What if Israel attacks Iran?

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Rumors are flying that the recent Israeli swap of over a 1000 Palestinians in exchange for one Israeli soldier is a prelude to an Israeli attack on Iran.  The hypothesis states that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted to ensure the safety of the captive soldier before taking aggressive steps against Hamas’s sponsor, Iran.

What we can probably be certain of is that Israel wants to attack Iran’s growing nuclear facilities.  After all, Israel already destroyed a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007.    Interestingly, Syria didn’t protest the destruction, most probably because doing so would have been an acknowledgement of nuclear ambitions.  But there are a couple of key differences between the problem with Iran, and the growing Syrian problem in 2007.

First, America has a different president in the White House who has made it clear that he does not want Israel to preemptively strike Iran without an international mandate.  The relationship between Obama and Netanyahu is reportedly frosty.  What would Obama do should Israel strike Iran?  Suppose America actually withdrew its diplomats in protest, or significantly reduced aid.  This could encourage Israel’s enemies to attack, sensing a weakening relationship between Israel and her American protectorate.  Egypt presents a worrisome problem.  Things are getting so bad there that some Egyptians are demanding the military hand over power to civilian leadership.  The Egyptian military may feel that war with Israel would serve as a distraction from growing internal unrest.  The Egyptian government could use an attack on Iran as an excuse for Egyptian aggression.  This is a truly frightening thought as the future of much of the Arab world remains liquid after the Arab spring, and war against Israel could serve to unify a fractured Arabia.

Secondly, Iran, obviously, is not Syria.  Iran’s tendrils run distant and deep through the Middle East and Central Asia.  Iran has meddled in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Bahrain, among other places.  They have promoted terrorism throughout the world, and even planned the assassination of the Saudi diplomat to the US, most likely in response to the Saudi’s helping crush unrest in Bahrain.  Iran has oil and lots of it.  They have the ability to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, at least temporarily, which would skyrocket oil prices all over the world.  The announcement that America will withdraw all of its troops from  Shia dominated Iraq will give Iran even more leverage in that country; US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta even warned Iran against meddling in Iraq, though his warning seemed to carry the assumption that America would have a long-term presence in the country.  This turned out not to be true.

In other words, Iran has real power and Syria does not and did not in 2007.

Israel finds itself in a very difficult position.  No one really knows the American position on Iran’s nuclear research. Would President Obama really endorse a cooperative military strike on Iran should Iran reach the zero-hour of nuclear weapons’ development?  Or is he merely using populist rhetoric in demanding Israel wait for a coalition of the willing?  Since Israel cannot know Obama’s true intentions, it has no way of forming a deterministic model.  Perhaps Netanyahu wants to wait until the results of the 2012 American presidential elections are in, hoping that a president more sympathetic to Israeli interests sits in the White House.  An attack on Iran would be a huge gamble, but so would allowing Iran to possess nuclear weapons.

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4 thoughts on “What if Israel attacks Iran?

    Royce said:
    October 29, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    I agree that Israel would like to strike Iran’s nuclear sites, but I doubt that will happen. Certainly it won’t happen until Obama is out of office because he has demonstrated to the world that America is weak and unlikely to defend itself as long as Obama is in office. However, it is possible that Iran will provoke or invent some causus belli for the purpose of consolidating its power in the middle east and unifying the Islamic nations under it’s leadership (caliphate). Certainly things in Egypt are not going well and there is little doubt but that the Muslim Brotherhood is active there and in Libya. Syria has a strong military who will eventually crush the rebels without some outside support for the rebels. I suspect that Iran will move soon to consolidate their power in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Palestine, and Lebanon prior to the 2012 election because they know Obama won’t act decisively. They won’t have to close the Straits of Hormuz because they would control the oil resources in middle east. A great deal hinges on the 2012 election, not just for America but for the world.

    WTP said:
    November 2, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Magus, my not quite so ignorant guess there is that report is simply the Obambi administration putting on it’s big-boy pants, showing off like they’re keeping Isreal in check. They need to keep bringing stuff like this up so they can tell their arabist friends that they’re keeping alligators out of the gym, so to speak. Not that it won’t happen. Here in Florida alligators do tend to go where they want. Or did I equivocate much there? I blame osmosis & Mike.

    magus71 responded:
    November 2, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    I sense this is real. Not sure if I’m for or against a strike on Iran. Mostly because the West cannot unify on anything (look at the Greek crisis) and the Arab Spring has changed the game for the worse, not better.

    A major conflagration could ensue: http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16101552

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