Will Israel Bomb Iran?

A lot of people are talking about the cover story in the new Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg on the possibility of Israel attacking Iran. I found it fascinating reading, diligent reporting with a wide range of sources and a different take on the psychology behind this. I didn’t realize at all the background with Netanyahu and his father, that was extremely interesting. He also does a good job talking about how an attack would play out and the repercussions that would potentially follow. In addition to the Netanyahu family angle, the other part of the story that was most interesting for me was the effect a nuclear Iran would have on Israel. Goldberg argues, citing, amongst other Ehud Barak.

Other Israeli leaders believe that the mere threat of a nuclear attack by Iran—combined with the chronic menacing of Israel’s cities by the rocket forces of Hamas and Hezbollah—will progressively undermine the country’s ability to retain its most creative and productive citizens. Ehud Barak, the defense minister, told me that this is his great fear for Israel’s future.

“The real threat to Zionism is the dilution of quality,” he said. “Jews know that they can land on their feet in any corner of the world. The real test for us is to make Israel such an attractive place, such a cutting-edge place in human society, education, culture, science, quality of life, that even American Jewish young people want to come here.” This vision is threatened by Iran and its proxies, Barak said. “Our young people can consciously decide to go other places,” if they dislike living under the threat of nuclear attack. “Our best youngsters could stay out of here by choice.”

I hadn’t considered this and makes the idea of “containing” a nuclear Iran troublesome if you care about Israel. I know Rindy doesn’t like Goldberg and he pointed out to me how he was refuted in Salon, but I don’t think he is war-mongering and I think he raises important points about the potential for conflict that I hadn’t thought about before.

I also just read the New Yorker’s latest Letter from Tehran and encourage anyone interested in following the Iran debate (which we covered at the Junta a few months ago) to read. I, like many, have been hoping that some kind of Velvet Revolution would happen in Iran and would sweep away the mullah’s bent on acquiring a bomb for a more liberal government, but that seems depressingly a long way off. The story makes the interesting point that the Green Movement over-played its hand in thinking that the rest of the country shared its views–it is really a collection of urban and middle/upper-class citizens, and while they number in the millions, there are many more millions who don’t share their views. The Green Movement is also hopelessly splintered. I came away from reading this pretty disillusioned that any internal change in Iran could happen in time to forestall a potential military strike to set back Iran’s nuclear program. And I found the comments by Hossein Shariatmadari, an editor and former political advisor to Iran’s more liberal recent regimes also depressing and belligerent and I feel like the possibility of conflict with Iran is truly growing.

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