TORONTO — Three political pundits, including Conrad Black, recently spoke about what Israel and the United States should do to fight the Iranian nuclear threat.
Black, a former Canadian newspaper publisher, Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of a U.S. foundation, and Bret Stephens, an American newspaper columnist, shared their views to a full house at Beth Tzedec Congregation. The Nov. 19 event was sponsored by Torah in Motion.
Stephens, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, said stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is effectively an attempt to stop World War III.
Dubowitz, executive director of the U.S.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that he and the other speakers had similar views about the situation – that there was no debate on whether something needed to be done about the Iranian nuclear threat.
Where the panellists differed, however, was in determining how it should be done, and, in particular, the efficacy of sanctions.
Black said he’s not convinced sanctions work very well. “[Sanctions are] more than likely to produce an appetite for compromise and even concession,” he said, explaining that he shares former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s view on sanctions. They “punish all of the people, and not all of the people are responsible.”
Dubowitz agreed that implementing sanctions isn’t a “silver bullet.” They’re not going to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons, he said, but they have worked in placing the Iranian regime into the “penalty box.”
“Sanctions have had a profound moral impact on the Iranian regime,” he said, adding sanctions may accomplish the necessary preconditions for a military strike against Iran.
Stephens said it’s not only important to get rid of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but also to implement a long-term plan to rid the country of the current regime.
“It is hard to imagine unintended consequences that could possibly be worse than the foreseeable consequences of Iran being equipped with nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that the possibility that Iran could actually use the weapons once they have them should not be discounted.
Black said countries such as the United States should be doing more to prevent a nuclear Iran, which includes the use of a military strike if the country does not yield to ultimatums.
While Dubowitz agreed that there are already enough justifications to take a military strike, he said the United States has an obligation to exhaust every peaceful method first, since a strike would put the lives of too many Americans and Israelis on the line.
“Even if we do resort to military strikes, it doesn’t hurt to try to weaken them first with sanctions,” he said, adding that sanctions are surely collapsing Iran’s economy, but it isn’t doing so fast enough.
Black contested that he wasn’t suggesting a full-blown war with Iran. “We’re just talking about blowing up a laboratory or a group of laboratories,” he said. “If they don’t stop it, then we are going to incite steadily more irresponsible and dangerous behaviour.”
Dubowitz, despite his positive view of sanctions, doesn’t believe diplomacy or sanctions will counter the Iranian threat. We know where these facilities are, and if we don’t stop them by summer 2013, it will be too late, he said.
He said he’s worried that U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration will try to negotiate with Iran, and the United States will make a “stupid agreement” that might give Iran the right to enrichment.
All three speakers expressed worry that the Obama administration will not take strong enough action.
The sooner a military action is taken against Iran, the better, said Stephens. Maybe targeted bombing doesn’t always work, and maybe some civilians will be killed, he said. But the governments cannot tremble in fear at the idea of some kind of military action against Iran.
“We are not, or ought not to be in the business of making sure that all of our actions can be justified in light of history or current circumstances,” he said. “We are in the business of making sure that we, as Jews, and the State of the Israel, will survive for generations.”