Yesterday, the Iranians threatened to call what they hope is Europe’s bluff. Today, Israel is musing out loud whether it is Iran that is bluffing.The EU recently announced plans to embargo oil shipments (starting in six months) while admitting that, due to Greek and Italian dependence on Iranian supplies, the boycott can’t start immediately. Iran thinks the whole thing could be a bluff, and its Parliament wants to cut Europe off immediately by imposing an Iranian ban on shipping oil to Europe, effective now.The Israelis, meanwhile, are arguing over whether Iran’s threats of massive retaliation in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran are a bluff. As the New York Times reports,
“A war is no picnic,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio in November. But if Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation would be bearable, he said. “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.”
Some analysts also think Iran’s threats of setting off regional wars and chaos are also overblown. Hamas appears to be drifting out of Iran’s orbit, Hezbollah is worried by the threat to its Syrian patrons, and Shiite Iran’s ability to win support from Sunni radicals at a time of religious polarization in the Middle East may not be that high.There are still others who think Israel’s threats to attack Iran are a bluff intended to push Europe into tougher action and to force Washington to take a stronger stand.It’s too soon to tell how things will shake out in the struggle over the Iranian bomb program, but by the time this is done, some of these players are going to have their bluffs called.