Obstacles Mounting Against Israeli Strike on Iran

Author: Francis Broderick
Published: September 20, 2012 at 5:48 am
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Israeli Air Force F-16I

The war rhetoric has been extraordinarily intense lately. The notion of a doomsday scenario for the Middle East is constantly tossed around various news outlets, ratcheting up tension. Right now, however, talk of a military strike by Israel on Iran’s controversial nuclear program is becoming more muted as the race for the White House gathers pace.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has always been a vocal opponent of Iran, claiming the Jewish state has ‘every right to defend itself’ in the face of Iranian threats. In concert with Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, Netanyahu has called for international support repeatedly in an attempt to tackle the issue. Barak in particular stressed that Iran was approaching a zone of immunity, and that any military chance to halt Iran’s nuclear aspirations may soon prove out of reach.

In the wake of the Republican and Democratic Conventions last week, efforts at finding a solution finally started to take on a more diplomatic tone. During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu remarked that the international community must draw a red line to prevent Tehran obtaining weapons of mass destruction.

Nevertheless, the military option still remains firmly on the table. According to Israeli news website ynetnews, Netanyahu believes “that the ‘cruel regime’ in the Islamic Republic is forging on with its nuclear program because it has yet to be presented with a clear red line.” He went on to say “the goal is to make Iran understand that the world is serious about the military option”.

Potential military plans have been hampered by a myriad of factors including Iran’s considerable distance from Israel, strong air defenses, reinforced targets and now, most notably, the US presidential election. This seems to be the chief reason for Netanyahu’s sudden change in rhetoric and return to the diplomatic table. According to recent Israeli newspaper reports, Washington secretly approached Iran, stating its desire to avert any conflict on condition that the Iranians refrained from attacking US interests in the Persian Gulf. A White House spokesman quickly denied these reports.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney stated during a July visit to Israel that preventing Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon “should be the United States’ top national priority and that no options should be withheld in that effort”. Meanwhile, the Obama administration stressed the importance of sanctions and diplomacy, implying any action undertaken by Israel before the election would have to be conducted alone. Of course, it is somewhat understandable that Obama is stressing diplomacy. War with Iran on the eve of the election would prove detrimental to his campaign.

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