Israel appears set on attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities this year, writes Ronen Bergman, intelligence expert for Yediot Aharonot, in the cover story of the New York Times Magazine. He bases his prediction on interviews with many top security people, mainly Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who sat with him for several long discussions in Barak’s Tel Aviv penthouse. Bergman wrote that during one of those interviews:
Barak leaned forward and said with the utmost solemnity, “And if a nuclear Iran covets and occupies some gulf state, who will liberate it? The bottom line is that we must deal with the problem now.”
Bergman goes on to write that Israeli security officials estimate that in nine months, Iran’s nuclear project will have progressed beyond Israel’s ability to stop it with bombs, and in 15 months, it will have advanced beyond the reach of America’s military. The Israelis don’t believe the Obama administration will pull the trigger, so they’re convinced they have to.
As for the potential blowback after an Israeli strike, Bergman lists Iran’s hundreds of missiles that can reach Tel Aviv, Hizbullah’s 50,000 rockets and missiles, plus those of Hamas and Syria, plus 40 Iranian and Hizbullah terrorist “sleeper cells” around the world, plus the economic effects of an Iranian oil embargo. But Israeli security officials are undeterred, Bergman writes, because they figure that these risks “are ones Israel will have to deal with regardless of whether it attacks Iran now – and if Iran goes nuclear, dealing with these problems will become far more difficult.”
They figure they can set Iran’s nuclear program back three-to-five years. Former Mossadnik Rafi Eitan is quoted as saying the Iranians could rebuild in three months.
One risk that Bergman doesn’t mention is that of a WMD war; Iran may have chemical and/or biological weapons, Syria is believed to have chemical weapons, and everyone knows Israel has the full complement of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
And one thing Bergman writes that is just plain wrong is that “a kind of panic has begun to overtake Israeli society, anxiety that missiles will start raining down soon.” There’s no panic whatsoever; Israeli society has gradually become resigned to war and isn’t even thinking about it.