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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Is an Israeli attack on Iran imminent?

Judging by the reported progress of meetings between UN nuclear officials and Tehran, which are scheduled to continue on May 23 in Baghdad, it would seem that the threat of an Israeli strike against Iran is low.
Just this week, the RAND Corporation, a prominent think tank that advises the Pentagon, warned against an Israeli or American attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. It recommended instead that Washington attempt to "quietly influence the internal Israeli discussion over the use of military force."
Tehran denies allegations that it pursuing a nuclear weapon, saying its nuclear research is being conducted with the goal of providing a source of energy for its civilian sector.
Israel’s Likud leadership, however, remains highly skeptical about the chances of curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, arguing that Tehran is attempting to buy more time to build a nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, the rhetorical bombs continue to fly on both sides. Indeed, listening to some of the speeches by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the only thing that seems uncertain about a military attack against Iran is when it will happen.
Speaking during the opening ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day in April, Netanyahu compared, once again, Iran to Nazi Germany.

“I know there are some who don’t like it when I express uncomfortable truths like these,”
 he said. “Those who dismiss the Iranian threat as a whim or an exaggeration have learnt nothing from the Holocaust.”
Of course, Netanyahu’s tough talk may be an effort to force Tehran to cooperate with international weapons inspectors. Yet it cannot be ignored that Netanyahu believes a nuclear-armed Iran would be an “existential threat” to the state of Israel. He is also highly skeptical of UN nuclear inspectors getting to the bottom of Iran’s intentions.
So the question remains: if Israel really does decide to attack Iran, which many believe would be a colossal decision, when will the fireworks begin? Some experts predict that hostilities could start any day.
As global leaders prepare to meet in the United States for two major, back-to-back international summits, some predict that Israel may see this as an open window of opportunity (when Obama may use his gift of the gab to unite global opinion) to initiate a military offensive. Others say there is no chance of a military attack until next year, following the US presidential election.
Judging by the level of support that America’s two political parties express for Israel, it is difficult to imagine Israel basing its decision on such considerations. Furthermore, although President Barack Obama may express his “regret” in the event of a unilateral Israeli attack, there is little to suggest that he would not support Israel when push comes to shove. Indeed, not to do so would simply destroy the Democrat leader’s chances of reelection. And since his projected Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, has already confirmed his support of Israel, Netanyahu really has nothing to lose in terms of US support if he decides to launch an attack before the November ballot.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu has just succeeded in pulling off a political stunner, bringing Israel’s main opposition party, Kadima, into a national unity government.
The US conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer thinks Netanyahu conceded to the demands of a unity government in preparation for a preemptive war: 

“Everyone understood why. You do not undertake a supremely risky pre-emptive war without the full participation of a broad coalition representing a national consensus. Such a fateful decision demands a national consensus. By creating the largest coalition in nearly three decades, Netanyahu is establishing the political premise for a pre-emptive strike, should it come to that,”
 he said.
Here is the Financial Times commenting on Netanyahu’s “masterstroke.”
“Benjamin Netanyahu has pulled off what has been acclaimed, by some of his detractors as well as his admirers, as a masterstroke…Shaul Mofaz, the Kadima leader, only recently called the prime minister a liar and described his government as 'everything that is wrong with Israel.' Now they are partners.
“Mr. Mofaz’s primary service will be to provide Mr. Netanyahu with a shield: against the far right at home through Kadima’s numbers; and against Barack Obama, US president, and his European allies abroad, by virtue of his party’s perceived moderation on both Iran and the Palestinian question.
And here is the real kicker to the FT article: “Although national unity governments have in the past been the prelude to war – as, for example, before Israel launched the 1967 Six-Day War – it is not clear whether this one makes it more or less likely that Israel will bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
Netanyahu understands better than anybody that such political support is a fleeting thing. Now the question remains: will the Israeli leader use this unprecedented alliance of political power – both at home and abroad – to put Israel’s house in order (especially with the Palestinian question of statehood becoming especially pressing), or will he use his political position to launch what many experts predict will be a devastating war against Iran?
Unfortunately, it seems the answer to this question may be a short time coming, with grave consequences for the entire planet in the event that Mr. Netanyahu opts for war.
Robert Bridge, RT

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