In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, declaring it could not live with the chance the country would get a nuclear weapons capability. In 2007, it wiped out a North Korean-built reactor in Syria. And the next year, the Israelis secretly asked the Bush administration for the equipment and overflight rights they might need some day to strike Iran’s much better-hidden, better-defended nuclear sites.There's no accident to this report being in the news this week. The eleven-stage wargame the Brookings guys come up with after Israel strikes Iran fundamentally changes the game for all players involved: the US, Iran, and Israel.
They were turned down, but the request added urgency to the question: Would Israel take the risk of a strike? And if so, what would follow?
Now that parlor game question has turned into more formal war games simulations. The government’s own simulations are classified, but the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution created its own in December. The results were provocative enough that a summary of them has circulated among top American government and military officials and in many foreign capitals.
The aftermath is grim:
1. By attacking without Washington's advance knowledge, Israel had the benefits of surprise and momentum - not only over the Iranians, but over its American allies - and for the first day or two, ran circles around White House crisis managers.Sanger's piece serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that Israel can cause us lots and lots of trouble, drawing us into a third war we can't afford to fight...and cannot afford not to fight, either. The timing is clear: Obama is being told very clearly that he should tread much more lightly around Bibi and his government.
2. The battle quickly sucked in the whole region - and Washington. Arab leaders who might have quietly applauded an attack against Iran had to worry about the reaction in their streets. The war shifted to defending Saudi oil facilities, and Iran's use of proxies meant that other regional players quickly became involved.
3. You can bomb facilities, but you can't bomb knowledge. Iran had not only scattered its facilities, but had also scattered its scientific and engineering leadership, in hopes of rebuilding after an attack.
4. No one won, and the United States and Israel measured success differently. In Washington, officials believed setting the Iranian program back only a few years was not worth the huge cost. In Israel, even a few years delay seemed worth the cost, and the Israelis argued that it could further undercut a fragile regime and perhaps speed its demise. Most of the Americans thought that was a pipe dream.
As BooMan says, we are facing a paradigm shift in Israel relations right now.
In effect, the president is utterly repudiating the aggressive rhetoric that Netanyahu displayed at the AIPAC conference. Bibi said that (East) Jerusalem is not a settlement. Obama says that it is.Sanger's piece is Israel's response to that shift. "You know, we could make things much, much, much harder on you, Mr. President, if you continue to make things harder on us. Have you thought about the consequences?"
By demanding that Israel cease building in East Jerusalem and stop razing Palestinians' property, Obama is asking Netanyahu to order something he is incapable of ordering. Or, at least, he's incapable of ordering it within his current coalition, which relies upon the Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas parties. At a minimum, the Obama administration is insisting that Netanyahu cut a deal with Kadima in order to gain the power he needs to stop construction in East Jerusalem. More likely, Obama just wants to force Bibi out of power. After all, he's insolent and indistinguishable from the neo-conservative lunatics that hijacked our own government and ran it into a ditch.
Obama's being delivered a warning here. How will he respond?