Israel Attacks Iran (Again)
If the U.S. didn’t specifically give Israel the green light for this strike, it has certainly given the Israeli government no reason to think that it would disapprove.
The Israeli government launched another attack inside Iran this weekend:
A drone attack on an Iranian military facility that resulted in a large explosion in the center of the city of Isfahan on Saturday was the work of the Mossad, Israel’s premier intelligence agency, according to senior intelligence officials who were familiar with the dialogue between Israel and the United States about the incident.
This attack is just the latest in a series of aggressive moves that the Israeli government has made against Iran over the last several years. Some of the coverage of the strike has framed it as part of an effort to “contain” Iran. As far as I can tell, there has been no acknowledgment in any of the reporting that the Israeli attack was unprovoked and illegal. Israel’s illegal attacks on Iranian and other targets in Syria and Iraq over the years have become so common that no one even blinks when another one happens. They are all defined as “defensive” strikes because the attacker says they are.
As I was saying last week, it is simply taken for granted that the U.S. and Israel can launch attacks against Iran with impunity, and that is how this attack is being treated. U.S. officials have wanted to make clear that this was an Israeli operation, but the administration apparently isn’t going to rebuke or even discourage the Israeli government from conducting more operations like this one. It is probably no accident that this strike came on the heels of the joint U.S.-Israeli military exercises last week that were meant to simulate an attack on Iran. If the U.S. didn’t specifically give Israel the green light for this strike, it has certainly given the Israeli government no reason to think that it would disapprove.
It is worth thinking through what the reaction would be like if Iran had launched a similar attack on Israeli soil. The condemnation from the U.S. and many of its allies would be immediate and deafening. There would be demands from hawkish members of Congress for more sanctions and probably for retaliatory strikes on Iranian targets. The U.S. would hasten to show solidarity with Israel and pledge to provide it with more military assistance.
If our political leaders have anything to say about the attack in Isfahan, it will probably be to applaud it and to call for more of the same. The “war on terror” has normalized routine violations of other states’ sovereignty, and the U.S. has never been overly concerned about the rights of other nations when it doesn’t like their governments. Decades of sanctions and threat inflation have conditioned our politicians and policymakers to see certain countries as punching bags that can be abused however Washington and its clients see fit. In some cases, that paves the way for starting wars. Even when it doesn’t lead to open war, it reinforces destructive habits that foster instability and hostility.
One of the reasons why so many officials in other governments roll their eyes when the U.S. talks about the “rules-based order” is that the rules never fully apply to the U.S. or the states that it supports. Some governments can launch attacks on other countries without having to worry about any penalties or criticism, and the others have to follow the rules to the letter or face punishment. The U.S. will condemn some violations of international law in the harshest terms, and it will wink at, facilitate, or commit other violations without any consequences for the violators. We talk about putting certain war criminals on trial, and in the next breath we endorse sending more weapons to other war criminals. Such a blatant two-tiered system erodes respect for international law and breeds contempt for the U.S. and its partners, and in the long run it makes everyone less secure.
Stop kidding yourself. Of course the United States was intimately involved.
The only question that remains is what is Iran proposing to do about it?