Editor's Note: Dr. Trita Parsi is the author of Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press, 2007), recipient of the Council on Foreign Relation's 2008 Arthur Ross Silver Medallion and the 2010 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Dr. Parsi will be releasing his upcoming book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama's Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press), early 2012.
By Trita Parsi - Special to CNN
Should the latest episode of Israeli calls for bombing Iran be taken seriously, or is it – like the many cases prior to it – yet another (politically motivated) false alarm? Like clockwork, Israeli alarm bells have gone off in the past fifteen years with predictable regularity. Bellicose statements by Israeli officials have been followed by alarmist analyses describing military measures as both necessary and inevitable. And then, without any explanation, the bellicosity recedes and Iran and Israel return to their more normal levels of animosity.
By now, as WikiLeaks documents show, U.S. officials tend to view the Israeli threats as a pressure tactic to get the United States and Europe to adopt tougher measures against Iran, and to refrain from any compromise with Tehran over the nuclear issue. These intense periods of Israeli warnings about its imminent intent to bomb Iran have indeed tended to coincide with times when the international community has been debating additional sanctions on Tehran.
This latest call for war is no different.
Next week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due to publish a report expected to detail evidence on the Iranian government's suspected past weaponization activities. The Obama administration and the French government have pushed the IAEA to take a tougher line against Tehran. The IAEA report will be followed by a U.S.-EU push for harsher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council, where Western powers will meet stiff resistance from Russia and China.
The Obama administration has also launched a campaign to report the Iranian government to the Security Council due to its alleged attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Here again, the aim is to convince a skeptical international community to go along with new sanctions.
For Israel, the tactic of threatening war to secure sanctions has been a gift that never stops giving. The Israelis press the U.S. and the European Union to opt for more sanctions by arguing that absent new punitive measures, Israel will be "forced" to strike Iran unilaterally. Washington then uses the Israeli threat to press Russia,China and the rest of the international community to adopt new sanctions topreserve the peace. The choice is, the tactic dictates, between sanctions and war; not between confrontation and diplomacy.
To retain some minimal level of credibility, each new round of saber rattling contains new elements to set it apart from previous episodes. This time around, the narrative reads that intense debates are taking place within the Israeli cabinet between proponents and opponents of unilateral Israeli strikes. What are supposed to be confidential, internal deliberations have now been leaked to the public and the whole world can follow the debate over war and peace unfold like a bizarre reality TV show.
While skepticism about Israel’s saber rattling is warranted, it is also dangerous to completely dismiss it out of hand. At a minimum, there are two important factors that indicate the past pattern of empty threats may be changing.
First, stiff resistance from the U.S. military has in the past forced Israel to think twice about any unilateral strike against Iran. Pentagon officials believe that Iran will not differentiate between an American and an Israeli attack. As such, Israeli military strikes will beget significant Iranian retaliation against American targets. In July 2008, in the midst of a massive Israeli effort to convince former President George W. Bush to attack Iran before he left office, then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen warned that an Israeli strike on Iran would prove "extremely stressful" for U.S. forces in the region. "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable," he cautioned.
But with President Barack Obama in election mode, Benjamin Netanyahu may sense an opening. At a time when the Republicans are attacking Obama for being insensitive to Israeli interests, Obama cannot afford another confrontation with Netanyahu. In spite of the danger Israel would put U.S. troops under if it attacked Iran, Obama’s ability to exact a political price on Israel for doing so is currently limited.
Second, as I document in A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press, 2012),sanctions and military action are not either-or options in Israel’s view. Rather, they are complementary. While sanctions systematically weaken Iran and reduce its capabilities, including its ability to muster nuclear advances, military action is needed to push back Iran if it reachesimportant nuclear milestones, in Israel’s view. Sanctions can slow down Iran’s nuclear advances, but military action can set the nuclear program back, albeit only temporarily. Alone, neither approach is satisfactory for Israel. Only when the two are combined will the Jewish state feel confident that the balance of power is securely locked in its favor.
But with Washington having little left to sanction in Iran, and Israel’s credibility reaching a new low as a result of its many false alarms, how much longer can this game of brinkmanship and sable rattling be pursued before it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Its everyone's fault but the muslims. The muslims are the most persecuted "religion" on the planet. Not ! They just don't see it. They are the biggest murderers on Earth, all in the name of their fake allah and pedophile "prophet".
Hey Rocky, the anti-Israelis roated you here buddy. With all the help you received from the AIPAC, it seems like you lost big time. Go home boy.
Hey Rocky, how much do you get paid for writing such crap? By thge way , you were a cute alter boy!!! All the priests remember you!!!
CNN shame on you for not posting my comments. It's true that CNN is run by JEWS & Zionists.
CNN, you've done this too many times. A comment that's free of profanities but critical of Israel's policies should be posted without question. People say NUKE IRAN & you shamelessly post that! Heaven knows how many comments critical of Israel weren't posted, or removed later. SHAME ON YOU CNN. Shame on all the ZIONISTS in any media outlets.
Iran hasn't even developed a nuclear bomb, yet has threatened to wipe Israel off the map on numerous occasions which this foolish author conveniently forgets to mention. Israel has had the A bomb for about forty years now and has yet to threaten any of their neighbors with nuclear annihilation even though most of her surrounding countries are her sworn enemies.
Dr. Parsi gives a Persian-American academic view that is nonetheless part of the Muslim World's propaganda campaign. Iran today threatened to destroy Israel (again) in its entirety with five nuclear armed cruise missiles obtained from the former Soviet Union. This week the weak-and -unarmed IAEA will announce unequivocal evidence that Russian scientist are helping Iran develop detonators for nuclear missile warheads. But Dr. Parsi does the class psychopath head trip - blame the victim. Israel has the right to pre-emptive attack.
CNN shame on you again. 5 or 6 pro Israel comments to 1 anti, & you're still losing.
what a load of hooey. apparently the author has no access to public news information. only yesterday iran publicly stated its intention to destroy israel with 4 missiles. one sided false reporting does nobody any justice but obviously that is not the authors concern with his not so well concealed agenda of bashing Israel.
As long as this ridiculous double standard is enforced by USA that there is one law-rule for Israel and another for everyone else you Americans are not going to have peace no matter how powerful your military is or how advance your weapons are. Politicians in USA and western politicians in general rushed to defend Israel when Iranian president said Israel will one day be wiped off the map because of much higher rate of Palestinian population increase but now the same politicians are completely silent when Israeli president and PM openly threaten Iran with Military strike. This is why people in the middle east hate your guts. Your politicians suck up to the Jews in order to get reelected and your young people pay the price in afghanistan's and Iraq. I am against the nuclear weapons and even nuclear generated power but what I don't understand is why its OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons but not OK for Iran?
So when will the Doilie Heads and the Towel Heads start going at it? Oh I know....After the republicans regain power!
ISrael starting mores wars eh, i guess Mel deserves an apology
That's the most ridiculous excuse Jews give you for displacing those poor Palestinians and stealing their land. Do you think if there really was a God they could inflict so much misery on those poor Palestinians and get away with it? No way. This alone is a great proof that there is no God.
Israelites are the Choosen-Children of God. Those who ever opposes them shall have to face the consequences. None of us is greater than God.
I hope Iran wipe of America off the map, the world don't need fat americans. In fact the world would be better whitout america. U.S kill people all over the world, and now is time for Iran to kill some lazy fat americans.
Hi no more
Don't think Iran can do you that favour and wipe off the yanks but give us another 10-20 years and Chinese are going to demolish Americans economic for sure.
Trita Parsi/NIAC are the mouthpiece of the Iranian regime. As a lobbying group for the Iranian regime, Parsi/NIAC are willing to falsify, fabricate, lie, and distort to protect that evil regime's interest.
Rocky, I think I love you. You are a fearless lover of truth.
To Rocky fan. Thank you for your kind words. I am telling the TRUTH because i really love our planet , created by G-d, and i don't want to see any more destruction of humanity by the evil cult of islam.
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