Senior Pentagon officials are making no secret of the fact that despite the apparent stepped-up drumbeat to war with Iran, they believe a strike on the country is “not prudent” right now.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, put this view – held by many in the Department of Defense – in perhaps the strongest terms yet this week.
True, Israel could bomb Iran and delay the country’s ability to create nuclear weapons “probably for a couple of years,” General Dempsey told CNN Sunday.
The problem is that many of the Iranian targets – buried deeply underground – would be “beyond the reach” of the Israeli military, in what Dempsey called a “zone of immunity.”
… Equally important, senior defense officials emphasize, while it’s clear that Iran aspires to nuclear technology, it is far from certain whether the country is intent on actually weaponizing this technology,
This was the finding of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)’s recent assessment on security threats facing the United States. Right now, Iran is “more than capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon if its political leaders – specifically the supreme leader himself – chooses to do so,” DNI head James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee February 16.
Yet so far they do not appear to have made that choice, Lt. General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers in the same hearing.
“The agency assesses Iran as unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict,” he said, concluding that though the possibility of Iran building a nuclear weapon is “technically feasible,” it is “practically not likely.”
It’s interesting: People who would ordinarily insist that politicians “listen to the generals” are themselves turning a deaf ear to the generals, preferring not to hear their advice in this particular adventure.
It’s also interesting to see it argued that a U.S. president ought to “get right” with a foreign country and in effect allow that foreign country — in this case Israel — to dictate U.S. diplomatic and military policy in a strategically critical area, even to the detriment of U.S. interests.
And no, U.S. interests and Israeli interests are not somehow cosmically aligned in perfect parallel to each other.
Finally, it’s downright fascinating to see the same people who were beating the war drums so loudly over Iraq, blind to the consequences of their preferred course of action, once again pounding out statements and op-eds demanding military solutions. The wonder isn’t that those people haven’t changed — they are who they are. The wonder is that they are still heeded.
If you want $6-a-gallon gasoline, Iraq up in flames and a lot more trouble in Afghanistan, with the lives of U.S. troops put at greater risk, then sure, an unprovoked assault on Iran is just the thing. If all that and more is worth a two-to-three-year delay in Iran’s nuclear program that a successful strike might produce, then make that argument.
Me, I’m not convinced.
– Jay Bookman