Sunday, January 11, 2009

The latest on Iran

The New York Times dropped a bombshell yesterday.  The gist is in the first paragraph

President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran’s suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials.

A few things immediately leaped to mind as I read this article.  First, this is one occasion where I approve of the U.S. restraining Israel.  Unlike Gaza, where I believe the U.S. should encourage Israel in its efforts to destroy Hamas -- since that is almost as much in the U.S. interest as in Israel's -- Iran is a different matter. As I have written here before, the overall strategic & military consensus is that it is highly unlikely that Iran's nuclear program can be destroyed by a surgical airstrike. It is too far along, too dispersed, too redundant, and too well-protected. A massive sustained air campaign would be necessary to have any reasonable chance of actually destroying Iran's nuclear program. At best, a surgical strike will be able to only temporarily delay and disrupt it. The risks and possible consequences to U.S. interests of an Israeli attack on Iran are simply not worth it for a mere delay in Iran's progress.  The U.S. was right to block the proposed Israeli strike.

Then there is the matter of the Times revealing an ongoing U.S. covert operation. I have long given up on expecting U.S. newspapers, particularly the NYT, to restrain themselves in their reporting for reasons of national security. But the Times cites unnamed senior officials, some of them American, as its sources. These leakers have endangered anyone involved in this operation, as well as the operation itself.  And for what?  Is there any reason the public needs to know about a current covert operation? These officials should be identified if at all possible and charged with treason. There is no excuse for a deliberate attempt to undermine a U.S. operation against a hostile country by revealing it to the press.

And that brings me to my final thought.  Back during the Valerie Plame affair, there was much outrage on the left at the supposed leakers. Some even accused people of treason for revealing her name, despite the fact that she wasn't really a covert operative, and was actually an analyst working at Langley. Here we have a real case of treason. Senior U.S. officials talked to the press and revealed an ongoing covert operation aimed at Iran. What are the chances that the left will show the same level of outrage at these leakers that was directed toward those who revealed Plame's identity? I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that most of the anger, if any, will be directed instead at Israel and the Bush administration.

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