Will We Have The Guts To Back Military Strike On Iran?
written by Robin Shepherd
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution that, “In the coming days the world will witness Iran’s announcement of its very important and very major nuclear achievements.”
In dealing with fanatical, potentially genocidal, Islamist extremists (not a word you will now be allowed to hear from the BBC, we recently learned) it is always difficult to determine what counts as bluster and what counts as something we should truly be worried about.So when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday – the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution – that, “In the coming days the world will witness Iran’s announcement of its very important and very major nuclear achievements,” there will be some who will tell us not to be overly concerned.
Ahmadinejad was merely playing to the gallery, they will say. He simply delivered the kind of goading, aggressive rhetoric that would be appreciated by people who responded with chants of “Death to Israel”, and “Death to America”.
But as Larry Haas recently argued in these pages, one of the lessons the world should have learned from the 1930s is that when ideologically driven fanatics issue threats, we’d be well advised to take them at their word:
“Hitler ranted, but the world scoffed,” said Haas. “Few imagined that Hitler could be serious about his plans, even as the Third Reich increasingly institutionalized Jew hatred in law; later, few believed the reports emanating from Germany in the 1940s that Hitler was systematically slaughtering the Jews.
“Today, Iran’s leaders are pursuing nuclear weapons while threatening to wipe out Israel, referring to the Jewish state in the vilest terms. Most recently, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, endorsed a doctrine that explains why it’s “legally and morally justified” to eliminate Israel.”
Of course, I have no inside track on where precisely Iran now is in its nuclear weapons programme. Nor do I know whether Ahmadinejad is about to announce something truly dramatic – that Iran already has a nuclear bomb and that it will use it if it is attacked, for example. Even if he does, it still won’t be clear whether he’s bluffing or whether he’s telling the truth.
The question we need to ask is this: why give him the benefit of the doubt when the risks are so great? For me, that question is rhetorical. If it is militarily possible to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities – and I do not have the military expertise to answer that question either – we should do it, and do it soon.
The problem is that even if it is possible to launch a successful mission to eliminate the threat from Iran, I can’t see the Western powers having the courage to do it. Can you really imagine Barack Obama, many of whose most passionate supporters defined themselves politically in terms of their opposition to the war in Iraq, sending in the F-16s to attack another country in the Middle East?
There are some who say he might do so ahead of the elections to prove his credentials among those who think him soft on Islamism. But I doubt it.
So what about the Europeans? As things stand, it’s hard to imagine many European leaders who’d join an attack even if the Americans were taking the lead. It’s practically impossible to imagine any of them doing so if America holds back.
So, if we are to imagine any decisive military action against Iran, before the US elections at least, the only likely candidate is, of course, Israel.
In the coming days, weeks and months it is vital that those people who still retain some sense of decency towards the Jewish state make it clear that if they do attack, there will be plenty of us in Europe and America that will stand up for Israel and press our governments to offer moral support if they don’t in fact have the guts to participate directly.
That’s not the ideal scenario. It’s just the least we can possibly do.