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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why Israel is unlikely to attack Iran - for now

In a post entitled Why Israel is unlikely to attack Iran, Benjamin Kerstein lays out the case for why Israel will attack Iran - just not now.
What this means in terms of the Iranian issue is that the final decision regarding Israeli military action will be taken by Barak and probably by no one else. Certainly, Netanyahu could order a strike, or veto one, but without Barak’s support, he would be forced into a very uncomfortable position. At worst, he would have to remove his defense minister and replace him, thus also losing the Labor Party’s participation in the government at precisely the moment when political unity would be most necessary. For the same reasons, if Barak were to insist upon a strike, or refraining from one, there would be little room for Netanyahu to refuse, even if he wanted to.

This is significant in regard to the latest revelations about the Qom facility because despite Netanyahu and Leiberman’s urgent statements, Barak’s personality and his previous actions suggest that an Israeli strike is highly unlikely, precisely because of the current sense of political urgency. Barak’s is a legendarily mercurial and mathematical mind. One oft-told anecdote is that his favorite method of relaxation is to dismantle watches and put them back together. With one notable exception (the 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon) he tends not to act rashly or emotionally; and plans his moves meticulously beforehand. Along with this, however, he displays a strong affinity for the unexpected stroke. As in the case of the Syrian strike and several surprise evacuations of illegal Israeli settlements, he tends to strike when it is least expected, and to deliberate avoid those moments when action seems inevitable.

Paradoxically, then, the exhortations of Netanyahu and Leiberman, as well as the dramatic revelations of Obama and other Western governments, indicate that IDF action against Iran is decidedly unlikely at this time. Certainly, they can do no harm, and may help build some political support for the strike that is, I think, inevitable. Given who will actually be giving the order, however, they actually make action less likely at this time. That will only happen when the world is busy chattering about other things.
Well, maybe. I don't expect an attack next week, and I can name a couple of other not-very-meticulously planned moves by Barak (Camp David in 2000, and the rumor that he went to sleep during the Battle of Sultan Yaqub - the worst tank battle in Israel's history, which was under his command - in 1982). I don't expect Netanyahu to order a strike without Barak nor do I expect Barak to demand a strike from Netanyahu and have Netanyahu say no. But I do expect that the strike will happen, and that when it does both Barak and Netanyahu will be behind it.


At 3:51 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The prospects of an Israeli attack have moved up in view of the revelations from Iran over the weekend.

Nothing has changed to call off such an attack in the future.


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