Israel Should Hold Its Fire on Iran

By Meir Javedanfar

The title of Jerome Corsi's latest book, Why Israel Can't Wait: The Coming War Between Israel and Iran, does not leave much to the imagination.

Dr. Corsi, together with former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, belongs to a cadre of American Republicans who have taken it upon themselves to champion an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installation as the only viable solution to the Iranian nuclear conundrum.

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Both Corsi and Bolton have visited Israel on numerous occasions, and both have repeatedly declared themselves its friend. Both consider their recommended solutions as the best way to secure the future of Israel.

However, the Israeli government would be well advised to ask itself whether such advice is to its benefit or not. Behind their declared selfless admiration for Israel, such U.S. figures may also have ulterior, more self serving interests at heart.

Since President Barack Obama's election, many supporters of the American right have begun to feel marginalized. Much to their frustration, Obama scrapped the missile defensive shield program in central Europe and made a broad outreach to the world's Muslims in Cairo. Last but not least, Obama reversed Bush's Axis of Evil view of the Iranian government by negotiating directly with Iran in Switzerland this year.

What some Republicans want to desperately see is a failure of Obama's policies, both at home and abroad. Their hope is that they can then use the president's shortcomings as a vindication for their own policies and world view.

To them, a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations would do just that.

And even if that does not happen, emboldening the current Likud administration to believe that such an option is the best option for Israel would still serve their interests. It would help deepen the rift between Netanyahu and the Obama administration, which currently does not see it in its interests to resort to the military option. Such a rift could then be used by their allies in the Republican Party to attract larger support from the American Jewish community in the 2010 midterm elections in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The Iranian nuclear program is without doubt a danger - one the state of Israel cannot ignore. Ayatollah Khamenei's refusal to accept President Obama's offer, together with his government's refusal to heed the IAEA's calls for further detail of its nuclear program, have added to the sense of danger felt in Jerusalem.

And if the results of a recent Harvard University simulation are anything to go by, Israel may find itself alone as the likelihood of a nuclear Iran gains more commonplace acceptance in Washington. Instead of wanting to launch a military attack, the United States may instead focus on containing a nuclear Iran.

Obama's plans to start the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2011, as well as his plan to withdraw from Iraq in the same year, provide Israel's military planners with a window of opportunity. Once America's forces are away from Iran's borders, it will be more difficult for Tehran to exact revenge for an Israeli attack from American forces. This could severely reduce Iran's deterrence capability.

Despite this, Israel's leaders should weigh their options very carefully. It is unlikely that America's unwillingness to attack is solely due to political considerations. Defense planners may also have doubts over the effectiveness of an assault on Iran's nuclear installations.

Should Israel's planners reach the same conclusion, they would be well advised to follow Washington's lead. Any attack which would set back Iran's nuclear program by less than five years could be counterproductive, both politically and militarily.

Judging by its relationship with Iran during the rule of the Shah, the state of Israel is not against the Iranian nuclear program. It is against Iranian leaders and administrations who want its destruction. A nuclear bomb did not prevent the fall of the Soviet Union, nor did it halt regime change in Pakistan during the reign of Nawaz Sharif. The same may be said for Iran's current leaders.

Israel must weigh all its options, and thus beware the advice of trigger-happy "friends."

Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst and a regular contributor to RealClearWorld. He is co-author of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran.

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