Israel’s Iran credibility problem

Catching up on the Iran issue, my attention was snagged by a Ha’aretz report today that the new head of Israel’s Military Intelligence says Iran could have nuclear weapons “within one or two years.”

Well, maybe. Not for an instant will I dismiss the danger posed by a nuclear Iran or the accuracy of Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi’s predications. As WikiLeaks demonstrated, even regional governments that have no use whatever for the Jewish state are also wishing somebody – anybody – would take care of an Iran they regard as a mortal threat.

But honestly, don’t Israeli leaders see that they have a credibility problem?

I mean, these predictions of when Iran will have usable nukes are enough to make your head explode.

The online publication Salon recently ran a compendium of wrong predictions, concluding that “According to various Israeli government predictions over the years, Iran was going to have a bomb by the mid-90s — or 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, and finally 2010. More recent Israeli predictions have put that date at 2011 or 2014.”

Recently Meir Dagan, the outgoing Mossad chief, said it wouldn’t be until 2015, at the earliest, apparently because sanctions – and maybe the Stuxnet computer virus – set them back. That reportedly infuriated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who seems to believe Iran will have the bomb in maybe 5 minutes. (Later Dagan, under fire from Netanyahu, changed his mind).

Look, the idea of the fanatic nut jobs in Tehran getting their hands on nuclear weapons is appalling. It’s a danger to Israel, a danger to the other regional countries Iran would like to put under its thumb and it’s a danger to U.S. interests.

The problem is, the credibility of those issuing the direst warnings about Iran is shaky, to say the least. The frequently missed, overwrought predictions of when Iran will join the nuclear club lead to the suspicion that for all the real threat implicit in Iran’s weapons program, some of these warnings are meant more as distractions from other issues – like the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

This endless stream of dire predictions doesn’t contribute to the creation of clear-headed, pragmatic policy, and they reinforce the impression the goal here is to start yet another war.

Yes, a nuclear Iran is a big problem, but so  a nuclear Pakistan and a nuclear North Korea, both of which already have bombs and governments crazy enough to use them. (And an unstable, anarchic Pakistan represents possibly the greatest danger that nukes could end up in the hands of Islamic fanatics bent on destroying Israel).

Nobody’s talking about going to war against those countries, are they? Our efforts to curb their nuclear programs range from ineffective to nonexistent.  Yet the Iran threat is often depicted as far more dangerous and even more immediate than the threat posed by these countries that already have nukes, suggesting that military action is the only answer.

Yes, worry about Iran, and figure out strategies for curbing its nuclear ambitions. But the conflicting predictions and the overwrought warnings don’t convince the world the problem is real; on the contrary, they just fuel doubts about those raising the alarms. So doe the apparent indifference of the Jewish community to proliferation crises in other parts of the world – including proliferation that could have a direct and dire impact on the Jewish state, starting with the reckless Pakistanis.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.