Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Israel PM discounts US Chairman of JCS's comments on Iran

Juan Cole nails the analysis. So I encourage you to follow this link and read the whole thing. Here is what Netanyahu said about General Dempsey's comments:

“We made it clear to Donilon that all those statements and briefings only served the Iranians,” a senior Israeli official said. “The Iranians see there’s controversy between the United States and Israel, and that the Americans object to a military act. That reduces the pressure on them.”

That was in response to Dempsey basically saying that it wouldn't be wise to attack Iran right now. And Dempsey's comments about the prospect of attacking Iran mirrors what I've read from most experts, which is that under the best scenarios it would be a very difficult undertaking and the result from even a very successful attack would be unclear and possibly counterproductive. But according to some in the Israeli gov't, you can't provide your voters with such analysis because it hurts Israel's cause. Well, I guess it's nice to know that Americans aren't alone in having political leaders not understanding what a democracy is.

What Cole talks about in his post and what I find interesting is the potential reaction here in the US. Dempsey isn't some far left politician or blogger making these statements on Iran. The guy is a war hero, a general, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If his opinion doesn't hold some merit then we have a problem with our military command and it's relation to the presidency. That's not to say you have to agree with his opinion. I'm sure I disagree with him on some issues. But it means you need to take his arguments seriously. You can't just reject them outright and accuse him of anti-semetism, which often happens in debates about Iran and Israel.

Another thing Cole touches on is how the debate about Iran in the US is framed. As Glenn Greenwald has documented thoroughly, the media mostly lets the 'attack Iran' crowd to air their opinions unchallenged. And the Obama administration treads very lightly when discussing the issue, unlike the previous Bush administration that would probably be putting someone like Gen. Dempsey on every media outlet that would have him so that he could raise his concerns to the public and counter the other side's arguments. Instead, Obama always assures the right and liberal hawks that all options are on the table with Iran, despite the consequences that might have within Iran, which is kind of a vital player in this whole debate.

Basically, Obama is scared of Republicans and is tailoring his diplomacy with Iran towards them. But again, as Cole points out, Iran is a very nationalist country that has a very attuned memory of their past, a past that is rife with invasion and western manipulation. So when Obama insists to Republicans that attacking Iran is an option, The people of Iran, and thus their leaders, have a compelling reason to be afraid and thus adopt a defensive response. When that happens it makes it more difficult to talk to them. And that is bad diplomacy. By airing the problems with an attack I think Gen. Dempsey is trying to make our diplomatic effort a little easier. Hopefully those calling for an attack on Iran listen to him.

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