Pardon me if I’m somewhat perplexed about the remarks of former National Security Advisor and former Marine Commandant General James L Jones, as reported in the Washington Times. His remarks are delivered in the context of the Obama administration’s policy toward Israel and the threat from Iran, and principally lead with the thought that:
General James L Jones, USMC (ret)
The Israelis have been given very, very strong assurances about their security by the United States, and I don’t think the United States has to apologize for anything on that score.
The article goes on to say that he “notes that the U.S. has been able to ‘contain’ other nations that have acquired nuclear weapons.” He was asked if he believed that Obama would use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons if other options fail:
I don’t want to speculate on that, although I do believe the president is very serious about the fact that all options are on the table. But he also is correct in calming the rhetoric down about the necessity to strike Iran while the sanctions are still having a positive effect.
General Jones objected to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comment that the West has not demanded that Iran cease its nuclear enrichment programme:
The notion that somehow we’ve given something away or a ‘freebie’ would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they’ve got some of the toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don’t take advantage of these talks.
Those sanctions include US action against Iran’s Central Bank that will start to take effect on 28 June (recommended by former presidential candidate Rick Perry no later than November 2011), and an embargo on Iranian oil by the EU that will take effect on 1 July. A group of representatives from the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany will meet their Iranian counterparts on 23 May in Baghdad to discuss the Iranian nuclear programme. Jones said that Iran’s willingness to participate in talks is actually a positive sign, that it is “indicative of the fact that the sanctions are having an effect.” As for the oil embargo, there is nothing to suggest that the oil embargoed from Europe will not be sold instead to China or elsewhere in Asia.
He then goes on to make some astonishing statements about a nuclear-armed Iran:
You would have to think that, on the basis of historical evidence of nation-states once they acquire a [nuclear] capacity, we’ve been able to contain them. It’s not something that I think you would want to do. We’d like to see proliferation go the other way. We don’t want more nuclear-weapons capable countries, and in Iran’s case, it’s particularly problematic because they traditionally export terror.
And the one that takes the cake is:
I’m a little skeptical about their intentions, but maybe one of these days, it will work out, so let’s think good thoughts.
With all due respect to the general, I have to question his reasoning. First, consider that the Iranians are within range of that purportedly active nuclear-weapons programme (you will recall that in a neck-snapping turnaround, the CIA – increasingly a political animal – declared the programme conveniently extinct at a politically advantageous time in 2007, an embarrassment to the Bush administration and thus a boon to the Democrats in the work-up to the 2008 election; afterward, the CIA quietly put it back on the docket). Coupled with public threats from Ahmadinejad and others that Israel should be wiped off the map, one has to consider the old wise saying that if someone tells you that he is going to kill you, you should believe him. Those “very, very strong assurances”, coming from the country that sold out Indochina in 1975 and the Kurds after 1991, and that may well be doing the same with Iraq and Afghanistan, will have to be very tangible indeed. Jones’ remark about the “options on the table” only cover his opinion that Obama is serious about making promises, nothing about concrete steps to aid Israeli security or assure the end of an Iranian nuclear threat to the region. For that matter, the only concrete step taken within memory is the announcement by India of the launching of their new Agni-V ICBM, with news that it could strike anywhere within China, and by implication Iran as well.
Jones basically concedes the farm when he talks of our history of containing other nuclear powers, which introduces the idea of a foregone conclusion. Why speak of containing them if we have no intention of allowing a nuclear Iran in the first place? At the current pace, Iran won’t be able to announce their achievement until after the election anyway – fortunately for Obama – so is Jones hinting at a future fait accompli by the Iranians? Is the administration assured that the MSM won’t pursue something like the “Who lost China?” campaign of the early 1950s (unless Romney wins)?
And the “sanctions are having a positive effect”, in that Iran is being forced to participate in talks. Yes, the sanctions are having an effect, in some cases strong ones, in Iran, and those effects are being felt in practically every area of Iran except the nuclear programme. Of course Iran is brought to the table, but it will be a political bazaar at which Iran excels, taking their lessons (if they need to) from the decades-old example of North Korea – talk your adversary to a stalemate while pretending to eke out precious concessions, all the while advancing the programme that the West is attempting to shut down: as Hassan Rowhani (Iranian cleric and member of the Supreme National Security Council, chief negotiator to the EU over the nuclear programme) said in 2005, “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan.” This was during the period that the CIA insisted that Iran had shut down their programme.
As for his concluding comments above, that “we’d like to see proliferation go the other way”, and “let’s think good thoughts”: surely the general need not be reminded that Hope is not a course of action.