Sunday, July 14, 2013

Israeli Countdown?

July 13, 2013
Motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat)
According to the Times of Israel tonight (emphasis added):
"Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly to launch a new, last-ditch effort in the next few days to persuade the United States to credibly revive the military option against Iran.
"If this proves unsuccessful, Channel 2 reported, Netanyahu will have to decide whether to launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by this winter at latest, because after that, the report indicated, the assessment is that Israel’s window for military intervention will close."
"Israel's window," refers to the capability we have with our armaments to hit Iran's nuclear facilities, which are going way underground.  The US capability in this regard -- with its 30,000 lb bunker buster -- is greater.  Even if Iran has not quite reached that nuclear break-out, Israel may not be able to wait any longer, if there is a decision that the US won't act and we should.
"Israel desperately wants to see the Obama Administration harden its position on Iran immediately — to convey to Iran that if it does not halt its nuclear program, its regime will not survive. Instead, however, Jerusalem sees what it considers an overly tolerant and patient attitude by Washington DC to Tehran, the channel 2 report said.

"Next week, the P5+1 powers — the five UN Security Council members, plus Germany — are set to meet to coordinate positions ahead of possible talks with incoming Iranian President Hasan Rohani's leadership. The fear in Jerusalem, the TV report said, is that Iran will prove capable of buying more time in such talks, while its centrifuges spin, its other nuclear facilities move forward, and it becomes too late for effective military intervention.

"Netanyahu is about to begin a new effort at 'public diplomacy,' aimed at securing 'increased pressure on Iran,' led by the US, notably including the revival of 'a real military threat' if the Iranians don’t halt their nuclear drive, the TV report said.
"If the prime minister’s effort fails, 'Netanyahu will have to make a decision in the next few months' over 'whether to attack Iran by the winter.' The report stressed considerable support for a resort to military force within the cabinet, and concluded: 'This could happen.'"

My friends, as I see it, this trumps the other security-related issues -- as serious as they are -- that we've been tracking.  With the turmoil in Egypt, and Syria, etc., the issue of a nuclear Iran sometimes seems to slip off the radar screen.  But it never should.
There has been a lot of talk lately about whether Netanyahu is sliding "left." Whether he really wants to reach a deal with the PA, etc.  And there's a tendency in many quarters -- not without reason -- to feel discontent with his leadership.
And yet... yet...on the issue of Iran his leadership is superb and I salute him.  He stands alone, facing an array of world "leaders" who opt for a dangerous and mindless oblivion on this issue.  An incredibly difficult place to be.
It is not for me to say whether Netanyahu will decide to hit Iran, in the end.  But I make these observations here:
Surely, he believes that his efforts to get Obama to take a genuinely tough stand on Iran are almost certain to fail.  Nothing in Obama's behaviors and policies -- his entire MO -- would lead to any other expectation. 
It is my assumption that Netanyahu will try one last time so that, should he decide to hit Iran, he will be able to face down world leaders and remind them that he did his absolute best to secure a serious counter to Iran without Israel having to go to war.  He's putting it back on the US, and the world, this one last time. 
(There is, I suppose, a remote chance that once Obama sees that Netanyahu is serious and the day of reckoning is near, he might change his position. But I very much doubt it.) 
I alluded yesterday to the interview outgoing Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, gave.  One of the things he spoke about, with regard to Iran, was Israel's need, as a sovereign state, to be responsible for her own security.  Oren didn't say this without a sign-off from the prime minister.  Oren was delivering notice.
I am pleased, and not surprised, to read here that there is considerable support in the Cabinet for an attack.  And I wonder if internally matters had to coalesce to a certain point for this to come together.

The Times of Israel article refers to the potential repercussions of an attack on Iran, such as war with Hezbollah.  This is, of course, a possibility, and not to be taken lightly.
It is clear that all necessary preparations for such a war would be taken before Iran were hit. And our military leaders have served notice over and over: This next war would be different from the previous wars -- we would react with full force.  Translation: We know that Hezbollah has hidden its rockets in civilian areas, and Hezbollah will bear responsibility for this. We will take out rocket storage sites and launching sites with maximum speed to prevent injury to the Israeli population.  Hezbollah's capacity to attack would be as thoroughly and speedily immobilized as possible.
But in the end it may be that threats by Nasrallah are just bombast at this point.  Hezbollah is thoroughly enmeshed in the Syrian civil war, has taken a beating there -- with many fighters lost, is already facing anger from other Lebanese, and may be in no mood to take on Israel at Iran's instructions.  Hezbollah leaders are already irked at Iran for the responsibility placed on them to help Assad.
And so, it could be that from this perspective, this is the time to hit Iran.

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