UPDATED: Speculation in Washington and the Middle East is suddenly intensifying in recent days about a possible Israeli preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. This is in part because Iran is getting closer to building nuclear warheads, in part because of remarks Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to the Knesset on Monday about the Iran threat, in part because former Vice President Dick Cheney recently speculated about an Israeli first strike, and in part because the Obama administration is publicly pressuring Israel not to hit first.
On Wednesday morning, the Drudge Report posted two articles on how Prime Minister Netanyahu is mulling preemptive strikes on Iran and the Obama administration is pressuring Israel not to hit first:
- SkyNews: Israel Considers Pre-Emptive Attack On Iran
- Ynet News: U.S. fears uncoordinated Israeli strike on Iran
“If I had to summarize what will happen in our region, I would use two terms: instability and uncertainty,” Netanyahu told his parliamentary colleagues Monday. “The collapse of Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, the bloody incidents in Syria, the American forces leaving Iraq, the new government in Tunisia, the upcoming elections in Egypt and many other events – these are all expressions of the immense changes occurring around us. These changes can increase the instability within these countries, and the instability between countries….A nuclear Iran would pose a terrible threat on the Middle East and on the entire world. And of course, it poses a great, direct threat on us too….A security philosophy cannot rely on defense alone. It must also include offensive capabilities, which is the very foundation of deterrence. We operate and will continue to operate intensely and determinately against those who threaten the security of the State of Israel and its citizens. Our policy is guided by two main principles: the first is ‘if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first,’ and the second is ‘if anyone harms us, his blood is on his own hands.'”
I’ve never heard Netanyahu discuss those two principles before — they certainly lay the moral and strategic framework for preemptive military action, both against the Hamas terrorists that are firing rockets and missiles at Israel from Gaza, and against state enemies such as Iran.
Then came these headlines:
- “Israel test fires missile that could hit Iran.”
- Israel Air Force conducts drills for long-range attacks — While the media and political sphere is abuzz with news on a potential attack on Iran’s nuclear development facilities, the Israel Air Force conducts comprehensive drills on long-range attacks at Italy NATO base
- Iran warns Israeli strike will meet ‘harsh punishment’
Such developments echo major plot points in my new political thriller, The Tehran Initiative, but this is not fiction. Could a major new war in the region be coming later this year, or early next? It’s too early to say, but there is little question that senior Israeli officials are now actively weighing such an option, or that the Obama administration is deeply opposed. What would a Republican president do differently that President Obama to neutralize the Iran threat? That remains to be seen as none of the GOP contenders has yet offered a major policy address focused on the Iran issue.
UPDATE — Haaretz headline on Nov. 2: Netanyahu trying to persuade cabinet to support attack on Iran; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who previously objected to attacking Iran, was recently persuaded by Netanyahu and Barak to support such a move
UPDATE — Ynet headline on Nov. 2: Minister Begin: Public debate on strike in Iran ‘madness’ — Member of special security cabinet says ‘irresponsible public debate’ on Israel’s options vis-à-vis Iran impeded government’s ability on the matter
Meanwhile, there is a growing possibility of a major Israeli military offensive against Hamas in Gaza, too. More than three dozen rockets and missiles have been fired at southern Israel since Friday from Gaza, and Netanyahu aides say the situation has become intolerable and a “dramatic decision is nearing.”
- Haaretz: Netanyahu: A nuclear Iran poses a serious, direct threat to Israel — PM warns of dangers threatening the world and Israel if Tehran obtains nuclear weapons; Netanyahu also speaks about recent escalation in south, promises to retaliate those who harm Israel
- Israel defense chief: Iran our main threat
- Barak: Israel has not already decided to strike Iran — “Amidst a flurry of recent reports regarding a possible Israeli attack against Iran, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have not already decided that Israel will conduct such a strike.”
- Haaretz: Israel warns West: Window of opportunity to thwart Iran nuclear program is closing
- Senior Israeli official: Iran is massive threat that must be dealt with
- Fmr. Vice President Cheney says Israel may have to attack Iran
- Washington Times: Israeli prisoner swamp may be prelude to attack on Iran
Fears an excluded Israel may strike Iran’s nuclear sites
Tensions growing inside Iran — Iran parliament to question Ahmadinejad over fraud