The writer is addressing the question, “If necessary, should the United States give Israel the OK to conduct a pre-emptive strike against Iranian missile sites?”
Tribune News Service
Following January’s widely condemned ballistic missile test by Iran, rumors are rife that Israel is planning a military strike against Iranian missile sites. But the last thing President Donald Trump should do is give such an attack his blessing.
As anyone who watched the recent joint press conference with Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu knows, the Israeli prime minster is obsessed with highlighting the supposed Iranian threat. It’s all he wanted to talk about.
But Iran, regardless of what its leaders might boast from time to time, is not on a course to attack Israel. Even if they wanted to, Iranian leaders know such an attack would bring counter-action Iran could not sustain.
Hopefully, Trump is savvy enough to see through Netanyahu’s long-standing effort to depict an existential threat that doesn’t truly exist.
Among prompting other outcomes, Netanyahu’s efforts have routinely convinced Congress to continue bankrolling Israel. His pleading has also deflected some of the international conversation away from Israel’s settlement-building on Palestinian territory.
Netanyahu has a history of false predictions regarding Iran. In 1992, Netanyahu said that Iran would produce a nuclear weapon within five years and that the United States had to take the lead to stop Iran.
In a book he wrote in 1995, Netanyahu again gave five years as the outside time for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. He did not remind his readers of his earlier prediction. In 2012, Netanyahu told the U.N. General Assembly that Iran could have a bomb by the end of 2013.
It should also be noted that Israel has gone beyond rhetoric in dealing with supposed threats from countries in the region. On two occasions, it has bombed suspected nuclear facilities.
In 1981, Israel bombed a facility in Iraq, drawing a torrent of international criticism. In 2007, it bombed a facility in Syria, eliciting condemnation from the International Atomic Energy Agency. In fact, it asked the United States to do the job, but the Bush administration wisely refused.
Now as then, Israel wants U.S. backing. But the international community has never accepted intuition-based pre-emptive strikes as legitimate.
Pakistan and India, between whom no love is lost, both have nuclear weaponry the other could claim is about to be launched, yet neither would garner much support in conducting a pre-emptive strike.
The canard that Iran’s aim is to drive Israel’s Jewish population into the Mediterranean Sea should not be taken as good reason to back Israel in attacking Iran.
Iran’s government, despite its denunciations of Israel, has reiterated over and over that if Palestine and Israel come to an agreement, Iran will respect it.
During the election campaign, Trump conveyed a reluctance to get into new military conflicts, and hopefully the Trump administration is already chastened on military adventures. It OK’d a raid in Yemen that went so sour the Yemeni government wants us to stop going after al-Qaida in that country. Air strikes even more recently in Afghanistan’s Helmand province killed large numbers of civilians.
Missiles are easy to launch. What happens when they come down is hard to predict.
Letting Israel go after Iran would be a mistake. The Trump administration would do well to steer clear.
The writer is a distinguished professor of law at Ohio State University and is the author of 11 books on various aspects of international law.