While U.S. officials have been in damage-control mode this week after the latest revelations from WikiLeaks, Israeli leaders must be fighting the urge to tell the world, “I told you so.”
Confirming what many of us already suspected, WikiLeaks revealed that officials in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and other Arab nations are as concerned as the West, if not more, about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and urged that it be stopped “by whatever means necessary.”
President Obama, Republicans, and Democrats have repeatedly said that all options remain on the table, but the United States has pursued a strategy of sanctions that has had disappointing results. We certainly do not support blindly marching to war or launching military strikes against Iran, but we should take into account what this new information means for Iranian policy.
One of the main concerns about a military strike has been reaction from the Arab world and destabilization of the Middle East. It would be easy and wrong to say that these government cables erase those concerns, but they do provide a new perspective.
Before Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981, analysts feared Arab reaction to Israeli action, much as during the early days of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. We saw the usual hemming and hawing and verbal attacks on Israel from the Arabs, but not much else. The world did not end after Osirak or Cast Lead. In the Arab world there was then, and there appears to be now, an understanding that Israel is the lesser of two evils – and when push comes to shove, the Arab world will choose Israel.
That is powerful political capital that Israel should not squander.
We do not know for sure the origin of the Stuxnet virus that recently sent some of Iran’s centrifuges spinning out of control and slowed its nuclear development, but we can guess.
And we applaud whoever planted the virus. We see Iran moving once again to the negotiating table, perhaps because the virus demonstrated that opponents of the country’s nuclear program do not need bombs to disable it. Perhaps the publication of widespread support in the Arab world to stop Iran “by whatever means necessary” will instill a new sense of fear among Iran’s leaders that could finally force a change of behavior that sanctions could not.