Former Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim is coming out strongly against an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Zakheim, a foreign policy hawk, talked to The Jerusalem Post at the Herzliya Conference.
Zakheim said in an interview that in his opinion, Israel did not have to attack Iran to stop its nuclear program. Israel, he said, has developed the Arrow 2 ballistic missile defense system, which, together with US Navy Aegis missile defense ships in the Mediterranean, would likely succeed in intercepting an Iranian missile fired at Israel.
“There is less than a 1-percent chance that an Iranian missile will get through these defenses,” Zakheim said. “Iran, however, is worried about Israel’s alleged nuclear program, and their fear is 100%, so why would they want to take a 1% chance if there is a 100% chance that they will be destroyed?” Zakheim also warned about the potential fallout Israel would face from such an attack. He said that on the one hand, Israel would turn the Iranian people into its “permanent enemy,” and on the other hand, an attack could lead to “terrible relations” with the US.
Zakheim’s suggestion that the Iranian leadership might be behaving in a rational manner goes against what Iran hawks such as Reuel Marc Gerecht, Jennifer Rubin, and Cliff May argue. More importantly, an assumption of rationality permits a realistic analysis of an Iranian cost-benefit situation. Given Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” it would seem highly unlikely that an Iranian leadership that values self-preservation would engage in a first-strike nuclear attack.
The former Reagan and George W. Bush administration official went on to deliver comments that must have sent chills up the spines of “linkage” deniers.
“The US will be attacked in Afghanistan and Iraq, and this could turn the administration against Israel like never before,” he said.
This can’t have gone over well with The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, who lashed out at James Jones, President Obama’s former national security adviser. Jones told reporters at Herzliya that “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the core problem in the Middle East, and solving it will go a long way toward securing regional and even global peace.”
One suspects that the upper echelons of the military are steeped in the brew of “Israel is the key to the region’s problems” conventional wisdom. In that regard, one is tempted to advise a great many generals and admirals to hush up and fight.
In panels and interviews at the Herzliya Conference, respected foreign policy realists, a former Mossad chief, and a former U.S. national security adviser have all echoed the message that the “military option” is an extremely dangerous and counterproductive policy choice for Israel and the U.S. But these statements don’t seem to slow down those Iran hawks who are committed to the narrative that Iran is an “existential threat” and can only be defeated through direct confrontation.