The Israeli and international media have been reporting a rumor that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were trying to drum up enough votes in the Cabinet for an endorsement to attack Iran’s Nuclear program. I chose not to cover it because, to be honest, it didn’t make sense.
If Israel is good at anything, its good at keeping secrets. In fact the country gets falsely accused of some sort of covert military action, Israel’s government will refuse to confirm or deny the accusations even if they are false.
It has been my experience that if you hear a rumor about an upcoming Israeli action, it is probably fake. These rumors stem from the press interpreting statements from Israeli government officials as “hints” that they were working on an attack. Now if Israel was going to launch a very difficult military operation that would, at best damage but not destroy the Iranian nuke program and at worst begin a war with a very strong Iranian military, history and logic would indicate that the last thing they would do would be to drop hints that Iran should sharpen its anti-aircraft skills because an attack was coming.
As of yesterday the reports about an Israeli attack on Iran seemed to be picking up steam despite logic, so I did what I usually do in a case like this, contacted my friend and teacher Barry Rubin, who is not only a famous historian and a man of great rational thinking, but someone with senior contacts within the Israeli government.
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Barry agreed that the reports were bogus. But even more interesting was his explanation of why an Israeli attack was NOT imminent.
How to explain this story? As I said, it is probable that Israeli forces are practicing for a possible attack if it’s ever needed. There might also be a deliberate leak to scare the Iranians, encourage the West to take the issue of stopping Iran more seriously, or to cover another planned operation. I have a short list of what such an operation might be but I’m not going to write about it today.
What’s impressive here to me is the sloppiness of the response. There have been few good analyses on the points raised above. Don’t journalists know how to read newspapers and don’t they remember some key points that have come out in the past? And where is a serious analysis of the factors leading Israel not to attack Iran.
Okay, I’ll list some:
- An attack would not stop Iran’s program but only delay it while guaranteeing that Tehran would be in a state of war with Israel and far more likely to use nuclear weapons.
- There’s no sense in hitting Iran unless it is on the verge of obtaining deliverable nuclear weapons (a situation that would offer some different targets from those available today).
- Israel has gone for the kind of strategy used by the United States in the Cold War. It is building up both missile and plane forces that would simultaneously provide an effective attack on Iranian facilities and launchers plus the most effective possible defense against Iranian attack.
- Keep in mind two key points: Iran is far less likely to attack Israel with nuclear weapons than many people in the West think (I’ll explain that another time) and Iran needs a fair number of simultaneous firings to launch a serious attack (easier to detect if being planned and requiring far more than one or two nuclear weapons).
- Israel simply cannot depend on U.S. or European support for such an operation and for weathering the dangerous aftermath.
Then there’s the British government and the Obama Administration. Are these two more likely to attack Iran or seek a new deal with Tehran? Is anyone looking at their record, rhetoric, and worldview?
It’s interesting that the same media that is so quick to criticize any Israeli military effort is seemingly beating the drums of war for Israel to attack Iran.
Here’s the bottom line, there are more reasons for Israel not to attack Iran than there are to go to war with Iran. And you can take this to the bank, if Israel were planning to attack Iran the last place you would hear about it would be the media.