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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Israel hasn't attacked Iran (yet)

Bret Stephens gives four answers (in ascending order of likelihood) as to why Israel has not yet attacked Iran. The last two answers are particularly interesting:
The third theory concerns the internal dynamics of Israeli politics. Mr. Netanyahu may favor a strike, but he will not order one without the consent of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and perhaps also Mossad chief Meir Dagan. This inner cabinet is said to be uniformly against a strike, with the wavering exception of Mr. Barak. But Mr. Ashkenazi and Mr. Dagan are due to step down within a few months, and who Mr. Netanyahu chooses to replace them will have a material bearing on the government's attitude toward a strike.

Finally, Israeli leaders are mindful of history. Put aside the routine comparisons between a prospective military strike on Iran with Israel's quick and effective destruction of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. As I'm reminded by Michael Doran, a Middle East scholar at NYU, Israel's leaders are probably no less alert to the lessons of the Suez War in 1956. Back then, a successful military operation by Britain, France and Israel to humiliate Egypt's Gamel Abdel Nasser (in many ways the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of his day) fell afoul of the determined political opposition of the Eisenhower administration, which mistakenly thought that it could curry favor with the Arabs by visibly distancing itself from Israel and its traditional European allies. Sound familiar?
The third answer would likely push off a strike into 2011 (I find it a little hard to believe that Dagan is opposed, but it's plausible). But the fourth answer means waiting and hoping for an American strike, and if that doesn't happen, I think Israel will have to strike regardless of the consequences.


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