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U.S. Umbrella Resembles Chamberlain's!

Israeli Cabinet Ministers Worried Over Secretary of State Clinton's Proposal For U.S. 'Defensive Umbrella' For Gulf States, If Iran Acquires Nuclear Weapons

Has Obama Administration Accepted Nuclear Armed Iran?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Expected To Tell U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates That Israel Will Not Take Military Option Off The Table, Even If U.S. May Have

Barack Obama

If the Obama administration has ruled out pre-emptive military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel has not followed. Israeli officials have criticized Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments that the U.S. would supply a 'defensive umbrella' to the Gulf states, if Iran gets the bomb. Israeli officials have said they do not agree to Iran getting the bomb, nor should the Obama administration. IsraCast assesses the latest developments as Russia announces that the nuclear reactor it has sold to Iran at Bushehr will go operational by the end of the year.

Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler

Has the Obama administration started signaling its acceptance of a nuclear armed Iran? That is the question now being asked by Israeli leaders. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has certainly caught the attention of the new Netanyahu government. Although Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has repeatedly turned a cold shoulder to an American or even Israeli military strike against Iran, this was the first time that an Obama administration official has spoken of a 'defensive umbrella' as a solution to a nuclear Iran. Clinton spoke of the U.S. extending this defensive umbrella over its allies in the Gulf and beefing up their defenses. She expanded on the logic of how the umbrella would deter a nuclear Iran: It's unlikely Iran will be any stronger or safer because they won't be able to intimidate or dominate as they apparently believe they can, once they have a nuclear weapon'. Up to the present Obama, as did Bush, stressed: 'All options were on the table!' The tone and content are now quite different.

'The proposed U.S. dialogue is a waste of time, for its part Israel cannot agree to Iranian nuclear weapons'

Reacting with typical understatement, Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor of Likud said: 'I am not thrilled by the American statement. It's as if they have already accepted a nuclear armed Iran and that's a mistake'. In Meridor's view, this was not the time to assume that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons, but to prevent it. Silvan Shalom another Likud minister also declared: 'The proposed U.S. dialogue is a waste of time, for its part Israel cannot agree to Iranian nuclear weapons'.

Secretary Clinton's comments are all the more perplexing coming before the U.S.-Iranian nuclear negotiations. Clinton has pulled the rug from under any chance that the talks could succeed. If the talks were aimed at dissuading the Iranians from continuing their nuclear weapons project or face the consequences of crippling sanctions or even a military strike, Clinton has now signaled Tehran that America is not seriously considering these options. Instead, Washington's has now shifted to a defensive posture and proposing future steps such as the defensive umbrella and upgrading the defensive capability of her allies in the Gulf. No Israeli official would draw this comparison, but American talk of a defensive umbrella recalls the symbol of another umbrella: the infamous umbrella of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that symbolized the appeasement of Hitler.

Not only Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are very worried about a nuclear Iran that not only threatens to wipe Israel off the map, but also aspires to topple the Sunni Arab regimes and dominate the Islamic world. So Clinton's statement was aimed at boosting Arab confidence in America's resolve to confront the Iranian nuclear threat facing them. Egypt, where an Iranian- backed subversive ring was smashed last fall, is also in Iran's cross-hairs. However, Secretary Clinton's case that America's defensive shield over the Gulf may be short-sighted from even a U.S. vantage point. In the same way that Israel would fear Iranian nuclear weapons or a dirty bomb being supplied to Hamas or Hezbollah, Tehran could also hand over nuclear devices to al-Qaeda or the Taliban for attacks on U.S. targets. 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend' originated in the Middle East.

The Iranian Missile Range

The U.S. has had a full blown 'nuclear umbrella' in place in the Far East to protect Japan and South Korea from the North Korean nuclear threat. In that theater, Washington adopted the MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction - formula that succeeded so famously during America's Cold War with the Soviet Union. The logic is that no sane government would launch a nuclear attack against another nuclear state, if it risked suffering the same devastation. However, Professor Bernard Lewis has warned against applying MAD logic to Iran. Lewis questions whether the fanatical Islamist dreams of the Iranian regime could spur it to launch a nuclear attack, despite the inherent dangers. (On this level, Iran's regime of Ayatollah's has proven that it has little, if any, concern for the welfare and safety of the Iranian people. Moreover, religious Iranians or Arabs killed as a result of an Iranian nuclear strike would automatically become 'shahid' martyrs, with a guaranteed place in Paradise.)

By raising the 'defensive umbrella' as America's future course of action, Washington could be trying to dissociate itself from the consequences of an Israeli pre-emptive attack and Iranian retaliation. Remember, in another apparent shift, Vice President Joe Biden recently said that Israel, as a sovereign state, had the right to make its own decisions on such an issue. Within twenty-four hours, President Obama categorically denied that Biden's comment was an American green-light for Israel. But neither did Obama's disclaimer appear to be a red- light; perhaps it was amber. It may be that the U.S., which has failed in rallying the EU, Russia or China to impose stiffer sanctions, is baffled about what to do next about Iran. These countries, that have cried loudest for a diplomatic solution have, out of their own economic greed, done the most to torpedo Obama's 'aggressive diplomacy' from succeeding. With all his economic woes at home and nuclear North Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq now on the boil, perhaps Obama agrees with Admiral Mullen that the U.S. has more than enough on her plate at present. (IsraCast has previously noted that President Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney warned during their tenures that Israel, as a last resort, might go it alone against Iran.)

Israel would not be wiped out by one Hiroshima or Nagasaki size bomb

Although the Gulf states fear a nuclear Iran, they have not been threatened with physical annihilation as has Israel. In a highly unusual step, a group of Israeli nuclear physicists released details from their official study on the effect of an Iranian nuclear strike on Israel. Contrary to the opinion of Ayatollah Rafsanjani, a so-called Iranian moderate, Israel would not be wiped out by one Hiroshima or Nagasaki size bomb. Obviously, terrible casualties and devastation but the country would survive, if a nuclear missile penetrated Israel's Arrow anti-missile air-defense. The message was that Israel could still wreak destruction on Iran. (Foreign news sources have reported that Israeli subs are capable of launching nuclear missiles on their own).

Would the American offer of the defensive umbrella dissuade such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey from embarking on their own nuclear weapons projects for fear of Iran? Not likely. Rather the Middle East would turn into a nightmare of nuclear proliferation. (There is a school of thought that contends that if Israel has nuclear weapons it's only natural that Iran will also seek this military capability. This although Iran has no common border with Israel and the Jewish state has never threatened Iran. But this symmetry between a nuclear Israel and a nuclear Iran does not hold water. In spite of the widely-held belief that Israel is a nuclear power, this has not triggered a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The conclusion is that Israel's neighbors do not feel threatened by her purported nuclear weapons.

In any case, Iran will obviously at the top of the agenda when U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates leads a high-powered delegation to Jerusalem in the coming days. It is highly likely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will tell Gates that Israel still considers the military option as a last resort to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

David Essing

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