Friday, November 4, 2011

Impending Israeli Attack on Iran?

Juan Cole says no; but in doing so, he also spotlights the danger of talking up such an attack:

No one knows if [Netanyahu and Ehud Barak] are just trying to create a threatening environment for Iran, in hopes of intimidating Tehran on a range of issues, or if they are preparing Israeli public opinion for an actual strike. The problem with talking big to scare an enemy, if that is the tactic, is that the talk can spiral into action whether one likes it or not. (This mistake was probably what got Gamal Abdel Nasser into the 1967 war: Israeli hawks such as Moshe Dayan took advantage of his saber rattling to launch an attack, which could be portrayed as preemptive.)

There do indeed seem to be some sane minds in the IDF upper hierarchy (with "sane" being synonymous with opposed to attacking Iran), and as JC also notes, a lot of the current saber rattling may be a pressure tactic to try to force the Iranian leadership to back off its nuclear program.  But the fact of the matter is that we've crossed into some weird territory here.

Almost half the Israeli public seems OK with an IDF strike on Iran's nuclear installations.  (One of Cole's commenters references a recent essay by Norman Finkelstein claiming that the Israeli people are suffering from a kind of mass derangement.  I haven't seen that piece, but much of what I've been reading over the last couple of years tells me that it wouldn't be that difficult to make such a case.)

Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, seems to be feeling the heat from sanctions, growing popular dissatisfaction with his regime, and the ongoing internal struggle between his hard-line supporters and those of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  MA has steadily lost ground, and clout; but it's worthy of note that outside Iran, this man who's been castigated as a half-crazy extremist seems to be perceived increasingly as more open to the West and more liberal-minded in his approach to gender relations than is his boss, who's been clamping down in such matters.  (And note the recent imbroglio over the Iranian soccer team members whose "grab-ass" on-field celebrations may bring them a whipping by Iran's morality defenders.)  My point here is that leaders under relentless pressure - especially of a quasi-existential nature (who knows how far Netanyahu might be willing to go in an IDF strike against Iran?) - will sometimes react unpredictably, and dangerously.  Which allows me to segue to . . . 

America's silly season of presidential campaigns and elections.    We now have an embattled Mr. Obama, fighting for his own continued political existence, who's being savaged by both moderate and extremist Republicans for his alleged weaknesses on the international stage: "losing Iraq" (or so says the ever-fearful, predictably delusional Mr. Krauthammer today), "leading from behind" in Libya, being overly pusillanimous against Syria's Bashar al-Assad, coddling those upstart Turks, letting Pakistan diss the US so badly, and . . . God forbid,  failing Israel by trying to get Netanyahu to stop building colonies in the West Bank, by not preventing  Mahmud Abbas from taking the case for Palestinian statehood to the UN, . . .

. . . and, by coddling Iran.  At a time when the US economy is perhaps just beginning to revive (big news today that unemployment rate has dropped, atop earlier news that a double-dip recession seems unlikely; all bad news for the GOP), Obama's alleged failures in supporting Israel by not playing hardball with Iran are going to be rising to the top of GOP debaters' talking points.  Fox News, the WSJ, the neocons at National Review, Weekly Standard, and the Council on Foreign Relations -- all of them have begun to heat up the rhetoric about the existential threat that Iran supposedly is, not only to Israel, but the planet.

Obama will need to respond.  We can only hope that the mainstream and progressive Democrats, and thoughtful independents, who formed the core of his support in 2008 will stand by him if he tries to hold the line against the Bomb-Bomb-Iran bunch.  If they don't, Obama will have a powerful US fleet stationed in the Persian Gulf.  If the polls look bad, might he resort to some kind of "limited tactical strike" against Iran?  Or might he use that fleet to cover the IDF - and the Israel itself - in the wake of an IDF attack on Iran?

1 comment:

Ken said...

LOL! You think Obama makes the decisions on whether to start a war or not?
You must also think the President of the USA is the most powerful man on the planet then...
Please stop blogging, I can get this kind of propaganda from my local community rag.


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