The Generals Try to Stop an Iran War

It has leaked that US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen. Martin Dempsey warned the Israelis that if they launched a strike on Iran that spiraled into a war, they would be on their own.

Gareth Porter’s report, based on conversations with former officers in the administration of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who claim knowledge of Dempsey’s emphases, comes on the heels of controversial assertions by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that Israel may strike Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities this spring or summer. The press, and Panetta, keep reporting that Iran will ‘have enough enriched uranium to make a bomb’ in a year or two. But this assertion is so misleading as to be a lie. What Iran would have enough of is uranium enriched to 3.5% for reactor fuel. Only by embarking on an active program to turn this ‘seed stock’ into highly enriched uranium of 95% could they get material to make a bomb. Since UN inspectors are still visiting the enrichment sites (they were there this week), and since they specify that no civilian nuclear material has been diverted to military uses, we know that Iran is not taking this step. In order to take it, they’d have to kick out the inspectors and go for broke. We’ll know if they decide to do that. If they don’t do it, they just have LEU or low enriched uranium, which can be used to boil water but not for much else, and certainly not for a bomb.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Right wing, and their American backers in the Israel lobbies desperately want the US to go to war with Iran. Iran poses no real threat to Israel, but it does limit Israeli adventurism in Lebanon and elsewhere, and the Likud Party is all about no limits on its ambitions. Netanyahu and his American acolytes, such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, keep rattling sabers, not because they likely intend that Israel will go to war with Iran, but to put pressure on Washington to do it for them. If you have never heard of WINEP, just take it from me; your representatives in Congress care what AIPAC organs think far more than they care what you think. WINEP poobah Dennis Ross put out a rumor that Obama was ready to strike Iran. This disinformation 1) put pressure on Iran; 2) put pressure on Obama and 3) legitimized before the fact any aggressive Israeli action.

But the Obama administration is taking no chances that Netanyahu is bluffing. Hence Dempsey’s strict warning.

Obama wants to get the US out of fruitless Middle East wars, not plunge the US into new ones.

Moreover, campaign manager David Axelrod would have a cow at the thought of a war being launched in the midst of a presidential campaign season. Bombings can easily beget wars. Wars are unpredictable, and could spin out of control. You never want to do anything in a campaign season that you can’t control. Search on the Web for ‘Carter and Tabas” or “Operation Eagle Claw” if you want an example of why not.

High Israeli retired officers, including a former chief of staff are also warning against a strike on Iran. Being high officers, they have a realistic assessment of the disaster that could well ensue. Another former chief of staff, Lt. Gen (ret.) Dan Halutz, has just cautioned that Iran is a ‘serious’ but not an ‘existential’ threat to Israel. He is clearly disturbed that tossing around the phrase ‘existential threat’ about a country distant from Israel with very limited military capabilities sets the stage for more self-defeating adventurism.

What is striking to me is the glibness with which the Right wing speaks of an attack on Iran. The UN Security Council has not authorized the use of force against Iran, and Tehran has not attacked any other country. A strike on Iran is therefore a war crime, more especially since it would release radiactive toxins on the people of Isfahan and of the Middle East more generally.

Besides, proponents never say how they would pay for such a war. Iran is three times as populous and geographically much larger than Iraq. So multiply everything in that war by three to get the cost.

Immediate cost: $3 trillion
Long term cost, including veteran care: $9 trillion
US troops killed: 15,000
US troops fairly seriously wounded: 100,000

Iranian dead: 1 – 3 million
Iranian displaced: 12 million

Anyone who advocates such a thing is a sort of monster, in my view. 

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