Will Israel Bomb Iran?
By Staff News & Analysis - April 22, 2010

Israel Weighs Merits of Solo Attack on Iran … Officials, Seeing Impending Policy Split With U.S., Debate Prospect of a Military Strike Without Washington's Consent … The Israeli security establishment is divided over whether it needs Washington's blessing if Israel decides to attack Iran, Israeli officials say, as the U.S. campaign for sanctions drags on and Tehran steadily develops greater nuclear capability. Israeli children play on an army tank on display for celebrations in Jerusalem Tuesday for the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the state. Some senior Israeli officials say in interviews that they see signs Washington may be willing to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, an eventuality that Israel says it won't accept. Compounding Israeli concerns were U.S. statements this past weekend that underscored U.S. resistance to a military option. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday discussed a memo to National Security Adviser James Jones warning that the U.S. needed new strategies, including how to contain a nuclear Iran- suggesting that Iran could reach nuclear capability without any foreign military force trying to stop it. – Wall Street Journal

Dominant Social Theme: Iran must be dealt with.

Free-Market Analysis: We've been following the escalation of tension between Iran and Israel and the United States in several articles. As a publication that deals with free-market issues, we don't see how we can avoid it. For Israel, America, or both, to attack Iran would be a transformative event. Iran is not Iraq, or even Afghanistan. It is Persian, and the Persian culture is both formidable and significant. At one time, the Persian culture was the most important in the world.

Iran has spawned its own Shia version of the Muslim religion and is physically a large country. It has significant interactions with and influence over other countries in the region such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

In the most problematic scenarios, Israel or America, or both countries, use tactical nuclear weapons in an effort to conduct total war against Iran. If such total war is not followed up by an invasion and regime change, Iran will doubtless fight back. It will no doubt support those who are currently fighting against the US and Israel in the Middle East. The first-strike scenario is thus a recipe for what we've called a kind of "mini world war." Iran would doubtless attempt various kinds of blockades to ensure that the US would have difficulty importing oil. Beyond this, a first-strike would probably inflame both China and Russia, countries that have been less-than-enthusiastic about the pressure that the US has already put on Iran in terms of escalating economic sanctions. Here's some more from the article:

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated Sunday the U.S. position that a military strike against Iran is a "last option." Israel says it supports the U.S.-led push for new economic sanctions against Iran. But Israeli officials have increasingly voiced frustration over the slow pace of diplomatic efforts to get sanctions in place. Relations between the two allies have soured in recent weeks, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government pushing back against Obama administration pressure to freeze building in Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, which Washington says is counterproductive to its Mideast peace efforts.

In another sign of a split, Israeli officials say they believe Iran – whose president has called for the destruction of Israel – could develop a warhead to strike the country within a year if it decides to, though outside experts say such capability is years away. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful uses. Such divisions have played into fears in Israel that if Washington's sanctions effort fails, the Israeli and American positions on Iran could rapidly diverge – and Israel, if it chooses to attack Iran, would have no choice but to do so on its own.

We would note that Iran's president probably did NOT call for the destruction of Israel. That controversial remark – as we understand it from numerous Internet reports – actually indicated that Israel would eventually cease to exist, at least on a map of Middle East powers, but it is unclear how such a change would come about. Presumably, if Iran intended or expected to "wipe Israel off the map," such bellicose rhetoric would have been specifically repeated. It has not been to the best of our knowledge.

Instead, Iran has repeated over and over that its intentions as regards a nuclear resource are peaceful. Whether this is believable or not is a separate issue. However, Israel is said to have up to 400 nuclear devices, so even if Iran developed a few of its own, the Iranians would have a long ways to go to catch up with Israel.

We really don't understand the paranoia surrounding Iran's development of a nuclear capability. If Iran attempted to attack Israel with atomic weapons it would be wiped off the face of the earth. If Iran began to seed its nuclear technology elsewhere, surely that would become known and Iran would then face the consequences of whatever stemmed from its nuclear proliferation.

It is not clear that an Israeli strike on Iran's hardened nuclear-development facilities would be effective. Thus, Iran would have to be invaded in order to ensure that its nuclear effort was ended. It is hard to conceive of a scenario where Israel would invade Iran on its own. But if the US accompanied Israel, then the US would be involved in three shooting wars in the Middle East at a time when its population has grown increasingly weary – and wary – of TWO entanglements.

An attack on Iran would fundamentally change not just the political landscape but also the economic one. Investors, or those simply concerned with the economic ramifications of war, will obviously keep a close eye on what's happening. From the Bell's point of view, much of the rhetoric involving Iran is being driven by an elite promotion, a dominant social theme which demonizes Muslims – whether Sunni or Shia – and Iran in particular. A case can be made, in fact, that the Anglo-American elite in particular wants to increase and sustain tensions in the Middle East in order to justify a war footing at home. The idea is that tensions abroad distract from problems with failing Western economies.

After Thoughts

This is a dangerous game in the era of the Internet. Generally, thanks to the 'Net, a minority of citizens in the West are quite aware of the kinds of elite manipulations that have taken place in the past and are opposed to a repeat. While sanctions may continue to escalate against Iran, the prospect of an all-out war against Iran would have formidable consequences. It's not clear how it would turn out, but the impact would be felt on a variety of commodities and investments in a big way. This certainly could be the defining story – and event – of the decade.

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