What can the US do about an Israeli attack on Iran? Would you believe nothing?
David Goldman argues that in the event that Israel decides that its strategic interests include attacking Iran's nuclear program, there is nothing the United States can do about it
Minus nuclear weapons, Iran’s ability to inflict damage on the United
States is quite limited (it might inflict considerable damage on Israel
directly or through its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza, however). Iran
cannot close the Straits of Hormuz, at least not for very long. Its
retaliatory capacity will be limited to a few acts of terrorism. If
Israel can indeed neutralize Iran’s nuclear capacity for a significant
period of time, it will be doing America and its allies an enormous
An Israeli strike on Iran would inflict maximum damage on the utopian
illusions of the Obama administration. What qualifies Chuck Hagel for
the top Pentagon job in a second Obama administration, I believe, is
that he shares Obama’s impassioned commitment to global nuclear
disarmament. He is a prominent actor in the Global Zero
campaign for world nuclear disarmament and a board member of
Ploughshares, a pro-disarmament organization. In 2010 the Obama
administration endorsed an Egyptian plan for a nuclear-free Middle East
(that is, for Israeli unilateral disarmament). I expect Obama to return to this agenda in 2013.
While the Obama White House fiddles with utopian fantasies, the
Middle East burns. Israel has a clearer shot at Iran than at any time in
the past ten years. With the Assad regime holding on by its
fingernails, the likelihood of retaliation from Syria is nil.
Hezbollah’s capacity and willingness to attack Israel with its
substantial missile capacity is also limited by Assad’s distress. The
risk of war with Syria was always a limiting factor in Israel’s capacity
to reduce Hezbollah. With Assad weakened, Hezbollah is on its own. As
for Egypt: I doubt if its army has enough gasoline to move a division of
tanks to the Israeli border.
After the remarkable success of Iron Dome, moreover, Israel has
emerged as a pocket superpower in military technology, offering systems
that are a lot better and a lot cheaper than anything the United States
has to sell in a number of critical fields (rocket defense and drones,
among others). Israel cannot produce the entire range of its defense
requirements, but there is plenty of competition to the F-35 in the
offing, for example. America’s neglect of its technological edge in
defense sharply reduces its ability to dictate terms to its allies.
If Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear program successfully enough to set
it back two to or three years (the gauge of success that the Israelis
have employed in the past), the Obama administration will be outraged.
“If only those @#(@)*(** hadn’t gotten involved, we could have fixed all
the problems of the world!,” the White House will sulk. But there won’t
be much that the Obama administration could to do after the fact to
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Labels: Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli attack on Iran