AIPAC Declares War
The American people don’t particularly want a new war in the Middle East, but apparently Congress and Washington’s most powerful lobby do. Thirty-two senators have co-sponsored a resolution that will constrain the White House from adopting any policy vis-à-vis Iran’s “nuclear weapons capability” that amounts to “containment.” The senators include the familiar figures of Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both of whom have persistently called for military action. They and the other senators have presented their proposal in a particularly deceptive fashion, asserting that they are actually supporting the White House position, which they are not. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta repeated on Feb. 16 that Iran does not have and is not currently building a nuclear device. Before Christmas, he stated clearly that the “red line” for the United States is actual Iranian possession of a nuclear weapon. Even Israel’s intelligence services agree that Iran is not building a bomb. What we are seeing play out in Congress is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) position, which is that Iran has already crossed a “red line.” The AIPAC argument will no doubt be spelled out in more detail next month at the group’s annual convention in the nation’s capital, a meeting that will be addressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will attract nearly all of Washington’s power brokers.
Rejection of containment in this context and as spelled out in the resolution means that the United States will be forced to go to war if Iran attains the capability to put together a nuclear weapon. Indeed, one might argue that the United States should be at war already, based on the resolution. “Capability” is one of those particularly useful expressions that is extremely elastic and can be interpreted subjectively. By most standards, Iran already has the technical know-how to make a nuclear bomb and has most of the materials on hand to put one together, assuming it can enrich the uranium it possesses to the required level. The Iranians may not, in fact, have the engineering skills to do so, and the task of creating a small, sophisticated device that can be mounted on a ballistic missile is certainly far beyond their current capabilities and probably unachievable given the costs involved and the poor state of their economy.
There are about 50 countries in the world that have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon if they chose to do so, making Iran far from unique but for its persistence as a thorn in the side of Israel and Israel’s powerful lobby in the United States. In other words, Iran does not have to actually produce a nuclear weapon for it to be subject to attack by either Israel or the United States. It only has to continue to be an irritant for Israel.