US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s assertion that Israel is preparing to attack Iran in either April, May, or June has added more speculation and fuel to the sensitive situation surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. David Ignatius’ article in The Washington Post provides us with a bit of evidence that Israel may be preparing for war, demonstrated by its cancelation of a military exercise with US forces that would conclude in May. News that the IAEA was not as pleased with its most recent trip to Iran may also further erode the chances for peace.
Returning to Ignatius’ article, one should pay special attention to Israeli’s thoughts on how Iran would likely respond to a strike on its nuclear facilities. Ignatius notes that some Israelis opine Israel’s attack on Syria’s suspected nuclear facility is an exemplar for how Iran will respond: mainly, do nothing. Moreover, some assert that the Iranian government would be ousted, similar to what occurred in 1976 following Israeli’s hostage rescue in Uganda. If these are honest opinions of important decision makers in Israel, we should be gravely concerned.
Iran would likely not sit back and allow Israel to escape unscathed, nor would the regime be toppled. Evidently it would leverage non-state assets, such as its relationships with Hezbollah, HAMAS, and other Palestinian actors, to pummel Israel, and its populace would unite behind it. It would also likely use IRGC-Quds Force hit squads to target Israeli interests abroad. The US would face a complex dilemma if Iran uses the Quds Force in such a manner, as well as if Iran counter-attacked by striking Israel overtly.
The state of diplomacy between Iran, Israel, and the US demonstrates how the West and Israel’s attempts to use the IAEA, UN, and sanctions against Iran have failed to encourage cooperation. Apparent diplomatic road rage has set in between at least Iran and Israel, which will likely prove deleterious for peace.
Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak again sought to frame the debate as one of preemptive action to safeguard Israel: ”Whoever says ‘later’, could find that it is too late”, Barak stated. Additionally, the head of the Shin Bet, while not admitting Israel’s culpability, said on Thursday that Iran will likely seek retaliation for recent assassinations of Iranian civilian and military personnel involved in its nuclear program so that it can deter future Israeli action.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, countered in his televised Friday speech that Iran will respond in kind when appropriate, and that sanctions will not alter Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Khamenei furthered that sanctions, in fact, have encouraged Iran’s military to become more self-reliant. It does not appear that Iran will be backing into any corner, furthermore, in light of its intention to double defense spending and expand its diplomatic (and hence intelligence) presence in Africa, as well as its new Spanish speaking television channel, “Hispan TV”.
(Photo Credit: Behrouz Mehri from AFP/Getty Images, 3 June 2011).