Iran Has Successfully Deterred the U.S.

Beginning with his 2020 electoral campaign, Joe Biden and his foreign-policy team have argued for coming to an accommodation with Tehran over its nuclear program. Biden summed up his approach in an essay he wrote two months before the election, in which he asserted, “There’s a smarter way to be tough on Iran” than then-President Trump’s supposed bellicosity. Yet, argues Michael Doran, there seems to be little evidence that the current president’s approach is capable of achieving results:

Since [President Biden] took office, Tehran moved closer to developing a nuclear weapon by, among other steps, routinely enriching uranium to 60 percent and operating advanced centrifuges. As a wave of unprecedented protests swept Iran, Tehran supplied killer drones to Russia, thus becoming an indirect threat to the eastern flank of the European alliance. Meanwhile, it continued its policies of periodically attacking American and allied forces stationed throughout the Arab world and of planning terror attacks abroad, including plots to kill former American officials on American soil.

Political pressure, according to Doran, explains in part why the White House has nonetheless stuck to its original approach. But it’s not the only reason:

Iran is also deterring Biden. In response to a more aggressive American policy, Tehran might begin enriching uranium to 90 percent and race toward a nuclear weapon. If Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei were to give the order tomorrow, Iran could produce highly enriched uranium to build four nuclear weapons within about one month. It could explode a nuclear device underground within approximately six months. Only American military action could deter such moves.

Dubious assumptions about China also breathe life into “the smarter way.” Biden and his team came into office believing that Beijing (not to mention Moscow) could help stabilize the Middle East. . . . . The administration assumed then, and no doubt still assumes, that it could work together with China and Russia to remove the Middle East from the worst aspects of great-power competition. A flexible and lithe American policy will supposedly prevent a new cold war from enveloping the region.

“The smarter way” is the self-delusion that allows the American strategic community to have it both ways: to believe that it can compete with China globally and pull back from the Middle East simultaneously. It is the public face of a series of unconscious, “if only” wishes about how pretty life might be without its most unpleasant aspects. Wouldn’t it be pretty, if only the United States could downgrade the Middle East and focus its attention on Asia instead? If only Beijing and Moscow would agree not to make a play for control of the global energy market? If only Iran had no intentions to oust the United States from the Arabian Gulf, destroy Israel, and dominate Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates?

Read more at Hoover

More about: China, Iran nuclear program, Joseph Biden, Middle East, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7