At AIPAC conference, Iran endgame looms large
Mark Donig, Times of Israel, Mar 3 2013
Despite all the threats Israel sees surrounding it, for the delegates assembled Sunday in the packed Washington Convention Center housing the 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference, Iran’s attempt to procure a nuclear weapon still loomed largest. At the conference, which takes place just weeks before Obama sets off to Israel for the first foreign trip of his second term, there seemed to be an unspoken understanding that 2013 will be a decisive year for Israel’s security, with dangers lurking north, south and east. At the opening plenary session of the conference, two leading former US foreign policy officials spoke of their mutually desired outcome for the Iranian nuclear standoff, namely prevention, yet offered two distinct views on how to reach it. Dennis Ross of WINEP said Sunday morning:
It’s time to go to an endgame. The weakness inherent in a step-by-step negotiation strategy is that Iranians have been playing the rope-a-dope strategy. Rather, offering an endgame proposal that would be theoretically satisfactory to both Iran and the West allows the P5+1 to call the Iranians on their bluff. If you’re denying an excuse, and the Iranians don’t respond, then maybe the position of the P5+1 has to be, alright, we are beginning to lose patience.
Elliott Abrams was decidedly less optimistic about the prospect of recent negotiations yielding a positive outcome, telling the crowd:
I worry about what I see in the papers. It appears to me we are negotiating with ourselves. We see no concessions with Iran. While sanctions have effectively sent the Iranians’ economy spiraling, but the goal of sanctions is to prevent them from getting closer to a nuclear weapons capability, and we are failing to do that.
The questions over the Iranian nuclear threat come at a time in US political discourse when policy-makers face complex political and ideological fights over the future of Washington’s foreign policy. A growing number of dissenting, isolationist-leaning members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, have argued that USAia’s economic condition poses a greater threat to national security than does any outside danger. A war with Iran, these members reason, would waste billions of dollars and divert US attention from focusing on the recovery at home. Can anyone conclude with full confidence that 2013 will be a decisive year with Iran? Many leading voices on the issue, including both Ross and Abrams, have previously stated that 2013 will indeed find USrael attacking Iran militarily, should diplomacy fail. Other Middle East experts, however, are not so sure. Aaron David Miller said in an interview:
The notion that they are somehow inexorably drawing towards military action is wrongheaded, because of three key factors: Israel’s awareness of the risks of a strike, Iran’s own determination to avoid a military strike, and Obama’s wariness of potential complications arising from war with Iran. Even though I suspect Obama is prepared to act because he does not want to preside over Iran crossing the nuclear threshold, that decision will be a long one. These three self-reinforcing realities will combine to make much of 2013 a year of indecision when it comes to the question of peace or war.
Still, for the thousands of delegates who showed up at Capitol Hill’s doorstep for this year’s
brainwashing frenzy Policy Conference, the end goal was, as always, unanimous: prevention is the only option.