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Monday, December 14, 2009

Bibi's moment of truth?

The Times of London reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu is reaching a moment of truth on Iran.
Israeli experts believe the point of no return may be only six months away when Iran’s nuclear programme will have — if it has not already — metastasised into a multitude of smaller, difficult-to-trace facilities in deserts and mountains, while its main reactor at Bushehr will have come online and bombing it would send a radioactive cloud over the Gulf nations.


In the immediate term, the threat of a strike has receded. Israel is satisfied that Iran’s hostile stance towards the international community has increased the chances of serious, crippling sanctions. Officials noted that for the first time Russia seemed to be serious about isolating Tehran.

But that international front could easily crack, and then Mr Netanyahu would be faced with the decision on whether to order his bombers into action. Iran has already threatened to bomb Israel’s cities with its long-range missiles should its nuclear facilities come under attack.

It could also, in stages, order Hezbollah to launch rockets across the northern border. The attack could come in conjunction with a Hamas assault from the Gaza Strip.

Alternatively both sides may choose to do nothing. Some analysts believe that Israel might tolerate Iran as a “threshold nuclear state”, capable of building a bomb but not testing it.

Iran could opt for the path chosen by Syria in 2007, if Israel strikes at isolated facilities miles from an urban areas, where the only casualties would be technicians and guards. After the strike against Syria, neither side admitted what had happened, thereby avoiding a war and saving face.
The only sanctions that are going to hold off an Israeli strike on Iran are effective sanctions. That means that Bushehr doesn't go on line in the next few months and that Israel sees clear indications that the Iranian nuclear program is being placed in check. So far, all we have had is lots of talk and no action.

If Israel does attack Iran (and in my opinion the odds are still at least 50-50 that such an attack will take place in the spring), I would look for a response from Hezbullah but very little from any other party. Iran won't respond, because they know that once Israel destroys the nuclear facilities, it won't attack Iran again unless Iran attacks Israel (and Israel will make that very clear when the time comes). If Iran attacks Israel, drawing an Israeli attack, there will be a coup to depose Ahmadinejad and Khameni - and they know it.

Hamas is still building up weapons, but has shown little sign of spoiling for a fight since they got their heads handed to them last winter. Hamas isn't ready to fight again, especially since the possibility of fighting on three fronts and the Goldstone report may lead the IDF to place a lot less emphasis on precision and avoiding casualties than it did last year. If Hamas is soundly defeated, it too may find that it has a tenuous hold on power.

That leaves Hezbullah, which has had three years to recover from the last war, which has tripled its missiles since 2006, and which has turned Lebanon into a vassal state. I would look for a response from Hezbullah. If it comes, I'd look for Lebanon to find itself back in the 8th century with no infrastructure. There won't be a Beirut Airport to land in.


At 7:48 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The clock is ticking towards midnight. Sooner than latter, if Iran isn't stopped, it will have the nuclear bomb.

At 4:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the way to stop iran is to attack the nuclear sites. In the first strike using missiles the airforce and navy they should go after the government, command and control and irans military bases. then go after the nuclear sites.


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