Hamas seems hell-bent on provoking Israel to invade, and Israel appears poised to satisfy that death-wish. Will Palestinian martyrism never cease? Perhaps Gaza’s Muslim Brotherhood offshoot feels it can, by its provocation, draw the new Muslim Brotherhood state of Egypt into a full-scale confrontation with Israel? A possibility, but in power the Egyptian Islamists seem far more cautious than their pre-power, Tahrir rhetoric. No, the real question is: will Iran provide Israel a reason to launch the long delayed mission to eliminate that country’s nuclear program?
How does this question even enter the discussion? Israel has long been constrained from acting unilaterally due to the probable impact on the world economy, and the diplomatic and economic backlash on Israel it would produce.
Gaza may just provide Israel the cover needed to justify the attack. The missing piece in acting against the Iranian bomb has always been US temerity. Israel needs US backing not only because the superpower has the military resources beyond her own allowing for a longer term action likely required. And the US has the next generation of bunker-buster bombs most likely needed to destroy the reinforced underground facilities housing the nuclear program. If the Bush Iraq adventure lit the fuse setting off the global economic collapse still around today, what impact would another oil price shock have on a global economy barely on the mend. The European Union is even today on the ropes. Would it survive the shock? Certainly Israel wants to avoid blame for what promises to be an even more severe economic shock, the diplomatic and economic isolation likely to result from responsibility for another global calamity.
American actions regarding the Islamic Republic over the past twelve years demonstrates that the US, having blindly wandered into two unwinnable long-term and expensive wars is gun shy, determined not to take on yet another potential military failure. Gates/Mullen, Poindexter/Dempsey all justified a non-response due to that tired excuse, “unforeseen consequences.” Nor was the military the only American agency wishing away the problem. American intelligence was even willing to put out serial National Estimates (NIE’s) that represented, at best wishful thinking, more likely transparent avoidance of military action against the Islamic Republic. The 2007 NIE concluded with certainty that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003! It issued another NIE in 2011 which cautiously reaffirmed the earlier Estimate!
Left to its own resources the Obama Administration will continue to finesse, to let pass yet another and another negotiations deadline (lets not call them “red lines”) until the Iranian bomb is itself a fait accompli; and Iran, for all practical purposes, achieves its decades-long ambition of regional hegemony. An even worse, if possible, outcome would be a nuclear arms race between Sunni and Shi’a creating a regional and global threat greater even than that existing in the years of the US-Russia nuclear standoff called the Cold War.
Enter Iran crossing the line beyond condemnation, threatening Israel with intervention over Gaza.
There exist today Iranian Revolutionary Guards fighting on behalf of the failing Syrian regime. So the threat of Iranian intervention in support of Hamas is real. Iran even threatening to intervene on behalf of its Gaza puppet would represent a causus belli, a threat of war. And that would be enough to justify Israeli preemption, the long-anticipated attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
Under that scenario the US would likely find it impossible to not support; might even be forced to take on its long overdue responsibility as defender of its regional interests and lead the long-avoided action to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat.