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Gelb writes: "The United States, Israel, and Europe are inching closer to war with Iran because of what they're doing and what they're not doing ... What they are not doing is leveraging these economic and military pressures with a negotiating proposal that can curtail Iran's nuclear-bomb-making capabilities without war."

File photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (photo: Channel 4/UK)
File photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (photo: Channel 4/UK)

Stopping Iran Without a War

By Leslie H. Gelb, The Daily Beast

30 January 12


The robust sanctions against Iran won't work by themselves. Looking at Iranians from their perspective helps explain why. By Leslie H. Gelb.

he United States, Israel, and Europe are inching closer to war with Iran because of what they're doing and what they're not doing. What they are doing is squeezing Iran with unprecedented economic sanctions (which is good); but Western leaders know full well the penalties won't cause Tehran to abandon its nuclear program. What the West is doing is drawing “red lines” that are backing its leaders into untenable and dangerous corners, as well as cornering Iran. What they are not doing is leveraging these economic and military pressures with a negotiating proposal that can curtail Iran's nuclear-bomb-making capabilities without war.

As Western leaders back Iran into a corner and as they are locking themselves into a war policy they haven't seriously contemplated and don't really want, now is the time to offer a deal. The peace package is simple: Iran keeps its uranium facilities but with capabilities to enrich reduced to levels fit only for civilian use. Tehran also agrees to the tightest international verification procedures. The West lifts sanctions gradually as Iran complies with both reconfiguring its nuclear plants and accepts the necessary verification. For sure, President Obama has tried similar proposals before. This time, however, Iran may find that the biting economic pressures make the deal more palatable. For sure, neither I nor anyone else knows whether Iran will accept this time. But I do know this: if we don't at least try the negotiating track, a war of untold uncertainties and dangers can come upon us.

To see why economic sanctions alone won't lead to Tehran's capitulation, try to look at the situation through Iranian eyes. Here's what they see: Pakistan, a country that has already given away nuclear secrets to terrorist and renegade states and which itself could be heading toward a Muslim extremist takeover, got the bomb. We did nothing about it. North Korea, one of the nuttiest states around, which has also given nuclear knowledge to Syria and Pakistan (among others), also acquired nukes. We did nothing about that either. Washington accepted India's nukes and even made special verification arrangements with New Delhi that expressly contradicted the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And of course, Israel has long had a substantial nuclear strike capability, and Washington secretly applauds that, as do I, openly.

Washington and Israel say Iran is a special case. One reason is that Tehran is supposedly more likely to use its nukes. But why? North Korea and Pakistan are even less predictable than Iran. Another reason is that Iran's nukes will cause its neighbors, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to go nuclear. But just as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have restrained themselves regarding North Korea, so too can Iran's Arab neighbors. What should calm the waters in the Mideast, as in Asia, is confidence in the U.S. deterrent power. If Pyongyang so much as twitched a nuclear finger, its existence would be a thing of the past. Iran would face the same fate.

As Iranians see it, the real reason they are made the only exception to America's no-nukes wall is this: Israel. The Netanyahu regime is convinced that Iran actually will go to nuclear war against the Jewish state, no matter Tehran's certainty that it will be utterly destroyed in return. Tel Aviv thinks the mullahs are Hitlers bent on the destruction of Jews, no matter the cost to themselves. Besides, they reckon that Israel's options to use force against its neighbors will be dangerously limited if Tehran possessed nukes and made nuclear threats.

These Israeli judgments have to be taken seriously. At the same time, it needs be said that many if not most Israeli intelligence officers and key senior military officers have taken nearly the opposite point of view. Of course, they worry about such an Iranian threat. But they believe that Israel's powerful nuclear deterrent will work, that the Iranian leaders are not crazy Hitlers. And they further argue that war would solve nothing and could have grave consequences. Nothing would be solved, they say, because Iran's nuclear march would be set back only by a year or two, then go further underground and be even harder to destroy. And they contend that the adverse reaction to an Israeli attack around the world would be devastating politically, to say nothing of the prospect of a wave of anti-Israeli terrorism.

Faced with these circumstances and prospects, Washington has decided to toughen its stance rhetorically. The good old formulation that "all options are on the table" is no longer sufficient. Now, with full White House support, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has gone much further in reducing ambiguity about what the U.S. would do if Iran proceeded with its nuclear development. He didn't define that "red line," but the inevitable neoconservatives are doing it for him and for President Obama. They're maintaining that almost any further moves by Tehran along the nuclear path should trigger U.S. strikes against all possible nuclear targets. Some U.S. military leaders seem to think red lines make sense; most military leaders decidedly do not.

I'd like to see President Obama show the courage of offering a solid peace proposal instead of just drawing chest-thumping red lines.

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors arrived in Iran on Sunday for a three-day inspection tour. Most recently, that agency, charged with checking what's going on within suspect nations, issued a report saying it could not attest that Iran's program was peaceful, and that it could be headed toward nuclear weapons. The agency didn't say so in its report at that time, but most analysts now predict that Iran could have usable nukes within one to two years. Such precision belies their intelligence capabilities as well as America's. But there we are.

And here we Americans are in a presidential election year. At these times, the straps of restraint on tough talk and tough action are almost always loosened. That's especially true when Democrats hold the White House - Democrats who are quadrennially scared stupid by the prospect of Republicans accusing them of being lily-livered liberals and selling out the nation's security. I'd like to see President Obama show the courage of offering a solid peace proposal instead of just drawing chest-thumping red lines. Meantime, he doesn't have to withdraw any sanctions or any "red lines." Just cut the usual diplomatic and political baloney, and try. With so much pressure now being applied on Iran, it might work. In the midst of a barrage of economic and military pressures, it is not a sign of weakness or lack of resolve to offer peace. It is classic negotiating from strength. your social media marketing partner


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+14 # Huck Mucus 2012-01-30 19:14
Here's the deal with nukes: You don't have to use them to have advantage. Israel gets away with settlements because it can. What's anyone gonna do about it? Huh?

It's not like Iran would nuke Israel; that would insure Iran's total annihilation, and while they may support suicide bombers, they don't support their own suicide.

Rather, Iran wants nukes for the same reason anyone else would want them: You can get more of what you want out of life when you are really (not just rhetorically) dangerous.

The question I have is this: As nuclear proliferation has extended beyond the big five, why hasn't there been an effort to send "observers" in to Israel to make sure they don't have nuclear weapons? After all, they aren't one of the big five. Neither was Pakistan or India. Why are they special? Oh, that's right; they have nukes. Duh.

I guess I'm just looking for a little consistency from the big five and the U.N. Why doesn't Iran say: "We will verifiably drop all nuke programs if Israel verifiably gets rid of all it's nukes. Fair is fair, right?
Not when you have nukes.

It seems this idea of Israel only being a defensive kind of state, whereas Iran might be offensive is BS. Look at the settlements. They're just like our settlements in the Black Hills. Real Politik and fuck our principles. I just wish all sides would fess up about that.
+6 # Activista 2012-01-30 21:11
" squeezing Iran with unprecedented economic sanctions (which is good)"
what is good on economic sanctions?
The Iran and Syria are constantly terrorized by Israel with USA controlled by AIPAC warmongers.
USA is militarily and economically exhausted - starting with Bush and completed by Obama stupidity.
Hope for the radical change from below.
+7 # MidwestTom 2012-01-30 22:56
Occupy needs to march against this war, they would get a lot more supporters.

This war in which many U.S. soldiers will die is brought to us by the dual citizenship leaders in our government from the ethnic group least represented in our military.
+8 # Buddha 2012-01-30 22:58
Just one more rationalization to keep the Military machine rolling. Meanwhile, our "ally" Pakistan has nukes, keeps building them with the foreign military aid we give them...and does anybody really believe that some of their nukes aren't going to be handed to their cat's paws in the Taliban when they believe it will serve their interest to do so? So, are we going to invade every country that looks like they are going to get nukes? And China tacitly supports Iran. Will they stand back and let us invade their chief Middle-East trading partner? GOP are again showing their complete diplomatic ignorance.
+8 # Glen 2012-01-31 08:58
It isn't just the GOP, Buddha. It is all of them, the entire U.S. government and Israel. If it were not, you would be seeing far more resistance to these policies.
0 # barbaratodish 2012-01-31 00:12
Maybe what we need is for someone, anyone, to show us what ABSOLUTE life would be like, instead all we get is a vison of RELATIVE life, that is more like relative death. So what difference would it make if we all become WW3 WW4 WW infinity "victims"? We are all RELATIVELY DEAD ALREADY!
+4 # angelfish 2012-01-31 01:52
We have become the World's Bully! Might does NOT make Right! Until they learn to NEGOTIATE with these people we will be under the threat of War into the next Millennium! Bin Ladin's strategy of keeping us engaged in Afghanistan and the Middle East in general, has had his desired effect of Financially Crippling us! He just about beat the Tar out of us without firing a single shot! We need some INTELLIGENT Statesman who are capable of negotiating a PEACE between the opposing factions rather than Hysterics who only serve to throw oil on an already incendiary situation! Pray for Peace and Vote the Fanatics OUT on Election Day 2012! The People UNITED, will NEVER be defeated!
+5 # bluepilgrim 2012-01-31 03:13
I got as far as the first paragraph and stopped -- it is complete crap, and attempts to establish a frame built on vile lies.

Iran has a perfect right to have a nuclear energy program (in fact, the US helped them with it some years ago), and all information is that they are NOT trying to develop nuclear weapons -- and that includes info from Israel and the US intelligence.
Those sanctions are acts of war.

This article is just lying propaganda. There is not only no reason to "stop Iran", but the US, Israel, and the rest of the empire have no right to even try.

This is about controlling the price of oil, and the Middle East -- and for some making more money for the war machine -- pure aggressive, evil, imperialism.

Have you stopped beating your wife? Are we still at war with Eastasia? And isn't it great we took away all theose WMDs from Iraq?

(Background info -- Google on 'Iran Oil, Chris Cook', and read some globalresearch. ca and information clearing house articles.
+4 # Valleyboy 2012-01-31 05:10
In the first paragraph:

"What they are doing is squeezing Iran with unprecedented economic sanctions (which is good)"

No explaination of WHY this is good, when common sense dictates that Iran's actions are completely legal under the NNPT.
Therefore the rest of this article is worthless.

Geez, I'm starting to feel like a school teacher marking the media!
+3 # reiverpacific 2012-01-31 12:36
I think that Gelb speculateh too much in this less-than-knowl edgeable piece and is going too far based on heresay and assumption.
The sanctions imposed in Iraq damaged everybody but the leaders and historically has demonstrated the same result.
It could yet again produce a blowback in soaring fuel costs here and in Europe to blacken the already rocky economic picture.
Another example of George Santayana's wise and oft-misquoted words, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -And note well the word "Condemned"!
Then there is the example of Suez.
Welcome to the United States of Amnesia".
+5 # 1984 2012-01-31 17:10
1.It's all speculation...r emember Iraq...there they even had pictures! Still it is a lie. Again the West would be using a lie to justify a war with Iran. Do you really believe that the political leaders truly belief Iran will attack them? They know it is a lie...that Iran would never initiate an attack as they have not for 200 years! Compare with the danger Israel presents. It starts wars, it massacres people, it takes people's land, it tries to starve the people as "leverage" to get the people who are defending themselves against Israel to stop their defensive activities

2.Iran has signed the Non-proliferati on treaty....Israe l has not!. There are over 150 sanctions against it. Why aren't these sanctions being enforced?

4. Internally, as these "leaders" well know", Iran is a political and economic mess. The people themselves will succeed in ridding themselves of the government as it stand. If the West attacks it would unite the people (as did the Iraq attack on Iran) thereby stifulling the movement within Iran to get rid of these government people.

5. Iran is not Iraq. A great number of Americans will die and America will not win because truth is not on their side. Iraq will also become a war zone as their leaders are very close to Iran.

6. Why do you Leslie H. Gelb approve of the fact that Israel has nuclear bombs?
+1 # bluepilgrim 2012-02-01 08:29
Just saw this: concerning Obama and Iran. Put it on the required reading list.

There is also Currency Warfare: What are the Real Targets of the E.U. Oil Embargo against Iran?

Talking about the petrodollars, failing reserve dollar, etc.

As for who Gelb is, and his 'ignorance' see "Leslie (Les) Howard Gelb (born March 4, 1937) is a former correspondent for The New York Times and is currently President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations."
So no -- this garbage he writes is not ignorance at all, but propaganda.

Of course, the propaganda, cunning awareness, and intention does not preclude insanity, evil, or addiction to money and power, or the condition of being sociopaths. And these genocidal monsters are not screaming out "stop me before I kill again". The sick fantasy world they live in is of their own making, and very much to their liking. Vampires LOVE to suck blood.

The critical thing for we the people is to harbor no illusions as to who and what these deadly oligarchs are, and what they are doing -- for otherwise there is no chance at all of stopping them.
0 # ozken 2012-02-02 01:57
There is no proof that Iran is trying to process uranium to a level that could be used in a nuclear bomb as this piece of propaganda implies. Iran (like Iraq before It.) denies that they are trying to enrich uranium to bomb making levels but suffer economic sanctions anyway. Why? Because they are a proud nation that refuses to show the desired lick spittle subservience and don’t go belly up at the slightest prod from the U.S.A. & Europe; who completely and unfairly ignore Israel’s alleged nuclear stockpiles. It is this unfair and two faced approach by the west, obvious to all, that pisses off everyone who believes in justice for all. An even handed U.N. would be initiating sanctions on Israel – why aren’t they? Even handed Justice should be available to all nations and not just America’s pals. Indeed - when will we ever learn. First caste the nuclear bomb out of thy own eye before looking at thy brother.

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