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Tuesday, July 08, 2008


At The Current, Robert D. Kaplan asks whether Israel will attack Iran and concludes that it is 'unlikely' (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
But what if the Europeans don’t get the message? Or what if Iran continues its cat-and-mouse negotiating mixed with intransigence? Israel’s future in this regard is indeed bleak. For even if a moderate Republican realist like John McCain, or even worse, a liberal-left internationalist like Barrack Obama, is elected president, each is likely to subsume Israel to larger geopolitical considerations, rather than hold it up as an icon to be both supported and worshipped in the post-9/11 era, as George W. Bush has done.

Because an air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities will roil world financial markets and thus provide Obama with even more of an edge over the Republican party, Israel may be less inclined to attack Iran before the election. On the other hand, after the inauguration, Israel will be in the hands of a new American president who will show it much less sympathy than Bush. That’s why someone might bet on the period between the election and the inauguration -- say December -- as the perfect time for an Israeli attack.

There is a problem, though. Violating, say, Jordanian or Turkish airspace is not really the issue. The issue is that largely because of the on-going Iraq war, the U. S. controls the airspace over the entry points to Iran: in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf. Thus, an Israeli attack on Iran could probably only happen with U. S. connivance. And even if Israel could evade American sensors, few would believe that it honestly did so. As a sort of a last hurrah, one might speculate that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would let Israel bomb Iran with a wink and a nod. But I do not believe that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would do so. And because Gates has emerged as such a critical cabinet member, beloved by both the Pentagon staff and by the media, his word would be crucial.

Gates has shepherded Iraq from nearly a lost cause to a cause that might yet be salvaged. And an Israeli attack on Iran, precisely because it could not occur without both the fact and the appearance of U. S. support, could unleash a fury of Iran-supported bombings inside Iraq. No, Gates would not be on board for an Israeli strike.

Bottom line: precisely because the U. S. dominates the airspace around Iran, it has checkmated itself. Israel will find it very hard to pull America’s chestnuts out of the fire in Iran. An Israeli attack is, in the last analysis, still unlikely. The problem of a nuclear Iran is far from being solved.
Israel isn't trying to deliver a message to the Europeans - they're beyond hope. It's trying to deliver a message to the United States. The message is, "if you don't attack Iran, we will and you will be blamed anyway." Israel might be able to chance a McCain Presidency, but not an Obama Presidency. If Obama is elected, I would bet on an Israeli attack on Iran - unless the Americans do the job for us. If McCain is elected, Israel might be willing to chance it. After the elections, Gates will become irrelevant.


At 2:07 AM, Blogger Sully said...

1. Nice graphic

2. I dunno, I don't think Israel can attack Iran without our nod. It's not just an airspace issue--in order for them to successfuly bomb all of the necessaey targets (which includes not only supposed nuclear sites, but anti-aircraft positions as well), they would need our help with radar technology, not to mention refueling mid-air, etc. I just don't think IAF has the reach.

I think this is strategic rattling. We did it in the 90's after the Kohobar towers bombing, and coupled it with sanctions. It wasn't perfect, but Iran backed down a bit globally and ultimately elected a "reformist" as president.

At 3:06 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

That's what I think. And no Sully - Iran's Khomeinist leadership is not interested in compromise with the West or reform at home. If they were, talk of an Israel strike on Iran wouldn't be in the cards. As I noted earlier Israel has two options. To give in or to fight back. And as in the 1930s, at the time of Israel's independence and during the eve of the Six Day War, the world is not going to come to the Jews' rescue. That about sums it up.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

George W. Bush held Israel up as an "icon to be worshipped"? (Quote from the quoted article in the post.)

News to me.

He treats his gods very strangely, if so.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Ashan said...

Well... This may be a (really) long shot, but Israel could coordinate a surprise attack on Iran from India.


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