During his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday,Robert Gates, the incoming U.S. secretary of defense, mentioned why Iran might be seeking the means to build an atomic bomb:
"They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf."
The remark led Israeli news bulletins. State-run radio suggested Gates may have breached a U.S. "don't ask, don't tell" policy that dates back to the late 1960s.
"It's quite unprecedented," a retired Israeli diplomat told Reuters on Thursday when asked about Gates's testimony. "I can only assume he has yet to get to grips with the understandings that exist between us and the Americans."
... and perhaps the Israeli government would be kind enough to explain to the American people what "understandings" those might be?
Gates also said something both savvy and politically incorrect about the potential for the Iranians developing a nuclear weapon:
"...while (Iran) are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent."
The Jerusalem Post referred to this rather obvious and common sense statement as "shocking" in an editorial yesterday.
Gates was also asked:
"Can you assure the Israelis that they will not attack Israel with a nuclear weapon, if they acquire one?"
Gates responded, "No, sir, I don't think that anybody can provide that assurance."
...and, Incidentally, Gates could also not promise that NYC won't be attacked by terrorists again, or that Santa will come next year, despite ceremonially cutting open a goat and examining its entrails on the Senate floor, and closely examining Mrs. Clinton's tea leaves. Obviously, his powers of omniscience weren't at their highest yesterday.
The Jerusalem Post responded to this by saying:
"But what if this sunny analysis is wrong and Iran lobs a weapon of mass destruction at Israel? Well, that's a risk that Gates seems willing to take."
Um... I don't believe he said that it was a risk he was willing to take or would somehow ignore. Rather, it is a risk that cannot fully be ruled out or avoided, short of going into Iran with several hundred thousand troops.
What if Pakistan's leader is assasinated / deposed and Islamic fundamentalists get their hands on that country's nukes? What if Al Qaeda builds or acquires a suitcase bomb, a dirty bomb, etc.? What if Chechens infiltrate Russian nuclear facilities? What if Saddam's WMDs from the '80s did make their way into the hands of terrorists? What if African Islamists got Ebola in a testtube? Indeed, "what if" to tens of thousands of other unlkely-but-possible scenarios...
What will the U.S. and British have to do -- and which countries will they have to preemptively invade -- in order to guarantee the Israelis that they won't have to deal with the same kind of risks that Americans, British, and pretty much anyone else has to deal with everyday?