The League of “Attackologists” Are Now
Betting on an Attack on Iran
By Caio Blinder
Translated By Jane Dorwart
21 March 2012
Edited by Gillian Palmer
Brazil - Veja - Original Article (Portuguese)
Guessing when the Republican primary race will end, will end, will end is one of those seasonal sports. Another is guessing if and when an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear installations will take place. There is a kind of a league of “Attackologists.” They are reporters with good access to Israeli decision-making circles. One of these is Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic Magazine, who also writes a column for Bloomberg. He has joined, with more intensity, the team of those who believe that an attack is very probable this year.
Goldberg wrote on Bloomberg, "After interviewing many people with direct knowledge of internal government thinking, however, I’m highly confident that Netanyahu isn’t bluffing -- that he is, in fact, counting down to the day when he will authorize a strike against a half-dozen or more Iranian nuclear sites." A similar tone was taken in an immense article by Ronen Berman, who works for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, that was published in The New York Times in January. It is the same thing with Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, who argues that Netanyahu is already preparing public opinion in his country for an attack.
In the middle of this sense of the inevitability (a term which Mitt Romney has been using more convincingly after winning hands down in Tuesday’s Illinois state primaries), a narrative now exists that claims that Barack Obama is desperate not to be dragged into a war over this nuclear program. Obama may have contained Netanyahu, for now, with his commitment that the U.S. will not allow the Iranians to develop a bomb in any way. As part of the bargain with the Israelis, Obama will need to show progress in the coming months with diplomacy and redoubled sanctions.
On the line that Israel is not bluffing, the “attackologists” are, for the most part, expecting action before the American presidential elections in November. Among the reasons: The Iranian advances in their nuclear program and the perceptions that President Obama will give more support to the U.S.’s main ally in the region before the election. There is also the idea that, from the Israeli point of view, Obama will be engaged during the campaign, incapable of either resisting or condoning an initiative against the Iranians.
A huge zone of uncertainty exists around two crucial questions, in the event that an attack occurs: the capacity to reverse the nuclear program and how Iran will respond. Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that Netanyahu and his minister of defense, Ehud Barak, are relatively optimistic about the damage which Israel could cause the Iranian nuclear complex and do not seem alarmed about the magnitude of retaliations. For Goldberg, some Israeli authorities believe that the Iranian leaders will choose to minimize the blow (as did Syria in 2007, when it suffered an attack against its incipient nuclear installations) and launch just a handful of missiles at Tel Aviv, as a symbolic gesture, in place of declaring all-out war.
Furthermore, according to Goldberg, sources from security forces in Israel do not believe that Iran will target U.S. warships or installations in the Middle East in retaliation, as many Americans fear. Goldberg believes that Tehran understands that retaliation against the U.S. would be a threat to the very survival of the regime. Clearly, there exists a contradiction with allegations made by Netanyahu that Iranian leaders are a part of an "apocalyptic and messianic cult," insensitive to calculations of rational self-interest.
Already, The New York Times, in a front-page report on Tuesday, has taken another route by revealing that the results of war games of the Central Command of the Armed Forces have increased concern about an Iranian retaliation, including missile attacks against warships and American installations in the Persian Gulf. One should take into account the fact that the Iranian leadership could make errors in calculation (whether they are messianic or rational) and that there are various and diffuse centers of power.
Clearly, one can never know if the talk from Tehran is for real. On Tuesday, in the annual message of the Iranian New Year, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei said, "We do not have atomic weapons and we will not build one. But against an attack by enemies — to defend ourselves either against the U.S. or Zionist regime — we will attack them on the same level that they attack us."
Goldberg is pro-Israel and pro-Obama. He has always doubted whether an attack would be the best route. However, he concluded his column by saying that "from Netanyahu’s perspective, a strike on Iran, even if only marginally successful, might be worth the risk — and may be historically inevitable."
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