In the Prince, Nicolo Macchiavelli, we are reminded by Winston Churchill, advised his master that, in confronting antagonist states, "Men avenge slight injuries but not grave ones."
The slight injury
The recent cagey NIE document, written by veteran State Department diplomats associated with conciliation, has ignited a festival of trash talking by those who aim to avenge the slight injury these last years that Iran has been punished unfairly for its bad behavior. These avengers seize upon the NIE declaration that, according to limited, time-dated sources, the Iranian regime halted its predatory and secret nuclear weapons program in 2003; and with this debatable fact in hand these avengers seek to settle scores by cat-calling at the Bush Administration and its nest of hawks .
For example, the apocalyptic President Ahmandinejad of Iran boasts that the NIE document "is a declaration of victory" that vindicates Iran’s aggression to continue to violate the Non Prolieration Treaty. The opaque ElBaredei of the IAEA comments that the NIE document "somewhat vindicates" Iran in its confrontation with the United Nations Security Council. The foggy ambassadors of Russia and the PRC are both quick to use numbing language to say that the NIE document will inform the next wave of sanctions against Iran for its prolonged intransigence. Sergei Lavrov of Russia even used the magical words of guaranteed dithering, "We will assess the situation…." The influential editorial page of the Financial Times, long a voice of droll European pacifism, concedes that Iran remains "murky" yet reaches that "robust diplomacy" Meanwhile the quixotic presidential candidates are scrapping over who has demonstrated the wisest counsel for fastidious diplomacy in the face of the White House’s bullying agitprop against the Tehran regime. A glib adviser to Barack Obama could be heard preaching: "The NIE is the final nail in the coffin of the Bush doctrine."
In sum, all those who argue for accommodation, placation, negotiation are now giggling at those rascally war-mongers who have long been warning that nuclear weapons in the hands of the hallucinatory mullahs and their terrorist hand maiden the IRGC will bring worse and worse.
The grave injury
Then again, the tantrums and end zone-dancing over the NIE document, which may be no more than a prank by out of work diplomats, does not speak to the facts of the matter that the United States is well engaged in a hot and cold war with the Tehran regime.
Also, it does not speak to the facts that the United States has gathered military and political forces of various capabilities and worthiness that now surround the map of the Tehran regime, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iraq, in Azerbaijan and Russia, in the Gulf.
Most critically, it does not speak to the fact that the gravest injury that United States has inflicted upon the Tehran regime since the opening of the war in 2001 was the mysterious air to ground attack on September 6, 2007 against a target in eastern Syria.
The facts are very slight, very doubtful, very untransparent. On Thursday September 6, we are told by less than candid and usually unnamed sources, Israel launched Operation Orchard against a suspected military site in the Dawr as Zawr region of Syria in the Euphrates valley. It was a combination ground reconnaissance and air raid that bombed the target to destruction. It was a combat operation that may well have violated Turkey’s airspace, that certainly violated Syria’s airspace, and that was declared successful by Israel and its famous martial Defense Minister, Ehud Barak.
All the additional details about the event are untrustworthy. Syria complained then fell silent. North Korea complained, then fell silent. Iran did not much speak, then fell silent. The United States and its many chatty officials went out of their way to communicate that no one was talking, no one was going to talk, and then everyone fell noisily silent. George Bush refused to comment many times, and jested that he had been to this "rodeo" before and wasn’t cooperating with the media’s plaints. Peculiarly, within days of an inarguable act of war, the pacifist prime minister of Israel stated that he wanted to make peace with Syria.
What also cannot be argued is that September 6 was the gravest injury of all that one princedom can inflict upon another princedom — a sneak bombing attack on a sovereign neighbor, a Pearl Harbor in the desert. This gravest injury is the fact that must be dealt with by all those who believe themselves vindicated by the NIE document. What happened that day? What was the target? Why did Israel launch? Why did Syria not defend itself? Why hasn’t Syria ever sought to bus the urbane pacifists of Europe and Asia to the site to demonstrate that the attack was premeditated villainy and proof of Israel’s roguery?
We can review the explanations tossed out into the media and dismiss each of them as plausible and at the same time as speculative and unproven. A North Korean like nuclear reactor? A WMD dump? A missile arsenal? A dirty bomb factory?
More threatening than what the site was and remains — and where it is, since even this is not fixed – is the fact that this was not an Israel rogue operation launched against the fourth rate regime. This was an attack by the best and most capable military ally of the United States against a state with which Israel has been at war for forty years, a state that is profoundly and inextricably allied and entangled with the regime in Tehran.
No more speculation, not here. The facts that are open source to date are clever, far-fetched and fleeting. The facts that are not open source suggest grave and ongoing threat.
There is one detail that must be underlined when anyone engages in debate about the NIE document and its meaning for future conflict between the United States and Iran.
On September 6, 2007, the war-fighters of the United States and the war-fighters of the State of Israel cooperated in some profound way, and the word is conspired, to attack violently, and at great risk to themselves and the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran by attacking and defeating and humiliating and cowing its ally Syria. Bomb Iran? We did. And what has happened? Iran remains silent like a wounded cat.