The Iran-Israel What-If

What if we change places with Iran for a moment?

Let’s say we’ve been learning that (a) Western nations are implementing even tougher sanctions as payback for our sovereign right to develop our nuclear capacity in order to accomplish whatever goal we choose and (b) Israel is basically telling everyone—us, the United States, its allies, and especially the New York Times—that it will wipe out our nuclear facilities before the year is out should we, the sovereign nation of Iran, go ahead. Which would be an act of war.

Or let’s try trading places with Israel. It is (see above) making no secret of its likely plans. They’re less a Netanyahu trial balloon than a Netanyahu public promise engraved in stone, available for anyone, Leon Panetta especially, to read. After all, Iran has for years been waging its own form of war on Israel, funding, for example, the Shiite militia Hezbollah, which has stockpiled thousands of missiles in southern Lebanon, every one of which will be aimed at Israel’s population centers. The last time Israel tried to wipeout Hezbollah was in 2006, and it wasn’t a success, in fact it was a public relations and military disaster, at time when Hezbollah had only 10,000 missiles.

There are now, Israel estimates, around 40,000 missiles, all far more lethal and some with the capacity to target Tel Aviv, in Hezbollah’s hands. The Jewish state, in other words, has every intention this time around of finishing the job.

Really, it has no choice.

In which case Syria, another Hezbollah ally, would almost certainly get into the act. President Bashar al-Assad, after all, badly needs some kind of magic that would garner popular support. The wholesale butchery of his own people apparently hasn’t worked quite as well as he had hoped. The wholesale butchery of Israelis just might.

Really, Assad would have no choice.

Would Israel go ahead with its plans to take out Iranian nuclear plants just to gain a possible few years of—if not peace, at least peace of mind?

Netanyahu clearly believes he has no choice.

You could argue, and many have, that no matter what the US and its allies might wish, Iran has the absolute right to continue with its nuclear program, whatever its true aims might be. Israel has the bomb, after all. So does the US, and let’s not go into just what the US once did to civilians with its own nuclear capcity. If I were Iranian, that’s just the tack I might take.

Of course, the United Nations believes Iranian aims are anything but peaceful, and so does the United States. But the US has been wrong before (cf: Iraq) about a nation’s nuclear intentions and capacity, in fact seriously deficient in its ability to attract or deploy human intelligence on foreign soil. For this and other reasons, it’s possible to look askance at American claims of certainty about what’s going on Iran.

On the other hand, given the Israeli knack for developing human intelligence on Iranian soil, and given its astonishingly successful attacks on Iranian scientists and its Stuxnet worm triumph, you could also argue that Israel is pretty good at finding things out. And that having found certain things out, Israel, like Iran, has the absolute right, to do what it needs to do to defend itself. You could also argue that if Israel is certain that Iran is intending to use its nuclear power for wartime aims, then Israel is more than likely right.

On Saturday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard started military exercises in the nation’s south—its very own way of demonstrating how near it is to closing the Strait of Hormuz. That was Iran’s way of warning both the US and Israel that should either nation consider attacking its nuclear facilities, 20 percent of the world’s oil exports would be cut off. In fact Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday that any strikes on his nation would damage US interests in the Middle East “10 times more” than they would damage Iran.

This may all be bluff. A lot of Iranian talk is bluff.

But what isn’t bluff is Israel or its declared intentions. With or without the United States, it’s going ahead.

In other words, there will be war.


Photo Credit: US Embassy Tel Aviv

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