Over the past week, there has been an avalanche of news reports in the Israeli
and Western media about the possibility of an imminent Israeli or American
strike on Iran’s nuclear installations. These reports were triggered by a report
on Iran’s nuclear program set to be published by the UN’s International Atomic
Energy Agency later this week.
According to the media, the IAEA’s report
will deal a devastating blow to Iran’s persistent claims that its illegal
nuclear program is “peaceful.” Specifically, the IAEA report is expected to
divulge information about Iran’s efforts to develop and test components that
have no plausible use other than the production of nuclear weapons. These
activities include experimentation with triggers used only for detonating
nuclear weapons, and the development of missile warheads capable of carrying
nuclear weapons. They also include the design of computer simulation programs to
test nuclear weapons.
Most nuclear experts claim that Iran currently has
sufficient quantities of enriched uranium to produce four or five nuclear
weapons. They also claim that it will take Iran another three years to develop a
fullblown nuclear arsenal. Finally, Israeli and Western sources claim that in
light of Iran’s bid to develop hardened, underground nuclear sites, its nuclear
installations will be immune to ballistic missile attacks or aerial bombing
within a year.
Confronting Iran’s rapidly developing nuclear
capabilities, Israeli hawks and doves are united in their view that Israel’s
preferred option is for the US rather than the IDF to launch a military strike
to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations. This view is reasonable because the US
has the military capabilities to destroy Iran’s nuclear program completely and
do so with minimal risk to America’s international prestige and
Moreover, if the US, rather than Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear
installations, Israel will be able to devote all of its own resources to fending
off missile and ground assaults from Iran’s proxy regimes in Gaza, Lebanon and
Syria. Between them, Hamas, Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar Assad have
some 100,000 missiles aimed at Israel. For the past two years Hizbullah has been
planning a ground offensive against northern Israel in conjunction with a
missile offensive. Syria has chemical weapons.
If as expected, Iran
unleashes these forces in response to a strike on its nuclear installations, the
IDF will have its hands full.
As for the option of an Israeli strike on
Iran, assuming a tactical nuclear strike is not under consideration, Israel
probably lacks the ability to completely destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities on
its own. Unlike the US, Israel would have to limit any operation in Iran to
destroying the most dangerous Iranian nuclear facilities while leaving others
THE LIMITED nature of an Israeli strike could enable Iran to
rebuild its nuclear capabilities. If so, Israel would likely need to launch
another strike later on.
Unlike the US, Israel would have no
international coalition to fight with. Jerusalem would face the unpalatable
prospect of being condemned for its action by UN and other international bodies,
including by states that would quietly support it.
given the likelihood that Iran’s proxies would launch a new round of aggression
against Israel in response to a strike on its nuclear installations, Israel
would be beset by a multi-front war at a time when much of its Air Force and
perhaps other strategic assets are out of the country.
backdrop, it makes sense to assume that reports of current Israeli preparations
for a strike against Iran are less indications of an imminent strike than an
Israeli attempt to send messages to two target audiences. First, Israel is
signaling Iran that it has the capacity to strike its nuclear installations.
Second, Israel is signaling the Obama administration that it is time for
Washington to get serious about preparing a military operation to destroy Iran’s
nuclear facilities, lest Israel be forced to act on its own.
some indications that even without Israeli maneuvering some Obama administration
officials have finally awoken to the dangers. On Sunday The New York Times
reported that the administration’s assessment that it can contain a
nuclear-armed Iran in much the same way the US contained the Soviet Union “took
a hit,” after Iran’s plan to penetrate terror operatives into the US through the
Mexican border was revealed. The thwarted Iranian plan to use terrorists brought
in from Mexico to stage spectacular terror attacks against Israeli and Saudi
targets in Washington taught administration officials that Iran continues to
view terrorism as a strategic tool. They finally realized that it is impossible
to rule out the possibility that Iran would use terror proxies to transfer and
detonate nuclear bombs in third countries. And their inability to rule out this
prospect placed their previous conviction that they can contain a nuclear Iran
in serious question.
Unfortunately, from statements to the media last
week by a senior US military source, it appears that the administration’s
belated recognition that Iran is more comparable to Nazi Germany than to
Stalinist Russia does not mean that they are interested in actually doing
anything to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
reporters in Washington a senior US military official said that the US continues
to view the prospect of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear installations
as just as problematic as a nuclear armed Iran. As he put it, the US is
“absolutely” concerned about a potential Israeli attack, and “increasingly
vigilant” with regard to activities in both Israel and Iran that could indicate
THE OBAMA administration’s stubborn refusal to
acknowledge the obvious fact that a nuclear armed Iran constitutes a far greater
danger to US interests than an Israeli military strike to deny Iran nuclear
capabilities is in line with the administration’s consistent refusal to treat
Israel as an ally. Its unserious handling of Iran is of a piece with its gentle
policies towards Hamas and Hezbollah, its refusal to call Fatah on its bad
faith, its blindness to the threat emanating from Islamist movements in Turkey
and North Africa, and its consistent pressure on Israel to appease its enemies.
The administration’s apparent antipathy for Israel has played a significant role
in causing it to underestimate the threat that all these forces pose not only to
Israel but to the US and to international security in general.
is not the US’s only Middle Eastern ally that has suffered from its strategic
myopia. Iran’s pro- American Green Movement was betrayed by Obama’s decision to
side with the regime against the Green Movement in 2009. Iraq’s pro-American
political forces will be harmed if not destroyed in the aftermath of the
administration’s planned withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
are the Sunnis. Under Obama, the US betrayed its most important Arab ally when
it called for then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to resign in response to the
anti-regime demonstrations in Cairo. America is supporting the Muslim
Brotherhood takeover of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. It supports the Muslim
Brotherhood-dominated, Turkish organized Syrian opposition to Assad’s regime. It
upholds Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist,
anti-Semitic and anti-Western regime as the US’s greatest regional
With its dismal track record, it is far from clear that Israel is
well-served by pressuring the Obama administration to take action against Iran.
On Sunday, British military commentator Con Coughlin noted in the Sunday
that in recent years, the “only measures that have had any
demonstrable effect on slowing Iran’s nuclear progress have been undertaken by
Israel, via a skillful combination of targeted assassinations and
So Israel’s low-key, tactical operations against Iran
have been effective while all of Obama’s high-profile strategic operations have
empowered Israel’s enemies.
True, Obama has not yet taken any operational
steps to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. But the dire implications of his
track records cannot be ignored.
At least until the US presidential
elections next year, Israel’s best bet may be to simply step up its covert
efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.
The goal of these efforts
should be to slow down Iran’s nuclear progress sufficiently to prevent it from
developing a nuclear arsenal or moving its nuclear project to hardened locations
until after the US presidential elections.
In the meantime, Israel should
continue to develop its independent capacity to attack Iran. It should also take
military action to weaken Iran’s terror proxies in order to limit their capacity
to wage war against Israel in the aftermath of an eventual, post-presidential
election Israeli or US strike against Iran’s nuclear
Obviously, it would be a mistake to assume that Obama will
lose his reelection bid. But even if he wins, as a lame duck, second term
president, he will have less power to harm Israel than he will as a first term
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