Consensus opinion now seems to be that Israel will attack Iran. So it might be worth thinking about what sort of war might follow. It might also be worth thinking about how such a war would end.
In the last month or so, there seems to have been a shift in perception about Israel’s plans for Iran. If before, a lot of informed people might have bet that if and when push came to shove, Israel would hold back from bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, I don’t think there are many such bettors today.
Quite a bit has happened recently. There was the International Atomic Energy Agency report, which offered more evidence that Iran is pointing toward the Bomb; the news reports in Israel about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s determination to attack Iran, even though the security establishment opposes them for now; the two big bombs that went off in the faces of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah; Barak’s statement that an Iranian counterattack wouldn’t result “in even 500 deaths if we all stay inside our homes” (he meant to calm the public with that); Netanyahu and Barak’s refusal to promise CIA head Leon Panetta that they would clear any attack on Iran with the U.S. first, which is what Panetta came to Jerusalem for; and the Republican presidential candidates’ televised enthusiasm (except for Ron Paul’s Quixotic dissent) for an Israeli, American or Israeli/American assault on Iran’s nukes. All this, plus whatever other items slipped my mind, seems to have brought folks in general around to the idea that if Iran doesn’t change its mind and give up its nuclear project – which seems unlikely – and unless Obama decides to do the job – which also seems unlikely – Israel will start a war with Iran within the next year.
That’s certainly my bet. And I think it’s going to cause a catastrophe for Israel, the Middle East and the world at large. I’ll let Niall Ferguson describe the sort of thing I’m talking about. Ferguson, a British-American historian and one of the West’s leading “public intellectuals,” wrote a showcase essay last weekend in The Wall Street Journal titled “2021: The New Europe.” The futuristic piece ends with a look “back” at what happened in 2012:
The events of 2012 shook not just Europe but the whole world. The Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities threw a lit match into the powder keg of the ‘Arab Spring.’ Iran counterattacked through its allies in Gaza and Lebanon.
Having failed to veto the Israeli action, the U.S. once again sat in the back seat, offering minimal assistance and trying vainly to keep the Straits of Hormuz open without firing a shot in anger. (When the entire crew of an American battleship was captured and held hostage by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, President Obama’s slim chance of re-election evaporated.)
Turkey seized the moment to take the Iranian side, while at the same time repudiating Ataturk’s separation of the Turkish state from Islam. Emboldened by election victory, the Muslim Brotherhood seized the reins of power in Egypt, repudiating its country’s peace treaty with Israel. The king of Jordan had little option but to follow suit. The Saudis seethed but could hardly be seen to back Israel, devoutly though they wished to avoid a nuclear Iran.
Israel was entirely isolated. The U.S. was otherwise engaged as President Mitt Romney focused on his Bain Capital-style ‘restructuring’ of the federal government’s balance sheet.
It was in the nick of time that the United States of Europe intervened to prevent the scenario that Germans in particular dreaded: a desperate Israeli resort to nuclear arms. Speaking from the U.S.E. Foreign Ministry’s handsome new headquarters in the Ringstrasse, the European President Karl von Habsburg explained on Al Jazeera: ‘First, we were worried about the effect of another oil price hike on our beloved euro. But above all we were afraid of having radioactive fallout on our favorite resorts.’
So ends the war that Israel started – with mediation by Germany, which Ferguson foresees as the dominant power in a new Europe. There’s one problem, though – he doesn’t say how Germany persuaded Israel not to fire its nukes. Nor is there anything about what happened in the Middle East afterward. (There’s nothing about the extent of the death and destruction that occurred, either.) The war’s happy ending just happens.
Anybody want to bet on that?
For background and related posts on +972:
Israel Hayom: Manufacturing “consensus” on Iran attack
Is Israel preparing an assault against Iran? The media is ready
Bloggingheads: Will Israel strike Iran?
Finally, Iran plan wakes Israel up to “the Israeli threat”