Thursday, February 02, 2012

Leon Panetta: ' Strong Likelihood Israel Will Strike Iran This Spring'

Our Secretary of Defense, in action:

Panetta believes there is strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the U.S. could then stop them militarily…

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak may have signaled the prospect of an Israeli attack soon when he asked last month to postpone a planned U.S.-Israel military exercise that would culminate in a live-fire phase in May. Barak apologized that Israel couldn’t devote the resources to the annual exercise this spring.

President Obama and Panetta are said to have cautioned the Israelis that the United States opposes an attack, believing that it would derail an increasingly successful international economic sanctions program and other non-military efforts to stop Iran from crossing the threshold. But the White House hasn’t yet decided precisely how the United States would respond if the Israelis do attack. {...}

The administration appears to favor staying out of the conflict unless Iran hits U.S. assets, which would trigger a strong U.S. response.

Israelis are said to believe that a military strike could be limited and contained. They would bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz and other targets; an attack on the buried enrichment facility at Qom would be harder from the air. Iranians would retaliate, but Israelis doubt the action would be an overwhelming barrage, with rockets from Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. One Israeli estimate is that the Jewish state might have to absorb 500 casualties.

Israelis point to Syria’s lack of response to an Israeli attack on a nuclear reactor there in 2007. Iranians might show similar restraint, because of fear the regime would be endangered by all-out war. Some Israelis have also likened a strike on Iran to the 1976 hostage-rescue raid on Entebbe, Uganda, which was followed by a change of regime in that country.

First off, let's recognize that this is sheer speculation..except for Secretary Panetta's comments.You have to wonder what kind of games Panetta and the Obama Administration are playing to announce a three month window in which an loyal ally they claim to support will be making an attack against a genocidal foe who is also an American enemy.

Personally, I think the president is concerned about two things and two things only - the possibility of higher gas prices endangering his re-election and his need to keep a wag the dog US attack on Iran as an option on hold for his own use in say, October if he's down in the polls.

But let's look at the larger question: will Israel make a preemptive strike on Iran?

As the WAPO article points out, they've certainly done so before.

Barry Rubin has an interesting piece on PJM in which he says it won't happen, and that this is Israel's way of putting pressure on the West to implement crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime so they won't have to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. For my own part, I hope he's right but I think he's mistaken.

First, any meaningful sanctions on Iran - the targeting of Iranian oil imports and Iran's Central Bank have already been kicked down the road while yet another round of ineffectual talks goes on for months. And even if the sanctions are finally implemented, a number of countries have already said they won't abide by them, including Russia, China and India.

Second, he gives the Iranian regime a great deal more credit for being rational actors than they deserve. They're rational in terms of strategy when it comes to accomplishing their goals,but little else.

Rubin argues that a strike now would not only fail to do anything but delay Iran's obtaining nuclear weapons, but would ensure that Iran uses them once they finally do obtain them. But there's absolutely no reason to assume that Iran will behave like the Soviet Union and that the spectre of Mutually Assured Destruction(MAD) can be relied on to keep the mullahs in check. The Twelver sect of the Hidden Imam and the Shi'ite inbred taste for 'martyrdom' is not something Israel - or for that matter, America - is going to be able to live with peacefully and the very nature of the regime and the religious impulses that drive it almost guarantee that Iran will use nuclear weapons at some point if it obtains them. The Israelis would be suicidal fools allow Iran to get nuclear weapons on the chance they might not use them, or pass them on to someone who would.

Iran is a dying nation in many respects, and they are going to have to find something that unites the country, engages the almost 30% unemployed youth in what I call the cannon fodder age bracket of 18-29 and offers the possibility of territorial expansion. They've also noted how North Korea has been able to misbehave with impunity because it possesses nuclear weapons, and how that regime has done quite well operating as a nuclear 'supermarket' for illegal proliferation. Given Iran's pervasive anti-Semitism and the religious fervor in many parts of Iranian society, a strike on Israel when the regime feels ready makes perfect sense, either directly from Iran or via Hezbollah. They've said so openly.

This also resonates as a factor in what I feel will be the future competition for leadership of the Muslim Middle East between Iran's Shi'ite dominated bloc of Iran,Syria (assuming Basher Assad holds on to power), Iraq and Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood dominated bloc of Egypt,Libya, the 'Palestinian' areas, and probably Jordan and Syria (if Assad falls).

The conventional wisdom that a preemptive strike would only delay things a few years is also based on speculation If a strike is done in a sufficiently thorough manner,Iran is likely to need quite a bit of time to replace not only the facilities and materials but the infrastructure and scientific manpower involved. Deeper facilities like the one near Qom and in Fardo could be hit by tactical nukes if necessary, or at the least their infrastructure could be sufficiently damaged to the point of making them useless for quite some time. .No less an authority than ex-IDF Chief of Staff and current Vice Prime Minister Moshe 'Boogie' Ya'alon says that all of Iran's nuclear sites are vulnerable to a strike and that it's quite doable.

Israel also has the strategic option of including a hit on Iran's oilfields and gas refineries .That would affect the regime's ability both to afford nuclear toys in the future or to be able to finance attacks against Israel or anyone else for quite some time.And it would also affect Iran's relationship with countries like India and China once they have no oil to sell. The spike in oil prices involved would be a temporary one, since the Saudis and the Emirates have already agreed in principle to make up for any shortfall,and America has ample resources to tap if needed.

it's not without risk, but given the alternative the chance is one Israel will have to take if the West continues to sit by while Iran goes nuclear.

Where I agree with Professor Rubin is that a strike by Israel will not happen in the Spring. Israel will use the leverage of an Israeli strike to try and pressure the West into doing what it ought to be doing for its own survival anyway, and if that proves unsuccessful, they will do it themselves...likely with the connivance of the Saudis.

Meanwhile, they'll use this window in time to train and prepare both the IDF and the Israeli public, putting it in their mind that something must be done, and that the clock is ticking.


louielouie said...

i think it would be funny as hell if the joos, informed the hussein administration they were going to strike. then didn't.
then inform the hussein administration they were going to strike. then didn't.
just to irritate the ignorant occupant of the oval office. and his lap dog panetta.
personally, i think hussein is in a quandry of deciding, if the joos strike iran, and iran strikes US assets, will he send US forces against iran, or israel. he won't want to lose that hollywood vote by attacking iran.

Anonymous said...

This illustrates perfectly why America under the Obama misadministration cannot be trusted.
I also disagreed with Prof.Rubin's article. Basically, his liberalism interfere's with his analysis.
For a long time, I was doubtful the Israeli gov't. had made a decision - now I think it's highly probable Israel will take military action.
By the way, the argument that such action would only delay the nuclear program is foolish - what's wrong with a one or two year delay? Buying time is a good result.

Terry, Eilat - Israel