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Israel Is Not Going to Attack Iran (IV)

Thomas Barnett is already resigned to an Iranian war, which he believes will happen once Assad falls from power, and Robert Haddick has given his reasons why he believes Israel will strike this year. According to Haddick, these are time pressure, the ineffectiveness of sanctions, and perceived benefits from escalating conflict. Tobias Buck offers a reason why the current Israeli government may not be willing to risk a war:

Among foreign diplomats, Mr Netanyahu has a reputation for moving only at the last possible moment – and only under severe pressure from the outside. At home, too, the prime minister is often described as a man who likes to wait on the sidelines, and who can be reluctant to take on powerful opponents.

A strike on Iran, however, would not only be a huge risk – it would also force Mr Netanyahu to override two of the most powerful constituencies faced by any Israeli leader. One is the country’s own defence and intelligence establishment, which is deeply wary of a strike, and the other is the US administration, which opposes it outright, at least for the time being. It would, in other words, be precisely the kind of against-the-odds move that Mr Netanyahu has tried to avoid for much of his career in politics.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think Israel isgoing toattack Iran. Starting a regional war that jeopardizes Israel’s relationship with its patron and invites massive retaliation would be risky enough if there was some chance of lasting success. To do this for the sake of setting back Iran’s nuclear program by a few years and practically guaranteeing the the outcome it is meant to prevent makes no sense at all. It certainly does not serve Israel’s interest. Just because something is not in a state’s interest doesn’t automatically mean that the state won’t do it, but I wouldn’t assume that Israel’s government is as foolish as its public rhetoric sometimes suggests.

Barnett actually gives us a reason not to expect war with Iran:

Since there is zero chance of America rerunning the Iraq war, U.S. and Israeli air and unconventional attacks will, at best, push Iran’s weaponization date back several years. But, frankly, our targeting strategy will likewise prioritize damaging the regime’s capacity to control its population, because unless an Arab Spring-like uprising ensues, or an acceptable regime infighter emerges victoriously with a “grand bargain” in hand, we will simply have to “rinse and repeat” at some future date.

Put another way, an attack on Iran will not produce the desired result of eliminating Iran’s nuclear program, and everyone understands this ahead of time. Why would Israel or any state decide on a course of action that they knew in advance would fail to resolve the issue?

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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