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EVIDENCE GROWS THAT ISRAEL IS SET FOR WAR, BUT WHAT IF RUSSIA INTERVENES?

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm

>> Israel says Iran’s nuke program soon strike-proof: “Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel hasn’t yet decided whether to attack, but senior officials who advocate a pre-emptive strike say Israel, with relatively limited firepower, would have to strike by summer to be effective.”

>> Netanyahu: “None of us can afford to wait much longer.”

I’m heading to southern California today to speak at the upcoming “Israel, The Church and the Middle East Crisis” conference at Biola University and Talbot Seminary.

Last night, I was on an afternoon drive-time radio show in Los Angeles. The host and I spent about an hour discussing the latest tensions in the epicenter and previewing some of the points I’m planning to raise at the conference.

Among them:

  1. Evidence continues to grow that Israel is set for war — Netanyahu and his cabinet are feeling increasingly confident they decisively neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat for years to come.
  2. The Obama administration doesn’t want Israel to hit Iran, at least not before the November elections — That said, the White House doesn’t appear at the moment to be threatening Israel with a cutoff of aid or other support if Israel does feel the need to strike.
  3. There are a number of reasons that could dissuade Netanyahu from ordering a strike soon, but perhaps the most intriguing X Factor at the moment is Vladimir Putin — An intriguing New York Times story over the weekend explained that for the Kremlin to raise enough money for Putin to keep his lavish campaign promises over the next few years, oil prices would need to average $150 a barrel, signficantly higher than the current $120 a barrel. One way to drive up oil prices, of course, would be to encourage or foment more tensions in the Middle East. Putin is already moving Russian forces into Syria. He’s also actively preparing to build a new regional political/military/economic alliance he calls the “Eurasian Union.” What if Russiathen  intervenes in the current standoff between Israel and Iran and signs a mutual defense treaty with Iran? What if Putin warns Israel that an attack on Iran would be regarded by the Kremlin as an attack against Russia itself. That alone would throw a monkey wrench into Netanyahu’s plans to neutralize Iran’s nuclear program with a preemptive strike. But what if Putin then went further? He could go to the U.N. in September and call for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. He could persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program. Then, in a move similar to what President Bush demanded of Iraq in 2003, Putin could demand that Israel disclose, dismantle and discard its weapons of mass destruction within 60 or 90 days, or face an international coalition willing to force Israel to do so. This scenario — or a variation of it — would not only likely halt Israeli plans for a strike on Iran, but could actually set into motion the fulfillment of the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39 and the “War of Gog and Magog.”

Now comes a new, must-read column by The Atlantic magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg — one of the more insightful and connected observers of the Israeli national security scene — suggesting a growing feeling of optimism among top Israeli political leaders and generals that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is not only doable but could be very successful. “The arguments I’ve outlined here — and those I’ll describe in my next column — all lead to a single conclusion,” reports Goldberg. “The Israeli political leadership increasingly believes that an attack on Iran will not be the disaster many American officials, and some ex-Israeli security officials, fear it will be.”

Here is a summary of Goldberg’s conclusions (hat tip to The American Interest blog) 

  • If it acts soon, Israel has the capacity to set the Iranian nuclear program back by five years.
  • There is a significant probability that a successful attack on Iran will energize Iran’s internal opposition, leading ultimately to the downfall or at least the crippling of the Iranian government.
  • President Obama will not retaliate against Israel.
  • Rather than launch massive retaliation against Israel, Iran will try to downplay the assault (as Syria and Iraq did in the past), perhaps launching only a few token missiles in response.
  • Fearing massive retaliation, Iran would not attack American ships or targets in response.

Also worth reading, however, is a far gloomier assessment of a recent U.S. national security “war game” (reported last night by the New York Times) that found an Israeli strike on Iran would only set the nuclear program back a year (not five) and would lead to a massive regional war that could leave hundreds of Americans dead. However, the war game also found that if the U.S. were drawn into the conflict and assisted the Israelis, the Iranian nuclear program could be set back an additional two years (for a total of three).

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