The consensus among some 40 Israeli, Arab and US officials – past and present – is that there is a better than 50 percent chance Israel will launch an attack against Iran by next July, US journalist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in a just published article for the September edition of The Atlantic magazine.

In a massive 10,000 word piece titled “The Point of No Return,” Goldberg – who culled extensively from an interview he conducted, and previously wrote about, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu before he was sworn in as prime minister last year – said that “based on my conversations with Israeli decision-makers, this period of forbearance, in which Netanyahu waits to see if the West’s nonmilitary methods can stop Iran, will come to an end this December.”

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He quoted one Israeli “policymaker” as saying that in all likelihood “we will have to begin thinking about our next step beginning at the turn of the year.”

Goldberg’s piece was termed “speculative” by one government official, who said it did not create a buzz on Wednesday inside the Prime Minister’s Office.

“If the Israelis reach the firm conclusion that Obama will not, under any circumstances, launch a strike on Iran, then the countdown will begin for a unilateral Israeli attack,” Goldberg wrote.

He cited a senior official as saying, “If the choice is between allowing Iran to go nuclear, or trying for ourselves what Obama won’t try, then we probably have to try.”

Among the flight routes Israeli jets would travel to hit the nuclear targets in Iran, Goldberg raised the possibility of flying through Saudi Arabia, “threading the border between Syria and Turkey,” or possibly “traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft.”

Citing “multiple sources,” Goldberg said the Pentagon has told the US Central Command, which is responsible for the greater Middle East, not to shoot down Israeli aircraft if they invade Iraqi airspace.

Goldberg wrote about Arab fears of the Iranian threat, quoting the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the US and Mexico, Yousef al-Otaiba, as saying at the Aspen Ideas festival a few weeks ago that his country would support an attack. The ambassador, according to Goldberg, said that if America allowed Iran to cross the nuclear threshold, Gulf countries would leave the US embrace and seek security under an Iranian umbrella.

“There are many countries in the region who, if they lack the assurance the US is willing to confront Iran, they will start running for cover towards Iran,” he said. “Small, rich, vulnerable countries in the region do not want to be the ones who stick their finger in the big bully’s eye, if nobody’s going to come to their support.”

Goldberg cited “several Arab officials” as also complaining that the Obama administration has not elaborated on the next step if sanctions fail.

“Obama’s voters like it when the administration shows that it doesn’t want to fight Iran, but this is not a domestic political issue,” he quoted an unnamed Arab foreign minister as saying.

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