Sunday, November 4, 2012

Red Lines and Preemption in the Face of Nuclear Iran

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought”

"Israel Hayom”, November 2, 2012,

Just like the role of "Red Lights” in intersections, so would "Red Lines” reduce the probability of a military collision with a nuclear Iran. Clear "Red Lines” would upgrade the US posture of deterrence and enhance preparedness against – and minimizes the cost of - aggression. On the other hand, the absence of "Red Lines” constitutes a "Green Light” to aggression.

For example, a "Green Light” to Iraq's August 2, 1990 invasion of Kuwait was provided by the US upon failing to set any "Red Light” during the July 25, 1990 meeting between Saddam Hussein and the US Ambassador to Kuwait. At the meeting, which took place during the height of the Iraq-Kuwait border dispute, Ambassador April Gillespie echoed Secretary Jim Baker's self-destruct policy of engagement and diplomacy with rogue Iraq. She stated that "we have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait…. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via the Arab League or via President Mubarak…. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly." Prior to that meeting, the State Department clarified to Saddam that the US had no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait. Setting and implementing "Red Lines” would have deterred Saddam Hussein, and would have spared the US the first, and possibly the second, Gulf Wars and their devastating cost in term of lives, economy and military.

The US failure to establish effective "Red Lines” against Islamic terrorism, and Washington's determination to engage and negotiate with rogue Islamic regimes, has eroded the US posture of deterrence, constituting a "Green Light” to intensified anti-US Islamic terrorism. For instance, the 1993 first attempt to blow-up the Twin Towers; the 1995/6 killing of 17 US soldiers in Saudi Arabia; the murder of 300 civilians during the 1998 car-bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and the killing of 17 US sailors during the 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole. The absence of US "Red Lines” and appropriate military response emboldened Islamic terrorists all the way to 9/11.

The absence of "Red Lines” in the face of clear and present danger to US diplomats in Libya, the US suspension of disbelief, the subordination of unilateral US military action to multilateral diplomatic considerations, and the submission of counter-terrorism to the ideology of engagement and negotiation, signaled - inadvertently - "Green Light” to the bombing of the US Consulate and the murder of the US Ambassador and the three American security personnel in Benghazi.

The Second World War could have been avoided if British Premier, Neville Chamberlain, would have approached Hitler with thundering "Red Lines” and not with appeasement. Moreover, a British - French steadfastness in defiance of Hitler's pre-war could have triggered a revolt by the top German military command.

In order to be effective, the violation of "Red Lines,” by terror-sponsor, Hugo Chavez-supporter Iran, must be followed by a devastating, disproportional military preemption with no boots on the ground. The 1980 Iraqi invasion of Iran united the oppressed Iranian people and the tyrannical Ayatollahs against the mutual threat of occupation. However, ”no boots on the ground” would clarify that the goal is not occupation, but the elimination of the oppressive regime. The Iranian people yearn for a regime-change, which they know cannot be realized via diplomacy or sanctions, which require the unattainable cooperation of China, Russia, Japan and India. They were betrayed by the West during their 2009 uprising, and will not attempt to topple the Ayatollahs, while the US refuses to confront Teheran. They are concerned that the US insists upon repeating the mistakes which paved the road to the nuclearization of North Korea.

A military preemption, with no boots on the ground, is a prerequisite for a regime-change. It would constitute a departure from the US apathy of 2009, thus providing a robust tailwind to the Iranian people in their attempt to overthrow the Ayatollahs.

In fact, a military preemption with no boots on the ground would prevent a nuclear war with Iran, while refraining from military preemption would - unintentionally - pave the road to a devastating nuclear war.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman register with the US Congress their anxiety about a nuclear Iran, which would devastate their pro-US regimes. They urge the US to preempt and relieve them of a lethal threat, just as Israel did in 1981, preempting Iraq's nuclear drive, thus ridding pro-US Gulf regimes of a nuclear Saddam Hussein. Will the US heed the desires of the Iranian people and US allies in the Gulf, thus sparing the US the economic and national security devastation caused by a nuclear Iran in control of the Straits of Hormuz, the nerve center of global oil price and supply?!

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