September 29, 2009

Shouldn't Israel Be Striking Iran?

At this point it seems almost inevitable that Israel will be forced to strike Iranian nuclear production facilities.  With Iran playing the classic tinpot dictatorship ploy of making the talks with the United States and others be about whether there will be talks, rather than about substantive issues like secret nuclear facilities, they hope to stall things. There is a clear time sensitivity with Iran trying to do the same thing Kim Jong Il did in running missile tests while talking about how talks should occur.  Unfortunately the Obama White House is falling hook line and sinker for the ploy.  Having showed their own hand by seeming desperate to have talks, they made the job easy for Ahmedinejad. 

At issue, is the fact that Iran, despite previously flawed American intelligence (saying they were either far away from, or not pursuing a nuclear weapons program), has been caught with a previously undisclosed nuclear facility and has been aggressively testing weapons systems.  The latest, mere days after President Obama decided to scrap the interceptor program based in Poland and the Czech Republic.  Clearly Iran perceives a weakness in Washington and they intend to exploit it.

The President initially appeared to have caved to Russian distate for the missile defense systems so close to its borders, in its former sphere of influence.  That may be the case.  But I have a fear that the problem is far worse.  With the recent disclosure about the second Iranian nuclear facility, Russia has suddenly gotten worried about the Iranians.  Was it in response to the fact that the missiles might be able to reach Moscow and now the missile shield America was going to put in place cannot be relied upon because it's well, gone?  Maybe.  And that would be a masterstroke of strategic leverage - the U.S. could offer to put them back in Eastern Europe if Russia helped foot the bill.  That would be ironic, and well, brilliant.  It's also likely beyond the notions of this White House crew.  The apology tours of the President don't lead down the road of getting your adversaries to pay your bills.  They don't think that way.

Furthermore, it really misses the point.  The Iranians don't care about hitting Russia.  They care about hitting Israel.  They care about wiping the country off the map.  They've said so.  Israel has ended up in the sad and unfortunate situation of knowing it can no longer rely on the United States.  Unthinkable two years ago, it's likely the dominant factor guiding strategic thinking in Israel right now.

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia has apparently given permission to the Israeli Defense Force to use it's air space for the attack.  It's great to have another party (Iran) be the regional stooge/agitant/attractor of Western attention. But if Saudi Arabia is prepared to let Isreali they must be concerned about Iran as a regional threat or an adversary in terms of influence. Or perhaps, despite the Wahabi extremists they allow to exist in the Kingdom, they are pro-West or pro-customer at the highest level. It doesn't matter what their motivation is.  With Iraqi air space, controlled currently by the United States being the only other option and therefore implicating the U.S. as complicit in the attacks, the Saudi Arabian offer could not be better timed for Israel.  The U.S. under Obama would not have permitted an Iraq flyover.  The Saudi offer removes a barrier Iran might have seen as being in place to keep them behaved.  Just knowing that Israel has a way to act might keep Iran in line now.  Then again, it might not.  It probably won't.

With talks scheduled to start this week between Iran and the UN Security Council countries plus Germany, the stalling tactics on Iran's part will continue.  They need time and have been buying it with ease so far.  Why fix what isn't broken?

It's time to see if Russia's concern is window dressing - the U.S. should focus on whether Russia wants to impose sanctions, or develop a missile defense shield or ask America back into Eastern Europe to do the job.  None of that will happen, the Russians are happy Iran is a thorn in the side of the U.S.  Yes, they are likely concerned for themselves too, but they know they aren't #1 or even #2 on the hate list. They can deal with that problem later while continuing to enable Iran.

The President will hope to come out of the talks with Iran backing off (NOPE) or sanctions in place (NOPE).  Even the attempt will be portrayed at home as him playing hardball (an I-told-ya-so to the conservatives, even though it isn't true).  The problem for Israel is that whether the U.S. gets sanctions or not, it does nothing to help their situation.  Not initially - Iran is already somewhat of an international pariah and they seem to be doing okay as far as they are concerned.  What's a few more sanctions to them, even if they are 'tougher'?  By the time the sanctions begin to be felt, the missiles could have long ago flown towards Israel.

Israel will have to proactively remove the threat that President Obama doesn't have the stomach to do.  They only question really is, what will be the trigger? At this point I'm about 75% certain Israel will act and let the pieces fall where they may.  The international fallout will be nothing compared to the fallout from a Shahab 3 nuclear tipped rocket. Tense times indeed.

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