The withdrawal of the American troops from Iraq means that from 1st January 2012 the way to Iran is open for Israeli bombers, the Iraqi army is still not able to control their own airspace. Ehud Barak, the Israeli Minister of Defence claims that in nine months (is it a coincidence that this time falls just before the presidential election in America in November 2012?) it will be too late to stop the regime from producing a nuclear bomb because its production will be spread all over the country in such a way that no air raid will be able to destroy it.
Israel and the USA
The fundamental difference between Israel and the USA (who never officially ruled out the attack to stop Iran from creating a nuclear bomb) is:
1) the stage of the development of the Iranian nuclear programme
2) defining the critical moment after which it will not be possible to stop Iran
3) assessing the value of different intelligence materials.
Benjamin Netanyahu refused to give Obama any consultation or even information in advance concerning the possible attack. Both sides are currently working on mutual consultations on establishing their ‘red lines’ which will indicate the necessity to intervene. This is a big success for Israel for whom a unilateral intervention would mean a further international isolation, conflict with all the neighbours and, above all, war with Hamas and Hezbollah armed by Iran, terrorist attacks and a direct Iranian conventional rocket and air counterattack whose scale is hard to foresee.
External conditions in favour of Israel
The external situation can work in Israel’s favour. Syria is at civil war, incapable of external action, intensive support for Hezbollah and anti-Israeli action in Lebanon. Suppressing the protest and strengthening Assad’s power means coming back to the direct danger of terrorist attacks in Israel. His collapse would equal to the fact that the last ally of Iran in the region went down in history which could result in unpredictable consequences, including an outbreak of sectarian war of everyone against everyone, Sunni majority revenge on Alawis, currently mercilessly murdered rebels against the supporters of the regime, Muslims against Christians – there are plenty of possibilities.
Netanyahu could save Assad by launching the attack on Iran, in such case there would be a chance for Syrians to consolidate against the common enemy, particularly because of the fact that the pressure on the part of Iran would be undoubtedly enormous. The dictator, in order to save his weak leadership, could in despair try to launch an aggressive action against the “Little Satan”.
Egypt is also busy with its own business. The situation after the elections should stabilise indeed, however during the next months one will decide upon the future of the Egyptian Constituent Assembly which is to establish a constitution and therefore decide about the character of the democratic Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood government, or, particularly, the fact that the radical elements are more and more popular (given strong anti-Israeli and anti-American moods in the Egyptian streets) creates in a longer run a very dangerous situation for Israel, concerning the fact that Egypt is the only country in the region that can directly threaten Israel by virtue of the military potential, and the new government will not be so susceptible to the Washington as Mubarak used to be. It is possible that the 1979 peace treaty will not be worth the paper it was written on.
How Israel can influence the USA?
Because of the election in the USA, on one hand Israel obtains, by means of influencing the Congress and the excellently organised lobby, the chance to put pressure on the incumbent President as well as on the republican pretenders, which can influence (and is influencing – Iran is practically the only subject of foreign policy that is constantly mentioned in the republican primary election) their declarations concerning the Iranian nuclear programme. Simultaneously, before the election in November Obama will, to absolute certainty, want to avoid both the American intervention and the Israeli attack on Iran, which will at least lead to a very serious crisis, if not a regular war in the region, therefore there will be an increasing pressure put on Israel to avoid the unilateral action of Tel Aviv.
Importance of rhetoric
The current rhetoric of Iran is, indeed, perceived by, among other people, Fareed Zakaria as a sign of weaknesses, especially that it is not in the interest of this country to close the Strait of Hormuz, however, there is a threat that harsh words can lead to unpredictable consequences, especially because of the fact that none of the sides will step back for fear of being accused of weakness by its own hard-liners. As Farhang Jahanpour, from the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, described in the report drawn up by the Reuters agency: ‘Both parties use harsh words. Unfortunately, this can easily get out of control and set fire. The hawks on both sides play a very dangerous game of chicken’ (two drivers drive towards each other on a collision course, the one who swerves – loses).
*Barbara Ann, the Beach Boys song in the original version of John McCain
Translation: Joanna Brodowska