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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Obama planning for Israeli strike on Iran?

In Sunday's Washington Post, Jim Hoagland raises the issue that has to be foremost on everyone's minds.
So even after the Iran review is completed, don't expect it to deal forthrightly (or perhaps at all) with this core question: Can Obama's hopes for Middle East peace and fruitful negotiations with Iran survive an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear program, perhaps as early as the first half of 2010?

The likelihood of that strike has been growing since it became clear in the final months of the Bush administration that the United States would not undertake such action itself. I draw this conclusion from a series of not-for-attribution conversations with American, Asian, European and Middle East diplomats, and other officials and analysts, conducted since Obama's inauguration.

There are serious arguments on the other side, beginning with doubts about Israel's ability to identify, reach and destroy all of Iran's bomb-building capabilities. There is also a widespread belief that not even the hawkish Netanyahu would risk the rupture with the United States and the fury of the Arab street that an Israeli attack on Islamic Iran could bring.

"The Israelis who have to decide this thing will find these arguments very familiar," said a former ambassador to Israel from a developing country. "They are precisely the arguments used in 1981 to say Israel could not and should not disable Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor in Iraq before that happened. They are arguments that could have been used against striking the North Korean reactor in Syria last year. And yet, it did not turn out that way at all in either case."

Asked whether Israeli warplanes had the range to fly around Arab-controlled airspace to hit Iran, a European official replied: "You might think not, unless you noticed the emphasis being put on Israel's in-air refueling capacity in its recent military exercises. In any event, Arab air defenses have never been a problem for Israel."

Israel sounded out the Bush White House nearly a year ago on flying across Iraq to hit Iran. George W. Bush discouraged what was a probe of U.S. attitudes rather than a serious request for a specific mission that was being planned. "But we did not say the answer would always be no. And we did not say we would shoot Israeli planes down if they came," a former U.S. official says.

The nightmare scenario for Obama is that Israel launches an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities that is largely unsuccessful but that provokes an Iranian missile retaliation against Israel and all-out guerrilla campaigns by Hamas and Hezbollah. Could any U.S. president, however angry, turn his back on Israel in that situation? What would happen to the U.S. mediation efforts Obama promised King Abdullah II of Jordan in their White House meeting last week?
My guess is that if an Israeli attack on Iran fails - God forbid - Obama will use that failure and any Israeli need for help to try to extract concessions from Israel that will lead to a 'Palestinian' state reichlet.

For Obama, the real nightmare scenario is an Israeli attack on Iran that succeeds, which is undertaken without any American assistance. In that case, he will have no real leverage left against Israel on any issue.

Is Purim approaching again?


At 8:15 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Avigdor Lieberman said Israel has no plans to attack Iran. High officials in Israel are suddenly acting very coy. That is precisely what you would do if you knew something was afoot. Moshe Dayan said similar things to the international media just before the Six Day War opened. Israel wants the Iranians to have every reason to believe they can let down their guard - and it may be working.

Just think Jaffa oranges!



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