Professor Michael Clarke, Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute who by virtue of his position is one of Britain’s top military analysts, asserted on the Moral Maze* on Wednesday night that Iran would not pass the nuclear threshold for another three to four years. One wonders why does he put this point so much further down the line than US or Israeli estimates? And anyway, the real point about the dilemma of whether or when to attack Iran is surely not when it might go nuclear, but at what point it becomes impossible to stop it from going nuclear.
He argued that Israel and the west should hold back until Iran reaches the nuclear threshold. But once it has done so, would it not be by definition too late to stop it? He claimed an attack on Iran now would be illegal, because a pre-emptive strike can only legally take place to stop an ‘imminent’ attack. So it would seem that, according to his own argument, even if Iran has arrived at the nuclear threshold attacking it would still be illegal unless an attack by it was ‘imminent’.
For Israel, waiting for signs of an ‘imminent’ attack by Iran is as idiotic as it is suicidal. ‘Imminent’ means in practice it would be too late to stop it.
It is astonishing, in fact, that the west has chosen not to defend itself against all these attacks but continues to pretend that war with Iran is some kind of hypothetical possibility. For Israel, Iran is not only an imminent threat but is already waging against it a war of intended annihilation, against which Israel is most certainly entitled to defend itself under international law.
But not only is Iran already attacking Israel, through Hezbollah, Hamas and other terror groupings. It has also been attacking western interests for thirty years; it has been providing weapons to attack coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one of its bombs was probably responsible for the killing of those six British soldiers in Afghanistan this week.
But never mind. If we ignore this threat it will probably go away. Just like Hitler did in the thirties.