By seizing the Crimea, Russia has threatened the international community

Aaron Ellis

As the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine escalated over the weekend, many in the West showed an embarrassing lack of character. Seemingly contemptuous of its international obligations, a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council seized the territory of another country, justifying its actions on the same grounds as Hitler when he demanded the Sudetenland. Rather than appreciate the potential awfulness of the crisis and summon up their courage, however, Westerners reacted to it parochially and with snark.

“It’s Europe’s problem, let them sort it out,” declared many Americans, “we don’t have any interests there”, whereas various Western Europeans commented that, “We cannot be dragged into a war because of Russophobes in the East.” Those on the right of the political spectrum in both Britain and the United States blamed the supposedly ‘weak’ President Obama. Sajid Javid, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, claimed that there is ‘a direct link’ between Ed Miliband’s opposition to intervening in Syria last summer and Moscow’s actions now, making the Labour leader unfit to be Prime Minister. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy: Who gives a shit about all this? Russia is invading Ukraine.

The Allies fought a world war for, and built an international system on the principle that states must not be allowed to forcibly redraw their borders – no matter how much the people in the annexed territories ‘like’ their occupiers. We enshrined it in the UN Charter: ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity…of any state’. The system that was created by the Allies (Russia amongst them) was designed to help countries find “the surer ways of preserving peace”, as Margaret Thatcher once said, ways enabling “the peoples of each sovereign state to lead their lives as they choose within established borders.”

When President Putin seized the Crimea, Ukraine became a vital interest of Britain, the United States, the European Union, and indeed anyone else interested in maintaining world peace. Mr. Putin’s actions struck at the foundation of a global order that has, in his own words, ‘underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.’ We simply cannot allow the challenge to go unpunished.

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UKIP double-bluff leaves government floundering on Syria refugees

Paul Hoskins

The moment UKIP’s Nigel Farage called for Syrian refugees to be allowed into the UK, it became an inevitability, not because he waved his magic fairy wand but because he drew attention to the inconvenient truth that, unlike many other countries, Britain is simply not doing its bit to provide a safe haven to people caught up in what the United Nations has called ‘one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history’. Here we are just a few weeks later and, sure as eggs is eggs, David Cameron has announced that he is now “open minded” on Syrian refugees. Even the most desultory Westminster watcher will spot this for what it is: thinly-veiled code for “I’m trying to find a way to back down on this as gracefully as possible because I know this is a battle I am not going to win”.

It was always going to be a lost battle because the scale of the humanitarian crisis; the basic sense of humanity with which Britons are generally blessed; and our country’s proud history of providing a safe haven to the persecuted and the dispossessed, dictate that we must play our part. Dare we risk history concluding we didn’t?

I wasn’t the only one to see this coming. When Farage’s call to let in refugees caught the government napping during the post-Christmas lull, Conservative MP Mark Pritchard said he expected the government would be forced to change its mind. “Clearly we cannot take all the refugees but I think we should play our part as a country – still an open-hearted, compassionate country – to do the right thing,” he told the BBC. “There’s real suffering and we need to do our bit along with the rest of the international community.”

Lebanon is currently playing host to over 800,000 registered Syrian refugees, according to UN data, and the tally in Turkey is approaching 600,000. Jordan may have as many as 600,000 too. In total, 100,000 people are believed to have been killed and well over 2 million have escaped to neighbouring countries. Millions more have fled their homes within Syria itself.

It is not that Britain is doing nothing or that Cameron’s administration is being wantonly inhumane. The government points out it has pledged £500 million – not far off that contributed by all other EU states combined – to the Syria crisis. But is it just me, or is there something rather unseemly about just throwing money at a problem and hoping it will go away? Doesn’t it somehow give us an excuse not to confront the reality of the problem head on? Certainly it wouldn’t seem to tally with the government’s “Big Society” ideal of fixing problems through practical volunteering rather than cash hand-outs.

Besides, if we’re willing to throw half a billion pounds in cash at the problem, why wouldn’t we also take in the few hundred of the most vulnerable refugees the UN is asking us to help directly? Could it be that the decision not to accept refugees has been driven by political expediency, or more precisely fear of UKIP, rather than by common-sense, pragmatism and compassion?

How deliciously ironic that in trying not to give ammunition to UKIP by letting in Syrian immigrants, the government may have played directly into its hands. If it weren’t for the fact that people are dying, it would seem like a hilariously contrived episode of Yes, Minister. You can picture the scene. Seasoned Foreign Office mandarins point out to their political masters that letting in a few hundred refugees would cost us almost nothing, make us look good abroad and save lives but are overruled by their nervy, opinion-poll-fixated spads. Farage presumably followed his gut, which told him it was indefensible not to let in refugees from a humanitarian crisis that has turfed millions of people out of their homes. By contrast, our mainstream political parties seem to have been blinded by fear of UKIP and opinion polls telling them they need to crack down on immigration.

Mr Farage has, deliberately or not, pulled off a masterful double bluff that has left the government floundering. “Now who looks like the nasty party?” he will no doubt ask repeatedly in the coming months. When the full government u-turn comes, as it inevitably will, it is going to be a particularly delicious victory for UKIP. It is also going to be pretty good news for those few hundred refugees.

Some, including Conservative MP Andrew Brigden, have accused those who support the UN request of “political tokenism”. Somewhat depressingly they question what the point is of saving a few hundred people when millions are at risk. Presumably these naysayers have no truck with the Talmud’s wise counsel, made famous by the film Schindler’s List, that ‘Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world’. Imagine if we all shirked our individual responsibility to save a single life? That would be a whole lot of lives lost.

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The West’s half-hearted efforts will not end Syria’s civil war

Dan Trombly 10.23am

The pressure has increased for more forceful intervention in Syria. Despite the presence of international observers, the Assad regime refuses to adhere to a ceasefire demanded by the UN.

Whether it involves arming the rebels or a repeat of the NATO intervention in Bosnia in 1995, the ongoing strife in the country calls for further action, and US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry recently urged consideration of both options. Yet despite the frustration of diplomatic efforts, military options seem bleak.

Those who argue that past success in Bosnia could be replicated in Syria both ignore the history of the Bosnian war and its differences with the current conflict. The UN’s attempts to create “safe zones” resulted in the horrific massacres of Srebrenica and elsewhere. The Bosnian war was ultimately won when the numerically superior combined force of Croatian and Bosnian troops launched ground offensives, not when NATO began air strikes.

Similar attempts to implement “safe zones” in Iraq following the first Gulf War required the threat of ground assault in the south of the country, and the tactic failed frequently in the north, such as at Irbil in 1996. Even after the Desert Fox bombing campaign, forces withdrew once a Baghdad supporting faction secured that area. Notably, Saddam Hussein’s rule was not ended until troops fought their way to the capital in 2003, despite “safe zones” having been declared alongside frequent US air patrols and strikes.

In Syria, as in Bosnia and Iraq, neither protection of civilians nor regime change can be assured without superiority on the ground. Even air strikes would require a bombing campaign larger than in Iraq in 2003.

And enormous obstacles stand in the way of arming the Syrian rebels. In Bosnia, for instance, it was Croatia’s invasion that brought about a Serb defeat, not Bosnian forces. In Syria, without a ground invasion of tens (or hundreds) of thousands of troops - from Turkey, the Arab states, or the West - Syria’s rebels will remain woefully outmatched in conventional capabilities. Indeed, Turkey rarely conducts cross-border raids against PKK terrorists without several thousand soldiers.

The Syrian rebels need artillery batteries, armour and air support, not just man-portable anti-tank or anti-aircraft weaponry.

Even with Western air support, the rebels would likely continue to use the guerilla tactics befitting the outmatched force that they are, avoiding pitched battles and ceding territory to draw out hostile forces. While these might be effective tactics in a long-term insurgency, they are unlikely to result in regime change or effective protection of civilians in the short-term. Even the maintenance of a safe haven for rebel forces would need to be done outside Syrian territory, rather than in “safe zones”.

Simply arming rebel forces is more likely to cause a protracted civil war than a quick victory. The United States and others learned this is Nicaragua, Angola and Afghanistan during the Cold War. But in those cases, there was thought to be some value in attrition, and supporters of proxy groups were relatively indifferent to civilian casualties and the collateral damage of prolonged conflict. In Syria, such outcomes are unjustifiable on humanitarian grounds, nor on strategic aims (seeing Assad depart quickly).

Moreover, an influx of arms leaves lasting consequences. The behaviour of Libyan militias is a case in point.

An authoritarian regime such as Assad’s can hold on until hostile armoured columns roll on Damascus. Therefore the only strategically feasible option for a quick victory in Syria is a full-scale invasion. Yet no Western state is willing to undertake such a mission and a Turkish or Arab effort seems very unlikely.

Ultimately, Syria’s civil war will drag on. In the meantime, Western powers must work with Syria’s neighbours to prevent WMDs and other arms from leaving the country; they must provide aid to refugees that manage to escape Syria; and continue to exercise diplomatic options to the best of their ability.

Unless Western policymakers can convince their own populations and their Middle Eastern allies that an invasion is justifiable, providing military aid or half-hearted intervention can only worsen the consequences of Syria’s conflict - for both that country’s neighbours, and the interests of the West.

Dan Trombly is a student of International Affairs at George Washington University. He blogs at Slouching Towards Columbia.

Justice for Sierra Leone but a failure for human rights?

Alexander Pannett 1.00 pm

On Thursday, Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, was found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone.

The verdict will come as a great relief to the millions of West Africans who were victims of his oppressive machinations and the grotesque abuses in Sierra Leone that were perpetuated by his proxy RUF militia.

Whilst this is a landmark case for the development of international human rights, behind the celebrations lies a faltering legal path whose successes may be due more to the dictates of the powerful rather than of the law.

Ever since the Nuremberg Trials of the Second World War and the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly, the concept of human rights has grown in stature in international law.

Its genesis lies in the Enlightenment with the increased recognition of the rights of man (though not yet equal rights for women) as set out in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789.

As the Enlightenment developed into Modernity, the rule of international law and protection of individual rights was seen as the best way to prevent the horrors of the Holocaust and World War from happening again. This led in 2002 to the International Criminal Court being finally created in the Hague; a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

The ICC may be a useful tool in bringing war criminals to justice but it is doubtful about how effective it really is at increasing the recognition of human rights around the world.

America, China and Russia have not ratified the Rome Statute, therefore not allowing their citizens to come under the jurisdiction of the ICC, and most of the accused brought before the ICC have so far come from impoverished, developing countries.  Consequently, the ICC has received criticism that the court is a tool of powerful countries, used to legitimate their dispensation of justice as framed by the values of the strongest not of the weak.

Justice should be the language of a community not of the powerful. By removing the mechanisms for justice away from communities where crimes have been committed to courts run along different values, customs and procedures, the development of the ICC unfortunately raises the specter of judicial colonialism.

Much as former British colonies rightfully ended their reliance on the British Privy Council as their final court of appeal, independent nations should ensure that judicial procedures are developed and grown by their own societies, strengthening the local rule of law rather than out-sourcing such an important foundation of society to those who know little of their culture.

This is why the new National Transitional Council of Libya is reluctant to hand over Seif al-Islam Gadhafi to the ICC, seeking instead to try him locally. Whilst the ICC and UN Security Council will likely protest, it is a hypocritical position born from Great Powers wishing that their dictates be obeyed rather than from a strong desire to see the Libyan justice system grow and develop. 

Such hypocrisy is apparent when Great Powers demand that former dictators of impoverished states who are no longer of any use to them are brought to justice, whilst Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir, President of Sudan and an ally of China, and Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan and a strategic friend of the West, are protected from prosecution despite allegations of serious human rights abuses.

I am not suggesting that Charles Taylor, one of the most callous tyrants in recent history, should escape justice. Only that the $50 million cost and time of the five year trial could have been better spent developing the justice system and human rights in Sierra Leone, where 70 per cent. remain in poverty, by basing the trial there and relying on the local judiciary and the local law’s approach to human rights as much as possible to ensure a fair trial. 

Whilst the development of a notion of human rights is an important development towards the peaceful co-existence of humans, we should be wary of subscribing to a paean of universalism that is in reality a mask of the dictates of the powerful.

Law is a language born from compromises between differing beliefs and ambitions. An international law that promotes human rights must be applied locally and allow for dialogue between all cultures to set its values if it will be a true protection for the weakest amongst humanity. It should not be an abstract and Euro-centric ivory tower that hurls its commandments down the mountain.

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Demonstrate for human rights in Syria

Alexander Pannett 6.45am

What can you do without freedom? When the world seems silent to your prevails?

The people of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, are currently suffering the seventh day of a brutal and criminal assault from President Assad’s un-repentant thugs.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed by indiscriminate artillery and mortar fire.  This is on top of the 11-month crackdown against protestors who are campaigning for democracy and human rights in Syria that has left thousands dead.

The UN Security Council has shown itself to be impotent in the face of Russia’s machiavellian veto of any resolution condemning the Syrian violence.  The Arab League has so far been unable to pressure the regime into stopping the atrocities.

Whilst many observers believe that Assad’s support is melting away it is clear he will not go until he has trailed his bloody claws across the Syrian people.  Unlike in Libya, the Syrian people cannot expect Western intervention without backing from the international community.  The disaster of Iraq is too fresh in everyone’s memories to countenance unilateral Western action. For now.

The best peaceful alternative to direct intervention is to apply increasing diplomatic and economic coercion on Syria until the regime breaks.

The European Union has just declared that it will impose harsher sanctions against Assad to encourage his fall.  The Arab League ministers are also meeting this weekend to discuss what further actions they can take against Assad.  It will be a further opportunity to build international pressure on the Syrian government and other governments who are supporting it.

In the UK, human rights organisations have been mobilising to raise awareness. Amnesty International are urging authorities across the Middle East and North Africa to:

“Uphold the right to peaceful protest and to freedom of expression, association, assembly and information.

Investigate deaths, injuries, and detentions ensuring those responsible are brought to account.

Immediately begin human rights reforms including giving people the right to participate fully in the political process.”

You too can play your part this weekend in expressing your support for the voiceless.  Amnesty International are holding a demonstration in Trafalgar Square on Saturday from 12 noon until 2pm to raise awareness of the human rights abuses. See here for further details.

Attend and show your anger at those who would suppress the fight against injustice and the human rights revolution.

Hannah Arendt, the political theorist, once said that “the sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil.”

Well. It is time to make up our minds. And shout about it.

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Russia’s Syrian hypocrisy

Alexander Pannett 10.38am

Yesterday, diplomats at the UN Security Council were engaged in a concerted attempt to pass a resolution calling for President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power, which is a key part of an Arab League plan.

This is a welcome move as bloody government reprisals against the protesters have led to more than 7,000 civilian deaths as Syria slides into civil war.

The text, however, had to be dropped due to Russian objections that it amounted to “regime change”, which was a threat to the principles of national sovereignty as protected under the UN charter.

This is contrary to the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, which was recognised as a concept by all countries (Russia and China included) at the UN World Leader’s Summit in 2005.

Responsibility to Protect is a concept for intervention in a state by the international community for the prevention of genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass killings and human rights violations taking place, in a country which is unwilling (or unable) to stop it. In the event of any such acts occurring, the wider international community has a collective responsibility to take whatever action is necessary to prevent it.

Both the Russians and the Chinese, whose modern history has been dominated by bloody foreign interventions, are understandably reticent about any development of liberal interventionism that protects a people from the violent abuses of its government.  Considering the poor human rights records in both these countries, it is unsurprising that they will be wary of a liberal doctrine that legitimises external interference along the grounds of human rights.

However, it is callous in the extreme for the Russians to cite the UN charter’s protection of national sovereignty as the rationale for its support for the Assad government.  Or for the Russians to justify their current intransigence with a resolution against Syria by suggesting that the UN resolution that allowed for “all necessary means” to protect the Libyan people went too far in toppling the brutal dictatorship of Gaddafi.

The Russians were quite happy to cite the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine with their invasion of Georgia in 2008 or use interventionism with their ongoing suppression of “terrorist” separatist groups in the Northern Caucuses or recent use of energy blackmail to interfere with Ukrainian elections.

The real hypocrisy of Russia lies however with the realpolitik of their global strategic ambitions.

At Tartus, Syria’s second largest port city, lies one of only two Russian naval bases outside Russia that Russian capital ships can dock at for re-supply. With the other naval base outside Russia at Sevastopol only on a 25-year lease and subject to the whims of a Ukrainian government with lukewarm relations towards Russia, Tartus is crucial to the Russians’ plans to re-establish themselves as a world military power.

The Syrian government recently agreed to transfer the naval base permanently into Russian hands and the Russians have since been pouring billions into the base to allow it to host a new Mediterranean fleet. To re-affirm Russia’s interests in Syria and its support for the Assad regime, a flotilla of Russian ships, including the Russian flagship, were deployed to the Tartus naval base in November 2011.

Without Tartus, Russia’s plans to project its power around the globe would be severely curtailed, especially in the nearby oil-rich Middle East, an area of vital strategic importance.  It is this concern that is dictating Russia’s morally bankrupt actions at the UN rather than any simulacrum of UN protections of national sovereignty.

As Aaron Ellis has pointed out on these pages, the West is currently undergoing a crisis of confidence about what it stands for in the world. While hard questions are rightly being asked about the Western economic model, we must not forget that our political and liberal values helped shape the present structure of international relations.

Our voice is needed to help prevent the oppression of the weak and dispossessed and to uphold the goals of the UN which sought to prevent massacres such as those that are occurring in Syria.

The West has certainly made terrible foreign policy errors that have resulted in the deaths of innocents. But we should not forget the far worse, dystopian machinations of those to whom our current angst would cede the leadership of the world.

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The Iraq war may have ended but its disastrous legacy lives on

Alexander Pannett 8.00am

Yesterday, President Obama marked the final end of the Iraq war.  It has been nearly nine years since the US and its allies, including the UK, invaded the Middle Eastern nation on the pretence of removing Saddam Hussein and ending his perceived involvement in Islamist terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

While the war was trumpeted a success by President Obama - the man who once opposed it as “dumb” - its legacy has been one of instability and continued conflict across the strategically important region.

Over one trillion dollars have been spent by Amercian taxpayers and 4,500 American soldiers have lost their lives.  This is paltry compared with the alleged hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died due to the invasion and ensuing bloody insurgency.  In its wake Iraq simmers with sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias.  Terrorism has increased and the government of Iraq clings on to power through backroom deal making and shaky coalitions with pro-Iranian factions.

The untamed use of American hard power may have eventually pacified Iraq but if its objective was to wrest the Middle East away from extremism towards a democratic future based on enlightened Western thinking then the invasion of Iraq must count as an unmitigated disaster.

Further evidence of the decline of American hard power as an effective foreign policy tool is the gradual withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan, having failed to pacify the Taliban, and the increasing friction between the US and their most dangerous ally, Pakistan.

Pakistan’s support has soured due to the repeated incursions into Pakistani sovereign territory by US military forces, most prominently the death of Osama Bin Laden. The Americans, for their part, are furious that Bin Laden was being sheltered in Pakistan and they hold deep suspicions that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence organisation, is providing significant military and logistical assistance to the Taliban.

On Tuesday, the US Congress unveiled plans to cut $700 million of aid to Pakistan and yesterday, Pakistan responded with plans to tax Nato supply trucks that pass through Pakistani territory on their way to Afghanistan.

The armoured fist of American military might has exacerbated sectarian tensions in the Middle East and has increased the standing of Iran by making it the natural pole for anti-Western forces to align themselves with.  Iran’s rise has opened a Sunni-Shia fault line in Iraq and within neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, causing further instability as Shia minorities have looked to Iran for support and leadership.

American disregard for the UN prior to the invasion of Iraq has also undermined the ability of international organisations to quell Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which will further destabilise the region as other countries seek a nuclear deterrent of their own.

The most dramatic expansion of democracy and removal of autocratic power in the Middle East has not come from America’s use of hard power in Iraq and Afghanistan but from the burgeoning Arab Spring movement whose source of momentum has come from the repressed democratic ambitions of the ‘Arab street’.  It is telling that in Egypt, where the second round of parliamentary elections were held today, the parties predicted to win are not those with Western secular values but Islamic ideals.

President Obama may echo George W Bush by publicly claiming the invasion of Iraq was a success but the legacy of Iraq is far from secure and the disastrous consequences for the West’s standing in the region and the concomitant rise of Iran expose the invasion as one of the worst US strategic errors since Vietnam.

Only the most determined of Manichean acolytes would see the removal of one dictator in a largely contained country as worth all the blood and treasure that Iraq has drained.  As the drumbeats for war with Iran are starting to sound, Western policy makers should take Iraq as an example of how poorly deployed hard power can exacerbate tensions and end in tragedy rather than the lofty and enlightened goals Western policy makers had sought to achieve.

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An Israeli strike on Iran would be a mistake

Alexander Pannett 6.58am

The report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency on 8th November has dramatically increased tensions across the Middle East as pressure builds for more aggressive action against Iran’s nuclear ambitions. 

The report says that it “has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible… that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

It is estimated that Iran now has enough highly enriched uranium to build, should it choose to do so, at least one nuclear weapon within a year and that this could be rapidly followed by several more. It is less clear whether Iran is capable of arming one of its Shahab 3 ballistic missiles, which have a range of 1,200 miles (1,900 km), with a nuclear warhead but the IAEA suggests that Iran has attempted experiments for such a purpose.

Following this release of the IAEA report, there has been a massive explosion at an Iranian military base that has killed 17 people including Major General Hassan Moghaddam, a Revolutionary Guard Commander, described by Iranian media as a pioneer in Iranian missile development.  Reports have linked the blast to Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.

Tensions are clearly mounting and pressure is growing on Iran to abandon its alleged development of a nuclear arsenal.  But China and Russia have made it clear that growing criticism will not lead to stricter UN sanctions against the Iranian regime.  After Libya, both Russia and China are wary of allowing Western diplomats the ability to use a UN security council resolution as a legitimate casus belli against Iran, which is a major Russian ally in a strategically important region and also a large buyer of Russian arms.

The diplomatic stalemate has led to increased speculation that either Israel or the US will resort to military force to end Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.  Whilst the Obama administration regards such an approach as a last resort, reports suggest that the Israeli government is far more enthusiastic about the merits of a military strike. 

For the Israelis, there may never be a more propitious time for an attack.  The Syrian revolt has diminished the threat from this Iranian ally, the Israeli airforce has acquired new bunker-buster bombs that can penetrate hardened Iranian defences, the US drawdown in Iraq has mitigated against the range of reprisals available to Iran and a weak US presidency facing both an election year and a weak economy may even result in US assistance in a military confrontation as Obama will not want to look ineffectual.

A military strike however, would be disastrous for the region and global stability.  Firstly it would only at best delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions, not end them.  Iran has too many dispersed and hidden nuclear sites for the Israelis to permanently disrupt the development of nuclear weapons.  Iranian reprisals both directly and indirectly, through its proxy forces of Hamas and Hezbollah, would be deadly.  The attack would be a propaganada coup for Islamic fundamentalists across the region, who would be spurred by the direct attack on Islamic sovereignty.  It would also cause oil prices to dangerously soar, which would be enough to push the US and the rest of the West back into recession, undoubtedly causing untold damage to US-Israeli relations.  The peace process with Palestine would be set back and the Middle East united against Israel rather than increasingly split between a pro-Iran Shia pole and an anti-Iran Sunni pole. 

If Israel’s main aim was a more stable and secure Middle East, it would be better for it to devise strategies that accepted the eventuality of a nuclear armed Iran.  It should attempt to exact the largest price from Iran possible both diplomatically and economically for having nuclear weapons, and use the issue to forge an anti-Iranian alliance across the Middle East. 

A reapprochement with Turkey and more support for the burgeoning Arab democratic movements would be the best course for isolating Iran’s autocratic government. In conjunction with this approach, the West should deepen economic sanctions against Iran and demonstrate to both the Iranian regime and other prospective nuclear powers that the cost of the bomb in no way justifies its supposed benefits. 

Whilst a nuclear armed Iran sets a dangerous precedent and must be resisted as much as possible, a military confrontation at a time of relative Western weakness makes little strategic sense and could leave Israel dangerously isolated.

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