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June 26, 2015

Nuclear Free Middle East, or, The Secret Life of Walter Pincus

Washington Post columnist Walter Pincus has opined again on Israel, Iran, and nuclear weapons. And again, his compulsion to play “gotcha� against Israel cripples his analysis.

Pincus’ “Nuclear-free Middle East is worth imagining� (June 16, 2015) flawed premise leads to a flawed conclusion—just like his “Is the U.S. going too far to help Israel?� (May 17, 2012), as CAMERA noted at the time.

The Post columnist says his reading of Ari Shavit’s book My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel—a key chapter of which CAMERA exposed for falsely portraying the 1948 battle for Lydda (Lod) as a “massacre at the heart of Zionism�—sparked the thought that if Israel would just agree to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a nuclear-free Middle East eventually would emerge.

Pincus says that according to Shavit “the Iranians have been doing what Israel did…if Iran succeeds, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Algeria could be next.� The veteran correspondent muses:

“That thought made me realize how different this all would be if Israel, rather than opposing a P5+1 [Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council] agreement calling for new economic sanctions against Iran and threatening a military attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities, would put its energy into developing a rational NPT option.�

By this logic, nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is Israel’s fault. By its extension, other Middle Eastern countries are not independent actors with their own motivations; they only react to actions of Israel and the West. In this line of thinking, Iran—despite its own calls to “wipe Israel off the map�—wants a nuclear weapon only because Israel has had one before the treaty existed.

To Pincus, the solution is simple: Israel should quit calling for Iran—a signatory to the NPT—to abide its promises and instead propose a “rational� NPT option. How this would elicit a different response from the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, a regime that repeatedly refuses to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) he doesn’t say.

A clouded crystal ball

Perhaps this is because nuclear proliferation in Middle Eastern countries isn’t the primary focus of the article—Israel’s defense policy is.

The Post’s long-time reporter and columnist asserts the Jewish state has no need for nuclear self-defense because “the threat to Israel that generated its bomb—overwhelming Arab armies—no longer exists. The Israel Defense Forces have far more conventional capability than the nation’s neighbors put together, including Iran.�

By this logic, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, and their terrorist ilk pose little or no threat to Israel—even as they gobble up territory (including some near the Israeli-controlled portion of the Golan Heights), mount operations to kill Israelis, and in the case of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip—receive support from Iran. Similarly, had not Israeli bombers conducted “nuclear arms control� against Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007, conventional or terrorist armies might be protected today by radioactive umbrellas.

But in Pincus’ crystal ball photograph, as opposed to the Middle East’s unspooling video of upheaval, today’s tactical threats will never change into strategic dangers, Arab armies will never serve aggressive pan-Islamic regimes and Israel with its inescapable population inferiority will remain militarily superior to any combination of threats without a presumed nuclear arsenal.

Pretzel logic and crucial omissions leave the author comfortable with his mind-numbing claim “the best way to remove the Iran nuclear threat is to create a Middle East nuclear-free zone.� After all, he says, as if it mattered, it “has been on the U.N. agenda since the 1960s…promoted initially by Egypt and Iran [emphasis added].�

Not only CAMERA recognized Pincus’ faulty reasoning. Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Executive Director Abraham Foxman noted in a June 21, 2015 letter to the editor that Pincus’ attempt to compare Israel to South Africa—which cancelled its nuclear program—was “faulty� since “South Africa faced no enemies committed to its destruction. Israel faces an Iran that openly calls for the end of the Jewish state.�

Pincus concludes by “sadly� noting demands by theocrats in Tehran for Israel to sign the treaty—which the Iranian regime regularly violates—are not likely to be heeded.

In James Thurber’s 1939 short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"—enlarged if not improved as a 2013 Ben Stiller film—the main character daydreams his fantasies into apparent reality. Many children play with imaginary friends; Pincus periodically writes about an imaginary Middle East.—Sean Durns

Posted by ER at June 26, 2015 04:12 PM


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