Ehud Barak Admits Iran Has Defensive Posture, No Weapons Program

John Glaser, August 03, 2012

The most important and most frequently ignored distinction in the debate about Iran and its nuclear program is that Iran’s current postures are defensive in nature, not offensive. Right-wing pundits constantly harangue about Iran’s supposed intentions to annihilate Israel, wipe Israel off the map, and so on – and this, they claim, is why it’s so important to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. This assumes Iran would want a nuclear weapon for offensive purposes, which is incorrect.

Now, US and Israeli intelligence agencies agree that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. But there are aspects of the program, like increased enrichment in recent years, that is meant to place Iran in a technical range of capability, to produce a weapon on short notice if they decide to do so. As has been discussed at Antiwar.com for years, Iran is operating under constant threat from the US and Israel. The US has Iran militarily surrounded, has conducted covert attacks along with Israel, constantly threatens Iran with preemptive military strike, and is heaping harsh economic sanctions. In this environment, Iran has tried to abstain from developing nuclear weapons while having the know-how needed to get there; this essentially is an attempt to have a deterrent without actually having a deterrent. They don’t get in trouble for having a weapon, but they are able to ward off attack or invasion.

As renowned international relations theorist Kenneth N. Waltz recently wrote in Foreign Affairs, “Such a breakout capability might satisfy the domestic political needs of Iran’s rulers by assuring hard-liners that they can enjoy all the benefits of having a bomb (such as greater security) without the downsides (such as international isolation and condemnation).”

This distinction is almost always ignored by the pundits and the politicians, despite its supreme importance. But now, one of the most reckless hawks on Iran, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, has acknowledged this distinction out loud. Appearing on CNN (via Micah Zenko), Barak admitted that “[Israel and the US] both know that Khamenei did not yet ordered, actually, to give a weapon, but that he is determined to deceit and defy the whole world.” Wolf Blitzer asked, “What does that mean, that the ayatollah has not given the order to build a nuclear bomb?” Barak replied:

It’s something technical. He did not tell his people start and build it — a weapon on — an explodable device. We think that we understand why he does not give this order.

He believes that he is penetrated through our intelligence and he strongly feels that if he tries to order, we will know it, we and you and some other intelligence services will know about it and it might end up with a physical action against it.

So he prefers to, first of all, make sure that through redundancy, through an accumulation of more lowly enriched uranium, more medium level enriched uranium and more centrifuges and more sites, better protection, that he can reach a point, which I call the zone of immunity, beyond which Israel might not be technically capable of launching a surgical operation.

Here it is admitted that Iran is thinking rationally and defensively. The real concern, Barak says, is allowing Iran to enter a “zone of immunity” wherein it can deter attack or invasion. How dare the ayatollahs deprive Washington and Tel Aviv of the right to attack a weak and defensive Iran!

The whole story about how ‘we need to attack an aggressive Iran determined to get nuclear weapons’ falls apart under Barak’s admission above. First, if Iran has no nuclear weapons program (something admitted widely in US and Israeli officialdom), then there is no conceivable imminent threat and thus no attack is justified. If Iran is demonstrably intimidated by the threats from the US and Israel – that is, if it is acting defensively vis-a-vis its nuclear program – then current US/Israeli capabilities are proving sufficient to deter an Iranian attack whether it has a bomb or not (As Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate in February: Iran “is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack”), and thus an attack is not justified.

Finally, what the pro-war crowd can’t seem to grasp is that an attack on Iran would be most likely to push them towards reconstituting their nuclear weapons program. As Thomas Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN under George H.W. Bush, warned recently:

[A military strike] has a very high propensity, in my view, of driving Iran in the direction of openly declaring and deciding, which it has not yet done according to our intelligence, to make a nuclear weapon to seemingly defend itself under what might look to them and others to be an unprovoked attack.

Iran has great possibilities for asymmetrical reactions including against Israel through Hezbollah and Hamas who have accumulated a large number of missiles. [...] It is a series of potential escalatory possibilities that puts us deep in the potential for another land war in Asia, something that I think we’ve spent the last number of years trying to get out of.

This has been virtually confirmed after a classified war simulation held a few months back forecasted that a “strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States” and kill many, many people. As Ha’aretz reports, this Congressional Research Service report estimates that Iran could completely recover from a strike on its nuclear program within six months.

So, seriously, what is driving the ‘bomb Iran’ crowd at this point?

Update: One commenter has pointed out that having nuclear capability, or ‘know-how’ as I call it, is not an indication of any military dimension to Iran’s program. Indeed, in the same Foreign Affairs piece I quoted above, Ken Waltz explains, “[One] possible outcome is that Iran stops short of testing a nuclear weapon but develops a breakout capability, the capacity to build and test one quite quickly. Iran would not be the first country to acquire a sophisticated nuclear program without building an actual bomb. Japan, for instance, maintains a vast civilian nuclear infrastructure. Experts believe that it could produce a nuclear weapon on short notice.”




19 Responses to “Ehud Barak Admits Iran Has Defensive Posture, No Weapons Program”

  1. … War profiteering?

  2. 40 other countries have the "knowhow" to make nukes right now — thats 1 out of 4 or 5 countries on the planet — for the simple reason that the technology is 60 years old and similar to civilian technology, not because they intend to make nukes or want the keep the "option" open. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld

    And unlike other nations that enrich Uranium, Iran has allowed far more intrusive inspections, and has repeatedly offered greater concessions that exceed its obligations under the NPT. So to say that Iran intends to develop the "option" to make nukes is RUBBISH.

  3. An Israeli strike on Iran WILL draw in the United States. For the liklihood of Iran surrendering after that strike is nil. Israel's 'allies' (the UAE and Saudi Arabia) are the easist to hit, and they will be. America won't have any choice but to defend her friends.

    And here we go again.

  4. I assume that last question is rhetorical… http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2012/01/seem

  5. I don't think an Israeli strike on Iran is going to happen. Natenyahu would love to see America do it for him but it looks to me like Syria is the next target for American love. Iran isn't the real target anyway, it's the Caspian Basin on Iran's northern borders. The Caspian Basin is home to trillions of dollars of oil and natural gas which came up for grabs with the collapse of the old Soviet Union. It's about oil of course. Iran has the bad luck to be in they way of the oil, the last obstacle to stand in the way of all that black stuff. I don't buy into America will get "drawn" in, the American government wants to turn Iran into a pliable American outpost to gain access to the oil. If the American government does attack Iran it's because it wants to. They didn't spend all that money in pursuit of the Caspian Basin for laughs.

  6. There is a new chapter getting ready to be written……America excess is going to be stop, watch.

  7. It seems clear that the real political motives for a war with Iran have nothing to do with any of the reasons offered by governments. Aside from the nuke issue which is clearly a non-issue, we're also receiving the message that Israel is ready to go with or without us and we'd better get involved.

    So what? So Israel attacks Iran all by itself. With what? it's air force?: it's 600 miles just to the Iranian border, and the country is 700 x 1400 miles overall in size; its ground forces? they'd be stretched out through Syria or Jordan as well as Iraq — not exactly friends of Israel; its nukes? the whole world would howl with rage and horror: the last time nukes were used in combat was the first time and over 65 years ago.

    So what's the game? To me it looks like it's just Crush Iran. The trick has been to find a plausible reason to do it, and then just getting on with it. I wonder what's so almighty important about taking out Iran, and to whom?

  8. [...] Ehud Barak Admits Iran Has Defensive Posture, No Weapons Program « Antiwar.com Blog. Share this:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  9. Friends my foot…. "with friends like that…" lol

  10. While it is true that oil is behind our motivations in the middle east, Israel has positioned itself as a wedge between the U.S and the oil, and manipulates this to the zionist position, At the expense of the U.S and to a larger extent the world. I think that it is disgusting that our foreign policy in a region that is vital to our economic interest has to go thru israel first.

  11. It's all about the Petro Dollars. Gotta keep the sham floating as long as possible.

  12. How come, in discussions about Iranian motives, nobody EVER discusses the other uses of enriched uranium and how that plays into the domestic political picture for Iranian leadership? Iran is not a dusty little wasteland of nomads and shepherds. It's a large, sophisticated nation with great need for nuclear materials in medicine and related research, and its people are never going to accept having to give up that opportunity because of Israel's paranoia. So long as they don't 'make the decision' to build a nuke, they retain the internationally warranted right to proceed with their r and d, and their people's pride is engaged in that right. So why let the Israelis claim the only reason not to 'make the decision' is fear of them? I mean, it's not like misunderstanding never helped cause a horrible unnecessary war, is it?

  13. How come, in discussions about Iranian motives, nobody EVER discusses the other uses of enriched uranium and how that plays into the domestic political picture for Iranian leadership? Iran is not a dusty little wasteland of nomads and shepherds. It's a large, sophisticated nation with great need for nuclear materials in medicine and related research, and its people are never going to accept having to give up that opportunity because of Israel's paranoia. So long as they don't 'make the decision' to build a nuke, they retain the internationally warranted right to proceed with their r and d, and their people's pride is engaged in that right. So why let the Israelis claim the only reason not to 'make the decision' is fear of them? I mean, it's not like misunderstanding never helped cause a horrible unnecessary war, is it?

  14. "vital to our economic interest." – sorry but what makes you think anything in that region the US has claim on? What is our "economic interest" is that we leave other countries alone. Arrogant collectivism or nationalism like you display are the reason for the downfall of individual liberty.

  15. [...] (Click here) This entry was posted in World Events by xanadu. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  16. Many people know that they cannot trust anymore medias and TV, which are the puppets of the power of money…Vote for Paradism !

  17. [...] What exactly the conditions would be come June to prompt an attack are entirely unclear. The White House has said repeatedly, including within the last few days, that Iran still does not have a nuclear weapons program. Even the Israelis have admitted this. [...]

  18. [...] What exactly the conditions would be come June to prompt an attack are entirely unclear. The White House has said repeatedly, including within the last few days, that Iran still does not have a nuclear weapons program. Even the Israelis have admitted this. [...]

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