END OF THE BARGAIN — The U.S., Israel and Europe have had time to prepare their offensive and defensive capabilities in preparation for the moment when the grand bargain had used up its usefulness and a military strike becomes necessary. Photo shows Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (UPI Photo via Newscom) â€“ and it seems that that moment is approaching.
The next U.S. president will have precious little time to engage leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran in “head-to-head negotiations” over their nuclear weapons program. Whoever becomes the next president will temporarily be required to shelve efforts to bridge the gap between Palestinians and Israelis (efforts that have proven to be a diplomatic minefield for the last two U.S. presidents – at least) and focus attention exclusively on the impending military confrontation with Iran.
As each day passes, it is becoming clearer that diplomatic efforts, international sanctions, attempts to accommodate Iran, and years of “shell-game” inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have run their course and that by early 2009, Iran will have collected sufficient weapons-grade uranium to begin constructing a nuclear weapon.
Mark Hosenball wrote recently in Newsweek: “For reasons that remain unclear to the Bush administration and its allies, the level of violence attributable to Iranian-backed insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan is falling.”
Actually, U.S. President George W. Bush knows the reason. He just doesn’t want anyone else to know. In May 2008, the United States established a secret bargain with Iran, the essence of which was that in return for reducing Iranian-assisted terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and stabilizing oil prices, the U.S. administration would refrain from military action against Iran’s nuclear installations prior to the end of the Bush presidency in January 2009.
The Iranians undertook to exercise restraint in their dealings with Afghan insurgents, open the way for the U.S. military and the Iraqi government to destroy al-Qaida and the foreign Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and allow Bush to claim that his surge had been successful prior to leaving the White House.
In furtherance of that understanding, Tehran ordered Iranian intelligence officers and the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force working undercover in Iraq to halt attacks on U.S. troops by pro-Iranian militias including Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army.
Bush is also seeking another foreign policy achievement prior to leaving office. According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, this involves undermining the Iranian-Syrian relationship by establishing a U.S.-Syrian rapprochement whereby the United States would pressure Israel to cede the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for Syria breaking its ties with Iran – a pipedream at best for which Israel will pay the price.
The U.S. effort involves easing economic and political pressure on Syria and withdrawing support for Syrian opposition groups. As a result, Syrian President Bashar Assad would no longer fear any serious international investigation into the political assassinations of anti-Syrian Lebanese leaders and would be granted international respectability and permitted to exercise greater influence over Lebanese political affairs.
Despite these behind-the-scenes developments, however, tensions over Iran’s continuing quest for nuclear weapons continue to rise.
From the Iranian perspective nothing has changed. The regime remains religiously committed to destroying the American presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East. The bargain, however, has bought the mullahs critical time to expand and harden their nuclear sites, enhance their command and control structure, diversify their defensive and offensive missile capabilities with Russian, Chinese, North Korean and Syrian assistance, increase the number of operating centrifuges, and proceed at full speed toward the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon – the shield under which it would conduct its global Shiite jihad.
But it has also allowed the United States, Israel and its European allies the time to prepare their offensive and defensive land, sea and air war capability in preparation for the moment when the grand bargain had used up its usefulness and a military strike becomes necessary – and it seems that that moment is approaching.
Today, the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean are awash with high-tech American warships of every class. Advanced U.S. and Israeli satellites are focused on Iranian missile launching sites. Anti-missile defense systems encircle Iran and state-of-the-art Israeli Hermes and Heron unmanned aerial vehicles are scattered throughout the Caucasus.
Israel now possesses 90 F-16I long-range fighters that can carry enough fuel to reach Iran if necessary, and recently purchased two new Dolphin-class submarines from Germany reportedly capable of firing nuclear-armed warheads – in addition to the three it already possesses.
This past summer, it carried out air maneuvers in the Mediterranean that touched off an international controversy over whether they were a “dress rehearsal” for an imminent attack, a stern warning to Iran, or a just a way to get the United States and Europe to increase pressure on Tehran to stop its nuclear weapons program.
And in September, the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that the Dutch intelligence service (AVID) had, “called off an operation aimed at infiltrating and sabotaging Iran’s weapons industry due to an assessment that a U.S. attack on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is imminent.”
The report said the Dutch reckoned that America’s strike would be carried out by unmanned drone aircraft.
To ensure the bargain with the Iranians is not broken pre-maturely, the United States has linked Israel to its advanced missile detection system known as X-Band to guard against any Iranian missile attacks by providing missile launch detection at a distance of more than 1,750 miles.
But the other motivating factor in installing the U.S.-manned radar system in Israel is that it allows the United States an opportunity to keep a close watch on anything moving in Israeli skies including the detection of an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities which would undermine the bargain whose usefulness has not yet expired.
In any case, both the Israelis and the Americans are convinced that Iran is rapidly approaching the nuclear threshold. Both countries (not to mention the entire Sunni world) recognize that allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons (bargain or no bargain) would be madness.
Like Lenin and Hitler, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a grand vision for the Middle East. A nuclear-armed Islamic Republic ruled by the apocalyptic Islamic regime in Tehran would threaten the Persian Gulf region and its vast energy resources, spark nuclear proliferation amongst the unstable Sunni regimes of the Middle East, inject additional volatility into global energy markets, embolden terrorists from Buenos Aires to Baghdad, destabilize Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf emirates through Iranian terror proxies, and seek to destroy Israel.
As Michael Oren and Seth Robinson pointed out recently in the Wall Street Journal: “Through its Hezbollah and Hamas proxies, Iran has gained dominance over Lebanon and Gaza, and through its Baathist and Mahdist allies, has extended its influence through Syria and Iraq. An Iranian threat looms over the Persian Gulf financial centers and beyond, to the European cities within Iranian missile range.”
Failing to de-claw Iran would mark the beginning of a new strategic order in the Middle East. It would solidify Iranian ascendancy in the region and legitimize Hamas and Hezbollah while weakening Israel – not to mention irreversibly damaging America’s regional, if not global, influence.
There is no realistic alternative to the inevitable confrontation and Washington, Israel and our European allies, despite rhetoric to the contrary, seem resigned to this.
Winston Churchill’s famous dictum that: “The Americans will always do the right thing – after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives” is upon us. If U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies are correct, any alternatives to a military strike have now been exhausted and the clock is approaching midnight.