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, www.justworldnews.org, 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.