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UK Guardian: Iran War Come Fall

The left leaning Guardian newspaper in the UK thinks war is coming to a Middle East near you, quite probably in the fall of 2012.  That is the message of this article by reporter Chris McGreal.

The basic argument is simple. First, Washington has despaired of sanctions.  They will not change the Iranians’ minds about the nuclear drive.

Second, sanctions still have a purpose. They deter Israel from striking right away, and make clear to the European that the Obama administration isn’t seeking war in the way that its predecessor did in Iraq.  War is truly a last and very unpleasant option.

Third, given the choice between a nuclear Iran and a military strike, the Obama administration will take the military option.

Fourth, under certain conditions, Israel might pre-empt the Obama administration, moving most likely in the early fall of this year.  That timetable fits with what Israelis have been saying about the amount of time remaining before Iran makes much of its program invulnerable to Israeli military strikes. It also fits in well with the US political calendar, from an Israeli point of view. President Obama is unlikely to punish Israel for an attack on Iran that takes place in the two months before an American election.

The Guardian‘s analysis is good, but it leaves out an important factor that complicates the picture:  it’s likely that an Israeli attack on Iran in the fall would improve the President’s chances of reelection. Voters often rally to the president in times of crisis; Jimmy Carter initially got a boost in the polls during the Iranian hostage crisis. Guaranteeing President Obama a second term does not seem like a principal aim of the current Israeli government; from that standpoint, a date either this spring or next November after the US elections might work better.

Also noteworthy: the Guardian piece does not analyze the prospects for “peaceful coexistence” between the US, Israel and a nuclear Iran.  It’s interesting, to say the least, that none of the many US officials with whom it spoke (other than Congressman Dennis Kucinich) seemed to think that opposition to the Iranian nuclear program will stop short of war.

At the stately Mead manor in glamorous Queens we are still very much hoping for a peaceful end to this madness, but it is hard to ignore the darkening clouds on the horizon.

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  • Walter Sobchak

    I think Barry Rubin nailed this one:

    If I were in charge of Israel, I would be doing four things:

    1. Persuade the US to build an airbase in the Negev, with a couple of armored brigades as guards, and a large contingent of missile defense and advanced radars, also to use Haifa as a home port for the a squadron of Aegis ships.

    2. Instal advanced anti-missile radars on Mt. Hermon. Make it clear that an Iranian nuclear weapon is the absolute end of any idea of returning the Golan to Syria.

    3. Embark on a major civil defense program, to equip every residence and commercial building in Israel with underground shelters with 2 weeks of food and water. The Swiss created such a system during the cold war.

    “La Place de la Concorde Suisse” by John McPhee

    4. Make it clear to everyone that the Palestinians are hostages for Iran’s good behavior. And that Mosque, it has been mortgaged.

  • Andrew Allison

    Re:”it’s likely that an Israeli attack on Iran in the fall would improve the President’s chances of reelection.”
    It’s extremely unlikely that Israel would put such considerations ahead of it’s national security; besides, according to the polls, he’s going to be re-elected anyway.
    The real calculus: does anybody really believe that if Iran gets the bomb they or a surrogate won’t use it? We’re talking religious fanaticism here, not statecraft.

  • Kenny

    1. An October surprise!

    2. The real calculus: does anybody really believe that if Iran gets the bomb they or a surrogate won’t use it? We’re talking religious fanaticism here, not statecraft.”

    Or so says the media spin.

  • WigWag

    I think that Andrew Allison makes a good point in his comment. What I find hysterical is how hypocritical leftist pundits and commentators (and their idiot intellectual kinsmen like Fareed Zakaria) insist that even if it obtains nuclear weapons the Mullahs are not suicidal and would never use them.

    Have you ever heard these bombastic bone head leftists talk about John Hagee, Pat Robertson or the late Jerry Falwell? Can you imagine the reaction of the Tom Friedmans, Joe Kleins, Glenn Greenwalds or Robert Wrights of the world if Hagee or Robertson controlled nuclear weapons? Forgive the pun, but the leftist crowd would be apocalyptic. Yet they suggest that the Israelis should have no worry at all if Ahmadinejad or Khamenei control nuclear weapons.

    Tells you all about the left that you need to know.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    To deal with Barbarians you need to take away the logistical basis of their strength. In the case of Iran that is Oil. We should strategically bomb their entire soft target energy industry, with the objective of putting every Iranian including the military on foot and in the dark. Once the oil and therefore the money stops flowing, once the cell phones and the vehicles stop working, once modern civilization which Iran has had no part in developing is gone. It will be a simple matter to send in irresistible surgical attacks on the nuclear facilities and take all the fissionables and destroy all the equipment.
    The merits of this strategy are many fold. It deals harshly with an enemy of over 30 years. It sends a message to all the other barbarian cultures that the US can destroy them with ease (the delicate energy industry required by modern civilization practically destroys itself) and not shed any blood doing so. It also sets limits to American tolerance of all the inferior and backward cultures, and lets them know that US tolerance is at an end, and they had better shape up or face the loss of modern civilization.
    The Obama administration is filled with delusional pacifists like Obama himself, and is unlikely to go to war over Iran getting Nuclear weapons. He wants to lead from behind like he did in Libya, or follow the war policies of the previous administration. He certainly doesn’t want to take any risks formulating a new policy of his own, for which he would have to take responsibility; he already has enough failures like the Stimulus, Obamacare, and Trillion Dollar deficits which he is trying to blame on others.

  • Luke Lea

    Are we talking war or a military strike?

  • Richard F. Miller

    @Walter Sobchak:

    Agree with your points 2 and 3. I believe point 4 is implicit to the point of patent given a nuclear scenario: prevailing winds in the Levant (west to east) assures the all concerned that a nuclear hit on Israel would produce a lethal plume that would expand as it moved eastward. Whether or not the Iranians care, or at least care much about the Sunnis irradiated by such an action is unclear.

    With respect, disagree with point 1. First, it would eliminate a critical (under existing circumstances) Israeli talking point–no U.S. forces necessary for the state’s defense. Of course, as a practical matter, no airbase of Israel would be closed to US forces and few staging areas would be declared off limits. While there may be value in announcing such a deployment, there also would be cost–the Israelis often justify US military aid on the implicit argument that (to paraphrase a line from another debate), “the IDF will do the jobs Americans don’t want to do.”

    Let me throw this out: the assumption has been that, if the Iranians strike, it will be nuclear and a ground or near ground blast, the hope being to create a downdraft push out of destruction. To do ground strikes right, particularly if, say, Demona is the target or Tel Aviv, requires significant missile accuracy, multiple launches (to overwhelm antimissile defenses) and significant detonation control–most nuclear planners assume airbursts at 5,000 feet and above.

    As most posters know, there is a species of nuclear strike that requires substantially less accuracy and is far less vulnerable to anti-missile defenses–the EMP burst (which, if I dust off my Cold War memory circuits, can detonate as high as 400,000 feet AGL.)

    Depending upon how “hardened” Israeli electronic defenses are, this might wreak terrible damage on the IDF and civilian communications (and thus, targeting, launch and deployment infrastructure.) Israel might become vulnerable to a conventional attack.

    And it is just as likely that under the right circumstances, the same Iranian electronic infrastructures could be taken down in the same way by Israel.

  • higgins1990

    ”it’s likely that an Israeli attack on Iran in the fall would improve the President’s chances of reelection.”

    Andrew – Israel most likely would have attacked by now. However, with a US President that is hostile to Israel, they have had to show more patience than they usually do. By this Fall, Obama will be trailing badly in the polls, and about the only thing that could help him is to stand by our ally Israel (as much as he would hate this).
    I expect some kind of desperation move from Obama to stay in power. A guy with his ego won’t let a silly election remove him from his rightful place as king.

  • Lexington Green

    The Israelis will wait if the Americans let them know they will join an attack. The attack will be timed to maximize Mr. Obama’s reelection prospects. My guess is that it will be close enough the election that the impact of higher gas prices won’t have sunk in yet, and for the glow of the rally ’round the commander in chief effect to still be upon Mr. Obama. In other words, weeks or days, not months before election day.

  • Thurman Poat

    Interesting article, interesting commentary. I am highly doubtful that there would be war with Iran, as too many other variables would be negatively affected and therefore stand in the way of approval. Strikes, or other unusual activity I am sure of it.

    My question is this however, at some point Iran will develop nuclear capacity, because Iran is a nation that will continue to exist, albeit with the potential of being a different regime. And so, if a new regime is in place that is not hostile, or even friendly, with states such as Israel (it did happen once remember) than would its control of nuclear technology still be viewed as threatening?

    War is easy, it’s the aftermath that’s difficult.

  • Joe

    More common sensical: a pre-election strike would pre-empt any possibly of US censure.

  • Jeremy, Alabama

    Thanks for the Rubin link; he has a strong argument.

    I am also moved by Spengler’s argument that Obama will need to defend his “engagement” policy, which Iran is treating with total insolence, and which (he argues) will provoke Obama into action.

    So we are left with only the Israelis as the rational actors here. The other corners of the Mexican Standoff are crazy apocalyptic radicals, and a president (with no love for Israel) considering a wag-the-dog moment during an election cycle. And nobody can call that outcome.

  • peter38a
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