Scholar Jonathan Spyer writes in Britain's The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk) on Nov. 9 about the danger of a nuclear Iran:
"The possible emergence of a nuclear-armed, Islamist Iran committed to the destruction of the Jewish state is the key security issue currently occupying the attention of Israel's political and security elite. It is one of the few issues upon which there is near (but not total) consensus.
"Israel has watched the growing power of radical elements within the Iranian ruling elite in the last half-decade with concern. These elements, of which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the most prominent representative, openly reject Israel's right to exist. His comments advocating Israel's destruction and denying the Holocaust are part of a larger project to recover the original fervor of the 1979 Islamic revolution. The expansion of Iran's regional role is also part of this, and Israeli strategists note that the influence of Iran in all areas of key strategic concern to Israel is being felt, in a negative way.
"Iran's alliance with Syria underwrites Damascus' increasingly bellicose stance. Iran's creation and sponsorship of Hezbollah has enabled it to come to constitute the powerful militia opponent seen in last year's war. Iranian assistance to Hamas and Islamic jihad may be in the process of turning these organizations into analogous forces.
"Iran's active policy of subversion toward Israel — and stated desire for its destruction — makes the possibility of a nuclear Iran inconceivable to Israeli policymakers. It is not only the scenario of an Iranian nuclear attack that is focusing concerns. Rather, there is concern that a nuclear Iran would use the 'immunity' purchased by a nuclear capability to increase its support for countries and organizations hostile to Israel. A nuclear Iran could render life in Israel untenable — through support for terror groups and the possibility that all determined Israeli attempts to oppose Iranian aggression would lead to immediate nuclear crisis.
"Israel's response so far on the Iranian nuclear issue has been to support the imposition of tougher sanctions. Senior officials have been involved in recent weeks in an international campaign to bring home to European states the common danger posed by a nuclear Iran.
"Nevertheless, should it become apparent that all attempts to reverse Iran's progress toward a nuclear capability have failed, and Iran indeed stands on the cusp of a nuclear weapons capability, then the possibility of unilateral Israeli military action to prevent a nuclear Iran would come onto the agenda.
"For the moment, therefore, efforts toward further sanctions are likely to continue. But the consensus in the Israeli intelligence community is that Iran may be as close as two years away from a nuclear-weapons capability. So if Tehran cannot be brought to abandon its nuclear ambitions through strengthened sanctions and international pressure — then pre-emptive Israeli action to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-powered Islamic Republic of Iran is an increasing possibility.
"Regarding the likely Iranian response: The Iranians may choose to increase their already existing aid to insurgents in Iraq, they may seek to strike at Israel through proxy and client organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas, they may seek to hit at Western, Gulf and Jewish targets through terrorism. The fallout in terms of regional anger and protests will, no doubt, be immense.
"Israeli strategists conjecturing such issues, however, may well consider that an angry, vengeful but non-nuclear Iran is a more preferable prospect than a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic, triumphant and filled with the ambition for regional hegemony which possession of nuclear weapons would bring."
Let's Face Facts: Leaks Are Part of the Job, and a Not-So-Secret One at That
Journalist and author Norman Pearlstine writes in The Wall Street Journal (www.opinionjournal.com) about the threat the prosecution of two former AIPAC analysts poses to both democracy and the free press:
"Michael Mukasey, the new attorney general, is expected to review the Justice Department's flawed, embarrassing prosecution of two former lobbyists for AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
"The lobbyists, Steven J. Rosen, and a junior associate, Keith Weissman, are charged under the 1917 Espionage Act with receiving classified information from Lawrence Franklin, then a top Defense Department official. The lobbyists allegedly passed on the information to a reporter for The Washington Post and an Israeli embassy employee.
"Much of the information was about Iran's plans for destabilizing Iraq. Franklin, who was also indicted, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Under government pressure, he has agreed to testify against his friends, the former AIPAC lobbyists. Their trial is set for January.
"The AIPAC lobbyists are the victims of selective prosecution for behavior that has become commonplace. They did what journalists and lobbyists have been doing since the founding of the republic. That is why so many journalists worry about the case, and why some constitutional lawyers believe the Espionage Act is so vague that the Supreme Court would conclude it unconstitutional.
"The fear of Supreme Court review might explain why there have been so few prosecutions of government leakers for espionage, and why, before AIPAC, the government had never sought to make receipt of classified information and passing it on to others a crime under the Espionage Act.
"Like it or not, the lobbyists were operating in a system in which leaks have become essential to the function of government in Washington. It is often impossible for a journalist or a lobbyist to know whether leaked information is classified. And, surprisingly, leaking may be legal, so long as the information has first been declassified.
"As Max Frankel, then the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, wrote in 1971, 'a small and specialized corps of reporters and a few hundred American officials regularly make use of so-called classified, secret, and top-secret information and documentation. It is a cooperative, competitive, antagonistic and arcane relationship.'
"He was trying to explain why the Times shouldn't be restrained from publishing the Pentagon Papers. In doing so, Frankel also cited examples from his own career, in which presidents and Cabinet-level officials had used him as a conduit to inform the public, using secret information to do so. As President John F. Kennedy, columnist James Reston and others have famously observed, 'The Ship of State is the only ship that leaks at the top.'
"It won't just be lobbyists who suffer if Rosen and Weissman are tried and convicted. Journalists and other members of the information-gathering business will find it far more difficult and far more dangerous to do their jobs.
"If Americans want and need a British-style Official Secrets Act, we should get it from Congress, not from the courts. Although vigorous pursuit of the indictments might lead to convictions, the new attorney general should withdraw the charges now, overruling the department he has been asked to lead. To do so would require courage, toughness, decency and good sense, but the facts and the law make it the right thing to do."