Iran: What Next?

 

shutterstock_116146858-2I was still fasting for Tisha B’Av (the 9th of the month of Av, according to the Hebrew Calendar) when the excitement began to travel around the office. It was July 27th, 2004 and a speech had been made. I didn’t know the content of the speech, and I’d never heard of the speaker, but I could recognize from the mood that history had been made. And it worried me. When history is made on the night after Tisha B’Av, it rarely turns out well. The speaker was Barack Obama. Roughly four years later, America elected him president. And seven years after that — during The Three Weeks — he signed a deal for peace in our time with the Islamic Republic.

From the destruction of the First Temple, to the Declaration of Crusades, to the beginning of the First World War, and from the Deportations to the deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto, Tisha B’Av has marked almost every national catastrophe suffered by the Jewish people. While Tisha B’av 2004 may yet be added to the list, we must recognize that the vast majority of Tisha B’Avs have passed without triggering catastrophe. Perhaps Obama’s entry into global politics will prove to be only a hiccup and not a prelude to another round of massive Jewish destruction and loss.

Nonetheless, these Three Weeks, I find myself fundamentally fearing for my people and for my family. In my lifetime, the future has never been so frightening and uncertain. The most basic of decisions — like where to live and why — have never seemed so fraught with danger and uncertainty. From nuclear weapons to a massively enriched and active terrorist state, the world — and we Israelis, in particular — face fundamental risks. The Jewish people will survive. They always have. But not all of our people survive, and that is the core of our fear.

And so we must ask: What do we do next? As individuals, and as families and as a nation, what do we do next? Do we carry on with our lives and simply hope for the best? Do we adopt the eerie calmness that predated the Holocaust? Do we continue to pray to the United States and its power for protection? Do we seek some magic offering of retreat that will satisfy this fickle god? Do we fast and tear our clothes, begging the Almighty for a pass from the evil that is engulfing our region and threatening the world? Do we pray that Obama somehow has it right and that untold billions of dollars will weaken a regime religiously dedicated to a program of destruction? Or do we flee our home and our land and leave those who can’t to die?

We can pray, and we should. Not to the United States — which demonstrated it is a empty power — but to G-d. But it is not and never has been enough. I am not a Rabbi, but I believe Israelis should have a national fast, in addition to Tisha B’Av, in light of this agreement. But it will not be enough. We need to defend ourselves on every level. We need to do more than shout, we need plans of action that can actually help. And I believe we still have options. Before we get to them, let’s rule out a few ideas.

First, we should not flee Israel. In days of old, you spaced out your aircraft on an airfield so mortars or other attacks would not knock out too many at once. Now, that calculus has been reversed. You bring the aircraft close together so your anti-projectile technologies can protect them. In a very strange twist of fate, technologies Israel has developed have inverted the power of size. Small territories are, in many ways, easier to defend than larger ones. Israel has some missile defense, while the United States and Europe have only a concept of defense. Israel is more prepared for a major war than any other country on earth.

Second, we should not pretend we have a divine shield. There are those who see our existence in Israel as a sign of our predicted final return. I see it as more of a challenge. As with our Exodus from Egypt, the establishment of the State of Israel was a miraculous occurrence granted to a people at their very weakest. It was an opportunity to recognize the power of G-d in contrast to our own helplessness. But it was no guarantee. If we fail to grasp the opportunity G-d has provided, if we fail in our national mission, there is no promise of protection. Instead, the land will once again vomit us out.

Third, we should not attack. A military program has an extremely high likelihood of failure. Iran is strong and growing stronger. If we make enemies of its people, and not just its regime, we will create a much larger and more dangerous foe.

Fourth, we should not care too much about the United States. John Kerry actually said:  “[Netanyahu] doesn’t even know what the concessions are that we have not engaged in.” It is as if he saw a plate in the shuk for $500, paid $50 and congratulated himself in front of others, not realizing the thing actually cost $5. Pretending that initial Iranian demands have any bearing on the quality of the negotiated outcome betrays fundamental stupidity. There is no solution to this stupidity, only hope that the next crew will be a little less idiotic.

So what should we do?

The regime is undoubtedly strong, but it is also hated. Those who hate it operate under a fundamental sense of despair. I have friends who used to fight,  but they lost so many compatriots — and so much hope — that they almost never even talk about resistance anymore. The people of Iran came out into the streets, but it wasn’t enough. Enough of the population supports the regime, and is willing to use incredible violence to defend it, that the masses have no chance. If things continue as they are, there will be war. And these people, by failing to act, will have enabled a genocidal regime to perpetuate its crimes on their behalf.

I believe it was morally appropriate to firebomb German cities. A lesson had to be taught, so civilian populations would not enable people like the Nazis to take and hold power. It was an act of wanton destruction, but it was also a bulwark against a third round of that particular conflict. If Iran attempts, by any means whatsoever, to eliminate Israel it will be our moral obligation to respond against the totality of that country.

So what should we do?

First Israel should make clear — with no ambiguity whatsoever — that it has distributed nuclear capability, and that it can and will use it to kill every possible man, woman, and child in Iran should they attempt to exterminate us. And we will use that capability even if they succeed. The Persian people have an obligation to replace their regime before it can perpetuate genocide and they have an obligation to understand the costs if they don’t.

On the other hand, we must give the people the power to resist. At this point, they cannot resist; my friends are a testament to that window having closed long ago. If we can reopen it, we have a moral obligation to do so. Total destruction may end up being justified, but we should do whatever we can to forestall it.

How? By airdropping masses of cheap small arms over Tehran. We can arm the people so they can fight the evil that has harnessed them. An analysis of Iran’s Basij Militia and its techniques will enable us to determine an appropriate mix of arms to drop. Whatever we drop, when the Iranian people next gather — and the men on motorcycles come to intimidate and kill — they will be able to strike back. We have a moral obligation to enable them.

If they succeed, it will be a blessing to the world: ISIS is a response to Shiite aggression, Hizbullah is an Iranian party, and Yemen’s civil war is underwritten by Iran. Iranian alliances with violent groups and regimes extend far beyond the Middle East. A non-theocratic regime will still support Shiite people outside its borders, but its ambitions, brutality, and extremism will be fundamentally curtailed. And its global allies — from the Venezuelan government to FARC in Latin America to North Korea in Asia — will also be weakened.

Third, we should look closely at ourselves and our national mission. The State of Israel does not exist just to protect Jews. The State of Israel is a gift granted to us by G-d. It is an opportunity to fulfill our national mission to symbolize the values of the divine in this world and to build a connection between humankind and the divine. We are meant to be just as Messianic as the Iranians, except — instead of representing destruction and submission — we are to represent creation and connection to the divine. While this has implications for tax policy, welfare, healthcare, education, and more, it also has an impact on our foreign policy. We can’t simply watch the chaos surrounding us continue to unfold. We must counteract it. I highly recommend my short story Abdul to understand one way in which we can do this. Actions like those described in Abdul will not only help people, they will engender the relationships that are so critical to fulfilling our national mission. While I have listed it third, this is the first action we should take. We should not kick off our change in policy with a promise of extermination.

Finally, we should agitate. I’m not in a position to do any of the above. Chances are, you aren’t either. Israel is a democracy and — at least for now — so are the most powerful regimes in the world. For an op-ed to have any impact, people have to support and share the ideas behind it. While influence-makers and leaders have to be exposed, they rarely act without a constituency that already supports the ideas they are suggesting. Fast, pray, and hope. But also, act and share and talk. It is easy – email this article, link to it on Facebook. Write up your own thoughts and share them. For Jews, the time for passive waiting has ended. For Christians, Muslims, secularists and others, the time to act has come. Not to protect the Jewish people, but to counteract the chaos that has begun and the destruction that is just beginning to unfold.

We are at a critical hour. President Obama’s 2004 speech could become another event forever linked to the mourning of Tisha B’Av. But it is still possible that it might be one more thing that just happened to occur on the night after that inauspicious date.

It is still in our power to determine how – or even whether – Tisha B’av 2004 is remembered.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Wow. Thank you for this.

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @RichardHarvester

    FYI, the original is up on my website. Makes for easier linking if this isn’t main-feeded. I also expect it to be published on JewishPress.com, but don’t have a link yet.

    • #2
  3. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I went to your website, and shared your article on my FB page, and stayed to look over your website. You state that if it is your first time there to “listen to this first.” Those of us who are hearing impaired or deaf cannot do this. So many Blogs and website, podcasts, etc. depend on the ability to hear, and it leaves millions of us out of the loop. Even videos or clips without CC leave us out.

    Your article is excellent so I did share it and hope others I know will pick it up and share as well.

    • #3
  4. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @RichardHarvester

    Kay of MT:I went to your website, and shared your article on my FB page, and stayed to look over your website. You state that if it is your first time there to “listen to this first.” Those of us who are hearing impaired or deaf cannot do this. So many Blogs and website, podcasts, etc. depend on the ability to hear, and it leaves millions of us out of the loop. Even videos or clips without CC leave us out.

    Your article is excellent so I did share it and hope others I know will pick it up and share as well.

    Thank you for the feedback. I’ve basically stopped the podcast side of things – so you aren’t missing much :)

    I was trying to podcast to provide a more personal feel for my work – but it didn’t take off. So I’ve kept experimenting with formats :)

    FWIW, my wife is an audiologist and one of my nephews has severe hearing loss. I don’t podcast from a transcript or I would publish that – but I could provide summary notes to accompany podcasts in the future. Thank you for the pointer.

    • #4
  5. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Richard Harvester: I was trying to podcast to provide a more personal feel for my work – but it didn’t take off. So I’ve kept experimenting with formats.

    I’ve tried to listen to a podcast or two, but I can’t get past the background clutter noise. Papers rattling, wind or A/C background, scraping chairs, people talking past each other, no separation of sounds. There are some who lecture on videos that I can understand as their diction is very clear, and/or I can lip read them well, i.e., Dennis Prager. Their studios are silent. Other speakers just slide right past me. Your wife being an audiologist can explain how the brain hears. In my case the right vestibular nerve is damaged at the brain stem, the ear is fine. The left ear was damaged by chronic infections as a child and I have about 40% low octave sound reception.

    • #5
  6. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    Ditto to that. Thank you. Horrifying.

    • #6
  7. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    Richard,

    I couldn’t get past the first few paragraphs without tears welling up. In 1998, I worked at a very large international consulting firm where I met the kindest, smartest, most interesting group of people from around the world. During that time, someone there sent me a huge article about Israel – history, maps, everything and something happened. I was not the same person after reading it – it was though I was learning to read for the first time. I felt like the Grinch -my heart increased 2 sizes that day. As a Christian, I didn’t know much about Israel, yet the Old Testament is half the Bible. But God gave me a heart that day for Israel. Your article reminds me of “a watchman” sounding the alarm – many are doing that now. I’m listening and many like me are.

    GW Bush was often found praying in the Oval Office. I read that Netanyahu holds Bible studies. You can’t win a spiritual battle with flesh and blood only. He said Israel never had a better friend that GW. GW called evil by its name.  Politics won’t save us, but I believe in God’s promise that he will never forsake Israel, nor will he forsake those that love Israel. I will pass along your article to everyone I know.  You made one error – there is a Divine shield over Israel as well as the Church. The Holy Spirit cannot be destroyed by mere mortals. God Bless.

    • #7
  8. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    One more thing – as I said, I don’t know a lot about some of the holy days, as you mentioned like the Tisha B’ Av – can you explain what that is?

    Also, can you explain the significance of the blood red moons in the history of Israel (the 4th one this year) (rare) occurring on Sept. 15th I think.  Another very important holiday is Elul 29 also occurring this September as well.  The last two (seven years apart) were September 2001 (9/11) and September 2008 (the financial meltdown). It is now seven years later. I am not saying God creates disasters, but He may remove His hand of protection when we turn away.   I am with you – it is time to seriously pray.  I never thought I would witness beheadings in 2015 in the Middle East, persecution of Christians and Jews. I thought those days and lessons were behind us, awful history not to be repeated.  I guess evil doesn’t sleep – it just changes its appearance and tactics.

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    I truyly don’t know where we go from here.  It doesn’t look likely that Congress can stop it, and it looks like there will be too many commitments for the next president to just rescind the deal.  I’m afraid it looks bleak.

    What I think Israel could do is form allegences with the major Sunni countries and have a shared defensive structure.

    • #9
  10. user_891102 Member
    user_891102
    @DannyAlexander

    At the risk of sounding trivial, this post sets the bar for Ricochet essays on this topic from Israel/Israelis. Thank you for writing it.

    I agree with every point you make except one: I firmly believe that Israel must attack Iran, as soon as practicable, in the event that the US Congress fails to override a presidential veto of their disapproval of this deal. Failure to attack in such circumstances will be the worst form of immorality.

    In an ideal world, your small-arms air-drop-campaign recommendation would perhaps be the first-order moral — indeed, possibly even the most pragmatic — course to take.

    Unfortunately, it is a wholly impracticable and thus actually a vastly (even incalculably) morally subordinate option.

    Given near-infinite time, the small-arms air-drop-campaign recommendation might prove itself — and therein lies the problem: time is precisely what is in shortest supply for the Jewish State given the real-world circumstances.

    Accordingly, it’s them or us, with survivability determined not only by HKBH (The Holy One Blessed Be He), but also by the Jewish people’s sense of unity, its commitment to hishtadlut (making all necessary efforts on our own behalf as G-d expects/requires), and by the tools at our actual disposal.

    Absent an accomplishment of miraculous moral courage on Capitol Hill, the pragmatic *and* moral imperative for Israel is to launch a preemptive first strike against as many Iranian regime targets as is sensible and feasible, and to do so using nuclear weapons without hesitation if it is a matter of military-operational necessity. Note that I speak of *regime* targets: if any of these are embedded within population centers, that will be a matter of deepest (indeed agonizing) regret, but it cannot and must not change the targeting determination.

    (The Dresden reference in the OP is to some degree a red herring; the *political* objective in an Israeli strike is the preservation of the Jewish State, whatever the character of the Iranian regime — the objective is not regime-change via the strike, so “de-Nazifying” bombing expressly targeted at population centers qua population centers would be politically irrelevant and thus a waste of strike resources.)

    • #10
  11. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    This is by far one of the most comprehensive and detailed responses to the Iran Deal I have read. There is not much I can disagree with. The Iranian people are a good people, but lead and controlled by those who seek our demise, and the demise of anyone who rises up against them.

    Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia must be on Bibi’s speed dial and contingencies should be shared between each state, not just Israel. Israel has the right to defend itself by all means, but also has the responsibility to explain to the moderate Arab street how preventing proliferation is in all their best interest. I pray Israel and Netanyahu will secure the alliances necessary to prevent another Holocaust.

    Thank you for sharing this on Ricochet. I am sending this link to others.

    • #11
  12. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Front Seat Cat: You made one error – there is a Divine shield over Israel as well as the Church.

    I would suggest you may not know our G-d. All humans were created in His image, and then given freedom of choice, life or death; good or evil. Thus, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others were able to slaughter tens of millions of people in the 20th century. And the islamist are slaughtering tens of thousands of people now, including Christians, Jews and different sects of islam. Israel and Israelis will have to plan carefully how they are going to create a shield over the land and soon. G-d doesn’t play tiddly winks with us nor wave magic wands.

    • #12
  13. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    I meant no disrespect Kay – I’m learning too. What I meant was that in the Old Testament, Abraham and the prophets spoke of God’s promise to protect Israel. I read that to mean what it says, but not to mean that they would not come to harm or have a need to protect themselves in a real sense.  They did just that many times, and will do it again.

    • #13
  14. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Front Seat Cat: in the Old Testament, Abraham and the prophets spoke of God’s promise to protect Israel

    Providing they obeyed the Commandments. All those hundreds of years the prophets were railing at the people for not keeping the commandments. And look what the Romans did to them. Anyway the point is moot now, because about half of the Israelis are secular. They have some good techs so will pray for their successes.

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @RichardHarvester

    Danny Alexander:At the risk of sounding trivial, this post sets the bar for Ricochet essays on this topic from Israel/Israelis. Thank you for writing it.

    I agree with every point you make except one:I firmly believe that Israel must attack Iran, as soon as practicable, in the event that the US Congress fails to override a presidential veto of their disapproval of this deal. Failure to attack in such circumstances will be the worst form of immorality.

    I talk about this in more detail in this article.

    • #15
  16. user_891102 Member
    user_891102
    @DannyAlexander

    #15 Richard Harvester

    I’ve just read your article.

    I admire your clear-eyed grasp of the situation, and the prose with which you convey it.

    But I vehemently disagree with your recommendations.

    There is simply no time whatsoever to indulge in the small-arms-airdrop option, and in any case, it could never be an openly-coordinated campaign between Israel and the Gulf states — as a consequence, such a campaign would proceed slowly at best, with its scale and reach perhaps fatally compromised.

    As for Israel’s SLCM/SLBM capability, vis-a-vis the Khomeinist regime, the prospect of a second strike simply has no deterrent effect — meaning the Israeli submarine-launched nukes are of zero utility in protecting the Jewish State.  If we were talking about facing down a Syrian threat, or a majority of Sunni-state-originating threats, the propensity for Israel’s SLCM/SLBM arsenal to have a deterrent effect might well be a good deal higher — but not so with the regime in Tehran.

    Hence my urging that the submarine force be placed on “hot standby” as a backup (put differently, as a second wave of an Israeli preemptive/first strike) to ensure maximum destruction of Iranian regime assets and accordingly to afford Israel’s population the greatest chance of efficacious protection.

    In this vein, to be honest I find it borderline immoral to suggest that the submarines would serve as a post-Israeli-Holocaust “vengeance force.”

    Use what we have as we must, *now*.

    • #16
  17. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @RichardHarvester

    I do not see any deterrent effect on the regime – just the people. That is why the promise must be extremely explicit and unambiguous. How many thousands of guns would be required to enable the streets of Tehran? 300,000? We have experts here – how many weapons could a C-130 carry (although you’d have to protect it on the way in)? How about cruise missiles with little parachutes on the individual weapons? I can’t imagine we’re talking about years of effort. It would probably take a few months to line it up and a few days to execute. Best of all, it wouldn’t unite the people behind the regime. Iran has a large and well educated population – making them really angry at you isn’t a great idea. I wrote about this extensively in an earlier article, titled simply Iran.

    • #17
  18. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    I don’t understand how this arms drop is going to work in terms of ammunition.  Do you drop lots of ammunition too?  And military action requires some organization.  This just sounds like it would be chaotic.  Can you really be so certain everyone would react as you think?  Very interesting article though.  I’m so ashamed of this “treaty”.  It is truly horrifying.  I pray Congress will reject it, but I don’t have much hope for something sensible from them.  In the meantime, I’m praying for Israel and the Israeli people.

    • #18
  19. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @RichardHarvester

    Front Seat Cat: One more thing – as I said, I don’t know a lot about some of the holy days, as you mentioned like the Tisha B’ Av – can you explain what that is?

    I can’t really explain blood moons – it doesn’t play a prominent role in Judaism. But I can explain Tisha B’Av. Basically, it is the Jewish national day of mourning – it marks the destruction of the two Temples and many other catastrophes besides. We fast (no food or water for 25 hours) and carry out other signs of mourning during that period. For more see: http://ohr.edu/1098 and http://ohr.edu/yhiy/article.php/1088

    • #19
  20. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Merina Smith: I don’t understand how this arms drop is going to work in terms of ammunition.  Do you drop lots of ammunition too?

    You don’t need to drop much ammunition – a gun could have 6 or 20 bullets, and that would be fine for many purposes (like self defense against street militia).

    But I would be in favor of mixing it up. Lots of different things, but avoid things that are hard to hide and/or unusable by one person.

    And military action requires some organization.  This just sounds like it would be chaotic.  Can you really be so certain everyone would react as you think?

    Planners hate ideas like this because the outcome is very hard to predict. The very same reason that they oppose Americans owning guns.  All this idea does is make a revolution possible.

    • #20
  21. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @RichardHarvester

    Merina Smith:I don’t understand how this arms drop is going to work in terms of ammunition. Do you drop lots of ammunition too?

    Part of it is fear – fear on the part of the rank and file regime supporters. Many will be willing to kill themselves – but those crowds chanting “Death to America” are often coerced into a rote play by the regime. I doubt the numbers are as large as we might imagine. I don’t think we’re talking hundreds of rounds. I’m not a military analyst – but ten or twenty would be enough to start things up. Once things are started up, external powers can intervene under the pretext of helping the people – rather than attacking Iran. A few missiles to open up the armories of the police and militias might really open doors.

    • #21
  22. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @RichardHarvester

    And military action requires some organization. This just sounds like it would be chaotic.

    Military action might be overplaying it. I don’t know how the large the Basij is – but in Tehran they aren’t exactly dominant. We saw them in action – kidnapping people, shooting the occasional protester, intimidating others. Some left after the last round and told of raping condemned virgin prisoners because under their Islamic law virgins can’t be executed. They are backed up by a security apparatus that tracks protesters in Iran and abroad. They crack down on the families of those they can’t reach directly. After the last round (East Europe) of successful people’s rebellions the totalitarians learned some things. For example, having a stable of threatened ethnic folks (see Syria) or religious nutjobs (see Iran) really protects against people power. They have developed very very sophisticated police/terror states. But Libya and Syria also had pretty sophisticated and brutal police apparatus.  They weren’t idiots. In Syria’s case, the ethnic Alawi had to fight to the death – but they would have lost already if not for Iranian support.

    In Iran, they have the nutjobs – but they’ve had them in Egypt as well. Egypt has hardly solved its problems – but the state of Egypt is not threatening its enemies and the brotherhood has no hope of massive monetary or military power at this point.

    • #22
  23. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @RichardHarvester

    I think what we’re seeing is an internal security terror organization. There is a military organization, but they aren’t quite the same thing as the rank and file fanatics. I’d imagine many of the military folks are interested in traditional money and power.

    So, counter the fanatics with those who understand worse is waiting in the wings. Counter them with the legions of young – far less dangerous – folks who are sick of living under the thumb of the Mullahs and who realize that the stronger the Mullah’s become the more hopeless their future is.

    Give them a chance. There might be a civil war, but even that is better than what is threatened.

    Can you really be so certain everyone would react as you think?

    I don’t know if they would react. This is about giving them a chance to short-circuit what will otherwise be a terrible war.

    • #23
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