 for 17 of 19 weeks. One week was slow because of fog in the Houston ship channel, the other was last week. The three weeks prior to last week we put 11million barrels into reserve.

    Ed Wallace, a Gerald R. Loeb award winning journalist has been on this for a couple of years now. Every week he reports oil inventories on his 5 hour new car dealer commercial show, intercut with “secondhand news,” “the backside of American History” and other news snippets that demonstrate far more journalism than CNN offers in a 24 hour span. Ed has several BusinessWeek columns as well. His website, which compiles news stories from the major wires, Reuters, BBC, AP etc… is

  2. It won’t matter much whose countries emblems will be on the bombers and jets unleashing another war crime…..Crimes Against Peace and the gallows for those responsible.

  3. Maybe, but just maybe.. when the gutless chicken hawks have finally succeeded in leading us, the now sightless and toothless ones down the road to Armageddon will we then, on feeling the searing fire, tasting that bitter harvest of hot searing ash from our own nuclear fallout will begin to learn.. too late, where all the flowers went.

    Of course, humanity as we ‘know’ it is doomed because we continue to plant our infantile heads where it is assumed that our brains ought to reside, that is; squarely up our fundamental orifices, as commanded by our ‘chosen leaders’ who are only obeying the Voice of God.. THEIR god, in effect, *GOLD*.. whose fever is driven by greed, is unquenchable and inviolate.

    Consequently, we’re fed a diet of barefaced fear, driven along with the stigma of perceived ‘anti-patriotism’ if we demur in supporting the troops, the ‘Flag’ et al.. to be shamed and tainted with guilt for thinking, for questioning our souls and daring to defy the cowards who have now elevated themselves to the status of gods whose power over other mortals may not be questioned on penalty of being branded *treasonous*.

    Until WE, the people recognize these basic truths, until we stand firm, refuse to fight, to kill and to DIE like so many sacrificial goats in order to preserve the greedy, gold seeking and blood lusting morons whose hides are rotten to the gates of hell, there will be NO peace anywhere on this doomed planet of mal-educated apes whose mantra is for perpetual war.. forever!

    That is, until they too are driven into the heat of battle, away from their cozy bunkers, their cavernous underground golfing greens and the other trappings of the ‘good life’.. until THEY too, have become sightless and toothless as the rest of us human collateral damage and fission fodders to the senseless Mutually Assured Destruction now being crafted by those same faceless, gutless cretins we surrendered our our liberties and our souls to at the crowning moment of their glory when we all went ‘shopping’ as advised.

  4. As much as there is good argument for not engaging Iran. Can anyone really see Iran doing any less than it is now , in creating problems for its perceived enemies? I think not. Iran is not a peaceful world citizen anymore than the US. When Iran has the weapons that apparently it is not developing, we will not see a shrinking violet. On the contrary, that regime will use the protective nuclear capability to up the ante. Even those here who vehemently oppose action in the name of peace will find their own premise severely tested. Iran will do something; many things not to our liking. Lets not forget how this regime treats its own citizens. What is the purpose of that country’s leaders constant vitriol calling for Israel to be wiped or that its doomed? It cant be said that these threats are idle when we have Iranian proxies surrounding Israel , engaging or preparing enormous stockpiles of weapons , which we know they will use if given a chance. I feel we will all pay whether we take action or not and as much as I hold our own governments in disdain for the situation we are in ,there is ample evidence of Iran’s dark side – we should not forget they are governed by an evil regime who’s actions and beliefs look nothing remotely peaceful.

  5. Israel continues to weave its own web of destruction. Its militarily aggressiveness, continued disempowerment of Palestinian elected representatives and political structures, continued expansion into Palestinian land, and its continued disgusting treatment or Palestinians means it is setting its own course into ever more dangerous waters. I for one would love to see it change its ways, because there is no future in the direction they are headed.

    More troubling is that Israel is effective in using the US as proxy force.

    Most troubling is the continued conflation–even Mr. Lobe herein does not name it–of “nuclear facilities” and “nuclear weapons”. The two are not the same. The US, Israel, and other nations don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons. But Iran has a right to nuclear energy and a valid motivation for pursung the technology. One might not like the thought of more nuclear power plants on earth, but Iran cannot be singled out among all nations as not having a right to have them. Iran knows that world oil consumption is insatiable and growing, and that Iran’s transition into a better future lies in the bank vault of the Iranian geography. If they empty the vault now, they cannot transition to a better or secure future. This attitude is not a peculiar fault of the Iranians. Russia and other oil producers know this too and are acting on it. And Saudi King Abdullah said about new found Saudi oil fields “I don’t think we will pump them. I think we will save them for our children.” Peak oil is now a moot theory, because Oil Plateau has arrived. Which is exactly why Iran wants nuclear power plants: energy will be needed in the post-oil world. Despite continually repeated rhetoric that Iran wants world dominion via its nuclear weapons, there is no corroborating evidence, other than the repeated assertions of Israel and the Bush administration. Iran does not possess adequate nuclear delivery systems. And, in any case, nuclear weapons are fundamentally defensive in nature. Any Iranian use of nuclear weapons would bring nuclear retribution that would end Iran as a culture.

    So the rhetoric of Israel and Bush–the continual conflation of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons– is obfuscatory in nature and self serving in intent, and is not a valid rationale for a pre-emptive attack by either the US or Israel on Iraq, no matter how many times it is reported on CNN or Fox.

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