Bets are off on Bibi's gamble with mass destruction

August 30, 2012
Sarah Benton

Israel, Iran and public opinion
By Gideon Rachman, blog,
August 17, 2012

Until recently, I have always been sceptical about the idea that Israel will stage a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But, in recent months, I’ve changed my mind, because so many people I know who follow the issue much more closely than me, seem convinced that it will indeed happen.

Because of the sensitivity of the issue, most of the conversations I’ve had have been off-the-record. But the people who’ve told me that they think an Israeli attack is imminent include: a top European politician (although that was in January), a senior British defence official (speaking in June), one of the best think-tank analysts, Mark Fitzpatrick of the IISS; another top think-tanker from the US. Most recently, a French diplomat who deals with the Iran dossier, told me that he expected an Israeli attack within weeks.

By comparison, I’ve met relatively few people who follow the issue closely, who discount the possibility of an Israeli attack. One friend at the State Department in Washington told me he regards the Israelis as “complete bullshitters” – and does not believe their threats to stage a unilateral attack. But he seems to be a minority voice.

Still, there is one thing that gives me pause. Any Israeli government that gave the order for a unilateral attack would not just be taking an enormous security risk. The evidence suggests that they would also be taking a big domestic political gamble. A new poll from the Israel Democracy Institute, published by Haaretz, shows just 27% of Israelis support a unilateral strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

If Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, believes his own argument that stopping the Iranian nuclear programme is a matter of national survival, then he might just ignore public opinion. But Netanyahu is also a politician. And those polls might yet sway him.


Njegos , August 17
The attack has less to do with Iran’s supposed nuclear threat (non-existent) than with Hezbollah. An attack on Iran would precipitate retaliation by Hezbollah. Israel would then have the excuse to pound Hezbollah (and avenge its humiliation in 2006 hopefully) while Hezbollah’s ally Syria is tied down in civil war. Of course, Israel will be praised mightily by Tweedle-Obama and Tweedle-Romney for countering a grave threat. Israel sees this as its golden opportunity to start a conflict that will neutralise the Shia threat on its northern border.

JoP, August 17
What I don’t understand is why Israel has been discussing this so openly for most of the year, giving Iran time to bury / hide / move its nuclear activities. If Netanyahu & co were serious, wouldn’t we just wake up one morning to news that war had started — rather than hearing government ministers debate the pros and cons for months on end ? Then again, maybe its all a double bluff…

JeanDoe, August 17
It has been my opinion also, Njegos, that the primary target is Hezbollah which had the temerity to openly defeat the IDF in the field and make it withdraw. Stung badly in the nose by Islamic bees, the Big Bear is reluctant to poke into the same hole. That the Syrian war is spilling into Lebanon, an expendable and totally artificial entity (even more than most colonial constructs) should be confirmation of this point of view. Iran is still too big to cage, even for Israel (the US), and so a war of attrition is being waged against the Iranian government and people. Bibi is just talking, loudly and brutishly which is his wont, but he knows the game, and the score, well. Stay tuned.

Johnny the Mule, August 17

One possible reason for the imminence of an Israeli attack on Iran is Netanyahu’s dependence on Sheldon Adelson, who is his main funder, and Romney’s main funder as well. An israeli attack 3-5 weeks before the US election would throw the world economy into a tailspin and gas prices would skyrocket. The Iranians will block the straits of Hormuz, forcing US military intervention. All of which are really bad for the invumbent president, but really great for the global conservative cause, which Netanyahu fancies himself to be one of its leaders.

Felix Drost, August 17

Gideon, I find the whole idea of an Israeli attack on Iran impossible to fathom. They don’t have an aircraft carrier, will need to refuel (picture an Israeli tanker flying over Saudi airspace?), won’t be able to carry sufficient payload to bust into Iran’s facilities. Also Iranian surface to air missiles can shoot Israeli planes down.

Israeli specops don’t have the capability to infiltrate IRGC* facilities and even if they did anyone captured will be used to weaken the Israeli government which is always deeply bothered with and willing to deeply compromise for anyone captured.

A missile volley may be an option but its hard to see how that can be effective either.

Then there’s Hezbollah which saved for this occasion and has tens of thousands of missiles ready to throw at preferably civilian targets. Bibi will be blamed for failing to deter Hezbollah.

And assad would love an Israeli attack now, it would rally his ‘resistance’ creds and bury his violence in the news cycle.

Israel may be willing to attack, but unless they have far greater capabilities already on the ground in Iran today they won’t be able to execute an attack. So this is a bluff or they have allies in Iran. Which considering that the “Arab” spring had a Persian offshoot in the Green revolution may not be imaginary. Pre-Khomeini Israel had good relations with Iran. And various virus infections of key facilities seem to have been planted with Israeli help. But I’d be hugely surprised if Israel could carry out a meaningful attack and set back the Iranian program significantly.

Then Israel doesn’t really have to worry about an Iranian nuke, it can and will retaliate. While the threat to Israel is existential it would be madness to follow through on it. The Iranian regime gains nothing from nuking Israel, quite the reverse, they will kill the excuse enemy they so relish to loathe and show themselves as the worst possible lot while perishing in a countervolley. The US though ought to be worried, a nuclear Iran will control the Persian Gulf and is willing and able to press its advantage much more forcefully than Pakistan. And that’s what the game is all about, Israel is the excuse, the goal is to cement the IRGC cabal in power just like the ISI did in Pakistan.

[* IRGC, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most powerful branch of Iran’s armed services. The IRGC also owns considerable assets and has become more powerful since Ahmadinejad took office.]

The secret reason for Netanyahu’s timing on Iran war

In private conversations, Netanyahu has said there is nothing after Election Day, which falls on November 6. If Obama wins, Netanyahu says, he will take revenge for the overt efforts to defeat him and will prevent Netanyahu from attacking Iran. For this reason, and only this reason, Netanyahu must go on the offensive over Iran now – some reliable sources say he will probably do it during the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina next week – when the timing is the worst for Israel. That’s the price of getting portrayed as being a member of the Romney-Netanyahu-Sheldon Adelson trinity.

By Sefi Rachlevsky, Ha’aretz
August 29, 2012

The reason behind the timing of a possible attack on Iran is one big act of deception.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak says that if Israel were to act now against U.S. wishes, the U.S. Congress would still favor Israel over Iran. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington who was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says the American people and Congress would support Israel right now if it were engaged in a war with Iran.

This is deception. During Israel’s 1981 pinpoint attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and during the first Lebanon war in 1982 – both of which took place under a right-wing Israeli government, though the leadership benefited from the perception that its leadership was moderate because of its peace treaty with Egypt – all Israel needed was for the right-wing American administrations not to oppose its actions too strongly. The difference is that unlike now, this country did not have an existential need for America to continue the mission that Israel began.

Whether deliberately or not, Netanyahu’s settlement government is misleading people and making them think that Washington’s decision to refrain from intervening, to Israel’s detriment, in the 1980s, or against the settlements today, is somehow similar to dragging the United States and other Western countries into taking proactive steps for the sake of an otherwise isolated Israel. Just because Syrian President Bashar Assad is, for the meantime, preventing the West from mobilizing armies against him doesn’t mean the West will go in to help him. Netanyahu’s Israel is not as much of a pariah as Assad’s Syria, but its dependence on America’s taking up the Iran mission itself is so great as to be almost necessary for its survival.

This is a failure that undermines the foundations of Israeli security. Precisely when Israel most needs a close alliance with the U.S. government, Netanyahu is doing his utmost to undercut it.

The root of the problem is twofold: policy that is seen in the West as extremist, and an unprecedented attempt to interfere in domestic U.S. politics. If someone had told us about a country whose leader allows himself to be seen as explicitly attempting to oust the president of a world power, we wouldn’t believe it. When the leader of that small country is the head of a quasi-protectorate that is sustained by that world power – financially, militarily and politically – that initial astonishment morphs into shock. The fact that this is taking place just as the small country is dependent on the help of the world power for a military project it cannot fully carry out alone makes this one of the most unrealistic scenarios in history.

Israel has an existential interest in waiting until the spring before deciding whether to attack Iran, as indicated by the opposition of leaders of the security establishment to an attack now. Israel would achieve no more than a delay of up to a year in the Iranian nuclear project, and that’s why it depends on the United States to take the reins. By spring, international sanctions may have had an impact on Iran and, if not, the United States may act in any case. By the spring, Assad may have been ousted and the map of strategic threats dramatically changed for the better, from Israel’s perspective.

Of particular relevance to those who aren’t enthusiastic about U.S. President Barack Obama, the spring may bring his Republican rival Mitt Romney to power. And most important of all: By the spring, Israel will have been granted legitimacy for taking action, legitimacy that is crucial for the country’s survival.

But Netanyahu’s personal interests are diametrically opposed to those of the country he leads.

In the United States, his expressed interest in attacking Iran is seen as part of his effort to bring about Obama’s defeat. Americans fear Netanyahu’s effort to drag the United States into war against its will, as well as attempts to raise gas prices as a means of kicking Obama out of the White House in November because of the economy. Even the attempt to extort another public statement from Obama – he intends to pledge once again to stop Iran – is seen as an effort to publicly humiliate him, which makes it difficult to issue such pledges.

In private conversations, Netanyahu has said there is nothing after Election Day, which falls on November 6. If Obama wins, Netanyahu says, he will take revenge for the overt efforts to defeat him and will prevent Netanyahu from attacking Iran. For this reason, and only this reason, Netanyahu must go on the offensive over Iran now – some reliable sources say he will probably do it during the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina next week – when the timing is the worst for Israel. That’s the price of getting portrayed as being a member of the Romney-Netanyahu-Sheldon Adelson trinity.
This is the most reckless of all breaches of trust, and Netanyahu – not Israel – must pay the price of taking the risk. Netanyahu must wait for the U.S. elections. If he loses his bet and Obama wins, Netanyahu should be so kind as to resign. The soldiers and citizens of Israel shall not be sacrificed on the altar of Netanyahu’s bets.

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