Will Israel Attack Iran?

Last week the New York Times reported on an interesting telephone conversation in January between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  According to the report, Obama tried to convince Netanyahu, with some success, that the time was not right for military action against Iran.

The Times report noted that “Senior Israeli officials, including the foreign minister and leader of the Mossad, have traveled to Washington in recent weeks to make the case” that Iran would very soon reach the point where bombing could no longer disrupt its nuclear program. The argument is that once Iran moves enough of its equipment and materials to impregnable underground facilities, these could no longer be destroyed with even the biggest bombs. So Israel must strike soon, perhaps as early as a few months from now, these officials argued.

For Brazilians or Americans who do not follow this issue closely, a process of mass brainwashing is taking place through the major media.  Iran, which even the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has acknowledged is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, is portrayed as hell-bent on getting one. And why? So they can nuke Israel and become the first nation on Earth to commit mass suicide, since Israel has enough nuclear weapons to kill every Iranian several times over. It all makes sense, if you assume that mass suicide is Iran’s deepest national aspiration.

However, most experts believe that Iran is seeking not nuclear weapons, but the capacity to produce them. This is a capacity shared by Brazil, Argentina, Japan, and other countries with civilian nuclear reactors – whocould produce nuclear weapons within a matter of months. Iran, like these other countries – and unlike Israel – is in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and will remain so even if it develops such a capacity.

Back to the U.S.:  The good news is that Israel will not attack Iran before the U.S. presidential election. Many people see Obama as a pushover – he got rolled by his generals in Afghanistan, by Wall Street on financial reform, etc.  But woe unto him who tries to mess with Obama’s re-election.  He will crush them. And a war with Iran – no matter who starts it — is much too risky for an election year. It’s a safe bet that Obama reminded the Israelis who is boss, and who gives billions of dollars annually to whom.

To drive the message home, last week two unnamed Obama Administration officials told the press that Israel was funding and training Iranian terrorists to kill nuclear scientists, including five murdered since 2007. This “leak” was another way of showing the Israelis that Obama is serious, and perhaps also that he doesn’t want assassinations at this time, which could increase the chances of escalation and war.

The bad news is that the Obama Administration, with help from the major media, is still preparing the groundwork for a possible war with Iran in the future – just as President Bill Clinton paved the way for his successor to invade Iraq.  Members of Congress, pushed strongly by the lobby-group AIPAC and neo-conservatives, are also attempting to make war inevitable by making diplomacy impossible.  And that is a war that the world needs to prevent.

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This article originally appeared in Folha de São Paulo (Brazil).


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Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

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