Would Obama Greenlight an Israeli Attack on Iran?

The Israeli press notes that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and maverick Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been talking up a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities.

No one knows if the two are just trying to create a threatening environment for Iran, in hopes of intimidating Tehran on a range of issues, or if they are preparing Israeli public opinion for an actual strike. The problem with talking big to scare an enemy, if that is the tactic, is that the talk can spiral into action whether one likes it or not. (This mistake was probably what got Gamal Abdel Nasser into the 1967 war: Israeli hawks such as Moshe Dayan took advantage of his saber rattling to launch an attack, which could be portrayed as preemptive.)

Former Israeli intelligence chief Meir Dagan revealed last spring that he and other security officials had forestalled a Netanyahu-Barak crazy scheme to hit Iran, about a year ago. Dagan said that an attack on Iran was “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” He was worried that all the adults in the room had retired at once on the security side, leaving the inmates in charge of the asylum so to speak.

If what Dagan said is accurate, then it is entirely plausible that Netanyahu and Barak are up to their old tricks again. On the other hand, it is not clear that they could get their present security establishment to go along. Maariv reported in Hebrew on Nov. 3, according to the USG Open Source Center, that Barak has abysmal relations with his generals, including the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. The crisis of confidence extends, Maariv says, to Mossad or Israeli intelligence.

If this report is true, it may well be that Dagan’s successors will be impossible to convince on the wisdom of an Iran strike, just as he and his then peers were.

But I myself think that Netanyahu and Barak are bluffing, and have been using opposition from their security establishment as a convenient explanation for why they do not go beyond threats and innuendo.

A key consideration is that it is difficult to believe that Israel would dare launch such an attack without a green light from the Obama administration. Israel will need the US to resupply arms and spare parts if hostilities spiral out of control, and would like help with signals and other intelligence. An angered Obama could drag his feet on such help.

No such green light will be forthcoming while US troops are withdrawing from Iraq, because they will be especially vulnerable to attack at the hands of radical Shiites. Muqtada al-Sadr would likely relaunch his Mahdi Army for this purpose, and everyone in Washington knows this. Obama would not want convoys hit as they headed toward the Kuwaiti border. So the whole thing is out of the question until at least January.

Even after US troops are out of Iraq, the US will want to try to keep as much influence in Baghdad as it can. The Obama administration almost certainly realizes that an Israeli attack on Iran would willy-nilly push Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into the arms of Tehran. Even the US embassy in Baghdad would be vulnerable to massive attack, especially once the troops are out. Al-Maliki supported Lebanon’s Hizbullah against Israel during the 2006 war, and would certainly adopt the same position in the event of another conflict, kicked off by a bombing of the Natanz facility. Al-Maliki’s Da’wa Islamiya or Islamic Call Party was partially responsible for the formation of Hizbullah in Lebanon in 1984.

Moreover, Iran can still make a lot of trouble for the US in Afghanistan, which Obama also wants to begin wrapping up, with a planned 30,000 troop reduction in the first half of 2012.

An Israeli attack on Iran would kill what is left of the Arab Spring. Syrians would be forced to rally behind Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian allies. Likely in Yemen as well, Ali Abdullah Saleh would use the attack to silence his opposition.

A budding Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Beirut axis would be brought to fruition and strengthened, creating a problem for the US from the Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Such an Israeli attack would certainly give the Muslim Brotherhood a fillip in the parliamentary elections, which the US would see as undesirable.

An Israeli attack on Iran would artificially put up the price of petroleum significantly for as long as hostilities continued, which in turn could push the US economy into a second dip recession and kill Obama’s chances of reelection.

Obama disapproves of adventurism. He was difficult to convince on the Libya War, and wants to be able to campaign on a calming Middle East, not one in flames. President Dwight Eisenhower was furious about the Israeli, British and French attack on Egypt in late October 1956 because it happened days before election day and made him look weak and not in control on foreign policy. For the same reason, Obama would be angered by an attack on Iran now that election season has begun.

So my own analysis suggests that there will be no American green light for Israeli adventurism regarding Iran.

82 Responses

  1. I absolutely disagree with the last paragraph. An attack on Iran in a few months will increase his chances of re-election. That’s why we’re starting to hear about it now.

    Obama most certainly doesn’t disapprove of adventurism, he’s been entirely guilty of it since being installed as president. He is an advocate of a more subtle adventurism than Bush though, one that is largely under the media radar. More people have been assassinated (together with friends and family, all without legality) under Obama than any other president in history.

    • By “starting to hear about it now,” you mean that some Israeli right-wingers are talking about it. Why would Israeli right-wingers want to support the re-election of Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, or some even more hawkish, anti-Muslim, Likudnik Republican?

    • “More people have been assassinated (together with friends and family, all without legality) under Obama than any other president in history.”

      Care to back up your wild assertion with any evidence?

      • Gocart Mozart,

        Note that he said “Assassination.” Not “killing,” not “military force,” but “assassination.”

        This guy is literally complaining that the use of force under this President is TOO PRECISE (eg, an assassination, not a bombing campaign or ground invasion that kills a lot of other people besides the target).

        The anti-Obama fanatics have now reached the point that they are attacking him for using force in a way that doesn’t cause enough collateral damage.

    • With the number of strikes being conducted by Special Forces, all in secret, all without Congressional approval, all without public support, I’d have to agree that Obama’s adventurism is under the radar rather than absent.

      • This standard was created on Jan. 20 2009. The standard that drone strikes must be announced in advance, each one must be approved by congress, and the public at large . . . . WTF are you talking about?

      • We’re now pretending that carrying out strikes against al Qaeda doesn’t have Congressional approval?

        David, meeting the September 19, 2001 AUMF. AUMF, meet David. I’ll give you two a little time to get to know each other.

        • An authorization to use military force does not, in any account I have seen, constitute what some have seen as a constitutionally-required declaration of war.

  2. Note: UK doing some planning on Iran attack.
    USA doing a nation wide civil defense drill.
    Israel doing missile drill.



  3. Norman Finkelstein may well be right in concluding that the Israelis are deranged. In a regional war they could take Lebanon back, up to the Litani, take the suburbs of Damascus, part of the Sinai, and expel the Palestinians of the West Bank to Jordan. If giving up land did not bring peace, they can take back the land and place themselves in a better position for war.

    Also, they may again attempt nuclear blackmail of the United States–let us attack Iran conventionally, or we will unleash our nukes, including a Big One on the Aswan Dam, effectively wiping out a good part of the population of Egypt.

  4. It’s not like Netanyahu’s ever really cared about what Obama thought before.

  5. Dear Professor Cole

    Is the President still in control of the US government? You will recall that people treated Jimmy Carter as a wimp and went around him as described in “Charlie Wilksons War”

    Con Coughlin in the Telegraph is a symptom of this insubordination. The recently departed Mr Foxs (The Minister for Defence) boyfriend was in thrall to Israeli funders.

    link to telegraph.co.uk

    Is the USAF remaining in Iraq after Xmas? One of the benefits of having there was that they could interdict an Israeli attack and if necessary shoot them down. If they go the direct route will be open.

    My analysis suggests that Israelis might not wait for a green light from Washington but might attack first and then ask the rest of us to join in.

    It is time to disarm the lunatics in Tel Aviv and institute the Middle Eastern Nuclear Free Zone.

    • Dear vProfessor Cole

      It looks like the Pentagon shares my misgivings that the Israelis might go rogue and present us all with a “Fait Acompli” or facts on the ground.

      Source Haaretz Sat 5 Nov

      link to haaretz.com

    • Yes,it’s sometimes easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permissions.

      But the USAF shooting down Israeli planes – not unless they were attacking the US homeland.

  6. What you have not noted, deliberately or otherwise, is (a) Meir Dagan has clear political aspirations well to the left of Netanyau’s ruling coalition. (b) general Eiland, an equally impressive military strategist in Israel fundamentally disagrees with Dagan.

    The above perspectives, throw a wholly different light on your column. Sorry!

  7. I’m wondering if it is a reasonable bet that Obama would react in the same way as Eisenhower. One thing I would bet on is that we will not know: whatever happens, the White House will publicly back Israel, leaving us to guess what may or may not have happened in private.

    • Not a reasonable bet at all. Obama is no Eisenhower, and Amerika 2011 is a long way down from that of the ‘fabulous ’50s’.

    • You are far too kind to compare spineless Obama to confident Ike. Uri Avnery continues to be sure Israel will not attack, as the consequences would be catastrophic. This would not matter to Bibi and Barak, of course, but the USA would not allow it, as Juan says. The extra sanctions on Iran are the reward Israel will get, counterproductive as they are.

  8. Dear Professor Cole

    Of course the US crazies have to get involved too.

    link to jpost.com

    This probably disqualifies the man from the presidency on grounds of not understanding International Relations.

    • Well, Mr Perry doesn’t understand American relations either so this should not come as a surprise to anyone. He is the candidate for people who think George W. was too intellectual and not Jesusy enough.

  9. On the other hand the Obama campaign for re-election leaves this administration highly vulnerable to Israeli steps forcing its hand. In an election year would a president who repeatedly shows himself to be politically risk-adverse and inclined to capitulate under pressure suddenly reverse his field?

    On the contrary, 2012 is a year when Israeli military adventurism could pay big dividends. It would be difficult for the president to resist calls to support Israel if the Iranians respond. And any Iranian response runs the risk of imperiling US forces in nearby countries. Furthermore, drawing the US into such a conflict would further erode any possible linkages to the Arab world, deepening the divide and locking the US even deeper into the role of Israel’s enforcer.

    If Obama wins re-election some of the leverage of the Israeli lobby will be temporarily weakened. This increases the temptation to attack while he is in a weak position. After all, if he loses a Republican president will be eager to march on Teheran, probably destroying NATO in the process.

    • I don’t see why US relations with the Arab world be suffer if it attacked the Iranians. Most Arabs are Sunni, most Iranians are Shiite. Most Arabs are Semites, most Iranians Indo-Europeans.

      Sunni’s and Shiite’s have been hostile towards one another for 1300 years, Arabs and Iranians (Persians) have been have been hostile towards one another for 3,000 years.

      A Wikileaked cable revealed that Saudi Arabia urged the US to “cut of the head of snake” – they were referring to Iran.

      The Arab states bankrolled Saddam Hussein’s 8 year war with Iran in the 1980’s.

  10. Juan, I think you are being much too optimistic about Obama’s “anger”… I don’t think any American politician would dare face down the Israel lobby in an election year and Obama has yet to show any starch at all in his dealings with Israel. The fact that an American election year means automatic support for Israel might be the very reason that Netanyahu would choose this moment to attack.

  11. Maybe he’s preparing for another “Lead from Behind” operation

    Listen to his press conference with Sarkozy at the Cannes Film Festival (oops G20 Summit)

    And here we have “British Chief of Staff in Secret Visit to Jerusalem link to haaretz.com

  12. […] Re: The Obama Presidency Hopefully Cole is right in his analysis regarding an ''American green light for Israeli adventurism regarding Iran'' Would Obama Greenlight an Israeli Attack on Iran? | Informed Comment […]

  13. The only difference between 1956 and 2011 is that in this time in USA zionist lobby and AIPAC were very weak and even didn’t exist, but today they control so many senators and members of chamber of representantion that if Israel attacks and Obama condemn it so he can be sure that he will leave white house. Obama always bend tail in all matters with Israel, the only thing which he can do only tell what he will do with Israel if this country doesn’t do what USA wishes but because words aren’t support by act so these words doesn’t have any worth

  14. Mr. Cole wrote…”No such green light will be forthcoming while US troops are withdrawing from Iraq, because they will be especially vulnerable to attack at the hands of radical Shiites.”

    I’m not sure that a weakened president such as Obama could make trouble for Israel should they launch an attack against Iran. Israel certainly doesn’t care if American soldiers are put at risk because anymore than they would care that gas prices would skyrocket to 5 to 6 dollars a gallon.

    With the NYTimes, WashPO and all of the networks soldily in the AIPAC corner, any action taken against Israel would be loudly shouted down. I have no doubt that editorials are already written praising the fearless Israeli attack. I can almost hear the Frank Lutz talking points now ….We should all get down on our knees and thank Israel for saving the world from nuclear war against the Islam menace, who threaten our very freedom.

  15. It’s been clear for some time that the leaders of Israel’s government have no real idea what their deranged musings and ideological wet dreams are having on the world as a whole – and especially on the region where they live.

    The Prime Minister continues to behave like the playground bully and his foreign minister still thinks (if that’s what he ever does) and act like he’s the bouncer at a Moldavian nightclub. How did such a highly educated nation ever elect these mulyuks as its government?

    Hopefully, both the White House, and Israeli military and intelligence services are telling the “leadership” of the country that they’re out of their mind.

  16. Of course, such an attack would be illegal, right? The crime of aggression? Even threatening such an attack is illegal in international law isn’t it?

  17. With all due respect,

    One assumption you’re making is that decision-makers are rational, and would be reacting to a the same set of pressures you perceive. Israeli domestic politics seem to have more than a little fluidity, but are biased toward the right by hard core Zionists. One top of that, given the actual authority/power to do something like this, a single person can do anything if they didn’t get enough coffee at a given moment. I don’t know how sound their cks n balances are, a question your post raises as well.

    The other assumption is that the US actually has power over Israel: a genuine ongoing check versus an ability to pay them off with secret deliver of more advanced weapons, etc. My read of the Israel attitude toward the US over the last 10 (????) years is that they may well consider themselves to have the US well in-hand. The cumulative evidence of how the US has reacted to any number of tests, in the form of direct insult to Obama, and tepid US initiatives in general, simply could not have left them with any other impression.

    There is, IMHO, alot of light that has been directed on the Lobby, but I don’t think their effective power, judging by the way the US congress jumps when they speak, has diminished a whit. The reality is that the sophistication of their ops in the US have become increasingly effective, in terms of effecting policy directly (Note how Dennis Ross was inserted into the State Dept, and now is the White House as , I believe, the= Top NSC Guy on Iran).

    The thing(s) precluding such a strike would be: 1) rationality, if that is a valid assumption, and 2) Logistics.

    I think this has been covered before in this blog, but the bottom line is that IDF would not been able to do more than one big airstrike, best case. It’d be tough, but with time to prepare they could do it. But they simply don’t have the planes to do a full campaign with sufficient follow-up strikes to do the job properly. That is, they could sneak in thru Turkey, once. The KSA maybe more than once, but that’d mean a state of war between Iran and KSA, which I don’t think they’re really up for (at this point anyway.

    Still, overall scary. Precisely due to how posturing like this can spiral out of control. The Nassar example extremely pertinent, except there the IDF clearly had the means to do everything they wanted to do for their longer term objectives.

    Insofar as US people/forces in Iraq and the region….I think you make a BIG mistake thinking they really give a flip: at this point I think they think they own the US for practical purposes. And I would find it hard to disagree with them.

    • Travis, in the US-Israel interaction, I recall a long-ago article in Ha’aretz that pretty flatly stated the Israelis who count refer to the US government and polity as “Uncle Freier.” The latter being one of those wonderful unofficial Yiddish condescensions, meaning, very weakly translated, “sucker.”

      For a more nuanced, meatier view of “freier”ness and the real freight of meaning of the word, I do have a link, to the same source: link to haaretz.com

  18. PS…..

    AFTER January, as you imply, could be another story.

    But wouldn’t it be driven by US presidential politics? The supplication of GOP candidates to Israel has been total; even though its been hard to beat that of Dems.

    Israel’s ability to touch the scales in strategically crucial elections, along with their ongoing influence on politics, can give them nothing but confidence in their total freedom of movement, to do whatever they choose on Iran.

    And that may, to put it simplistically, boil down to them ordering a strike by the US, under whatever threadbare rationalization is provided. Just look to our next used-car salesman of the week.

  19. Sir, hope you are right, but in your weighing of powers and forces I wonder where the vanishing myth of civilian control of the military comes in.

    You must know the degree to which our current crop of MacArthurs and Westmorelands live in their own cosseted, secure Networked Battlespace world where, as with every dogma in history, the acolytes and high priests spin ever more fanciful notions of the universe, in this case amplified by the incredible proliferation of low-cost, conscience- and consequence-free weaponry and phalanxes of jesuitical War College BMOCs all vying to be the next purveyor of the winning doctrinal thesis.

    And “contingency plans” and “strategic simulations” take on a horrible life of their own — not just “this is what we could do, if” but suddenly, “we can do this thing, now.” The whole shootin’ match is posited on the existence of The Enemy, and as some say of the divine, “if God does not exist we need to invent Him,” the same could be said of The Other. It’s a totally seductive, almost irresistible structure.

    Too much stolen wealth, needed to feed and expand the military culture, too many present and revolving-door careers of intelligent and tactically astute Battlespace Managers and procurers, a president afraid (and rightly so) of the Praetorian Guard — a little snippet of what has gone before, smelling a lot like what we pay a quarter of our nation’s real wealth for, is here: link to en.wikipedia.org

    Oh, say the Realists, still believing in the New American Century, that could never happen here — nothing at all like that Rome thing. Huh. When a bunch of the O-6s and up are Raptural Christianists looking to advance Armageddon into the present generation, maybe Tehran becomes Babylon The Great?

    There’s a reason the Pentacle has five sides, and five rings…

  20. Thanks for the post Dr. Cole. One thing I’m gleaning from it is that, ironically, despite the possibility that it might lead to regime change, militarism maintains the status quo systemically. Nationalism is bolstered; social reform is reversed; profiteering kicks into high geer. It reminds me of Orwell’s description of war as always actually being waged by the empowered class against their subjects. Maybe the root cause for this new, active agenda is to destroy the current wave of social activism by common people.

  21. A world class, wise, truly Presidential Obama would wait until Israel launches its Iran attack, then scramble a line of US fighters and say, personally, to cowboy Netenyahoo “You’re gonna have to go through us to get to them. I suggest you turn around.” That would truly be keeping peace. The loss of a few fighters would be a tidy and dirt cheap solution to an Israel intent on self destruction. The morals involved are pre-adolescent. Obama should be talking more to his daughters, and less to his advisors. Friends don’t let friends commit suicide. Two people committing suicide together does not make suicide more acceptable. You can’t make friends by poking them with sticks. If you want to steer your ship to safer waters, stop the idiot drilling holes in the hull. If Humpty Dumpty gets shoved off the wall, he never, ever gets put back together again.

  22. Apart from a highly impressive rhetoric Obama has shown nothing so far to impress the world. On the other hand people outside the USA and many in it too are totally dismayed at his rash political decisions, his penchant for bombing other peoples of the earth. Whom is he trying to impress and what is his ultimate aim remains suspicious as ever. He is certainly working to please someone. We know who.But as a responsible head of the world’s most powerful empire he is dangerously out of touch and frighteningly misinformed,ignorant of historical facts and shockingly biased.So like a killer dog he might even give the green signal to attack Iran a pride of an ancient world’s civilization just like Iraq was. This would be a tragedy for the world as soon afterwards it will be controlled by power hungry Obama like creatures who will continue with their ruthless bombing campaigns on weak peoples of this earth.

  23. It could be inaccurate to say Muqtada is likely to “relaunch his Mahdi army” to attack withdrawing US troops versus his threat against a continuing occupation, as he sees it, in what will be left behind by the US after withdrawal.

    link to news.antiwar.com

    This is a minor point perhaps but also leads to the question of Muqtada’s response to US ground forces as part of an attack on Iran–given Muqtada’s ties to Iran. Another stupid war amidst current resistance to the right wing, plus its effect on Obama’s re-election seems unlikely.

      • Assuming the US forces were out of Iraq then

        a) the Mahdi Army would have to get to them;

        b) the US forces wouldn’t be in “occupation” mode, they’d be in “aggressive defence” mode and then in “aggressive attack” mode – the Mahdi Army would be destroyed within hours by Super Cobra’s, Vipers and A10’s.

        • The Mahdi force has dwindled but in 07 was “a million member army.” That might indicate potential for revival. Its restraint by Muqtada led to what Bush claimed credit for as “surge.” Attack on Iran does indeed sound like Armageddon.

  24. Depending on a single vulnerable individual (Obama) to deter the crazies from igniting the Armageddon is a strategy with a fatal flaw. The US citizenry has an important part to play here.

    I suggest that we go back to the law that started this insane and DAFT war to prevent future terrorism (everywhere and forever, otherwise the future terrorists will win).

    Public Law 107-40 gave to the President the authority to use the US militaries to prevent future terrorism by our enemies. And so the USA invaded Afghanistan to prevent any more terrorism by al-Qaeda and the Taliban (and Mr. Obama added ‘al-Qaeda affiliates’ to our enemies list, and now there’s a secret list…).

    And what is America doing at this moment?
    Thinking about getting dragged into a war to prevent future nuclear terrorism by Iran.
    Well, the US President has that authority by law, except that Iran is not an official enemy of ours, yet.

    So, as soon as someone connects the dots into a mesmerizing picture to incite the masses, Iran+nukes=terrorism, the US President is authorized to take us to war yet again.

    I suggest that we do something about this law rather than just ignore it to our detriment.

    The potential good news is that when some crazy or zealot sets things off, we may finally get the answer to what happened to Cheney’s missing nuke cruise missile.

    • What’s an “official” enemy? The U.S. hasn’t declared war since World War II.

      Juan got into this with Glenn Greenwald a while back, with the latter outraged by the Libyan intervention as yet another undeclared war. As I recall, Juan viewed the war as legal by virtue of a Security Council resolution. And the Constitution does give the President Commander-In-Chief powers, allowing the neoconservatives their wriggle-room, which existed even without Public Law 107-40.

      • There is of course a tremendous difference between the situations in Libya and Iran. The attack on Benghazi, which was proceeding toward a slaughter and has largely been ignored by the progressive left, led to the NATO and US “war,” which might have gotten out of control from its original intentions. (I haven’t seen a report on whether it did get out of control.) With Iran we have a stupid plot (debunked today by Gareth Porter) involving Arbabsian which appears to be an eager sting operation to entrap Iran into being attacked. This law needs looking into to define security concerns vs rabid right wing paranoia and manipulation by security agencies.

      • What’s an “official” enemy? The U.S. hasn’t declared war since World War II.

        Under both American and international law, and AUMF has the same legal force as a war declaration.

        Greenwald consistently embarrasses himself by failing to understand this rather elementary point, while holding forth on questions about warfare and the law in the tones of an expert.

  25. Everyone seems to be forgetting about the U.S. Navy. Iranian retaliation against the U.S., on their assumption that Israel wss simply acting as an American cats-paw, would most likely and most quickly be directed against American warships in the Persian Gulf. The Iranians have said they would not dribble away their resources in penny packets, as had been the Arab practice, but would go all out. This would mean hundreds of cruise missiles fired at American warships within minutes of the outbreak of hostilities. With such a large barrage, some would almost certainly get through. It is safe to assume that American warships in the narrow waters of the Gulf are under constant observation, so such a counterstrike is entirely feasible for Iran.

    Because of this danger, the U.S. govenrment would almost certainly have to be advised in advance of an Israeli attack. Probably some days in advance so that major units like aircraft carriers, could be moved away from immediate danger. Unless, of course, the Israelis prefer that the Americans take naval casualties to ensure a U.S. commitment to war with Iran. That one is a little hard to believe, in part because in a lengthy war with Iran, the U.S. Navy would have to play a major role.

    • “Unless, of course, the Israelis prefer that the Americans take naval casualties”

      Well, there was the sad case of the U.S.S. Liberty at the opening of the 1967 Israeli war. Israelis took out this US naval vessel themselves, deliberately and with great thoroughness, while it was in international waters.

      Nobody in the US government let out a peep or complaint.

    • “Unless, of course, the Israelis prefer that the Americans take naval casualties to ensure a U.S. commitment to war with Iran..”

      Hmm, now there’s an idea Israel could get into. If you think they’d give a second thought to US casualities look to their history in the 6 day war.

  26. remember this?


    “A Syrian site bombed by Israeli jets in 2007 was “very likely” a nuclear reactor, the UN’s atomic watchdog says.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency has been investigating US claims that Syria was building a secret nuclear reactor with North Korean help.

    The strongest IAEA report yet on Syria came after several years of blocked investigations, and is likely to increase the pressure on Damascus.

    Israel bombed the remote desert site of the alleged reactor in September 2007.

    Syria says the site – near Deir Alzour in the country’s remote north-east – was an unused military facility under construction. It also denied having any nuclear links to North Korea, which has itself denied transferring nuclear technology to Syria.”

  27. has Israel been taking notice of what america says lately. from were i am sitting it does not seem to be. I enjoy very much your blog, thanks a lot

  28. Dear Sir,

    Have we forgotten how many times the Israeli’s have threatened a pre-emptive attack on Iran? Far too many times. Yet we are still here waiting for them to pull the trigger. The Israelis are dernged but even they understand that such a move endangers the very existence of the state of Israel. That they are crazy and irrational is indisputable but their own calculations and the risks arising due to such a decision has hitherto and will continue to tame them. Consider that the western powers are in decline at the head of which is the US itself. Israel is exposed and naked without the firm military, political and economic backing of the Western powers, who cannot stomach manging a conflict with Iran. All in all, it can be said with quite some certainity that there will be no attack on Iran. Should this transpire against all odds then there is little doubt in my mind that Israel would have seen its last days as a state. Iran has not been an aggressive power for over 2 centuries and I have no reason to believe it would initiate a direct attack of any sort. On the other hand Iran is opposed to the fictitious nature of the Israeli state and given the chance – via an Israeli attack – it would exploit it to utmost. The Israeli’s know this very well, hence there has never been and probably will never be a direct provacation of Iran.


      • I think it’s been about a dozen years Joe. On a side note, anyone who thinks it’s in Obama’s political interest to go to war with Iran doesn’t know American politics. He would lose half his Democrat base a gain zero conservative support. See: LBJ, Vietnam et al and also reality.

    • Wayfarer is exposing that Iran looks forward to the Israeli attack to “exploit it to utmost”. Usually when both side want war it happens. USA and Arab countries want this war also. When all parties want war it happens. Arabs are more in pain with the existence of Islamic republic of Iran than with existence of Israel. Iran has been pretending to own Islam. This is not acceptable by Arabs, specially if Allah is rounded and made in a form of pagan fertility image on the Iranian flag.

      • USA and Arab countries want this war also.

        Not according to the leaked Wikileaks cables. They show that Saudi Arabia was pushing us to strike Iran, but that the American government wasn’t listening to them.

    • There are a number of comments here referring to the Israelis (meaning Netanyahu and numerous other politicians) as deranged. I’m not sure that’s a helpful way of viewing the problem.

      As you (Wayfarer) point out, these threats have been made over a period of several years. The attack hasn’t happened yet and I certainly hope it won’t.

      If the Israeli leadership is indeed deranged, they are unlikely to recognize that their security would be further endangered by an attack on Iran. Their stated rationale for their occupation policies and their belligerence is that they see their country, especially within 1967 borders, as geostrategically vulnerable. A black and white view would suggest that they are already in danger, therefore they have nothing to lose. Such a view, however, is as valid now as it has been in the past. If derangement accounts for Netanyahu’s actions, then we should already have seen this attack.

      Juan’s argument here seems to suggest a deranged leadership restrained by its military. But this is the same military that over-reacted to the Free Gaza blockade with unnecessary force resulting in unnecessary fatalities, undermining Israel’s standing in the world. Military and police mindsets both suffer from an authoritarian bias that they must assert control and that compliance may be gained by force.

      If we choose a more calculating view, then we must see the Israelis as engaging in fascist tactics against a population it has dispossessed and Israeli rhetoric against Iran as propaganda to support a meme of vulnerable Israel engaging in expansionist actions in self-defense. It happens that this view corresponds closely with what we have so far seen. I might yet be surprised, but I’m looking for more of the same.

  29. I do not think the UK public has an appetite for Isreali warmongering, the stupid Sun readers -(Murdochs paper) might be convinced but the rest of us wont be.
    My worry is the distraction theory, there is no doubt that the US is facing decreased consumption, (You cant keep consuming 45% of the worlds rescources with 20% of the worlds economy.) and this is going to be difficult to manage as it is. A war is good for distracting the idiots who believe the crap that the war party puts out.
    An attack right now by Isreal on Iran would be a warcrime.
    But unfortunately the warmongers have a feeling of Kenyan political imunity to almost any crime they commit. (see drone attacks, assasinations,cyberwarfare, etc.)

  30. All this talk about attacking Iran is total crap.

    99 to 99.75 percent of Iranians don’t want war.

    They’re interested in the basics: having a job to support their families, owning a home, making sure their kids get an education(for some a college education), having some fun and enjoying their lives with a few luxuries. Just like the 99%’ers in America and the world.

    I worked in Iran for a year during which I met and talked with most classes of Iranians except the 1%’ers, the ruling class and their dictators and puppets. Wait, their 1%’ers are probably closer to 1/4 of a percent, the 1/4%’ers.

    It’s the dictators, the 0.25 to 1 percent that rule the countries and the world that often have or develop addictions to wealth and power that result in megalomania, a delusional mental disorder that is marked by feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur.

    Thus, we have all the posturing of war and sometimes war, legal or illegal.

    If the US can continue to develop weapons of mass destruction and drone kill “anyone” they casually name as a terrorist without due process of the law, why shouldn’t any other country? Oh, excuse me. The United States knows what it’s doing? Bull shit.


  31. It is refreshing to read intelligent comments and perspicacious analyses of the US/Israel/Iran situation.
    As a Franco-American art photographer living in a remote French village, my grasp of these issues is scanty, to say the least.
    Nevertheless,I am appalled at the way the Israelis have managed to buy US congressmen and senators so easily, thus neutralizing Obama who, I assume,is deep at heart in favor of Palestinian nationhood and against Israeli adventurism. Throughout history, the Jews have shown a tendency to self-destruction, and an assumption that they are more clever than the other guy (viz.Nazi Germany)and that they can outfox their enemies. History has proven that it doesn’t always work. Drunk with military power and the support of the US, they think that they can destroy Iran without damage to themselves. Since many years they have prepared for an attack on Iran, doing test flights with in-flight refueling, from Israel to Britain and back as a virtual exercise to bom Natanz. The Iranians have rockets too, and they will use them because IDF will not be able to destroy them all at once. “Bibi” Netanyahu suicidal? You betcha!

  32. Professor, a excellent, succinct analysis of the situation. Where are the adults in the Israeli government; such an attack would be madness.

  33. “A budding Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Beirut axis would be brought to fruition and strengthened, creating a problem for the US from the Gulf to the Eastern Mediterranean.”

    This is precisely WHY the US and Israel will attack at some point, if not now.

    The US and Israel will attempt to convince NATO and the UN to attack Syria under the bogus “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine used to justify Libya.

    This in turn will occupy Syria while Israel uses the support of US/EU bombing of Libya to attack Hizballah in Lebanon (and perhaps the Palestinians in Gaza).

    The weakening of both Syria and Hizballah (if successful, which IS doubtful, but doesn’t mean the US and Israel won’t TRY) will set the stage for an attack on Iran.

    The notion that Obama is somehow not interested in destroying Iran is just bizarre. He’s utterly controlled by the Israel Lobby (the Crown and Pritzker families in Chicago got him elected) and by the military-industrial complex.

    The only reason Israel has not attacked Iran yet is that they would prefer the US to get the blame for starting yet another Mid-East war. And the US would prefer Israel get the blame. This is why Dick Cheney bribed Israel with $30 billion in new arms sales. But Israel still balked.

    The situation may be different now. In any event, Israel cannot proceed with its plans to destabilize and control the Middle East without destroying Iran, Syria and all other opposition. Therefore it is INEVITABLE that a war with Iran must be started.

    And the US will not resist such a war because the military-industrial complex as well as the oil companies and the Israel Lobby all want such a war.

    And they run things, not Obama or any of his successors.

  34. In reference to ” Obama also wants to begin wrapping up, with a planned 30,000 troop reduction in the first half of 2012.” Didn’t Obama announce that he would pull out 10,000 of the 30,000 by the fall of 2011 or “end of the fighting season” and the remaining 20,000 of the 30,000 “surge” at the end of the summer/fighting season in 2012 ?

  35. Below YouTube video of Khomieni’s speech after Iraqi attack is still applicable today:

    “A thief has come, and thrown a rock at our house and run away. That is all that has happened.

    We must have a sense of awareness, and keep our cool. We will not be distracted and loose our way by threats and provocations”

    link to youtube.com

  36. Israel can´t afford a strike neither domestically nor internationally. This is pure domestic distraction – from what?? Which moron came up with this?

    Tell me in the middle and muddle of the aftermath of the arab spring, with the US weakening and all the change in all the countries around, why the hell would any Israeli citizen be interested to support an aggression towards the only “enemy” country that´s kept quiet in the past year? Just how suicidal do their politicians think the Israelis are?

  37. As in all these issues, several factors seem to be at play at the same time. There is clearly a tug-of-war in progress within the circles of power between – on one side : partisans of a strike on Iran (the neoconservatives in their latest disguise as liberal interventionists, backed up by financial, nationalist and business interest groups on the lookout for new opportunities); on the other : the opponents (most of the traditional establishment, particularly in the military and security apparatus and among corporations not thriving off the manna of arms and energy contracts). The opponents seem to be leaking information to forestall a strike, but also perhaps attempting to intimidate Teheran – increasing the pressure on Iran’s divided power circles might eventually create confusion or even a serious rift at the top that could be gainfully exploited, without resorting to a messy military conflict. There might even be a deliberate distribution of the good policeman/bad policeman roles at play. No doubt there are other motivations: for the partisans of Greater Israel, the marshalling of the population behind their bellicose agenda and the hope that in the chaos and confusion of a protracted conflict, the last natives “squatting” on future Israeli-marked territory might be legitimately removed in the war against “Iranian agents and inflitrators”. For certain energy interests, perhaps a future bonanza on Iranian resources and during the chaotic interval, a dramatic increase in profits (ie: dividends) due to spiralling prices. For the arms merchants, whose shareholders are perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of the recent wars waged in the name of peace and democracy, a propitious increase in sales, both to replenish stocks and to shore up panicky Arab regimes attempting to protect themselves from Iranian retaliation. No doubt there is also the desire to militarise the population and remove “undesirable” elements to forestall the serious unrest which is likely to sweep the West as the economic crisis deepens and people used to a comfortable consumerist lifestyle suddenly find themselves destitute en masse. These are of course only some of the variables, so predicting what will happen with any degree of certainty is probably a fruitless exercise – and depends very little on what Obama may or may not decide. But if I were to take a guess, I would opt for a scenario involving a deliberate provocation, sometime next Spring, designed, by one clan or other, to engineer an escalation into all-out war between Iran and the West. Indeed, there is little chance today of getting China or Russia to accept UN support for any future military adventure – on the contrary they are likely this time to cause very serious trouble should the West go ahead without international support – China might even pull the rug under the dollar. On the other hand, so much could happen between now and next Spring that all these schemes, plots and calculations may simply be washed away before they have even begun to take form. Perhaps that is the best hope for the world today?

  38. 22000 nuclear warheads in the world. Adding one from Iran is like putting a match under 22000 gallon of gasoline.
    Even if Iran doesn’t start it. Superpowers soon or later come face to face and history will repeat itself.

  39. Professor Cole once again only gives you part of the story – the part that supports his case.

    What he conveniently omits are the overtly belligerent statements from Obama administration officials – including Obama himself – in the wake of the as yet unproven “Iranian Assassination Plot.”

    That entire episode, of course, reveals Obama’s aversion to “adventurism,” i.e., make accusations that can be interpreted as accusing Iran of an act of war, without showing a single verifiable piece of evidence.

    I have no doubt that Professor Cole is correct about one thing: Obama will not sanction an attack until after the election, not because of some aversion to adventurism, but for base political considerations.

  40. “What he conveniently omits are the overtly belligerent statements from Obama administration officials – including Obama himself – in the wake of the as yet unproven “Iranian Assassination Plot.”

    You mean the statement that it was a “criminal matter” and the deafening silence about the case since then? Is that what you are referring to? It’s “yet unproven” because there hasn’t been a trial or plea agreement yet. This is not surprising under a system of law.

  41. Sir,
    The Elephant in the room that everybody especially the Israeli’s ignoreis that an attack (unprovoked) that possibly spread Radioactive material across Iran would undoubtedly invite a dirty bomb in Tel Aviv New York Washington London….. you name it!
    Could you tell me why this would not be the irrational response to another?.

  42. A very good analysis on the consequences of such a movement (an attack against Iran) in the region. But I am convinced that Benyamin Nethanyau will do whatever he can to undermine Obama’s reelection. As to Ehud Barak, he needs to make some courtesy towards Israeli’s hawks if he ever wants to be P. M. again.


    Iraq’s decline into penury followed the destruction of its nuclear facilities, At the time Iraq, aided and abetted by its Arab neighbours, the West and the Soviet Union, was at war with Iran; arguably the latter won, or at least it didn’t lose.

    I am not implying a causal relationship between Operations Babylon & Iraqi Freedom, merely reminding me of the recursive twists and turns that history takes along the path of apparent progress.

    Iran’s fate will be the same as that suffered by Iraq & Afghanistan, devastation, penury and the destruction of its also ancient culture. It also raises the prospect of a swathe of flourishing poppy plantations from the Mediterranean Sea (once Syria’s been sorted) to China’s western borders.

    Happy days once more on the Paradise Road, now where are my worry beads, hair braids and leather sandals, don’t tell me I left them in Kathmandu, too :)

  44. Neither Israel nor the US has made a case for attacking Iran. I have listened to their “rationale” scrutinized it, analyzed it……………. it fails completely. FAILS!

    First Iran like all nations has a right to have defensive weapons, especially now! when the US and Israel are always trying to demonize them, and threatening them, and insisting they do not have the right to have deffensive weapons.

    Nukes are the very best international defensive weapons, they are defensive deterrent weapons.. other nuclearized nations will never attack Iran if Iran had nuclear weapons. It is that simple. Nuclear weapons are not first strike weapons for many reasons.. Iran can be fully trusted not to be “crazy” with her nuclear weapons…

    Iran needs nuclear weapons…. MUTUAL NUCLEAR DETERRENCE with the US and Israel would be a VERY GOOD THING.

    Mutual Nuclear Deterrence is also know as Civil Deterence or Civilized Deterrence. IT FORCES both countries to be civilized towards each other. Israel’s zionist government is clearly sociopathic and is the reason for all the tensions in the midEast. If Israel attacks Iran, like she did Iraq, the world should unite on destroying Israel’s sociopathic zionist government.

    There is much misinformation circulating the world concerning Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Politics. There are very few people speaking the truth and straight talk about the PURPOSEFUL -with ill-intent- MISINFORMATION circulating through the world media about Nuclear Weapons……….

    Most all of it coming from sociopathic US Government neoCons and Israeli zionist.

  45. Insanity: Attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities.
    US Dictators considering or posturing on attack.

    Such an attack could result in World War III.
    Consider that a terrorist or anyone explodes a couple
    suitcase nuclear bombs in America during the attack.

    Would the US know who to blame?

    The above is stated as info for the so called military experts since using planes as bombs was evidently not considered as a possible terrorist weapon to defend against by our military experts, even though that’s exactly what Japan did on Pearl Harbor.

    What forced Japan to attack Pearl Harbor? The US put an oil embargo on Japan on August 1, 1941. In a month or so all industry in Japan would shut down.

    Main Interests of 99.75% of Iranians of Most of the World:
    Raising their families
    Good job and income
    Owning a home
    College education for their kids
    Enjoyable life
    A few luxuries

    Main Interests of Dictators, the 1%’ers and Puppets:
    Megalomania, a delusional mental disorder marked by feelings of personal
    omnipotence and grandeur.

    America’s illegal bombing and invasion of Iraq was a act of insanity by President Bush and an act of mass insanity by Congress and many Americans. The news media controlled by
    the 1%’ers, the dictators and their puppets is responsible for the mass insanity.

    The insanity of Congress was due to negligence of duty, not knowing the actual facts and megalomania, a delusional mental disorder marked by feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur.

    Does the world need to have another World War that could end up destroying much of the world before war becomes obsolete? Mass weapons of destruction and drones in the
    hands of terrorists?

    No. A strong unified military controlled by the United Nations’ military to replace all militaries of the world. This may be the best answer to the US military forces under
    the corrupt control of the Dictators, the 1%’ers and their puppet generals.


    Excuse wordiness.

  46. Sensible article, but unfortunately not many comments point out the human catastrophe resulting from bombing Iranian nuclear sites.

    Even the so called “limited attack” on Iranian nuclear sites would unleash enough deadly radiation to cause many civilian deaths, horrifying injuries and birth defects in neighbouring countries, possibly further afield, for many generations to come.

    The scale of the catastrophe could be many times more from intense radiation from the so called bunker buster “Tactical Nuclear Weapons” which have frequently been favoured by the warmongers to penetrate the Iranian nuclear sites.

    So far there has been no concrete evidence of Iran developing nuclear weapons, other than claims similar to the Iraqi “WMDs”. But any military action against Iran would give the regime there justification to actively pursue such projects.

    The only right and sure way to go about this issue is for the International Community (I don’t mean just the West) to demand the whole of the Middle East (I mean including Israel) Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and force Israel to abandon all its nuclear stock pile. Iran has already supported this proposal but Israel hasn’t. So why should the rest of the world pay such catastrophic prices for Israel’s expansionist and warmongering arrogance ?

  47. Until Nov 2012 Obama will continue to be Bibi’s obedient poodle no matter the cost. After the election, if he remains in office, he might try to deviate from the Likud party line.

  48. Mutual Nuclear Deterrence is one kind of deterrence, and as pointed out above, any conduct that causes a release of radiation, and radio active particulates is another kind of deterrence. actual name, Universal Deterrence… one doesn’t use nukes, or blowup reactors becase of the consequences on the enviornment, the biosphere, the human gene pool… any nation state that causes such a thing to happen, is an enemy of the environment, the biosphere, the human race…

    Both kinds of deterrence are at work.. actually, this may seem like a stretch, but Iran, even though she “so far doesn’t have nukes” has the capability and the knowhow to make a nuke… she has in the barest sense of the word has in deed already attained mutual deterrence with Israel and the US…

    to carry that idea even further,, maybe she already has one….

    I am sick and tired of listening to American neoCon and Isreli zionist sociopaths weighing in on this midEast isuue… they speak heavily with forked tongue.

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