Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Israel to bomb Iran this week?*

*As The Daily Show once noted, insinuations made without evidence are often justified by adding a question mark, but here goes nothing.

Enough celebrating over what I anticipate the election to be, and time to get cranky. Presently, it seems unlikely that the US will try to obliterate Iran's nuclear program, although I wouldn't rule out semi-accidentally stumbling into a hot border war that spreads. Given US reluctance, what will Israel do?

If they decide to do it themselves, I think their two best time periods to do it are before Obama's inauguration, or at some point in the future when the US relinquishes control of Iraqi airspace. The safest path for Israeli bombers is over Jordan and Iraq, not Saudi Arabia. Bush would be less resistant than Obama, and Israel could present Obama with a fait accompli, so that favors an attack relatively soon.

The other possibility for Israel is to wait one or more years, when the US doesn't have legal responsibility for Iraqi airspace. It'll be many years after that time before Iraq could really do anything about the Israeli air force, so this would be the diplomatic sweet spot for attacking Israelis, assuming they're willing to wait.

It also assumes the Israelis want the diplomatic sweet spot to get America off the hook. Maybe they don't - if they attack while the US sits on its hands and refuses to shoot down Israeli warcraft (and I doubt we would), then the Arab world would blame the US for the Israeli attack, which would make Israel happy enough.

So what should Obama do? Not much he can do until he's inaugurated. If it happens before January 20, he should say "Once is enough - when I'm President, any warcraft from any nation that enters Iraqi airspace under US control will be shot down." If no attack occurs, he could still say that when he's President, eliminating the "once is enough" part.

More happily, there's this Fresh Air interview with former CIA operative Bob Baer. He knows Israeli officials who want an attack but are not getting their way. Maybe someone in Israel realizes there's still time to figure out what Iran is really doing, or even that a long-term smoldering war with Iran is even worse than Iran getting nukes.

UPDATE Jan. 10 2009: Israel wanted to attack Iran and asked for Iraq overflight rights, but was refused by Bush. Good for him.

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