Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Road To Mideast War


by Herbert I. London


Recently the Obama administration gave Moscow two concessions that could have a harmful influence on the course of current history: lifting sanctions against the Russian military complex, and agreeing not to ban the sale of advanced anti-aircraft batteries to Iran.


Presumably these concessions were given as "carrots," after Russia agreed to a package of United Nations' sanctions against Iran. While the U.N. resolution bans weapons sales to Tehran, it would not prohibit Moscow from completing the sale of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Teheran, a contract that was suspended due to pressure from the U.S. and Israel, but not cancelled. This sophisticated defensive system -- surface-to-air missiles that could can bring down any incoming projectile -- would totally nullify any military option that Israel -- or any other country -- might wish to take against Iran's nuclear facilities.


These concessions, the latest moves by President Obama to bolster U.S.-Russian relations, might be considered an adjunct to the START agreement on nuclear delivery systems. Administration spokesmen, however, said this understanding was not a quid pro quo for Russian acceptance of sanctions against Iran, a denial that seems inconsistent with the timing of the decision.


Most significantly, the concessions are "premature and unwarranted," according to former State Department official David Kramer. A Russian transfer to Iran of anti-missile systems is far more significant than further sanctions. John Bolton, former acting Ambassador to the United Nations, argued that the Russians got the upper hand. They sensed desperation on the Obama team and, he said, "extracted all that the traffic would bear."


If the Russians do deliver the S-300 missiles – now that the U.S. has granted them a green light – Israel will be placed in an untenable position. Israel might feel compelled to attack before the system is employed, or else be obliged to consider more losses than in any raid. For months, Israeli diplomats have been shuttling to Moscow in an effort to prevent this agreement. Now the U.S.Israel's presumptive ally – has undermined, and perhaps even thwarted, the Israeli military option.


What this U.S. decision suggests is that the U.S. will do whatever is necessary to secure Russian assistance on sanctions, even if it means subverting Israeli military options.

However, if past history is any guide, and if the Turkey–Brazil initiative on Iranian nuclear refinement is taken seriously, sanctions emanating from the UN Security Council -- even with Russian acquiescence – are not likely to have any effect on stopping Iran's attempted nuclear program. With these concessipns to Russia, U.S. diplomacy on this matter appears to have failed, and were intitiated only as a kind of desperate "hail Mary" pass into the end zone.


This scenario indicates U.S. weakness on every level. The Iranian are not the least bit perturbed by the prospect of sanctions; they know that once the Chinese get their hands on the final document, all "teeth" will be extracted. The Brazilians and Turks are not worried about being unable to out-maneuver U.S. diplomacy: they perceive that the Obama administration has neither the stomach nor the will to punish them.

The only casualty is Israel, an ally the Obama team has consistently repudiated or attempted to weaken.


The ball is now in the Israeli court; and while the consequences of war are horrific, the failure of U.S. diplomacy has left Israel with no alternative. Facing an existential threat exacerbated by the likely deployment of the S-300 system, the timetable for an attack may have even been accelerated.


For those who thought the world would be more peaceful after Obama was elected, look again. Signs of war are gathering. Diplomats are dithering. Alliances with Russia were are made with concessions in which the other side gave very little and got a lot.

Our enemies can only be bemused by the apparent weakness of the United States and its continued retreat from the realities of global events.



Herbert I. London

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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