The N.Y. Times reports American officials confirmed a major Israeli military exercise this month preparing for air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities:
Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military’s capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran’s nuclear program.
More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in the maneuvers, which were carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece during the first week of June, American officials said.
The exercise also included Israeli helicopters that could be used to rescue downed pilots. The helicopters and refueling tankers flew more than 900 miles, which is about the same distance between Israel and Iran’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, American officials said.
There are all sorts of deeply disturbing issues lurking in this report. First, American officials are clearly leaking this report on Israel’s behalf so it will exert pressure on the Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Iran itself during the negotiations over this issue.
In fact, what may be disingenuous about the following statement is the possibility that the U.S. is colluding with Israel both in planning for the actual attack if it happens and in the media campaign, of which this would be a part, leading up to it:
One Israeli goal…the official said, was to send a clear message to the United States and other countries that Israel was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium continued to falter.
“They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know,” the Pentagon official said. “There’s a lot of signaling going on at different levels.”
The Israelis, as usual, are over-relying on military force to resolve their political/strategic problems. Every serious analyst who has discussed a potential Israeli attack notes that it will be virtually impossible to cause serious long-term damage to the Iranian program. Even if there are some tactical successes, the Iranians have both hardened their program and dispersed it so widely that there is virtually zero chance that Israel can succeed in any meaningful way.
What an attack will do is create tremendous good will for Iran within the Arab world and even outside it. There are many Arab states who oppose Iran. Such an attack will silence them. Many throughout the world who are sitting on the fence regarding Iran and the danger they pose will come down firmly on Iran’s side.
An Israeli attack on Iran will prove to be precisely the same mistake that Israel’s attack on Hezbollah was. It will not take Iran’s nuclear program “out.” It will unite the Iranian people as one behind the current regime. It will show the Israeli military to be incapable of accomplishing yet another task set for it by the nation. It will create tremendous ill-will toward Israel and the U.S. around the world. It will push Israel even further into the corner than it already is in terms of its acceptance in the world community.
I would guess that if Israel does attack Iran it would do so before the November presidential election especially if Obama is doing well in the polls. Israel, as usual, would want to present someone like Obama with a fait accompli when he enters the White House. It does not want to have to start dickering with an Obama White House about whether such an attack would be acceptable to the U.S. Obama has to consider right now how to deal with this situation. He should make known in private conversations with high Israeli government officials how deeply displeased he will be if he does become president and this attack takes place. If he sits on his hands, Israel will be only too pleased to interpret his silence as assent.
I would guess that if McCain becomes president there is almost a 100% chance of an Israeli attack.
Those of us who interpreted Shaul Mofaz’s recent prediction of an Israeli attack on Iran as the bellicose rantings of a grasping politician should realize thanks to this report that Mofaz spoke precisely one day after completion of the exercise. As a former IDF chief of staff, one can assume he had word of the exercise’s existence. One might even go so far as to say that Mofaz’s statement may’ve been engineered with the connivance of Olmert himself (just as Olmert used to make such vicious pronouncements on behalf of his own capo di capi, Ariel Sharon).
One wonders whether Israel’s supposedly successful attack earlier this year on an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor might have been a practice run for an Iranian atttack. There were those at the time who said as much.
The existence of such a military exercise also bolsters the political credentials of both defense minister Ehud Barak, angling (hopelessly) to become prime minister in the next election; and Olmert himself, seeking to keep himself from being indicted and forced to resign due to accusations of bribery. If considerations for the exercise included any political positioning on either of their parts it is a shameful display and cynical misuse of Israeli military force.