Jack Straw on the Possibility of a Military Strike Against Iran: “War is not an option.”Posted: March 31, 2013
This is a very interesting piece by Jack Staw, the former UK Foreign Minister. Before I get to his real substantive points, I have to say that when I first read this, and saw Straw quoting from the UN Charter and giving an analysis of international law in the first few paragraphs, I was shocked at the hypocrisy of the man. This is the same Jack Straw, after all, who infamously rejected the legal advice of his own excellent legal adviser, Sir Michael Wood, when Straw was Foreign Minister and Sir Michael clearly advised him that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was in violation of the same sources of international law Straw now quotes. Read this story on that little bit of history. So I don’t know if Straw is now trying to re-create his image, after having been fully a party to Britain’s involvement in that imprudent and disasterous war. Maybe he sees this as the only way he’ll ever be part of another Labour government in the future. In any event, it smelled funny to me.
On a more minor legal point, I don’t agree with his legal assessment that Iran’s failure to declare Natanz and Arak before 2003 constituted a violation of the NPT. As I’ve explained previously, if anything this was an instance of non-compliance with Iran’s IAEA CSA and no more.
But here are the real substantive analyses and conclusions of this particular piece, with which I do very much agree:
I have never been complacent about a nuclear-armed Iran, which is why I devoted so much time to negotiations with the country. My own best judgment is that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who controls the nuclear dossier, probably wants to create the intellectual capacity for a nuclear weapons system, but will stop short of making that system a reality. If I am wrong, further isolation of Iran would follow; but would it trigger nuclear proliferation across the Middle East? Not in my view. Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia “have little to gain and much to lose by embarking down such a route” is the accurate conclusion of researchers from the War Studies Department of King’s College London.
In any event, a nuclear-armed Iran would certainly not be worth a war.
There has been no more belligerent cheerleader for the war party against Iran than Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister. Netanyahu was widely expected to strengthen his position in the January elections for the Israeli parliament, but lost close to a third of his seats. The electorate seemed to take more heed of real experts such as Meir Dagan, a former head of Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency, and Yuval Diskin, a former chief of Shin Bet, its internal security agency.
In 2011, Dagan described an Israeli attack on Iran as a “stupid idea”. More significantly, both Dagan and Diskin have questioned the utility of any strike on Iran. Diskin says there’s no truth in Netanyahu’s assertion that “if Israel does act, the Iranians won’t get the Bomb”. And Dagan is correct in challenging the view that if there were an Israeli attack, the Iranian regime might fall. “In case of an attack [on Iran], political pressure on the regime will disappear. If Israel will attack, there is no doubt in my mind that this will also provide them with the opportunity to go ahead and move quickly to nuclear weapons.” He added that if there were military action, the sanctions regime itself might collapse, making it easier for Iran to obtain the materiel needed to cross the nuclear threshold.
As with the reality of a nuclear-armed North Korea, the international community would have to embark on containment of the threat if, militarily, Iran did go nuclear. But these hard-boiled former heads of the Israeli intelligence agencies are right. War is not an option.