More huffing and puffing about war with Iran, this time from Anne Applebaum of the hawkish Washington Post, but first some words of caution from Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
At a news conference with Secretary of Defense Gates yesterday, Mullen once again reiterated his long-standing caution about a military attack on Iran, even as he laced it with concern about Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s "hegemonic" goals in the area of the Persian Gulf. Said Mullen:
"I maintain my conviction that Iran remains on a path to achieve nuclear weaponization, and that even this very pursuit further destabilizes the region.
"But like us, it isn’t just a nuclear-capable Iranian military our friends worry about — it’s an Iran with hegemonic ambitions and a desire to dominate its neighbors. This outcome drives many of the national security decisions our partners there are making, and I believe we must be mindful of that as we look to the future, post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan.
"Let me be clear: We owe the secretary and the president a range of options for this threat. We owe the American people our readiness. But as I’ve said many times, I worry a lot about the unintended consequences of any sort of military action. For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive."
Applebaum, not exactly an Iran expert, used her ink in the Post today to warn that President Obama had better start preparing for an Israeli strike on Iran. In fact, that was the title of her op-ed: "Prepare for war with Iran." In it, she suggests that "at some point" Israel’s restraint vis-avis Iran could evaporate, partly because President Ahmadinejad "makes(s) the Israelis paranoid." An Israeli strike, she says, "would be followed by retaliation, some of which would be directed at us, our troops in Iraq, our ships at sea." And she adds:
"I do hope that this administration is ready, militarily and psychologically, not for a war of choice but for an unwanted war of necessity."
That, of course, is exactly what Obama should not be doing. Instead, as I suspect they’ve done already — indeed, even during the Bush administration, Admiral Mullen did this — is make it clear to the Israelis that under no, repeat no, circumstances will an Israeli strike on Iran be tolerated by the United States. Bombing a would-be reactor in Syria, as Israel did three years ago, is one thing, but attacking Iran, a powerful regional actor and oil exporter with lots of muscle in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Gulf, is another. The United States simply has to let Israel know that attacking Iran would be considered an act of unprovoked aggression by Washington, resulting in a suspension of military assistance and a vote to condemn Israel at the UN.