Crunch Time in Iran
"Wait for what? Wait until when?" Israeili Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
This quotation, coupled with the evacuation of the Canadian embassy in Tehran, is a sign that the Israeli government has decided to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities soon, probably in October. Since these installations are well-defended, Israel will have to first eliminate Iran's air-defense system. Since Hezbollah is aligned with Iran and will retaliate against Israel for any attack on the Islamic Republic, Israel will also have to destroy Hezbollah rocket sites in southern Lebanon at the same time.
Can Israel achieve these objectives? Only someone with access to Israel's military secrets can even begin to answer this question. But Netanyahu has this information, and he would not take action unless prospects of success were favorable.
How will Iran respond? Iran has missiles capable of reaching Israel, armed with conventional warheads. I have no doubt that Israeli military planners intend to "take-out" Iranian command-and-control systems as part of a first strike, but if any missiles are not destroyed, they will be launched against Israel. However, Israel has the Iron Dome missile-defense system, provided by the US at the order of President Obama. I pray that it is 100% effective.
What will the United States do? President Barack Obama is vehemently opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran, but he cannot prevent it. He spoke with Netanyahu Tuesday night for about an hour, apparently without agreement. The PM offered to meet the President in late September when he visits the UN in New York, but it seems that Obama will not alter his campaign schedule to do so, but they may meet later in DC. From his latest statements on the subject, Netanyahu seems more concerned about a "red light" from the US than he is about Iranian air-defenses.
Older readers will recall that President Lyndon Johnson tried to dissuade Israel from launching the Six Day War in 1967; when Israel went ahead anyway, the US did nothing. Nasser blamed the US anyway, and our UN Ambassador Arthur Goldberg defended Israel's actions. This will be the template for American response to an Israeli attack on Iran: do nothing, deny involvement and later defend the action.
How will the war affect the United States? World oil and gasoline prices will skyrocket as soon as war begins. The effects will be devastating on both the US and Europe. If the US stands by Israel, as predicted above, US forces and diplomatic missions will be at great risk throughout the Middle East and in many other Muslim countries: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are all friends of Iran, and they can be expected to expel all American soldiers, contractors and diplomats. Anti-American fervor, which exploded this week over a crappy amateur film about Muhammad, will be devastating.
How would a war before November 6 affect the US election? Netanyahu wants Romney to win, but I suspect that Israeli intelligence services have told him that Obama will probably be re-elected. If he were confident of a Romney victory, he might hold off on attacking Iran until after the new president takes office on January 20, but Iranian defenses might be too strong by that time. If Netanyahu expects Obama to win, he would be smarter to start the war before the election, since Obama would not dare to repudiate Israel at that time, when the crucial Jewish vote could throw the election to the Republicans. A big spike in oil prices would be bad for Obama, since that would hurt virtually all Americans. But if the President can retain the Jewish vote by backing Israel, he could survive the oil shock. In that case it would look bad for Romney to try to exploit the crisis, since most Americans sympathize with Israel.
An Israeli strike on Iran before the election would put President Obama on the horns of a vicious dilemma: back Israel and antagonize the Arab and Muslim world, or denounce Israel and lose the presidency. My guess is that he will stand with Israel and win a second term.
Gerald S Glazer