Monday, January 08, 2007

Israel plans insanity

According to the Sunday Times, Israel is planning a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran. This would not just be a crime against humanity and a gross violation of international law - it would also be an act of sheer insanity which would set the Middle East aflame and encourage the most vicious forms of retaliation (including chemical and biological weapons). The consequences could be disastrous not just for Iran and Israel, but for us all.


Of course Israel has that planned; with its precarious position in the world and region I'm confident that Israel is constantly planning for contingencies.

Your link to the wikipedia page does do some damage to your argument however - this quote, for example:

"the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law; However, in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake."
(among others)

Certainly, Israeli plans as I would imagine them are for limited use of low-yield devices. Many of the concerns that might lead to the conlcusion that general use of nuclear weapons is in violation of international law (targetting of civilians etc.) may be inapplicable in this situation.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 1/08/2007 02:41:00 AM

Israel probably wants Iran to know that they STILL can't win a nuclear war against israel.

Of course shooting nukes at their nuclear facilities would be a bad idea unless they somehow found out it was that or all out nuclear war anyway.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/08/2007 07:00:00 AM

Anonymous, no one can "win" a nuclear war. Even with small nuclear weapons first use will shatter the logic of deterrence and make nuclear retaliation just a matter of time. The insanity of even thinking about it is astonishing. Lets take a step back. The United States proxy (most Arabs think the USA and Israel are the same thing) in the Middle East is planning the first use of nuclear weapons in an unprovoked attack against another nation. The propaganda victory to Iran would be mind boggling. Of course, Iran has plenty of non-nuclear WMD's (chemical and biological) mounted on IRBM's more than capable of hitting Israel with which to counter-attack. And what then? How will Israel respond to literally hundreds of missiles raining down on its cities? More nuclear weapons? The whole idea is insane.

Posted by Sanctuary : 1/08/2007 11:35:00 AM

Sanctuary - I agree the idea is insane, but you oversell the Iranian WMD capability. Iran is a signatory of the CWC and BTWC and may have limited amounts of both, together with a limited number of missiles (not hundreds) with the range to hit Israel. A good summary is here:

Graeme - as Israel demonstrated recently in Lebanon, it has a tendency to pull such plans off the shelf and implement them when blood rushes to the head. So it's unreasonable to characterise it as "just a plan" - it is much closer to a statement of limited intent.

Danyl - so presumably you would've been happy for India to launch a limited nuclear strike against Pakistan to've prevented them acquiring the technology? There's bugger all difference between that scenario and the present one.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/08/2007 01:27:00 PM

huskynut - I don't know a lot about the situation, but in the years prior to Pakistan's obtaining of nuclear weapons, did the leadership of Pakistan repeatedly call for the wholsesale destruction of India?

If it didn't, then there's a difference.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 1/08/2007 03:04:00 PM

Graeme, Did the leadership of Iran call for the wholesale destruction of Israel? His clearest statement was the "wipe Israel of the map" back in Oct. '05, and a lot of people think that a better translation would have refered to the "Zionist Regime", which is very different.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/08/2007 05:42:00 PM

Graeme - you seem to be saying that if someone calls you names, you should be entitled to respond with extreme physical violence?

Actually it's worse than that. Not only was Ahmenijad misquoted, but the context in which the misquote occurred is never discussed.
Juan Cole has written extensively about it, providing not only a better translation, but context as well. I'll not paraphrase him, I suggest you google the archives of his site if you're interested.
However, even if he *had* called for Israel to be utterly anhiliated (which actually deserves the kind of laughter we'd give a tinpot Fijian coup-leader who called for Australia to be wiped out), it is still bizarre to suggest that Ahmenijad's *talk* is worse than all real ongoing and historical military aggression carried out by Israel. It's like saying it's acceptable to punch someone in the face, but unacceptable to call for someone's face to be punched. Speech is in no way the same thing as physical action, especially where populist politicians are concerned.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/08/2007 06:18:00 PM

Of course I'm not saying that.

I'm not expressing an opinion on whether Iran's talk is worse than Israel's actions.

I'm saying that Iran's talk is worse than Pakistan's talk was. Which is a difference between this situation and the situation India faced when Pakistan was seeking nukes.

As for how bad Iran's talk is, I was going on this quote (and ones similar to it) courtesy of Bomber Bradbury (link follows):

"Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine. Is it possible to create a new front in the heart of an old front. This would be a defeat and whoever accepts the legitimacy of this regime [Israel] has in fact, signed the defeat of the Islamic world. Our dear Imam targeted the heart of the world oppressor in his struggle, meaning the occupying regime. I have no doubt that the new wave that has started in Palestine, and we witness it in the Islamic world too, will eliminate this disgraceful stain from the Islamic world."

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 1/08/2007 06:42:00 PM

victory depends on what your objectives are
But it would be hard to say the iraelis lost if they neutralized iran's nuclear capacity and Iran just mumbled its complaints. (so i guess that means I think iran is actually sane!)

I dont think israels deterance rests on it's ability to nuke someone it instead rests on it's ability to nuke EVERYONE.

as HN notes you over sell Iran's power - reminicent of those who thought iraq could defeat the USA.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/08/2007 07:17:00 PM

Graeme - I'm sorry, but "Bomber" appears to have made his name with deliberately provocative commentary.. he is hardly either an expert or a considered point of reference on Middle East affairs.

As Juan has repeatedly pointed out, while Ahmenijad may be prone to rhetoric, he has strictly limited power within the Iranian political mechanism - there are many restraining influences on his actual actions. His utterances are no more indicative of the position of Iran (as a country) than are Bush's recent mutterings (ie now that he is neutered by a Democrat-dominated house).

Posted by Anonymous : 1/08/2007 08:29:00 PM

Expert on the mid-east, no.

Expert on quoting people in full, why not?

Ahmenijad's utterances exist. That creates a difference with Pakistan, whose utterances did not.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 1/08/2007 08:50:00 PM

No, what exists and is endlessly recited is the AP translation of Ahmenijad's utterances, which appears to have been a very sloppy piece of work. Unfortunately it has now taken a life of it's own as if it were some sort of verbatim record of the speech. It wasn't.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/08/2007 09:06:00 PM

Could you tell us what Ahmenijad actually did say then?

I think that Israel is the hated enemy of Muslim Middle Eastern nations either way.

Posted by Muerk : 1/08/2007 11:22:00 PM

Muerk - here is one excerpt from last year:

"[Ahmadinejad] made an analogy to Khomeini's determination and success in getting rid of the Shah's government, which Khomeini had said "must go" (az bain bayad berad). Then Ahmadinejad defined Zionism not as an Arabi-Israeli national struggle but as a Western plot to divide the world of Islam with Israel as the pivot of this plan.

The phrase he then used as I read it is "The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] from the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad)."

Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope-- that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government.

Whatever this quotation from a decades-old speech of Khomeini may have meant, Ahmadinejad did not say that "Israel must be wiped off the map" with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people. He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time.

Again, Ariel Sharon erased the occupation regime over Gaza from the page of time.

I should again underline that I personally despise everything Ahmadinejad stands for, not to mention the odious Khomeini, who had personal friends of mine killed so thoroughly that we have never recovered their bodies. Nor do I agree that the Israelis have no legitimate claim on any part of Jerusalem. And, I am not exactly a pacifist but have a strong preference for peaceful social activism over violence, so needless to say I condemn the sort of terror attacks against innocent civilians (including Arab Israelis) that we saw last week. I have not seen any credible evidence, however, that such attacks are the doing of Ahmadinejad, and in my view they are mainly the result of the expropriation and displacement of the long-suffering Palestinian people."

After the AP translation started being quoted left, right and centre, Juan made a serious effort to discuss the whole speech and if you're interested, there are plenty of other references to it and comments on his site.

As to Israel being the hated enemy of Muslim Middle Eastern nations, well yes, there was anger and paranoia at Israels inception, and Israel hasn't exactly endeared itself with the actions of the past decades. However the Arab League of Nations has offered more than once to make a comprehensive peace with Israel (and there is no indication they were show-piece offers), however they have been roundly rebuffed.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/09/2007 08:04:00 AM

Thanks very much for that. I have to say I agree with your positions.

Posted by Muerk : 1/09/2007 02:41:00 PM

I dont know the details - but would not a negotiation between israel and the arab league go somthing like this

AL : get out of the M.E. or we will kill you
I : you can't kill us and we both know it, we could kill you on the other hand....
AL : maybe in the future we will...
I : your promises are hollow, we both know that, besides we can't give you what you wan't.
AL : We will suicide bomb you!
I : you dont even control the suicide bombers thats hamas and co and they are crazy anyway.
AL : just do what we say!
I : we dont negotiate with bullies, particularly weak pathetic ones, and you're not offering anything anyway - go away.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/09/2007 09:02:00 PM

Anon – since you introduce the subject of fantasy dialogues, I imagine one that goes more like this:

I – Doctor, doctor, all my neighbours are trying to kill me.
Shrink – That’s terrible. What are you doing to protect yourself?
I – Well, I’ve assembled the largest collection of weapons in the region. I have more than enough to kill everybody several times over. In fact I’ve become so handy with weapons that I’ve become the world’s 5th largest weapons exporter!
Shrink – Anything else?
I – Well, I’ve secured the military and political protection of the world’s single superpower.
Shrink – You sound like you have plenty of protection, yet you say you still feel threatened?
I – Yes doctor. My neighbours have offered peace, but no matter what they say, I find I can’t trust them. Deep down, I think they still hate me and are just waiting for their chance to destroy me. What’s wrong doctor?
Shrink – You appear to have developed a victim personality. At a guess, I’d say you suffered some traumatic experiences as a child, and having defined yourself as systematically persecuted, you are now unable to live without enemies. Until you deal with the grief of your past, you will never be able to live a normal healthy life, and will be forever locked into cycles of paranoid anger and destruction.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/11/2007 08:27:00 AM