Suppose you were a member of Congress in 2013 and the President (whether it’s Barack Obama or Mitt Romney) came to you and said he needed your vote on an authorization for the use of force against Iran. Would you vote yes or no? Here is an example of how that conversation between you and the President might go.
The President begins by telling you yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for the first time in public claimed Iran could have the ability to produce a nuclear weapon by the summer of 2013. Mr. Netanyahu did not call for a military strike, but he made it clear such a strike could occur by next summer if Iran continued to develop its nuclear program. Israel has launched pre-emptive attacks against the nuclear facilities of its neighbors before; they did so in 1982 in their attack against Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in Osirak, Iraq. That attack destroyed the Osirak reactor and Saddam’s nuclear program. Israel did so again in 2007 against a nuclear facility in Syria, which was also destroyed. It is the judgment of our intelligence services that Mr. Netanyahu is not bluffing. The Iranians think he is bluffing, and they’re in for it.
But Mr. President, you ask, we’ve heard a lot of analysis about Iran’s intentions, but do they have the actual capabilities to make good on the threats against Israel made by the Iranian President? In other words, please clarify the threat picture for me. In 2001 the Taliban issued a statement that “plans were underway to destroy the United States.” Coming only weeks after 9/11, the media heard that and went nuts. But the Taliban simply did not have the ability to do it; it was an empty threat, obviously, becausehere we still are. Show me the evidence of the threat Iran poses; lay it out for me; quantify it, give me something I can put my finger on so if we do attack we’ll be able to know if we succeeded or not.
Well, that’s really difficult to say, the President replies. Right now we just don’t know for sure what Iran’s capabilities are, nor are which sure exactly what is going on in their nuclear program. There is evidence Iran is developing weapons grade fissile material. Several Iranian government sources have recently stated Iran’s intent to enrich uranium to 90% for use in their Navy; that would practically give them weapons grade material needed for a nuclear weapon. The bottom line is the Israeli’s are going in, and they can’t do the job alone because there are too many targets. Being a veteran you respond with this: Mr. President, if we don’t know where or what the threat is, then how can we have a reasonable degree of confidence our attacks will destroy it? From a DOD perspective, we don’t like it when we’re asked to hit targets and we don’t know where they are.
The Israeli’s are providing all the targeting information, but I’m afraid the specifics are classified, the President tells you. Mr. President, you say, with all due respect, I’ve been told by this office before that the threat evidence was solid and I wound up finding out the hard way in Iraq that it wasn’t. How can this threat be so massive and so hard to find at the same time? I have no problem with using force to remove a threat if the threat is real and there is no other way. Right now I have not seen sufficient evidence to convince me that is the case, so I cannot give you a yes vote today. Trust in Israel is not a substitute for evidence. Ugly rhetoric against Israel from Iran’s President is not new or unique. If you run a regime in the Middle East and things are going badly at home, as they are for the Iranians, it always helps to lash out at Israel. The President assures you he will get back to you shortly with the evidence you seek, but you remain skeptical.