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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Casus belli? 

Ahmadinejad:
The president of Iran again lashed out at Israel on Friday and said it was "heading toward annihilation," just days after Tehran raised fears about its nuclear activities by saying it successfully enriched uranium for the first time.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a "permanent threat" to the Middle East that will "soon" be liberated. He also appeared to again question whether the Holocaust really happened.

"Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation," Ahmadinejad said at the opening of a conference in support of the Palestinians. "The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

Is Ahmadinejad stating an ambition, or making a prediction? Whether or not Israel would serve its best interests by attacking Iran, is it entitled to take these threats as a declaration of war? Would it be justified in law and morality if it hit Iran first? If not, why not? If Israel would not be justified in attacking Iran, what further actions or statements would Iran have to take in order to establish that justification? Recognizing that Iran funds terrorists that have already attacked Israel and that Iran's head of state has stated that Israel will soon be destroyed, are Israel and Iran already in a state of sitzkrieg?

Pajamas Media has a round-up of other reactions.

The thread is open.

UPDATE: Israel's response is here. Shimon Peres suggested that Ahmadinejad would "end up like" Saddam. Much as I like Mr. Peres, I think the analogy between the two is incorrect, and probably counterproductive.

14 Comments:

By Anonymous Pasquin, at Sat Apr 15, 12:46:00 AM:

"Would Israel be justified in law and morality if it hit Iran first?" you ask. The most fundamental principal of international law (if there is such a thing) is the right of a state to protect its continued existence.

I ask instead, "Is our dwindling family of civilized nations justified in law and morality in failing to incapacitate this monster?"  

By Anonymous Agricola, at Sat Apr 15, 08:28:00 AM:

While I agree with Pasquin, I would direct your attentions to a series of posts at Professor Bainbridge (http://www.professorbainbridge.com) that attempt to make the point that Iran does not represent an imminent threat and that a preemptive strike is, in fact, illegal under "international law".  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Sat Apr 15, 08:41:00 AM:

So in effect, Israel is the victim we gladly offer up to preserve the "peace"?

Under the current ROE, only an attack on Israel will be accepted as "proof" of Iran's aggressive intent. So to avoid being accused of being a warmonger, Israel must allow itself to be obliterated and we must stand meekly by and watch?

How convenient.

I can, of course, see the obverse of this argument. But I would argue that if I can, so should Mr. Ahmadinejad. Perhaps he ought to consider the effect of his ill-advised remarks and keep his mouth shut in future.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Sat Apr 15, 08:54:00 AM:

Like Saddam before him, Ahmadinejad has no clue how the West perceives him- he's oblivious. Israel should take his ravings at face value as a justification for preemptive strikes. This contrasts with the US, at this point at least, because Iran lacks the delivery capability to threaten us (although they can reach US forces in Iraq and elsewhere).

cassandra hints at the key question- what is our obligation to our ally Israel?  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Sat Apr 15, 09:16:00 AM:

Blogger ate my comment last time I tried, so I'm keeping this one short.

Here's a link to a dKos diary briefly outlining the structure of the Iranian gov't. The President, thankfully, is not C-in-C of their military and does not have the power to make war. He needs to shut he cakehole, but he doesn't have the power to fire a missile at Israel all by himself.

LINKY LINKY LINKY  

By Blogger Neil Sinhababu, at Sat Apr 15, 11:29:00 AM:

It's possible that these threats at Israel aren't really directed at Israel. Maybe Iran is just saying to the other Arab nations, "Guys, don't hold me back from getting nukes. They're not pointed at you!" Because Egypt and Saudi Arabia will not be too happy if the big Shiite country gets nuclear weapons.  

By Anonymous Hamilton Lovecraft, at Sat Apr 15, 11:33:00 AM:

Two questions:

When Krushchev said "we will bury you", would the US have been justified in starting a nuclear war with the USSR?

Would the US have been acting in its best interests to do so?  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sat Apr 15, 11:54:00 AM:

Mr. Lovecraft:

Good questions, but I think you propose a straw man argument in your Kruschev analogy. Yes, the Soviets repeatedly gave us grounds for war (and vice versa), but the circumstances of the Cold War were such that the only proportionate responses available to either side were through proxies. And even if it had been in our interests to nuke the Soviet Union in response to a provocation, that clearly would have been a disproportionate response to anything but a nuclear attack. Since proportionality is a core requirement of just war, it obviously would not have been moral for the United States to do that.

In any case, I am not asking whether it would be in Israel's interests to launch an attack (say, an Osirak-style air strike). Only whether it would be justified in doing so.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sat Apr 15, 12:09:00 PM:

"When Krushchev said "we will bury you", would the US have been justified in starting a nuclear war with the USSR?"

No.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_will_bury_you

Rhetoric is rhetoric. States say one thing and do another all the time. Actions and intent are what are important in the international realm.

However, if Krushev had said something like "We will bury you!" (the out of context reality aside) *and* started mobilizing Soviet forces, then yes, the US would have been justified in launching a strike because it would be apparent to reasonable observers that Soviet words and actions predicating a war were in sync and indicative of an immediate threat. The Soviets were careful not to do this, because they did not yet have secure second strike capability. (that is, if they had provoked the US into striking first, the US would have won)

Israel followed the same logic in the famous 6 Day War in 1967. Bellicose rhetoric and highly publicized military posturing by the Arab heads of states combined with troop mobilizations gave them all the reason they needed to strike pre-emptively. (that and the Mossad obtained copied of Arab battle plans...)  

By Anonymous Gary Rosen, at Sat Apr 15, 01:26:00 PM:

Neil,

"It's possible that these threats at Israel aren't really directed at Israel."

No, it's NOT possible. The psychopaths ruling Iran have made it as clear as they possibly can that their intention is to annihilate Israel with nuclear weapons. Anyone attempting to whitewash this is either utterly deluded or a willful enabler.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Apr 18, 06:31:00 AM:

The psychopaths ruling Iran have made it as clear as they possibly can that their intention is to annihilate Israel with nuclear weapons

Threat equals intent plus capability. "These are words that could be graven on the eye as instructions to the faithful". The Iranian leaders are doubtless unpleasant men, but THEY HAVE NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Nor will they have any for at least ten years, according to the NIE. And just to refresh everyone's memories: the CIA does not exactly have a history of under-estimating the WMD stores of Middle Eastern nations. Quite the reverse.

If Harold Pinter says that Israel should cease to exist, that is not a threat, because he has exactly as many nuclear weapons as Iran (which is to say: none).
If Iranian forces attack Israel (having presumably crossed either Israel's ally, Turkey, or a country occupied by Israel's ally, the USA) that would be a declaration of war. It is also a) unlikely to happen and b) incredibly unlikely to mean 'obliteration'.
And, finally, of course, Ahmadinejad does not have control of the Iranian armed forces.  

By Anonymous Gary Rosen, at Wed Apr 19, 02:44:00 AM:

(unsurprisingly) Anonymous:

"THEY HAVE NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS"

And your point is ...?

They are trying to get them. Your ten years is nothing but a WAG. It could be longer - or shorter. You have no idea, and you know it.

They will use them if they get them.

What do you think should be done about it? Wait until they *do* have them?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Apr 19, 05:31:00 AM:

It's not a wild-ass guess, old boy, it's the considered opinion (as expressed in a National Intelligence Estimate) of the intelligence services of the United States of America.
Just so you can tell the difference, this is a wild-ass guess:
They will use them if they get them.
My point is that threats without the capability to carry them out are empty words. Now, and for the next ten years, that's all the Iranians will have.
Everyone should stop treating Iranian nuclear weapons as an imminent threat, when the truth is that THEY HAVE NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS. In the absence of an existing threat, waging war would be immoral and illegal.
In ten years, much can happen. Here are four possible scenarios: 1. Under the threat of sanctions from the EU and Russia, Iran suspends its weapons programme (if indeed it has one. The IAEA has been completely unable to discover any evidence of a nuclear weapons programme.)
2. In return for trade relations with the USA, ditto.
3. A peaceful change of government in Iran leads to the end of its weapons programme (as in South Africa).
4. A violent revolution, ditto.

Oh, and a fifth:
5. Iran builds a few crude nuclear weapons but does not use them, due to the deterrent effect of the far more sophisticated Israeli, US, Russian and Pakistani arsenals.  

By Anonymous Gary Rosen, at Thu Apr 20, 01:35:00 AM:

anonymous, old fart, laid out 4 scenarios:

1. Under the threat of sanctions from the EU and Russia, Iran suspends its weapons programme (if indeed it has one. The IAEA has been completely unable to discover any evidence of a nuclear weapons programme.)
2. In return for trade relations with the USA, ditto.
3. A peaceful change of government in Iran leads to the end of its weapons programme (as in South Africa).
4. A violent revolution, ditto.

What makes you think any of these will happen?  

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