Indyk: The Israelis Hated Eastern European Missile Defense

At an American Enterprise Institute event today — “Should Israel Attack Iran?” (yes, they’re obviously trying to get peoples’ attention) — former Ambassador Martin Indyk revealed an interesting wrinkle to the story of Eastern European missile defense system, which the Obama administration canceled last month, a move conservatives have heavily criticized as — what else? — appeasement.

Recounting recent meetings with Israeli national security officials, Indyk said that “the Israelis were upset at the way that Bush had offended Russia with missile defense” in Eastern Europe. The Israelis, like many Americans and most of the rest of the world, saw the deployment of untested missile defense technology in Poland and the Czech Republic as needlessly provocative of Russia, whose support is seen as necessary for any effort to bring Iran’s nuclear program under control.

Speaking about President Obama’s engagement policy, Indyk said “The key to this strategy has always been Russia,” because of their close relationship with the Iranians, and Obama “is bringing them [the Russians] around.” After the administration announced the canceling of the missile defense system, Indyk said, the Russians told the Iranians “if you do not go along with the proposal to ship out low enriched uranium” to Russia for reprocessing, “then you will be on your own.”

President Obama’s diplomacy “is about trying to concert the international community into a solid block against the Iranian nuclear program such that the Iranians would see that it is not in their interest to pursue nuclear weapons.” Indyk said “That is what is happening now.”

Amb. John Bolton, who was one of the biggest critics of the administration’s canceling of the missile defense system, was dismissive. “The Iranians are never going to be talked out of that effort” to obtain nuclear weapons, he said. As to the question of whether Israel should attack, Bolton said only that he believed “the use of force is necessary.” Bolton did, however, say that he did not think Israel “need[ed] to, or should” use tactical nuclear weapons against Iran.

AEI analyst Michael Rubin, who has been pretty clear-eyed about the costs of military action, said that in the event of an attack either by the U.S. or Israel, “Iranians will rally around the flag.” As for the idea that the Iranian people would rise up against the regime after such an attack, Rubin said “it’s wishful thinking. The best thing that ever happened to Islamic revolution was Saddam Hussein’s invasion” in September 1980, which allowed the still-wobbly regime of Ayatollah Khomeini to unify the country and consolidate power.