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STATE OF THE EPICENTER: Where does the Israel-Iran conflict stand at the end of 2009?

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Yesterday, I met with another evangelical leader to discuss how we could work together to mobilize more Christian support for the Jewish State. He asked me what I thought would happen next between Israel and Iran. I began my answer by conceding, “I don’t know. As I keep saying, I’m praying for peace, but preparing for war.”

That said, here’s where I think we are at the moment:

  1. Netanyahu won the Israeli elections in February in large measure because Israelis believed Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert had given away — or offered to give away — too much land as previous prime ministers, and had been thanked with two wars (2006 with Hezbollah, and January 2009 with Hamas in Gaza). Israelis wanted a tough, decisive leader strong enough to go to war with Iran, if need be.
  2. The Iranian nuclear crisis is worsening by the week. As we end 2009, Iran now has enough uranium (that we know of) to build at least two nuclear weapons. What’s more, Israeli intelligence believes Iran has the technical know how to build functional weapons, and the missiles capable of delivering them. Israel does not seem to believe Iran currently has the bomb, but senior intel officials indicate they may not be more than a year or two away.
  3. Netanyahu is quickly running out of options. If the international community does not stop Iran, he will have to order the military to strike. To maximize Israeli chances for success, he would have to do so: 1) before Iran builds its first bomb; and 2) before Russia delivers and installs the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system that it has already sold to Iran.
  4. However, Netanyahu knows he must exhaust all other means short of a full blown air war against Iran if he is to garner any international support, most importantly from the U.S. — and he must be perceived as doing so.
  5. This is why Netanyahu has taken the following steps: declared a 10 month freeze of building Jewish settlements in the West Bank, dismantled dozens of roadblocks and check points in the West Bank, offered to begin peace talks with Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas immediately and without preconditions, offered to begin peace talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad immediately and without preconditions. All these steps are designed to show the world — and particularly the U.S. — that Israel is not intransigent. They want peace with their neighbors.
  6. Israelis can see that Congress is squarely pro-Israel. They are passing resolutions strongly in favor of the Jewish State with enormous bipartisan margins (such as the Iran gasoline sanctions act this week, that passed 412 to 12).
  7. Israelis can also see that the Obama administration is clearly not pro-Israel. This is why only 4% of Israelis believe President Obama is on their side this year, compared to 88% who believed President Bush was on their side last year.
  8. Obama told Netanyahu that he would give diplomacy with Iran until the end of 2009. Netanyahu probably gave his word to Obam that he would not launch an overt war during this period. But time is now up.
  9. The White House is talking about more economic sanctions against Iran early in 2010. But this requires full support at the U.N. from Russia and China. Obama recently told the Chinese premier that he could not stop an Israeli strike against Iran indefinitely (see link to article below). He’s trying to pressure the Russians and the Chinese to support sanctions.
  10. Netanyahu and his team are not confident that the U.N. Security Council will back decisive sanctions against Iran in early 2010. Moreover, it’s not even clear that such sanctions — if they do begin fairly soon — could stop Iran’s nuclear weapons development program at this point. It may simply be too late.
  11. Israeli leaders continue to hope that something dramatic will happen in Iran, like the death or toppling of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Meanwhile, Israel is running a covert war to slow down and sabotage the Iranian nuclear weapons program. But that does not appear to be proving to be enough.
  12. Thus, 2010 may be the year of decision for the Netanyahu government. Time for taking action to stop Iran from going nuclear is rapidly running out. Israeli is facing the threat of annihilation from a regime that believes the End of Days is at hand and that the Islamic Messiah known as the Mahdi or the Twelfth Imam may not come unless the Jewish State and it’s 7 million citizens  has been vaporized. I can’t say for sure a war is coming this year, but peace would truly be a miracle.

Excerpts from Haaretz story: “U.S. President Barack Obama has warned his Chinese counterpart that the United States would not be able to keep Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear installations for much longer, senior officials in Jerusalem told Haaretz. They said Obama warned President Hu Jintao during the American’s visit to Beijing a month ago as part of the U.S. attempt to convince the Chinese to support strict sanctions on Tehran if it does not accept Western proposals for its nuclear program….Beijing agreed to join the condemnation of Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency only a week after Obama’s visit. But in the past two weeks the Chinese have maintained their hard stance regarding the West’s wishes to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The Israeli officials say the Americans now understand that the Chinese agreed to join the condemnation announcement only because Obama made a personal request to Hu, not as part of a policy change….Since Obama’s visit, the Chinese have refused to join any measures to impose sanctions. The Israeli officials say the Chinese have been giving unclear answers and have not been responding to the claims by Western nations. Beijing has been making do with statements such as ‘the time has not yet arrived for sanctions.’ China’s actions are particularly problematic because China will take over the presidency of the UN Security Council in January.”

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