Thursday, June 14, 2007
It's a question that's been asked many times before, of course. But Dr. Pipes addresses this from an Israeli perspective, which people on this side of the Atlantic may find interesting:
Barring a "catastrophic development," reports Middle East Newsline, George W. Bush has decided not to attack Iran. An administration source explains that Washington deems Iran's cooperation "needed for a withdrawal [of US forces] from Iraq."In other words: if America doesn't deal with a pre-nuclear Iran, Israel will be forced to do so... and Israelis are feeling less and less confident that the United States will take care of the problem.
If correct, this implies that the Jewish state stands alone against a regime that threatens to "wipe Israel off the map" and is building the nuclear weapons to do so. Israeli leaders are hinting that their patience is running out; Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz just warned that "diplomatic efforts should bear results by the end of 2007."
Can the Israel Defense Forces in fact disrupt Iran's nuclear program?
(Frankly, Israel arguably has more experience with this sort of operation anyway.)
So, what is Dr. Pipes' conclusion? Quoting MIT researchers, writing in International Security, he claims that destroying Iran's nuclear capability, by severing a few vital links, is not any riskier for Israel than was the destruction of Iraq's nuclear capability in 1981. (They estimate that three times as many combat aircraft would be needed. Then again, it's standard to over-plan missions of this sort. In 1981, fourteen Israeli warplanes were used, allowing for completion of the mission even if several were shot down -- and in fact, all fourteen returned safely to Israel.)
He does express concern over the need to fly over other countries on the way. Would the authorities of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or the American-allied Iraqis cause trouble? Frankly, I'm not particularly worried about that. Israel flew over Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq last time -- all three of them -- and, at the time, all three were hostile to Israel. Israel did it before, and can do it again if the need arises.
I'm not at all convinced that President Bush will sit on his hands over this issue. But it's nice to know that, if he does, Israel has what it takes to solve the problem.
And in the end, it might make more sense for Bush to let Israel handle it -- with support behind the scenes as necessary. Too many Congresscritters are already screaming in anticipation about not invading Iran. Israel, on the other hand, has its very survival at stake -- and has a strong need to prove itself, after the debacle of last summer's conflict with Hizbullah.
So it wouldn't surprise me much if Bush talks very quietly to Israel about Iran... and is told: "lead, follow, or get out of the way".
By all means, read the whole thing.