Who Will Attack Iran – Israel or the U.S.?
A crisis can define a leader. The looming showdown with Iran will almost certainly produce a great leader. However, the pertinent and still unresolved question is whether U.S. President Barack Obama or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will ultimately emerge as that decisive leader.
As winter approaches and the window of opportunity for Israel to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities narrows, one of three scenarios is increasingly likely to occur: either that Israel will attack Iran or the U.S. will attack Iran; otherwise, the clerical regime in Tehran will complete the development of nuclear weapons (which will almost assuredly spark nuclear proliferation among the Sunni states).
However, both Israel and the U.S. have explicitly stated that the containment of a nuclear Iran is not an option. Almost by definition, then, either Israel or the U.S. must intervene militarily in order to prevent the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.
The U.S. is best equipped to conduct the attack. According to top Israeli officials, the U.S. has the necessary military components in place to launch an imminent and successful attack.
Nevertheless, political efficacy, another essential component, seems to be lacking – the U.S. is war weary and Washington is politically gridlocked.
Moreover, the recent scandals that have befallen the Obama administration – Benghazi, IRS targeting of conservatives, Justice Department wiretapping of reporters and NSA targeting of well, most of us – have directly undermined the administration’s credibility. For the first time in Obama’s time in office, more than half of the public feels that the president is dishonest and untrustworthy, a CNN/ORC International poll showed.
Yet, even a broken clock is right twice a day. The majority (58 percent) of Americans now favors military action against Iran in order to prevent them from producing a nuclear weapon, according to a recent CNN/New York Times poll. This means the decision to attack Iran is not only consistent with public opinion, but also an opportunity for Obama to show the public that he is a resilient leader who values patriotism over partisan politics, which could drastically boost the president’s credibility rating.
If Obama perceives this as the more likely scenario, he will be hard-pressed not to green-light a military operation against Iran.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Netanyahu has made his views on Iran consistently clear: that the U.S. should strike Iran.
Most recently, on Sunday, July 14, Netanyahu told CBS News that Iran is now just 60 kilograms short of crossing this line, and “they should understand that they’re not going to be allowed to cross it.”
If Obama is either unwilling or unable to intervene militarily, Netanyahu will almost certainly pursue unilateral military action against Iran. Both history and recent reports demonstrate this scenario is likely to occur.
On June 7, 1981, the Israel Air Force launched Operation Opera, a surprise attack that destroyed Osirak, a nuclear reactor then under construction in Iraq. Approximately a quarter-century later, on September 5, 2007, the Israel Air Force conducted another successful operation, this time against a nuclear site in Syria.
Recent events demonstrate that this history would most certainly be repeated in Iran. According to a report in the British Sunday Times, Israeli Dolphin-class submarines used precision-guided missiles to eliminate 50 Russian Yakhont anti-ship missiles near the Syrian naval base of Latakia.
As former Middle East correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, Tom Gross, noted, “Combine this with the sophisticated electronic measures Israel is known to have mastered and malicious computer code introduced into critical infrastructure, and possible special forces operations launched remotely, and it appears Iran and the West have more than an Israeli air strike to consider.”
The time for action – decisive, military action – is now.
Should Obama shirk his responsibility as leader of the free world, or at least fall prey to petty partisan politics, Netanyahu is likely to lead in his absence – for he knows that the security of the Jewish people, and the free world in general, depends on him.
Mr. Raskas served in the Israel Defense Forces and is a graduate student at The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post.