The Israelis are going all out to lure, threaten, and scare the US into attacking Iran: the world hasn’t seen such a frenzy of staged hysterics since my three-year-old niece threatened to hold her breath until her parents agreed to buy her all six Barbie Fashionistas. Complain, complain, complain: kvetch, kvetch, kvetch: that’s been Bibi Netanyahu’s shtick ever since this President took office. However, the hysterics reached a crescendo of unprecedented shrillness last week, a turn of events dutifully reported in the Washington Post:
“A flurry of public statements and anonymous quotes to the Israeli news media in the past week has raised speculation that an Israeli attack could come before the U.S. presidential election in November.”
Anonymous Israeli officials snort in disgust at those “unreliable” Americans who sent them nearly $4 billion last year, make a big display of testing the country’s anti-missile defenses, and issue gas masks in preparation for the much-threatened and long awaited Israeli first strike on Iran.
The Israeli wolf is at the door, but one has to wonder what this President’s house is made of: straw, sticks, or bricks? And when the wolf comes down the chimney, will the pot be set to boiling? Not to stretch an analogy beyond the point of no return, but when it comes to Israel and its ceaseless demands, “not by the hair of my chinny chin chin” isn’t in this administration’s vocabulary.
While some officials may express such sentiments privately, in public the American response to Netanyahu’s open attempt to blackmail this White House has been complete silence. If you listen real hard, you can hear the first leaves falling on the White House lawn. Aside from boilerplate rhetoric about leaving no option off the proverbial table, and hailing the “success” of sanctions, the Americans have been unusually restrained, even given their usual reluctance to tangle with Tel Aviv.
Why is that? Yes, yes, I know, it’s all about the Vast Zionist Conspiracy That Controls the World, as some of the more misguided and simplistic critics of Israel would have it. While nothing I say or write will talk such people out of their primitive reductionism, this is not to deny the existence and power of the Israel lobby in this country. It is merely to suggest that something else is at work here, a factor unreported but previously hinted at – and that is the possibility Netanyahu is playing a game of nuclear blackmail with this administration, threatening to launch a nuclear first strike at Iran.
This possibility was prefigured, you’ll recall, in a New York Times op ed piece by Benny Morris, an Israeli historian of note, published in the summer of 2008. Morris argued that unless the Israelis or the Americans took out the Iranians’ alleged nuclear weapons facilities in six to eight months,
“[T]he Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.
“It is in the interest of neither Iran nor the United States (nor, for that matter, the rest of the world) that Iran be savaged by a nuclear strike, or that both Israel and Iran suffer such a fate. We know what would ensue: a traumatic destabilization of the Middle East with resounding political and military consequences around the globe, serious injury to the West’s oil supply and radioactive pollution of the earth’s atmosphere and water.
“But should Israel’s conventional assault fail to significantly harm or stall the Iranian program, a ratcheting up of the Iranian-Israeli conflict to a nuclear level will most likely follow.”
I said at the time I thought this would never have been published in the Times without at least the foreknowledge and encouragement of Israeli government officials, perhaps the most hawkish faction of the national security establishment. One has to wonder if Morris’s grim prophecy has come true to the extent that Bibi is now threatening to fulfill it.
It makes sense technically, because Israel’s threat to launch a solo attack is hollow otherwise. Iran’s alleged nuclear facilities are so well dispersed, and, in the case of the Fordow installation, so well fortified as to represent an insuperable challenge to Israel’s military capabilities. A first strike would simply not take them out, and the war to follow would last far longer than the mere thirty-day IDF blitzkrieg imagined by some Israeli officials. What would take them out, however – and possibly threaten the very existence of the Iranian regime – would be a few well-targeted nuclear bombs.
August 22, 2012
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.
Copyright © 2012 Antiwar.com