Why Israel Will Not Attack Iranian Nukes This Year
The news has been full of threats by the Iranian government to massively retaliate against the United States, Israel and even European nations if Israel or the United States attacks Iranian nuclear facilities. Last Thursday, July 3, Omar Fadhil, the creator of the "Iraq the Model" blog, posted a column at Pajamas Media, entitled "Iran and the Coming War." Noting the increasing likelihood of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear weapons program, Fadhil wrote, "The strange thing is that Iran has been directing most of its recent rhetoric not against the most likely attacker — Israel — but against the United States."
Fadhil is of the opinion --and I think that he is correct--that Iran is first using threats against the United States to try to persuade the U.S. to restrain Israel from attacking Iran. If that fails, Iran's goal is to drag the United States into an expanded regional war. Portraying to the world that its opponent in the war is not tiny Israel, but the Great Satan itself, would be an essential means of saving face for the Iranian regime, whose image to its people would be severely damaged if a small state such as Israel were to deal severe blows to its war machine.
The Iranians would therefore allege that U.S. warplanes or missiles participated in the attack, or that the U.S. had provided logistical support to the Israelis. Those allegations would not be groundless. While I believe that Israel has reserved to itself the right to act unilaterally against Iran, if it believes it has no alternative in the face of the existential threat posed by Iranian nuclear weapons, I also believe that it is highly unlikely that Israel would proceed with an attack against Iran without at least the tacit approval, if not the active assistance, of the United States. A glance at a map of the Middle East demonstrates why.
As the viewer will note, any airstrike on Iranian targets launched by Israel almost certainly must pass through Iraqi airspace, and Iraqi airspace is controlled by the United States. It would be folly for Israel to send fighter-bombers into Iraq without first notifying the U.S. that they were coming. To do otherwise would risk an accidental confrontation between Israeli and American warplanes, when the Americans scrambled to intercept unidentified aircraft entering Iraq from Syria, Jordan or Saudi Arabia.
Those facts also persuade me that Fadhil is wrong in one major respect--an Israeli airstrike is unlikely this year. The Administration of George W. Bush does not have the political capital to withstand the storm of Democratic Party protest that would erupt in the event of an attack on Iran. The few remaining months of the Bush Administration would be spent fending off impeachment resolutions in Congress. The resulting political and military chaos would rock the oil markets and further destabilize the U.S. economy. The chance of John McCain being elected President would evaporate. For all of those reasons, the Bush Administration would reject any Israeli plan to strike at Iran this year. That is not my view alone--a leading American defense analyst at ABC News, speaking to Israeli defense experts, recently concurred that the U.S. would not give the go-ahead to an Israeli attack plan against Iran.
Looking to the future, if Senator Obama is elected President, he is most likely going to put the kabosh on any Israeli request for approval or support of an attack on Iranian nuclear sites. Only if John McCain is the next President is there any likelihood that the U.S. would go along with an Israeli attack. For better or, probably, for worse, the United States and even Israel will reconcile themselves to the realty of a nuclear-armed Iran, and endeavor to use deterrence and diplomacy to protect the Jewish State and the United States from atomic attack.