Israel’s Strategic ‘Dead End’

The expectation at the annual UN General Assembly has been for Iran’s President Ahmadinejad to come across as wacky while the U.S. media lauds Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu for his seriousness, except that the script went differently this year, as Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett note at

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York last week for his valedictory appearances as President of the Islamic Republic before the United Nations General Assembly. He gave several significant addresses, multiple interviews, and even held a session with a small group of Americans who have written or are writing books about Iran, in which we took part.

Although, as usual, Ahmadinejad had a rich and multifaceted set of messages that he worked to convey, media and public attention focused on his observations about Israel and the threat of an Israeli or U.S. attack on the Islamic Republic. On this topic, Ahmadinejad had two main points.

United Nations General Assembly

First, Israel is at a strategic “dead end,” or, as he explained in greater detail (see here):  “Fundamentally, we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists. We believe the Zionists see themselves at a dead end and the way to find an adventure to get out of this dead end. While we are fully ready to defend ourselves, we do not take these threats seriously.”

Second, the reason why Israel finds itself in a “dead end” is not because of the Islamic Republic and its nuclear activities. It is because of the mobilization of Arab and other Muslim populations to demand more participatory political orders in their countries.

Although this was surely not his intent, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed Ahmadinejad’s assessment when Netanyahu addressed the General Assembly later in the week. The heart of Netanyahu’s address, of course, was his remarks about the Islamic Republic and its nuclear program.

By now, most people who might read this have, we are sure, already seen footage of Netanyahu deploying his Looney Tunes-like drawing of a cylindrical bomb with a hand-lit fuse, 25 minutes into the video linked above. (For those who were too dumbstruck by the absurdity of his visual aid to take in easily its intended message, Netanyahu pointed out, “This is a bomb. This is a fuse.”)

Bottom line: Netanyahu holds that the United States should commit to bombing Iranian nuclear facilities before the International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran has stockpiled enough uranium enriched to the near-20 percent level so that, if Iran reconfigured its centrifuges and put its 20-percent enriched uranium back through those centrifuges, it might be able to produce enough weapons-grade fissile material to fabricate a single nuclear weapon.

Where to begin deconstructing all of this? Simply as a technical matter, Netanyahu’s analysis is deeply flawed on multiple levels.

–Netanyahu claims that, once Iran reaches his suggested red line, Israel, the United States and others cannot rely on their intelligence services to detect an Iranian move to turn near-20 percent enriched uranium into weapons-grade fissile material.

But, by Netanyahu’s own testimony, his analysis of Iran’s fuel-cycle program is “not based on secret information. It’s not based on military intelligence. It’s based on public reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

–But it is also these public reports which will tell Netanyahu and others when the Islamic Republic has accumulated enough 20-percent enriched uranium to meet his red line. And in order to blow past this red line, Iran would have to take steps — breaking seals on IEAE-inventoried uranium stockpiles, reconfiguring centrifuges to produce weapons-grade fissile material, or moving stockpiles out of IEAE-monitored facilities — that the IAEA (not U.S. or Israeli intelligence) would detect.

–Furthermore, Netanyahu said nothing to demonstrate that, even if Iran were to produce enough weapons-grade fissile material for a nuclear device, it has either the intention or the capability to weaponize the material — which is a considerably more complicated task than just stuffing highly-enriched uranium into the Prime Minister’s cartoon bomb and lighting the fuse.

Strategically, as we’ve argued before, there is no way that a mythical nuclear-armed Iran, much less an Iran enriching uranium at well below weapons grade, poses an “existential threat” to Israel.

In New York, Netanyahu made much of the Islamic Republic’s alleged irrationality, even citing Bernard Lewis that “for the Ayatollahs of Iran, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent, it’s an inducement.”

But countless senior Israeli officials — including the commander of the Israel Defense Forces, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, including even Netanyahu himself (see here and here) — have acknowledged, on the record, that it is highly unlikely that Iranian leaders would use nuclear weapons.

(For the record, Iranian leaders have said repeatedly over many years that they don’t want nuclear weapons and, in the assessment of both U.S. and Israeli intelligence services, they have not taken a decision to produce them. In fact, we believe that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, has taken a clear decision not to do so.)

The real existential threat to Israel comes from what Israelis see going on around them right now, and which Ahmadinejad so aptly pointed out — the mobilization of Arab and other Muslim populations to demand more participatory political orders.

For as Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Khamenei and other Iranian leaders understand very well, the governments that grow out of this demand will not succumb to American pressure cum blandishments to “make peace” with Israel, even as it continues to occupy Arab land, suppress Arab populations, and flout international law in its grossly disproportionate applications of military force around the region.

Such governments will insist, before they can accept Israel, that it must change its policies in fundamental ways — ways so fundamental that most Israeli elites would see it as an abandonment of the Zionist project. And over time — perhaps measured in decades rather the merely years — that will persuade most of the rest of the world to demand basic changes in Israel, too.

Like President Obama in his speech to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu expressed confidence that “modernity” will triumph over “medievalism.”

But the success of the Zionist project rests ultimately on the ability of Israeli governments to tell Israeli Jews and those who might come to Israel from elsewhere that it is utterly feasible to live surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who do not accept Israel as a political order.

Israeli governments have to be able to tell their target audiences that they do not have to be concerned about the long-term implausibility of such a proposition — because Israel, with its superior military forces and with the vast power of the United States deployed to keep genuinely independent power centers from emerging in the region, has its strategic situation under control.

Today, Israel clearly does not have its strategic situation under control. Indeed, Israel has not faced a strategic situation this challenging since the 1950s — the last time it faced the prospect of genuinely independent political orders emerging in Middle East that would refuse to accept an aggressive, territorially acquisitive interloper in their midst.

Now, superior military forces no longer suffice to keep the regional balance tilted so overwhelmingly in Israel’s favor. And the power of the United States to shape the Middle East’s strategic environment is hardly what it once seemed to be — and is shrinking virtually by the day.

At their root, of course, Israel’s problems are of Israel’s making. It would be disastrous for the United States to go along with the idea of using military power to enforce a technically and strategically nonsensical red line on Iran’s nuclear activities.

Such an attack would have no legitimacy: there would be no United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing it, and outside of Israel, Britain, and a few other subservient European states, no one would support the action.

–A U.S.-initiated war on the Islamic Republic would do so much damage to America’s long-run strategic position that it would make the Iraq debacle, in comparison, look almost like a success.

–And if we think anti-Americanism in the Muslim world — indeed, in most of the non-Western world — is at dangerously high levels now, imagine what those levels will be after the United States bombs Iran over nuclear activities that Arab populations, other Muslim populations, and other non-Western populations overwhelmingly see as legitimate.

Flynt Leverett served as a Middle East expert on George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff until the Iraq War and worked previously at the State Department and at the Central Intelligence Agency. Hillary Mann Leverett was the NSC expert on Iran and – from 2001 to 2003 – was one of only a few U.S. diplomats authorized to negotiate with the Iranians over Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and Iraq. [This article was originally published at For direct link, click here:


  10 comments for “Israel’s Strategic ‘Dead End’

  1. September 30, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Iran’s president Ahmadinejad played the part of the ‘Messiah for Peace’ at the UNGA for the eighth time. Netanyahu’s comic performance, as expected, was nothing but but an act of some Bully trying to take the entire world hostage by Israel’s 400 nuclear bombs.

    The the most humorous part of Netanyahu’s speech was when he pulled a cartoonish sketch of a bomb-lookalike roadrunner and drew the “red-line” on Iran’s nuclear program – which was rejected by Israel-Firster Obama last week. Why? Because, US military Generals told Obama that they’re not interested in fighting Israel’s wars in Syria and Iran anymore.

    The Zionist media is now churning the lie that both Obama and Netanyahu agrees on Iran. Do they? Netanyahu demands Iran stop its nuclear program immediately while Obama asserts that he sees no problem with Iran’s nuclear program as long as Iran doesn’t acquire a nuclear bomb. Iran’s powerful Spiritual Leader Ayatullah Khamenei stated recently that Iran will never produce a nuclear bomb as that goes against the teachings of Islam.

    Interestingly, Netanyahu’s old buddy, Mitt Romney also swallowed his earlier anti-Muslim and anti-Iran rhetoric and blessed Obama’s crippling sanctions against Iran. “From the very beginning, I thought crippling sanctions needed to be put in place. Part is to see action as opposed to just words. His words more recently are more consistent with the words I’ve been speaking for some time, and we’ll see what actions he pursues,” Romney told reporters aboard his plane.

    British veteran reporter and author, Alan Hart, wrote recently: “Netanyahu already knows there is no way the America of a second-term Obama is going to become engaged in a war with Iran. Netanyahu may also know that though they are now on hold until after the American election, secret talks between the Obama administration through a third party and Iran have made significant progress. According to my source with access to these talks, the clear implication is that early in his second term Obama will bring the nuclear crisis with Iran to an end by politics and diplomacy“.

  2. borat
    September 30, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Rehmanazi’s love for the iranian puppet president is typical of his paranoid goose stepper mentality. Let’s divert some money from this site to buy this shit a one way ticket to his medieval paradise -iran.

    • Hossein
      October 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      Instead of buying a one way ticket for Rehmat you should buy that ticket to Israel for your self since it’s not going to be around for too long. LOL

      • borat
        October 3, 2012 at 8:13 am

        All of your medievalist paradises tried to destroy Israel and failed. Besides oil, what contributions have they made to mankind lately?

        • October 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm

          I see the flamers have found Consortiumnews; this is a site for mature adults who can argue a logical fact based opinion not juveniles out to vent their misanthropic attitudes.

  3. borat
    October 1, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Son of Hamas Leader – Exposes Arab Lies Against Israel
    Mosab Hassan Yousuf, son of Hamas leader of West Bank Sheik Hassan
    Yousuf talks on T.V and as an Palestinian Arab Muslim claims he supports
    Israel because he is righteous and knows through his religion and
    history whose land it really belongs to, the Israelis.

    He exposes all Arab lies against Israel and criticizes Islam for the hatred it
    teaches since he experienced it when he was a young boy.

    He very well admits the Arabs don’t want peace, just hate, war and fight while
    Israelis are striving for peace. Thank you Mus’ab Hassan Yousuf you are a
    righteous Arab and are respected for spreading the truth, not Paliwood

    Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 01:52PM

    AS FAR as Middle East Muslim nations are concerned the struggle with Israel is not so much about the formation of a Palestinian nation but the elimination of the Jewish state.

    They have tried to defeat Israel by military means since the rebirth of the Jewish nation in 1948 and failed each time.

    Aided by the KGB intelligence officers before the collapse of the Soviet Union, they substituted military force with deception in order to achieve their long-term aims.

    The gullible West has swallowed lie after lie so that the Promised Land of the Bible has become the occupied land of today. Israel is the pariah nation.
    Even though no such people as Palestinians existed in history the world has been beguiled into accepting this myth.

    The people of Gaza are largely of Egyptian descent and residents of the Palestinian Authority are mainly from surrounding nations who moved into Holy Land relatively recently. Their surnames often point to their country of origin.

    The Western media refers to the West Bank rather than Judea and Samaria even though the term was only coined by King Abdullah of Jordan in 1951. His army illegally took over the territory after attempting to ‘strangle’ the birth of Israel in 1948.

    Jordan was given nearly 78 per cent of the old Palestine in 1922 and the rest was earmarked for Diaspora Jews booted out of their ancient homeland by the Roman Empire. When it controlled Judea and Samaria from 1948 to 1967 Jordan made no attempt to create a Palestinian state. In fact Jordan sought to annexe this territorial gain. Its bid was rejected by the UN with only Pakistan and Britain voting in favour.

    When Jordan declared war on Israel in 1967 and lost control of the territory it mistakenly became regarded throughout the world as the “illegal occupation of the West Bank” by the Jewish state.

    The United Nations and most of its members, dominated by the cabal of Islamic nations and their non-aligned fellow travellers, have jettisoned the 1922 San Remo Treaty which gave the future state of Israel the right to settle Jews on uninhabited land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

    This treaty is irrevocable, ratified by the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, and yet conveniently forgotten as Palestinian Arabs cry foul, accusing the Israelis of all kinds of specious crimes.

    As last September, the European Coalition for Israel will be lobbying the United Nations in the next week to remind them of San Remo. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) will be pressing for increased UN status. One of the PA’s false pretexts is that Israel’s treatment of them is the cause of Muslim anger and violence against the West.

    The weak West kow-tows to Muslim violence and its appeasement policy give more grist to the mill for the jihadists to strike in their log-term goal of global Islamic power.

    The rise of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign shows how much the Muslim fundamentalists have the puppet left-wing and apostate church denominations under their control. Hamas, which controls Gaza, wants a violent end to Israel now. PA’s Fatah government has the same end in mind but chooses the slower route of various negotiations to keep open the huge financial pot kindly provided by the West.

    The world, it seems, believes almost any horror story from the Palestinian Arabs about Israeli mistreatment, such as massacres and murders of children. It ignores hate teaching of Jews in the media, schools, and in the home and does nothing about thousands of missiles from Gaza that have rained down on Israel.

    Hezbollah, in Southern Lebanon, has a 50,000 stockpile of Iran provided missiles, ready to fire at Israel. They are stored in hospitals, schools and other community facilities which this terrorist group uses as military bases. The so-called UN peace-keeping force knows what is going on but remains silent. If war flares, Israel will have no option but to destroy these military hot-spots which will cause much civilian suffering.

    People forget that the Palestinian leadership turned down the possibility of sovereignty in 1938, 1947, 2000-1, and 2008 because “the offers weren’t good enough.” The creation of a Palestinian state while allowing Israel to continue has never been acceptable to Arabs.

    Palestinian Arabs fared better after Israel won the 1967 war. It was a mistake for Jewish state to hand over the reigns of local government to them. Corrupt officials have lined their pockets and people on both sides of the border have suffered as a result of the endemic terrorism. Israel should annexe the land that was meant for them under the San Remo Treaty. Both Arab and Jew would be better off as a result.

    • Hossein
      October 2, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Do you belive in the crap you write? Because every one knows it is regurgitated lies.

  4. Jym Allyn
    October 2, 2012 at 11:07 am

    ‘Netanyahu expressed confidence that “modernity” will triumph over “medievalism.”’

    The real challenge is “modernity” on the part of both Arabs and Israelis.

    The Arab-Israeli conflict is similar to the “Cold War” conflict in which our former-Nazis told the CIA how terrible the USSR was based upon their information from the former-Nazis working for the KGB. The truth was that the Soviet military would have collapsed withing days or hours because of the crappy equipment they had and lack of support. But the threat of terror was good for our business (Halliburton/Brown&Root) so that the “industrial-military” complex on both sides made fortunes based upon our terror.

    What killed Communism was that the weight of its own inefficient bureaucracy (see Drucker’s “Practice of Management” page 19) finally caught up with it.

    What is “killing” Israel is the cost of maintaining the Orthodox 20% that spends all day “learning” and is exempt from military duty rather than doing something productive. Even Maimonides realized that a Rabbi that doesn’t have a “real job” becomes a leech on society.

    The Orthodoxy in Israel has a vested interest in keeping the Arabs as enemies since it helps justify their paranoid control, just like the Arab dictators/kings have a vested interest in viewing their economic and social problem on Israel to hide their largess and corruption.

  5. John
    October 2, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I don’t think that Borat realizes that there are Arab Jews, Jews who weren’t born in Europe but the Middle East. Many Palestinians are Jews who in the past have converted to Christianity or Islam.
    In no way does a belief register as a deed of ownership. The god of the Old Testament is very different from the God in the New Testament. The Old Testament is typical of old nationalistic stories used to further one’s authority or supposed power.
    It’s a shame that Borat can’t see in the mirror that he is just like his opponents, those few Arabs who refuse to recognize the rights of the other. Most Palestinians want peace with dignity and justice.
    I wonder if Borat would like to comment on grafitti saying “Jesus, son of a bitch, price tag” on the walls of the Convent of Saint Francis on Jabel Sahyoun, (Mount Zion). ‘Price Tag’ refers to the cost in violence settlers will exact if the illegal settlements in the occupied land are stopped.
    Just who are the terrorists here? ! They are a few on both sides who have a pretty short sighted idea of humanity.

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