Readings: Head off Another War

As this is written, according to Barak Ravid’s report in Ha’aretz,  Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will “publicly harden his line against Iran during a meeting with President Barak Obama in Washington on March 5.” According to Ravid there is “mistrust” between the United States and Israel, each claiming that the other is meddling in the other’s home politics.

One wild card in this deal is Sheldon Adelson, an American billionaire casino owner and a close ally of Netanyahu. Nation columnist and historian Eric Alterman says Adelson is “reported to be under criminal investigation for official bribery and has been accused of having widespread ties to organized crime” (Feb. 27).  Adelson is bankrolling Newt Gingrich’s campaign, and Gingrich, says Ravid, is expected to address the AIPAC conference two days after Obama and accuse Obama of being “weak on Iran.”

Netanyahu and his American backers want the United States to hand Israel a blank check, to back their attack on Iran. Meanwhile polls in Israel show that only 19 percent of Israelis would approve a bombing without America’s backing, while 42 percent would back it if they had approval from the United States. Roughly 51 percent expect the war to go on for months (Politico, Feb 28). The American ecumenical Jewish publication Tikkun, whose motto is to “heal, repair and transform the world,”  is raising funds to place an ad that would argue that the “terrible regime” in Iran cannot be overthrown by Israel or the United States and that the first strike, or so-called “preemptive strike,” is “a violation of international law, a war crime, and is both immoral and self-destructive.”

While all this is going on, too little attention has been paid to the reports in the New York Times (Feb. 25) and Los Angeles Times (Feb  23) that  American intelligence analysts have determined that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb. This report is consistent with a 2007 conclusion that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier.  Clearly Iran, surrounded by nuclear powers—Pakistan, India, China and Israel, which has had nuclear weapons for years—wants to become a nuclear power; but it must be persuaded to harness nuclear energy for the common good without the bomb. Indeed, Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared last week that to produce, possess, use or threaten to use a nuclear weapon is “futile, harmful, dangerous, and prohibited as a great sin.” In Geneva, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar called for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Inevitably the positive news about Iran is offset by skeptics. “They have no plans today” is answered with, “They’ll build a bomb tomorrow.” David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and international Security, told the Los Angeles Times that Iran could enrich enough uranium to make a bomb in six months; but it would take three years to fit a warhead on a ballistic missile. Meanwhile, Israel has assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists, and, as Iran threatens to retaliate, Israel’s drumbeat for the bombing of Iran gets louder.

In the long run, the only answer to this kind of saber rattling and dangerous bluffing is an international agreement outlawing the use and possession of nuclear weapons. Somehow the United States seems to have forgotten that the United States is the only nation to actually drop an atomic bomb, and our country's arsenal is loaded with nuclear weapons we have professed ourselves ready to use. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton declared when she was running for president that the United States would “obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel. It is time for that kind of talk to end on both sides. The expression that “all options are on the table” implies that we are ready to nuke our opponents again.

Two things should happen. President Obama should tell Israel publicly that the United States will not support it if Israel bombs Iran. Second, the American Catholic hierarchy should consider leading a peace offensive, dust off its 1983 pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace, and preach its conclusion that only deterrence justifies owning a nuclear weapon, and deterrence must be allowed only as a step toward general disarmament (par. 189). Macho posing may play well with voters in an election war; but it can also lead to disaster.

Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Joshua DeCuir
6 years 10 months ago
What, exactly, is the relevance of Adelson's "bankrolling" of Newt - a candiate polling (last I checked) in the single digits?
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 10 months ago
Thanks for this, Ray.  The national conversation seems so dominated by other matters that voices such as your are hard to find.  I agree very much with your two things which should happen.

Adelson's bankrolling of Gingrich signifies the extent to which Israel has its fingers in US politics.  Gingrich may only be polling in the single digits, but he has a national audience with media coverage for his speeches.
Juan Lino
6 years 10 months ago
I agree that "Macho posing may play well with voters in an election war; but it can also lead to disaster" and that why I strongly pray that this situation cools off!  People imagine that violence is the answer, probably because movies, TV, or books make it seem that way and/or give one a level of detachment because you don't feel the fear, adreline, pain, etc., but the reality is much much different! 
Tom Maher
6 years 10 months ago
This article fails to deal with the reality that Iran is resolutely continuing to develope nuclear weapons in an elaborate and well financed and well organized,  multi-year state sponsored nuclear weapons development program which is known to be steadily progressing and will soon produce nuclear weapons.  Iran is fully capable and determined  to produce nuclear weapons and soon will.   Iran is making every effort to become a nuclear military power despite international sanctions and disapproval. 

Iran as a nuclear power is a recognized threat to international peace and security.  What to do about prventing Iran from being a nuclear power is up for discussion.  But the    statements by the adminsitration that "all options are on the table" is no bluff.  This is the real thing.  In the real world nations use military force all the time especially if their security as a nation is threatened.  For example the United States was prepared 50 years ago to invade Cuba if nuclear missles were delivered to Cuba by the Soviet Union in the Cuban Missle Crisis which was a nuclear stand off between the United States and the Soviet Union under President Kendedy.   A naval blockade of Cuba and embargo of Cuba proved to be effive in avoiding a potential nuclear confrontation.  But the delivery of Soviet nuclear missle to Cuba was stopped by the U.S. Navy.  It was completely unacceptable for Sviet nuclear missle to be installation in Cuba ninety mile off the shores of the United States.  Similarly allowing Iran to go nuclear is completely  unacceptable. No one is interseted in finding out what Iran will do with nuclear weapons. 

Israel in particular has historically with good reason refused to become a victim to a another surpise attack as happened  in 1973 when two Arab nations simultateously launched a suprise attack agasist Israel on Yom Kippur  - the Yom Kippur War - gravely endangering Isreal's very survival as a nation.  One can count on Israel to not ever allowing  even the potential for a surprise attack let alone a nuclear surprise attack.   Middle East history requires Israel to take robustly defend itself.  And let's not kid outselves, Israel it will defend itself from the threat of a nuclear Iran.  

A nuclear Iran is completely unacceptable and will not be allowed to happen one way or another.  The only questions that remains is how and when to stop Iran from becoming  nuclear.  
6 years 10 months ago
The anti-Iran hysteria sounds remarkably like the same hysteria stirred up about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that led us into an unnecessary war that only increased the influence of Al-Qaida.  Why is America so closely allied with Israel, a nation that has created its own "Warsaw Ghetto" for the Palestinians in the illegally occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank?   The recent article (Feb. 27) on "Out of Palestine" provides painful evidence that we are supporting an ethnic cleansing nation in the state of Israel.  We must not let the likes of Sheldon Adelson, Newt Gingrich, Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC dominate our foreign policy in the Middle East. 


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