The Spectacle Blog

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Iran

By on 11.24.11 | 3:27AM

With most Republican presidential candidates beating the war drums against Iran, it is worth reflecting on what Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently had to say on Iran's nuclear developments.  Reports The National:

It's no wonder that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly ordered his defence minister to shut up. Ehud Barak, after all, has a well-established habit of telling inconvenient truths - while running for prime minister in 1999, he was asked what he would do if he had been born Palestinian. He answered:"I would join a terror organisation." That willingness to put himself at odds with Israel's PR line was once again on display last week when Mr Barak was interviewed by the US TV talkshow host Charlie Rose.

"If you were Iran, wouldn't you want a nuclear weapon?" Rose asked his guest.

"Probably, probably," Mr Barak replied. "I don't delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They have their history of 4,000 years. They look around and they see the Indians are nuclear. The Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan in nuclear as well as [North] Korea, not to mention the Russians."

The problem that Mr Barak's remarks present for the Israeli narrative is obvious: Iran's rulers, we are typically told by Israeli officials, are fanatical religious extremists determined to destroy Israel at any cost, even if that meant national suicide. They are implacably committed to their pursuit of doomsday weapons, and will not be deterred by the logic of "mutually assured destruction" that prevented Cold War nuclear exchanges.

But if, as Mr Barak inadvertently suggested, Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons was a response to its perception of its threat environment, that is an entirely different proposition. Indeed, that is exactly what governments that reject the US-led effort to isolate and pressure Iran over its nuclear programme have been arguing. Turkey, for example, strongly opposes that its neighbour develop nuclear weapons, but believes Washington's approach of piling on sanctions and threats of military action are more likely to ensure that Tehran goes nuclear. "It is important to put oneself in their shoes and see how they perceive threats," Turkey's President Abdullah Gul told the Guardian this week, referring to Israel's undeclared nuclear capability.

The Iranian leadership is evil, but not so obviously stupid.  More important, there's no evidence that ruthless elites busy scrapping for power and building fortunes are interested in committing mass suicide.  Indeed, it is a delusion to believe that a different Iranian government wouldn't also want nuclear weapons--after all, Iran's nuclear program began under the Shah, an ally of America.  It really is a Persian Bomb, not an Islamic Bomb.  The last thing the U.S. needs to do is again blindly follow the Sirens of war in the Middle East.

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