Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When will Israel attack Iran?

I'm not an "Intelligence analyst" and I don't play one on television. But I urge you to study the following items:
1. Seymour Hersh new piece in The New Yorker, "The Next Act:
Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?"

2. Tony Karon's "Israel's Domestic Political Games Raises the Danger of a U.S.-Iran War."

3. Aluf Benn's "Olmert's Drums of War" in Haaretz.

4. Bush:I would understand if Israel chose to attack Iran.

5. Michael Oren's op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on November 16 which is only accessible to subscribers. So here are a few interesting quotes:
Much like 1967, Israel faces a Middle Eastern leader who has repeatedly sworn to wipe it off the map, and to that end is assiduously trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Like Nasser, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can cripple Israel economically by keeping it in a state of alert, driving away foreign investment and tourism. In the absence of international commitment to thwart Iran's nuclear plans, Israel has no choice but to consider striking pre-emptively. Doing so, however, requires explicit U.S. support, or at the very least, an indication that the U.S. will not oppose such action. Like Eban 40 years earlier, Mr. Olmert came to Washington in search of a green light.

But the U.S. is hardly in the position to sanction an Israeli attack. Bogged down in Iraq and hemorrhaging political capital at home, Mr. Bush resembles Johnson in his inability to approve risky military initiatives. As inimical to Mr. Ahmadinejad as his predecessor was to Nasser, and at least as sympathetic to the Jewish state, Mr. Bush is nevertheless unable to undertake a unilateral attack against Iran or even to endorse an Israeli one.

This was bad news for Mr. Olmert. The Israeli prime minister hoped to secure a hard-and-fast timetable for interdicting Iran's nuclear program first by diplomacy and then, if that failed, by force. Instead, he heard that the U.S. would only support measures to isolate Iran economically and balked at the use of bombs. Though he and his administration have routinely stated a determination to prevent Iran from obtaining strategic capabilities, Mr. Bush, in the aftermath of his party's electoral defeats, avoided all public mention of armed power as a means of achieving that goal. [emphases added]

[ . . . ] Mr. Bush is unlikely to be more successful than Johnson in marshaling international strictures against a defiant Middle Eastern regime. Nor was Mr. Olmert liable to extract from Mr. Bush more concrete backing for pre-emptive action than Eban did from LBJ. At most, Mr. Bush could have signaled his sympathy for Israel's plight and for the steps it must take to ensure its survival. The light Mr. Olmert received in Washington was probably not green, but neither was it flashing red.

[ . . . ] The Six-Day War was a seismic event that profoundly altered the Middle East, with reverberations that continue to convulse the region. An Israeli strike at Iran's nuclear facilities could well have a similar impact, especially as Mr. Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are certain to react violently.

Mr. Olmert and his government must consider such consequences as they decide on Israel's next moves. The ramifications of that decision are certain to affect America as well. Many Arabs to this day believe that the U.S. was complicit in the Six-Day War, and even that American pilots flew Israeli planes. Such rumors will again be rife if Israel attacks Iran, and especially if Israeli jets pass through Iraq's American-controlled airspace. Israel may indeed act alone, but in the minds of a great many people in the Middle East, the U.S. acts with it.

And... finally. According to most press reports, the Baker-Hamilton Commission is going to issue a report before the end of the year which will recommend U.S. engagement with Iran and perhaps the re-start of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (meaning more U.S. pressure on Israel).

So... when you take all the above items into consideration I would say that Israel has a "window of opprtunity" of about two months to attack Iran's nuclear sites. Such an attack will certainly be good news for the neocons and their allies, since it would sabotage any possible U.S. efforts to engage Iran and to end the Iraq mess. An Israeli attack will also probably ignite a U.S. confrontation with Iran.