Honest Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should get out more. We mean that without irony. The Iranian President spoke yesterday in New York at the start of the U.N. conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and nothing could have done more to expose the folly of relying on arms control to maintain global security.

The Iranian couldn’t have been clearer that his country intends to ignore any and all U.N. pressure to stop building its bomb. He averred that the world has “not a single credible proof” that Iran intends to build a bomb, notwithstanding the world’s discovery of its secret uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz in 2002 and its secret underground facility near Qom last year. He even said the U.S. should be suspended from the U.N. atomic agency’s board because “it used nuclear weapons against Japan” and depleted uranium weapons in Iraq.

Delegates from the U.S., U.K. and France walked out during the speech, to their credit. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs chimed in that the remarks were “wild accusations,” and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took to the podium later in the day to accuse Iran of “flouting the rules” and declaring it is “time for a strong international response.”

This is all true enough, but it ignores Mr. Ahmadinejad’s real message, which is that Iran won’t be deterred by a stricter world antiproliferation treaty, or by one more U.N. Security Council resolution, or by the moral example, as President Obama likes to put it, of a new U.S.-Russian arms treaty. Iran wants the bomb in order to become a more potent Mideast power that can do as it pleases without having to worry about opposition from the world’s largest nations.

Give Mr. Ahmadinejad credit for lack of artifice. He says what he and the ruling class in Tehran believe and thus betrays what they intend, however “wild.”

The truly humiliating spectacle is the sight of the world’s leading powers devoting a month to updating a treaty designed to stop proliferation even as Mr. Ahmadinejad makes a mockery of that effort before their very eyes.

If Iran does get a nuclear weapon, or even the capacity to make one at a moment’s notice, it would be the most damaging act of proliferation since Stalin got the hydrogen bomb. The event would set off a regional nuclear arms race, as Turkey, Egypt, the Saudis and perhaps even the Gulf states seek their own nuclear deterrent. The rest of the world would see that Iran was able to face down the world’s leading powers—and prevail. The damage to world order would be traumatic. And that is before the increased risks of global nuclear terrorism from Iranian proliferation.

If Mr. Obama and other world leaders were serious about Iran, they wouldn’t merely walk out on Iran’s president. They would rally the world to stop him, explaining the grave stakes to the public, and making clear to Iran that there is a deadline to diplomacy and that military force will be used if diplomacy fails. The only serious person at the U.N. on Monday was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Editorial, Wall Street Journal

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704342604575222351143435766.html

The NPT Illusion

Disarmament fantasies help the Iranian regime.

These are strange days for New York City’s finest. Over the weekend, they deployed in force to find the terrorist who tried to bomb Times Square. Yesterday, they deployed in force to protect the terrorist who is president of Iran. One of these guys works in propane, fireworks and gasoline; the other guy in enriched uranium, polonium triggers and ballistic missiles.

That other guy—the one who didn’t roll into town in a Pathfinder—was in Manhattan to unload on this month’s U.N. review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And unload he did: on the Truman administration, on the Obama administration, on “the Zionist regime,” on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, on the NPT itself. For all this, Iran is still considered a member in good standing of the treaty, entitled to its seat at the International Atomic Energy Agency and its right to the nuclear reactors.

Does this make sense? In the upside-down universe of Turtle Bay—the same one in which Iran was just elected by acclamation to the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women—it does. What’s stranger is that it also makes sense to President Obama, who has called the NPT the “cornerstone of the world’s efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.” If that’s the cornerstone, it’s no wonder the edifice on top of it is collapsing.

The case for the NPT is that it has slowed nuclear proliferation by offering a grand bargain between the world’s nuclear haves and have-nots. The haves promise to work toward the elimination of their arsenals via arms-control treaties; the have-nots get access to civilian nuclear technology while promising not to build weapons of their own.

As a show of global good citizenship, last month President Obama signed another arms-control treaty with Russia, and yesterday disclosed previously classified information about the exact size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This surely made a deep impression in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Bhutan, where conspicuous displays of moral stainlessness are considered the essence of geopolitical strategy.

As for the effect of the administration’s gesture politics, it probably hasn’t been what Mr. Obama envisioned. A biting U.N. sanctions resolution on Iran is nowhere in sight. The regime’s nuclear bids proceed undeterred. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt are openly entertaining doubts about U.S. seriousness—while entertaining nuclear futures of their own.

And it turns out that when it comes to a U.N. beauty contest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad beats Barack Obama every time. Twenty-four countries walked out of Ahmadinejad’s speech yesterday. Another 168 remained in their seats, including those virtuous Scandinavians.

There’s a reason the NPT has failed the administration. It enshrines a status quo that is 40 years out of date. Today, four of the world’s nine nuclear-weapons states are not signatories to the treaty. Of those four, three—India, Israel and Pakistan—are democracies and allies of the U.S. And yet the NPT treats them as pariahs for not subscribing to a treaty that fails to recognize their imperative national security interests, at least as they themselves perceive them. The Canadas of the world may be happy to go along with the NPT, secure as they are under America’s nuclear umbrella. That was a luxury India, Israel and Pakistan did not enjoy when they embarked on their nuclear programs.

Now Iran, in connivance with the usual Middle Eastern suspects (and their useful idiots in the West), is trying to use the NPT as a cudgel to force Israel to disarm. That makes perfect sense if you subscribe, as Mr. Obama does, to the theology of nuclear disarmament. It makes no sense if you think the distinction that matters when it comes to nuclear weapons is between responsible, democratic states, and reckless, unstable and dictatorial ones. Nobody lies awake at night wondering what David Cameron might do if he gets his finger on the U.K.’s nuclear trigger.

The world today is rapidly moving toward what strategist Andrew Krepinevich calls the “second nuclear age,” in which deterrence no longer works as it did during the Cold War. “It may be,” he writes, “that leaders of the newly armed nuclear states do not calculate costs and benefits in a manner similar to the United States.” Yet we haven’t even begun to think seriously about how to navigate these waters. Hillary Clinton’s mindless calls yesterday about strengthening the NPT won’t do.

One day a Pathfinder with tinted windows may park itself in Times Square with something more than propane tanks in the back seat. We may not be able to stop it. But we will live more securely if the driver of that car knows exactly what we intend to do next.

Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704342604575221920482279654.html

Iran Sanctions Are Failing. What’s Next?

Has the U.S. abandoned plans to target the Iranian regime’s access to banking and credit and to isolate Iranian air and shipping transport? While recent reports to that effect have been strenuously denied by the administration, it has become clear that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s promise of “crippling sanctions” and President Barack Obama’s “aggressive” penalties are little more than talk. The administration simply cannot persuade a critical mass of nations to join with it.

At this juncture, there are blunt questions that need to be asked. Can sanctions even work? Can we live with a nuclear Iran? Is military action inevitable? But first, some foreign policy forensics are in order.

Candidate Obama told us engagement would be his byword, and to give him credit, he proffered a generous, open hand to Tehran. If his hand remained outstretched a little too long, he was secure in the knowledge that the world rarely criticizes an American president who is willing to make sacrifices for peace (especially if those sacrifices are measured in terms of American national security). But Mr. Obama was more than committed to dialogue with Iran: He was unwilling to take no for an answer.

How else to explain Mr. Obama’s lack of interest in the Iranian people’s democratic protests against the regime. Or his seeming indifference to Tehran’s failure to meet repeated international deadlines to respond to an offer endorsed by all five permanent U.N. Security Council members (and Germany) to allow Iran to enrich uranium in Russia, receiving back enriched fuel rods that do not lend themselves to weapons production. One might have hoped the administration was using that time to build international consensus for a plan B. But apparently that’s not the case.

After months of begging, China will agree only to discuss the possibility of a fourth U.N. Security Council resolution punishing Tehran’s noncompliance with its nonproliferation commitments. But along with Russia, it has already ruled out any measures to target the regime or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Even nonpermanent U.N. Security Council members Japan, Brazil and Turkey have reportedly rebuffed the administration requests to support tougher sanctions.

Meanwhile, Tehran continues to work toward a nuclear weapon, with the International Atomic Energy Agency now looking for two new nuclear sites in the Islamic Republic. Any talk of a tidal wave of ad hoc sanctions among various like-minded Western nations has fallen by the wayside. True, companies like Royal Dutch Shell, major oil trader Vitol and others have decided to take a pass on new deals with Iran. Others are less cautious.

In the past few weeks, among other reported business with Iran, Turkey announced it was mulling a $5.5 billion investment in Iran’s natural-gas sector. Iran and Pakistan signed a deal paving the way for the construction of a major pipeline. And a unit of China National Petroleum inked a $143 million contract with Iran’s state-run North Drilling Company to deliver equipment for NDC’s Persian Gulf oil fields.

Sanctions increasingly appear to be a fading hope. Thus we are left with a stark alternative: Either Iran gets a nuclear weapon and we manage the risk, or someone acts to eliminate the threat.

Unofficial Washington has long been discussing options for containment of a nuclear Iran. Setting aside the viability of containment (I have my doubts), surely these challenges must be apparent to some on the Obama team. But you’d never know it from administration officials, who continue to privately profess faith in the (weak) sanctions route. Badgered by those in the region most directly menaced by a nuclear Iran, administration officials have reportedly refused to engage in discussion of possible next steps.

The implications of this ostrich-like behavior are grave. Some Gulf states (including, some say, Qatar, which hosts American forces and equipment) have begun to openly propitiate the Tehran regime, anticipating its regional dominance once it is armed with nuclear weapons. Others, not reassured by Clinton drop-bys and ineffectual back-patting, have begun to explore their own nuclear option. Repeated rumors that Saudi Arabia is negotiating to buy an off-the-shelf Pakistani nuclear weapon should not be ignored.

What of Israel? The mess of U.S.-Israel relations has ironically only bolstered the fears of Arab governments that the current U.S. administration is a feckless ally. If the U.S. won’t stand by Israel, by whom will it stand? Conversely, our adversaries view both the distancing from Israel and the debacle of Iran policy as evidence of American retreat. All the ingredients of a regional powder keg are in place.

Finally, there is the military option. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu left Washington last week befuddled by Mr. Obama’s intentions on Iran. Should Israel decide to attack Iran, the shock waves will not leave the U.S. unscathed. Of course, Mr. Obama could decide that we must take action. But no one, Iran included, believes he will take action.

And so, as the failure of Mr. Obama’s Iran policy becomes manifest to all but the president, we drift toward war. The only questions remaining, one Washington politico tells me, are who starts it, and how it ends.

Ms. Pletka is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748704094104575144512310062970.html

How the Next Middle East War Could Start

The three most plausible scenarios all involve Iran.

This May, Israel will celebrate its 62nd Independence Day. And barring the unexpected, the country will have good reason to celebrate. This will have been the safest year in a decade and a half for Israeli civilians—the year with the fewest fatalities in acts of war or terror.

Ironically, Israel’s most bitter foes are responsible for this achievement. The leadership of both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza have imposed a temporary policy of nonconfrontation on their respective followers, as well as on other armed groups operating within the territories they control. They are now part of the administration and don’t want to be blamed for igniting another war in the region. As a result, the once almost daily rocket attacks on civilian targets in the north and south of Israel have been reduced to a trickle.

This is as good as it gets in this part of the world. But the truth is that the Middle East remains as ever on the brink of war. One careless move by any party, and the now dormant volcano could erupt once again.

Israel is certainly aware of this volatility, and it is preparing for the worst. In late February the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted a secret war game, code-named Firestone 12, which simulated a general conflict in the region. Under the scenario used in the exercise, Iran instructs its Hezbollah proxies to initiate military action against Israel in order to divert attention from the Iranian nuclear project. Israel responds with massive force against Hezbollah in Lebanon, which draws Syria and Hamas into the conflict.

The exercise was supposed to conclude with the mobilization of a large number of reserves. But because military and political tensions were running high, the army decided not to call up the additional units.

Until recently, the most plausible scenario for the outbreak of the next war would have begun with an Israeli aerial assault on Iranian nuclear installations. This would lead to a response by members of the group that the Israeli intelligence community refers to as the “radical front”: Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. But for now, this scenario is regarded as somewhat less likely, since it appears that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will go along with the U.S. demand that Israel allow time for sanctions to achieve their purpose.

Yet there are other scenarios that create a very real danger of war breaking out.

Scenario I: Hamas attacks in order to break the impasse. These are hard times for Hamas. It sustained a military defeat at the hands of Israel in late 2008 and is now engaged in a bitter confrontation with Egypt over a barrier Egypt is constructing to prevent smuggling from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza. Various sources, including IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who briefed parliament on Tuesday, have suggested that Hamas may try to break the impasse by instigating a military operation to upset the balance of forces in the region. In addition, the organization’s desire to avenge the assassination of senior commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last January in Dubai has only increased its motivation to act.

Scenario II: Hezbollah avenges Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination. Hezbollah believes that the Mossad was behind the assassination of the organization’s military commander two years ago. Mughniyeh was the most wanted terrorist on the FBI’s list before Sept. 11, 2001, and he was in charge of the suicide attacks on the American Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1982/1983. Mossad and the CIA tried to catch or kill him numerous times in the past.

In order to avenge Mughniyeh’s death, Hezbollah attempted to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan, attack Israeli tourists in the Sinai, and abduct Israeli businessmen in Africa. Yet these failures have not blunted its resolve. Any successful act of revenge—especially if it is a spectacular operation such as killing a large number of Israelis or Jews outside Israel, or assassinating a prominent figure inside Israel—would lead to considerable public pressure on the Israeli government to take action against Hezbollah inside Lebanon.

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Scenario III: Syria supplies Hezbollah with “equilibrium-breaking” weapons. Today Syria is Hezbollah’s chief supplier of arms. Many Iranian-developed weapons are manufactured in Syria and transported to Lebanon where they are delivered to the Shiite organization. Syria possesses a number of weapons systems, mainly various types of long-range missiles and anti-aircraft and antinaval missiles, that Israel regards as “equilibrium-breaking” (i.e., systems that in the hands of Hezbollah would threaten Israel’s ability to operate with impunity in Lebanon’s airspace and along its coastline).

The Syrian ambassador to Washington, Imad Mustafa, was recently summoned to the State Department, where he was informed that the U.S. expects Syria to cease arming Hezbollah because of the very real risk of war. This meeting took place after Israel came close to attacking a Syrian arms convoy, deciding not to at the last moment.

This final scenario is perhaps the most dangerous. Syrian President Bashar Assad has taken significant risks in the past, most recently when he embarked on the joint Syrian-Iranian-North Korean nuclear project knowing full well that Israel would not be able to allow it to reach completion. If Mr. Netanyahu shows less restraint than he has so far and orders an attack on a Syrian military convoy, the high number of Syrian casualties that would likely ensue could force Mr. Assad’s hand.

What these three scenarios all have in common is the centrality of Iran: It is arming Hamas, it effectively controls Hezbollah, and it is doing its best to involve Syria in open confrontation with Israel. To date, these attempts have been unsuccessful. But only the U.S. has the ability to take decisive steps to prevent a general conflagration in the region.

Mr. Bergman, senior military and intelligence analyst for Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli daily, is the author of “The Secret War With Iran” (Free Press, 2008).

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703312504575142181649202588.html

To only say Iranian nukes are unacceptable is to accept them

In March 1936, Hitler occupied the Rhineland. The French prime minister, Leon Blum, denounced the act as “unacceptable.” But France, Britain and the rest of the world accepted it. Years later, the French political thinker Raymond Aron commented, “To say that something is unacceptable was to say that one accepted it.”

In March 2010, as Iran moved ahead with its nuclear weapons program, the American secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, speaking at the policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last week, said no fewer than four times in one paragraph that a nuclear-armed Iran would be “unacceptable.” It would be unacceptable simply, “unacceptable to the United States,” “unacceptable to Israel” and “unacceptable to the region and the international community.”

Then, perhaps sensing the ghost of Raymond Aron at her shoulder, Clinton hastened to add: “So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

But this attempt at reassurance merely conjured up (at least for me) another ghost: that of Richard Nixon. Didn’t Nixon always say, at moments of utmost insincerity, that he wanted to make something very clear?

What is becoming increasingly clear, from the Clinton speech and from the overall behavior of her administration — and for that matter from the action or, rather, inaction of the “international community” — is that we are all moving toward accepting an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Consider Clinton’s speech.

The secretary of state devoted six paragraphs out of 52 to Iran.

She began by acknowledging that “for Israel, there is no greater strategic threat” than the prospect of the current Iranian regime with nuclear arms.

She explained how threatening such a prospect would be to Israel, the region and the world, culminating in the cascade of “unacceptables.”

She then briefly defended the Obama administration’s decision to try engagement, acknowledged (basically) that engagement had failed, but claimed that at least “[t]he world has seen that it is Iran, not the United States, responsible for the impasse.” She noted that “with its secret nuclear facilities, increasing violations of its obligations under the nonproliferation regime and an unjustified expansion of its enrichment activities, more and more nations are finally expressing deep concerns about Iran’s intentions.”

And what are the newly perceptive and ever more deeply concerned nations of the world doing about Iran? “There is a growing international consensus on taking steps to pressure Iran’s leaders to change course.” What kind of pressure? New U.N. Security Council resolutions with “sanctions that will bite.”

Now, these won’t be quite the “crippling” sanctions Clinton promised last year — but they’ll be biting ones. (Then we learned, late in the week, that the sanctions were being adjusted so they wouldn’t bite too much — so as to get the “international community” on board.) Of course, three Security Council resolutions seeking to pressure Iran’s leaders were passed during the Bush administration, before the great international awakening brought about by President Obama’s engagement policy. Clinton had to acknowledge that “it is taking time to produce these new sanctions.” But she maintained that “time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts.” And she reiterated that “we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring those nuclear weapons.”

Notice what Clinton conspicuously failed to mention as part of that “commitment” — another word, by the way, about whose unhappy diplomatic history Raymond Aron would undoubtedly have had mordant comments. What the secretary of state did not say is that all options are on the table. What she did not say is that force remains a last but credible resort against this regime’s nuclear plans. What she did not say is that we would try to help the opposition change who “Iran’s leaders” are.

So: Nothing about regime change. Nothing about the possible use of force. Just broadly supported “sanctions that will bite,” but not too much.

Then Clinton turned — one can almost hear the sigh of relief — to other issues, because, after all, “Iran is not the only threat on the horizon. Israel is confronting some of the toughest challenges in her history.” And we were off into the maze of the peace process, the settlements, and other ephemera and trivialities.

The Iranian regime and its pursuit of nuclear weapons constitute the dominant threat to the security of Israel and to the national security interests of the United States in the Middle East. While presidents Bush and Obama have proclaimed that this Iranian regime obtaining nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, they have done nothing effective to stop it. Now we are also apparently pressuring Israel not to act to stop Iran from getting nuclear arms.

Is it so hard to remember what happens when liberal democracies accept the unacceptable? Is it too much to hope that, for the government of the United States in 2010, accepting the unacceptable should be unacceptable?

William Kristol is editor of the Weekly Standard.

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Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/26/AR2010032603067.html

The Netanyahu Diaries

What Israel’s prime minister really thinks.

The following note was discovered aboard the plane that brought Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington yesterday. It appears to be the Israeli prime minister’s personal talking points—with deletions in brackets—for his meeting today with President Obama. Handwriting experts are unable to confirm the note’s authenticity.

Good to see you again, Mr. President. [And thanks for not having me skulk out the side door like the last time I was here].

And congratulations on your big health care victory! Well done, Mr. President, on your historic achievement. As you probably know, we Israelis have a similar system, and it has worked out pretty well for decades [though our doctors don’t labor under ruinous medmal premiums and the constant threat of tort bar annihilation and also we’re a tiny country with a huge tax burden that drives one in nine people, including many doctors, to live abroad.]

Point is, we’re a nice little liberal democracy, with women’s rights and gay rights, and Arab Israelis and black Israelis in parliament, and welfare and universal health care. Even when we go to war we don’t just carpet bomb our enemies, [like your hero Franklin Roosevelt did to the innocent civilians of Dresden and Tokyo]. I don’t get why we rate most-hated-nation status from all those so-called progressives [wearing your face on their tee-shirts].

[Question to self: Why are the same people who erupt at the thought of prayer in school so often more in sympathy with Hamas in Gaza than with us?]

But on to more pressing matters. We’ve had a bad few weeks, your administration and mine. I’m glad we can talk them over face-to-face. As Hillary told me the other day [isn’t she a charmer?], it takes a true friend to tell the hard truth. I’m sure you’ll agree that in our friendship that works both ways.

I know that, from your part, you think the hard truth is that we’ve got to get out of the settlements. You don’t have to sell me on that score. I’ve said repeatedly that we don’t want to rule over the Palestinians; I’m all for a two-state solution in theory. It’s the practice of it that’s got me concerned. In fact, it’s what got me elected.

So here’s the first hard truth: Just as you’ve got your Ben Nelsons and Bart Stupaks, I’ve got my Avigdor Lieberman ultra-nationalists and Eli Yishai ultra-Orthodox. Some of them have ideological red lines; some of them just want stuff. That’s how politics works. So what’s my Cornhusker kickback, or my executive order on abortion funding? I’d welcome your ideas; [you’re obviously good at this].

This brings me to the second hard truth, Mr. President: Most Israelis don’t trust you, the way they trusted George W. Bush or [even] Bill Clinton. And let me tell you why that’s a problem.

When my predecessor Arik Sharon pulled out of Gaza, he didn’t do so through negotiations with the Palestinians. Those negotiations fail time and again, in part because the Palestinians figure they can hold out for more, in part because they’re cutting their own deals with Hamas.

So what Sharon did was negotiate with you, the United States. And what he got was a promise, in writing, that the U.S. would not insist on a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines in any final settlement agreement.

My problem is that Hillary disavowed that promise last year, and you did so again by treating a neighborhood in Jerusalem as a “settlement.” So when you pledge your commitment to Israel’s everlasting security, how can we take your word for it, or know that your successor won’t also renege? We don’t want to wind up like Belgium before World War I, relying on phony guarantees of neutrality.

Mr. President, you need to start building some serious trust with Israelis if you mean to give me the political tools to negotiate with the Palestinians. Honestly, you didn’t help yourself by ratcheting up the rhetoric against us the way you did. If your purpose was to show the Palestinians that you’re going to play hardball with us, all you did was give them a reason to be even more uncompromising than before. And if your purpose was to try to drive me from office, it didn’t work either: To Israelis, you came across not as anti-Bibi, but as anti-Israel.

But the hardest truth is that Israelis are losing faith that you’ll do whatever it takes to stop Iran’s nuclear bid. The sanctions you promise keep getting delayed and watered down. Hillary gave a fine speech at AIPAC yesterday, but we all know that you’re already planning on containing a nuclear Iran. That’s not acceptable to me.

Let’s make a deal, Mr. President: Our settlements for your bombers. We can’t fully destroy Iran’s nuclear sites—but you can. You can’t dismantle our settlements—but we can. We’ll all come out the better for it, including the Palestinians. Think about it, Barack.

Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704117304575137523820378964.html

Obama’s Legacy and the Iranian Bomb

Neville Chamberlain was remembered for appeasing Germany, not his progressive social programs.

The gravest threat faced by the world today is a nuclear-armed Iran. Of all the nations capable of producing nuclear weapons, Iran is the only one that might use them to attack an enemy.

There are several ways in which Iran could use nuclear weapons. The first is by dropping an atomic bomb on Israel, as its leaders have repeatedly threatened to do. Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran, boasted in 2004 that an Iranian attack would kill as many as five million Jews. Mr. Rafsanjani estimated that even if Israel retaliated with its own nuclear bombs, Iran would probably lose about 15 million people, which he said would be a small “sacrifice” of the billion Muslims in the world.

The second way in which Iran could use nuclear weapons would be to hand them off to its surrogates, Hezbollah or Hamas. A third way would be for a terrorist group, such as al Qaeda, to get its hands on Iranian nuclear material. It could do so with the consent of Iran or by working with rogue elements within the Iranian regime.

Finally, Iran could use its nuclear weapons without ever detonating a bomb. By constantly threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation, it could engender so much fear among Israelis as to incite mass immigration, a brain drain, or a significant decline in people moving to Israel.

These are the specific ways in which Iran could use nuclear weapons, primarily against the Jewish state. But there are other ways in which a nuclear-armed Iran would endanger the world. First, it would cause an arms race in which every nation in the Middle East would seek to obtain nuclear weapons.

Second, it would almost certainly provoke Israel into engaging in either a pre-emptive or retaliatory attack, thus inflaming the entire region or inciting further attacks against Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas.

Third, it would provide Iran with a nuclear umbrella under which it could accelerate its efforts at regional hegemony. Had Iraq operated under a nuclear umbrella when it invaded Kuwait in 1990, Saddam Hussein’s forces would still be in Kuwait.

Fourth, it would embolden the most radical elements in the Middle East to continue their war of words and deeds against the United States and its allies.

And finally, it would inevitably unleash the law of unintended consequences: Simply put, nobody knows the extent of the harm a nuclear-armed Iran could produce.

In these respects, allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons is somewhat analogous to the decision by the victors of World War I to allow Nazi Germany to rearm during the 1930s. Even the Nazis were surprised at this complacency. Joseph Goebbels expected the French and British to prevent the Nazis from rebuilding Germany’s war machine.

In 1940, Goebbels told a group of German journalists that if he had been the French premier when Hitler came to power he would have said, “The new Reich Chancellor is the man who wrote Mein Kampf, which says this and that. This man cannot be tolerated in our vicinity. Either he disappears or we march!”

But, Goebbels continued, “they didn’t do it. They left us alone and let us slip through the risky zone, and we were able to sail around all dangerous reefs. And when we were done, and well armed, better than they, then they started the war!”

Most people today are not aware that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain helped restore Great Britain’s financial stability during the Great Depression and also passed legislation to extend unemployment benefits, pay pensions to retired workers and otherwise help those hit hard by the slumping economy. But history does remember his failure to confront Hitler. That is Chamberlain’s enduring legacy.

So too will Iran’s construction of nuclear weapons, if it manages to do so in the next few years, become President Barack Obama’s enduring legacy. Regardless of his passage of health-care reform and regardless of whether he restores jobs and helps the economy recover, Mr. Obama will be remembered for allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. History will not treat kindly any leader who allows so much power to be accumulated by the world’s first suicide nation—a nation whose leaders have not only expressed but, during the Iran-Iraq war, demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice millions of their own people to an apocalyptic mission of destruction.

If Iran were to become a nuclear power, there would be plenty of blame to go around. A National Intelligence Report, issued on President George W. Bush’s watch, distorted the truth by suggestion that Iran had ended its quest for nuclear weapons. It also withheld the fact that U.S. intelligence had discovered a nuclear facility near Qum, Iran, that could be used only for the production of nuclear weapons. Chamberlain, too, was not entirely to blame for Hitler’s initial triumphs. He became prime minister after his predecessors allowed Germany to rearm. Nevertheless, it is Chamberlain who has come to symbolize the failure to prevent Hitler’s ascendancy. So too will Mr. Obama come to symbolize the failure of the West if Iran acquires nuclear weapons on his watch.

Mr. Dershowitz is a law professor at Harvard. His latest book is “The Case for Moral Clarity” (Camera, 2009).

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Full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704869304575110042827617582.html