Dennis Ross: 18 Months to Avoid War with
5 July 2007
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is so radical he thinks Oliver Stone is a charter member of the Great Satan club, said recently that "the countdown to the destruction of the Zionist regime is underway." Dennis Ross, chief negotiator on the Middle East for Bush Sr. and Clinton, thinks a countdown is also underway to war with
In his view, the slow-motion diplomacy taking place between
(Dennis Ross has played a leading role in shaping
Nathan Gardels: Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud Party, has warned all along that unilateral Israeli withdrawal from southern
What are the prospects of a Netanyahu government? Wouldn't he move to attack
Dennis Ross: If there were an election today, Netanyahu would win. Yet, his standing in the polls is also a reflection of the weakness of Ehud Olmert, the current prime minister -- who stands at 2 percent in a recent poll -- and the enduring weaknesses of the Labor Party.
Netanyahu's prospects when an election is actually called will depend largely on whether Ehud Barak, another former prime minister and war hero who is now defense minister, can restore credibility to this government and to himself as a leader.
For the moment, this government is more stable than generally believed because half of those in the Israeli Knesset would stand to lose their seats if an election were called now.
So, there is a predisposition against calling an election. I don't think we'll see an election until the fall of 2008.
The larger issue is how Netanyahu might act on
They take what (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad says very seriously, and only last (month) he said, "The countdown to the destruction of the Zionist regime is under way." Even (Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi) Rafsanjani, who is seen as more pragmatic, said several years ago that it would take only one nuclear weapon to destroy
Clearly, at the moment, we are headed down the path of use of force. The slow-motion diplomacy of the West simply does not match the rapid development of
Gardels: What can be done during that 18-month window to avoid war?
Ross: Successful diplomacy is an alignment of objectives and means. So, three things need to happen on the diplomatic front, all geared to getting the Europeans to more seriously sanction
First, the Saudis must push
Second, the Israelis need to go the Europeans and say, "If you think you are on a path that will avoid war, you are mistaken. You are increasing the risk of war because we will not be able to live with an
Already, many Europeans want the
The essence of statecraft is that all parties must get something. Many Europeans are concerned that stronger sanctions are a slippery slope toward war unless the
Gardels: U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin said in
Ross: It can certainly help. The Iranians have counted on the Russians to act as an insurance policy in the U.N. Security Council to block effective sanctions. The more the Russians are in, it means the more U.N. sanctions can be biting enough to be effective. We'll see. My fear is that relying on the U.N. will only mean more slow-motion diplomacy while Iran continues on a fast pace in its nuclear program and Israel prepares to act.
Gardels: What makes you think biting sanctions would bring
Ross: The Iranian ruling elite is split between those who are intransigent and think they can live with isolation, and those who don't. For me, the incident a few months back when the British sailors were taken hostage was instructive. The Revolutionary Guard, which seized the sailors, didn't want to release them unless they got something for it. They got nothing because the decision to release the British sailors was imposed on them from above.
In the end, the balance of power will shift toward those in the elite who want to avoid war, economic misery and social unrest. Look at the turmoil that has erupted already over the relatively modest rationing of gasoline! Sanctions would make the unsettled atmosphere in
We are headed on a pathway now that will lead to the use of force. We don't want it to be that way. It doesn't have to be that way. There are alternatives, but the clock is ticking.
Source: Huffington Post
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