If the threat of a military strike is to be effective in forcing the opponent to bow to demands made of them, then the opponent really has to believe that the strike is a possibility.
In recent weeks we have heard from both serving and retired military and intelligence officials contradicting opinions that Israel should both strike and should not strike Iran. Now we have heard from Israel’s Arutz 2 news that the Prime minister and Defence Minister are weighing up their options and considering their “window of opportunity” for hitting Iran coming to an end, meaning that any strike that does come must come within weeks rather than months.
All of this gossip serves to obfuscate the fact that any Israeli strike, even now, would be prolonging the inevitable for such a short period of time that it would be a pointless act. Those who believe that the Iranians want the bomb simply to launch it at Israel should bear in mind that they have stores of chemical and biological weapons capable of killing us all as well as delivery systems that could have been launched at Israel years ago and yet they haven’t launched them.
Of course they might if we hit them hard enough.
At the same time this news report comes in the wake of Leon Panetta’s visit and all this very public talk of an imminent strike by Israel just happens to serve as an excellent way of putting pressure on the Americans to share their plans for an attack on Iran with Israel, as well as any additional intelligence that would come in useful, not to mention making the US leadership even more prepared for an eventual strike of their own.
But the really interesting possibility that just about everyone has missed is that Iran getting the bomb may actually be a stabilising factor in the Middle East. After all, the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was intense enough to ensure that the President of the United States had a direct telephone line to his mortal enemy sitting in Moscow during the Cold War.
The Times of Israel article on the story by Arutz 2 assesses the potential military fall out for Israel in the wake of a strike on Iran as the following (italics added by me):
“Militarily, an Israeli strike would prompt missile attacks on Israel, attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah from the south and the north, and upheaval on the Arab street, in the leadership’s assessment. The assessment is that Syria’s President Bashar Assad would not get involved, since this would finish him off, the report said. But if Iran got the bomb, the missile threat would be escalated, Hamas and Hezbollah further empowered, and there would be a danger of any crisis escalating into a nuclear crisis.”
It is exactly the danger hi-lighted that might well give the Iranians pause for thought. Since, just like in the Cold War, any crisis could well go nuclear the Iranians would have excellent cause to make sure that there remains a nuclear status quo. Far from empowering Hamas and Hezbollah the Iranians would actually find themselves in the position of having to hold back anyone who wanted to launch a random strike with the fear that it might just be the straw that broke Israel’s nuclear back.