Israeli nuclear bluff and the American hand behind it
As reported by Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, a senior U.S. State Deapartment official has said that Washington is concerned that Israel will mount a military operation against Iran’s nuclear facilities. An uncontrolled an uncoordinated unilateral Israeli action against Iran “may not necessarily be in line with US interests in the region.”
Previously, Yedioth Ahronoth had also reported that similar concerns were being expressed by many Israelis who think that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak might be pushing for military action against Iran.
In fact, there is absolutely nothing new in such reports. Israel has a long-standing tradition of attacking nuclear facilities in neighboring countries. It destroyed a nuclear reactor in Iraq back in 1981, a North Korea-built reactor in Syria in 2007. This year witnessed several high profile assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists which were blamed by Iran on Israel and the U.S.
More so, the current moment for an attack on Iran is more than lucrative. While Iran’s closest ally in the region, Syria, is suffering from internal turmoil, Iran would face a possible attack single-handedly. And whatever reaction from the international community might follow, it will not exceed the limit of harsh diplomatic wording, which is something Israel has got accustomed to through years.
More so, now that Israel is facing a growing diplomatic pressure on the issue of the recognition of Palestinian statehood, a military offensive on a different front would delay the final decision on Palestine and allow Israel to fortify the Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
The probability of a unilateral Israeli military operation against Iran is so high that it has been a matter for all kinds of forecasts and contingency planning scenarios by various American think tanks for several years. But as was pointed out in one of the most recent and most straightforward ones, conducted by the Brookings Institution and published in The New York Times on March 2010, the final outcome is that “no one won,” and the strikes only delayed the Iranian nuclear program by a few years.
As for the U.S., a possible Israeli strike against Iran might come quite handy. After the massive military and political failures in Iraq and especially in Afghanistan, the U.S. administration is very unlikely to venture on a new direct military confrontation with an adversary stronger than the latter two combined together. Therefore, resorting to the tactics of “proxy war” would save the U.S. human and financial resources, as well as the remnants of its reputation. And after Israel attains (or does not attain) its (and, basically, American) goals, it would be politically advantageous for the U.S. to present itself as a peacemaker.
But the rumors of a possible Israeli strike against Iran do not necessarily reflect the real intention. Likewise, the alleged U.S. concerns do not necessarily reflect what the U.S. administration really feels about it.
As has been correctly pointed out by Yedioth Ahronoth, the real recipients of the message are China and Russia, not Iran itself. The fact is that the report appeared shortly before the IAEA is going to present its report on Iranian nuclear program. The U.S. has never concealed that it is going to use the report for pressing on further and stricter sanctions against Iran, which Russia and China oppose.
Hence, the rumors of a possible Israeli strike against Iran come as a part of a broader bluff. The logic of the message is, “If we do not approve further sanctions, Israel will start a military operation which no one can effectively prevent. Therefore, it is in everybody’s interest to impose stricter sanctions on Iran in order to appease Israel.”
The trick with an uncovered plot to assassinate Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in October did not work – few people really believed that there had been a conspiracy backed by Iran. But sanctions, from the U.S. point of view, are worth another try. If it still does not work, surely there will be new attempts.