Thursday, January 4, 2007

Osirak Redux?

An Israeli strike on Iran would pin the U.S. down in Iraq and resuscitate the neocons.

by Leon Hadar

"........Michael Oren, an Israeli historian affiliated with Shalem, a think tank that promotes the Likud agenda, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Olmert came to Washington “in search of a green light” from Bush to launch a preemptive strike against Iran. According to Oren, Olmert discovered that “bogged down in Iraq and hemorrhaging political capital at home,” Bush was unable to undertake a unilateral attack against Iran “or even to endorse an Israeli one.” That was “bad news” for the Israeli PM, who had “hoped to secure a hard-and-fast timetable for interdicting Iran’s nuclear program first by diplomacy and then, if that failed, by force.” Nevertheless, concluded Oren, “the light Mr. Olmert received in Washington was probably not green, but neither was it flashing red.”

American officials continue to maintain in public that Washington will not sanction unilateral Israeli action against Iran, and according to the Jerusalem Post, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told French officials that she would not be willing “to show understanding for a possible Israeli strike against Iran” in the same way that her boss promised. But the mixed signals coming out of Washington, and the fact that top officials have refrained from stating clearly that they would veto a strike, have led to speculation in Europe that there is some political logic behind what looks like confusion among the Bushies. Is it possible that Bush and Cheney, backed by the remaining neoconservative foot soldiers, are hoping that Israel will soon remake the Osirak ’81 production in Iran? Such an Israeli action could serve not only as preemptive action against Iran but also against the battalions of realist forces led by Baker, Hamilton, Gates, and Brzezinski, who threaten what remains of the neocon agenda. Indeed, as Oren put it, the ramifications of an Israeli attack on Iran “are certain to affect America as well.” If Israel attacks Iran, and especially if Israeli jets pass through Iraq’s American-controlled airspace, the perception in the Middle East and elsewhere will be that while Israel ostensibly acted alone, “the U.S. acts with it,” as Oren explained....

...Hopes of an Israeli military action breathe life into the neocon geo-strategic corpse that was buried in Iraq and recall similar wishful thinking on the eve of the American decision to green-light the Israeli attack on Hezbollah’s infrastructure in Lebanon last summer. From the office of the vice president to the Pentagon to AEI and The Weekly Standard, officials, wonks, and scribblers fantasized that it was going to be the Six Day War all over again, that Israel would annihilate the Shi’ite militia and Hassan Nasrallah in the same way that it had left the Egyptian military rotting in Sinai and devastated President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1967. This would strike a major blow to Hezbollah’s patrons, Syria and Iran, and would shift the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of Israel and its sponsor, the United States, which would then be able to regain the momentum in Iraq. Before we knew it, we would have another tipping point in Mesopotamia.

The Israeli operation in Lebanon did serve as a tipping point—by transforming Hezbollah into the most popular anti-Israeli and anti-American force in the Middle East and by shifting the balance of power in the region even further in the direction of Iran. Now just six months after Israel’s fiasco in Lebanon and as the American disaster in Iraq continues to unfold, the usual suspects are once again daydreaming that a lame duck American president will approve military action by a politically drained Israeli prime minister against the leading bad guy in the neoconservative script.

A few days of Israeli bombing may or may not retard the Iranian nuclear program, but it would impede any plan by the realists to engage Iran in an effort to stabilize Iraq, start withdrawing U.S. troops, and change the direction of American policy in the Middle East."

No comments: