Friday, December 07, 2007

Israel's Threats On Iran Empty Without U.S. Help

By Cernig

Righwingers in the Israeli governemnt are still making belligerent noises over Iran, despite the findings of the recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. The Guardian today collects some recent Israeli statements:
Senior Israeli officials warned today they were still considering the option of a military strike against Iran, despite a fresh US intelligence report that concluded Tehran was no longer developing nuclear weapons.

Although Israel argues that it wants to see strong diplomatic pressure put on Iran, it is reluctant to rule out the threat of a unilateral military attack. Matan Vilnai, Israel's deputy defence minister, told Army Radio today: "No option needs to be off the table."

Avigdor Lieberman, the hard-right deputy prime minister, said Israel should be ready to act if sanctions did not work. "If they don't, we will sit and decide whatever we have to decide," he told the Jerusalem Post in an interview today.
Several of Israel's Iran experts say the American rethink on the threat posed by Iran had ruled out a US military strike and probably an Israeli strike too, at least for now. However, Israel's political hawks continue to keep the threat of action alive.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the popular rightwing opposition leader, was asked whether Israel should launch its own military operation. "We always prefer international action, led by the United States, but we have to ensure that we can protect our country with all means," he told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz today.
But are they serious, or is it just posture and bluster designed for domestic consumption or on further ratcheting up the pressure on Iranian leaders who were obviously happily revieved that the U.S., at least, wasn't likely to bomb their nation back to the Stone age any time soon?

Time to revisit a StratFor.Org map which did the rounds in January 2006.

The problems an Israeli unilateral strike would face haven't changed any in almost two years. As Dave Schuler wrote back then:
Re-fueling issues aside, Israel simply can’t get to Iran without crossing the airspace of one or more of the following countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey, Russia. I can’t imagine them getting the go-ahead. In addition we have effective control of the airspace over the Gulf. Consequently, Israel needs at least our tacit approval before conducting such a raid. As I see it that means that there’ll be the same political costs for U. S. complicity as there would be for a U. S. raid.
The U.S. controls the entire Gulf airspace. Without IFF transponder codes, any Israeli strike on Iran would be considered hostile by American forces. Even that level of complicity would inflame Muslim neighbours - and suppose the most obvios route, through iraqi airspace, was used? Back In January '06 I had some thoughts on that too. The ruling Shia would never give permission for Israel to use Iraqi airspace to strike Shiite Iran and no-one would believe otherwise. It would be the final nail in the polite fiction of Iraqi sovereignty and would doubtless instigate a general uprising and return to the insurgency of the Shiite majority in Iraq.

Even Dubya and Dick, the greatest double act since Laurel and Hardy, aren't that dumb when their own intelligence community says there's nothing to worry about yet, if ever. So I have to agree with Ephraim Asculai, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv quoted by the Guardian.

"I think it is quite unrealistic to think Israel will go it alone against Iran in a military way."

Update Just like the neocons, the Israeli hard right wants a do-over on the NIE. Murdoch's Jerusalem Post reports that the Israelis intend trying to convince Admiral Mullen, the Chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs, that they are correct about the Iranian threat when he visits on Sunday. Mullen is sen as one of SecDef Gates key allies, along with CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon who was once reported as saying that there would be no American attack on Iran on his watch. He's likely to be a tough audience - and in any case the 16 American intelligence agencies who concurred on the NIE won't be present at all. This smacks of desperation from the Israeli right and shows clearly that they obviously realise they've no hope of an attack on Iran without U.S. help.

As Alan Arkin notes, though, that help has become a more remote possibility as the sheen has worn off the Israelis' reputation as the paradigm to follow for U.S. intelligence and defense operations.
Indeed, in Iraq and in the war on terrorism, the U.S. military in many ways tried to emulate Israeli security. It initiated a head-hunting counterterrorism strategy. It looked to Israel for advice on "urban warfare" and counterinsurgency tactics. You could even say that the bomb-first-ask-questions-later invasion of Iraq was an Israeli-style invasion.

But the frustrations and failures in Iraq forced the U.S. military to reconsider the pre-eminence of Israeli tactics. And so the U.S. has shifted away from targeted terrorist assassinations and toward strategies that do more to address the sources of terrorism. Gen. David Petraeus ushered in an entirely new counterinsurgency strategy. And many leaders in the U.S. military establishment have come to realize that bomb-first-ask-questions-later may help set back nuclear programs (when they actually exist) but it does not create a lasting peace.

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