Friday, June 27, 2008

Israel's Not Bluffing on Iran Nuclear Strikes

The Economist reports that Israel is not bluffing in its recent intimations of possible military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities:
WITH oil prices at their present highs and Iraq at last making tentative progress towards stability, the last thing anyone wants to hear is that conditions in the Middle East could be about to take an abrupt turn for the worse. Unfortunately, they could. Recent weeks have brought a spike in chatter about the prospect of an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear installations. Israel has conducted ostentatious long-range air exercises over the Mediterranean, and one former chief of staff has called an attack inevitable if Iran continues its nuclear work. This noise might be just a bluff designed to signal to Iran that it would be wise to stop enriching uranium, as the United Nations Security Council ordered it to a full two years ago. Then again, it might not.

Until recently, fears of an Israeli or American attack on Iran had been receding. The prospect of an American strike diminished after America’s intelligence services published their inconvenient finding last December that Iran had stopped trying to design a nuclear weapon in 2003. At the same time, diplomats have been able to point to the sort of progress diplomats point to: a series of Security Council resolutions, supported by Russia and China as well as the West, telling Iran to stop its uranium-enriching centrifuges. Sanctions have been applied as well: in the latest, the European Union decided this week to freeze the assets of Iran’s biggest bank, Bank Melli. Slowly but surely, you might conclude, the normal tools of diplomacy are being brought to bear, removing the need for anything worse. Besides, in November Americans may elect Barack Obama as president. Doesn’t he promise to sort out Iran by means of direct talks at the highest level, a necessary step that George Bush could never quite bring himself to take?

If those were your reasons for ceasing to worry, think again. Despite that American intelligence finding, neither Israel nor many other governments believe that Iran has given up its interest in nuclear weapons. Yes, the UN has passed resolutions and imposed some mild sanctions, but Iran has spent two years disregarding them, continuing to spin its centrifuges and to call for the destruction of Israel. It may well be true that Mr Bush is disinclined to bomb Iran now that he is a lame duck, but the possible advent of a President Obama might just make Israel more inclined to do so itself. As the hawkish John Bolton, a former Bush administration official, said this week, Israel may think the best time to attack would be during America’s presidential transition—too late to be accused of influencing the election and before needing a new president’s green light.
Read the whole thing, at the link.

The Economist opposes military strikes, arguing preemptive action will only delay Tehran's march to nuclear capability, and that Israel's own strategic arsenal would act as a deterrent to an eventual Iranian attack.

That's cold logic to those who watch and listen to Iran's leadership pledge the destruction of the Jewish state.

Especially now that none other than Tehran's arms enabler, Mohammed ElBaradei, has acknowledged
Iranian nuclear readiness within six-to-eight months.

See also, "
Israel on the Iran Brink."