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Israel’s military chief on Iran’s intentions — beware of spin

Lt. Gen Benny Gantz, Israel’s military chief of staff, doubts that Iran will build a nuclear bomb. Gantz expressed his doubts in an interview with Haaretz.

Gantz’s view will receive much attention, as it should. That’s why it’s important to look carefully at the conclusion Gantz reached and at the stated reasons for his conclusion. MSM reports like this one by the Washington Post trumpet Gantz’s conclusion without looking at his reasoning. This may be because Gantz’s reasoning does not necessarily cut in favor of the MSM’s desire that Iran not be attacked.

Here is what Gantz believes about Iran’s intentions:

[Iran] is going step by step to a place where it will able to decide whether to manufacture a nuclear bomb. It hasn’t decided whether to go that extra mile. . . .

I believe [Khamenei] would be making an enormous mistake [if he develops a nuclear bomb], and I don’t think he will want to go the extra mile. I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people. But I agree that such a capacity in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists who at a particular moment could make different calculations, is very dangerous.

But why does Gantz believe that the rational decision for Iran’s leadership is to go to the brink of developing a nuclear bomb, incurring sanctions in the process, but then not “go the extra mile” and actually develop it? After all, possessing a nuclear bomb would substantially increase Iran’s military strength and ability to project power.

Gantz explains that as long as Iran’s nuclear facilities are not bomb-proof, “the program is too vulnerable, in Iran’s view.” But “if Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a response. . .it [the decision to develop a nuclear bomb] will happen.”

In other words, Gantz believe that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb, at least in the short run, because its facilities are too vulnerable to attack. But if Iran can make its facilities invulnerable, it will go that last step and get a nuclear bomb. And, naturally, Gantz agrees that this development would be “very dangerous.”

On this view, the case against striking Iran soon is far from obvious. If Iran won’t decide to develop the bomb until its facilities are invulnerable, and if Israel waits until Iran decides to develop the bomb to attack, then it follows that Israel has waited too long. On Gantz’s view of the situation, we would want to know the likelihood that Iran can make its facilities “bomb proof” and, if so, how long this would take. Gantz does not appear to have opined about this.

So if you hear folks cite General Gantz as authority for the proposition that Israel can take the military option against Iran off the table, understand that this is spin. At most, Gantz believes there is still time to see if some combination of sanctions and diplomacy can have effect. But the point of putting much faith in this process is undermined by Gantz’s view that if Iran thinks it can make its facilities invulnerable, it will proceed to develop a nuclear bomb.

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