Tuesday 24 Nov 2020 | 17:33 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 24 Nov 2020 | 17:33 | SYDNEY

Iran: US won't determine Israeli policy


Sam Roggeveen


28 July 2008 15:50

Two relatively new links I want to alert you to regarding the prospects of an Israeli strike on Iran. The first is from Time magazine, and surveys some Israeli strategic analysts who have come to similar conclusions to those I arrived at here, which is that, militarily, Iran is 'not 10ft tall'.

Importantly, the article notes that an Israeli strike could at best delay the Iranian nuclear program by a year or two. All talk of Israel being able to destroy Iran's program should be treated with caution. After all, Israel did massive damage to Iraq's program with the 1981 Osirak raid, but Saddam rebuilt the nuclear program using different technology. Bombing can delay Iran's program and even dissuade Iran from further pursuing it, but in the end only Iran can definitively halt it.

Second, my thanks to reader Sol for alerting me to this Haaretz op-ed, which argues that America's about-face on diplomacy with Iran has scuppered any military plans Israel might have had. I'm not so sure. An Israeli strike would destroy the US diplomatic strategy and hurt US-Israel relations, because no-one would believe that America had not cooperated with the Israeli military in some way. But Israel has proven itself pretty ruthless in pursuing its national interests, so it might wear any diplomatic costs. And anyway, what's the US going to do? Punish Israel for defending itself? That would go down well in Congress.

I think just two questions will determine the choice of Israel's leaders: (1) Do they truly believe an Iranian nuclear capability is unacceptable (and they continue to give every indication of this, though that may be just a bargaining tactic)?; and (2) Are they convinced that the diplomatic process cannot work? If the answer to both is 'Yes', then the logical conclusion is that Israel must strike.

Of course, there is every chance Israeli leaders have privately not made up their minds about either question, and that they may never agree on the answers, particularly to (2), which no one can ever be sure about.