West abandoning Israel in face of Iran threat?

Monday, February 20, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

Western powers have for years made grand pronouncements regarding their commitment to Israel's security in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat. But now that Iran is drawing so close to being able to field a nuclear weapon, America and Europe appear to be backing off and leaving Israel to the wolves.

The most damning evidence that the West would not, contrary to the promises of US President Barack Obama and others, do everything necessary to protect Israel came when NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen suggested this week that an early-warning radar system in Turkey would not provide Israel with advanced warning of an Iranian missile launch.

Speaking to reporters in Turkey, Rasmussen insisted that "data is shared within our allies, among our allies. It's a defense system to protect the populations of NATO allies."

After being further baited by Turkish reporters, Rasmussen again stressed that "it is a NATO system and the data within the system will not be shared with third countries."

While Rasmussen was reluctant to single out Israel as one of those "third countries," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto knew exactly what his nation's press wanted to hear: "Especially if it's about Israel, our view is clear."

Earlier this month, Israel's military intelligence chief, Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, said that intelligence suggests Iran already has enough nuclear material to build four atomic bombs. Kochavi told the annual Herzliya Conference that if Iran decided today to build a nuclear bomb, it could do so in less than one year.

With the situation clearly reaching a critical junction, talk of the possible need to launch a preemptive strike has reached fever pitch in Israel. The consternation of Israelis has been further exacerbated by recent calls from within Iran's religious leadership to attack and destroy Israel no later than 2014.

In a document published by Iran's Alef news agency, the chief strategist of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Alireza Forghani, argued that "in the name of Allah, Iran must attack Israel by 2014. All our troubles are due to Israel!"

Alireza insisted that even in the absence of a preemptive Israeli strike, Iran was still perfectly justified in striking the Jewish state over its "occupation" of "Palestinian lands."

And it is precisely at this moment that the US, Britain and other European powers are showing themselves most apathetic and incapable of facing down the Iranian threat.

Almost completely ignoring the history of the Iranian nuclear crisis up until now, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week expressed hope that negotiations with Iran would reopen after Ashton received a moderately-worded letter from Tehran.

Such letters and talk of negotiations has been used repeatedly by Iran to stall Western efforts to curb its nuclear program.

Days after Clinton and Ashton were taken in by the Iranian letter, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, cautioned Israel to back off any preparations for a preemptive strike on Iran. Dempsey's interview with CNN effectively signalled Israel that if it strikes Iran at this time, it will do so without American support and backing.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a similar warning on Sunday, and demonstrated the same type of selective memory that plagues Clinton and Ashton when he insisted that negotiations must be given "a real chance" before military options are seriously considered.

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