Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Iranians Need a Clear Ultimatum

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

Knesset Member Dr. Yuval Shteinitz (Likud), former head of the powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told the Sixth Jerusalem Conference on Tuesday that the only useful dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran on its nuclear program would be one that gives the regime a clear ultimatum. Former National Security Council Chairman Uzi Dayan agreed, and MK Dr. Aryeh Eldad (Ichud Leumi-National Union) laid out the prerequisites for an Israeli strike on Iran.
Israel National News

Steinitz said that Iran is likely to have nuclear weapons within one or two years. The issue, however, may be put on a back burner in the United States due to immediate economic concerns. Therefore, both Iran and America seemingly have an interest to drag their feet on the nuclear issue, Steinitz speculated. While sanctions and pressure have in fact slowed development of the Iranian nuclear program, the Likud MK observed, "time is running out." At this stage, he said, Iran's rulers calculate that riding out two years of sanctions to ultimately become a nuclear power may well be worthwhile.

Dr. Emily Landau, from Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, also addressed the Iran issue at the Jerusalem Conference.

The Iranians must be persuaded that maintaining the status quo, under which they pursue nuclear weapons and successfully ignore diplomatic pressure, is no longer in their self-interest, according to Steinitz. The only way to do so, he said, is "a military ultimatum with a clear date."

Such a strategy has worked in the past, Steinitz noted, such as in the case of Libya and even Iran itself several years ago. In both cases, when the regime believed it would come under U.S. attack aimed at halting its WMD program, the regime backed down. At the start of the Iraq campaign, when it feared America was on a warpath that included Tehran, the mullahs of Iran put forth a nuclear compliance plan of their own. When they saw the military option was not realistic, they returned to belligerent obstructionism.

"The only way is to threaten very clearly," Steinitz said. The only type of negotiation he recommended is one carried out "with gun in hand."

Email readers, click here to view the three videos in this story of Dr. Yuval Steinitz, Dr. Emily Landau and Dr. Aryeh Eldad.

It is that type of dialogue that Steinitz believes U.S. President Barack Obama has in mind for engagement with the Iranians. In fact, Steinitz pointed out, an ultimatum of the sort he suggests may be far more credible coming from Obama than it would have been coming from George Bush during his term, because Obama enjoys a far more favorable international environment than Bush did at the end of his term.

Deligitimization, Not Dialogue

In his remarks at the conference, Uzi Dayan expressed agreement with MK Steinitz that the only justification for dialogue with Iran would be "in order to display the stick." Nonetheless, he said, "I prefer delegitimization to dialogue" with the Islamic Republic because there is a danger of sophisticated delaying tactics during negotiations, including a push for a nuclear-free zone to include Israel.

Israel National News

Dayan said he favored harsh sanctions on Iran to force them to give up their quest for nuclear weapons. Among the measures he mentioned were a boycott of Iranian oil, an embargo of the refined oil products they import, and the insistence on boarding and examining every Iran-bound vessel in allied waters or ports. Sanctions against totalitarian states can work, Dayan explained, only if they successfully destabilize the internal order and threaten the regime.

Any other form of regime change will not help, according to Dayan, because the new rulers will not want to appear less patriotic than the Islamic Republic was. In addition to sanctions, Dayan called for strengthening the relatively moderate regional Arab states that see Iran and its proxies as a threat to them as well. He warned against pinning great hopes on this aspect of a larger strategy, but also cautioned against dismissing it altogether.

As for a military strike on Iran, Dayan chided that the Americans seem to always say, "It's too early, it's too early, until one morning they wake up and it's too late." If such a strike could be carried out with wide international support, he said, that would be the best option. Furthermore, he added, if such a strike even only succeeds in buying some time, that too is a good enough reason to execute it.

In his concluding remarks, Dayan described the Iranian threat as greater than the threat Germany posed to world peace on the eve of World War II. Nonetheless, he does not see a U.S. administration prepared to take the actions he believes necessary. Therefore, Dayan said, Israel must prepare its own military option.

Hamas and Hizbullah are Iran's Forward Troops

MK Dr. Aryeh Eldad said that an absolute precondition for any Israeli military option against Iran is the neutralization of the Iranian forward units - Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon. If Israel attacks Iran, he said, it is clear that Hizbullah and Hamas will hit the Israeli homefront with a rain of missiles from the south and the north.

It is only a matter of time and technical possibility before Hamas obtains Fajr missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv, Eldad predicted. It is a mistake to assume that Egypt is actually interested in preventing Hamas from eventually acquiring more sophisticated weaponry than was revealed during Operation Cast Lead.

Steinitz on Gaza

Regarding the recent IDF operations in Gaza, MK Steinitz said that it was far from a strategic victory. Strategic victory, in his view, would have included completely destroying the Hamas-Iran regime in Gaza or, at least, deploying along the Philadelphi Route between Egypt and Gaza to prevent further arms smuggling.

Like Hizbullah, Hamas survived with most of their forces intact, Steinitz explained, which is in itself a victory for them. In fact, Hamas suffered less of a loss in Operation Cast Lead than Hizbullah did in the Second Lebanon War. In 2006, according to Steinitz, Hizbullah was estimated to have around 5,000 active gunmen, while in 2008 Israel estimated that Hamas had 20,000 armed men. Both terror organizations lost around 600 regular armed fighters in a war with Israel, he said, meaning that proportionally Hizbullah suffered worse than Hamas did. Yet, Hizbullah has rebuilt and tripled its arsenal and manpower, Steinitz observed, and Hamas could easily do the same. Egypt's recent lack of assistance to Hamas during he Gaza war may well be a temporary phenomenon, he said, based on short-term interests.

Putting his view simply and clearly, MK Eldad said, "The U.S. will accept a nuclear Iran." Though it may couch its acceptance in terms of "peace" and "nuclear energy," that acceptance will actually be the price the Americans will pay for a quiet exit from Iraq. In exchange for turning a blind eye to its nuclearization, Iran will agree to rein in the Shiite militias from their attacks on U.S. troops during the U.S. withdrawal, according to the National Union (Ichud HaLeumi) MK.

The other payoff to Iran, Eldad added, will be a Palestinian State within Israel's heartland. Thus, Israel will face a short existence under constant threat from a terror state operating with an Iranian "nuclear umbrella."

"The forecast is harsh; it is chilling, because I don't see a Prime Minister willing to take the necessary action," Eldad concluded.

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