I received an email today from my daughter asking my opinion of chances for Israel and Iran going to war. The responsibilities of motherhood heighten such concerns. That she had already experienced the rain of rockets from Lebanon in the last war made the prospect that much more immediate.
What appears here is a rewrite for JPost of my response to her email. I don’t want to distract from my usual blog topic and even promised my editor not to do so (sorry Lidar!) but felt the topic important, and worth a day or so between my last and next in my series, Antisemitism and Jewish Survival.
Dear daughter, you expressed concern as mother to a young child regarding the possibility of war with Iran. Yes, I have written on the topic several times since 2004, particularly regarding American policy and its impact on the region and particularly Israel. I will summarize my thinking below but it is also important to understand that my sources of information are all publicly available, press reports and open intelligence websites. Much can be understood even through public sources followed over nearly a decade, but people and nations are also capable of departing from script, acting unpredictably.
That said, to my mind Israel appears perhaps overly occupied with the Iranian Bomb. I certainly recognize the threat posed by Iran; do not dismiss the bluster by that country’s president regarding Israel. I am aware of the risk that emotion could be expressed in irrational behavior: that Iran is capable of precipitating a war to bring on the Mehdi, the Twelfth Imam! But at least today and for decades past Iran seems more intent on returning to its former glory, asserting control over Arab oil and even spreading Shiite Islam across the Gulf. In the 1980’s Iran and Iraq for a nearly decade-long war that cost the Islamic Republic some one million lives. Iraq was always Iran’s doorway to the Arabian Peninsula and its oil. And thanks to Bush they were gifted it without war. Seen from this vantage point Khameini is using Israel to divert America’s attention from the Arabian Peninsula to the Levant. The real enemy Iran has been confronting, and outmaneuvering for nearly a decade is the current regional hegemon, the United States.
Without a doubt Israel has been and continues to plan and prepare for the possibility of war. It also appears that the Saudis also aware of Iran’s true ambitions, have been sitting back waiting for the Americans to fulfill their guarantees of protection under the now-tattered regional defense shield. From everything emanating from the Saudis, from their joint effort with Israel to discourage Bush from invading Iraq and, more recently, and again along with Israel, discouraging Obama from ousting Egypt’s President Mubarak, the Saudis have clearly lost confidence in American resolve and ability to protect its own global interests, oil, geography and its position as “the world’s only superpower.”
I have always thought and written that Israel, while planning for a showdown, should not act as America’s surrogate but hold back, force the United States to accept responsibility. Iran has, after all, progressed this far only due to America choosing not to confront the issue, and that goes back at least as far as the Iraq invasion of 2003 (see hyperlinks below). I am convinced that American policy has been of “intentional avoidance” and, despite appearances and over-loud stage whispers to the contrary, to maneuver Israel into taking the lead against Iran. I believe that in the end that minus an Israeli first strike that would rank up there with Bush’s misbegotten Iraq invasion, that the US will be forced to act or be replaced in the region not by Iran, but by Russia-backed Iran.
I expect that American policy makers must be aware that not only will the US lose control of the region’s oil, Suez, Tiran, etc, but also cede to Russia the Mediterranean Sea and the soft underbelly of America’s principal military ally and trading partner, Europe.
In the end my writings have always suggested Israel follow, refrain from leading America in the conflict with Iran. If the US strikes, even with Israeli participation, Iran’s primary targets will be American basis in the Gulf, not Israel. And Israel, with US radar and air support, may face Hezbollah and Syria in a more conventional war, but a far more limited war with Iran.
I hope this helps, daughter. No guarantees but I don’t necessarily see an Israel-Iran war on the immediate horizon. A stronger possibility of a US initiated action in the Fall (election season), but not Israel solo.
Attached is a link to an article by Yehuda Bauer, Iran is not Auschwitz. I submitted a response to the article but, for reasons I still do not understand, Haaretz never publishes me. But I do substantially agree with the Holocaust historian and recommend it to you.
Background to this article: