The question of whether US or Israeli forces will attack Iran’s nuclear
facilities in this volatile election year became murkier in the wake of this
month’s AIPAC policy conference and some serious saber rattling coming from the
Washington Convention Center, as well as from Jerusalem.
Some factors on
the international game board suggest the likelihood of a US attack has
diminished, but political factors may be driving the government of Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to ratchet up Israeli plans for possible military
In the US, a number of factors seem to point to a diminishing
chance of American military action in the coming months.
• The tragic
massacre of Afghan civilians by a lone American army sergeant has given new
strength to growing bipartisan calls for an early exit of US forces from this
nation’s longest war. A new Rasmussen poll shows 53 percent of Americans favor
• Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan went on 60 Minutes
to tell Americans that “an attack on Iran before you are exploring all other
approaches” would be reckless and irresponsible.
• There is strong public
and bipartisan opposition to American intervention in Syria despite calls by
some prominent senators for the US to bomb government forces in order to protect
those fighting to overthrow Bashar Assad, a reflection of growing war weariness
• The New York Times
reported this week that the CIA and the Mossad
agree with an American intelligence assessment that Iran suspended efforts to
build a nuclear weapon in 2003 and that has not changed, although some
weapons-related research has continued.
• British Prime Minister David
Cameron said his government would back a US decision to attack Iran but “I don’t
think as we stand today that military action by Israel would be justified.” “The
window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking,” he said during a
White House meeting.
• US President Barack Obama’s clear declaration that
“I do not have a policy of containment” relieved Israel’s greatest fear and put
Tehran on notice about American determination, in Obama’s words, “to prevent
Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
• Israel’s own threats of attack
have helped energize international support for crippling sanctions, most
recently blocking Iranian access to SWIFT, the international financial messaging
system. The obvious impact of these measures has bolstered calls to give the
sanctions and other pressure time to work before deciding on the military
• Congressional offices reported they were impressed by the
numbers and enthusiasm of AIPAC members lobbying them for tighter sanctions but
privately complained that the lobby group was pushing too hard for another war
when their were increasingly war weary constituents were calling for
accelerating the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
• Rising gasoline prices
and Republican efforts to blame them on President Obama and tensions with Iran
could make another war even more unpopular. Iran threatens to close the
Strait of Hormuz, blocking oil exports, spiking fuel prices and sparking another
• The more talk coming out of Israel about a
possible of a unilateral preemptive strike, the more preemptive news stories we
see about the economic, military and political fallout of such an action. One
such story in the New York Times Tuesday that may have been leaked from the
Pentagon reported a classified war game concluded an Israeli attack on Iran
would spark a wider regional war, draw in the United States and leave hundreds
of Americans dead.
While many indications point to a diminishing
likelihood of a US attack, the signs are mixed in Israel.
Jeffrey Goldberg reports from Israel that conversations with senior officials
there convinced him Netanyahu feels a preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear
facilities won’t be as risky as some of his own security advisors and the
He and Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly believe
an attack won’t spark a major Israeli-Iranian war or any violence against US
interests in the region because Tehran fears that would spark massive American
retaliation. Netanyahu also is said to feel that an Israeli attack would not
unite the country, as many warn, but instead spark an uprising that would bring
down the Islamist regime. That leads Goldberg to believe the prime minister
could decide to attack before the American elections.
reportedly feels he has Obama boxed in – that in the months before the November
election, the president will have no choice but to back up an Israeli attack
however ill advised or opposed because failure to do so would look like
abandoning our close ally in its hour of need. To drive home that point, leading
contenders for the Republican nomination gave saber rattling speeches to the
AIPAC conference virtually accusing the president of letting down Israel by
being afraid to confront Iran.
It’s no secret than one of Netanyahu’s
objectives is to help defeat the incumbent because Obama in a second term might
not be so easily bullied.