In September The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg published a lengthy article examining the case for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. While describing his position on his blog as "deep, paralyzing ambivalence," he nevertheless offered an extremely sympathetic ear to the most hawkish side, as well as a favorable context for its arguments. While Goldberg admitted the possibility that "’foiling operations’ conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way," he dismissed this alternative as decidedly unlikely.
But hey, that’s just what happened. According to a detailed report in the New York Times—far and away America’s greatest news organization in these days of degraded reporting budgets—the Israelis, with help from Siemens AG, created a computer worm called Stuxnet that not only sent "Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control" but also "secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators" to hide what was happening. Now that a "number of technological challenges and difficulties" have beset Iran’s program, Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, explains, Iran’s nuclear timetable has been "postponed."
This development ought to be a cause for joy among all people outside the Iranian leadership’s anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying circles. A military attack, whether American or Israeli, might have postponed the timetable as well, but at a horrific cost in human and strategic terms. As Nobel Peace Prize–winning Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi recently warned, "The military option…is the worst option…. The Iranian people—including myself—will resist any military action." It would, she added, "give the government an excuse to kill all of its political opponents, as was done during the Iran-Iraq war." Ebadi even suggested that for these reasons, the Iranian government "wouldn’t mind the U.S. throwing a missile at them."
The departing head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, gave a series of exit interviews in which he echoed this view, adding that an attack—as paraphrased by Amos Harel in Haaretz—"would make the Iranian people rally around the regime, would make Israeli-American relations extremely difficult and could result in a war, in which the Israeli home front will be bombed by thousands of rockets and missiles from Iran, Lebanon and Gaza."
So who are the people who wished to expose Israel and the United States to this fate, and who—like, quite possibly, Mr. Ahmadinejad—would have welcomed an American or Israeli attack? Not surprisingly, they are almost exactly the same folks who agitated for an American attack on Iraq—an attack, by the way, whose myriad catastrophic consequences involved vastly increasing the influence of Iran not only in Iraq but across the entire region.