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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS -
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Israeli Attack on Iran Timed Between November and January?

Posted in the database on Thursday, September 11th, 2008 @ 19:55:53 MST (6605 views)
by OLIVIER GUITTA    Middle East Times  

Untitled Document Almost a year ago to the day, in a totally surprising move, the Israeli Air Force bombed a suspected nuclear facility in Syria. Interestingly, over the previous summer, Israel had reportedly warned the George W. Bush administration. Despite opposition from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Israel moved to eliminate what it believed was an imminent threat.

Since Iran is a much bigger threat than Syria was and since the diplomatic efforts and sanctions have led almost nowhere, the question is not if Israel will strike but rather when. One of the people convinced of this outcome is French President Nicolas Sarkozy who on Sept. 4 from Damascus, of all places, warned Iran: "Iran is taking a major risk by continuing the process of seeking nuclear technology for military ends, because one day, no matter which Israeli government is in power, one morning we will awake to find Israel has attacked."


While some pundits and analysts classify this kind of statement in the psychological warfare/bluff game, the truth is quite different. Interestingly Iran dismissed Sarkozy's statement and a deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Nour Ali Shoushtari boasted that "the enemy does not dare attack Iran, as it knows that it will receive fatal blows from Iran if it ventures into such a stupid act."


But in reality, Iran should not take these warnings lightly because time and again Israel has proven in its short history that it will not tolerate a deadly threat.


In a recent appearance at the Washington Institute for Near East policy, deputy Israeli Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz's speech and body language could not be clearer especially when he repeated several times, talking about Iran's threat: "Israel will not allow a second Holocaust."


At this point in time it seems like Israel is left with the least desired option: the military one.


The main reason for this is the total failure of the international community to pressure Iran to give up its quest for a nuclear weapon. In fact after five years of official non-stop negotiations and three U.N. sanctions, Iran has advanced unopposed its military nuclear program.


While some view that Iran has fooled the international community, it is rather the West that has accepted to be fooled. Indeed by not succeeding in applying real tough sanctions on Iran, the world has come to the point where Iran is ever so close to have access to a nuclear bomb.


It is no secret as to what could force Iran to give in: crippling its oil-based economy. In fact, 85 percent of Iran's revenue comes from exporting oil and at the same time Iran imports 40 percent of its gasoline. Sanctions that would include banning import of Iranian oil and exporting of gasoline to Iran will never pass because of a Russian and/or Chinese veto. Also the passing of a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran is very unlikely especially since the recent Georgian crisis, Russia will block anything the West will suggest and even more so when it is a condemnation of its Iranian ally.


The solution around this would be for Western navies to block the Strait of Hormuz and not allow any oil to flow in and out of Iran. While this would have very negative impact on the oil market in the short run if the blockade just lasts a few days and Iran caves in, then the world could have averted a new war.


A small price to pay, isn't it? But since this suggestion seems unlikely to be followed anytime soon, Israel is going to be left with the only choice, that of a military strike against Iran.


Now as to the timing? First, the timing of a new incoming Israeli prime minister is going to have a clear impact on when the strike will occur. But what is sure is that like in all military operations, the element of surprise is crucial so the longer Israel waits, the more prepared Iran will be. Interestingly, experts are placing the risks of an Israeli attack on Iran by January 2009 at anywhere between 0 and 30 percent.


That clearly leaves Israel with a potential opportunity to surprise everyone including most importantly the mullahs' regime in Tehran. Taking a contrarian view, the ideal time for a strike would be in the transition period in the United States between Nov. 4 (the election of a new president) and Jan. 20 (his entering office).


But depending on who is elected, the odds are not the same. In fact, if Dem. Sen. Barack Obama wins, the likelihood of an Israeli strike during the transition is significantly higher, maybe up to 70 percent, than if Rep. Sen. John Mc Cain becomes president because of Obama's and Joe Biden's appeasing views on Iran and less favorable to Israel.


In this eventuality, it would make more sense for Israel to strike while the more favorable President George W. Bush is still in office.

--

Olivier Guitta, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant, is the founder of the newsletter The Croissant (www.thecroissant.com).



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